For four days I lived in complete dread. Everyone I spoke to would tell me that bleeding can be normal. But something felt really wrong. Not only was I bleeding and cramping but the pregnancy symptoms I’d been experiencing had started to disappear – my breasts no longer hurt, I was no longer averse to plain water (yep, that’s right, it was squash all the way), and my asthma had improved, all within a couple of days. I felt certain I knew what was happening but was given no clarity.
Three and a half weeks earlier, an A&E doctor had delivered the news ‘you’re pregnant’ while I laid in a hospital bed unable to walk. I had just fallen 5 feet off a horse. Before heading into x-ray I had weed into a commode and after ten minutes, I was processing not just the shock and injury of a fall but a pregnancy! I was taken by surprise. My priority at that point was still my back – had I broken anything?? (FYI – no breaks).
Before discharging me, the doctor suggested I take a further pregnancy test later in the week if my period did not start (I was due two days after the fall). As I’m sure you guessed, it didn’t come. I took two tests, both of which were positive. The next day, I surprised Daniel with a small package containing the two tests and a gorgeous little pair of crocheted booties. He was practically giddy and, for the first time since I found out, I cried – happy (and very nervous) tears.
There is an expectation that women should feel an immediate, overwhelming joy but that’s not always the case. In fact, it’s fairly common for women to feel shocked, nervous, even uncertain. It took me a few weeks before I started to feel that excitement. Not because I don’t want a baby, but because my biggest fear in life is a lack of control over my health, it’s the main trigger for my anxiety. This news was hugely overwhelming and it’s been hard not to fear all the things that could go wrong for me, as well as the baby. If you are/have been pregnant and feel the same way, that’s fine. You get to feel that way and I feel no shame in admitting that my main concerns, at the beginning, were me, my back and my anxiety. It doesn’t mean you won’t love your child, it doesn’t make you less of a mum and it certainly does not make you any less deserving of the life you have been gifted.
Three and a half weeks later
On Wednesday the 26th June, as I entered my eighth week of pregnancy, I went to the toilet and found blood on the toilet paper. It was a tiny amount so I didn’t panic. In fact, I even wondered whether it was in my urine, that I maybe had a UTI. I continued to bleed so the next day I booked a GP appointment for that same morning.
As Daniel and I sat, waiting for our appointment at 11:30 the fear mounted, both for myself and for our baby. My brain ran through innumerable, frightening scenarios. I dissolved into tears, terrified as I began to consider the devastating possibility……
I went in alone while Daniel waited anxiously in the car. The GP did an internal exam, unable to find (or feel) any immediate cause for concern. But she told me that I would need a scan to be sure. She called the Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU) at our nearest hospital to book me in for a ‘reassurance scan’. In an effort to make me feel better, the GP told me they call them this because, more often than not, the outcome would be positive, women just need reassurance. She deserves no blame but I can’t silence the resentment I feel for her getting my hopes up.
The earliest appointment at the EPU was in five days’ time..!! I groaned and slumped into the chair knowing I couldn’t influence their capacity. On the one hand I wasn’t surprised, on the other I was gobsmacked that we would have to wait in fear for five days; that nobody would offer us help any sooner. After putting the phone down, the doctor said something about the bank holiday. I had to stop myself from swearing…..were we really in this position because of a bank holiday!?
We had no choice but to go home and, somehow, try and remain calm for five days.
Back home, I rang the midwifery team to ask for their advice. I was met with compassion and warmth which I appreciated but I was told that nothing more could be done. The resource just did not exist. I can’t say if this is true of all regions across the UK – I know women who have been seen almost immediately but the midwife was lamenting the lack of resource, implying this was normal.
By that evening, the blood was much heavier. It felt the same as a moderate period. I woke early the following morning with crippling cramps and an intense pain in my rectum. I hobbled to the toilet and felt a dollop of blood fall into the basin. I looked down and could see fleshy lumps.
Looking back, I feel sure this was it. The moment I saw the life that was once growing inside me drain away. Literally. There’s no sugar coating it. I quite literally flushed our tiny baby away.
