7 May 2020

I am writing this as I come to the end of a painful miscarriage. It’s 6.30am, everyone is asleep in the house. I would like to sleep, but although the pain is gone, I am bleeding too much to feel comfortable sleeping. I’m worried about staining the bed, and when I sit on the toilet it’s like I’m weeing sometimes, but blood instead of wee.

I found out I had conceived just as the Covid-19 lockdown started. I have three young children, and have never miscarried before. We were full of joy when we found out we were expecting. I am sure it is so different having a miscarriage when you have several children, to when you have none. But it still hurts, and you want to talk to someone about it.

I had a little spotting at 7 weeks and again at 9 weeks. I wasn’t really worried in either case as I had some spotting with my second child. Because of lockdown in my country, visits to the doctor were not allowed and only visits to hospital. Due to the spotting, the first day the doctors reopened at 9 weeks + 5 I went. I was on my own with my husband at home with the kids. As I looked at the scan I excitedly got my phone out to photograph or video the baby. Except I knew as the scan started, there was no pumping heart on the screen I had seen many times before.

My doctor started to tell me what I already knew. There was no fetal pole, and this was not a viable pregnancy. She had asked me before the scan if I was sure of my dates, and I said yes. I knew when I had got my positive pregnancy test, on day 27 of my cycle, following a kind of non-period which didn’t really happen. I should be 9 weeks + 5. She does a vaginal ultrasound to make sure. No fetal pole. Gestational sac and yolk sac nothing else.

She tells me I can do a D and C. I immediately ask if I can miscarry naturally. “Yes you can”, she says. “Will it be painful”, I ask? “No”, she says. “I prefer to do it naturally”, I say. I’m always in favor of the natural approach. As we talk, I say suddenly, “Are you sure I’m not 5 weeks pregnant?” Could my dates be wrong? “No”, she says, “you have a gestational sac measuring 6-7 weeks but no embryo”. “I’m sorry for your loss”, she says as I walk out the door.

I cry on the way home as I phone my husband to tell him our baby has passed away. I was walking home as there was a ban on driving. The doctor had told me to go back in a week if I haven’t miscarried.

I’m embarrassed walking home as I think back to leaving the doctor’s office. The first thing I did was not phone my husband, but try to delete a message sent to a friend earlier in the day saying “I’m pregnant!!!” I try to delete the message as it hasn’t been seen, literally as I walk out the office. But then I can’t, as I later find out, if WhatsApp messages are more than an hour old they can’t be deleted. I write hurriedly, “Actually I’m not pregnant. Waiting to miscarry.” The last thing I wanted was happy congratulations messages in the face of this news. I thank God that I hardly told anyone about the pregnancy, and I phone my sister who is unavailable.

On arriving home, I send all the messages to everyone I told, telling them the bad news. It is done. My sister phones me. I tell her the doctor told me to go back in a week if I have not miscarried. “Do you think there is any hope?”, she asks? “No”, I say. “This doctor is very experienced and she knows what she is doing.”

We go to buy a plant in memory of little one. A beautiful trailing geranium. As I’m trying to buy the plant, I’m thinking, “don’t buy one you don’t know how to look after. You’ll be really upset if you buy a plant to commemorate this baby, and the plant dies.”  Geraniums are hardy, so I’m pleased with my choice.

By evening I start to wonder…  Is there any possibility I got my dates wrong? I did have a mini period before my positive test. What if the positive was from my previous cycle, a chemical pregnancy that failed and then I went on to get pregnant the next cycle. My mini period was on day 22, so that would make me 6 weeks + 4 days. That’s the right size for my sac! Is it possible not to see an embryo at this point? I check again online… Embryos sometimes are not seen up until 9 weeks!! So maybe I’m fine. Current advice in the UK, I read online, says to doctors to wait to scan again two weeks later before discounting an early pregnancy. Being in a foreign country, I don’t have complete confidence in my doctor. And I start to get annoyed at her. She suggested a D and C and I might still be pregnant. But I am spotting still and it is starting to get heavier.

