The silent crippling pain of my first pregnancy ending in miscarriage
Updated: Apr 23, 2020
As a woman, you understand that miscarriages are possible but beyond that it’s not something you overly consider or really know anyone that’s had one, that’s until you have one. For a long as I can remember I wanted to be a mum, there was no version of picturing my future self where I wasn’t a mum. Through my teens and early twenties I most definitely wasn’t ready to be a mum but I couldn’t wait to get to the stage in my life when I was ready and wanted to get pregnant. Then of course that time in my life finally came, where my husband and I were ready to grow up and become parents, four months later I was pregnant and we were just so excited. It felt right in every way, I was ready to change my life, ready for a new challenge and more importantly I had finally came out of my selfish early twenties where everything was about figuring out who I was and being an independent woman.
My Gran had just passed away a couple of weeks earlier which was very tough for me and the last time I saw her she said I was one of only a few she never got to see my first child. Once I found out I was pregnant I worked out that I was actually pregnant that last time we spent time together, this was just so special to me.
We told our parents straight away, we are both really close with our families so its something we knew we were always going to do. Since I work with two of my brothers I told them soon after, I am not someone who likes to make announcements so I managed to do it in one the most awkward and nervous ways at lunch one day with them, while biting into a sandwich! Its now one of those things I think I will never live down!!
My husband and I knew that miscarriage was a risk and decided that we wanted to tell the people close to us as we would need their help and support should anything happen. The following week after finding out we went camping for a weekend for a friend's birthday and of course everyone there was a serious smoker. I honestly am never around smokers and now I was away with a big bunch of them - what was the chances?! I tried to keep my distance but they would came over and talk (and smoke) to me. It got to the point where my husband had to let a couple of them know why we kept isolating ourselves! We weren't tying to be rude, but just needed a tiny bit of fresh air! This was the first time we let the cat out of the bag, a couple more times were to come as honestly I am a terrible liar!! When someone asks what I have been up to or whats new, it was so hard not to say!!
As the weeks ticked along and with help from my family and friends I booked myself an obstetrician, booked the hospital, worked out my private health insurance wasn't going to cover it, all of the fun things! I loved checking all the different websites on what happening with the baby each week as it grows, this stuff is just so interesting to me, I couldn't wait for a new week to see what else was happening. I didn't get any morning sickness, but I did get hit with huge amounts of fatigue, I was just so tried all the time, so much so that I had to cut back on teaching yoga at nights and get to bed super early. My belly got noticeably bigger (to me in any case!) pretty early on, enough that none of my pants fitted any more and I had to go out and get some maternity jeans.
As I am a negative blood type, my GP had explained that I must go to the hospital should I get any spotting as I need to get a shot within 48hrs. As I entered my 9th week I started to get some light spotting so I went to my GP, she reassured me that it is very common, but to go get my shot and to get an ultrasound just to make sure everything is OK. I had no pain, not clotting, which all the doctors kept asking me, so I wasn't really worried at this stage. This was my first experience in the emergency department, I took my mum with me and surprisingly it went smoothly, I got my blood taken, got my shot, was told that my hormone levels looked good for 9 weeks and that I should just focus on my ultrasound the following day and rest.
If you have seen my other posts, you would know that I am a highly anxious person, so I was quite pleased to get an ultrasound now instead of waiting until 12 weeks as I so desperately wanted to know if everything was okay, as it had felt so surreal and too good to be true at times. I had questions if the baby is in the right spot, is it developing okay, all of those things since day one. The next morning I had my ultrasound and my husband and I were so excited to see our little bub for the first time. The technician told me I was dating at 6 weeks and one day instead of 9 weeks and insisted I must have my dates wrong. She then checked a number of times for heartbeat and couldn't find it. She was very sweet and explained that the baby wasn't big enough to rule anything out yet as it can be too soon to detect a heartbeat, she wanted me to come back in 7 days. I left with my head spinning, what did this mean? is it all over? I went home and went into research over drive, looking up CRL (crow the rump length) Vs heart beat to see if this was normal, everything was as per she said, it could just be too soon to get a heartbeat....but the dates been that off, I knew the date I got a positive test and working off that there was no way I was 6 weeks...my heart sank... something just isn't right here.
My husband did his best to stop me from freaking out about it, explaining that it could all be okay and we just have to wait...yeah wait a whole week. My anxiety is only really hard for me to manage when its to do with big anticipation that I have no control over, and this was one of those moments where I couldn't do anything but wait, with all of my thoughts. The following day was a Sunday and my husband was going on a motorbike trip with his friends for the day which had been organised for his birthday weeks prior, he left at the crack of dawn. I was supposed to be going to a family lunch, and I really didn't feel like it, I was close to cancelling but then I thought it has to be better for me than just sitting at home by myself, at least I can be distracted for the day, so I picked up my Nan and meet with my family for a big get together, lunch and swim.
This was the first time I had seen in person my sister in law, so she was congratulating me, asking how I was feeling, it was really tough as I just didn't have much faith that everything was going to be okay and it was the last thing I wanted to talk about. I was also with all of my nephews and nieces and looking at their little faces just made me feel even worse. I ended up needing a break from everyone so I went to the bathroom, and found that I had gone from just spotting to full on bleeding, I sat in the cubical not just crying but wailing, total and utter uncontrollable crying. This is the moment I knew it was all over. I think about 3 or 4 times I thought I was getting myself together enough to go out and face my family, but then like a wave it would hit me again. I finally made it out of the cubical to see the cleaner had be waiting for me to come out so that he could close and clean the toilets, this would usually make me so embarrassed but I was just in such a haze I just said nothing as I looked at the floor and walked out. I had a plan to just go straight up to my mum and ask her to come outside with me, so as little people as possible would see my red puffy cry face and ask whats wrong. I think from the look on my face, she didn't ask questions said yes and got up straight away. As we were walking out I attempted to tell her and just broke down in tears. Another thing you should know about me is that I very, very rarely cry and if I do, its not really around anyone. I recently found out from my friend that she considers me a 'private crier'!
My mum was my absolute savoir, she just took charge of the situation is such a calm and caring way, she gave me the biggest hug and told me that while its so sad and that we were all so excited, that we will be okay. She went back in while I waited outside, she got my things, told my dad, got my keys and drove me straight to the hospital.
When we got our puppy last year, we ended up making a bunch of new friends down at our dog park who all have the same breed as us and we see them almost daily, one of these people is a emergency physician at my local hospital. This next part of my story makes me believe that we really do have people enter our lives at certain points for a reason. She had known I was pregnant as I had already asked her for loads of advise! Then there she was at the hospital working a shift the day I come in, she walked out and called my name, I was so pleased to see a familiar face, and one that I trusted. She asked me all the usual questions, no cramping, more bleeding, no clotting. She got my hormone levels checked and while we waited for them I went to the bathroom and the clotting started, I let her know and then she had my hormone levels - they were lower than the previous one a couple of days ago. She sat next to me and said 'I am so sorry but with the clotting, the lower levels, the smaller fetus size than your dates and no heartbeat, I am lead to believe that this is what we call an non viable pregnancy' and gave me a warm hug. She said unfortunately without the follow up scan already done, they cant offer a D&C, that I will have to wait for that scan to confirm it is definitely not alive. As this point I didn't cry, I felt a sense of calm that was numbing, that now I know and I can just prepare myself for what is coming. The best thing is that she prepared me for what a natural miscarry is like should it happen before my scan in a week. Looking back this was the best thing she did, it really mentally prepared me for how it would feel and look like, and what to do. I couldn't have asked for a better person to see that day and to tell me that news.
