52 days of you
I should probably be using this blog to write about all things wedding but if you search for ‘wedding’ on Google you’ll find there are over 4 billion results for you to look through. Googling ‘miscarriage’ returns just 32 million and that’s what I want to write about today. Just to put that a little more into perspective, googling ‘Justin Bieber’ gets you 311 million results, almost 10 times more than ‘miscarriage.’
On 19th June this year, a clear blue pregnancy test told me that we were expecting a baby and on 10th August a sonographer told me there wasn’t a heartbeat. 52 days of pregnancy, joy, fear and excitement. This week is baby loss awareness week and The Miscarriage Association UK leading a campaign for better access to psychological support for people who have experienced pregnancy or baby loss. 1 in 4 women go through a miscarriage and since we lost our baby I look around me all the time wondering who those women are. We sat on a plane jetting off on what would have been our 4 day ‘baby moon’ and I wondered how many of the women on that plane had ever miscarried. I wondered if perhaps the woman next to me had. I wondered if it would help if she knew I had too.
When we first found out we were adamant that there was no real reason to discuss it with people who hadn’t known we were pregnant. I didn’t want to cause anyone to worry if they were in the process of trying to get pregnant and I didn’t want people to stop talking about babies and family life around us. But the most helpful comfort I found whilst we were grieving came from the women I knew who had suffered miscarriages and if they hadn’t told me what they had gone through we would felt like we were the only people in the world going through it. I knew so very little about miscarriage before it happened to me and had no idea what the physical and emotional pain would be like. We’re told not to reveal our pregnancy until the 12 week mark because that’s the ‘safe’ point but why not? Why shouldn’t everyone know what we’ve been through? It was no one’s fault that we lost our baby and I shouldn’t feel ashamed or worry about making people uncomfortable talking about it. I am proud of the baby I carried and the way my body tried to care for it.
For that reason I am going to share our story in the hope that it might help someone who has gone through the same thing or will go through it in the future. It’s not a pretty story and it’s a sad one so please don’t read it if you think it will upset you. I don’t want to scare people, I just want to be honest and reach out. I also don’t want to make people who have kept their miscarriages quiet feel bullied into speaking out, everyone grieves differently and there should be no shame in any of it.
Our decision to start trying for a baby didn’t come about overnight. We had a time to start trying in mind for a long time before because we had to try and arrange my pregnancy to line up with the peak and low seasons of our businesses. I wanted a birth out of wedding season and my husband Jamie wanted to avoid the summer months as well as Christmas where his work picks up. Both being self employed and running three businesses, there would be no maternity leave and neither of us would be giving up work completely.
Our positive pregnancy test came after just two months of trying and we considered ourselves extremely lucky. I’d spent so much time on Google that I knew how difficult it can be for many couples to conceive and I feared that we wouldn’t manage it in the window of 4 months we’d given ourselves to align with work. The joy of knowing that a little life was growing inside me was like nothing I could have imagined. We told a few family members and close friends and having them to share in our excitement was really special. We kept it a surprise for everyone else until our 12 week scan though because that’s what everyone tells you to do.
The first symptom I had was an awful taste of metal in my mouth that no amount of teeth cleaning could get rid of. By seven weeks the metal taste was replaced by nausea. I was desperate to just be sick but it never came. Thankfully I wasn’t put off my food and the best way to stop the nausea was to eat. My first trimester took place during the hottest months of the year and I had to carry ginger biscuits in my camera bag and nibble on them secretly whilst filming just to stop myself from heaving. I was exhausted all the time and got very used to a mid afternoon nap and when I then had to go and film a wedding for 10-12 hours I ended up sleeping the whole of the next day. How doctors and nurses deal with it, I have no idea. The worst side effect of pregnancy was the worry, I worried all day every day and every change in symptoms terrified me.
At 11 weeks and 5 days Jamie was at work and my sister was with me at home getting ready for two weddings in a row. The idea of two weddings in a row was freaking me out but luckily my sister was coming to the first one and I’d actually been feeling a little more energised recently which I put down to nearing the end of the first trimester. We’d planned to have dinner with my parents that night so I popped upstairs to go to the toilet and I saw thick brown blood. Not a lot, but just enough to feel the fear grip me. I immediately phoned Jamie’s Mum as she had worked with pregnant women and babies. She told me to phone 111 and not to panic as bleeding can be normal. That’s what the paramedic who phoned me said too, she said that she had bled in her own pregnancy. Within an hour I was seen by a doctor who gave me the same message and she booked me in for a scan on Saturday morning, just three hours before I was due to start filming my second wedding of the weekend.
