When what you're expecting, is not what you expected

This was my first pregnancy, and I thought my life-long dream was finally coming true.

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#misCOURAGE stories, 16/01/2017, by Eleanor Grainger

When I was young, all I ever wanted was a family. In fact, I used to base all my potential boyfriends on their ability to be a father. I didn't care about what all my friends seemed to care about; career, money, cars, friends etc. I always thought that when I met 'The One', we would fall in love, get married, buy a house and have a family.

No one ever warns you about the difficulties that might lie ahead when trying to achieve the perfect future. So, I'm going to tell you about the true fear, anxiety, and trauma of starting a family.

My beginning

When I met Dan, we fell in love almost instantly. He laughed at the stupid things I said and did, he loved my family, he pushed me to achieve things and experience things that are sometimes WAY out of my comfort zone. So, when we started dating, I thought this was it. 

I met Dan in my final year of University. Actually, in the final few months of University. Falling in love whilst writing a dissertation is definitely not advised.

Anyway, we dated, he took me to places I had never been before, he introduced me to all his friends and family, and we talked about the future.

After a short while, I graduated from university and had to face the prospect of moving back to my family home – miles away from where Dan would be. We decided that the best option, although penniless and jobless, but full of hope – was to move in with him and his mother. 

We lived with Dan's mum for a few months before earning and borrowing enough money for a deposit for a small rented 'granny-annex' near the city centre. This was really the start of things – we had already emotionally committed ourselves to spend the rest of our lives together and I knew that this was the start of my lifelong dream to have a family. 

Hopes and dreams

I was probably only 13 years old when I knew for a fact that I wanted to become a mother. I was always good at caring for people, and I always gave more love to others than I ever did myself – this itself caused a mountain load of heartbreak as a youngster.

However, me being the sensible type, I knew that until I was grown up, financially stable and with my Prince Charming, I could not start a family. So, I worked hard throughout school and when I was 17 years old, I decided to set my goals towards becoming a teacher so I could at least get the interaction with children I so desperately craved, without becoming a teenage mum.

Throughout university, I was a typical student. I had an amazing group of friends, lived in shared houses, and loved the uni lifestyle. I was training to become a teacher in the Early Years department. I loved all my placements, and got good grades. But what amazes me now, is that after 3 years of studying the development of children from conception to school, I still was not prepared for what the future had in store.

Reality

So, after about 2 and a half years of dating, Dan and I had hit our first rocky patch. There was no doubt that Dan and I were in love, in fact, it sickened a lot of our friends. But, sometimes when that black cloud hits your relationship, you can't see a way out.

We were both so young when we met, and we both thought we were missing out on living the 'high-life'. We would spend our evenings bickering and avoiding each other rather than actually communicating how we were feeling.

We had decided to move from our 'granny-annex' to a new, 2 bed, family home. Within 6 months of moving, we had decided to split.

Within 4 weeks of this decision, we had said our goodbyes, split our furniture and began our new lives in separate one bed homes. Well, actually mine was a bedroom in an 8 bed shared house, but that's another story entirely.

Dan and I tried forcing ourselves to be happy with our new arrangement – we even started talking to other people. But, being with Dan was like wrapping yourself in your favourite blanket after being freshly washed in your mums fabric softener. He was home to me. So we kept finding ourselves spending evenings talking on the phone for hours on end, laughing and crying together.

We realised that being together was the 'high-life' that we were so concerned about missing out on. Although still living in separate houses due to unfortunate tenancy agreements, we decided to give it another go. 

Being back with Dan for the second time round, was like re-living the honey-moon period. We would snuggle, and talk, and just really enjoyed being together. However, I decided that my new accommodation was a waste of money if I didn't at least spend a few nights a week there. We both worked in different parts of the city, so this meant spending nights apart. It was during one of these nights, that I decided to do a pregnancy test.

Starting our family

I only bought the test because I was feeling a bit bloated and my boobs were swelling – I hoped that I had finally hit the part of puberty where my boobs blossom from a comfortable B cup, to a G cup. However, this wasn't the case.

I went home, did the test and stepped in the shower whilst waiting for the result. When I came out of the shower and saw two red lines on the test, I couldn't believe my luck. I was absolutely elated, and I knew Dan would be too.

I got back to my room and instantly video called Dan – this was the height of my technological intellect ,so he already knew something was up. When he answered, I asked him if he would come over without needing a reason. By this time it was 10pm on a work night, but he didn't hesitate. He said 'of course, but what's happened?'