However, the bleeding continued and so did the torture of analysing every trip to the bathroom and every sheet of blood stained toilet paper. Time and again I was told that it could well be implantation bleeding but everything I read told me that that wasn’t the case. Instead of brownish-red spotting, this was bright red flowing blood, coupled with cramping.
But I was stuck – my symptoms were not improving but neither were they severe enough to be considered emergent. The wait was excruciating.
By the Friday afternoon, I was already grieving. To me, it was clear what was happening. I felt side-lined, left out in the cold by a system that’s supposed to care for me…us! Daniel was a solider. He cared for me in every way that he could and I can’t adequately express my gratitude for his love and compassion.
On the Saturday, we distracted ourselves with an afternoon screening of Cruella. I popped to the toilet mid-film and saw no blood. I couldn’t help it, I felt a sense of relief and smiled to myself. I ran back to the theatre and whispered to Daniel ‘no blood!’. We held on to one another, silently hoping. For a short while, despite the previous couple of days, I thought ‘maybe it would be ok….I really might have worried for nothing’.
Looking back on this moment is heart breaking. It feels too cruel. I had already miscarried. Our baby was already gone yet, because we couldn’t get the support we needed when we needed it, we’d been allowed to hope.
On the day of our scan, we waited alongside four other women. I watched as each one was called to the consultation room around the corner and listened as each one left with a chipper ‘thank you, byee!’.
We were called in an hour late. By this stage, I was pacing the hallway like a caged animal. Once inside the consultation room I didn’t see a bed, I saw ‘stirrups’….when I realised the scan was an internal one, I just wanted to cry. I couldn’t bear the news that I was sure was coming, let alone an internal exam. It just felt like too much.
The nurse placed the probe into my vagina and, in the same way a dentist reads out seemingly random numbers to the dental nurse, she called out words and numbers to her colleague who entered them into a computer. I barely registered what she was saying. I won’t beat around the bush: within a few minutes, we heard the words ‘unfortunately, I can’t see any signs of pregnancy’.
I broke. Daniel held me but I wanted to tear the skin from my own face and beat myself around the head. I knew his heart was breaking too but I shut down. I needed to get out of there. The nurse drew some blood and started explaining what came next as I sat slumped in my chair, lifeless. I didn’t hear most of what she said. As we walked out of the hospital I wanted to run. Run until I passed out. Instead, Daniel drove us home while the world around us carried on.
The ordeal doesn’t end with the scan. For us there were blood tests and a final pregnancy test. For many women, the ordeal is worse – more bleeding, surgical intervention, even inducement to birth their tiny baby.
We were signposted to no support services. We received no real advice. We were dealt the worst blow we’d ever experienced and the best they could give us was ‘we advise you take two weeks off work’. I realise the nurses were busy but it really felt like we were on a conveyor belt; the procedures were followed, the technical information communicated, and then that was it. We were sent on our way with nothing.
I want to note that we love the NHS. Its staff work tirelessly to care for us. But the system is broken. The nurses, who were warm and gentle, were so stretched that they could offer us nothing more – no more time, no more support, and I can only assume the reason we weren’t given any info on support services was because they were overstretched. No matter what the reason, we should’ve been provided a greater level of care.
That feels like an abrupt end but I won’t try and describe the few weeks that followed, it feels impossible. Miscarriage is not a ‘one off event’. The pain and loss stays with you and I’m sure it will always be with us. I understand it gets easier but the loss of a child and the impact it has on parents cannot be underestimated.
If you have experienced the loss of a pregnancy, my heart is with you. I encourage you to share your story with even just one person. I understand it’s painful so I’m with you. We all are – I have found a community of women navigating a world post-loss so please know that you’re not alone. You can find support groups through the Miscarriage Association and Tommy’s, and a charity called Petals Charity offers counselling, as does the NHS.
Thank you for making it to the end.
Love from me.
Baby Le Huray’s Mummy, Krissy X