Today marks a rather sad day for me and for my little family. On 6th October 2015, I was admitted to hospital for a procedure called ERPC which stands for Evacuation of Retained Products of Conception and means a surgical removal of the remains of a pregnancy. It was a day that I had never thought I would ever have to experience and yet it happened to us. Just as it happens to more than one in five pregnancies in the UK every year – around a quarter of a million each year…
This second pregnancy started off wonderfully well, just as the first one. A bit of nausea, very sore breasts and some fatigue experienced during the day but overall, I felt really great. This carried on for a few weeks and then, suddenly, all the symptoms stopped, around week six or seven. I found the sudden disappearance of the soreness of breasts particularly worrying – I just had this feeling in my gut that this was way too early for them to stop hurting. And so what I did next was what we’re always told not to do – I googled the symptoms. There were quite a few forums with similar topic threads and the women discussed that dreaded M-word. Miscarriage.
Missed miscarriage (when the baby stops growing inside you but isn’t expelled from your body) was mentioned there and some things just clicked in my head. “This is exactly what has happened to me.” So I confided in my husband. He was concerned about me worrying and looked into miscarriage, but from a more pragmatic point of view, looking into ‘scientific’ evidence behind a sudden loss of pregnancy symptoms. There was nothing there to suggest a miscarriage could be easily ‘diagnosed’ simply by the loss of symptoms – there are just too many factors caused by hormonal changes happening in all stages of pregnancy. In my heart though, I just knew something was not ‘right’. The rational and optimistic part of me wanted to listen to my husband and the midwife who at the booking appointment told me not to worry as “everything will be fine”. Luckily, our dating scan was booked at 10 weeks rather than at 12 weeks so I couldn’t wait to have my mind put at rest. Going to friends’ wedding two days before the scan was not a pleasant experience – worrying about the worst case scenario whilst trying to put on a happy face and avoiding friends’ offers for a drink was so hard. They just knew I was pregnant and everyone started congratulating us. What do you say to that other than ‘thank you’? I felt emotionally drained from the past few weeks’ rollercoaster of thoughts and emotions – stuck between two sides of me, one telling me “you’re over-analysing it, just calm the f* down” and the other one crying hysterically “why do bad things always happen to good people?” before actually being told the worst. The days leading up to the scan couldn’t have dragged on for longer.
And then the day came. Those who have gone through the same experience will relate to the silence in the room when the sonographer is completely quiet looking at the screen, clicking on the computer, poking you in the stomach and digging lower and deeper, searching for that little life. And then that question: “Are you sure you got your dates right?” and the statement: “I’m not seeing what I should be seeing at this stage of pregnancy.” Never in my life have I remembered someone’s words so clearly and distinctly. I felt numb then – my heart started racing and I got scared but I thought immediately – “I was right after all, it was a missed miscarriage, just as I thought.”
And then we were moved to an Early Pregnancy Unit, having to wait in what must be the most depressing place in the world – the EPU waiting area. Here you can witness a spectrum of emotions – those coming in to check that the random early pregnancy bleeding they experienced is nothing to worry about and leaving the hospital overjoyed with good news to those, like me, sitting and crying about the baby they have lost, not quite understanding what has just happened and what will happen next. I remember looking at the other women, their partners and them looking at me/ us. You sort of try to guess what someone else’s story is. Have they been here before, once or twice? Is it their first baby, have they got another one at home to come back to? The real tears came flooding in that room more than in the sonographer’s room as I looked around and saw the pain in another lady’s eyes – it was then that I actually comprehended the situation and felt the pain of my loss.
We were then told to wait for another scan in a week’s time, in order for them to confirm the situation. And so we were sent home, with no form of emotional support having been offered for the whole seven days! Seven days of waiting? Who are these people without hearts who think anyone can go back home and exist normally, having just been told a baby had possibly died inside them? I took a week off work as I couldn’t pretend to be the cheerful person I had been before and equally, I didn’t want to tell people the truth – it hurt me too much and I didn’t know how to deal with it myself.
When we went back to hospital a week later, there was nothing that couldn’t have been predicted. It was bad news but my husband and I had prepared ourselves for it – you know, during that week when we were left all alone by the medical staff to deal with the news. There simply needs to be more support for families going through these awful waiting times – NHS is under-resourced, I know, but this lack of support is simply unacceptable.
When I was woken up after the surgery a week later, I remember very vividly this cry I let out – it was a sorrowful wail that overtook my entire body and I couldn’t control it. I cried all the way to my ward as they wheeled me through half of the hospital between units – going past the ante-natal and labour unit where pregnant women were either waiting for their scans or going into labour was particularly painful. Not the most appropriate route, one might say…
The year that followed was a year of challenges, pain and anxiety. We wanted to get pregnant again and luckily for us, it did happen and we continued to pass all the key milestones. This baby was my little fighter, it seemed, growing stronger and stronger each day, yet I was an emotional wreck. Anxiety is such a powerful emotion but I’ve learnt to cope with it. And here I am today, holding my beautiful baby son safe and sound in my arms. We’ve made it to the other side, both of us!!
One year on, I still remember everything. Of course I do. I will always remember – the day I found out I was pregnant and the day I said goodbye to the person I loved so much but would never ever meet…. And today, no doubt, I shall shed a tear for her or him – I hope that wherever you are in the universe, you shine down on me and your Daddy, and your two little brothers, and watch over us. You will always be in our hearts and you will always be our second baby who brought us joy, if only for a short while. You have taught me many things about myself which have made me a stronger woman, a better mother and hopefully, a better human being. I am continually learning about this new ‘post-miscarriage me’, and using the grief and loss to better myself and my life – I may have lost you but I have gained new wisdom on life. Your life mattered and was destined to change lives. RIP my sweetest angel baby.