At this point, I flipped the camera to face the positive pregnancy test I was holding in my hand. Dan just beamed. He had a smile from ear to ear and tears in his eyes, I've never seen him so happy. He jumped straight in the car and within 20 minutes he was holding me, both of us crying with joy.

We led in bed that night and fell asleep with smiles on our faces, we talked about the future and planned how perfect everything would be. It breaks my heart to think back at it now.

So we began preparing; we made an appointment with the GP, went to an Early Pregnancy information session, bought all the relevant vitamins, and started to discuss how we would tell the family. 

Planning our future

We decided that we wanted to make our announcement to the family really special. This was going to be Dan's mum's first grandchild, and I am my mum's youngest, so we knew they would be thrilled.

We made two wooden boxes from scratch, painted pink and blue, filled with baby bits; baby food, a teddy, dummies, talcum powder and a mini bottle of champagne (for the future Nana's, not the baby), with a wooden sign that said 'Will you be my Nana?'

We travelled to my mums, feeling totally elated and terrified at the same time. We sat on the sofa and told her we had a gift for her, Dan then bought in the box and after the initial fears and questions, my mum was ecstatic. We as a family, have been through a lot with my nephews, so I knew that this was going to be my mum's opportunity to be the wonderful Nana that she already is. 

We did the same with Dan's mum, and she was as ecstatic as mine. In fact, her dog, who usually plays with me and nips my fingers, sat by my chair on guard as though my baby's protector. It was surreal.

So, as the weeks went on, and the word got out amongst the family and close friends, we had texts and phone calls sharing their joy and excitement with us. It all felt so magical, but I couldn't shake the fears and nightmares I was having about the pregnancy.

I spoke to a close friend and explained that I had had a nightmare that we had our first scan, and they couldn't find a heartbeat.

She, and her partner, comforted me and told me that all expectant mums have the same fear and as long as I was not in any physical pain, that I shouldn't worry. So I tried not to, and just focused on the excitement that laid ahead.

The first scan

So this was it. It was finally time to go and see our baby for the first time. Dan and I went to work in the morning, heaven knows why as neither of us could concentrate – and I caught a taxi to meet him at the hospital.I was in a total anxious flap, my taxi was late, my bladder was so full I could barely move, but it was finally time.

We went to the waiting room and saw all these happy couples coming out of the room with pictures of their beautiful babies, and Dan and I just looked at each other, squeezed each other's hands and smiled.

The nurse called my name and we went into the room. I led on the scanning bed and the sonographer talked us through the process – although there was no need as I had done so much research, downloaded all the apps and bought all the books, I felt like I could do it myself!

Anyway, she put the gel on my belly and started scanning for our little bundle of joy. After a couple of minutes she asked me to go to the toilet as my bladder was too full, this threw me for a minute as everyone had told me to go with a full bladder.

When I came back into the room I felt this wave of fear hit me, I led down and the process started all over again. The sonographer asked me how far gone I was, to which I explained that I should be around 11 weeks, although Dan and I had not kept track of my periods or date of conception so we could be a few days out.

A few more minutes later, after trying various positions, as apparently my womb leans backwards, the sonographer said that we would have to do an internal scan.

At this point, I was almost hysterical with fear. I was shaking, had cold sweats and my entire body was so tense that all I could do was choke back tears and squeeze Dan's hand. He looked at me and told me everything would be okay, but I didn't believe him.

The sonographer asked me to take off my trousers and underwear and positioned me on the bed. I had never even had a smear test before, so the whole experience was new and scary to me. She lubed up what looked like a rocket, and told me to relax.

Dan could see the monitor screen and after a couple of minutes of what felt like vicious digging, he smiled. He could see our baby.

What he couldn't have been prepared for, was what the sonographer said next. She looked at me, and said that our beautiful little baby didn't have a heartbeat. The whole world felt like it had frozen in time. I couldn't believe it. A few minutes later, although the whole experience felt like a lifetime, another nurse came into the room and confirmed that our baby had stopped growing at 9 weeks and 2 days.

She then asked me if I wanted to see the baby, after a short hesitation I said yes. My whole future felt like it was crashing down, and I could feel Dan's disappointment radiating throughout the room. I felt like a broken woman. How is it possible that my own body killed my baby? Why would this happen to me when all I have done is good? 

We left the room, Dan comforting me as best he could as we walked through the waiting room filled with happy expectant parents. We got to the car and I broke. I didn't know what I was supposed to do next, and I felt so guilty but all I wanted was my dead baby out of my body. I felt worse for feeling this, but I had no control over anything, even my own child's life.

