Today is infant and pregnancy lost awareness day. I have never suffered a miscarriage or lost a baby but I’ve been involved as a midwife in many, too many in fact deliveries of babies who didn’t make it. This birth story from Maisie is a wonderful and honest account of what it felt like to her to experience a miscarriage at 15 weeks gestation.
Finding out I was pregnant was amazing, I had a sense that I was pregnant before I did the test, but seeing the second line appear was incredible. Plus, it was my boyfriend Paul’s birthday so it made telling him extra special. We were both astonished and delighted that we had conceived in only our second month of trying. As an acupuncturist, I treat a lot of women with fertility issues, so I’m used to hearing about how hard it can be to conceive, and I think that gave me a skewed perspective of how long it could take.
I also work as a birth doula, and know how important it is to be supported by midwives who know us, so we hired two lovely independent midwives when I was eight weeks, and started seeing them once a month. We opted not to have the first scan as I was sure of my dates and we both felt strongly that if Downs was suspected, we would continue with the pregnancy. My one concern was missed miscarriage, but it was really important to me that I learnt to trust my body with being pregnant, so I decided that my body knew how to be pregnant and that it also knew how not to be pregnant.
I sailed happily into my second trimester, but then at fifteen weeks I had some upper abdominal pain which I dismissed as trapped wind, and as I was called out to a birth a few hours later, had little time to dwell on it. Two days later I had some very light spotting which coincided with my gums bleeding, so my midwives and I felt that it was due to vascular changes. On my way home the next day the spotting increased in volume, changed colour and consistency, and was accompanied by light cramping. Andy, one of our midwives came out that evening to check me over and Paul and I decided that we’d like to have a scan.
Andy was amazing, she called the local units to find out where we could get an out of hours scan, and spoke to the on call gynaecologist so that we could bypass A&E and go straight to the ward. He could only perform an abdominal ultrasound and whilst I was desperate to hear a reassuring phrase, that we had no cause for concern, I knew that the delay in telling us anything meant all was not well. He told us that although there was a gestational sac, the pregnancy had not developed normally and that there was no baby, just what looked like decomposing tissue. I was shocked and devastated, but at the same time, felt a tremendous amount of love for Paul, and I found it incredible how love could be the dominant emotion in me at such a distressing time. I kept switching between wailing and moaning, and being clinical and professional.
That night was a long one, I did a lot of crying and drifted in and out of sleep. Even though I know a fair bit about missed miscarriages and have had clients who’ve experienced them, it was bizarre to think that it was likely to have happened some time ago, and yet I still had signs of pregnancy: My boobs had grown by four cup sizes (total shocker), I was getting up in the night to pee, and I cried when I read that Prince Harry stated that the Invictus Games would change people’s lives. And yet, somehow, it made sense. I’d had trouble connecting with my bump in the way I’d been able to earlier on in the pregnancy, and bizarrely, for the last couple of weeks, I kept wanting to massage acupuncture points which are contraindicated in pregnancy as they can bring on labour, and found it hard to stop myself from pushing on them.
We had an internal scan booked in for Monday when the EPAU was open again, and spent the weekend talking through what our options might be depending on what was going on. Occasionally I would get cramps, but not enough to stop me from enjoying a pub dinner and large glass of Malbec. I gave myself some acupuncture to encourage what was already happening, and at around 9pm on Sunday, the cramps picked up so I took some paracetamol and tried to relax with a hot water bottle. That didn’t help in the way I expected it to so I had a hot bath, but I couldn’t get comfortable, and along with some tears, exclaimed to Paul, “I just want it out”.
I’ve had debilitating period pain in the past, and this was on a level with that. Lying on my side with a hot water bottle on my abdomen and another on my back was starting to help, but I was getting occasional pains on top of the cramps which I imagined to be clots trying to pass through my cervix. Paul had called Andy and it was great to have her there too, but I was starting to feel that something was very wrong and that we needed to get to the hospital, so off we went.
As we walked into the hospital, I hit the deck, there was no way I could walk any further, all I wanted was to lie on my side. Paul found a wheelchair and got me through to the reception at A&E, where I promptly got on the floor again. I remember a nurse trying to convince me to sit down but I wasn’t having any of it and started calling out for pain relief. I was aware that I was going through all of this in front of a packed waiting room, but the pain was so intense that I didn’t care, I just wanted it to go away and couldn’t understand why nobody was helping me.
Eventually a stretcher was found and I was moved through to the ward, but there was no room available so we were left in the corridor. At this point I started to get really hot and proceeded to take most of my clothes off. A very nice nurse wanted to preserve my dignity by getting them back on, so I not-so-politely informed her that I didn’t give shit. The pain was now so intense that I was convinced I’d developed a severe infection really quickly and that I needed surgery. Mentally I started to prepare myself for a hysterectomy, and I didn’t care, as long as the pain stopped. I kept thinking that there was no way I could go through labour if this was what a miscarriage felt like, in fact, I decided that Paul and I would be fine on our own and asked him if we needed to have kids.
Finally we were in a room, and in a moment of clarity, I told the Dr. the best way to cannulate me, asked if I’d be given fluids … and suddenly remembered about entonox!! I asked for it and got it pretty quickly, and it really helped me to relax a bit with the pain. Then the medical staff left us and the combination of less people fussing over me and turning all the lights off helped to lessen the pain even more (hurrah for oxytocin). A short time later I had an overwhelming urge to poo, and as I did, I told Paul and Andy that I could feel something coming out of my vagina, and as it came out, it dawned on me that I had been in labour.
You’d think that someone who has attended over eighty births would know when she was in labour. Nope. I walked around naked in front of my Paul’s sister, had pain that came in waves, I was moaning and groaning like nobody’s business, and thought I was going to die. All very classic signs of labour, but I had no idea till I gave birth.
I felt amazing as soon as it was over, despite not giving birth to a baby, I still had a massive oxytocin rush that lasted on and off for days (followed by the classic day four crash). It was really helpful for us to see the tissue that I passed, it was a sausage shaped piece of what looked like placental tissue, it didn’t resemble a baby in any way. As I and been worried about infection, it was also reassuring that it didn’t smell offensive.
We left the hospital a short while later as I felt fine and we were desperate to be alone and in our own bed. The cramps had started at 9.30pm and I was home in bed with a hot ribena by 4am. It was without doubt the most mental night of my life, and I felt a massive sense of accomplishment. It wasn’t the birth I imagined I’d have, and it was hard to go through it all and not have a baby at the end of it. But no matter what happens with any future pregnancies, I have experienced labour and some form of birth, and I am hugely grateful for that. I’m thankful that we didn’t have the twelve week scan as I wouldn’t have been happy about waiting 3.5 weeks to miscarry, and if I’d have had an ERPC, I wouldn’t have had the intense but amazing experience of labour.
We’ve since had our histology results back, and it was a partial molar pregnancy, where two sperm fertilised my egg, resulting in three sets of chromosomes instead of two … a very good reason for my pregnancy not to continue. I’ll need follow up blood and urine tests to make sure my Hcg levels are returning to normal, and we won’t be able to try to conceive again until they do. And I won’t lie, that’s hard. I can think of lots of good medical and personal reasons why waiting is a good thing, but that doesn’t stop it from being hard.
So oddly enough, my miscarriage is what has taught me how to trust my body. My body knows when it needs to miscarry, my body knows how to go to in labour, and it sure as hell knows how to contract. Fundamentally, this pregnancy brought us a lot of joy, and as Paul said, it’s better to focus on the memories of things that actually happened, instead of all our projected fantasies of what would have happened in the future.
Or my blog if you want to link through to the post I’m doing about how to recover from a miscarriage: