5 May 2021

Loneliness, loss and love

When you find out you are pregnant after years of deciding you would never have kids and dogs would do, with the most perfect man, it comes as a rather positive unbelievable shock. We did it. After years of focusing on my career I felt finally ready for a ‘break’ and to welcome our child into our little family.

Of course, the first few weeks we reminded ourselves that there is a chance of losing the baby, so we were realistic and careful with who we told. Purchasing our closest people mugs with their newfound ‘titles’ on it and taking pictures to celebrate was very special. As the weeks passed and pregnancy symptoms arrived, we counted down the days until we reached the safe 12 weeks. With no worrying symptoms as we reached 11 + 3 I finally took that breath of relief that I think we had made it.

At 11 + 4 very slight bleeding started and a part of us assumed this could be similar to other stories we had heard, that it is common to have some slight bleeding. As the evening went on something didn’t feel right as I also had some slight pain. A call to 111 and we were told to go to A&E.

Four hours later at 4am on a Tuesday morning I was no further forward with knowing what was wrong with our baby. Alone because of Covid-19, scared and confused. The initial nurse was nice, but proceeded to tell me she had 3 miscarriages before successfully reaching 20 weeks, patting her tummy with delight. No words came to my response. Blood tests and urine samples returned normal, but the doctor told me they couldn’t scan because it was the middle of the night. I could not believe what I was hearing, how can a hospital not have access to equipment due to the time of day? Wait everyone, please don’t need certain equipment in the middle of the night, can you hold death until the morning shift at 8am please?

The doctor did some internal examinations and left me, saying it could be the baby is fine, or that I am having an ectopic pregnancy or a miscarriage. 33.3% chance the baby is ok was all I could think of as the words left her mouth. Although she seemed sad and disappointed for me not to know the outcome, I couldn’t help but feel anger that I had attended hospital and left without answers.

Walking out of the side door at A&E across the car park crying and for some reason still with the ‘Covid-19 mask’ on, maybe I was comforted by its warmth and knowing others may not notice my crying, I saw my partner sitting in the car, eyes closed, knowing less than me. Sadness swept over me and a sudden feeling of ‘I am not good enough for that man’.

Once home all we could do was sleep and wait for a call from the emergency gynaecology assessment unit. When we reached the afternoon without a call I decided to phone them. Another wave of sadness and anxiety as she explained they couldn’t fit me in today. How many days do they allow a human to not know the position they are in with their baby?

Wednesday morning arrived and as we approached reception teary eyed the receptionist said no partners and I should already know that by all the signs around the building. I am sorry that in the middle of crying and barely being able to breathe I didn’t stop for a look at your notice board of important information. I explained that my planned 12-week scan on Friday allows partners and given this situation we thought that would be ok for today also. As she started to say no, explaining that is not the right letter, in a rather unsympathetic tone, I turned away bursting into tears into my partner’s chest. He led me outside the unit where I sat in disbelief that not only had we been living in uncertainty since Monday evening, but we were greeted in such an unsympathetic manner. My emotions and anxiety were all over the place and looking back the next hour is a slight blur.
A kinder nurse came outside to explain that she is very sorry they don’t have enough room for my partner when they scan but if there are any issues they will call him into another room.

As I lay there with the nurse and the sonographer, trying to read their facial expressions over the blue masks, I felt lost, anxious and a strange sense of time stopping. It felt like the scan took 45 minutes, but it can’t have. The Sonographer said something, I cannot remember what, I just remember thinking do her eyes look sad because behind that mask I can’t read her facial expression. I don’t know whether my multilingual use of British Sign Language meant that I rely on this more than most. Or was I not listening to her words as my ears didn’t want to hear them, and hoping for some other clues?

The nurse ushered me into another room shortly followed by my partner. Dreams broken.

We met with another nurse after this, Fran, and the reason I remember her name is that if we had a girl we’d agreed to call her Francesca with the hope people would shorten it to Frannie. The irony right now wouldn’t leave my head as she explained what had happened. I barely listened and was thankful my partner was there to take in the information.

We had a silent (or missed) miscarriage, which means you do not get any symptoms and the pregnancy feels and appears normal, with the continuation of sore breasts, sickness and tiredness. Cruel. They are unsure exactly when the miscarriage happened but between 7 -9 weeks is possible. Fran told us that unfortunately we will never know why this happened, but it is common. Later, Nicky, another nurse, told me it’s 1 in 3 pregnancies that miscarry in the first 12 weeks. Well, that is a statistic not talked about much! Fran explained that the miscarriage wasn’t my fault and is something of a mystery but usually linked to the baby not developing normally. We had options for the next stage but at this point I couldn’t take the information in and left with a leaflet.

As my partner started to tell our family and friends I still couldn’t believe we were no longer pregnant. After a couple of hours crying and talking I walked around the house removing the books, vitamin tablets, leaflets, and cards of congratulations. At this point the anger was infuriating.

As messages, presents and flowers of comfort arrived, I realised what an amazing group of people I have in my life and as I write this I am struggling to hold back the tears of love for these people. One of my best friends had a baby recently and her knowledge helped me a lot, along with her listening ear, honesty, and her understanding way. She was born to be a counsellor (and is one!). Another friend provided me with so much comfort and love, I will be forever grateful to her. I also had surprising support from those who had also been through the same thing, and I didn’t know about it.

How many people do we know who have been through this?

My mum and mother in law contacted me every day, which was a real comfort to know I was loved even though the feeling of not being good enough, or this happening for a ‘bad reason’ because of something I have done in the past was overwhelming. Friends also checked in on my mum, who I knew had also taken this badly. I didn’t know at this point quite what to say as the disappointment and fear of letting everyone down was solid in my mind.

Days passed and I don’t recall what I did at all. Netflix stayed on all day as I couldn’t bare the silence.

My partner decided to take me away to the Lake District without our dogs for some time alone. With some wonderful views, long walks and pub lunches I started to breathe more normally again, but with a stomach full of uncertainty and concern for our future chances.

I phoned the hospital to discuss what we needed to do next and they asked I have another scan to check if the pregnancy was still there as I had some clotting over the weekend. We had decided on medicine at home to pass the pregnancy as we wanted to be together in our home. After the scan the nurse said ‘did they tell you that you have a cyst’? Firstly, no and who is ‘they’? Secondly, I have no idea about cysts. The amount of information I do not know about pregnancy, miscarriage, and any gynaecology (I even had to google the spelling!) issues felt overwhelming.

Am I the only one who doesn’t have a clue?

Google became an unwanted addiction over the next few hours and the information I was reading was so unclear. I phoned the team again and luckily Nicky returned my call. She explained that it wouldn’t affect us getting pregnant in the future, but they need to keep an eye on it and scan again soon, and it is very common. Another common issue not spoken about? She asked me to focus on the next stage and try not to worry about the cyst. Easier said than done.

The cyst became this huge overwhelming mass that was ripping our chances of future pregnancies. Another phone call from the unit to discuss the tablets being posted to our home. However, all that was in my mind was a great big cyst. This nurse also tried to calm my worries, but it didn’t help.

My partner arrived home from work and I was a mess.

On looking back (and some help from my friend) I think I was trying to gain some control over a horrendous situation, gripping at any small detail that confirmed we would never have children. I needed definite answers. I have now learnt that pregnancy is far from anything we can really control and definite answers is a no. There is also a huge amount of information unknown to most of us, and now I wonder if that is kind of better?

The medication arrived and something for me to organise and instructions to follow. On this day I realised that I hadn’t worked in 1.5 weeks and hadn’t actually done anything in such a long time. This is something mentally I would normally really struggle with but I guess my brain was taken over my all sorts of strange thoughts and emotions. It all appeared straight forward and after another call from the nurse I was ready to take the first tablet orally. The support from my partner at this point was crucial as I’d started crying again and was tempted to my friend Google. I needed some firm words from him to lift my head, wipe the tears to be able to do it to move on. At this stage normally not a lot happens and you have to wait 24 hours for 4 more tablets.

The following day we went to the garden centre for a distraction and as, normally, Christmas is my favourite time of year I was a little excited to see the decorations. When we entered the huge beautiful shop my eyes welled as I watched the families swarmed around beautiful decorations with their excitement of that lovely day approaching us. I couldn’t help but think this would never be us. A sad day.

Later that day as we prepared for the next tablets I decided to eat first and put on some comfy clothes and set up a nice area on the sofa with the dogs, my partner, hot water bottle and Netflix. And yes, dogs did appear first in that list of important things I needed! These next tablets I had to insert vaginally and after around 2 hours I felt very dizzy and sick. I was violently sick twice and had excruciating cramps, but it was the sickness that left me feeling dreadful. However, at this moment I did feel some relief they were working. Some bleeding and small clots arrived around 4 hours later and then I suddenly felt ok, if not a bit beaten. The following day I was advised by the nurse to take two more tablets orally, allowing them to dissolve in my mouth. Prepared for more sickness and cramps around 2.5 hours later the sack came out into the toilet without any pain or sickness. A strange moment, feeling relief that I didn’t need to go into the hospital for an operation, sadness that this whole thing has happened to us, but now I knew it was time to try and move on. Whatever that looks like, I am unsure.

So, as we try and move forward and I return back to work tomorrow to get my sense of ‘normal routine’ back I am still left with sadness and uncertainty about our future of having children. Now, more than ever, I know I want children and I know I want them with my partner who I couldn’t have been without in these last few strange weeks. With some of this time being a blur one thing shines brightly and that is the kindness and love from our family and friends. Never ever have I felt so worthy of love, in a time when I thought I didn’t deserve it.

I know deep down this miscarriage wasn’t my fault, but occasionally there is that dreaded black thought which I try to push away.

A few areas have left me angry and sad including the difficulties we faced at A&E, the loneliness of Covid-19 restrictions for women in this situation and the limited information out there about miscarriages and any gynaecological issues.

Whoever ends up reading this I hope it gives you something, if not only that maybe we share some similar feelings in a time when you think you’re the only one.

 

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