By the time we went for the ultrasound scan on January 8th, I already knew I’d lost our baby. To explain that certainty, I think I have to go back a bit – it had been a worrying pregnancy all along, although I didn’t fully realise or acknowledge that at the time.
I bled a little at 6 or 7 weeks – just brown discharge, but a fair bit of it – and I had a tight, painful feeling in my abdomen, so they gave us an early ultrasound at that stage. I cried as soon as I got on the Doctor’s table, convinced that there would be a problem. But then we saw our little tiny baby with his tiny heartbeat flickering like a little fairylight, and I cried again with joy and relief that everything was OK. It was magical to see our baby alive and well, and it set our minds at rest for a while – I remember we went out for a celebratory lunch that day, so happy that everything was OK. The Doctor reassured us that it was normal to bleed a little, and said we owed him a bottle of whiskey for making our Christmas so much happier.
Things went on peacefully over Christmas. I felt sick but not too badly, and I was tired, but everything seemed normal. When the brown discharge started again between Christmas and New Year, I wondered if it was sex that had caused it, or if it was just the same cause-less bleeding as before. It carried on for a week, and seemed to be getting heavier, but it was still brown. I read all kinds of statistics that once you’ve seen a baby’s heartbeat, it’s 98% likely to be carried to full term, and I tried not to worry.
Then when I came back to work on January 4th I noticed there was some blood there too. I phoned the midwife and she said I should go to A&E. No bleeding is normal, she said.
I went at 4.30pm on a Friday night, and the ultrasound department had closed for the weekend. They booked me in for Monday or Tuesday, and then did a blood test – my hormone levels were still high, so I was sent home for bed rest. That night, the brown blood really changed to red – it was too much for a panty liner so I started to use a pad. Over the weekend it got heavier and I got increasingly worried, and then on Sunday morning I remember sitting on the settee looking out of the window and just thinking, “I feel really well”. I didn’t feel sick or ‘spaced out’ anymore, like I had been feeling. I think I knew at that point that my hormone levels had dropped.
I don’t ever want to feel again like I felt that Sunday and Monday night waiting for the ultrasound appointment. I guess it must feel like waiting to be executed. It’s possible you’ll get a miraculous last minute reprieve, but just so unlikely. I felt weighted down by dread and horror. In all the months of grief and sadness since then, I’ve never felt as distraught and desperate.
Going to the scan was a relief – I just wanted it to be over one way or another. As I lay on the bed the ultrasound technician spent ages looking at the screen then just said, “I’m afraid I don’t have good news”. I had the weird urge to make it easier for her, and I said “It’s OK, I knew you wouldn’t”. It was the truth, anyway.
The baby was still inside, but there was no heartbeat, and it was far too small for 10 weeks.
The crying just sort of started, of its own accord, and I somehow got into my clothes and then they shepherded us into the ‘Quiet Room’. I couldn’t help but wonder how many people had been in that Quiet Room before us, that year, that week, that day even, having their lives ripped apart like ours were being. They left us for a while to comfort each other, which was sweet but didn’t work. Nurses brought me glasses of water, and I just sat in disbelief, not really thinking about anything, just trying to continue to exist.
Eventually the Doctor came and we had to make a set of the worst decisions ever. As I’d had a delayed miscarriage – the baby and sac were still inside – they recommended I have an operation to remove the remaining ‘products of conception’. If I had the operation, did I want to collect the ‘products’ so I could bury them? I thought the two decisions were hideously incongruous – we have to use this industrial description, ‘products of conception’, yet we can talk about burying them as an individual to be mourned. In the end I said yes to the operation and no to collecting the remains – whether this was the right decision is a question for a later post.
I’ll also save for another day the reactions of my husband and family. For now, let’s just say that I was blessed beyond words with the support of my husband that first day.
We went home, hours after arriving at the hospital, no longer pregnant, waiting for the bleeding and pain to start in earnest as we’d been warned they would. I’m not really sure what we did for the rest of that day – talked on the phone to our families and closest friends, sat and tried to relax, tried to eat and drink, tried to keep on going. I’m so glad I’m not in that place any more.
The bleeding was heavy that night but manageable. It was stabilising to have a definitive answer but dreadful to be carrying my dead baby still. I simultaneously wanted this gruesome thing to get out of me, but also for it never to leave me. I cried until my eyes scratched and my cheeks ached, but I didn’t do a lot of actual thinking.
One of the worst things was realising that this wasn’t going to be one awful day. Having a miscarriage is a long, arduous process that takes many months to recover from physically. I sometimes think that mental recovery will take the rest of my life.
Tomorrow’s post: Grieving for my baby