It was hard to think of a title for this blog post so I thought I’d just come out and say it. I never ‘announced’ I was pregnant with Ezzie or Etta on social media until they were born so it feels strange to be announcing this pregnancy and the end of it in one go. But for me, it would be far stranger to not acknowledge it happened than to write/talk about it. So here it is- my very normal miscarriage story. (***I suppose I should give a trigger warning again around here- don’t read on if you don’t want to hear about. I’ve tried to be honest and haven’t shared everything but it is a bit graphic in parts***)
Back in April, I started to have some familiar rumblings. I knew it before I even took the test. It wasn’t planned and I didn’t feel at all ready to be pregnant again. It hadn’t yet been 5 months since Etta was born so when the 2 lines popped up in the little window, I just sat and sobbed for a while. Those that have faced pregnancy after a loss will know that a positive pregnancy test will never have that carefree excitement again. I felt anxious and I felt shocked but most of all I felt really guilty. I worried what people would think about ‘moving on’ so quickly and replacing Etta. It took me a few days to get my head around it- we shared the news with our immediate family who did an excellent job of being happy for us while also understanding our mix of feelings.
It was a very different pregnancy from the start- I had some light bleeding early on which I never had previously. However, I knew this was very common and thought it even more likely given the small gap between my pregnancies. And of course there was the anxiety- I am naturally a realistic and positive person. Reason told me that I was no more likely to lose this baby because Etta had died before. I know lots of statistics now for miscarriage, stillbirth, certain defects, neonatal death and I also knew that the most likely scenario was that in 8 months time I would be giving birth to a healthy baby. But I just felt like if I could be on the wrong side of statistics before, it could definitely happen again. I think my subconscious also felt this because I was having dreams most nights about either miscarrying or delivering a stillborn.
The other thing that was different was that I really felt like I bonded with the little bean growing inside me much quicker than in my other two pregnancies. I think Etta dying really opened up my eyes to this time being precious and enjoying every day. I look back on my pregnancy with Etta and wish I’d taken more photos and had more time appreciating her growing inside me. I didn’t want to make that mistake with pregnancy number 3 and maybe I needed to compensate for my negative feelings at the start. I knew that the sadness and guilt I felt were nothing to do with the love I already felt for ‘bumblebee’ as I had affectionately named it. We had bumblebee blinds left behind in one of the rooms of our new house so excitement grew thinking about what would one day be bumblebee’s room.
Weeks marched on into May and I had a little bit of nausea but not as much as I had done (with E and E) and I was definitely tired but not as tired as I had been. The problem was that it was very hard to tell if this was just me playing down symptoms because of my fear of miscarriage. It was hard to trust my memories, even though of course it turned out that my instincts were right.
I started spotting on a Saturday but didn’t think much of it. I’d had it a few times at the end of my pregnancy with Etta and presumed it was my cervix feeling a bit irritated (like me🤣). Google told me my chances of miscarriage at this stage were only 2-4% so wasn’t particularly worried. I’d even bought Sam a Father’s Day present that morning from baby bumblebee (I knew it was a risk but also that we would have had our scan by then) However, I woke up on Sunday and the bleeding was getting heavier- more like a period now. I remember at this point crying to Sam and saying “I’m a bit worried now.” We had plans to sit in our friends’ garden and I didn’t want to cancel because I still wasn’t sure if this could just be normal- I just needed to distract myself. And sadly I knew that if I was miscarrying there was nothing I could do about it anyway.
