One final post…

Hi everyone!

I haven’t been here in a long time as I was almost afraid to look at what I’d written – I didn’t want to jinx myself by revisiting this most painful period of my life. Now I feel ready to say goodbye to this blog, and here is the very best reason why:

Caroline Six Week Highlights (35)

I don’t want to go into details or rub it in to those for whom the pain of miscarriage is still raw, and for whom hope seems too far away. But rest assured that it is just around the corner, and that there is always the hope of a miracle like my little miracle. Thank you for reading and for making me feel less alone.

With love, luck, and all my best wishes, Rachel x

 

 

My new house and its ghosts

My lack of posting at the moment can be explained by the fact that we are in the midst of moving house. This has been going on for months and months and it’s been an epic struggle to finally exchange contracts today! The whole thing has seemed to represent the whole rest of my life at the moment – everything I plan goes wrong. Everything I want falls through.

But enough of the negativity. I’m really trying to be positive, and this is a good step in the right direction. Something has worked out! Maybe everything else will too.

The problem is that our new house has three bedrooms. One for us, and a spare room. And then the little tiny room that overlooks the garden. The one that was going to be the nursery.

So far, every time I’ve been in the room I’ve wept over the ghost it holds. I know we’ve got to use it for something else for now at least, until (hopefully) some day I’m pregnant again. But I almost can’t bear to call it ‘the study’. It’s still my baby’s room, in my heart. I want to put a cot in it, not a desk. I want to put a little chest full of baby clothes in the corner, not a filing cabinet. I’m planning to paint it beige – not to make it minimalist and neutral, but so I can add teddy stencils to the walls some day.

And amidst all this I know I have to be sensible and not worry about another month passing by, another month closer to my due date, another month where a little tiny life isn’t growing inside me still. I’m doing so much better – the house has been a great distraction. I want to enjoy it and have a fun time moving – and I’m sure we will do.

But in the middle of my lovely new house, full of our things and our tastes and our love, is an empty nursery, empty like my womb and my heart.

Another month wasted

I started my period last night – so that’s another month of nothing. Another month of futile hoping and trying. Another month to wait before another chance.

I cried again last night, even through I thought I’d feel less hopeless this month – for all my rationalisation and talk of silver linings, I was still hoping with my whole heart, still holding on for one more day to pass without my period starting, just enough to make it worth a pregnancy test. Just maybe it would be positive.

I was just deluding myself. I feel utterly barren.

I really, really need to get out of this habit of counting the days and weeks and months as if they’re wasted. It’s just so hard *not* to see them as wasted when I feel like all I want is to be pregnant again. It’s the purpose of my life, much as I might try to find purpose in other things – everything else feels like marking time.

And time feels like it’s slipping away. I know I’m still only 29 and it’s only been four months since my miscarriage, but most of the time I just can’t envisage ever having any good news again, ever being able to actually announce that we’re having a baby. I just feel like all I’m having is blood. Blood and blood and blood and never a baby. I’m so sick of bleeding – I just feel like I never want to bleed again.

But of course I have to do this, have to come to terms with my cycle and all the traumatic memories and feelings it brings, because it’s the only thing that can maybe bring me a baby one day. My cycle is back to being fairly regular (normal for me, anyway) which is a good thing. I wish I could muster up any genuine feeling of pleasure about that.

So off we go again. Another month. In the meantime I guess I have few days of being able to enjoy a glass of wine – I’m not a huge drinker but not being able to have a glass used to feel like a big sacrifice when I was pregnant. What I wouldn’t give to have to say no to a drink tonight.

I asked my husband today if he really, truly, from the bottom of his heard didn’t wish he’d married someone else, someone who could give him a baby easily and quickly and with none of this heartache. He said he didn’t feel that way at all – that it could happen to anyone and that it wasn’t my fault. I’ve asked him that so many times but I believed him a bit more tonight. I know he loves me and won’t leave me, and doesn’t blame me. I just need to find a way to stop blaming myself.

Silver linings

I’ve been thinking over the last few days about some of the positive things I’ve been able to take from my experiences over the last few months, both of my miscarriage itself and also of the disappointment of my hopes and plans for the rest of this year. None of these things make it better, but they give me a different perspective sometimes.

The best thing is the hardest to explain. I feel like I’ve got a bit more back in touch with myself – my twenties have been a whirlwind of fun and good times and happiness and I’ve been swept up in that sometimes, forgetting to look inwards. I have spent a lot of time thinking about myself and my life since January, and where it’s heading now that having a family may not be as straightforward as I’d always assumed. I feel like I have got a clearer idea of where I am heading as a person and what I want, rather than just surfing on the wave of life. 

