Many of you know I had a miscarriage earlier this year. What you don’t know is that I lost another much-wanted pregnancy shortly after. Out little “fighter” made it to the ten week mark. This is our story….
In the time it takes for the two blue lines to appear, blood stains my knickers. I gasp in horror as my head catches up with my heart. While my pregnancy is confirmed, my body trembles in fresh fear. I begin cramping and the pain echoes my last miscarriage, only weeks before. I tell myself it’s over. I am crushed. I go to bed and cry.
But after a few hours’ rest, the bleeding stops along with the cramping. I feel as though I am being taunted. It’s just a matter of time before the miscarriage continues. I wait for the inevitable, pushing away faint hope when I go to bed that night.
Only the new day brings fresh hope. I see my GP and she tells me it’s possible I’m not miscarrying. She emphasises the word “possible” carefully, not to quash my hope but not feed it, either. She orders progressive blood testing to see if the pregnancy hormone is rising. I am impatient and request the results. A text message comes through that evening with: “Pregnancy looking promising. HcG levels robust and consistent with a 5-week pregnancy.” I am elated.
Two days later I return for more bloods and my hopes rise along with my HcG levels. My GP again uses the word “promising” but says I should have an internal ultrasound to be sure. And so begins weekly scans to get to “definite.” I feel hopeful. I feel lucky. I feel excited. For two days.
My first scan shows a gestational sac but no embryo. The technician tells me to return in a week. It is a torturous seven days. The following scan reveals a tiny embryo but I am told the pregnancy is “guarded.” That word haunts me like an unwelcome shadow for another five weeks.
It is an agonising wait. Each trip to the toilet is an exercise in feared anguish, and ensuing relief when the paper is clean. I search the internet for positive stories, amid the sea of sadness. Those who know the pain fill internet forums with stories of loss, and offerings of baby dust and condolences.
I wake up every morning feeling sick, the nausea lasting most of the day. And I am sick with worry, the stress ebbing and flowing depending on which pregnancy forum I read. Every twinge in my tummy makes my body tremble. I stop running. I stop yoga. I stop tennis. But I don’t stop hoping.
I hear the heart beat at my second scan but it is irregular, which I am told is “not a good sign.” I am in purgatory, a wretched place of indefinite and interminable waiting between heaven and hell. Each night I go to bed in a state of anguish, and each morning the collision of hope and grief resurfaces. I try to shield my children from my tears but they see through my thin veneer. The threat of miscarriage lies just beneath my surface.
My belly is rounded; evidence you are real. And you are real, and alive, for now. But your future is not looking good. Each scan reveals minimal growth and though I am told that “anything can happen” the threat of losing you is real. I am at the intersection of hope and despair, my body and mind playing tricks with one another. I hope for a miracle. I plead for a miracle.
The next scan reveals your heart is still beating, and curiously it has returned to a steady rhythm. It is a surprise to the technician and doctor on duty that you are still alive. I am told to continue to take my Folate and come back in a week. The doctor again says it is a “guarded prognosis.” I am left lingering over that word, “guarded”; does it mean there is a shred of hope?
My husband and I wait for her words, quiet in our solidarity. The silence hangs heavily in the room and I am sure my heart can be heard pounding through my chest. No one speaks. My eyes fix on the monitor searching for signs of life. I see a flicker – a heart beat. But the sonographer remains silent, her brow furrowed. Finally after minutes of interminable silence she says, “You’ve got a fighter. Its heart is still beating.” And then she delivers the words that eviscerate all hope. “I’m afraid your baby is not growing sufficiently for survival to be possible. It may hang on for a little while but then….” And her voice trails off leaving us complete her sentence. My heart sinks.
I ask for a picture and clutch it to my chest. In the waiting room an excited couple wait for their turn. I flee the room, tears streaming down my face. Grief penetrates my every cell and I cry. I cry for this baby and I cry fresh tears for my last baby. I cry because I have lost two lives I so dearly loved.
I am told you are gone, only you are not gone. My body continues to behave as if it is pregnant, and indeed it still is. It’s a cruel twist of nature. You are still alive, and your tiny heart is fighting hard. I imagine the look on your sisters’ faces when I tell them the news. I have rehearsed it in my head and it is a moment of pure, unparalleled joy. Only it will remain it my head. I go to bed exhausted from grief, but sleep does not come. I touch my tummy and shed silent tears as I hold onto you for another night.
I see my obstetrician for a second opinion, hoping he will offer hope. He can’t. I am screaming inside with pain. Knowing it is now ‘unviable’ makes my situation hopeless. A fresh wave of grief swells inside me and I feel the full magnitude of it pressing against my chest.
I wake up and I know you are gone. I feel a shift inside me; a subtle signal that the fight is over. We front up to the clinic for the 6th scan; the last tango. But although I know it in my heart, when the doctor confirms my anguish, I can’t breathe. I meet your dad’s eyes and I see my reflection of pain. And in that moment, I love you more than I can find the words.
I elect a D&C for a few days later. I barely sleep the night before the procedure. It is a cold, colourless, grim morning – a perfect reflection of my mood. I turn the water on in the shower and as it cascades down on my body, I give in to my suffering. There is no relief in the certainty. There is only sadness.
When I get out of the shower, I am still crying. My husband joins me as I sit on the edge of the bed. I cry into my hands, and let my heart express its sorrow. And after a few minutes I am ready to say goodbye. On the way to the hospital, my littlest asks excitedly “Are you going to the hospital to have a baby, mama?” I touch my rounded belly as I prepare to be hollowed out.
When my husband and daughters collect me later at the hospital, grief and gratitude meet in stark dichotomy. And in the days and weeks that follow, I find that grief is softened by the gratitude for what I do have. But just as love demands to be felt, so too does loss. And just as grief is the price for love, gratitude is the pathway to healing.
*October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month
This story first appeared on news.com.au
Have you had a miscarriage? Please feel free to share your experience below. By acknowledging our losses we help to normalise discussion around miscarriage so no woman feels she has to suffer in silence.