Feeling dismissed by medics and being treated like a statistic

Bhajan lost 6 babies before bringing home her baby Katrina. She sadly lost another baby at 8 weeks after Katrina was born. In this blog, Bhajan reflects on her devastating losses and the taboo in the Asian culture.

We married in November 1990 and then started trying 4 years later. I’d come off the pill and thought I’d fall straight away but didn’t which was a shock. After 9 months investigations came back fine and in 1995 I managed to fall pregnant.

We’d gone for an anniversary meal and I’d written Peter a little card to tell him the happy news. 

We were off to New York in December and, 10 days before, I had a show. My GP reassured me it was normal for some women to bleed. However, later on that day I started to bleed more and went to A&E where an internal showed my cervix was closed so I was told to return home and rest. When I went back to hospital later because I was in excruciating pain, my blood pressure was dropping and an internal showed I was miscarrying.

I just remember screaming in pain, begging for help as I slipped in and out of consciousness

It all happened so quickly and, because of my blood pressure, the doctor had to manually start the D&C. I was kept in overnight and had another D&C in the morning. When I asked why it had happened they told me, at that time, 1 in 5 women miscarried, that it was nature’s way of saying something wasn’t right. This felt like a dagger, being told that I was a statistic.

My dreams were shattered and nothing made any sense. I just wanted to die.

I realised the baby I’d talked to and connected with was no longer there. As I left hospital it hit me, I was supposed to be leaving with a baby, not empty-handed. I felt like a failure.

They gave me some literature but it wasn’t helpful. I did contact one of the suggested support groups but the woman on the phone had kids in the background and was distracted which didn’t help.

Further loss

I lost my second pregnancy in February 1997 at 6 weeks. The third, in December that year, was at 15 weeks. I went to hospital, the labour pains were unreal, and I delivered. Looking at the foetus I could only think ‘Why?’ there was nothing wrong with him. I learned I’d had a bad infection but we still had no real answers after 3 losses.

The fourth miscarriage was at 19 weeks a year later. When I started looking into it, it sounded like I may have an incompetent cervix, at no point had anyone scanned my cervix length.

With my fifth pregnancy I was under a consultant who was aware of the issue of incompetent cervix. Mr Fusi, who has been my rock, monitored my cervix length every 2 weeks. He suggested a suture which was put in at week 13 but I miscarried again 4 weeks later.

In 2000 I fell pregnant again and had a suture as well as antibiotics for the risk of infection and pessaries to try and maintain the pregnancy. They found the PH in my cervix was high so I was given gel to maintain that. I was on bed rest from week 13 when they put in cervical sutures but, unfortunately, at week 21 I miscarried again. I had thought the suture would be my miracle but it wasn’t meant to be. This was a difficult one. 

People don’t know what to say to you, they run away

If you are Asian and you miscarry you can’t be around other young women in case you pass your bad luck to them. You are dealing with loss and then being treated as if you have some kind of contagious disease.

I had funerals for 3 of my babies, Ajay, Akshay and Anisha, and it was incredibly hard but I needed closure. As the weeks go by you think you are coping and family and friends talk about anything and everything but avoid discussing what you have gone through, they forget you are still hurting inside. 

I did thank God for every pregnancy, for letting me share that time with my child, thought heart-breaking, it was still a blessing.

My seventh pregnancy gave me my living child

I knew I had an incompetent cervix, my PH wasn’t good, then I saw a documentary on TV and asked to be referred to a centre of excellence for a second opinion. I told the team at St Mary’s in Paddington my story and they did tests which showed I have a tendency to clot. I started taking a blood thinner at week 6. 

I asked about the trans-abdominal stitch but St Mary’s could only offer me the cervical suture which had already failed in 2 pregnancies. I went back to my consultant, Mr Fusi, and he agreed to do a trans-abdominal stitch at 12 weeks. This time I was on aspirin, clexhane, progesterone and using live yoghurt to manage my PH.

At around 4 months I thought my waters had broken and went to hospital. The registrar tried to send me home but I explained, she listened and beeped Mr Fusi who advised her to admit me into hospital where I spent 4 months on bed rest.

By week 36 I was struggling and in so much pain. They asked me what I wanted and I told them, to deliver my baby. On December 9th the sun was shining as my consultant turned up to deliver.

Katrina arrived and, by the grace of God, was absolutely fine. I couldn’t believe she was actually there. I hugged my consultant and cried uncontrollably because he had made it happen. He had listened to me and, without that, Katrina wouldn’t be here.

That’s the thing, it just takes 1 person to make that difference. He was with me whereas previous medics had dismissed me as anxious, treated me like a statistic.

I had 1 more miscarriage after Katrina, at week 8. 

There’s a lot more awareness now than there was then but so much more to be done. Women are still suffering in silence, we need more voices out there and Tommy’s is helping with that. Why do women need to suffer so much before someone pays attention?