Part 1 of 2
*This story is about the author's first miscarriage
My husband and I had a miscarriage at week 7 of our pregnancy. In the days and weeks that followed I was desperate to hear of other people’s experiences as a way to reassure myself and my husband that our thoughts, feelings and reactions to our miscarriage were ‘normal.’
I have decided to share our experience to add to the stories out there and maybe in some way contribute to breaking the ‘taboo’ of pregnancy loss for others that have also been through a miscarriage.
Miscarriage can be a long, drawn out, draining and emotional process. To me, our miscarriage felt like it started at 6 weeks with our first visit to A&E on a Friday night due to bleeding. After that first visit we had a scan which showed the flicker of a heartbeat and gave us a short lived sense of things being normal. Then what followed was more bleeding, a lot of calls to 111 and the eventual outcome at 7 weeks.
Our miscarriage happened at home and to this day I can still mentally take myself back to our bathroom, my cries and the look on my husband’s face as we realised what was happening. A normal Sunday night of Chinese takeaway ended in another rush to A&E, a scan the next morning to confirm and an operation 2 weeks later to complete what felt like my body’s second failure in as many weeks.
Miscarriage exposes you to a number of different parts of the NHS. As much as I am grateful for the services we have in this country and can understand that there are barely enough resources to deal with women with successful pregnancies, let alone the 1 in 5 that don’t get that far, after going through the system my overriding opinion is that there is a lot that can be improved. From the A&E Nurse who within an hour of our miscarriage instructed my husband to put what remained of our pregnancy in the medical waste bin with an “I don’t need to see it” (we had been told to bring everything by 111), to the Nurse performing the final scan asking if I wanted to see the empty sac on her screen to the Nurse who came up to me post surgery with the advice “Don’t stress yourself, God has chosen your baby” and then proceeded to show my photos on her mobile of her own daughter who had died at 12 years old and was “with God”.
Don’t get me wrong, there was no malice in any of this, but a simple “What not to say to someone after a miscarriage course” could be useful! That’s not to say all of my experiences were like this; I did meet some of the most genuinely compassionate medical professionals and will always be thankful for the time they gave us within the pressurised environment they work in.
Miscarriage can lead to a huge sense of isolation. From the moment I was medically discharged with a leaflet advising us where to access help we felt at a loss as to what to do next. It didn’t seem fair to tell people of our loss; being so early on in our pregnancy we hadn’t told anyone and without there being a pregnancy to speak of our loss seemed irrelevant. However, the need for support was too great and we did gradually tell people, initially my mum, a friend/neighbour, 2 friends from “back home” and work. All of whom have been amazing whether it was coming to see me in London, sending messages to check on me, keeping the normal social things going, understanding when I cancelled plans last minute and just making it known that they were there if I needed to talk and listening to me when I did.
Miscarriage can start an emotional rollercoaster which can be terrifying and seemingly endless. In the days and weeks since our miscarriage I have gone through every emotion – from the ‘I’m OK’ to incredibly debilitating sadness, to despair to anger to jealousy. The particular difficulty with the immediate days post miscarriage is that as well as emotional response you also have to deal with lingering pregnancy hormones and the normal side effects of pregnancy. I have been overwhelmed at times with feelings of guilt –what did I do wrong?, have I left it too long to fall pregnant?, do I deserve to have a child?, will my body prevent my husband from having the child he longs for?- are all things that have gone through my mind. I was also angry at myself for being unable to ‘snap out of it’; I have been through huge losses in my life; I am an Army wife who has been through the standard numerous deployments where you are just expected to get on with things and there I was spending hours and days under my duvet.
There is also guilt from not being able to reassure those closest to you that you ‘feel better’. I have tried to push myself into situations to reassure other people and demonstrate that I am better, from initially going back to work after 2 days to putting myself in the company of those who are pregnant in the very early weeks following the miscarriage. None of which were helpful to me and ultimately led to further time off work post-surgery as I tried to cope with what we had been through.
Miscarriage leads to you not only losing your present, but also your future. In the initial weeks of our pregnancy when things were normal I found myself thinking about everything from potential names, to the close relationship I hoped our baby would have with my brother’s imminent first child to the more trivial factors such as the countdown to the end of my commute and my future of coffee mornings and meeting other Army wives. Miscarriage also changes your reality of pregnancy. Our reality started with thoughts of an end point of welcoming our baby to the world 9 months later, but it has now changed. Our reality is now that miscarriage is a real possibility. I want the fairytale pregnancy that you see repeated around you; I want to be one of the ‘Baby on Board’ badge wearing commuters, I want to complain about swollen ankles and be buying nursery things but my fear of this experience being repeated is sometimes overwhelming and in my lowest moments I doubt if I have the emotional resilience it requires.
Miscarriage is different for everyone; no two people will have the same experience and ways of coping will differ.
I am grateful that my husband and I have received support and that the days are getting easier. We found a lot of support in the form of Miscarriage Association meetings; these have been invaluable in enabling us to meet with and talk to others going through the same. If you have had a miscarriage I would recommend looking at the Miscarriage Association for the support available in your local area and their monitored discussion boards. I also made the decision to deactivate social media accounts in the short term. Facebook reflects life and life goes on; there will be pregnancy and birth announcements, there will be baby photos, there will be complaints of pregnancy symptoms and there will be people you see at the same stage of pregnancy as you were documenting their journey. Controlling the messages I see has enabled me to focus on myself, my husband and our wellbeing.
That’s not to say that there aren’t low points; my birthday this week was particularly emotional thinking about the stage of pregnancy I should have been at and knowing that it should have been the last birthday I spent without children. We are also conscious of our due date – 28th March 2016 – and at the moment I don’t know how I will get through that day. Miscarriage leaves a permanent mark on you but I am determined that it won’t control us or diminish future chances of happiness. We have a lot to look forward to, in particular meeting my first blood niece who I shut myself away from for the first weeks of her life as seeing a newborn was beyond my emotional strength at that time and I know that there will be future family occasions and additions that will bring us the same happiness in the future.
To bring an end to this blog I offer the following advice to anyone who has gone through a loss:
- Don’t feel there is a timeline to “feel better/ get closure”. There will be days that you feel more able to cope and days where you feel helpless. Be kind to yourself and your emotions.
- Talk to those in your support network who offer the opportunity
- Be prepared that some people will not acknowledge your miscarriage, not necessarily because they do not care but because they do not know how to vocalise their thoughts
And finally, if you are someone who wants to support a friend going through miscarriage my only advice would be that a hug, or a simple : “sorry for your loss” goes a long way.
Please note that the opinions expressed by users in Tommy’s Book of #misCOURAGE are solely those of the user, who is unlikely to have had medical training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of Tommy’s and are not advice from Tommy's. Reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from a qualified health care provider. We strongly advise readers not to take drugs that are not prescribed by your qualified healthcare provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, midwife or hospital immediately. Read full disclaimer