The next few hours were a blur, I remember receiving calls from my mum and texts from Dan's family all expecting to hear happy news about our healthy baby. It was truly awful. Once Dan and I had broken the news to the family, we just stayed together in silence, comforting each other. 

The miscarriage

The scan was on December 20th 2016, and I was supposed to be travelling by train to my mum's house on the 22nd. I distracted myself with Christmas preparations and indulged in last minute Christmas shopping, but I couldn't shake the dark cloud surrounding me.

I just didn't feel like a whole person, and although Dan did nothing but love and support me, I kept thinking, 'how could he possibly still love me?' 

On December 21st I received a call from the midwife surgery, who had not yet been informed of my miscarriage, to inform me that my blood tests taken at my booking appointment had come back, and my blood type was A Rhesus Negative. This didn't really mean much to me at the time, but I knew that there are sometimes complications with a negative blood type, I did not yet realise how complicated it was.

Later that day, I started to bleed. I was wrapping Christmas presents when I started to feel hot and dizzy, and when I stood up, I felt something come out of me. I pulled down my trousers and there on my sanitary towel was my baby.

I mean, it didn't look like a baby, it was a large, bloody clot, with a head, arms and legs. I held it in a baby wipe in my hands and began to shake uncontrollably. I shrieked, and poor Dan, who hadn't slept for 3 nights due to excitement before the scan, and shock from the outcome, sat bolt up right in bed and rushed to help me. 'Put it in the bin!' he shrieked, but I couldn't let go of it.

Then I felt another clot which came straight out and landed on my knickers which were between my legs on the floor. I looked up at Dan, terrified, he took the baby wipe out of my hands and put it in the bin, and marched me to the shower. I was hysterical, almost scared for my own life. None of the research I had done had ever warned me about this. 

Whilst in the shower, a few more clots came out and the bleeding began to lighten. I got dried and dressed and took the large clot out of the bin, and put it in the toilet. I whispered 'I'm sorry' as I pulled the flush.

I went back to my room and laid on the bed, thinking that it was all over. But, it wasn't. 

I began to feel feverish, fidgety, sweaty, hot and cold, and just generally unwell. We were either told by the doctors, or I read online (I can't remember) that if you feel like this during a miscarriage, to get professional medical help immediately.

Dan called 101 and they sent an ambulance out. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, we were waiting 2 and a half hours for an ambulance – the lovely lady on 101 called multiple times to apologise and check on how I was feeling, but by this point I just wanted to go to sleep.

When the paramedics did turn up, to my extremely overlooked 8 bed shared house, they checked me over and gave me the okay. 

The next day, Dan had to go back to work. He left in the morning and I was feeling surprisingly upbeat. This was the day I was travelling to my mums for Christmas. Sometimes in life, you just really need your mum, and this was one of those times.

The only unfortunate thing was that I was about to travel 2 and a half hours on the train. However, I spoke to the hospital in the morning and they told me that as long as I felt well enough, and my bleeding was not too heavy (which it wasn't, it had almost stopped completely since losing the clots), then I was okay to travel.

When things go wrong

The journey was going well until I was about half an hour from my final stop. I remember reading my book, and coughing, and then all of a sudden it felt like a tidal wave in my knickers. I knew I had flooded so I left my bags in my seat and ran to the train toilet.

My sanitary towel was totally soaked through, and I lost more large clots in the toilet. I sorted myself out and thought, I will be fine, I just need to be aware of flooding until I'm home. Luckily, I was wearing black trousers. I went to the toilet twice more to change my pad before my final stop.

I had text my mum who was picking me up from the train station and asked her to put a towel in the car so I didn't flood her seat. When I saw her at the station, I felt so relieved to be back in my mums care. She took my bags, put them in the car and sped home. 

Everything was fine for a while, I had opened a beer – my first drink in 3 months, and my mum was cooking duck and pancakes (a favourite on my return home). My mum, as always, kept making me laugh and every time I did so, I flooded my pad. My mum assured me that this was normal, but told me to go jump in the shower and get in comfy clothes ready for a chilled evening.

Whilst I was in the shower, my mum came to check on me and noticed that I had constant drips of fresh blood coming out of me. Each drip was less than a second apart, so she decided to call 101 and seek advise. I asked her not to as the paramedics had okay'd me the night before. 

After a brief phone call, the lady explained that an ambulance was on its way. Unlike the night before, the ambulance was there in a matter of seconds. The paramedics were absolutely fabulous. They checked me over, as the night before, but based on the amount of blood I was losing, they decided to take me to hospital.

