In the run up to Christmas of last year I had spent weeks hiding the sickness & tiredness of my first pregnancy, and couldn't wait to finish work and enjoy a good long rest!...
But on the 23rd Dec, just before leaving the office for the drive to my parents, I was scared to discover a very slight bleed. Only 5 minutes before I'd felt happy and excited for Christmas, but now I couldn’t stop the tears as I joined my brother in his car.
In all honesty I didn't know where to turn. But my brother suggested I call the Early Pregnancy Unit local to my parents, and they booked a scan for 9am the next morning.
That evening I tried hard to stay positive as I told my husband, Tom, doing my best to convince us both that it was likely nothing to worry about. I also asked that we keep it quiet from our family.
The 23rd Dec is a date already tinged with sadness in our house as it’s the anniversary of my gran's passing…so how could I possibly tell my mum there might be something wrong with my baby?
The next day, and on the morning of Christmas Eve, we said we were going out to finish some last minute Christmas shopping.
Instead Tom and I found ourselves in a darkened room, with a long and deafening silence as the sonographer searched for a heartbeat. But then came the quiet click of the screen being switched off, and this told me everything.
Tears were already streaming down my cheeks as I turned to look at Tom, and I can too clearly remember the devastation etched over his pale face; it's a look I hoped I would never see again.
It turned out our little one was still present, but had no heartbeat. He or she was also small & underdeveloped for the 11 weeks, 2 days I was supposed to be. Instead our baby had stopped growing at 7 weeks, 6 days, and I had had a silent or 'missed miscarriage,' something we needed explained to us.
We were moved to a separate room with our heads in a spin...I still felt pregnant so how could I have lost our baby? Was it something I ate or drank? Did I work out too often or overdo it? Surely this must all be my fault? And what would happen now? ...
In answer to this last question we were advised to leave it a week & then have another scan 'to be sure.' This would mean spending all of Christmas carrying our tiny lifeless baby, who I knew in my heart was already gone...along with all the hopes, dreams and excitement we had already invested in him or her.
Christmas became an incredibly sad time for us, and lonely too; it was strange knowing everyone else the world over was celebrating, whilst in our home our hearts were breaking.
We were also in limbo, as what I now know is that healing (both mental and physical) is impossible until you've undergone one of the necessary procedures that follow for a mmc. And how are you supposed to decide this?...How can you possibly decide on the best option to ensure certain and final loss of the baby you wanted so much?
We wrestled with this, but eventually decided on the tablet management route, and in the early hours of New Year's Eve morning I cried and cried as I finally started to bleed.
Over the next few weeks when asked 'How was your Christmas?' of course, I would reply, 'Lovely thanks. And you?' The reality was far too difficult and inappropriate for small talk.
In these early weeks we busied ourselves with work, and seeing friends & family. But the miscarriage still consumed my thoughts, and especially at night.
There were other challenges too, like my hair starting to fall out, or seeing other people's baby scans. But gradually it did get easier, and then one day I realized it hadn't been my waking thought that morning. I was definitely starting to feel better, and so was Tom.
Following the nurses' advice, we decided to wait until after my first period to try again. This took a lengthy 6.5 weeks to return, and the waiting seemed a constant and cruel reminder. When the time came later that month we were disappointed at a negative pregnancy test.
Yet one week on, I tested again and this time it was positive! But our good news was short-lived when the following week, and over the Easter holidays, I returned to the Early Pregnancy Unit with pain in my lower right side.
We were devastated once more to find our baby had no heartbeat, and I had had another mmc.
Strangely, I also learned I was further on than the 6 weeks I had thought, but once again had lost our baby at 7 weeks, 6 days.
Aside from a renewed sense of grief, something seemed to shift in me on learning that I'd lost both pregnancies at the same stage, and again through an mmc rather than spontaneous miscarriage.
As before, I was told, 'It's just one of those things,' but where I'd reluctantly accepted this before, this time I couldn't. Both pregnancies had implanted, been in the right place, and up to the same stage had had a heartbeat. From this point forward I felt convinced there was more to it. This feeling was further heightened when a letter followed my D&C surgery confirming that testing 'showed no evidence of abnormality.'
This time, in the days and weeks that followed I felt I desperately needed to understand why I'd lost our babies. At 33, I wasn’t too old, I don't smoke, I'm healthy, work out, and I've even run a couple of marathons…So what was the problem?!
I threw myself into learning about miscarriage, reading other women's accounts of mmc, as well as medical details on the known causes. I also asked my doctor for help but she believed two losses was still just a coincidence. I wasn’t getting anywhere.
But then a month after the D&C op, I learned of Tommy's charity through a friend's Facebook page. Tommy’s had opened their miscarriage research clinic only the week before.
Soon after contacting them I had an appointment, and felt such relief on meeting this lovely, patient and compassionate team. Aside from the battery of tests they offered, it felt wonderful to have a Specialist agree that, 'No, I don't think it's a coincidence either.'
Finally, someone was listening!
A month after this visit I got a call to tell me that all of my blood results were normal...with the exception of one. I had tested positive for something called Factor V Leiden, a faulty blood clotting gene which means the blood clots more than it should.
It goes without saying that you never want to hear something is wrong, but strangely, one of the first things I felt at this news was relief; Relief at having a possible explanation...and now surely I could be treated?
Well, it has been over 5 months since I received those test results...but my most recent scan happily confirmed that the baby I am now carrying is a healthy baby girl! Tom and I couldn't be more thrilled…although getting to this point has been far from easy.
Pregnancy following a miscarriage is a daily turmoil of emotions, constantly fearing it could happen again, and with no way of knowing between scans if that tiny heart is still beating. Until the day Tom and I get to hold our baby girl in our arms I am certain the fear of loss will never fully leave us, yet we are growing quietly more confident by the day.
In those anxious first few weeks I also learned that successful treatment of FVL is unknown and still at the research stage. Whilst some doctors have told me this faulty gene is the likely cause of our losses, others have advised this is linked to loss in later pregnancy and so the cause of my miscarriages could still be something entirely unrelated. Perhaps I will never know for sure.
But I have been taking a blood thinning injection as well as a baby aspirin every day since around 6 weeks of pregnancy, and my gut feeling is that without these I would have experienced another loss.
This belief was reinforced after I spoke with a friend who had also suffered two early mmc’s; She requested her doctors test her for the FVL gene and we were shocked to learn she was also positive. On the same treatment as myself she is also now in her second trimester of pregnancy, and doing really well.
For Tom and I, choosing to publically share our experience was not a decision we took lightly, but we feel what happened to us is only one small piece of a much bigger puzzle, with far too many couples still desperately needing answers.
And we fully support Tommy’s #Miscourage campaign's mission to promote talk about miscarriage; Knowledge is power after all!
...And knowing what might happen, or where they can turn, should make it less frightening for the men and women who unexpectedly find themselves in this terrible position.
Hopefully it will also encourage couples not to give up, that they’re not alone, and finally, that you don't always have to accept 'it's just one of those things' by way of explanation.
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