I was grateful for my wedding the next day which kept my mind off of the bleeding which had turned to very light spotting. By the time I was home it had completely stopped. I barely slept that night and every time I woke I checked for bleeding but there was nothing. By morning I had convinced myself that everything would be fine. Jamie had organised a fellow videographer to cover me that day just in case of bad news and I had let the couple know what was happening and they could not have been more understanding.
The ultrascan room was dark and the blind was banging on the window from the high winds blowing from outside. As soon as the sonographer looked at the computer I knew it was bad news. I’d imagined it so many times, we’d hear the heartbeat, I’d squeeze Jamie’s hand and tears would fill my eyes. But the sonographer’s eyes were searching, he didn’t see what he had expected at 11 weeks. The baby measured just 6 weeks and an internal scan showed no heartbeat. My eyes stung as he explained and apologised. I felt bad for being sad in front of him and making his job more difficult. He called it a missed miscarriage. The baby had died but my body had carried on caring for it. All those emails I’d had from Mothercare telling me my baby’s tiny hands and feet had formed, had been a lie.
We were led into a counselling room and the door was shut. The tears exploded out of me as I collapsed into a chair and Jamie just held on to me as if I might fall away. We were told that we’d have to come back a week later to check that the baby hadn’t grown or developed a heartbeat but I knew that the dates didn’t add up. There was no way that the baby would be ok.
I filmed the wedding that day. I wanted to be away from anyone I knew and spend it with complete strangers. The couple were amazing and thanked me for being there and I felt awful for bringing bad news into the happiest day of their lives. It was the best thing for me, for a lot of the day I was distracted and could almost move my mind away from what was happening but there were times when I just couldn’t keep the tears away. I’m emotional anyway and not a stranger to tearing up during the speeches but this time I had to supress a giant lump in my throat all through the day. I worked with two lovely photographers who even managed to make me laugh several times in the day, they of course had no idea what was going on and it was like I’d been punched in the stomach when they asked if I had kids.
Whilst we waited for our follow up scan a week later I slowly and painfully lost my baby. At first I didn’t cry very much. We cancelled the BBQ we had arranged with the intention of telling our family and friends our news and share our 12 week scan photos. Jamie ran me a bath one night and he sat in the bathroom as we talked about how we felt. He explained how he had felt so naive about how difficult having a baby was and that this was a part of our journey, it was a horrible part of it but he had no doubts that one day we’d be bringing a baby home. It comforted me no end to have him talk so confidently about our future. I knew that even if we had to suffer more pain on our journey to parenthood, I’d always have him to keep me going through it.
A friend visited us as she had suffered a miscarriage the with her first pregnancy just a couple of years ago. She fell pregnant again very quickly afterwards and we all now knew and loved their crazy little bundle of giggles who was just taking his first steps. She cried for our loss and I at once felt a little closer to her. Both mothers who had lost. She knew our pain and she felt pain for us too. She said that the fact she had a healthy baby couldn’t comfort us but it did, seeing the joy that that little boy bought them gave me hope. We talked about how cruel it was that we lost our first babies and how that had tainted her second pregnancy, not knowing how it would feel to have a scan with good news, only knowing the harsh reality of one that featured the words ‘I’m sorry.’ I knew that I’d feel same, I know that I will imagine that scan every time I go for an ultrascan now, feel that dread in the pit of my stomach.
I felt contractions during that week. They came mostly in the night and for around 3 hours at a time. I’d been told at the hospital that I might feel pain and pass blood and tissue but they really didn’t prepare me for what was going to happen. The contractions would last somewhere in the region of a minute and were a minute or so apart and got closer and closer and then would stop all together. The day before the follow up scan, Jamie had a bad day. Work was stressing him out much like it did this time of year, there were only a couple of weeks of the summer season left and he was getting tired, ready for a few days off. The lack of sleep from me stirring him whilst I was in pain, and the emotional turmoil that was hitting him too had brought him to breaking point and he’d just lost it. We went for a drink with friends that evening after he finished work, who were going through their own struggles with a family member battling cancer. Bad news seemed to be circulating everywhere.
