When it comes to miscarriage and baby loss, ‘normal’ takes on some very different forms and unexpected turns.
I was taking a look at old photo’s the other day and I came across the ones taken nearly three years ago while we were in Canada for my brother’s wedding. There’s some lovely photo’s and I have happy memories of my brothers wedding day. However, at the same time I was miscarrying, slowly, the entire two and a half weeks we were there. I am struck by how ‘normal’ I look in these photographs, smiling and happy looking, you wouldn’t know what was happening inside of me. Of course, my brothers wedding was a happy occasion, I felt happy (which may sound strange, but it’s true)…but what else was going on? Probably a good dose of burying my head in the sand, wanting what I was experiencing not to be a miscarriage. Self-preservation took over.
What did turn out to be a miscarriage (my third in my life) started the night before we were leaving for Heathrow for our journey to Canada. I felt a twinge, a slight achy, crampy feeling low in my abdomen…the same sort of feeling I get just before my period arrives. I went to the loo and there was brownish discharge on the toilet tissue. Charlie and I talked about it, but what could we do? We were due to fly the following day. There wasn’t really any question of whether we should still go or not. The next morning, at the check-in counter, we learned that our flight had been severely delayed and that they were putting us up in a hotel and giving us food vouchers. I bought pads and paracetamol. We waited for our flight and I kept checking myself in the loo. Nothing catastrophic happened, just the same amount of light bleeding, some of it a bit redder, but no pain. As the time went on, waiting, I began to get anxious about ectopic pregnancy. If I had been at home, I would have gone to the GP or hospital and as we got further and further delayed, I’d just wished we had turned around and went home so that I could have gone to the hospital to figure out what was happening to me and this baby. Eventually though, 14 hours later, we were boarding our flight, we were all exhausted. Trying to keep a two-year old entertained in a hotel and airport all day and much of the evening isn’t very easy, on top of a growing worry for what was happening.
We had come up with a plan in the airport lounge. We would pick up the hire car and head straight to my Godmothers house, where we were staying. I’d drop Benjamin and Charlie off and pick up my Godmother to come with me to the local hospital. And that’s what we did. I walked into the A&E of the local hospital that I grew up near. It is a very familiar place. My dad died in this hospital, my brother had countless visits to this A&E for various injuries (he is and always will be extremely accident prone!). I registered myself and sat down, waiting to be called. I didn’t have to wait long. I was called up by a triage nurse, who was very visibly pregnant. Having to say: ‘I think I may be miscarrying’ and to answer her subsequent questions was torture, I think for both of us actually. I was just about holding it together until that moment.
I had an internal scan, they found the baby, in my womb, not somewhere it shouldn’t be, but they couldn’t detect a heartbeat. That wasn’t abnormal, I was only about six weeks pregnant at the time. I was experiencing what is called a ‘threatened miscarriage’, but not a miscarriage yet. Their advice was to come back in a few day’s and they would check my blood again for pregnancy hormones. If they had dropped, that would give us the answer: miscarriage. They suggested that they could ‘help things along’ if this turned out to be the case.
We hadn’t told anyone about this pregnancy, apart from my Godmother. I didn’t tell my brother and we took the decision to say nothing. I didn’t want this to ruin his happy day or to give him extra worry at a time when emotions and stress levels were running high. Instead, we went along to all the dinners, we helped with the set up of the party marque, I wrote my speech I was asked to give and on the day of the wedding, we played our parts and enjoyed the experience. We took part in the photoshoot, I danced and laughed. I spent quality time with friends and family. I gave my speech. And I kept going to the toilet to check and change my pad.
For the rest of the holiday (the wedding was at the beginning), we still told know one what we were going through. I didn’t go back to the hospital. I knew now that I wasn’t in any danger and felt that if I was going to miscarry, that I could deal with that on its own. I was still hoping for it to be a threat, not a reality. We tried to enjoy our holiday and for the most part we did. It was like these two different story lines were running along side each other, two me’s. On our second to last day, while we were visiting another friend. I went to her toilet and when I was finished, there was the small pregnancy sac on the toilet tissue. There was very little blood, I suppose I had been gradually losing that over the past couple of weeks. I had experienced zero pain, which was perplexing, as my very first miscarriage was extremely painful. My second was a missed miscarriage and I opted for surgery to remove everything. I took a look at what were the remains of my baby, not that I could see anything that looked remotely like a baby, but I knew exactly what it was, and then I put the tissue in the toilet and flushed. I felt very little emotion. More confused and detached really. When I came back to the table, I didn’t say anything to anyone about what had just happened. I waited until we were back in the car to tell Charlie. He was teary, I wasn’t. I was numb. I think I probably felt a bit of relief, at least I knew now what was happening. I’m not sure exactly what I was thinking at the time really. Numb is the best description I can come up with.
When I think about the things I’ve done while I knew I could miscarry at any moment frankly, it astounds even me. How I must look to other people while I’m doing it, no one would be the wiser! I have been sat in business meetings, at my desk, dealing with clients and the public, gone food shopping, done chores, played with Benjamin, met up with friends, etc., etc. When I did eventually tell my brother what had happened (which I think wasn’t until months later, perhaps when we knew Luna was poorly), he was shocked. I think he thought we should have said something, he would have wanted to know and to have the chance to support us. Maybe we should have done, but I think at the time, it may have broken the spell.