[Trigger warning: This blog post deals with sensitive subjects surrounding pregnancy and loss. If you are currently pregnant, or need to step away from this post for any reason please do as the last thing I would want is for my words to worry or upset anyone. I have written this post mainly for myself as I find it cathartic to write my feelings down and am hoping that in doing so, I can begin to heal.]
It’s a strange and uncertain time at the moment. With the current situation as it is with COVID-19 I know everyone is feeling off kilter, scared, anxious, worried. We don’t know whether we are doing the right thing or making the right decisions. We don’t know what the immediate future holds.
In all honesty though, I haven’t been able to dedicate much head space to any of that in the last week. I haven’t had the clarity of mind to even worry about whether we have enough food, whether we can get a hold of toilet roll or whether we will still be able to work.
Because a week and a half ago, I suffered a miscarriage. And since that moment when I first saw blood trickle into the toilet and realised that the thing I’d been dreading every waking second for the last three weeks was actually happening, I haven’t cared… I haven’t cared about anything other than that.
I still flinch a little writing that. I haven’t quite known what to say to people to explain the immense sadness that I’ve felt this last week. Most of the time I’ve chosen to use the wording ‘a pregnancy came to an end’ because to say we’ve lost a baby just feels too heartbreaking. How can that be true? But a miscarriage? It sounds so final, so clinical, and because (thankfully) I haven’t really had any medical intervention, I’ve found myself asking if I can call it that? Do I have a right to that term? Do I have a right to be this upset? Did it actually happen? I know it’s happened, I know that I am no longer pregnant. I’ve felt the cramps, I’ve seen the blood, I’ve had the tests, I’ve listened to the consolations, I’ve flushed away hopes and dreams of a future that will now never be, I’ve watched that future swirl down the plughole of the shower in a sea of red, washed away with a river of my tears. And yet, I still don’t believe it. I still can’t fully comprehend why this has happened to me, to us? I don’t know what went wrong?
All I do know is that the pain in my heart is excruciating.
Our loss was an early one but, still, it was a loss. The loss of a future we had already begun to adjust to, the loss of something so very precious that we had already connected with, the loss of something we’ve longed for for such a very long time.
It has honestly been the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever gone through.
One minute it’s all there. All those hopes and dreams and ideas of the future. And the next it’s all gone, just like that. That future that you saw so clearly just ripped away from you without any prior warning, and in the most cruel of ways.
And there’s no use trying to rationalise it, trying to say ‘oh it was early’ because it doesn’t matter. As soon as you begin to prepare for even the possibility of a new baby, the hopes and dreams are there. You can’t help it. You can’t help but hope. You can’t help but let your mind run forward and imagine your new reality. You can’t help but excitedly think about due dates and names and gender. You can’t help but imagine your precious first baby becoming a big sister. You can’t help but dream. It was difficult enough just feeling the gutting disappointment when a period arrived those few months before. That was hard. Even that small window of hope being diminished was worthy of tears and disappointment. And my heart truly goes out to the couples who go through that for months or years on end and face that time and time again because when you’ve mentally started preparing for the idea of a child, the idea of becoming parents, there’s a grief in that too.
It’s painful, regardless of when it happens or how. Whether you’re 7 weeks or 17 weeks or even 37 (although I fully acknowledge and can only imagine that if my pain is this great now that it must be unbearable the further along things progress), there is pain and great healing needed. Because from the moment you first see that blue line appear on a stick – hell even before that – from the moment your boobs first start hurting and you think ‘could I be?’, you have begun to re-imagine your life, to make room for this enormous change that is due to occur. You start thinking thoughts like ‘oh I better get some wear our of that new skirt because it won’t fit in a few months’, you start looking at books to buy your daughter as a way of telling her she’s going to be a big sister, you call the midwife and find yourself being asked questions about where you might like to give birth and how you see it happening. And let’s not forget that your body starts preparing for that enormous change too. As well as the emotional and mental adjustments, there are huge physical ones. Things hurt and ache, the tiredness creeps in, the rush of hormones, the gentle bloating and swelling in your stomach, the nausea. And when that preparation just ends suddenly, your body goes through physical trauma too. Hormones you don’t want continuing to flood your body, bloating reminding you of everything you’ve lost, all the signs and symptoms that usually tell you you’re pregnant remaining long after the pregnancy itself has left you. It’s cruel. And yet, life carries on. And we are expected to too. These awful things that women have to not only endure, but function with. It astounds me.