My mum took me home and waited with me until my husband got home, he knew I went to the hospital and called a number of times asking me what they said, I couldn't bare to do it over the phone, so I told him it wasn't good and to just come home and I will explain it. He came through the door and with such a worried look he said so is the baby ok, I quietly said no, its gone and he instantly welled up. I had to tell my brothers that I wasn't coming in next week as I didn't know when it will happen and wanted to be at home when it does. I had previously wondered what could be worse than waiting for my second scan, well this was it, waiting to now miscarry. Normally the queen of researching everything, I couldn't bare to look up miscarriage, so my husband did for me and told me what I needed to know when I needed it. Not long after I got into bed that night, it started, its like my body and brain just needed to get on the same page about it. I rushed to the bathroom, we kept all the lights off, I didn't want to see any of it as I knew it would be images I would have for life. A cycle of passing material then incredibly horrible cramping that made me involuntary scream and hurl over continued throughout night. It is such a piercing memory that is so vivid, my husband holding me while we both cried uncontrollably into each others shoulders. Hours and hours went by, I was tired, my husband was tired but we had to keep battling through this cycle again and again like a never ending nightmare. By about 4am it was happening less often that I was able to shower and get into bed, I managed to get some sleep between the horrible cycle as it continued.
The next morning I was a ghost of myself, I was so tired, I felt so numb. Foolishly I thought it was all over, but no, it dragged out over another 2 and a half weeks of the same cycle but getting less intense each time. I kept remembering what my doctor said to me 'it's a lot that comes out, so much more than you think' and she was so right. The morning after I messaged my best friends letting them know, then threw my phone across the floor and didn't look at it for the rest of the day, I didn't want to see their responses, my sadness was enough to digest. I got up to have a shower and froze, I ended up sitting on the shower floor just crying, for so long that my husband had to come and check on me and get me out. I got dry and sat on my bed and did the same thing, I was frozen, I just sat there crying, I couldn't move, I couldn't get dressed. This pain in my heart was like nothing I have ever felt before. For me, it was a stronger and more violent version of when someone you love so much in your life dies, what made it worse than when it is someone who was living is that you have no memories to find solstice in, that there is so much pure pain rather than incredible sadness. I will never forget that pain, not for a second.
Day after day, I kept finding myself frozen when I was alone, just crying while my heart broke again and again. When the pain started to ease was the hardest, this when I started to feel everything else that was going on, all the things that felt like they had be ripped away from me. That I wasn't going to become a mum, that my life wasn't going to change, but stay as it was before.. but only worse. For a woman it is a very huge change of direction for our lives, now I won't be stopping work for a while, and possibly stop running my business, that I won't be returning to work part time, I wouldn't be seeing a little bub learn to sit, walk or talk, or planning to have more kids, that my priorities won't change. No, I have been forced to keep the same life I have been living for over a decade, one that I have outgrown. There was also all the practical and smaller things, like cancelling the obstetrician and hospital - thankfully my husband took this on for me. The endless and relentless pregnancy ads filling my social media feeds. There was the baby's room, across from mine that I had started to get a few bits and pieces for, a couple of things that would be delivered after my miscarriage, my prenatal vitamins I had been taking each day, my bio-oil I had been using every day, my new maternity wear... I put everything that had absolutely anything to do with the baby in that room and shut the door, much to my husbands dismay I called it the red room of pain and refused to go in there. Then I had to get another ultrasound to check that everything was gone. I went back into the same exact room as the first and only time I had ever had a pregnancy ultrasound, this time physically and emotional empty, that was a tough moment. There isn't a single time that I don't enter my bathroom and think about what happened to me in it, how harrowing it was.
I often think about the lyrics from Torn by Natalie Imbruglia, its how I felt so much of the time and sometimes still do now:
I'm all out of faith This is how I feel, I'm cold and I am shamed Lying naked on the floor Illusion never changed Into something real Wide awake and I can see the perfect sky is torn You're a little late I'm already torn
My parents passed on the news to my extended family that knew, some wrote to me, some didn't. While I completely understand why people don't bring it up, after going through it, I would now always acknowledge it if someone told me - it feels really terrible that my baby is gone and it didn't even matter, that it's little life is totally dismissed, let alone how I am feeling is dismissed. My advise is that if someone tells you this and you see them in person or over a message say you are so sorry to hear, give them a hug or ask if they need anything, that's honestly all it takes and it makes all the difference. I saw people in person after they had found out and they just didn't say a thing, I felt like there was a giant elephant in the room - like hello I just went through some serious shit! Again, I am not upset with how anyone responded, I am queen of avoidance, but it did open my eyes up to how I should respond to bad news for other people in the future, it was a real learning point.
