By the time I got pregnant for the third time, my feelings about conceiving had completely changed.
Gone was the instant joy, replaced instead with a confusion of emotions, muted relief that I’d managed to get pregnant and fear that something would go wrong.
Gone was the assumption of a carefree pregnancy, replaced instead with worries about lines getting darker, cramps meaning something sinister and bleeding being the start of a miscarriage.
Gone was the belief that in nine months I would have a baby, replaced instead with a sense of resignation that I probably wouldn’t have that outcome at all.
Yet, at the same time, my mum had recently dreamt that I got pregnant and gave birth on my grandma’s birthday – November 26th. And what was my due date? You got it, November 26th. Much as I don’t logically believe in things like this, as terrified as I was at that point, I clung to the hope that this was a predictor for us.
Looking at it from the outside, I was in the best position of all my pregnancies this time round. I’d been referred to the recurrent miscarriage clinic after my second miscarriage, as I’m over 35. I’d had my first appointment with the dedicated nurse a few weeks earlier, so I was now on their books. This meant that I could call up and ask to be seen straight away and prescribed medication which would hopefully sustain the pregnancy.
I called up the day after I found out I was pregnant and was given an appointment for the following week.
Weeks 3 – 5: second line worries
At that point in the pregnancy, I was a ball of nerves. I’d been having very faint positive test results from 10dpo, and they didn’t seem to be getting much darker.
When I got to 14dpo, my lines were still faint. It was my 40th birthday and I’d booked myself a spa day with massage as a treat. I was also due to go out for a steak and red wine dinner. Neither of these activities were suitable for me now I was pregnant. And yet if I was still having to tilt my tests this way and that to see a line, was I even really pregnant?
My birthday ended up being a muted day, taken up by worrying and wondering, instead of the celebrations I had planned.
I kept telling myself that this pregnancy was a slow starter. I knew my hcg had gone back down to zero after the last miscarriage, so maybe it was just taking a while for the levels to get high enough for a test to pick up. I tried to believe this, but logic goes out of the window when you’re convinced you’re going to lose another pregnancy.
So with these fears taking up the majority of space in my mind, I went to my appointment at the hospital feeling very anxious. I really needed support and understanding, for the nurse to take into account I’d had two miscarriages in 10 months, so of course I’d be anxious. But I was made to feel that my worries were unfounded and that I was over-reacting.
But otherwise the appointment went well. I was prescribed a variety of medicines and booked in for a scan at 7 weeks.
Week 6: bleeding
When I was 6 weeks pregnant, I went to the toilet, as I felt damper than usual. As I wiped, I was preparing myself for blood. And blood was what I saw. I can remember the feeling now, the sinking stomach, the immediate panic setting in, then the thought process ‘of course it’s going wrong, this is what happens’.
I went to break the news to my husband, feeling weary in a way that even early pregnancy fatigue hadn’t managed.
We decided to go straight to the emergency gynaecology unit at our local hospital. They had seen me with both previous miscarriages and I needed someone to tell me what was happening. We went in that afternoon and were booked in for a scan the following morning.
After a long night spent worrying, but hoping for the best after the bleeding had slowed down, we drove back to the hospital. Sitting in that ultrasound waiting room brought up so many emotions in me, remembering the pain of the news we’d received there before, the fear of what news we may get today, the jealousy of other women with obvious bumps looking relaxed and carefree.
But, unexpectedly, after the transvaginal wand was inserted, and after the nerve-jangling silence that always begins a scan, the sonographer told us that baby was there and looking great. She had even been able to detect a heartbeat. We both cried, unbelievably relieved that we weren’t being given the bad news we expected.
But then why was I bleeding? The sonographer explained that there was a small bleed in the uterus, but that this was common and should clear up of its own accord.
We bounced home that day, thoroughly wrung out but joyful that we had a continuing pregnancy.
I still had the pre-booked scan at 7 weeks, around a week after my emergency one. This time, baby had grown just as it should. We could see its shape more clearly, and it still had a strong heartbeat. We left the hospital again elated that we’d got this far.
Weeks 7 – 9: everything’s ok
My next reassurance scan was booked and when I checked the date, I noticed it fell when I would be 9 weeks and 6 days pregnant. From the first moment I realised, I couldn’t suppress the panic. This was the exact point – to the day – I’d got to with my first pregnancy when we found out baby had died.
All women who’ve had a loss will understand how strong the need is to get past significant dates like this. The last thing I wanted was a replay of last time – and in my mind, the same date meant the it would be the same bad news.