The pain of pregnancy loss is something, I now realise, that I haven’t fully appreciated up until now. Of course whenever I read of someone’s loss online or consoled a friend after hearing their news, I felt incredible sadness on their behalf. I’ve said the ‘I’m sorry’s’ and passed on love and hugs but I was never able to truly comprehend the acute pain that they were going through. Because unfortunately that’s how it works.
It’s the club that no one wants to be a part of, and that until you are you’ll remain (for the most part) removed from its existence and not privy to its secret. The secret being the horror of having this whole new world you’ve only just adjusted to, be torn away from you in the most horrific of ways.
I can only imagine that pregnancy after a loss must be a very difficult and anxious time, but having now experienced it, I can also tell you that loss after a previous healthy pregnancy was a shock that I don’t think I’ve fully accepted yet.
Honestly? I didn’t expect it.
I dreaded it. I worried about it. I imagined it happening in all sorts of ways from the moment I first knew it could happen. In fact I woke up most mornings and would find myself running through full scenarios in my head of how things would play out should it happen that day (and of course now that it actually has happened, I’m blaming myself for even thinking such thoughts, for bringing negativity to the pregnancy and I now worry that every bad thing I think might happen is actually going to come true). Two days before I did miscarry, I took Evie to her usual Tuesday morning swimming lesson, and during the walk to the pool I found myself mildly panicking about the possibility of starting to bleed in the pool. What would I do? How would I cope? Would I just run out and find myself in the changing room toilets not knowing my next steps, Evie a cold shivering mess next to me? Would the other Mums in the group have to come and check on me, tell me what to do? Or would I just run home and not deal with it until my husband came home from work? These are the things that ran through my head and that I now look back on and am unable to interpret. Did I know? Had I felt something wasn’t right without allowing myself to believe it?
Because that’s the thing. I had pain in my lower abdomen from the week before my period was due that was unlike any period pain. It was low and dull and constant. My lower back was killing me throughout the time we knew about the pregnancy. I struggled to pick Evie up, I was aching all over most evenings and retiring to bed early most nights. I was putting it down to early pregnancy symptoms but it was nothing I’d ever experienced with Evie. In my heart maybe I knew something wasn’t right, and I dreaded what eventually became the inevitable. But I didn’t expect it. I dreaded it but I still didn’t think it would actually happen to me. I didn’t think that in reality, outside of my overactive brain which has such a tendency to over think and over analyse, I would be one of the ‘1 in 4’ statistic.
I’m not sure anyone ever really expects it. I can only speak from my own experience but I’m sure that no one thinks that they’ll be one of the unlucky ones. It’s human nature to hope, even in the worst of situations. Even if it’s happened before or if you’ve convinced yourself that you won’t get your hopes up, I can imagine that there’s still hope there. A small part of you that thinks ‘maybe this time will be different’.
And I think because we’d had a previous healthy pregnancy, I convinced myself my worries were just that – my own worries. Not founded on anything concrete. Even when our first pregnancy test was negative (taken too early), our second faulty (didn’t pee on the stick long enough) and our third only faint (but conclusive). I pushed the worries away, told myself I was being ridiculous, told myself with every day further along we got, that it was all in my head.
The only experience we have of pregnancy is Evie, where we were lucky to get pregnant straight away, have a low risk pregnancy, a problem free birth and a healthy happy child. Why would we expect anything different? Until you’ve known loss you don’t prepare for it. And so even though the signs were all there, and maybe deep down I knew that the little life that had begun growing inside me wasn’t destined for this world, I definitely wasn’t prepared for those niggling fears I was dismissing to become a very harsh reality. I wasn’t prepared for the indignity I’d feel at having the future we’d begun to imagine pulled out from under us and having to adjust to the fact that that picture I saw in front of us, is now unable to ever be.
