Miscarriage Miscarriage Miscarriage. I have to say it three times. Not because of the secret rule of three’s or because of some weird superstition, but because it happened to us. Three times.
It’s that taboo subject that nobody really talks about. And it’s not because I didn’t want to. I wish I could shout it from the roof top for everyone to hear. I was desperate for someone to share my story with, and maybe someone who could also share their heartache with me. But unfortunately people don’t walk around the streets telling strangers (or even their own friends) that they suffered an incredibly heart breaking tragedy. Most people didn’t even know that you were pregnant. So how do you begin to tell people? And how do you grieve for the loss of someone who never set foot on this earth?
There is an age old rule that says you shouldn’t tell people you are pregnant until you hit that ‘safe’ 12 week mark. The end of the first trimester. The three months after which your chance of miscarriage is greatly reduced. But that couldn’t happen to me right?
When you get pregnant you start planning for the future. You take that pregnancy test. It’s positive. You tell your partner. They’re elated (or shocked, scared, mystified). But there’s excitement. You think about what life will be like with that baby. You think about when you might go on maternity leave (finally a chance to leave that shitty job you’re in). You think about your financial situation, can we afford this? You think about how excited your parents will be when you tell them they’re finally going to be grandparents. And then you go and throw up.
Then one day, you just feel……. off. You even call in sick to work. You can’t face the day, but you don’t know why. Then the cramps start. Then the bleeding. And then the knowing. You just know that something isn’t right.
For my first pregnancy I had all the symptoms. And I had them tenfold. HUGE boobs that were incredibly sore. Horrendous nausea. Tiredness like I had never experienced before. The hormones that made you cry at that television ad that only 4 weeks ago had made you laugh. Looking back, they were the first warning signs.
I had a scan at 8 weeks due to a random sharp pelvic pain and some spotting. We saw a heartbeat. That tiny little flicker of life. And not one, but two sacs. A twin pregnancy? The ultrasound technician explained that one of the sacs may or may not amount to anything. Time would tell.
I also had a blood test for HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) levels. This is the hormone produced when you are pregnant and what a pregnancy test is testing for. My HCG levels were high – around 58,000. Another sign of a twin pregnancy.
Had this not been my first pregnancy, I may have noticed that things just weren’t quite right. But I had nothing to compare it to, and medical professionals kept telling me things were fine.
One morning I woke up and my massive sore boobs were gone. That day I told my husband that I just didn’t feel pregnant anymore.
We found out at our 12 week scan. I was excited to finally be able to see what resembled a tiny human on that ultrasound screen. However, what we saw was………nothing. A big fat lot of nothing. The ultrasound technician told me I had my dates wrong. He kept saying I wasn’t 12 weeks pregnant and asked why I booked my scan so early on. He made me sound crazy. I had just found out I was no longer pregnant. He should have handed me a tissue and told me he was sorry to have to deliver this information. But as I blubbered on the table, he blamed me for having my dates wrong.
As I had experienced no bleeding, and what had possibly been a twin pregnancy, I had to have a D&C (dilatation and curettage). This surgery removed the tissue that had been growing in my uterus. That tissue was sent to the laboratory and that’s when I learnt I had a partial molar pregnancy. To make a long story short and save you from a medical explanation, the fertilised egg had too many chromosomes and essentially kept multiplying into a whole lot of nothing. Hence the massively high HCG and the crazy pregnancy symptoms.
It was Christmas time. I had my D&C on the 22nd of December, and we were flying to Australia on the 24th for a previously booked, long awaited family holiday. That time away was the single worst holiday I’ve ever experienced. Think sun, sand and surf, but no swimming, mixed with a lot of tears and heartbreak and not knowing how I should deal with this loss. I spent New Year’s Eve walking barefoot along a beach wailing inconsolably into my husband’s shoulder, asking the world ‘why me?’ The bottle of champagne and espresso martinis probably didn’t help.
Recovering after a miscarriage is an impossible task. I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel. I wondered why I couldn’t just get over it, move on and try again.
I hadn’t planned on telling anyone about my miscarriage. Heck, no one even knew I was pregnant! But when I got back to work the questions started…….have you been sick? Oh you’ve been away for ages, did you go on holiday? Where have you been? ……. It was easy to tell some people and I was very forthcoming with the truth. I was greeted with compassion and love. Others I lied to, to try and escape the awkward conversation. ‘Yeah I’ve been sick’ (not far from the truth). ‘Well I’m glad you’re better now.’
‘Better’ couldn’t have been further from the truth.
We experienced miscarriage two more times. Just your regular old cramps in the middle of the night, bleeding, that sinking feeling and many many excruciating tears that just kept coming kind of miscarriage. I will never forget those nights. Both times, 8 weeks pregnant.
I talked to many other brave, strong women who shared their miscarriage stories with me. It made me feel not so alone, that other people knew what I was going through. I desperately needed that. I was sick of the comments: ‘well at least you know you can get pregnant, it’s ok, you can try again next month, you weren’t that far along anyway.’ I don’t blame these people for saying those things. It’s the only way they knew how to comfort me at the time. They were trying to be compassionate and put a positive spin on the situation.
What I couldn’t prepare for was how three miscarriages would affect me mentally. After the partial molar, I didn’t know why I had such an empty sadness. Yes I had experienced great loss, but I was naïve as to why. This was new territory for me. I didn’t know if I was allowed to be this upset. It was only a foetus. It probably died at about 9 weeks. Why am I so upset about someone I never met, and never got time to get attached to? But with each subsequent miscarriage, the pain was deeper. The sadness was greater. Each time, I stopped planning for the future. Each pregnancy became scary and uncertain. And each time I became more and more detached. Unfortunately this made my fourth (but eventually successful) pregnancy a very tense one. And subsequently produced some serious post-partum depression (PPD), anxiety and insomnia after my baby girl was born.
I wish I had seen a counsellor after my first miscarriage instead of waiting until after my baby was born. Had I dealt with it the first time around, I may not have experienced the PPD, and I may have bonded with my baby sooner. You know how people say you’ve never experienced love until you have a child? About seven months after giving birth i started to feel that love for my baby. Miscarriage took a serious toll on my mental health.
After my triple tragedy I realised how important it is to talk about miscarriage. I wish I had told more people I was pregnant before the first trimester was over. Then the ‘Im no longer pregnant’ conversation may have elicited more support and compassion, which is what I desperately needed at the time. Yes, it was hard to be reminded of what happened every time I was asked, but talking about it helped immensely.
I understand that miscarriage is different for everyone. For some, they can easily move past it and their next pregnancy goes well and they end up having a full term healthy baby. But for others, it’s a constant inner battle to move past what could have been.
So to those of you who have shared in this misery, my heart goes out to you. To those who are able to look at your beautiful babies every day, cherish them, they are life. And to those who are still struggling, I only have to look into the eyes of my baby girl and tell you that there is hope, and you will one day get your rainbow.