Now, my mum – the bloody angel that she is, is not very good at seeing her little girl's in pain. She's an anxious woman at the best of times, and because everything had happened so quickly and we assumed I would be home shortly, she stayed to keep an eye on the duck (in the oven) and our little Jack Russell, Meggy.

Being in the back of an ambulance is another surreal experience that I never thought I would have to endure. It was terrifying, but I can't state enough how wonderful the paramedics were. They were keeping me entertained with stories of recent nights out, plans for Christmas, and their favourite fast food. 

After a long wait in the hallway for a bed on the A&E ward, I finally got seen by a doctor. I got off the paramedics bed and found that I had been sat in a pool of my own blood, it was then that I realised how serious my situation was. 

The doctor gave me a hospital gown, and some paper knickers which were pretty much like an adult nappy, and told me to get settled. While I was waiting to be seen by a specialist doctor, I was surrounded by all the other patients in A&E. I couldn't see anyone as all the beds were separated by curtains, but I could hear the wails and groans from old men and children who had been injured.

It was like a scene from a war film. At this point, I looked around me, looked at the needle hanging out of my hand, checked my phone which had 30% battery, and began to cry. I felt so scared, and so alone – all I wanted was my baby back in my belly where it belonged for 6 more months. 

My mum was texting me, comforting me as best as she could, but we still expected me to be home that night so we didn't see much point in her coming to the hospital. Dan, bless him, was on his Christmas works do, which I forced him to go on. So, as I didn't want him to risk driving under the influence, I had not told him that I was in hospital.

Anyway, hours passed, and I was finally seen by a specialist doctor. She examined me and told me that they were going to do a manual, apologies for the graphics, 'scrape out' of the clots. She explained that my heavy bleeding may be caused by a blockage of clots. Once this, extremely uncomfortable experience was over, they told me that I would have to stay in hospital over night.

My very first thought was the pure disappointment that I wouldn't be able to go home and eat the duck and pancakes my mum had so thoughtfully bought for me. 

Whilst waiting for a bed on the main ward, I went through several waves of fear and sadness which reduced me to tears. However, someone sent down a little angel to take care of me while I was in the temporary a&E ward.

There was a mother with her son in the bed space next to me, her son (probably in his early 20's) had recently recovered from bladder cancer, but was in A&E as he hadn't been able to go for a wee for 3 days. The mother had overheard me talking to the doctors and had heard me crying. She reached out to me through the curtain separating my bed to her sons, and held my hand. She asked me if I was okay, and said that she was so sorry to hear about my situation. She squeezed my hand and told me that I was going to be okay. Her son, who had obviously spent a lot of time in hospital before, had a portable phone charging device which they leant me until I moved wards. She really was a little angel.

They took me up to the main ward, all decorated in colourful Christmas decorations. By this time it was the early hours of the morning, so all the other patients were fast asleep. Luckily for me, the only bed available was a private room. As I was not expecting to stay the night, I didn't have any home comforts with me but by this point, I could have slept on a park bench.

The nurses, who again were all absolutely fabulous, woke me every couple of hours to check my blood pressure, but by this time, the bleeding had reduced to a mild period.

The next day, I had to have another scan to see if they had removed all the clots, or whether I would need to have surgery. It all just felt like a never ending nightmare, but every step I took was another step closer to my recovery. I knew there was nothing I could do for my baby now, so I just had to make sure that I had all the treatment necessary to avoid this happening with any future pregnancies.

The second scan

So there I was on 23rd December, three days after supposedly seeing my healthy baby for the first time, in another waiting room, in a hospital gown, in a wheelchair, waiting for a second scan to see if there were any 'remains' left in my body. Again, there were happy couples coming out of the room with scan pictures, and I felt like my entire personal life had been broadcast throughout the whole hospital.

I went into the room, this time a 'pro' with being jabbed and poked with a giant rocket, and laid on the scanning bed. I was still waiting for Dan to be home and semi-sober to speak to him about being in hospital, so this time I was alone – apart from the audience of student nurses stood at the end of the bed, looking at my intimate area with saddened, puppy dog eyes.

I explained to the sonographer that I couldn't cope with any more bad news, and if she could tell me that all the 'remains' had gone, that'd be great.

She side-smiled at me, took the rocket out of my vagina, and told me that unfortunately there is still a 2cm clot in my womb and would need surgery. I was so deflated by the whole situation that I actually just laughed. I didn't know how else to react, I had nothing to say, I just laughed.

