Words matter

I know what an impact the wrong choice of words can have.

Heartbreaking stories. Devastating stories. The miscarriage story needs to change. That's why we've created Tommy's book of #misCOURAGE. Read this story now and help spread the word that miscarriage can no longer be ignored. Help us change the story to save babies' lives.

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#misCOURAGE story, 09/02/2017, by anonymous

Language is very important to me. Maybe because I'm a speech therapist and I consider the meaning of words too fully. Maybe because I work in palliative care I know the importance of saying things sensitively. I know what an impact the wrong choice of words can have.

For whatever reason the words someone says to me stick and can have a longlasting positive or negative effect. This is one of the things I have struggled with most throughout my miscarriage. 

My baby died inside me somewhere between the 6 to 7 week mark. I didn't know about it until I was 11 weeks pregnant. We had already told a few people and were excitedly making plans for letting our friends and family know once we'd got past the 'risky' first 12 weeks, not long to go!

You try not to get carried away but we'd already talked about names, designed a nursery and had begun making plans for our family of 3. We'd been trying for over a year and with each passing month the desperation and doubt grew.

I'd repeatedly known the deflating impact of the blank window or the single line on the pregnancy test. I'd repeatedly screamed inside bit outwardly smiled when people had innocently commented 'your turn next!'.

Finally receiving a positive as the words 'pregnant' flashed up on the stick, I hadn't known what joy a single written word could inspire. 

But it wasn't to be. 

Laying on my back whilst the sonographer pressed and probed I watched my husband's face grow with worry and sad acceptance. I'd had some cramping and spotting but really deep down I'd known things weren't right.

They had turned the screen away and didn't utter a word but he'd seen them type out the undeniable confirmation 'no fetal heartbeat'.

Here was an opportunity for words of empathy and comfort surely? But no.

We were sent on our way, watching other women come out of the room exclaiming with excitement that all was well and describing how they'd seen their baby moving. Others waited for their turn. What would their fate be in this cruel lottery?

Tears were spilling and we were led away to another room for 20 minutes or so, our heads spinning, plans in tatters, filled with trepidation about 'what comes next'. The silence of the room was a relief, free from the juxtaposition of hope and despair in the same room.

The doctor who entered was brusque. I was told I knew what had happened. I explained I didn't. I was told I was 'too emotional' to make a decision. I insisted I wasn't. The best thing to do she said, would be to take a leaflet and decide how I wanted to proceed.

I'm not sure what an acceptable amount of emotion would have been, she didn't qualify it, but I insisted on seeing the scan and having a full understanding of what had happened.

What I didn't mention earlier was that we'd seen our baby on a scan a few weeks earlier, 'a dut!' the sonographer had exclaimed, 'a little grain of rice!' but with a beautiful and reassuring flickering heartbeat. Like I said though, I'd had my doubts, I had been expecting the dating to be further along than 6 weeks 4 days.

I raised my concerns here but was told to 'relax', to 'trust'. I was told the dating is very accurate and 'all is well as you can see'. My concerns were also dismissed by the midwives I spoke to. I must've had my dates wrong.

I started to relax, to believe, to trust. Even when I had the cramps, the spotting I convinced myself it was my womb stretching, making space for the blessed life inside me. I thought 'I'll go get checked, at least it's a chance to see my baby again'. 

And now here I was. The doctor showed me where the sac was breaking down, the blood beginning to form. I could see plainly with my own eyes that my baby hadn't grown or developed. He or she should've been a plum by now.

The next steps...I was made to feel like I only had one option that was convenient in the current nhs climate with bed demands and an ever tightening budget. Go home and wait. DIY miscarriage. So I did. 

I went to work the next day. What else could I do? I went to a meeting, saw a patient, attended fire training. Walking around with my baby dead inside me I felt numb. It was when I explained to my manager that I'd need to take sick leave but I didn't know when that I broke down.

I worked from home the next day. Playing the waiting game. I'd called the early pregnancy unit the next day. Could we please look at option 2? I was reassured, 'it will happen soon', 'much better this way'.

I rang back a few days later, asked for some help, the tablets to speed things up. 'Things sound like they're happening', 'we don't have any bed's right now', 'call back Friday'. I turned to acupuncture in desperation.

