Carrying on

The next couple of weeks were the hardest of my life to date. A close friend of my parents’ hanged herself on the same day I found out I’d miscarried. My poor mum couldn’t get over it. She couldn’t support me & I couldn’t really say much to support her.

I chose to have medical management a few days later. I opted for that because somehow it felt too clinical, almost too easy to have the D&C. I felt like I owed it to my baby to suffer & feel pain because that seemed to me to be the only way I’d fully accept it.

It’s weird the things I remember from that day. I remember being really pleased that I was offered toast because I give my patients toast and often fancy it myself because it’s white bread which we never buy. My husband loves Jeremy Kyle so that was on the TV while I was writhing in unbelievable pain. The tv is only free for an hour or two so I remember it stopping & me feeling so grateful. And then bleeding, bleeding, vomiting, diarrhoea, crying, more bleeding & then I passed the foetus. Suddenly the pain stopped. I bled on for a few more hours and then I was allowed home. Dave made me sit on a continence pad – so I didn’t bleed in his car!

The next day I cried and cried. I was told later it was a hormone surge. I rang my mum but she didn’t want to speak to me. She told me it was done now so I should get over it. I was shocked. She couldn’t be sympathetic – looking back I see that she was grieving for her friend. I rang one of my sisters who told me that mum would never get her friend back but I’d have another baby. She said I’d never really had it so I’d had nothing to lose. All the usual unhelpful things well meaning people come out with because they’ve never experienced it and so don’t realise it’s the last thing we need to hear. And yes she had a colleague who had a miscarriage last year but guess what, she’s just about to have a baby now. She suggested I leave mum alone and not try to contact her.

So I went back to work. Being at work was my support mechanism. And it really did help.

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The Missed Miscarriage that I didn’t Miss

I suffered a few more episodes of spotting after my big bleed at my friend’s house. The midwife said it was entirely normal and told me not to worry. My mum used to be a midwife & she wasn’t so sure. All I could do was wait for my 12 week scan and hope for the best.

My husband was convinced it was all fine but I just didn’t feel right. I was still vomiting & my boobs were really sore, but I wasn’t exhausted like I used to be & somehow I just didn’t feel pregnant. I was even starting to show by 11 weeks. It was more at night than at any other time & I knew it was just fluid but it helped to reassure me as I was worrying that I’d miscarried.

It was two weeks before Christmas when the big day finally arrived & we went to the hospital for our scan. Dave was so excited! He’d got the exact change to pay for the photo & he planned to hand it round at his Christmas party that weekend. The sonographer wanted to do if we wanted tests for Down syndrome at the 20 week scan & I remember saying “I’m not convinced this baby’s alive so I’m not too worried about that now”.

She started the scan and immediately asked if I had had any bleeding. I explained the history and she said “what I’m looking at here is very small for twelve weeks”. I was still no clearer – was it still okay then but just a bit small? Was that bad? She hadn’t said it was dead … and then she clarified “there’s no heartbeat”.

I just looked at Dave & told him I was sorry. He was gobsmacked. He simply hadn’t seen it coming. We had to be taken past everyone in the waiting room to the EPU to discuss options. I chose medical management because it seemed too quick and too clinical to have surgery. I felt I needed to suffer and I also felt that I owed it to the baby to pass it out naturally. Although it was right for me at the time it didn’t work. I passed the baby (I know I should call it a foetus as it was only 8 weeks, but it would be my baby right now if it had survived so I still call it that).

More signs

I’d spent the night visiting my friend when I had my proper bleed. She’d been really excited as she knew I’d decided to start trying. She’d got pregnant literally on the first attempt so I’d been starting to feel the pressure – most of my friends got pregnant on the first time too. Hmph.

The next morning I went to the loo and passed a huge clot. I was literally beside myself but I wasn’t in my home town and my friend had taken her son to a drama class. I told her husband and he looked a bit worried. I was meeting some more friends for coffee that morning and decided to travel there & reassess the situation. I phoned the EPU who advised to wait a few days or if I was gushing blood then I should attend A&E so I just tried to relax and distract myself. That was on the Saturday. By Tuesday I was in pain and had some bleeding still so I went to the EPU who said they couldn’t scan me because it was less than a week since my last scan. The nurse said my cervix was closed which was good & that if I was really having a miscarriage I’d know about it because I’d be in agony with heavy bleeding. She told me to stop being paranoid, literally laughed at me for worrying (& made me laugh at myself for being silly) & then sent me home.

I really regret not pushing for a scan that week. It was another month before I learned that my baby had actually died that weekend while I was at my friend’s house.

Bleeding…

When I was six and a half weeks pregnant 2 things happened at the same time. 1) One of my patients went for a full body scan & when she returned I spent an hour with her talking about her therapy needs. I was later told that I should avoid her if I was pregnant or trying to conceive because the radiation from the scan had made her ‘radioactive’. The nurse had forgotten to send the memo to my team. I started bleeding that night. I can only think it must have been a coincidence. I don’t know enough about the science behind these things but I don’t know if that exposure was enough to kill my baby or if it was simply a naturally occurring chromosome deficiency.