I told Jamie just as we went to bed that night that I thought the scan would still show a pregnancy and I’d likely be asked to have a D&C procedure to remove it. I had bled a lot of the last week but I didn’t feel that I’d seen enough tissue, considering that my body had been caring for a baby over the last 12 weeks – or so it thought it had. Less than half an hour later I was eating my words and the contractions had me writhing around on the bed. Jamie dipped in and out of sleep as the contractions came and went. He has this amazing ability to fall asleep within seconds and wake just as fast – something that will hopefully come in handy when we finally do have a newborn. When I groaned in pain he rubbed my back but his face looked completely hopeless, I felt awful for him that there wasn’t something I could get him to do.
After a couple of hours I went to the bathroom and the contractions changed up a gear. I paced around the bathroom with my hands on my hips, bent over and breathing through the pain. I don’t know if it’s because I’d seen women in labour breath like that on TV or just because my body was taking over and telling me what to do. After twenty minutes or so in our little bathroom, I felt a strong pulling sensation and I sat down on the toilet. A fully intact placenta, which presumably contained my tiny baby, slipped out of me. It was the most bizzare feeling and as I looked down at it a wave of emotion washed over me and I sobbed. I can’t ever remember feeling anything as strong before and my sobs were so loud and so desperate that Jamie came rushing in and held me tight. I don’t know how long we stayed like that, but when we moved we both just stared at it. Jamie isn’t great with blood and I don’t know how he dealt with it, there was blood everywhere. He had to flush it, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
I bled for about a week after that. Every time I went to the toilet it was a painful reminder of that terrible night. The last days of bleeding were the worst, old blood that just kept coming, a little but often. Annoying. I just wanted it to leave me alone. I felt tired all the time and struggled to get out of bed in the mornings. I could see Jamie trying not to get frustrated with me as he carried on keeping the house tidy and keeping our businesses afloat. I cried a lot. It got worse rather than better and where I’d initially felt positive and determined to think about future pregnancies, I started to feel alone and sad. I didn’t spend all day thinking about the miscarriage or the baby I lost, but sadness crept up on me when I didn’t expect it. I got stressed over tiny day to day things that went wrong and I would burst into tears. My work suffered terribly. I couldn’t concentrate and my editing fell far behind schedule and I am still catching up now.
Now, eight weeks later, I am doing a lot better. My body is back to normal and we’re excited to start trying again when we both feel ready. My emotions are still heightened but they are more manageable. The emotion hits me without warning and can cause me to feel a lump in my throat or just cry hysterically. Whilst editing the wedding from the day before a scan, whilst out drinking with friends, whilst having my haircut or just taking a shower. Without being dramatic, it really has been the worst time of my life. It has been a grief like no other, a grief you can’t understand unless you’ve experienced it. Except so many people have experienced it and yet for some reason we’re almost made to feel ashamed about it. Kept in silence because that’s the way it’s always been done. So many of my couples from weddings I filmed last year have given birth since my miscarriage and it brings me so much joy to see them safely delivered into the world. Those women delivering them are heroes, safely bringing a baby into the world. But I gave it all I had, I ate all the things I should, rested when I needed to, gave up caffeine and loved my baby that I never got to meet. The very word ‘miscarriage’ suggests that I did something wrong, I couldn’t carry my baby full term.
I have been extremely lucky throughout this experience. I have had the loving support from my husband, family and close friends. I’ve been able to share my fears and emotions with people who have been through exactly what I have and with people who have experienced much worse. When we were at the hospital we were given a number to call if I wanted NHS counselling but this isn’t the case across the country which really isn’t right. We need to talk about pregnancy and baby loss and bring it into the public eye so that those who have to experience it don’t feel so isolated. We need to help the family and friends to know what to say and how to help. I was given advice and words of wisdom from people who had the best intentions such as ‘at least you can get pregnant,’ ‘it wasn’t meant to be,’ ‘you can try again straight away.’ I didn’t need advice, I didn’t need anyone to try and find a positive spin on it, I just needed people to listen, to say they were sorry and to give me a hug. I know that it’s difficult to find the words in these situations but sometimes the words just aren’t needed.
We have suffered a great loss but we still appreciate every day what we do have. Amidst our grief we’ve had lots of happy times, going to hen and stag dos, watching our friends marry, celebrating birthdays and taking some time away. I really haven’t written this for the sympathy, I have written it to be a small part of breaking the silence on such a common issue and hope that in the future, talking about pregnancy and baby loss will become much easier. Jamie and I have taken great comfort in a quote that has popped up all over the place since the first scan – ‘everything will be ok in the end, if it’s not ok, it’s not the end.’
To find out more about The Miscarriage Association and Baby Loss Awareness week, visit their website here https://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk