I never talked about my miscarriage with my friends. The only reason I realised that so many women have miscarriages and just get on with normal life is when it was discussed with a group of Mums while we were all heavily pregnant. I was surprised to learn that most of the pregnant women from my ante-natal group, from my local area, had had a miscarriage at some point in their life. Some had suffered from multi-miscarriages. We all sat over cake and coffee and shared our miscarriage experiences while awaiting the births of our first children. It turns out that this was only scratching the surface of women I know who have miscarried; a number of close friends also miscarried and never talked about it. It’s not really cheery, Friday night pub conversation is it?
However, the more we talk about things like miscarriage, the more we realise the support we get at the time is not enough. It was Jason Manford, in response to some particularly hideous internet trolls, who put it quite succinctly that you become a parent the moment you see that positive pregnancy test and you don’t grieve and suffer any less for an early miscarriage than you do for a late one; you love and want to protect that child from the moment you know they exist.
Around two years before I became pregnant with my first son, I was pregnant with another child. My husband and I were excited, we told family members and trusted friends who would notice my lack of drinking. Then seven weeks in I suddenly felt very ill at work, my vision blurred, I felt dizzy and a bit wrong. I decided to go home. By the time I got home the bleeding had started. My GP told me to go to the hospital and by the time my husband met me there, the bleeding was clotting. In the hours I waited to be seen by triage, I was too scared to return to the toilet in case of more blood. When they tested my urine they started asking questions about how I knew I was pregnant, did I do a home or GP test? Did I see it was positive? How many did I take? My test strip in the hospital had come back negative, my early pregnancy hormones were dropping.
When I finally saw a doctor she told me it was positive my cervix was still closed but less so that I had clotting and a drop in hormones. We were told to expect to pass the foetus overnight in my sleep and were duly sent home with some maternity pads and an appointment for scan the next day. The foetus had passed in the night and the scan showed no baby. I was heartbroken. Words like chemical pregnancy and false positives were mentioned even though I had incredibly strong symptoms of early pregnancy; I have with all my pregnancies.
No counselling was offered and no other support. I was young and didn’t know I could access any. I dealt with it in the only way I knew how and so started a slow spiral of depression that would become, within the year, as a total emotional breakdown. Given that I had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder only a couple of years before, the signs were there that I was not coping with this new trigger. I made bad decisions, drank a lot, threw myself into work and partied equally as hard. Marriage, friendships and my health all suffered.
By the time I realised I needed some sort of help, I was turned away from my GPs with a sick note for two weeks’ off work with stress and faced with exasperation from the doctor that I was just ‘pulling a sickie for extra holiday’. There was still no offer of counselling and no time given to my tears and story of how I had ended up in such a mess. I would flip between days of not sleeping, not eating, drinking and making crazy plans to days on end when I couldn’t wake up, couldn’t move from my bed and felt like the worst person in the world. This was over a year from the miscarriage itself.
I finally got the help I needed through various people and the unending support of my husband, who didn’t give up on me. I was told I was suffering manic depression and I worked through the triggers of each time my life felt it had spiralled out of control. Two years after my miscarriage, I was pregnant again. This time when the pregnancy symptoms stopped suddenly at seven weeks I demanded a scan. We saw the heartbeat of our first born for the first time. I tried not to worry throughout pregnancy that somehow my body would fail this child too, it was hard not to. But as time went on, the worry faded and we enjoyed waiting for our son to be born.
It was a hell of a journey to get to where we are now, a happy family with the second child on the way. While in the same breath that our struggles have made us the family we are, we need not have struggled as we did had the support and care been offered in the first instance.
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