A loss is a loss is a loss

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Not many people know about this – it’s not an experience which I have shared publicly on my Facebook or Twitter, and nor do I wish to (how would you even start it? “GUESS WHAT GUYS!”). But I feel it’s important to write about nonetheless. I recognise that it’s an intensely personal story and some readers might cringe at the thought of me sharing it (after all, many people have no idea how to react to something like this), but I don’t feel like it’s anything to be ashamed of. The more openness there is about an experience like this, the better. Miscarriage is incredibly common but there seems to be some kind of taboo when it comes to talking about it, and I don’t think that is helpful.

On January 10th 2015, I found out I was pregnant (unplanned). On 12th February, I found out I had suffered what is known as a ‘missed miscarriage’. On 13th February I had a surgical procedure, known as a D&C, to remove the failed pregnancy. 

I want to specify before I begin that this story is not all doom and gloom. I feel it’s taught me a lot and made me even more determined to live a full and satisfying life. This is a testimony of someone going through a missed miscarriage and coming out of the other end ultimately feeling positive and hopeful for the future. I hope this provides some comfort for women going through the same thing.

My partner and I had not been planning on having a baby any time soon (in fact, we hadn’t talked about it at all). My pregnancy was a complete accident. In November 2014, I had my contraceptive implant (Nexplanon) removed due to the fact that I didn’t feel it suited me as a method of birth control. As an alternative, I meant to have a coil put in as soon as possible, but I was due a smear test first. The smear test came back with a mild level of cell abnormality, and I had to have a colposcopy in early December to investigate further. Ultimately, everything was fine – but I didn’t get a chance to have the coil put in before my partner and I left to go abroad over Christmas time. In the mean time, we used other methods of protection but unfortunately on one occasion it failed. We were both pretty mortified, but very much in the mindset of “oh, it’ll be fine” and I guess we never really believed that an unplanned pregnancy would or could happen to us. In any case, we weren’t sure we could get hold of the morning after pill where we were on holiday so we just tried to forget about it.

A few days later, I started noticing some odd physical symptoms. I have some ongoing health problems and know my body very well as a result, which is why I was so acutely aware of slight changes in how I felt. Amongst other things, I felt my temperature fluctuating, I was ‘off food’ and had persistent mild nausea. My nose was blocked up/ I was congested even though I didn’t have a cold, and I kept having to swallow for no apparent reason. I can’t explain how or why, but I just knew I was pregnant. I managed to avoid obsessing over it because I’ve had pregnancy scares before which had been nothing – I convinced myself I was being stupid and worrying unnecessarily. However, I just couldn’t shake the suspicion so on January 10th I did pregnancy test which gave a faint positive result.

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I immediately told my boyfriend and we discussed our options. At that point I don’t think it had really sunk in for me; I resolved that I would just have a termination, we would learn a valuable lesson from it and move on. He was relieved at how seemingly straightforward it all was, and how quickly I had made the decision. On January 13th I did a digital test just to double-check, and it confirmed pregnant: 2-3 weeks. To my surprise I found myself ecstatic and jumping around with happiness despite my better judgement.

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With more time for the reality to sink in, I had started feeling attached to this baby and didn’t think I could terminate it. The following few weeks were extremely tense for my partner and I – we clashed a lot and I was hurt by his insistence that this baby would ruin our lives. He saw it as a ‘bundle of cells’ at this point, and merely potential for a life, whereas I saw it as a life in its own right. He didn’t seem to understand my strong primal urge to protect our baby (or ’embryo’, as he would insist I call it) and continue with the pregnancy. I felt like he was making me feel illogical and silly. He kept trying to get me to understand that he wanted to have a child when the time was right and when we could give it a better life. I agreed with him because he made some logical points, but I’ve always felt very maternal and felt a strong desire to be pregnant so the idea of throwing away what I perceived to be a “gift” felt awful, even if it was bad timing. The older I get, the more jealous I feel whenever I hear the news that someone is expecting. I don’t know why, it just happens. Despite this, I also didn’t want to bring a baby into the world which wouldn’t be wanted by its father. I knew he would love the child if I had it, but there was also the possibility of lingering resentment that the child had taken away his independence, and I didn’t want that to be damaging for the child.