I decide I must wait two weeks before I see her again. I cannot take medication to speed this miscarriage along unless I am absolutely sure the baby is gone.

The next day, bleeding a little heavier, a little falls on the pad. Same the next day. Thursday to Sat there is more on the pad, but still light bleeding. “Perhaps you have already miscarried?”, someone says to me. I find this hugely unhelpful. I know I haven’t. And somehow it upsets me more. Perhaps because I felt this big experience of miscarriage was being belittled. Or perhaps because if it was true then I really had no more hope and baby was truly gone.

Sunday I have stronger bleeding, hope is fading, but the bleeding is still not enough to change a pad in the day. Monday is light again and I get hopeful that maybe there is some alternative cause for my bleeding. Tuesday daytime I get cramps, but no extra bleeding. “Pregnant people have cramps”, I think. Meanwhile I simultaneously I cannot stop the overriding thought that I am miscarrying. “If the doctor was right about my dates, it is about 4-5 weeks since baby died. That’s not normal right? All the websites I have read say 4 weeks should be enough to miscarry naturally. Maybe that means my theory that I got my dates wrong is more likely to be right?”

Tuesday night I start to bleed more freely and I have mild discomfort cramps as I am going to sleep. I wake up bleeding more freely and I see a couple of dark red blood clots on my pad, looking the right size and shape for a gestational sac and yolk sac. They seem elastic when I finger them. I don’t want to flush them down the toilet so I run clear running water from the tap and say “Thank you Jesus” as they wash away.  I feel peaceful and relieved. I tell my sister, friend and Mum that I think I have passed the remains of baby and I hope the worst is over. I feel lighter and hugely relieved it is over.

I am ready to move on, I don’t want to see the doctor anymore, I don’t even want to know my hcg level. I just want to move on in about a week when the bleeding stops. The bleeding is stronger that Wednesday morning, then lightly tapers off. I wonder if I am perhaps optimistic in hoping it is all done. I have heard stories of cramps for up to 10 days. But as I have none, I move on, relieved.

At 3.15am on Thursday morning I wake up with cramps causing me discomfort. I am gutted as I thought this was over. I need to poo, and the cramps get stronger. I’m wondering if I can take paracetamol. “But what if I’m still pregnant?”, I think. “You’re not still pregnant!!!”, I scream back at myself. My thoughts battle, I want to do this naturally. I remember that a doctor told me paracetamol is safe in pregnancy. That’s enough, I’m scrambling for the paracetamol which is all kiddie liquid versions and I wake my husband in a panic.

The pain is ramping up. My husband is still pretty asleep. I go back to get him up again to come to a toilet in the house which is far away from where the children are sleeping. He helps me take maximum dose of paracetamol. I am now having diarrhea, blood and clots falling out of me simultaneously into the toilet. I remember the morning, and have no confidence any more that what I said goodbye to was actually the two sacs. There is no way I would see the remains in the flood of what just happened. If they were in there, they are now in a brown, dark red soup which I have no intention of putting my hand into.

This pain is in my front, whereas labour pains I have had, have always been in my back. But the waves of pain I am familiar with. At the start by 3.30am, there was virtually no let up, groaning, bleeding. I don’t care about medication ‘rights and wrongs’ any more. I ask my husband to get me the maximum dose of ibuprofen to take as well.

The next two hours are a blur. Holding my husband’s hand, groaning, writhing. Sometimes I wanted to get off the toilet for a break. Sometimes I was pacing in pain, or gripping his hand. The blood flow would come and go, not constant but every 10 minutes or so there would be a big quantity. I flushed more times than I can remember. I asked my husband to look at the quantity of blood in the toilet at one point, but he passed. He was exhausted. He knew the kids would be up soon. We are still in a semi lockdown and he felt it was difficult to ask others to help us.

After an hour and a half the pain starts to come in more noticeable waves with gaps of no pain in between. I am so glad I’ve read a story of natural miscarriage online similar to what I am now experiencing. Mine is less traumatic than their’s which lasted about 7 hours. I start to wonder if I should go to hospital if I go more than 2 hours with excessive bleeding. I’m sure I have read that somewhere. I start googling it. If I am on google on my phone, I must be nearly OK, right? The pain is still coming in waves. I know my husband wants to sleep but I’m scared to send him off to sleep, in case I get really bad pain again.