The nurse wheeled me back to my room, I sat on the visitors chair next to my hospital bed, and stared into space like someone had taken my brain and left me with an empty shell. A lovely doctor came in and sat with me, we talked and talked, even though I know she didn't have time to, but she didn't rush me and she didn't make me feel like I was wasting her time.

I just told her that I needed my mum. By this point it was midday and she told me that my mum could come to the hospital rather than waiting for visiting hours at 3pm. I was straight on the phone and my mum was holding me 20 minutes later.

My mum told me that I looked well, bless her, and had bought in some clean clothes, a toothbrush and my book. I was so appreciative just to have her with me, and to have a few home comforts. She stayed for a few hours and other than nurses checking my blood pressure, we had no further news.

We assumed that I would either be having surgery that afternoon, or the morning of the 24th, Christmas Eve. That was a killer for me. Christmas has always been my favourite time of year, I plan for Christmas 6 months in advance and enjoy every minute of it, usually.

As I was expecting to have surgery, I was not allowed to eat. So I was emotionally and physically exhausted, starving, heartbroken and all I wanted was to go home and have a shower.

I must've had someone looking down on me, as a couple of hours later, a doctor came in and told me that the size of the clot was on the borderline for surgery, and that I could wait for it to come out naturally, and I could go home. I was elated.

I had told Dan after the scan in the morning that I was in hospital and he was already doing the 2 hour journey to my mums, bearing in mind he had planned to spend Christmas morning with his own family.

I felt like things were finally going forward. I knew I was never going to get my baby back, but it was finally time to grieve and recover.

Dan picked me up from the hospital, he took me to my mums, and we finally got stuck in to the duck and pancakes mum had cooked the previous day. I couldn't believe it had only been 24 hours since I was last home, it felt like a lifetime.

Christmas

So, Christmas was very different this year. My mum had informed the wider family that we had miscarried so there were no uncomfortable conversations, just a lot of love and support. We opened presents, had Christmas dinner, watched films and laughed – just like any other family. I still just couldn't shake the feeling of loss, but I think that's understandable.

We celebrated Dan's birthday on December 27th, and then travelled by car back to Dan's house. We felt that as his family had been just as concerned as mine, it was only fair to go back and let everyone know that I was okay.

After all the festivities and checking in with the families, I was ready to get back to normal. I had one final scan on the 3rd January and it was confirmed that the final clot had passed naturally, and I would not need any further treatment. We left the hospital, took a deep breath and promised that we would just get on with the rest of our lives. And, that's exactly what I did, for about a week.

Grief

I went back to work on January 4th 2017, and I dove straight back into it. I worked hard and I worked fast. I thought that now I was on the road to recovery physically, I could move on with my life emotionally.

However, it is only this week that I have realised how much losing my baby has really effected me.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that my baby wasn't really a baby. My baby stopped growing at 9 weeks and 2 days. I have friends and family that have lost their children at birth, or late in their pregnancy when they have bought clothes and accessories and planned the rest of their lives. And, I can't imagine what it must be like losing your child that late on.

But, that doesn't dismiss what I have been through and the loss I feel. This was my first pregnancy, and I thought my life-long dream was finally coming true. I had the man, the job, the house (ish), and I was finally of a respectable age. I had it all planned.

I am so disappointed that this has happened, and the only thing anyone can say is 'everything happens for a reason'. Now, this is usually my mantra, but, what on earth can the reason be for losing your baby? 

I am still going through waves of emotion; denial, sadness, anger, fear for the future. But, I need to put my trust in the medical staff that they have given me all the treatment that I needed and that they will be there to support me if anything like this happens again – God forbid. 

I have written this because I want the world to know that I, and others, should not be ashamed for being pregnant, or miscarrying.

I did nothing wrong throughout my pregnancy. I found out I was pregnant at 3 weeks, and I found out my baby had died at 11 weeks. That was enough time to totally change my life for the best interests of my child.

Expectant mothers should know to trust their medical staff, and if you have questions or queries, DO NOT hesitate to ask. If the nurse/doctor does not know the answer, then ask them to ask a senior member of staff to get back to you. It is important that you highlight any fears as early as you can to avoid any stress on you or the baby.

That baby, that you are either carrying, or hope to carry one day, is a miracle and you are the luckiest woman in the world to have that little bundle of joy inside you.

I don't want this story to put off any potential mothers to be, and I am not suggesting that when looking for a spouse, you ask for their blood type! But, just ensure that you do the research.

I will live with the loss of this baby for the rest of my life. But, God willing, I will have the family I have always wanted, and I will continue the grieving process until I am healed.

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Disclaimer

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

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