I also finally got to writing to my other friends that knew I was pregnant, I kept putting it off as I was starting to feel better and knew the conversation was going to take me back to day one, however this is where I discovered the silent and secret community of women who have miscarried. Out of the woodwork came friends and even family saying they too had a miscarriage, some also recent, some a while back. Before I miscarried I didn't know a single person who had, that when it did happen to me I felt very alone, that something was wrong with me. But I soon realised I joined a club, one that you didn't know existed until you are introduced to it, and one that nobody wants to be a part of. I found so much comfort in having this connection and shared experience with people I had known for sometime, to hear so many that go on to have healthy babies gave me so much hope when I really needed it. Before that I was almost bitter at the people around me that had children, yet not knowing so many of them had gone through what I was facing. This dialog wouldn't have started with any of the people I told if I had never told them I was pregnant in the first place, this is what has made me not regret telling the people that I did, without it I wouldn't have told them about my miscarriage and I wouldn't have known the women around me who had been through the same thing. It stopped me from feeling so alone. It is also why I wanted to write this post, for all the women to see that they are not alone. After my miscarriage I learnt that one in three pregnancies end in miscarriage, that is huge!
Almost 2 weeks after I miscarried I was meant to go to Bali with a group of my friends to celebrate our 30ths, it actually ended up being really good timing for my husband and I to get away and have some space from all of it. My biggest problem was that while you are still bleeding from a miscarriage you can't go swimming due to risk of infection. Being in one of the hottest places, wearing a pad and not being able to swim was actually a nightmare. I ended up getting really frustrated and my friends could tell. Their sweet little hearts bought me a floaty so I could go in the pools with them and keep cool by dangling my feet and hands in. Honestly this is what friends are for, bringing you up when you cant yourself. I felt like I was starting to heal from this emotionally when I was in Bali but with the bleeding and cramping still dragging out, it was so hard to move on, it just felt like I kept being dragged back into the thick of it, forced to be stuck in this cloud. Just before our trip ended the bleeding stopped and it was a real moment of freedom for me, it felt good to be able to move pass this experience and face what was ahead.
3 weeks later I got my period, I had read that the first one could be quite horrible, almost like the miscarriage, so I was prepared for the worst. Luckily it was just like clock work, everything was back to normal and I felt so happy (and relieved there wasn't even more in there). I now felt back on track with renewed hope and energy for life. I even opened up the 'red room of pain' and decided to deal with the reality. I wanted just one cycle before trying again. While a big part of me was so upset with my miscarriage that I wanted to be a little brat and give up on having a baby for a while, I knew in my heart of hearts having a protest about it wasn't going to serve any purpose. The fact of the matter is that I still wanted to be a mum and I didn't want to look back and wish I didn't waste time moping about it. Against all my fears, I had to fight for what I ultimately wanted.
My next period due date came and went, I thought oh I must be pregnant, I did a test it said no... my heart sunk a little, I continued to do a test a day, sometimes two but it kept saying no. I had thought wholeheartedly that if you don't have your period your pregnant, there is no other option! Especially for me that has had the most regular cycle since the day I got it, it was always one thing about my body that I could bank on. This is where I started to feel like I was back in the same limbo that I was when I was bleeding from my miscarriage. I wasn't pregnant, but would it show tomorrow? Did I ovulate later? Is my cycle all stuffed after my miscarriage? I was coming up to almost a month overdue, and had given up on taking any more tests - it just would mess with my head too much. I did a bunch of research as saw it is fairly common to have a wacky cycle for a while, agh it felt like I cant escape what happened to me, like I am still getting punished for it, hadn't I suffered enough?