I suggest maybe soon I can cope with this on my own. He jumps at this. But then I ask if he can wait 5 min to see what the next wave is like.

He agrees. The next wave lasts less than a minute, and though I grip his hand, I know I can manage this alone. I know the waves are getting less and less. I send him to sleep. 30 min later I try to sleep, but as I am lying there, suddenly another big flow of blood comes and I’m worried I will stain the sheets. I have also heard of people who have incomplete miscarriages.  I do not want any more of this!! If anything else is coming I want it out!! Maybe if I’m upright, rather than lying down, gravity will help it come out.

I wander around, reading stories about miscarriage on my phone, in between going to the toilet. Then I sit on the toilet until daylight, still passing huge clots, some which I need to remove with my hand, as they are so big. As I sit there, with my phone in hand, I write my story.

This was awful and terrible. It is now 8am. I hope it is done. I hope there is not much more to come. I have not lost hope in having another child. The morning is here and I ask God for brighter things to come.

After I wrote this on May 7th, for two more nights I woke up in considerable pain, cramping and blood loss. The second night I passed a huge clot as I woke up, which I think in retrospect was the placenta, as it was nearly as big as a sanitary towel, as wide, not quite as long, with a strange appearance like a waffle. Then the cramping started, and some more smaller ones followed with massive blood loss again. But the cramping was not as bad as the first night. The third night there was hardly any blood loss but intense and extremely painful cramping.

I went to the doctor for greater pain relief, in case I had another awful night. She scanned me and said I was clear, but unfortunately I kept spotting for 4.5 weeks after the miscarriage and I never had a negative pregnancy test, despite testing every week. So I went back to the doctor and she did a vaginal ultrasound and told me I had rpoc and should get a d and c.

I got a second opinion who told me he estimated the remaining small pieces would come out in 3 weeks, but he couldn’t be sure. He also recommended a d and c. So I did it, because I was tired and every time I went to the toilet I was looking at what was coming out, which was like small amounts of sticky brown coffee at this stage. I was also obsessively reading other stories of rpoc on the internet. I felt it was going to be a miserable 3 weeks or more.

The d and c experience was actually really positive. And afterwards I felt almost no pain at all, and came up out of the anaesthetic feeling well enough to drive home immediately!!

I actually named the baby who passed away Grace. I don’t know if it was a boy or a girl, or how far she/he developed. But I believe in God’s Grace and that it is eternal and sufficient for me. And while I didn’t get to know Grace, he/she still made me happy for a time when I was pregnant and I’m grateful to him/her for that.

Personally, I highly recommend asking your doctor for strong pain relief if you choose to miscarry naturally after a missed miscarriage, just in case it is very painful.

If you had a missed miscarriage I would seriously consider a d and c, rather than a natural miscarriage, as missed miscarriages are apparently much more likely to be extremely painful, and also incomplete afterwards, from what I have read. But it also depends how quickly you want to move on. The natural miscarriage time was awful, but it was time to grieve and to know for sure that my body was not accepting this pregnancy any more.

I wasn’t grieving in the same way during my d and c as during my natural miscarriage. It was many weeks past the natural miscarriage and the news that the baby had passed away. If you’re not in a hurry then natural miscarriage might be the best way, if you don’t mind it possibly taking some time. It is hard if you don’t pass everything first time, but you are not alone, lots of people experience this.

I do hope these stories help you to know there really is no ‘normal, textbook’ miscarriage, and decisions about which route to choose can be very difficult emotionally. It was very hard to choose the d and c after everything I had been through with the natural miscarriage. I had been through so much naturally, I wanted to finish naturally. But in the end that desire was overcome, and I just wanted it finished.

You make the decisions which seem best to you at the time, with you knowing what is happening in your heart, whilst listening to advice from the medical professionals. I do hope that through all of this, you will be able to see the sunshine again, after the storm.

 

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