When I was pregnant with Evie, I had some light bleeding early on. Probably around the same time as I miscarried this time. The events played out very differently but the similarities are not lost on me. I still remember that anxious weekend wait for an appointment at the early pregnancy unit, and how sick with worry I felt as we sat in that waiting room surrounded by other couples all going through the same turmoil. The wait that seemed to last forever until we were finally called in for a scan. Of course the outcome then was a happy one, the scan revealed a very small yet perfectly happy little dot and a faint heartbeat. That was the first time we saw her, and the moment it all became real in the most scary of situations. I still remember being ushered out back through the waiting room, a room full of scared eyes on us as we tried, and no doubt failed, to hide the huge grins on our faces. We tried to contain our relief and excitement until we had exited the hospital and walked a decent distance away from the grounds until it felt right to celebrate. I was aware that not everyone in that waiting room would have the good news we did, but equally our relief was so all consuming, that it was hard to feel anything else.
This time, things were different. We didn’t need to wait for a scan to tell us what had happened. When the bleeding started early evening, it was faint and I was still hopeful. But then the pain started, and a trip to the loo only a couple of hours later confirmed my fears. When I first saw the blood (now bright red in colour and no longer something that could be described as spotting) I was frozen, almost methodically going through the motions of flushing the toilet and washing my hands while looking at myself in the mirror and thinking ‘oh f**k’. I’d imagined it happening so much that when it finally did, there was an initial period when I wasn’t even surprised. It took the walk from the bathroom back through to the living room where my husband was, for the penny to drop and me to realise what had actually happened. And then I broke down. I’ve read a few other things from those who have miscarried in the last week as way of comfort, and Amber’s posts on the subject have really helped me feel less alone. As someone who suffers health anxiety, she talks about the denial and shock that she felt experiencing an ectopic pregnancy when that was the one thing that she had convinced herself her whole life would happen to her. That even though she’d dreaded it from the word go, she couldn’t actually believe that her biggest fear had come true. And that’s what it felt like for me too, although I hadn’t dreaded it my whole life, I’d dreaded it since the moment I knew I was pregnant, and it took me a long time to actually understand that the thing I’d been imagining was actually happening.
We called 111 but because of the Coronovirus pandemic currently going on, we were on hold for the best part of an hour before we gave up, and contacted an out of hours GP for a call back. By this point I was exhausted and all I wanted was to shut my eyes and make it all go away. To sleep away the pain. But I had to stay up and wait an excruciatingly long time for a call back. Only for it to come and be from a nurse who, when I mentioned pregnancy, stopped me and said she couldn’t deal with that so I’d have to wait for a GP to call back. Another half hour later and the call came. I was told to rest, wear a pad, monitor the bleeding, and she booked me in for an appointment at the early pregnancy unit the next morning. She told me to remain hopeful and that lots of women have some bleeding early on, but I knew. I’d had the early bleeding with Evie and it was nothing like this. I knew it was over. Having switched to a mooncup 6 or so months ago, I then had to send the husband out to a 24 hour shop to get me some pads because I had none (lesson learned), before finally collapsing into bed and falling asleep through a tear stained face.