I was utterly tortured by the decision ahead of me – I didn’t feel like there was a right decision either way. I could terminate and risk never forgiving myself and resenting my boyfriend forever, or I could keep it and risk my boyfriend resenting me and our baby. I didn’t know if our relationship would survive either way.

Despite the fact that I had doubts over wanting to terminate, I wanted to consider all my options so I went to a couple of termination consultations in which I was given transvaginal ultrasounds in order to date my pregnancy. This was when sonographers started commenting on how the pregnancy didn’t look as though it was developing as quickly as it should be, and after a couple of scans they came to the conclusion that I had either got my dates wrong by a couple of weeks (which I knew I hadn’t) or I had a failing pregnancy. They told me when I was at 7w1d that the embryo was only measuring 5w1d. I had to go back 8 days later for another scan so they could be sure whether or not it was a viable pregnancy.

For a week or so I was in limbo. It was horrendous. I felt like I would be sad either way – I would be sad if it was viable and I was happy about it but my boyfriend wasn’t, and I would be sad if it wasn’t viable even though that would in some respects be the ‘least worst’ option.

When I did go back for the scan, I should have been 8w2d. The sonographer explained that unfortunately the embryo had not grown since the last scan, and I was touched by the genuine regret and sadness in her eyes. “I’m so sorry,” she said as she put her hand on my arm, and in that moment I appreciated her sincerity and sympathy more than she could possibly know. I felt a huge sense of relief and a massive weight off my shoulders because I no longer had to make a decision over what to do, but I did also feel sad. I had, after all, experienced a loss. That was a baby – my baby. My body still felt pregnant, and my hormones had not adapted to say otherwise. My body had not recognised the fact that the embryo had stopped developing. The sonographer kindly asked if I wanted to see the ultrasound on the screen and I said yes. She also asked if I wanted a copy of the ultrasound, which I did. I want to remember my little splodge, even if it did only make it to 5w1d. I still feel it was a life, and I will respect it as such.

I could either wait for my body to naturally miscarry (but that could take weeks, and I was at increased risk of infection that way), or have it managed either medically or surgically. Medical management of miscarriage involves taking some tablets to induce the miscarriage whereas surgical management involves dilating the cervix and then a surgeon removing the products of pregnancy under general anaesthetic. I decided that I favoured the latter option as I had to start a new job on Monday (!!!) and I didn’t want to be suffering from the more dramatic effects of a medical miscarriage (which would likely include heavy bleeding and seeing the ‘products of pregnancy’ – i.e. gestational sac etc – which I didn’t feel I could cope with psychologically).

I was told to arrive at the hospital at 7.30am on the Friday with the hope that I would be taken to theatre relatively quickly and be out by lunch time. Of course, that didn’t happen – there were a few emergencies that needed to be dealt with before me. I arrived at the hospital at 7.30 and was shown to my bed on the ward. I spent most of that morning bored and pissed off. I alternated between reading magazines and burying my head under a pillow to try and block out the noises of other women on the ward vomiting (I’m moderately emetophobic and hearing people vomiting makes me shake and feel like I’m going to puke too).

Bored. Boring. Blah. Waiting sucks.

Bored. Boring. Blah. Waiting sucks.

I was finally taken to theatre at 12.30pm. I remember my hand being injected with the anaesthetic and then my arm tingling and stinging. I started feeling woozy after about 10 seconds, at which point I’m pretty sure I started rambling at the surgical team for the 20 or so seconds before I fell unconscious. If I remember rightly, I said that I hoped that the anaesthetic would be as good as the time when I had Midazolam for my colonoscopy, because “that stuff was the tits” (honestly, I genuinely think I used those words!). The next thing I knew, it was an hour later and I woke up in a different room. I still felt quite woozy but gradually came out of it, and whilst I did I chatted to one of the very nice nurses. I was still in a bit of pain – it was like bad period cramps. Eventually when I was given Buscopan the pain subsided enough for me to be taken back to the ward.