I’ve also remembered that I’m living my life for ME and my real family and friends, and not for other people. One of the things I was most looking forward to about being pregnant the first time was posting the 12 week scan photo on Facebook – of course my feelings about having a baby ran much deeper than that, but being excited about announcing it to all and sundry over social media was definitely a big element of it. When we lost the baby, the fact that everyone plasters their good news all over social media made everything ten times worse – Facebook seemed like a sea of baby photos and status updates, and it made me feel doubly bereft and like a failure. 

I left Facebook about a month ago now to escape, and I feel much better – I’m not inundated with everyone else’s baby news, and also, more broadly, I’m getting out of the habit of needing to announce everything I do to people I barely know. Thinking about telling my friends and family if we do get pregnant again of course makes me feel happy and excited, but now I’m excited just about telling the people I really love and see regularly. No one else really matters. And more broadly in my life in general, I’m remembering that I do things for me and not for the interest of people I haven’t seen for ten years. 

The last big silver lining is about motherhood itself. I’m not scared any more! Not at all. Not of getting saggy and covered in stretch marks; not of putting my career and social life second; and mostly not of the pain of childbirth, which had been scaring me profoundly. I just want my baby in my arms, healthy and whole and happy, and smiling or crying or both at once. I’ll go through anything for that. Maybe of all my silver linings that perspective, that level of simple appreciation, is the biggest gift. 

I’m halfway through my pregnant colleague’s last day

It’s my colleague’s last day today before her maternity leave starts. I found out that we’d lost our baby just after she announced to everyone that she was pregnant, and the awfulness of that has been intensified by her sadness and worry over the fact that they’ve seen on the scans that her baby has a cleft palate. There have been times when I wanted to shake her and tell her not to be so stupid – a cleft palate is nothing major nowadays and she still had a lovely healthy baby inside her! Alive and well and just with a tiny fixable problem. What wouldn’t I do for that? Doesn’t she know what a gift it is? 

I made it almost all the way through our little mini party for her today before I lost it. Even though I was standing right next to her, I looked at my feet and bit my lip, and coped with all the laughing and smiling and joking about how late her first baby was, and how she’s so huge that our boss has been wondering if he should keep clean towels and warm water on permanent standby. I even made it through all the good wishes for her to have a lovely maternity leave with her growing family. I was feeling lost and a bit poleaxed, but I thought I was doing OK.

It was the present we’d bought her that opened the floodgates – I hadn’t seen what had been bought with all our contributions. It was a lovely Cath Kidston bag with a built in little changing mat. I just looked at it and imagined her little baby lying on it, and her carrying it around filled with baby things. My eyes swam and my chin wobbled. Luckily my colleague who knows my whole saga saw that I was losing it and got me out. 

All I could think about as I sat in the corner office sobbing my eyes out was all the things people would have said if I’d been six months pregnant now, like I should be. All the jokes that would have been made. “There’s something in the water in this office…” “You’re going to bankrupt us with all the baby presents we have to buy!” “Anyone else want to tell us anything?” 

It would have been fun. Me and my bump and a little kicking baby inside would have glowed with happiness that it would be us soon. 

As it is, it’s just me, sitting back at my desk, feeling empty and barren and wishing it could have been me too. It should have been me too. 

Would dealing with a miscarriage be easier if I already had a child?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about whether my miscarriage would have been easier to bear if I already had a child. The obvious answer is no – the grief at a lost part of myself, a lost member of my family, a lost opportunity for life would be just as strong, just as hard to get past. I would still be grieving for the child I’ll never get to know, and I might still feel that my family was incomplete and that I wanted to give the child I’d had previously a brother or sister.

The physical trauma would still be just as disturbing too. Having to deal with the loss of a pregnancy is so visceral, so frightening and alien and unyielding, that no circumstances would make that easy to bear – even mothers losing an unwanted pregnancy still have that reality to live through.

But if you told me, right now, that I could just have one healthy baby and then no chance for another one – even if you got out your crystal ball and said that I’d had a terrible traumatic birth and couldn’t have any more children – I would say YES! Where do I sign up? Right now, the uncertainty of whether I will ever have a successful pregnancy, whether I’ll ever hold my own baby in my arms, is so dreadful that having one child would feel like such a blessing.

I was so afraid of childbirth before – afraid of the pain and the unknown and the indignity. Now I don’t care! I really don’t care what happens to me. Nothing will seem an effort if my own little baby – my own, healthy little happy thing – is with me.

