by Fiona Hatcher
I saw a link on Facebook about sharing your story and now that I have my two sons (Max age 2 and Jude age 2 months) I thought I should share mine.
In July 2012, when 21 weeks pregnant with our first baby, my waters broke unexpectedly. We rushed to hospital where we eventually discovered that our baby had no chance of survival due to infection that was also a risk to my health. Labour was induced and 8 hours later our first son, Patrick, was born.
Throughout, our midwife was wonderful and gave me encouragement and comfort when I couldn't take my next breath through my despair. It was undoubtedly the hardest thing I have ever done. We spent a little time with him but the shock and overwhelming distress we were in meant we just wanted it to be over.
My biggest regret is that I didn't spend longer with our first beautiful baby boy.
The hours, days and weeks that followed were unbearably painful as we tried to come to terms with the fact that we would never see our little boy again, never know the person he would grow to be. Patrick was considered a late miscarriage as he was born before 24 weeks (in many other countries including Australia and the USA, losses post 20 weeks are considered stillbirths).
This meant he had no birth certificate, no death certificate, he wasn't acknowledged officially. I carried him, I delivered him, he was a tiny little boy who weighed just 1lb. He was a person.
We heard many things in those first weeks. 'Maybe it wasn't meant to be, maybe it's for the best'. 'At least you know you can get pregnant'. 'You'll have another baby one day'.
About two months later we met with our consultant who explained that cervical insufficiency was the most likely cause of my waters breaking so early and that I would have a cervical stitch placed at the end of the first trimester in future pregnancies.
Whilst it was a relief to find out a cause and how we could hopefully prevent it happening again, I still felt that it was my fault and suffered immeasurable guilt for the pain my husband was going through.
Thankfully, not for one moment would he even entertain the notion of me blaming myself.
Around the same time we discovered that I was pregnant again. We were cautiously delighted but unsure of dates and so were offered an early scan. A heartbeat couldn't be seen at the first scan so we were asked to return 10 days later. It was then that we found out, to our devastation, that the pregnancy wasn't progressing.
I was given the choice of 'expectant' or surgical management and we decided that I would have the operation so it would be over as soon as possible. A few days later, on our first wedding anniversary, I had the operation and was once again not pregnant.
We told almost nobody about this miscarriage. I couldn't bear any more pity and was already struggling with people acting differently towards me because of the loss of Patrick.
I felt ashamed. I felt like a failure. I felt like I would never be a mother.
A few months later I was pregnant once again. We barely allowed ourselves to talk about it until after our 8 week scan when we saw a tiny heartbeat flickering away. I was extremely sick, I was tired, I felt hopeful that this was a good sign. We were incredibly anxious and so decided to have a private scan at 10 weeks.
After a few seconds the sonographer asked if she could do an internal scan as she was having trouble getting the right view. Moments later we discovered that our baby's heart had stopped beating shortly after that 8 week scan, something that is statistically (thankfully) very unusual.
That day was quite possibly the lowest point of my life so far. We were, quite simply, heartbroken and felt that we were nearing the end of the road of trying to be parents. I didn't know how much more I could take, emotionally or physically.
This time, we had told some people after the 8 week scan as we were cautiously hopeful.
Having to once again break bad news was just impossibly sad.
Once again, well meaning people rolled out the cliches. 'At least you weren't that far along'. 'At least you get pregnant quickly'. 'Everything happens for a reason'.
An understanding and kind consultant referred us to the recurrent miscarriage clinic at Kingston Hospital immediately as she felt that although we'd 'only' had two early miscarriages, the traumatic experience with Patrick meant we shouldn't be made to experience anymore miscarriages before investigations were started.
I was seen within a few weeks and given a battery of tests. The doctor explained that as standard I would be advised to take a low dose aspirin every day during my pregnancy and be started on progesterone pessaries as soon as I fell pregnant.
Within weeks I was pregnant again and followed the doctor's recommended plan. As the weeks of the first trimester passed so did several scans in which our baby's heart continued to beat, a tiny flicker of hope lighting up the darkness we had been in for the past year. Finally our 12 week scan rolled around and there was our baby, perfectly sized, heart beating and arms waving.
We were completely incredulous and now incredibly afraid of what the second trimester could hold.
I had my cervical stitch placed at 13 weeks and then began the long wait to 24 weeks when our baby would have a chance of survival. It was almost unbearable. The level of strain and stress we were under as each day passed was immense. And as Patrick was classed as a late miscarriage rather than a stillbirth, very little additional support was offered to us as standard during my pregnancy.
Thankfully we have a wonderful consultant who considered my anxiety as something that should be taken seriously and did his best to offer whatever reassurance he could. I'm sure not everyone is so lucky.
The weeks passed and at every appointment with someone who wasn't my consultant I was asked if it was my first pregnancy despite it being clear in my notes that it was my fourth including a late miscarriage.
Expecting a woman to recount traumatic experiences at every routine antenatal appointment is spectacularly unfair.
Finally we met the 24 week milestone, then 32, 34, 37 weeks and my cervical stitch was removed. Eighteen months after our first loss, our perfect son Max Patrick was born full term at 38 weeks in a moment of joy so overwhelming that it brings tears to my eyes even now when I remember it. We were indescribably happy to finally have our baby.
When Max turned one we apprehensively decided to try to add to our family. Following the same care plan as my pregnancy with Max, we watched as our baby's heartbeat stayed strong and my waters remained intact as the weeks slowly went by. In December 2015 my cervical stitch was removed and our beautiful son Jude Patrick was born, once again in a moment of absolute happiness.
We know how lucky we are to have our two little boys but every day we think of Patrick and struggle with the enormity of the fact that we will never see him again.
Yet some amongst our family and friends never reference Patrick or our early miscarriages and look awkward and quickly change the subject if we do.
Miscarriage of any kind should not be such a taboo, we should not be feeling shame and embarrassment alongside the pain (both physical and emotional) that comes with miscarriage.
I hope that our story might offer hope to anyone going through any of the experiences we did. Thanks to the work of charities like Tommy's, people like us can go on to have a family even in the face of obstacles of both the known and unknown. We are so grateful.
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