That wasn’t helped by 2) the ward had an outbreak of diarrhoea and vomiting at the same time, which typically I picked up. I was off for a few days but my GP was concerned about me losing nutrients that the baby needed.

I went for a scan and was reassured to see my baby’s heartbeat flashing away on the screen. It was still alive! However we were warned that we were vulnerable to having a miscarriage in the future. I went back to work & 2 weeks later we returned for another scan (just standard procedure) & saw the baby again. It was all fine, the baby was growing appropriately & so I stopped worrying & started telling a few close friends – the sort I’d want to know even if I miscarried.

My mum turned out to be incapable of keeping things quiet and asked me to tell my siblings so she didn’t have to worry about letting it slip. Reluctantly I did so – I have 6 siblings. I didn’t tell one of them because he never told me about his last 2 children plus he lives in Australia and I hate Skype & email seemed the wrong way to tell him.

2 days after my second scan I had a massive bleed.

My husband and I decided to start trying for a baby in May 2014. He likes the name Dave so I’m going to refer to him as Dave from now on.

We had a few months with no luck until we finally hit the jackpot in October. We’d just returned from Ibiza (where I’d actually fallen pregnant) & we’d even bought a house in the UK while we were on holiday. It was just a few days after my birthday that I took the test & I was so relieved when I saw that it was positive. I’m not remotely good at being patient & had naively thought I’d get pregnant really quickly. Not realising that 5 months is relatively quick! I took the test into the bedroom and woke my husband, thrusting it in his face. It took a few seconds for him to understand what it meant but then he was over the moon!

So for the next couple of weeks life was just awesome. We were so excited about the pregnancy and we told our parents and a couple of friends at work to help us keep it quiet. I work in a hospital so I had to be careful about handling patients, doing x rays etc. Of course I knew that miscarriages are common but I never really believed that it would happen to me.

This is an essay!

I have a diagnosis of a mild form of epilepsy, for which I have to take medication. Epilepsy meds have been known to cause physical malformations  (cleft palate, hole in the heart or worse) so I was naturally cautious about having children. I’ve been on almost every epilepsy drug there is & reacted badly to all but one. Not many pregnancies are recorded for my drug but the ones that are have been fine so I planned to stay on it but my specialist nurse wasn’t happy. She wanted me to go back to a better known drug that’s felt to be safer but one that made me unwell when I’d tried it before. She asked me “how would you feel if you had a baby with a physical defect & you hadn’t done everything in your power to prevent it?”. She was right. I couldn’t argue with that. So I tried the other drug.

Epilepsy drugs work by slowing down electrical activity in the brain. Cognitively I began to slow down. I couldn’t work out the difference between shampoo and shower gel, getting ready for work took 2 hours, I forgot to eat, I couldn’t assemble a meal, I regularly set fire to the grill because I’d put food on & forget about it, I got lost on my way to work, I forgot my uniform, I stopped making decisions at work because I couldn’t think clearly. One day I began to cry & I literally didn’t stop for 5 hours. My doctor said that I’d even forgotten how to access the part of my brain that controlled the “off switch” for crying that day. Crazy! The reason I let it get that far? The nurse’s words stayed in my head. I could never justify going back to my old drug and increase my baby’s chances of having a physical disability to make my life easier. Eventually I started to want to disappear. I needed it to end. I had to be washed and dressed by my husband. I couldn’t function. I was at rock bottom. Suicidal ideation is a known side effect of my drug. Thankfully I was so cognitively impaired that when I was feeling so bad I wanted to disappear I couldn’t work out how to do it. There were times though when my head was clearer and I could work out a plan but at those times I didn’t want to go. I was scared that one day the two things might come together and I might actually disappear for good. I told my husband – how unfair of me, I know – but I needed help. He & my brother got me to see a consultant neurologist. My nurse had kept refusing to allow me to see him, in case you’re wondering why I hadn’t done the obvious and seen him immediately. He took the decision off me about putting up with the side effects & pointed out that a baby needs a healthy mum. He weaned me off the drug. It took about 3 months for me to feel back to normal. 9 months wasted in total. Time I don’t have to waste.

My first ever blog

I’m not too sure how to start this. I’d never even read a blog let alone write one until this week. So what changed? This week should have been the week I introduced my first baby to the world. But it isn’t. Instead I’ve been glued to the Internet, reading articles, forums, websites – just about everything I could find about trying to conceive, fertility, miscarriage and adoption. Nothing helped. Nothing gave me hope or peace of mind until I came across people’s blogs. Reading about their experiences of the miscarriages, the reactions of others, how they coped, moved on and became mums in one way or another helped me to get through this week. I’d like to think that this blog will help others but I can’t imagine who would find it or read it. However for now I think it might be a slightly self-indulgent therapy tool for me to write things down, gain some perspective & try to find peace with my situation. If it helps anyone else at all then that’s an awesome bonus.