Story of #miscourage by Suzanne,
One of the first things you need to know about me is that I like to be in control. Yes, I am a classic type A, uptight, control freak with perfectionist tendencies. I’m also an accountant but please don’t let that put you off. So putting my story out there leaves me in a cold sweat; I’ll probably break out in hives at any minute! I want to share my experience in the hope that others may find comfort in it. I know I have taken comfort from reading other women’s important stories. But I also want to tell the stories of my 4 children who I will never meet but who will be forever in my heart.
In January 2010, I went to visit my best friend and her beautiful new born baby boy who is my godson. As I held him for the first time, I had an inkling I might be pregnant too but it was still too soon to take a test. So I waited (not easy for someone like me) and a week or so later the 2 blue lines appeared on the stick. I was over the moon. I had worked out my due date, started on lists of names, and designed the nursery in my mind all within the hour!
At about 6 weeks, I started to be sick. And not just throwing up here or there, I mean really sick. At my worst, I was sick every half hour. I couldn’t keep anything down, I was utterly miserable and off work in bed for 10 weeks. I couldn’t stand up. It felt like the worst hangover ever combined with motion sickness 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It was absolutely relentless. Many a day was spent lying on the bathroom floor in tears wishing the sickness would end. I only made it out to go to the doctor who told me I had hyperemesis. Hyperemesis is a lonely, miserable experience and the only thing that got me through this time was keeping focussed on meeting my baby.
And on the 21st of October 2010, after a brutal 44 hour labour, she arrived to change my life forever. My beautiful, red-headed baby girl, Ruby Elspeth. The most precious gift I will ever be given.
Fast forward the clock 2 and a bit years and it was time to think about trying for baby number 2. It had taken me quite a while to get my head round the idea of being pregnant again. I’d been told that it was likely I’d have hyperemesis again and the thought of that was daunting to say the least. It is one thing going in blind, but another altogether knowing what you are letting yourself in for! The added complication was a year after having Ruby, I was diagnosed with auto-immune thyroid disease. Not only can this can impact on your ability to conceive, it also has to be carefully controlled throughout pregnancy in order to avoid a range of complications.
Every month for the next 2 years there was nothing. I was using every chart, ovulation kit and thermometer going and still no positive pregnancy test. Tests showed nothing was wrong so we were advised to keep trying. And as soon as I stopped with all the charts and kits, in February 2015, those 2 blue lines finally appeared! I was elated if worried about how I would cope with the sickness and a small child. However, I’d come up with a plan with my GP who said he would prescribe anti-emetic medication as soon as I was pregnant to try and stave off the worst of the hyperemesis. But less than a week later, and the day before my appointment with the doctor, the bleeding started. I was miscarrying, albeit very early. But still, in my head, everything had been planned out. That baby had a name (she was a girl, Francesca), a due date (late October – near Ruby’s birthday) and she would have completed my family. I was devastated but vowed to keep trying.
By some miracle, the next positive test came about 4 weeks later. This was it this time, I knew it, I could feel it. It would be ok. I went to the doctor, got my medication sorted and waited. The sickness came. I was bed bound and miserable, but every day I got through, was one step closer to meeting my baby. She was another girl who I wanted to call Matilda.
Because of the previous early miscarriage, I was lucky enough to be offered a 7 week reassurance scan. I saw the tiny baby on the screen, no more than a few centimetres in length, and she had a heart beat flickering away. All was well. I even got a scan picture to take home.
It was a long wait until the 12 week scan. Or more like 13 weeks in this case. But I had gotten there. My husband drove me to the hospital and we sat in the waiting room discussing how we would let people know about the pregnancy. Twenty minutes or so later, my name was called and we walked through chatting to the radiographer about the struggles I’d been having with hyperemesis and how this scan was an important milestone in getting through another difficult pregnancy.
It is funny how you can tell when something is wrong. Everything goes into slow motion and your senses become heightened. The monitor which was turned towards me so I could see the baby was quickly turned away and the room fell silent. It felt like a life time as she pressed down on my tummy taking measurements and staring at the screen. And then those words; ‘I’m so sorry Suzanne, but there is no heart beat’. Nothing can prepare you for that. I’d been so sick (which I was forever being told is the sign of a strong pregnancy), the 7 week scan had been fine and I’d had no bleeding. How was this possible? She told me I’d had a missed miscarriage. I’d never heard of that before. The baby died at about 8-9 weeks and my body hadn’t recognised the loss. I couldn’t take it in.
