A guest post by Abigail Heyworth, @abigailguernsey
I’ve suffered three miscarriages – and I have travelled from blissful ignorance to constant anxiety, through bouts of depression and complete disillusionment about this so-called ‘journey’ to motherhood.
My first two miscarriages were ‘silent’ or ‘missed’ miscarriages. Now this is a term I’d never heard of… until it happened to me.
My first miscarriage saw me, naively, alone at a private appointment for a Harmony test (testing for genetic abnormalities), when they offered me a scan. My husband hadn’t come with me as I had thought it was just a blood test, but when asked if I wanted a scan, I thought ‘why not?’ I hadn’t bled. ‘So everything must be fine’. Little did I know.
When the technician rolled the ultrasound probe across my stomach and said nothing, my heart started to sink. She asked me to pop for a wee and said she just needed to do an internal scan as well. Then the dreaded words dropped like stones: ‘I’m afraid there’s no heartbeat’.
I couldn’t comprehend what she was saying. She showed me the screen and the tiny grain of rice-sized shape which she said was my baby – terminally undersized and dating just over 6 weeks. I should have been 11 and a half weeks pregnant. My baby was the size of a fig, according to the app I’d been excitedly following.
I was left to get dressed again, before being ushered into a bright, white room with a single chair in it to ‘grieve’ and then promptly forgotten about. My husband arrived soon after and we left – via the card machine to pay for the privilege, of course. The privilege of a scan which had confirmed the loss of our future child.
I felt like my world had ended. And yet the process had only just begun. I had to wait two weeks with two further internal scans with the NHS to confirm the worst before I was able to have surgery to have my baby removed. Two more weeks of carrying around my dead child inside me. My breasts still ached, nausea still gripped me, my stomach was popping out (the gestational sac had continued to grow around the dead embryo, apparently), and yet, there was no hope in these things, just a constant reminder of what could have been.
When it came to the surgery, I was desperate to get it out of me, but also terrified of the emptiness.
I wish someone had warned me that this was a possibility. I never would have had a scan by myself and I wouldn’t have been blithely confident that it must be OK, because miscarriages must involve bleeding.
After this first miscarriage, I told very few people and lost myself for a while. I was confused, angry and felt alone. But then I sought the help of a counsellor and started to tell more people what was going on with me and sharing really helped – I felt like I was unburdening myself. Finding people who had been through something similar was soothing. I just wanted people to ask me about it, ask me how I was doing. I needed it validated. I had been pregnant, I should have been a mother.
Two months later, I found myself pregnant again and petrified. Pregnancy can never be the same after loss – the ignorance, the joy, the excitement gone. This time we had another private scan at 8 weeks (we hadn’t been able to get an early one on the NHS) to check everything was OK and yet there we were again, a tiny 6-week embryo and no heartbeat.
Another two weeks of waiting, another surgery, another emptiness.
We had a break after that and started to investigate what might have caused our losses with a recurrent miscarriage specialist (technically ‘recurrent miscarriage’ only applies if you’ve lost three or more pregnancies, but we are impatient and wanted to start the process sooner, so saw a doctor privately). Our tests all came back fine with no obvious reason for the losses.
About six months later, my third pregnancy resulted in a natural loss at 6 weeks. It was still an agonising experience – blood, a dash to A&E late one Sunday evening, only to do a pregnancy test and be told it was negative, then a few days sitting at home, letting nature take its course…and my third baby.
Each due date that has come and gone has been a painful reminder of my parallel lives. Each friend who declares her pregnancy is a knife to the heart (one of the worst parts of loss like this is the agonising envy of other people’s apparently easy pregnancies…and then battling with feeling like a terrible person for feeling like this).
Our education around pregnancy begins and ends at contraception and scaring young teenagers about the risks of unwanted pregnancies – no one, anywhere or at any time, prepares you for what could really lie ahead when you make that decision ‘darling, let’s start trying for a baby’.
- Happily, since writing this post – after I first asked for story contributions last summer – Abigail has had a successful pregnancy and gave birth to a baby boy in February this year.