In some ways, it’s not the miscarriage itself that would be easier – nothing can make that anything other than the hardest thing you hope ever to do. It’s the moving on, picking myself up, and looking to the future that I think would be a little easier. If that future already involved three, I’d feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

Increased fertility after miscarriage – an old wives tale?

In my previous post I talked about the frustration and stress and uncertainty of trying again after a miscarriage. One of the things that makes this worse is the old wives tale that suggests that your body ‘knows how to be pregnant’ and so conception should be quicker second time round. I have heard this from a few different people, and it definitely made it worse when it didn’t magically happen for us the first month of trying again.

I thought I’d do a bit of research into the suggestion and see whether there’s any truth in it. Most of the more reliable websites seem reluctant to say more than ‘some evidence suggests’ and ‘some studies show’ that miscarriage could increase fertility – many don’t even mention the possibility at all, and I am inclined to think that Baby Centre’s conclusion is sensible (http://community.babycenter.com/post/a26307987/helpful_ttc_info):

After a miscarriage it’s difficult to determine what a ‘normal’ conception time frame is. Some women will get their period 28 days after their loss and some won’t get it back for 8 weeks[...]. Once your period returns you fall back under the standard conception time frame (in other words, already experiencing a pregnancy doesn’t give you a ‘headstart’). There is a lot of misinformation about being ‘more fertile’ after a miscarriage. There is simply no scientific evidence to back that up. In fact, after a miscarriage (especially after 8 weeks) your body will need time to recover and get back to normal. Many women do not ovulate for a few months. It’s totally normal to take 6-12 months to conceive after a miscarriage no matter how fertile you are.

OK. So I should probably expect to be in this for the long haul – no more naive expectation that we’re young and healthy and therefore should be pregnant instantly.

BabyMed has a view that supports the ‘more fertile’ idea a little more:

While doctors say there is a brief period right after a miscarriage occurs that a woman experiences increased fertility, this does not mean that her fertility will be increased for long. Experts report that a woman’s normal fertility level should return within four to six weeks after the miscarriage when ovulation starts and her cycle begins to function as normal again.

Anyone who felt very inclined to actively try again within four weeks of a miscarriage gets top marks for effort from me – I was still bleeding for most of that time let alone being an emotional wreck.

In any case, some research has shown that it’s better to wait even as long as sixth months after a miscarriage – in fact that’s still the World Health Organisation’s recommendation, even though more recent research has shown that it’s best just to go for it straight away (http://www.nhs.uk/news/2010/08August/Pages/conceiving-baby-after-miscarriage.aspx). Physical symptoms and the benefit of dating the pregnancy accurately aside, I’m not sure anyone would be ready emotionally straight away, but also six months seems like a long time in limbo.

I’m now three and a half months down the line from my miscarriage, and in my second month of trying – last month was very difficult and I found it traumatic and upsetting when I wasn’t pregnant straight away. This month I feel much better about it, and think I will cope much better with negative results this time round. Although I can’t say I won’t be upset, I think I will be more philosophical and accept that we really, truly are back to square one.

In some ways I’m glad I haven’t got pregnant again straight away. It would have been hard to separate the two pregnancies in my mind, and I want next time to be a fresh start. It will be better for our next pregnancy if I can see it with hope and optimism, and see our baby as an individual and not as a replacement for the one we lost. Plus, it will be better for our lost baby too – not just swept under the carpet by a quick ‘rerun’, but remembered and grieved for.

Trying again might be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do

Most of the time now I am well past the “spontaneous crying about my miscarriage” phase. I’m not randomly breaking into tears out of the blue like I was a few months back and I can talk about it fairly sensibly. Although I still feel so much grief for the baby we lost, I am managing to get out of the gloom sometimes and am counting my blessings that it wasn’t a later miscarriage or stillbirth, and that I am still happy and still rock solid with the best husband in the whole world. 

So the amount of crying I did two weeks ago, when our first month of trying again didn’t result in being pregnant, really shocked me. I couldn’t handle it at all.

I thought I was as ready as I’d ever be to start trying again – physically I’m pretty much OK and mentally I felt up to it. But what I didn’t expect was for my body to trick me so cruelly. From about three weeks into my cycle, I felt sick and a bit out of it, like I had when I was pregnant – I convinced myself that I was pregnant again and had gone through all kinds of imaginings, like laughing with the doctor about how stupid my fears about conceiving again had been. I had created a whole scenario in my mind about how exciting it would be to be pregnant again so soon. I many ways, I had thought that it was a re-validation of me as a fertile woman made for childbearing. 