While I know the feeling of worry and anxiety like the back of my hand, sadness and depression was not something I am used to. I found myself crying in the car every day to and from work. It got so bad that I had to let my husband know how bad I was actually feeling. I couldn't really pinpoint the sadness, it was just there like a cloud sitting over me, always. My 30th birthday was coming up and unlike me, I didn't want anyone to know or to see anyone, I deleted my birth date from Facebook so no one would be notified, I got no responses, few texts, it was a self fulfilling spiral I had created. I didn't know this feeling, I didn't have any tools to help me, but I knew I couldn't go on like this. I forced myself to see two of my good friends and I ended up confining in them, it really helped and to be honest it gave me a tonne of perspective. This was the first time in my life that I had experienced some form of depression and my friends told me I was lucky, they had been through it many times before, it really helped.
That pep talk gave me the drive to get my head out of the sand a see a doctor about my cycle that had gone haywire, to deal with the issue at hand and take the right steps. Also to stop living my life like I might be pregnant, I didn't do so many things just in case I was. It was time to book a trip the the snow like I wanted, to enter a running competition, all of these things in my life I put on hold because I might be pregnant, while practical it was not helping my mental state. It really helped, I didn't feel better straight away but a shift it perspective and priorities was leading me out of the darkness.
Before I went to the doctor I thought, I best just do one more pregnancy test so that I don't look like an idiot, to my absolute surprise it was positive! Good bye darkness, hello fear and anxiety, my old friends! Would I still be stuck in sadness if I didn't find out I was pregnant? I wonder this, and most likely yes, it would have taken longer to come out of. This really was my savior, but with so much pinned on it, it also made for the highest amount of anxiety I have had in all my life. This pregnancy has been another massive opportunity for learning and growth, to sit in the unknown, to not be too excited, but try be positive, it's been such a challenge. The biggest issue I am facing is that I am not so scared about a miscarriage, but about a missed miscarriage. Last time I got to 9 weeks to find out it all ended at 6, that was the hardest part, that I was fooled for an entire month, that I told people that month when it was already dead, how was I to know this pregnancy if it was all ok, I knew that feeling fine was not a good enough sign. Luckily my GP has been very supportive in giving me lots of scans to check the progress, it has really helped. With every milestone of seeing the baby and heart beat as the weeks go on help keep my hopes up. I really kept one foot in and one foot out with this pregnancy, too scared to believe it just in case something went wrong. A major milestone was getting to 12 weeks when the risk of miscarriage dramatically drops, and boy did it feel like a lifetime getting to 12 weeks! To get good results on my 12 week scan was the point I felt like I could finally get excited about this pregnancy, I could finally stop hiding my bump at work and let people know. However the universe wanted to keep me on egg shells when I had a big gush of blood at a work lunch the very day I told people, before I knew it I found myself in a public bathroom, alone, bleeding and crying again. I had to rush to hospital - luckily this time to find out that the baby was OK. The ups and downs just haven't let up.
Everyday brings different emotions and thoughts about my journey and where I will end up, but mostly I feel the spark has been taken away from this pregnancy. When I am excited about it, I also have an underlying feeling of guilt that I don't deserve to feel happy, and in darker moments I feel that I am forever tainted. I am a big believer that there are reasons to everything that happens and I try to look for the lessons and growth that comes from bad and challenging events in my life. This whole experience has taught me to be more grateful, to experience a level depression for myself - understand what its like, to be stuck in a situation and learn to sit in that discomfort, that somethings you can't plan or problem solve you way out of, you truly have to roll with the punches without knowing the way out or way forward, and finally to not take this new pregnancy for granted like it's right, when really it is a privilege.
Anyway I vowed to myself that when I was pregnant again, I would write this story and share it with the world. I think it's an important story, one that is silenced too often. If you are going through or have been through a similar thing, you are not alone and there is hope, as hard as it is to see at times.