We were having a lovely time chatting to our friends in the garden and talking about my concerns but I noticed the bleeding was getting heavier and heavier. I had started to pass clots and that’s when I thought this isn’t right. I found it soul-destroying to be putting my hands in the toilet bowl and fishing around for clots just in case I might find something resembling an embryo. Luckily, I didn’t but that will always stick with me. It was at this point I called the maternity triage at Gloucester Hospital to hear what they thought. They told me that I would need a referral to the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit (EPAU) so to call 111 to get a referral from a doctor. Having concerns in early pregnancy is actually really shit. It’s nobody’s fault but I really didn’t know who to call in that situation- I wasn’t yet booked in with a midwife, my GP was in Salisbury, you can’t use maternity services until you are 16 weeks- the early pregnancy unit is actually part of the gynaecology department. It felt like the start of a wild goose chase that day and I’m sure so many others have had to go through that confusion too.
After a call with 111- they told me to head to A and E (presumably worried about my blood loss). This wasn’t ideal with the coronavirus situation but I thought it would at least get me seen and referred to the right people so off we went. The hard thing was going in with a mask on, standing back from the receptionists and trying to explain what was happening. Of course, Sam was asked to stay outside. I should have said “I’m 9 weeks pregnant and I think I’m having a miscarriage.” But instead what came out was me rambling about bleeding in front of everyone in the very quiet A and E waiting room. I couldn’t quite get the words out that I needed to. The receptionists were so confused they had to check I was pregnant. But they were lovely and asked me to take a seat before I was quickly called in to see the triage nurse. I quickly learnt that face masks are actually very good at absorbing tears.
She took my obs and asked about other pregnancies which of course led to me talking about Etta or trying to talk about Etta. Because nearly 6 months on from losing her, I’m still terrible at talking about what happened so I just sort of cried and managed to get some words out. She told me I didn’t need a doctor’s referral and she could do it for me there. She was very understanding that I must be worried about this baby too. Unfortunately, because I was so stressed out talking about Etta- my blood pressure and pulse were through the roof. At this point I just wanted to go home and wait for my appointment but I went through to another room and had a HCA take everything again- my blood pressure was a bit lower but now my oxygen sats were too low (they came back up after trying a different finger!) I suppose when I turned up, I didn’t really think about it being the first time in a hospital since Etta had died- but it was really triggering. I was surrounded by bleeping machines, talking about oxygen sats and my daughter dying while thinking I could well be losing another baby.
I had to wait again to speak to a consultant. I think this was because my pulse was still so high they had to check this was due to stress not blood loss and it did come down eventually, after more tears and a box of tissues from the A and E consultant. He asked about Etta’s defects and whether we were more likely to have children with birth defects. He was lovely and tried to get a referral to the EPAU for that day but couldn’t get hold of them. I told him I was used to waiting for scans and it was OK. He said “it’s not really OK though, it’s really hard waiting” and very gently told me it’s not an inevitability but you should have it in your mind that you could be miscarrying. I told him I was preparing myself as much as I could.
So I went home and thankfully was called by the EPAU fairly quickly. They said that given the current pandemic they weren’t making appointments unless there was any pain. At this point, I wasn’t in any but she said that because of Etta, they would fit me in to ease my anxiety. It makes me very sad to think of all the mothers who are worried they are miscarrying but have to wait to be in pain before they are seen. Stupid coronavirus. I was booked in for the following morning so tried to put it out of my mind.
I continued to bleed heavily through the night and by Monday morning it was more like post-partum blood loss. Everything about my body just felt wrong- I had strange sort of tingling pains in my lower back, bum and into my legs. I also had cramping abdominal pain- which wasn’t intense like labour pain but had the same rhythm of contractions- paracetamol wasn’t really touching the sides (this was familiar). At this point, I knew that I must be having a miscarriage. Suddenly, I felt the urge to go to the toilet (this was also familiar) and whilst sitting on the toilet I passed lots of large clots. I was holding my hands out because I was expecting to pass something soon which felt different and sadly I did. I held something in my hands and I knew it was the embryo/ pregnancy tissue/ remains of conception. Whatever you want to call it- I just felt horrified that I’d delivered what I considered to be my future baby too soon on a toilet. I was sobbing and shouted to Sam “I think I have it- I think this is it”. I didn’t know what to call ‘it’. Poor Sam had to walk in to the bathroom- blood everywhere- with me holding ‘it’ in my hands, while I sobbed that I needed to keep it. I wanted to take it to hospital with me so they could confirm what it was. So what was my baby a few hours ago was now in a nappy bag.