I guess maybe the hormones produced during ovulation surprised my body after four months off them, and that’s why I felt ill. But even after two negative pregnancy tests I was still fooling myself. 

The day I started my period I cried like I haven’t cried since the day we found out we’d lost the baby. I felt like I had lost him all over again. It was so ridiculous, because I knew it was incredibly unlikely to be that first month – and yet it was impossible to be sensible about it, impossible to let my head rule my heart. I want to be pregnant again so badly, and yet I just felt like I was facing another unknown number of months where my entire life was centred on waiting and counting days and not knowing. I didn’t know how to face it. 

We’re in month two now, and I do feel a bit calmer. In some ways that’s down to this blog – I started it a couple of days after I started my period last time, and it has given me a focus beyond the counting and the waiting. I’m trying hard as well not to let it affect my relationship with my husband, and not to let ‘trying’ take over our love life. I’ve remembered that I want to be with him because he’s wonderful and sweet and sexy, and not just because I need his DNA!! 

Even though I’m filled with fear and worry, I also know that the only thing that can fix that is keeping trying and getting there some day. Somehow, that is making the trying again bearable. But only just. 

Was my miscarriage my fault?

After the scan showed that our baby had died, I sat with him still inside me desperately wishing I could go back in time and fix whatever it was that was broken and make my pregnancy successful.

I know that it probably wasn’t something to do with my body going wrong and the pregnancy ending because of that – I didn’t have a fall or trauma or illness and it all happened in a gradual way. Three different doctors told me that most first trimester miscarriages are caused by a chromosomal abnormality in either the sperm or egg, and the following article (really useful in general) puts the figure at 70%: www.ourbodiesourselves.org/book/excerpt.asp?id=80.

But why were the chromosomes abnormal? Is there something wrong with my husband or I? Another really useful although very depressing article puts the figure for chromosomal abnormalities at 50% of miscarriages, but explains what “chromosomal abnormalities” means really well: www.marchofdimes.com/baby/birthdefects_chromosomal.html.

Chromosomal abnormalities usually result from an error that occurs when an egg or sperm cell develops. It is not known why these errors occur. As far as we know, nothing that a parent does or doesn’t do before or during pregnancy can cause a chromosomal abnormality in his or her child.

In most cases, an embryo with the wrong number of chromosomes does not survive. In such cases, the pregnant woman has a miscarriage. This often happens very early in pregnancy, before a woman may realize she’s pregnant. More than 50 percent of first-trimester miscarriages are caused by chromosomal abnormalities in the embryo.

Parents who have a late miscarriage or a baby born with birth defects can learn whether it’s likely that there’s a fundamental genetic problem, but for us it’s just a case of not knowing. Apparently if it’s your first miscarriage, they basically refuse to do genetic tests – I suppose I can see that it’s not a priority for health spending, but I would find it comforting to have some answers even if they were scary ones. Also then I would know if it wasn’t a chromosome thing. What could it be then? That’s almost scarier.

Some other likely causes are explained here: www.pregnancyloss.info/causes.htm. I have always been worried about hormonal factors, as I have pretty irregular periods, so I was glad to read that some hormone problems are treatable (although only in advance – you can’t save a pregnancy that’s already afflicted with a hormone problem). Since my miscarriage I’m ten times more worried about hormones, as my ovaries showed up on the scans as being polycystic – the doctors say this won’t make any difference to my chances of conceiving again, or of having another miscarriage, but it’s just one more scary things to worry about. It’s nice to see, though, that most of the problems listed on the Pregnancy Loss website – hormonal and more structural – have some kind of solution attached to them.

This is the truest statement of all:

The Unknown

The hardest thing to accept is no reason at all. You live in fear, wondering if the same terrible cause of your first baby’s death will cause another one to die. You scarcely dare to try again. I have been in this situation and I tossed my doctor’s statistics aside. I had already been on the wrong side of the statistics; I didn’t care for anymore. But I do know this. One miscarriage hardly raises your chances to miscarry again at all. You are simply back at square one. Try to put the risk as far back in your mind as possible and enjoy another pregnancy. But I understand if you can’t.

I am trying to put the risk to the back of my mind, and I hope that when I’m pregnant again I’ll be able to feel positive about that, and about being able to conceive, and not to worry too much about a second miscarriage. But I’m not sure I’ll be that pragmatic. If our chromosomes didn’t mesh the first time, who’s to say they will a second time? And if it wasn’t that, what frightening truths lie in store for us to discover?

My blog is making me very happy!

