by Sez Meredith
We were on holiday when I started cramping and miscarrying the child I had suspected was there. I hadn’t been tracking my period but the moment I started to bleed, I knew it wasn’t normal. I felt a deep, unsettling dread with each bathroom trip, but then, just as quickly as it started, it stopped. It lasted two days and I managed my long international flight with no further issues.
Two days after we landed, I had severe cramps and proceeded to pass the baby I did not know was there. It may sound macabre, but I spent ages staring at this 50p sized blob that housed my lifeless child. Tiny, insignificant and yet it meant so much. I wondered how everything could go on as normal, and so, as I do with any trauma, I put it aside and continued to live life as if nothing happened. Apart from a few nights of bad cramps and pain, I had no more bleeding. I was only able to tell my partner about it a week later.
Soon after we returned to the UK, I saw a doctor. As I hadn’t tested or come to see him in time, so he couldn’t confirm the miscarriage, but he believed in my ‘diagnosis.’
Since the miscarriage in December, I had become unbearably broody, so when I noticed pregnancy symptoms again I was filled with excitement (and dread.) I tested and tested, with repeated negative tests, until towards the end of January when I got my BFP.
I had friends check it and I did more tests – some came out negative and some positive. I knew something was wrong – I had that same feeling of dread. Then at a time that was right on track for both my period and implantation bleeding I started spotting. It lasted four days and felt insignificant. My pregnancy symptoms increased, whilst the tests became fainter.
I decided to see a doctor. It was a new GP who seemed friendly and supportive. She did a urine test, which came back negative, but she assured me this was probably just because my HCG was too low. She saw a positive pregnancy test that I had done the day before and confirmed that a test almost definitely means a pregnancy. We did a blood test.
I had to wait over a weekend for my results and I felt like I was going crazy. I was no longer getting any positive tests and my pregnancy symptoms had disappeared. That Monday, the doctor called: “I’m sorry, Sarah, your HCG levels are only 2.” I asked her to confirm if that meant nothing was there and that my positive tests could only have meant pregnancy. She told me that I was correct, and that the blood tests would also have shown up any other reasons for a positive pregnancy test (such as certain tumours etc). She seemed sympathetic and that was it.
I felt so empty. So confused. And so alone. I cried on and off for most of the day.
I Called my partner, trying to hold it together between the tears and asked him to get me wine. I spent the next day numb and hungover at a funeral. Trying hard not to focus on my pain, but the pain of my extended family. It was hard not to be self-absorbed, so I kept to myself.
I turned to friends, some of whom were endlessly supportive – making my laugh through my tears and making it clear that what I was going through was terrible, not just something uncomfortable that would soon pass. The best responses I have had have begun with ‘oh, shit’ or ‘oh god, that’s awful,’ followed by out pouring of sympathies. I love these people, because they made it okay for me to feel this way and alright for me to be a little bit broken.
Other friends were less so; a line or two of sympathy, followed by a subject change to something ridiculously trite and insensitive. I understand it may be hard for people to deal with or know how to respond, but this caused a lot of unnecessary hurt and I was left feeling isolated and, in some ways, like my pain was a nuisance.
In the following days, I waited and waited for the bleeding to start. Extreme pain followed, back ache, stomach cramps. I was often unable to move from pain and nausea and dizziness, but no bleeding.
Two weeks later, I went back to my GP. She proceeded to tell me that she thought I hadn’t been pregnant at all, both in December and now. I was so shocked and embarrassed that I didn’t ask her follow-up questions.
It all seemed so surreal. She had a kind smile on, but her overall look was one of pity and condescension. I felt tiny.
I left her rooms feeling confused and worried that I was losing my mind. Munchausen’s syndrome crossed my mind a few times. I had so clearly been displaying pregnancy symptoms that, surely, I was either pregnant or insane. It was only when my incredibly cynical partner came home and told me that the doctor had not seen what he had and that there is no way I hadn’t been pregnant, that I started to believe myself again. He believed in my symptoms and the symptoms he saw, more than a test or a GP. He’d seen his fiancé pregnant before and knew I had been pregnant again.
I decided to write to her – to explain, in graphic detail, everything that happened and with a clear timeline, perhaps she was confused. After writing it all out and sending it, I was relieved and fully believed in myself again. Whilst I have the utmost respect and belief in medical professionals, I know my body and have often had to fight for diagnoses that turn out correct.
After the email, she scheduled another appointment. I was excited and nervous – I hoped that I would finally have some answers.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I won’t bore you with a lengthy description of the consultation, but here are some quotes that stood out:
• “Even if you did have two miscarriages, your anxiety is disproportionate.”
• “This (dismissively waving at my printed out email) doesn’t worry me – your anxiety worries me”
• “Oh, did you want the baby?”
• “I don’t understand why you need answers – do you want to have miscarried?”
I explained to her, as clearly as possible, that miscarriages are a terrible thing to go through and they are a very emotional time, so my anxiety is normal. That being said, I told her that her focus on my anxiety made me more anxious, as she wasn’t focusing on my physical symptoms at all. I asked for an explanation of how I had managed to get five positive pregnancy tests (on different brands of tests and different batches), without being pregnant and having tested negative for illnesses that can cause false positives – this was brushed over as if I had made up the tests. No explanation was ever given for this.
I also made it clear that I wanted these miscarriages on my medical record, as the NHS won’t investigate the cause of miscarriages, until you have had three on record. She made it clear that she didn’t want to do that and I could only get her to agree to write ‘suspected miscarriage in December’ and she refused to write down anything to do with the recent issue, as she wasn’t ‘willing to accept anything is wrong.’
I left angry and annoyed. I felt simultaneously stupid, humiliated and grossly mistreated. I joined a support group on Facebook for women who have miscarried.
I could not believe that we had three consultations about suspected miscarriages and not once did she ask me what medication I was on. I made the appointment with the practice manager, who seemed to agree with me and encouraged me to make it a formal complaint.
At the time making a complaint gave me closure. I have since received the report of and sadly instead of giving me further information, it merely defends the doctor's attitude and care. I was told that the positive pregnancy tests were probably ineffective or out of date. I just wish that my miscarriage had been properly acknowledged.
I have since passed my second baby, a lot later than expected. Bleeding was relatively quick, but not painless.
I wrote this post to spread awareness. It’s OK to talk about your loss, no matter who believes you or how awkward it may make others feel.