Guest monologue: ‘Please don’t ask me how my Christmas was’

Well, it’s been a little while, hasn’t it? I’ve been working on something that’s taken me offline for the last quarter of 2021. I hadn’t planned to return to the blog just yet, but then an email landed in my inbox just after Christmas Day that I found I couldn’t ignore. It was an offer from Francesca to share a post she’d written about the particular agony of waiting for a miscarriage to be confirmed – over Christmas. I have not miscarried over Christmas, but I have been furtively, nervously pregnant during the festive period – twice – and it can be a very alienating time for all sorts of reasons. The start of the year is supposed to be about fresh starts, reflecting on the year just gone and our hopes for the one to come. This, too, can be hard to fall into step with if you are in that state of suspended animation, waiting to see if things will work out this time, or if you have recently lost a pregnancy. A miscarriage right around now can feel like a particularly cruel dislocation from the outside world – the end of something just as the year is beginning. Just as the world seems to replenish and reach for renewed optimism, you are emptied of hope and joy. If this is you today, I am so sorry. I sincerely hope you find some modicum of comfort in this post and the knowledge that you are not alone. And now, over to Francesca…  

‘It has a heartbeat but it’s very weak,’ the sonographer says gently. ‘At this stage it should be measuring 1cm whereas it’s only 2.3mm.’

That’s it, after hearing those words I know my greatest fears have been realised. I am reliving groundhog day of recurrent miscarriage.

‘I can’t go through this again,’ I say, bursting into tears. Over the past few weeks, I had been hypervigilant, scared that I would start bleeding at any moment and visiting the toilet more often than I needed to for reassurance. I know from my second miscarriage how suddenly and without warning it can happen, but as time passed I began to think that maybe we could make it this time. After all, while one in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage, that’s four that don’t. Maybe this time – after two miscarriages – I could finally join the four in five group. 

But not bleeding doesn’t necessarily mean things are going well.

‘Is there anything I can do?’ I ask.

‘No’.

‘What did I do wrong? Why does this keep happening to me?’

‘It’s nothing you did, my love. We just don’t know why this happens,’ the sonographer says with sympathy. ‘We’ll see if there’s any change in a week and then we’ll take it from there.’

It’s 21st December which means we are in this awful pregnancy limbo over Christmas. I know deep down that the chances of our baby having a growth spurt of 8mm is nothing short of a Christmas miracle, yet I can’t allow myself to let go of my pregnancy discipline just in case there is a chance it might make it. That means there’s no Christmas cheer for me, although I desperately want a drink to help numb the pain.

My husband couldn’t even pronounce the word progesterone a month ago (honestly, I know how to say testosterone, surely he can make the effort to learn female hormones?) but I leave the hospital with a bag full of pessaries even though I’m not bleeding.

One of the challenges of uncertainty is that people try to cling to the flicker of hope. We are so ill-equipped to accept sadness and grief. Some people, with the best of intentions, try to reassure me that it might be fine at the follow-up scan. Having been through two miscarriages, I know how false hope can hurt and what you really need is someone to acknowledge your heartbreak in the moment. Unless you’ve been in that room at the EPU, you cannot understand that moment when someone’s heart breaks, when that longed-for child disappears. 

Another well-meaning platitude I get is: ‘As this is your third miscarriage at least you now qualify for further tests’ as if that’s supposed to be some sort of consolation prize. I would rather have my baby thank you, and not have to go through invasive tests.

As if this Christmas wasn’t going to be hard enough, my husband tests positive for COVID two days later. Thankfully I’m still negative but it means we have to spend Christmas apart in the same house. Going through a miscarriage is always an incredibly lonely and isolating experience, but now I can’t even be with the one person who’s going through what I’m going through. 

Christmas Day is too much. My WhatsApp pings constantly with friends sharing photos of their babies in Christmas jumpers, each one a painful reminder of my faulty uterus. I have to suddenly leave a Zoom call with friends when a child appears on the screen. I curl up and cry on my sofa afterwards. Of course people should celebrate their children and revel in their presence, it’s just difficult to navigate as someone going through loss.

I feel angry at people I know and at complete strangers and I just want to scream. But mostly I feel angry at myself for failing to hold onto a baby again.

I miss my husband. I miss his presence and his hugs and someone to hold on to when things feel scary at night. We are completely alone, him isolating in the bedroom and me downstairs. I will also have to go through the follow-up scan without him by my side.

Throughout this darkness I try to hold onto the love. There is so much love out there from the friends who check in on me daily without trying to fix how I’m feeling, the friend who offers to accompany me to the scan, even just to wait outside the hospital if COVID restrictions prevent her from coming in. Even those not always helpful ‘at least’ comments are laced with love. And of course the love my husband and I have for each other and the love we hope to one day share with our child.

Christmas will soon be over and we will get through this. We’ve done this before and I know it does become bearable even when the pain is still there.

However, until then I’m dreading the return to work and the inevitable question: ‘So how was your Christmas?’

3 Comments

  1. I wish I could put into words how much reading this has helped this morning. I was that girl in the EPU yesterday afternoon being told ‘sorry, there’s no heartbeat’… again. I was the one who stayed sober through Christmas in a bid to keep our baby ‘safe’. So whilst I sit and wait for my body to realise what has happened, I’m grateful for this story and the sense of understanding it brings me in a time where I feel isolated. Thank you ❤️

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  2. I was that girl this time last year. Our fourth loss started of with a scan at 7w where baby had a heartbeat and was measuring correctly. Our paranoia made us book another scan at 9w but baby hadn’t grown between the two week gap. Still a heartbeat though. A day later we had another scan at the nhs triage unit where they confirmed that baby was not measuring correctly but still had a faint heartbeat. We were booked in a week later (24th Dec) for a follow up scan. This time the heartbeat had stopped and it was confirmed that I’d be going through my 4th miscarriage.
    I didn’t tell my sisters or other family members because I didn’t want to be treated like a broken china doll.
    The pregnancy finally passed at 2am 1st January.
    I was kind of grateful that we were locked down and working from home. My interactions with people were minimised and I didn’t have to pretend as much that my festive period was nice.

    Since then I have been diagnosed with Gestational APS (sticky blood). My blood was too thick to make it to the baby. They would only really be able to survive as long as the yoke sack could sustain the pregnancy. To maintain a pregnancy I have to take aspirin and inject myself with daltaparin daily. I’m so grateful that I have been given a reason when so many are not.

    Thank you for sharing your story. Wishing you all the best and a full recovery for your husband.

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  3. I’ve lost two pregnancies (to ectopic pregnancy) over Christmas. I was lucky – in NZ the focus is less on “Christmas” than on our summer holidays, so it is easy to say, “fine, what did you get up to?” That usually deflects any invasive questions. And although 20 years later I can still remember the sadness and the fear. I will tell you that the emotions fade, we recover, and we reclaim Christmas, and the joy we previously felt, although it will always bring back memories. I have a particular love for trees that were in bloom outside my hospital room, and can now enjoy these without the sadness. I think that over time, the pain was replaced by love for those babies I lost. I hope that works for Francesca too.

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