I have friends it has happened to. Dear friends, who are – and will be, I hope – wonderful parents. So do you, I bet. Miscarriage is all too common – perhaps we know more about it because we speak more of it (certainly more than in my mother’s and grandmother’s day). The loss of a child, even at the earliest of stages, is so hard to bear: miscarriage is, as our writer, Kate, 32, from St Albans, tells us, “invisible”, but no less painful. In this very honest account, she shares her story with us – and with you. We are deeply touched that she has chosen to tell it here – and very much hope that it will help you, your sister, your friends – anyone who has gone through the pain of miscarriage.
I still remember the first time I found out I was pregnant. It was five years ago and I was stood in the small bathroom in our tiny flat waiting for the magical second line on my pregnancy test to turn blue. We hadn’t been trying that long, two maybe three months, and I half expected the test to remain the same. But, it didn’t. It changed. And, the appearance of that faint second line was to change my life. I would have a baby. We would have a baby. Two would become three and our lives would never be the same again. I was excited, nervous, happy. I was going to have a baby.
Just as clearly, I remember the first time I miscarried five weeks later.
It was a cold, dark January evening, my boyfriend was out and I was sat on the sofa watching TV. Having got up to go to the loo I realised I was bleeding. Not a lot, just a few drops really, but alarms bells started ringing. And so, I called my boyfriend who rushed back home to take me to hospital where we sat in A&E surrounded by drunks, the walking wounded and another girl who kept rushing to the loo and I think, in hindsight, was also miscarrying. When I saw the doctor the signs were positive. I’d stopped bleeding and my cervix was closed, but they’d send me for a scan the next day to check everything was ok.
It wasn’t. “I’m sorry,” said the doctor, as she turned to give me the bad news. I was 9 weeks pregnant, but the baby had stopped growing 3 weeks previously, my body just hadn’t fully realised yet.
Taken into a small consulting room, it was explained to me that I had two choices – let it happen naturally, which might take a while or have an operation, an ERPC – Evacuation of Retained Products of Conception – arguably the coldest, most clinical name for what was about to happen. As I didn’t want to remain in a state of limbo, just waiting and waiting for the inevitable, I chose to have the operation a few days later and with that the physical side of things was done. But, emotionally, the pain was just beginning. Our lives, which for the brief time I had been pregnant had felt so certain, so ready for dirty nappies, sleepless nights and milky newborn cuddles, were completely free and unplanned again. Our baby was no longer a baby, it was a miscarriage.
The grief of miscarriage is hard to comprehend, largely because you are so alone. It’s the death of your hopes and dreams, of a person who never had the chance to live, of your child. And yet, hardly anyone, except your closest family, can understand. Everywhere I turned there were pregnant women. Every time I checked Facebook there was someone else announcing their pregnancy. It hit me like a kick to the stomach every time. I was green with envy. Why couldn’t it be me? Why did it have to happen to my baby?
But, we picked ourselves up and four months later I found out, once again, that I was pregnant. I was nervous, even more protective of the fledgling life I was carrying inside me, but I was also hopeful. My first baby wasn’t meant for this world, I told myself, this time would be different. After all, miscarriage happens to a lot of people, between 1 in 5 and 1 in 8 pregnancies end in miscarriage or so the statistics say. It’s common. This time it would be okay.
Except it wasn’t. I miscarried again.
This time I was 11 weeks, just a week away from my scan, that magical time when you see your baby for the first time, when you can sing your pregnancy from the rooftops, when you feel safe. That second time, I miscarried properly, my body contracting violently to purge itself of my lost baby. Although, once again, my body failed me and because I hadn’t miscarried fully, I found myself back at the hospital undergoing the dreaded ERPC.
In many ways my second miscarriage was worst than the first. As before, everywhere I looked people were announcing their pregnancies. “We weren’t even trying!” “Such a surprise!” “I’m pregnant!” they’d shout, joy plastered all over their faces. I tried to be happy for them, but I wasn’t. I was bitter, racked with grief for my own lost children. I was worried that having miscarried twice, I would never be able to carry a child, that I might never be able to have children. And, I was lonely, desperately lonely. Miscarriage is invisible. No-one knows what you’ve lost, that you’re suffering, because generally, very few people know when you’re first pregnant. And even if they do, there’s not a body to grieve over, there’s no physical signs of your loss for them to relate to. Most people’s attitude is simply ‘I’m sorry’ and then they forget about it and move on.
After my second miscarriage, I knew something was wrong. Although this isn’t what the NHS believes – you have to miscarry three times before they’ll investigate. Which I sort of understand, they have to set limits. But, really? Two miscarriages in the space of six months? Surely, I couldn’t be that unlucky. And so, because I was determined not to go through it again without trying my hardest to stop it, I went to see a specialist, who diagnosed the condition which was making me miscarry. And then an acupuncturist, because hell, I was going to chuck everything I could find at keeping my next baby alive.
My story ends happily. I now have three beautiful children. I’m lucky. And perhaps because I lost two babies – and yes, to me they were my babies, not just failed pregnancies – I’m even more grateful that I have my children as I know how close I was to not having them. I never take them for granted and I hope I never will. Perhaps, even I’d go so far as to say that it’s made me a better mother because. But, I also remember how lonely and devastating it was before I had them. Miscarriage ruined a year of my life, one of my friendships and in many aspects my subsequent pregnancies. The innocence of pregnancy was stolen from me and instead all I’ve ever been whilst pregnant is anxious, but still, anxiety is a small price to pay for what I have now. Which is everything.
I hope that anyone reading this never has to go through miscarriage, never has to experience that pain. But if you do have the misfortune to go through it, then never stop fighting. Never stop hoping. And remember, you’re not alone.
Dealing with Miscarriage: How to Cope
1) Talk to people. If you don’t feel you can do this in person, then go online. I found great solace in Babycentre‘s online miscarriage forums. There you’ll find women who are going through the same thing as you. Moreover, the women there are experts when it comes to finding out about the latest treatments and doctors who can help. They were also a huge support through the first nervous trimester of my third (successful) pregnancy.
2) Do your research. Check out the Miscarriage Association for information about what has happened to you and what your options are.
3) Be kind on yourself. Don’t feel you have to go out and put on a brave face, especially if you’re heading somewhere where there’ll be lots of pregnant women. Do what you want to do until you’re strong enough to face the world. Don’t feel bad about what you’re feeling. Look after yourself.
4) Recurrent miscarriage is rare. I was unlucky. If you miscarry once, it’s more than likely that your next pregnancy will be a healthy, happy one. But, if you are unlucky and it happens again do get checked out. There are several recurrent miscarriage clinics across the country. A well-known one is the NHS Recurrent Miscarriage clinic at St Mary’s Paddington in London (you can be referred to it from anywhere in the country). However, the NHS do not as standard, currently investigate a number of recurrent miscarriage conditions such as raised Natural Killer Cells, where the body’s immune system attacks the pregnancy. Hassan Shehata is a consultant obstetrician and founder of the Miscarriage Clinic. An expert in his field he is at the forefront of recurrent miscarriage research and has helped women go on to have a successful pregnancy after as many as 21 previous miscarriages. He was my doctor. While the Miscarriage Clinic is private, he does have a weekly NHS clinic. Ask to be referred to it. If your GP says no, ask again. Fight for it. It’s your right to be treated.