Our little Bean

We had said right from the start that we wouldn’t get ‘too excited yet’ as we were well aware that miscarriage was common. Having said that, we talked about our little secret with joy and excitement.

Unfortunately it was short-lived as at six weeks I experienced spotting for the first time. I suppose it’s only when you feel you might be losing something that you realise how important it is to you, and this was one such occasion.

I was advised by the midwife to contact the doctor for a referral to the Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU). We went for that first scan expecting to see nothing, so when we saw the little speck of life we were relieved and excited. They told us that it was quite common to experience spotting in early pregnancy and that they could see nothing to be concerned about. However, at eight weeks, when I woke up to find I was bleeding much more heavily I really thought that was the end. I was able to self-refer to the EPU where the staff were brilliant in getting us seen straight away. This time we were sure we would have bad news, so when we saw the clear heart beat and that our little bean had grown to five times the size in two weeks we were amazed and overjoyed. Once again they said they could see nothing of concern and that some women experience bleeding throughout pregnancy. They told us to not to worry as long as there was no pain and the bleeding was not severe. So when I continued to have a little bleeding we did as they had said and tried not to worry but it was easier said than done of course.

I suppose it’s only when you feel you might be losing something that you realise how important it is to you

>We carried on ‘trying not to worry’ for another three weeks. Despite the fact that the spotting had increased in frequency, I had still not experienced any pain. We carried on with the usual early pregnancy appointments and tests, and booked our twelve week scan. However, just as I approached the eleven week mark, I just couldn’t ignore it anymore. I had had no pain and the bleeding wasn’t severe, but something just didn’t feel right.

We once again went for a scan at the EPU. When the sonographer went quiet I knew it was bad news. Having broken the news to us they ushered us into another room where the midwife spoke to us. They told us that it was what they called a ‘missed miscarriage’ and that it seemed the baby had stopped growing two weeks prior to this and that we had several ‘options’.

The first was to wait for a natural miscarriage. This wasn’t an option for me as I couldn’t bear the thought of having to wait. If the baby had already been dead for two weeks, goodness knows how much longer I could have to wait. The second, was a medical management of miscarriage where by the miscarriage is ‘helped along’ with medication and the third was the surgical option. I

In the past all women automatically had what was then called a D&C, but they told us that due to improved scanning facilities that it was not necessary to take surgical measures unless necessary. I’ve never been under general anaesthetic so felt anxious about that and felt that somehow if I woke up to find it ‘all over’ I would find it even more difficult to accept. For this reason I felt that a medical management would be the best option. They gave us some leaflets and told us to go home and think about it. We were due to go away for the weekend which they said we could still do as long as we took note of the nearest A&E in case anything should happen. We rung the EPU the next day to confirm we wanted to opt for the medical management and the procedure was booked for the Monday morning.

We arrived at the hospital on the Monday morning and the midwives at the EPU treated us with the usual compassion and informed us that they were expecting us on the gynaecology ward. On arriving on the gynae ward at 10am we were ushered into a treatment room and we awaited instruction. We waited an hour, and still no one had appeared to see if we were doing okay. My husband went to investigate and was told that they were waiting for doctors to complete the paperwork. Another hour passed and one of the midwives from the EPU spotted us and was shocked that we were still there. She kindly went to investigate but was only able to tell us that they hadn’t forgotten us and that hopefully we would not have to wait much longer.

The doctor finally came in to see me at 12:30 to complete the paperwork and to tell me what could happen. The leaflet had told me that I would experience ‘heavy period-like pains and could experience heavy bleeding’ and the doctor reiterated this before I signed the consent form. I finally had the procedure three hours after arrival. I was told to stay lying down for half an hour and that they would return to take my blood pressure and we would then hopefully be on our way. I continued to lie there with my husband at my side with the little sheet over me. No one returned half an hour later. The door opened a little later but it was a cleaner who came in to clean the toilet in the corner of the little room.

There seemed to be so little dignity in it. Did they not know why we were there?

Surely someone would pop in to see how we were doing? It was only an hour after the procedure that we finally saw a health care assistant who came to take my blood pressure and ask questions like ‘how would you rate your pain level out of ten?’ Rather than being reassured by them it was me reassuring her as I saw her worried expression that my blood pressure is normally quite low.

We were finally able to go home at 3pm, five hours after our arrival. Unfortunately they did not administer any pain relief until after the pain had started so my poor husband had to drive the 30 minute journey home with me in pain in the passenger seat. When we got home I curled up on the sofa with the hot water bottle my husband had made me. By this stage I was already experiencing pain every two minutes and I had wisened up to the fact that what in the leaflet had been described as ‘heavy period-like pains’ were actually contractions. Why did they never tell me that? When I think about it now I was so naïve. I assumed that as the baby was so small it wouldn’t take long and that the pain would be manageable. ‘After all, I used to have heavy periods, I’m sure it will be fine.’

What they hadn’t told me was the medication they administer induces labour, starting contractions so that your womb can expel the foetus. The contractions intensified and grew in frequency, and feeling totally unprepared we were both unbelievably scared. The ordeal continued for six hours before it stopped.