I just wanted things over with and couldn't bear it anymore. Whether it was the needles or not, things happened the following evening.

Shut in the bathroom in excruciating agony as my uterus cramped over and over again I began to lose my baby.

I refused my husband's offer of help. Of pain relief. I somehow felt I needed to be punished. I deserved to feel this pain because I must have done something wrong. I'd failed to protect my baby. Failed to make him or her thrive.

The blood loss was shocking. The volume and speed at which it left my body unexpected. I was unprepared. Desperately trying to get utensils to catch any pregnany tissue in. I couldn't stand the thought of my baby going down the toilet without ceremony.

The amount of blood was uncontrollable I began to sweat, shiver and feel dizzy. My husband came in. Horror on his face at the scene.

Blood everywhere. He demanded we go to the hospital. Said we couldn't do this alone. Surely it wasn't right?!

I agreed but couldn't move to get off the toilet. Made him leave as every bodily function below my waist opened. No chance of sifting through that now. I flushed.

I managed to dress, made my way to the front door. The clock changed from 11:59 to 12:00 am and I thought 'happy birthday to me' as I vomited repeatedly into a bucket and passed something large into my knickers with the force of my heaving. 

We managed to get into the car and make it to the hospital. Finding our way in the dark, around closed entrances and confusing corridors, shivering and saturated I was finally seen by a nurse on the ward. She took the pad away from me came back and confirmed it as pregnancy tissue.

No baby? She didn't say. I was too weak to ask.

I was painfully examined by the doctor, it looked like that was the last of it, 'the worst is over'. I was monitored overnight then sent on my way.

Before leaving I was given a kit - a cardboard bowl, bed protectors and large pads. 'What for?' I asked in horror. 'I thought that was it?! There can't be worse to come! 'Just in case' I was reassured.

I was given a pregnancy test. Told to take it in 2 weeks and if it was negative then that was 'good'. OK I said, inside wondering if only she knew or cared about how long I'd waited for the positive. How seeing a negative wouldn't be 'good' to me.

I went home, weak and exhausted. The bathroom had been cleaned, back to normality. Except when I looked down the toilet I could see my baby being flushed away. I felt guilt and disgust at the thought. I still do. 

The bleeding continued for 2 weeks. I went back to be rescanned. No evidence of any 'products of conception' I was told, a delightful way to describe the summation of your hopes and dreams. The doctor later explained my womb was clear, claimed this was 'fantastic'.

I knew what she meant, nothing remained and I didn't need surgery. Obviously that's what I wanted but again words stick with me and that fact my body had shed any remnants of the life it had once held just didn't seen fantastic to me. 

Anyway so that was that. I was physically exhausted with continuous headaches for several weeks after, diagnosed with anaemia and stated on iron tablets.

Emotionally things were difficult. Well meant words of encouragement and reassurance were often not a comfort and frequently hurtful. We could 'try again'. At least now I 'knew I could get pregnant'. This just 'wasn't meant to be' but there 'will be others'...

Except I was mourning the loss of what once was. My child, my hopes and my dreams.

My husband suffered too. A more delayed reaction than me. He admitted yes been scared, worried he might lose me too. As I got physically stronger I could see the emotional impact it had had on him. We talked but not enough. But we loved and laughed and moved forwards slowly. 

Christmas was hard. Plans that were made months ago were upon us and how things had changed from what my expectation had been. I could drink, dance and be merry! But all I wanted was my 5 month pregnancy bump. These thoughts haunted me throughout the festive period. 

The new year is upon us and I'm trying to look forward. I may take backwards step every now and then but I'm heading in the right direction.

I'm still grieving. Working through some difficult thoughts that still afflict me.

But I'm optimistic too that one day I'll hold a baby of ours in my arms. I'll get to bathe him in the bath I see in my minds eye, put him down to sleep in the nursery I planned, cuddle up on the sofa with his daddy and be the happy family that I've imagined. 

I wanted to share this story with you to help you see the effect that language can have. Maybe it's just me. Maybe it's not. But if being a bit more careful in the words you choose next time helps someone else then I'm glad I took the time to write this piece.

Go to the full list of stories.

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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