Wow, I’m really happy to have been nominated for a Liebster blog award by Jack Joseph’s Mom at http://jackjosephsmom.wordpress.com/author/jackjosephsmom. Writing this blog has been so therapeutic and I’ve felt happier and more stable for the past couple of weeks than at any other point for months. The icing on the cake is that other people are reading this and getting something out of it too. I have enjoyed and sympathised with her blog a lot, so I am really pleased to comply with the rules as she sees them and tell anyone who is interested a bit more about myself.

So, once you’ve been nominated, you have to post 11 things about yourself, answer 11 questions from the person who nominated you, and pass it on. Choose 11 people to award and create 11 questions for them.

11 things about me

1) I love animals and nature and rocks and the world. My dream is to do something that makes a difference to the real world around me, either through research or raising awareness… or through looking after little furry things.

2) My husband and I have been together for 10 years this May, and married for just over two years. He was my first real boyfriend and I was so lucky to find my best friend and partner when I was just 18. I adore him and spending time with him is my absolute favourite thing.

3) I live just to the west of London in a suburban town and am (hopefully) about to move into the country. But I’m a Yorkshire lass at heart.

4) I love to write – it’s the biggest part of my job, and I write poems and short stories and travel writing in my spare time. Problem is, I never seem to have any spare time to do it in!

5) I love travelling. Canada is my favourite place I’ve visited so far.

6) I’ve just managed to stop biting my nails after 28 years. YES!

7) The number 7 is my favourite number. I have no idea why I even have a favourite number!

8) I love winter. It’s by far my favourite season. I love being cold and snuggling up under quilts.

9) I eat fish but not meat. My parents gave up eating meat when I was five so I can’t remember what it tastes like, so no temptation to go back!

10) I love walking and playing tennis and doing pilates.

11) I love cooking – tonight I made bramble and damson crumble with the last of the fruit we found out walking last autumn and stashed in the freezer.

Answering Jack Joseph’s Mom’s questions

1) What gets you up in the morning?

Tea! With lots of milk. I like my job, so most days I’m not too unhappy to get up and go to work.

2) If you could go anywhere, anywhere, where would you go?

Alaska. Or the Maldives because I heard they’re going to sink! I kind of want to say ‘the moon’ though.

3) If you saw a vehicle accident – would you stop?  Why or why not?

Yes. I would want to try to do something to help, although I’m afraid I’d be rubbish and do more harm than good! I would hate myself for ever if I didn’t try.

4) What is your most played song on your iPod (or whatever you listen to music on)?

Hmm, I listen to all sorts of weird music. Probably ‘Old Love’ by Eric Clapton at the moment although it could be something totally unrelated next week.

5) What is your favorite way to exercise?

Walking with my husband. Anywhere – even somewhere really boring!

6) If you could choose to be a certain age forever, what would it be and why?

My mid-twenties have been amazing. I’m pretty happy at this age – 29.

7) What would be your first purchase if you won the lottery?

A really lovely old cottagey house.

8) What celebrity do you get mistaken for?

Haha, I wish! Someone once told me I looked like Kate Winslet and I was VERY happy with that.

9) What is the hardest thing you ever had to do?

That’s an easy one. Come to terms with losing my baby. I haven’t really managed it yet.

10) What would be your most perfect meal?  Not just breakfast, lunch or dinner… but what would be on the plate/table.

Assuming I’m not trying to be good, cauliflower cheese made with my Mum’s cheese sauce, and loads of mustard. Following by really good chocolate ice cream.

11) What is your most favorite memory?

Probably the night my husband asked me to marry him. It was the most perfect, romantic proposal ever.

My nominations

This is totally impossible to do because some of the people I would nominate have already been nominated by someone else! I’m going to list them anyway and not at all expect them to answer all these questions again! I haven’t have a lot of time to research other blogs that I really believe are worth reading. I know there are a lot out there, but I don’t want to make random nominations – so I’ll just nominate the ones I can truthfully say that I’ve read and absorbed. That number is growing all the time!

So here are the blogs I’ve found meaningful so far:

I know it’s just four nominations and not eleven. But it’s four really good ones!

Questions for my nominees

1) What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

2) What’s your favourite movie and why?

3) What’s your favourite out of all the places you’ve lived?

4) What was the best day of your life?

5) What achievement are you most proud of?

6) What do you hope to achieve from blogging?

7) Are you doing the job now that you hope to do all your life?

8) City or countryside?

9) What one thing would you change about the world if you could?

10) How are you spending this evening?

11) Tell me your funniest joke!