On that day, my pregnancy was over, but what I hadn’t appreciated at the time was that my pregnancy would continue, despite the loss of life. It was as if the little soul stayed with me and I carried it with me for the remaining twenty-nine weeks.

I could never have imagined how the glimmer of life that was a part of me for just a couple of months could have such a profound effect on our lives.

I knew we would be sad; really sad. What I hadn’t anticipated was that the sadness would be accompanied by a whole host of complex emotions. I’d lost people dear to me in the past, and I thought I was ready for the grieving process. However, it wasn’t as simple as just grieving. Either that, or grieving really wasn’t as simple as what I’d once thought.

When I look back at the first few weeks, I feel like I was doing better then than I was a few months down the line. I was exceptionally emotional, but was desperate to get back to normal for everyone’s sake. I went about life as planned with tears in between. I thought that if I kept going it would eventually get better. I’m not sure how I did carry on really. I was hurting, but somehow found the strength to just carry on. That said, I was experiencing symptoms of stress and anxiety, perhaps as a result of bottling everything up.

I went back to work when the term started. I was dreading the first day because I knew that I would be confronted by the otherwise ordinary question of “How was your summer?” I repeatedly gave the response of “It was alright.” but what I really wanted to say was “It was crap.” It was a mixture of not wanting to get emotional in front of colleagues and the fear that people wouldn’t want to hear about my horrendous summer or the fear of the response I might get. It was just easier to give a short answer then walk away. It seemed like the better option at the time, but really, it may have been counterproductive.

Hiding my emotions was exhausting.

In hindsight, I should have given myself permission to feel as I did and take some time off work. I knew that people wanted to see me better and I wanted to be better. I perhaps got sucked into convincing myself and everyone else that I was OK rather than dealing with the sadness I was feeling. I also think that grieving was put on hold because of the other emotions that were taking over. Equally, I wasn’t really dealing with all those other emotions because I was too busy trying to be ‘normal’.

Inevitably there was anger and disappointment that the excitement of starting a family had been crushed but I also felt anger and frustration in the lack of care I felt we had received and the traumatic experience we’d been through. I was angry and disappointed that the experience had put a dampener on the excitement I would have otherwise felt for my friends who were expecting. I was frustrated and angry with myself that I felt jealous of others and their new arrivals or expectant arrivals. Every time I saw a picture on a newsfeed or heard of something, I felt such a gash in the heart, but I didn’t want to.

I really wanted to feel happy for them and felt guilty every time I felt negative about such happy news.

I also felt angry and disappointed that we had lost our summer. I really felt like we had wasted a whole summer. Life had been on hold and we hadn’t been able to do anything we would normally do during our holidays, whether it be working on renovating our house or going on an adventure somewhere. I would then feel guilty for saying it had been a waste of a summer when I considered that that ‘waste of time’ was a little life that we had created.

The most difficult of emotions I was faced with was perhaps the feeling that my body had let me down.

People kept saying to me not to blame myself for what had happened. I didn’t blame myself in the sense that I didn’t feel I could have done anything more to save the baby and didn’t feel I had done anything wrong. What I did feel, however, was a strong sense of inadequacy. After all, a woman’s body is made to bring new lives into the world and my body wasn’t capable of that. It somehow made me feel less of a woman. Even now, the last thought brings tears to my eyes despite realising the irrationality of it.

All of those feelings seem to get stronger rather than disappear over time. When I think about it now, I perhaps had a little more hope in the early days to keep me going. I found comfort in the words of so many women and men who had lost babies to miscarriages. More often than not, women who spoke to me of their experiences would tell me that they were pregnant by the time their ‘due date’ came along and that they were sure it would be the same for me. Although that thought was comforting to begin with, as time went on and it was looking likely that that wasn’t going to happen, it was perhaps extra pressure and just another reminder of what I longed for but couldn’t have. It was a pressure that was put on by none other than myself, but it was never the less a difficult one.

The pregnancy was far from an accident but I wouldn’t have said I was desperate to have a baby either, but somehow losing one changed things. It was something innate; instinct maybe, that took over and I needed to be pregnant again. Perhaps it was more a matter of needing to know that it was possible. Despite knowing deep down that neither my body nor mind were ready for it, I sought to be a mum again.

Sadly, in January 2016, I had a second miscarriage.

This time it was really early on in pregnancy and a completely different experience to the first. It was sad, but it was also a blessing in disguise. It was breaking point for me. I couldn’t carry on anymore, and while that was an awful place to be, that realisation was also a positive thing. It made me finally seek help, and thanks to meeting a brilliant GP and her holistic approach, I’ve been able to start the journey to recovery. I was referred to a charity for counselling and this also lead me to sharing my story via my blog. So many people have come forward to share their stories with me having read mine. Not only is it comforting to know that there are others out there who know what you are going through but it has also been a comfort to hear that sharing my story has been of help to others. It is definitely playing an important part in my emotional recovery.

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