My miscarriages

Date

Kelly Cooper

October is miscarriage awareness month. Kelly Cooper shares her story.

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It started with the smallest spot of blood. A tiny, insignificant amount. But any pregnant woman will tell you that the sight of it will cause your heart to jump.

And even though I calmed myself by remembering a girlfriend who had small bleeds throughout her first pregnancy, which resulted in a healthy baby boy, I couldn’t keep the anxiety at bay.

I was at home alone, a rare occurrence those days with a then two-year-old usually hanging off my leg. I took slow breaths, deliberately going into my 'I’m a professional, I can deal with any crisis' mode. But I didn’t know what to do. My mind was blank. I walked around the house aimlessly, wondering what the next step was. But I had no idea.

I called my sister. She took control. Booked me into the doctor. Agreed with me when I said it was probably nothing. As did the doctor. Her blasé response calmed me. “We can wait and see what happens,” she said. “Or if you want to put your mind at ease I can refer you for an ultrasound.” Yes. I wanted an ultrasound, right away. I called my husband. “Shall I come?” “Yes. You should come.” Even though I am over-reacting and even though everything will be OK. You should come.

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I had seen the baby already at seven-and-a-half weeks. Had heard the galloping heartbeat. Had shed a tear at the beauty and had felt the bond grow tighter. And here we were again. This time with me telling the sonographer “it was only a tiny spot of blood”, almost apologising for wasting her time.

She put the scanner on my stomach and moved it around. She matter-of-factly, but kindly, told me an internal ultrasound was needed, but that the baby looked smaller than they would be expecting for a 10-week pregnancy. And then I knew. They don’t tell you those kinds of things unless they’re sure. They don’t scare you like that without good reason. But my husband, my kind, gentle husband who sees the good in everything, he didn’t know. So I stayed calm. I waited for the confirmation. I could see the baby clearer with the internal. The sonographer took some measurements, worked silently. And I played my part. Laid back and stared at the screen at my baby, holding my husband’s hand and not wanting to say out loud what I knew to be true. That there was no heartbeat.

I waited. I didn’t want to be the one to break it to my husband. And then those words. “I’m sorry. The embryo hasn’t progressed past eight weeks.”

What had happened since my last scan? There was only three days between the scan and the time they estimated the heart stopped. And how had I carried this baby for two weeks without knowing it had died? I felt stupid, like I hadn’t known my body well enough. That I should have ‘felt’ that something was different.

We were quiet on the way home. Holding hands but in shock. How could this happen to us? And why? My mind was racing with all the things I may have done wrong. Too much coffee? Stress from my job? They can tell you over and over that there is no reason, but it won’t stop you from blaming yourself.

I am a mother. I was growing that child inside me. My job was to keep that baby safe, to nurture it and help it grow. I had failed my child before he was even born.

I went through the motions of grief. I cried a bit. I felt angry and confused. I planted an apple tree in the backyard to send a message to my unborn child. You were real. You were ours, a part of our family from the moment you were conceived. And just because we didn’t get to meet you, we won’t forget you.

Some women need time to recover from a miscarriage while others feel the need to fall pregnant as soon afterwards as possible. I understand and respect women who need the latter, but I just couldn’t consider it. Falling pregnant too soon would feel like I was just replacing my baby, like he had not been an individual. What I didn’t expect was that it would take me so long, that I actually needed to see the nine months through.

I didn’t feel like I had time on my side – my 40s were creeping closer. I also didn’t want a large gap between my son and his sibling. Ideally I would have liked the baby years of little sleep and increased chaos to not stretch out for too long. Yet none of this mattered while I was still grieving. I couldn’t see past ‘this’ baby.

Initially it had been sadness at the loss of a dream. My husband and I had lay in bed at night in the early weeks of my pregnancy and talked about names, about what a great brother our son would be, what colour to paint the spare room. We had to let go of our dream and that was really hard.

As the due date approached I started a whole new grieving. It suddenly dawned on me that it was more than a dream that I had lost. I was supposed to be holding a real baby in my arms. And so the pain set in again.

Eventually I began to heal and became positive about trying again. Ten months after the miscarriage we fell pregnant again. I cried in my husband’s arms with the anxiety and the memory, but I also felt a determination to stay positive. This was a new start. History does not need to repeat, and stressing about what-ifs would only put stress on my unborn child.
So when, only five days later I saw that old familiar spot of blood, I collapsed. In the back of my mind I was thinking ‘I could be overreacting’, but there was no rational thinking at this point. There was just pain. And grief. And disbelief. And anger.

This time they called it a “pregnancy of unknown location”. Strange phrase. Like I left the baby at the supermarket and then could not find it. The ultrasound showed an empty uterus. It made me feel like I had made it up, like I was going insane. And it made me incredibly sad looking at that empty hollow womb and not even being able to see a baby. Where was my proof that I had been a mother again?

Filled with disbelief and confusion, I sought comfort at the apple tree. But I didn’t want to add another inconspicuous plaque. I felt like it was becoming the tree for dead babies. Or maybe I was just really angry and didn’t want to make it real.

I recovered quicker from that miscarriage. Maybe because I had only known for five days I was pregnant. Or maybe I had not let myself get attached yet. Or perhaps I had not ‘seen’ this baby. But two months later I was pregnant again.

I was filled with fear. I tried not to get attached. And yes, I bled. Twice. First at five weeks, then at eight weeks. Needless to say it was a harrowing pregnancy. But nine months later I delivered a perfectly healthy, and extremely cute, little girl.

There were tears for the lost babies. I hadn’t expected that specific sadness to return in the first week of my new baby joy, but having Maggie arrive safely just reinforced our previous loss. But I found that the apple tree once more became a place of solace, a place of hope.