The next morning was almost the same as any other morning in many ways, as I was still awoken by an energetic toddler and a slave to her routine. We got up, I made her breakfast, played with her, tried to remain as happy and upbeat as I normally am, laughed at her jokes and played the silly things we normally do, all the while knowing exactly what was happening in my body. By this stage the bleeding was much heavier and I knew that at the early stage we were at there was no possibility that I could still be pregnant. But still we all bundled into the car to head to the hospital, Evie obviously having to come with us and us trying to keep things as normal as possible so as not to worry her. I didn’t cry at all that morning until the moment we came home from the hospital. While there I was weirdly matter of fact and sensible. In the car on the way there, my husband asked me repeatedly how I was feeling and I didn’t know what to say. I was numb. I just made a face and said, ‘we already know don’t we?’. I hated the wait as much as I did four years ago but this time around sitting in that waiting room with the other couples I knew that we wouldn’t be the ones coming out with grins on our faces. I was acutely aware of the implications of us bringing a child with us (and one who insisted on bringing her baby and shouting ‘baby baby, cry cry’ and ‘baby wants to play eye spy mummy’) while other couples around us waited to hear their fate, but we had no choice. The events had all happened so quickly we had no-one who could look after her in time. We waited as all the other couples were called and we were the only ones left. I’d been told to come with a full bladder so they could do a scan but by this stage I was bursting for the toilet and eventually asked one of the nurses if I could use the loo. I simply told her I didn’t need a scan as I already knew my pregnancy had ended and asked if I could please go to the toilet. She looked at me warily before going to talk to someone else. Then she came back and granted me permission to use the bathroom. They knew too.
Eventually we were taken into a room, asked some questions and then told that I’d need to have blood tests to monitor my levels of HGC hormone. If it went down within the next 48 hours then that would indicate an early miscarriage and I simply needed to allow myself to bleed then take a pregnancy test again in a few weeks to check it was clear. Simple as that. Evie got upset about me needing to go into a seperate room for a blood test as much as I tried to reassure her, and I realised that she could sense our unease and sadness even though we were trying to hide it. Before I left the room she asked me ‘are you getting a new baby now?’ and my heart shattered into a million pieces. Obviously we hadn’t told her anything about the pregnancy yet and wouldn’t have for a long time, but she’d heard me on the phone to the midwife a few days earlier and asked me who I was speaking to. I told her it was a midwife and when she asked what a midwife was I’d said that midwifes were very lovely people who helped babies come into the world. Sometimes I forget how clever she is, my sweet little soul.
The nurse said nothing as she took my blood, even when I blurted out that I knew it was early but we were so excited, she said nothing. I guess until it’s confirmed they aren’t able to, but that first day my overwhelming feeling was that of stupidity. I felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously. When they asked how regular my periods were to which I replied ‘like clockwork for the last decade’, I felt like I was being mocked. I sat in silence the whole car journey home and it wasn’t until we got home and my husband started making tracks to go back into work (he couldn’t take any more time off) that I started crying. I whispered ‘I feel stupid’, ‘I feel like I’m not allowed to be upset because it was early’ and I cried with sadness for the first time (rather than shock or fear) for all that could have been.
I’ve cried a lot since then. I’ve cried in front of Evie (as much as I’ve tried not to) and cried some more when she gave me a hug and said ‘don’t worry Mummy, when Daddy goes to work I can give you cuddles and make you feel good’. I’ve cried on the phone to my Mum, and to friends and I’ve cried while looking at the Explore page on Instagram and being flooded with so many pregnancy related posts. And I’ve tried to hold in those tears whenever Evie looks at her Mummy and sees her watery eyes, only to ask ‘do you feel good now Mummy?’ with slight panic. We didn’t take her back to the hospital when I had to return, as I could see that it had unsettled her, so I cried that day when I had to go in on my own and I cried when I finally got the results. I cried when the pain stopped, because there was some comfort in feeling physical pain that matched my emotional pain. I cried when I realised that life was carrying on around us, when I had to go back to work and visit the supermarket and it felt like nothing had changed, yet inside everything had. I cried because there were moments in the last week where it felt like nothing had happened and everything was the same. I cried because there were moments when I forgot.
I know it’s only been just over a week, and it’s going to take time for me to heal, to be ok again. But every day I have to get up and be the energetic, lively, happy Mum that Evie needs and that’s been hard. Sometimes I can go a whole day without thinking about it, being distracted, and then sometimes it overwhelms me.
It’s only through this new altered vision that I can now see just how incredibly lucky we were with Evie. I mean I always knew we lucked out to get such a cracker of a daughter, every day she brings me so much joy. But I can now see so clearly that we were one of the fortunate ones, our journey (though not without its trials) was a blessed one and it’s only through experiencing the opposite that I fully comprehend that.
And maybe that’s partly why it hurts so much. Because we did get lucky with Evie and she’s wonderful. She’s the best thing in our lives, the brightest spark and the biggest personality. At three years old her sense of self is so huge, her personality bursting out. Even at three months old her personality was bursting out! I can’t help but wonder who this little bean would have become, what personality they would have had and what wonder and joy we’ve ultimately missed out on.
I think another reason the hurt feels especially raw, is that I really thought that 2020 would be our year. I wrote about it in my last blog post and I was open with anyone who asked that we were really hoping to grow our family this year. Again, because it happened straight away with Evie (and I’m aware how fortunate that makes us), we never had a extended period of longing, we never had those disappointments month on month. We made the decision to start trying which felt monumental in itself and then we were lucky enough to fall pregnant. That of course came with it’s own trials, as perhaps in many ways it took us most of the pregnancy to wrap our heads around it and mentally prepare for the change, not to mention adjust our lives accordingly. But that type of preparation was all we knew. Perhaps rather naively, I presumed things would go the same way this time. And because of that, we talked about not starting to try until we felt truly ready for that step. We talked about wanting to plan a little more second time around (not to say that Evie wasn’t planned you understand, but simply to ensure our lives were in a place we felt comfortable to bring a new addition in to) and to start trying only when we were fully ready to be pregnant straight away. Hindsight it a wonderful thing isn’t it? I look back on those discussions from over a year ago now, and think about how silly we were. We’d always wanted a family, we’d always wanted more than one child. Why did we ever think that planning and waiting and discussing was the road to take? There’s no planning with these things, there’s no preparing, there’s no right or wrong. To bring babies into this world and to love them is such a privilege. Why did we ever think we had the right to decide how or when that would happen?
If only I could go back in time and tell my previous self where I’d be in a years time. Tell her that a year later there would still be no baby, no pregnancy and no sign of either of those things happening any time soon. If only I could tell her that 2019 would not be her year, and 2020 would bring heartbreak, then maybe I’d have worried a lot less about being ready, about Evie being too young, about us not coping financially or any of the other ‘practical’ barriers we love to put in place.
The truth is that it wasn’t long after those discussions, that we did feel ready. It wasn’t long before we were excitedly talking about what might be by the end of the year. But you can never plan for what your future holds can you? You can’t plan for the things life is yet to throw at you (the last few weeks has certainly shown us that). And we were thrown a curve ball just as we thought we’d made a decision. I haven’t really spoken about it at all, and I’m not sure this post is the right place, but around summer last year I was diagnosed with a health condition that although not affecting me right now, completely altered the way my future may look and threw everything I thought I knew about the path I was walking in life, into question.
Suddenly the question of becoming parents again wasn’t so clear cut. I was no longer sure if either physically or morally I would/should become a mother again. There were so many things to think about and so many decisions to be made that it was overwhelming to even go there. I needed to first wrap my head around the diagnosis and what it meant for me personally, my health, my well-being, and of course my existing family. And so we took some time to process it all. And that’s when I believe the longing and broodiness really began. No one ever told us we couldn’t have any more children, but there were a lot of ‘what if’s’ to consider, a lot of waiting so as to monitor changes in my body and try to assess what that meant long term. There were a lot of variables.
In the previous two and a half years since we’d had Evie, even though I hadn’t felt at all ready to be a mother again in that time, I’d always assumed that I would be, at some point. I’d never given much thought to the idea that it might not happen again. And so when this undeniable curve ball hit, I felt as if there was suddenly a barrier in the way of something I’d always thought to be a given. And I realised that actually, I couldn’t want it more. I realised that through it all, family was the only thing that really mattered to me, and the thought of not having another child tortured me, kept me awake at night. I found the longing to be unbearable at times and it has been with me ever since. I know that length of time is nothing compared to what some go through and I’m so hesitant to talk in that way for fear of being insensitive, but I only mention it as a way to further highlight how wanted this recent pregnancy was. Through months of delaying things to try and work on my own health first and to get our heads around how the future may look. Through long waits in between consultant appointments and still very little information. Through long discussions of whether having another child was the right thing for us now. Through the ups and downs of good news followed by bad news, mentions of drugs that wouldn’t allow for pregnancy and me trying to keep my mental health in a good place alongside it all. The longing was there.