I remember being ushered in to a side room where a midwife talked through my options. I was distraught and just wanted it to be over, so I decided on a surgical procedure to have the ‘retained products of conception’ (otherwise known as my baby, Matilda) removed. The night before the operation was awful. I was in pieces and remember praying, for this first time in many years, asking God to help me make it through the night without the bleeding starting. The thought I’d been living with a dead baby inside me for 5 weeks was just too much to bear. It continues to haunt me to this day.
The other thing I wasn’t prepared for was making a decision about what to do with the remains. In my fragile state, I agreed that the hospital could dispose of them. I cannot tell you how much I now regret that decision.
I mentioned before that I am a control freak. Well, my operation was on the Friday and the only way I knew how to cope was to go back to work on Monday, my hands still black and blue with bruises where the anaesthetist had struggled to get the cannulas in. I was scheduled to run a full day training session for 40 people and to this day, I have no idea how I managed to do it. All I knew was I needed my head to be filled with anything other than thinking about what had happened.
I’d told a few friends and family about the pregnancy. You can’t really hide it when you have hyperemesis and are having to rely on people for childcare and are calling off all invitations. Having to tell them what had happened was awful but resulted in an outpouring of love and support. Friends came and cried with me, held me, told me it was shit and largely stayed away from many of the platitudes that come with baby loss.
Later that year, another positive pregnancy test, the third in 2015. Surely this time everything would be ok. Again, the sickness came. Medication worked a bit but not enough to allow me to do much at all and I was largely bed bound. I had a scan at both 6 and 8 weeks and all was well, the tiny heart beat flashing on the monitor. He was a boy this time, Rory. No one other than one or two close friends and immediate family knew about this pregnancy. It was just too difficult to share.
The appointment letter for my 12 week scan arrived. It was scheduled for the middle of January 2016. However, at the start of January just after New Year, I had a feeling something wasn’t right. There was no bleeding or cramping, I just had an uneasy sense that all was not well. But given my history, maybe I was just being over anxious and worrying unnecessarily. So, in order to allay my worst fears, I made an appointment at a private clinic and went for a scan.
I knew the signs this time. The monitor being turned away, the look on the radiographers face, the pressing down on my tummy, the silence. ‘I’m so sorry Suzanne, there is no heartbeat’. How could this be happening again? What was wrong with me? Why won’t my body allow me to carry a baby? What have I done to deserve this?
Again, another operation followed. I knew the drill this time too. In fact, I was joking with the midwives about it, black humour a coping mechanism. I had a terrible time after this procedure as I contracted a post op pelvic infection. This greatly delayed my physical recovery and added insult to ever increasing injury.
After I’d recovered came the talk of would we try again? I wanted to but my husband didn’t know if we could both go through it again. It was too much. I could totally see where he was coming from but I just had that deep desire to have another baby.
The one thing I was certain of was I wanted to recognise these babies short lives in some way. You don’t get an opportunity to have a funeral for babies who die in the first trimester of pregnancy but I am fortunate enough to have people in my life that helped me arrange a small service in church. It was just me, my best friend and the priest who were there. I got a chance to light 3 candles for Francesca, Matilda and Rory; talk about them, honour and pray for them. Another friend gave me a prayer he had written for a baby loss remembrance service which was read out. This meant so much to me and said, much more eloquently than I ever could, what I was feeling and what I wanted to say. I know this will not be for everybody, but it was an important part of the grieving process for me.
And to summer 2017. I was convinced I was pregnant again. I’ve never been wrong and I was already having some of the very early symptoms and feeling sick. I held off on doing a test partly because I didn’t want to tempt fate but also because I was having a really terrible time at work and I wasn’t coping very well. If I put it off, I wouldn’t know for sure and wouldn’t go down the rabbit hole that is pregnancy post miscarriage.
I still haven’t taken that test. The week after my period was due, the bleeding started. I went to hospital but there was really nothing they could do.
I’m not sure where I go from here on this journey. I’m 40 now so time is not on my side. As much as I’d love to have my rainbow baby, I don’t think it will happen.
So, to my 4 unborn children; ‘I will never forget you. I have carved you on the palm of my hand.’
And to Ruby; you are my miracle.
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