I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I recovered from the general anaesthetic – I was expecting to feel drowsy, groggy and generally shit until at least the next day. But by about 3-4 hours after my procedure I felt pretty much fine. The worst part of my post-surgery experience was the bleeding. There really wasn’t much blood at all until I got up to go to the bathroom. On my way to the bathroom round the corner, I felt something warm streaming down my legs and by the time I made it to the bathroom my gown was covered in blood and it had also ruined my compression stockings.  I don’t think it was anything sinister, I think it was just caused by the fact that I had been lying/ sitting in bed since the procedure and standing up meant it all came out at once. Still, pretty damn unpleasant. About an hour or two later I was discharged.

Since the procedure I’ve had a bit of sharp throbbing pain in my abdomen/ uterus and to start with I also had a bit of bleeding and period-type cramps but that’s all completely subsided now, just over a week later. You’re advised to rest after the procedure for a week or so and to avoid anything too physically demanding but I started a new full-time job on the Monday and felt mostly fine. Not that I would recommend it for everyone, but I coped. I felt that it was important for me to have something to focus on and not dwell on what I had just been through.

Emotionally I feel… okay. Surprisingly okay. I have had a few episodes of sobbing and feeling depressed, but that’s to be expected given that my hormones are all over the place. On the Monday night it was particularly bad and I felt like everything was meaningless. After all, I had just lost my baby. What was the point of anything? But luckily that feeling dissipated by the next day and I was able to focus on my new job, and have been ever since. Don’t get me wrong, I do still have moments where I am hit by the reality of what has happened – especially when I hear about someone else being pregnant. I just found out about Lily Cole being pregnant with her first child, and I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. I could barely breathe. Oh, another thing is that I feel like everyone around me is having babies or posting about babies or birth or pregnancy on Facebook and it is driving me insane. I just have to keep reminding myself that I don’t actually want a baby right now. The jealousy and sadness and longing is biology talking, not my conscious mind.

I’m not anticipating a totally smooth or easy road ahead, emotionally speaking. The whole experience – finding out I was pregnant, the myriad emotions that come with that, trying to picture my life with a baby and becoming attached to that idea, trying to picture my life if I terminated the baby, the torture of trying to make a decision that would make both myself and my partner happy, the waiting, finding out I had definitely lost the baby – it was all torture. This post cannot possibly communicate how hellish those 7/8 weeks were and how slowly time seemed to go. Those weeks were spent pacing, crying, listening to a lot of Sia, eating a lot of biscuits as that’s all I felt I could stomach, lying in bed and staring at the ceiling, Googling termination experiences, Googling unplanned but ultimately successful pregnancy experiences, Googling how the hell to look after a newborn baby. This is a neat little summary of the experience, but in reality it was chaotic and confusing and painful. It’s such an intense, raw and haunting thing to go through, and it’ll take a while to process my feelings on it all. But I’m okay. I feel it’s so important to focus on the things you do have. This has reminded me that there are a lot of things you can do without a child. You’re much more free and independent and it’s easier to do what you want when you want. I’m only 26 – I still have a lot I want to do by myself and on my own terms. This experience has also proven that I can conceive, which is a positive thing in itself as I know I want children in the future. It’s made my partner and I talk more seriously about what it will be like to have children, and we have decided that we will plan for it and make sure it’s when we’re completely ready. That said, I will never forget the experience of being pregnant with this baby and I will not just pretend it never happened. It wasn’t meant to be, but it still was for a while.

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The Author

Bristol-based artsy liberal feminist. Mama to three ferrets.

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