But still through all of that I told myself that, if and when we did decide that trying for another child was something we were willing to do, it would happen straight away. I told myself that I could wait for that next consultant appointment because if we got the go ahead, then we could be pregnant by the next month.
That wasn’t to be the case. We did, as is probably obvious by now, decide that we wanted to try for another baby, despite any possible risks.
But we didn’t fall pregnant that first month, or even the second. Now I really don’t want to be insensitive to those struggling with fertility, because we are grateful not to be in that position and I know that our wait was nothing compared to many. But I simply want to convey the emotions I felt, and that because of the months previously we’d put off trying and had to delay things, it had felt like we’d already been waiting for such a long time. And like many couples I’m sure, I was impatient. I wanted to be pregnant that first month because I wanted to be pregnant right that very instant. I no longer wanted to wait, I no longer wanted it to be a vague ‘maybe sometime in the future’ or ‘maybe next year’, I wanted it to be now.
And I still do.
It hurts so much to know that when it did happen, it didn’t last. We were over the moon, so so excited and happy. It was everything we’d hoped for. 2020 was set to be our year, we would have been due in November and by Christmas this year be adjusting to life as a family of four. I think because of the way our dates have fallen, it’s an extra blow too as it’s not just waiting a couple more months and then trying again, it’s that cross over from one year to another. Up until last Thursday the idea of having a baby in 2020 was tangible, and now it’s impossible.
Even if we decide to gear ourselves up to go through this all again, and even if we’re lucky enough to fall pregnant again, there is no chance of a 2020 baby anymore. There is no chance of a three year age gap between that baby and Evie like I’d set my heart on. And waiting a whole year feels SO VERY long when you feel ready for it now. And when it was within your grasp, when you had it and it slipped away.
I know it’s not been at all long, and I know it’s all still incredibly raw but most days, amongst the sadness and the pain I find myself angry. Angry at how things have worked out. Angry at myself for waiting so long, angry at us for not trying sooner, angry at the doctors and at life for throwing these challenges our way, and angry that I can’t have what I want (as selfish as that sounds). Because what I want, is that baby. Not any other one. That one. The one I carried for such a short space of time, the one that would have been due in November and completed our family before Christmas, the one that I didn’t look after well enough, the one that couldn’t stay, the one that was ultimately flushed down our toilet. That’s the baby I want. Even though I tell myself every day that it wasn’t a baby yet, that it just couldn’t settle, that the cells didn’t properly align, that it wasn’t meant to be, that that smallest of lives, although precious, wasn’t destined to be part of this world. Whatever I try to tell myself, I still want it. I want it so so badly, it kills me. I know that in time I’ll maybe change my mind, that I’ll move on and begin to process this. And that maybe then I’ll feel ready again. But right now, I don’t want to try again. It is of no comfort to me when people tell me that the likelihood is I’ll go on to have another healthy pregnancy. I don’t want another pregnancy, I want the one that I lost.
And so I promise you this little one. No matter how much time passes, and even when we begin to heal, and even should another baby come into our lives, you will not be forgotten. I will cherish you, and what might have been, in my heart forever more. I will think of you daily and wonder how you may have fit into our lives. I will tell your siblings about you when the time is right and I will never be ashamed of feeling the pain of your loss or of remembering your oh so short life. Science will tell me that you weren’t much more than a collection of cells when you departed, but we will know you as so much more. As part of our story, as a piece of our puzzle, as a collection of love that never came to be.
Goodbye little bean. I’m sorry I couldn’t care for you better but I’ll love you forever.