Then what are you supposed to do? I just thought I’d wait it out until the appointment but Sam wanted to call 111 just in case. It’s a situation you just never prepare for- thank goodness for 111. They asked strange questions like had I bled more than a mug of blood in an hour or passed bigger clots than a 50 pence piece. 111 wanted to send out an ambulance to check me over (which I thought was overkill). I think Sam was worried I was going to die at this point but since passing the ‘pregnancy tissue’ I felt physically so much better. The pains had gone and I felt back in control of my body again. Fortunately, the lovely ambulance dispatch lady gave me a call and I assured her that I was OK. I just had to stay hydrated and keep an eye on the blood loss. My appointment was only in 2 hours time so I would go to that and see what they said.
So I sat in the hospital by myself again- with my nappy bag of remains in my handbag. I was pretty certain I had miscarried so I suppose I was hanging on to some hope that maybe there was still a twin in there. Or failing that, I just hoped that I had passed all of it and wouldn’t need any other procedures. I was called in to an ultrasound first of all- with a scan first on my stomach and then a vaginal one. The sonographer said there was no sign of a pregnancy and I told her I was pretty sure I passed the tissue this morning so that was what I was expecting to hear. I tried to be factual. I didn’t really want to cry in that room.
Then I had to wait back in the waiting room before the nurses came to call me into a different room talk about the scans. I did cry then- there were three nurses sat away from me with very kind eyes (most of their faces were covered with masks). They asked me what had happened and I told them what I had in my handbag. Two of the nurses took it out of the room to confirm whether I was right. While they were gone, the other nurse asked me about what happened and said that it certainly sounded like a miscarriage and told me that I would bleed for a few weeks (like a heavy period). I needed to watch out for bleeding getting heavier or any signs of infection. I would likely feel terrible for a few days as my pregnancy hormones stopped and my body worked out what had happened. I would need to take another pregnancy test in 3 weeks and check it was negative. The other two nurses came back in and told me that I was right about what I brought in.
Because I had handed it in to the hospital, I had to sign a form giving consent for them ‘to cremate the foetal remains’. She told me that there would be a service in the rose garden in Cheltenham and bumblebee would be buried there with others. I think it’s rather sweet that the results of these pregnancies are still treated with tenderness and dignity even though they are ended so early.
So I left the room with a miscarriage leaflet and went to Sam waiting in the car park for a hug. My mum and dad had come up too, after telling them what had happened that morning. I didn’t want to worry them too soon. It felt very strange that the last time they’d arrived at Gloucester hospital was when I was in labour with Ezzie. It was a sad mirroring between the two pregnancies.
That was that really- a few days of resting up and not really knowing how to feel. I was still bleeding a lot but I passed a bit more tissue on the Friday and after that the bleeding really slowed down. I felt physically like I’d donated blood and was recovering from a bug or cold. As miscarriages go, mine certainly seemed like a simple one. I didn’t have to go the 12 week scan expecting happy news to be told there was no heartbeat. I didn’t need a D and C procedure to remove any remaining tissue. I didn’t need to take medicine and wait at home waiting for a horrible inevitability. Hopefully in a few weeks time I’ll take a pregnancy test and it will be negative and it will all be over.
In a weird way, my body did exactly what it was supposed to do while doing the opposite of what it was expected to do. Despite this, I still found my very run-of-the-mill miscarriage very traumatic physically. All you find online when you are manically googling is that it is like a heavy period with abdominal cramps. And for me it wasn’t like that at all, it felt a lot more like giving birth. I think that’s probably worth knowing in case you’re ever in a situation like mine or know somebody who is. A recent study from Imperial College found that 29% of women who had a miscarriage were suffering with PTSD one month after it happened and I can completely understand that now. I think the emotional side of miscarriage is starting to be spoken about more and more but I still had no idea what to expect physically. It’s still very much a taboo and I longed for more realistic explanations of what happened when I was in the midst of it myself.
And emotionally…? This is a very strange sort of grief. It doesn’t compare to the grief of losing Etta and yet it’s so tangled up in the grief we already have in losing her. In some ways, Etta dying lessened the grief of losing bumblebee and in others of course it added to it- feeling like we’d lost another chance at a sibling for Ezra and a baby in our arms. We joked darkly that our success rate of bringing home a living baby was now only 33%. Far from ideal.
The grief I felt seemed more familiar to the grief of Etta’s diagnosis- a sort of loss of what I thought life would look like. So much of the sadness is tied to a real longing for Ezra to have a sibling close in age. I began to get excited about having ‘three under three’ with my middle child missing. I began to imagine this Christmas being ready to pop and my 30th with a newborn. Lately, it feels like my future is shaping up to be nothing like I expected it to be.
We’ve had lots of caring and thoughtful comments since the miscarriage but some less so. I thought I’d write about a few in case it was helpful to know what not to say. This is only my experience and I know women react to miscarriages in very different ways.
1. ‘It’s very common/ it happens in 1 in 4 pregnancies’ etc. For me, hearing that it’s very common doesn’t make me feel better (although being aware of it did help me prepare and it was comforting to hear other experiences). It just feels like a way to try and minimise how somebody feels. Cancer affects 1 in 2/3 people but that doesn’t mean it’s not devastating to get a diagnosis 🤷♀️.
2. It’s better that it happened now, not later. This is a tricky one because of course this is a good thing if the baby was going to suffer. Most miscarriages in the first trimester are believed to be due to chromosomal abnormalities in the baby. But to me that again feels like a way to try and rationalise what happened. And also, unless tests were done after the miscarriage, most people never get to find out why the pregnancy didn’t last and that’s tough to come to terms with in itself. I think this comment is more for the person saying it then the person who actually suffered with pregnancy loss. Humans like reasons for bad things happening.
3. At least…’ I’ll stop it there. You’ve probably heard it said don’t start with the words ‘at least’ with anyone grieving. I think this is true of miscarriage too. Yes of course at least I have Ezra/ I can get pregnant easily/ it’s not as bad as losing Etta etc. But that doesn’t really help with the fact that I wanted that pregnancy to continue and that baby.
4. Maybe your body wasn’t ready. This one just makes me feel a bit guilty because it wasn’t the plan to get pregnant so soon and I was worried about problems arising from having such a small pregnancy gap. Similarly, the notion that I miscarried because of the grief/ stress I still had over Etta isn’t really a nice thought either. This feels like one of those things that I’m allowed to say but nobody else is. Because my stress levels won’t really go down for any future possible pregnancies. And it just makes me feel like the miscarriage could have been avoided if I was a little more zen.
Sorry if you’ve said one of those comments to me and you’re now reading about it here rather than me saying to your face that I didn’t find it helpful! Did I mention that I’m not very good at talking about hard things at the moment? I’ve been working on having those uncomfortable conversations about race this week, so I should probably try and extend that to other uncomfortable conversations too.
This was a really long blog- I didn’t expect it to be so long but once I started I couldn’t stop. There’s still so much more I could say but I feel like I’ve processed it all now. I’m sad about what happened and I keep thinking about silly things like when our scan letter will come through the post, only to remember that I’m no longer pregnant. But overall I’m OK- I’ve come to terms with it.
I think every life is a gift, however short, and I’m grateful that baby bumblebee has given me more things to treasure. I know now that because of bumblebee if there’s a positive pregnancy test in my future, there won’t be any tears on seeing the two lines. I’ll know that I’m ready to welcome another little life to grow and hopefully the next one will stick around until we get to bring them home.