But there was little I could do, so I enjoyed (as much as possible) weeks 7 to 9 of my pregnancy. I was nauseous but not sick. Had food aversions, but could still eat. Felt tired, but enjoyed the extra sleep.
We had told both sets of parents, wanting to share the news for two-fold reasons: because we wanted them to share in our joy, but also because if anything went wrong, they would know and could support us.
We had also shared the news with some friends, particularly ones who already had children, had gone through our miscarriages with us, or had experienced loss or infertility of their own. We are lucky to have a great support network of friends that we can speak to openly about everything.
What we couldn’t do at this stage was believe the pregnancy would continue to term. So there was no pregnancy journal, no thinking about names, no buying clothes. In fact, although the pregnancy was mentioned a lot, there was almost no talk of an actual baby, we were both just too scared to believe it.
9 weeks 6 days: our world crumbles
On the day of the scan, me and my husband made the familiar journey to the hospital and I sat in the waiting room of the recurrent miscarriage clinic. I was feeling sick with nerves but trying to keep it casual, like this was just another scan, without the significance and worries I had attached to it.
I’d been told before the scan that, because it was only for reassurance, an older machine would be used and that it wouldn’t be done by a sonographer, instead it would be a doctor and an assistant. We went in to the scan room and watched as the professionals tried to set up the machine. They were obviously struggling and it took what seemed like forever, which didn’t instil me with confidence, but they were eventually ready and I was given an abdominal scan.
The silence went on for some time. Eventually, I asked if there was something wrong.
‘Your bladder is very full. We need you to empty it and then we’ll do a transvaginal scan.’
‘Is there something wrong?’ I asked again
‘You don’t need to worry about anything yet.’ came the reply.
The ‘yet’ hung in the air.
The second scan was again very quiet. Eventually, one of the two professionals said the words I was expecting, but still desperately hoped I wouldn’t hear ‘I’m sorry but there’s no heartbeat’.
They took measurements of our baby, saying it was around 7.5 weeks when it stopped developing.
I remember laying on the bed with tears streaming down my face, shaking my head and repetitively rubbing my eyes, back and forth, back and forth. I can’t process this. Not again. What have we done to deserve this? I can’t do it.
The professionals seemed uncomfortable, like they didn’t know what to do or say. There was talk of us having to go to ultrasound for another scan, this time by a sonographer, to confirm there was no heartbeat.
But I couldn’t even contemplate it, I couldn’t walk through the hospital and be in a room of pregnant women, I just couldn’t. I needed to sit down, I needed my husband, I needed to cry.
Soon after, the specialist nurse I’d met before came into the room, hugged us both and completely took control of the situation. She arranged for a sonographer to come to us, instead of us going to them. She arranged for a private room in the emergency gynaecology unit where we could wait in privacy before speaking to someone about how to remove the pregnancy.
She was a very human presence in a room that was otherwise cold and clinical. And although I am not religious, she was very much our guardian angel on that hardest of days and I will always be grateful to her for that.
The sonographer arrived and did her scan, confirming that there was no heartbeat. She left the room to return to the busy ultrasound department and once she’d gone, I took a good long look at my baby, still showing on the screen, trying to commit it to memory, something I could hold on to when it was gone.
I noticed on the screen that during the second scan, baby had been measured at 9 weeks, a full 1.5 weeks further along than the other professionals had measured it. Yet nobody had mentioned that to us.
A week and a half at that early stage is significant – the difference between my foetus measuring 15mm and 23 mm – and I would never have known had I not checked the screen. This really upset me then and still does now. I feel it’s so important for a mother who loses a child through miscarriage to know how old that baby was when it passed, and to not provide that information is unforgivable.
Choosing how to end our pregnancy…again
After our scan, we were taken to the emergency gynae unit and a nurse came to discuss our three, by now familiar, options for removing a missed miscarriage. Having gone through a natural miscarriage the first time, I was adamant that I did not want to do this again, so we opted for surgical management.
Also, because it was our third miscarriage, opting for surgical management would allow the remains to be sent away for genetic testing. This meant we could find out what went wrong, something that was very important to us and something we were keen to have done.
There were no slots available until the Friday, and this was Monday morning, so we faced the prospect of a 4 day wait as well as the very real possibility of the miscarriage happening naturally in the meantime. But we decided to go ahead with it, so were booked in for a pre-op on the Thursday and then were free to go home.
Like our first miscarriage, we drove home in silence that day. We knew there was nothing to say. We both understood what was to come now, first the removal of our child from my body, then starting the grieving process, then, if we were ready, the trying again.
Back to square one, and still no baby.