I still look at Maggie now, at eight months old, and shake my head in disbelief and in pure joy.

She has healed me.

7 comments

  • This story reminded me so much of my own miscarriage. It is the only time I have ever been pregnant. For me I had spotted for about a week, but didn't worry about that. What I did worry about was a clot. As soon as I saw that clot I knew I was at the beginning of a miscarriage. The hospital was wonderful and their matter-of-fact manner made it easier to deal with. Two days later I passed the foetus. I elected to not have a D&C because I preferred to let my body do it's thing, which it did, and gave me the chance to appreciate my body and it's functions as well as my intuition. It was traumatic. It was painful. I wanted to get pregnant again straight away, but by not having that baby, I managed to escape a much less than ideal relationship. It took me until some time after the baby would have been due to really feel "over" the grief. I was pregnant two years ago now and am more than ready to try again. When the time is right, I will bear a child and the miscarriage will become a distant memory. It's just the way life goes sometimes. What I don't like is the idea that a woman has "lost" the baby. You don't lose the baby. The foetus, for whatever reason, isn't healthy and so it dies. One in four pregnancies end this way. It is quite normal.

    Commenter
    Liv
    Date and time
    October 22, 2012, 11:20AM
    • With women having less children and more control over things (all good things) we have lost the reality contact of the fact that a huge number of pregnancies do not last beyond the first trimester, and the older the woman gets, the more likely things are to end in miscarriage. There was a reason people never told the world they were expecting until after the 14 week stage.
      There needs to be more support for women who are trying to have families, particularly in the field of education around miscarriage. It can be very traumatic but the fact remains that loss of pregnancy is a fact (a hard, and undeniable one) of life. It is a statistical miracle, when you consider the myriad of things that can go wrong, that a healthy baby results at all.
      There are few data kept on miscarriage and this certainly doesn't help when you are looking for guidance as to whether it is "normal" or not.
      As the author points out, having a subsequent healthy baby certainly helps the healing process but it doesn't help that much to be told this at the time. Having had 5 first trimester miscarriages and three healthy children, I would say that management of expectations from day one would be helpful.

      Commenter
      Protagoras
      Date and time
      October 22, 2012, 12:00PM
      • I just wanted to say this story was very interesting to read. I have never been pregnant or have had to experience the heartbreak and overwhelming emotions of a miscarriage, and reading this has simply been informative. My preconceptions of miscarriages were that they were rare.

        Commenter
        Bee
        Date and time
        October 22, 2012, 12:36PM
        • So many women don't know how common it is; one in every three recorded pregnancies, as in not chemical pregnancies.
          But I'm not sure which is better; to tell everyone and let them support you through your grief, or tell no one and not have disappointed them.

          Commenter
          Mas
          Location
          Tumut
          Date and time
          October 22, 2012, 12:57PM
          • May I suggest the answer to reducing the risk of miscarriage is found with Naprotechnology.

            My wife and our two children are testament that it works. Without Naprotechnology (Natural Pro-Creative Technology) my wife (and I) experienced two miscarriages. Using it, we now have two healthy children.

            When we visited an IVF clinic they had no answer and basically never saw the problem stairing them in the face. (We didn't proceed with IVF) Our very experienced obstretician thought similarly in there is nothing we can do to prevent miscarriage.

            The regular blood tests on the other hand told a different story and we thank God for the doctors we saw that used Naprotechnology.

            It is a shame my wife didn't see them for her post-natal depression.

            Commenter
            Free Thinker
            Date and time
            October 22, 2012, 1:25PM
            • Thank you for sharing your story, I imagine it can't have been an easy thing to write. It brought back tears and memories of my own miscarriage. Despite now having a healthy and beautiful 15 month old son, I still experience sadness at the anniversary of the loss of my baby and at her expected due date. Yes first trimester miscarriages are very common ( 1 in 5 I believe), however that does not negate the pain and grief experienced by expectant parents - all the dreams and plans for a new life that are suddenly gone. What I find most heartbreaking is the lack of empathy that some people have towards parents who have gone through miscarriage - just try again they say, or lucky it was early, etc, like that child didn't really exist. As a couple who jumped through so many hoops to conceive our first child, she was much cherished and continues to be so. In saying that though, I wish i was more able to talk about and remember her as the much hoped for child she was to me rather than a miscarriage - which to me has connotations of a medical procedure gone wrong. Perhaps that is a reflection on our society today or it could just be me ..but I recall aunts speaking of my great grandparents and the number of children they had, and that always included children pregnancies that ended in still birth and miscarriage.

              Commenter
              JN
              Date and time
              October 22, 2012, 3:15PM
              • This is a reflective story about an important issue, as it's not often talked about, other than in in hushed tones.

                Interesting @ Free Thinker - I have not heard of naprotechnology.

                I had two miscarriages at age 37, then my healthy son was born a year later, then another miscarrige, then another healthy child, a daughter arrived when I was 41. It can happen at any age, but it's the sad reality for some who have kids later in life that the chances are increased than for younger women, but it can certainly happen in your 20s too. My obstetrician was very matter of fact about it and that helped me, knowing that it was not uncommon.

                There are so many things to weigh up - whether to tell people at the time it happens (I only told my husband and mother although if it's come up in conversation since I have mentioned it) and whether to have a D+C or let it occur naturally if you find out by ultrasound that the foetus is 'not viable' to use the terminology. I went through both and neither is a walk in the park! And whether to use 'miscarriage management' services if you have had more than one miscarriage. I forewent that option as I didn't want to obsess about every cramp but some may find it reassuring.

                It's a challenging issue and I can relate to the self-blame the writer experienced.

                Commenter
                Older mum
                Location
                Clovelly
                Date and time
                October 23, 2012, 8:03AM
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