Fourteen bloggers have shared their stories of miscarriage, all of them heartbreaking to read. A common thread is emerging. It is becoming clear what the most important thing for these women is, and it is not immediate access to expensive scanning equipment (although that would be jolly nice) nor is it purpose built “miscarriage wards” as some commentators seem to think we want.
It is kindness. From the nurses, doctors and other health care workers.
As Mummylimited put it:
Mumsnet are asking for a five point Miscarriage Code of Care to be implemented and all of the points are excellent and important. For example asking that women suffering miscarriage are not treated in the same area as routine ante and post natal procedures or appointments.
However, there are some things that can and are being done that don’t cost a thing or take much more time and yet are so memorable and appreciated to those who are on the receiving end.
I posted yesterday about my first miscarriage, and when I look back, it was the comments and actions of the staff that hurt most. I could close my eyes and ears to the pregnant women and babies around me but the interaction with the staff wasÂ unavoidable.
When I had my second miscarriage, in a different hospital, the care was much better. I was on a general surgical ward with other women going through similar operations, or with older women having hysterectomies. The staff were kind, caring. They popped in regularly to see if we needed anything, to bring tea. A pat on the hand or the shoulder is worth so much when you are upset, much more than fancy state of the art scanning equipment.
One of the worries I had after the first miscarriage was that the initial scan was done so fast. I could not shake the feeling that perhaps the doctor had made a mistake, and had agonies of guilt that I had killed a healthy baby by going for the ERPC. When I had the second miscarriage, I broke down and told the doctor about this. He arranged that I would be scanned before the ERPC the next day.
Taking the patient’s wishes into consideration, listening to her, being gentle and understanding – all this makes a horrible situation slightly more bearable.
This week I will be hosting several guest posters who will tell their own story.
As has happened in all my pregnancies, I knew I was pregnant almost from the moment I conceived. I cannot explain itâ€“ itâ€™s not that I feel sick or that smells become heightened, I just know. Looking back, I didnâ€™t feel remotely nauseous which perhaps should have been a bit of a warning sign but at the time it didnâ€™t occur to me that was anything to worry about. I was thrilled about my pregnancy, was convinced it was going to be a boy, and had even given him a name â€“ Oscar.
I was so proud as I went to see my GP to announce my momentous news, and she congratulated me and gave me a choice of hospitals and my estimated due date â€“ September 24th. I felt like I had to be very careful of myself with my precious cargo â€“ no drinking, no smoking, at least five fruit and veg a day. I monitored my caffeine intake religiously and started imagining my first Christmas with my new baby. I worked out my finances, planned when I would go on maternity leave, visually planned out how the spare bedroom would be transformed into a nursery. I couldnâ€™t wait.
When I went for my first scan, I was 13 weeks pregnant and given a Bounty bag while I was waiting to be called in. I canâ€™t remember what was in it now but I do remember feeling it was a confirmation that at last I was going to be part of the mothersâ€™ club that I had wanted to be a member of for so long.
When I was called in, I put the Bounty bag under a chair and eagerly hopped onto the bed â€“ I was going to see my longed-for baby for the first time! As the sonographer scanned me, she stopped the scanner suddenly. Then went back and forth over the same area a number of times. Then she put down the scanner, leant forward and took my hand. Even then, it didnâ€™t cross my mind that it would be bad news, but as she started speaking I could see the sympathy written on her face.
â€œIâ€™m so sorry, your foetus has died. It happens sometimes. It died a few weeks ago â€“ I would say about eight or nine weeks. Your body is not yet aware and that is why youâ€™re not bleeding. If you took a pregnancy test, it would still be positive, but there is no heartbeat. I am so very sorry.â€
I donâ€™t think I said anything â€“ just stared at her, open mouthed in shock.
Sometimes when you have really bad news, it hits you physically. There is a wash of heat over your body, a squeeze of the heart, a pain in your solar plexus and your hearing goes. I remember staggering from the room, sobbing, and being helped to walk past the rows of smugly pregnant women. I left the now cruelly mocking Bounty bag under the chair.
The next week was a blur. I had to have another scan to make sure that the foetus really had died and an appointment was made for the following week, the earliest I could be seen.
I still didnâ€™t begin bleeding. I started to think that the sonographer had made a mistake. Maybe she wasnâ€™t very competent? Maybe the equipment was faulty? But the second scan confirmed it â€“ it was at a different clinic with a different sonographer so there was no doubt. My pregnancy was over. This time I got a leaflet for the Miscarriage Association which I clutched in my hand but didnâ€™t look at. I looked at their website when I got home but it didnâ€™t have a lot of information on it and there was no way I could talk to anyone on the phone*.
I was dry-eyed now, hollowed of emotion, numb. I was given a choice of ERPC or allowing the miscarriage to happen naturally and I agreed to have the ERPC. Strangely, the hospital only carried out ERPCs on Thursdays and this was Wednesday. All the beds were fully booked tomorrow, all those women having all their babies cleaned out. So I would have to wait until the following Thursday. Another week with my dead baby inside me.
What was wrong with my body? Why was it so stupid? Why didnâ€™t it know the baby had died and why was it continuing to build up walls in my uterus for this baby which was never going to be born?
I considered going to an abortion clinic. If I could convince them I didnâ€™t want to have the baby, they would basically do the same procedure but it would be over faster. I would have to lie and pretend that I didnâ€™t know the foetus was dead. I thought I could probably do that but convincing them I didnâ€™t want the baby? Not a chance.
On the Friday morning, two days after the second scan, the bleeding finally, finally started. It was a huge relief â€“ my body had accepted that this pregnancy was over, so it was time for my mind to start accepting it too. My mum called the clinic and cancelled the ERPC and they said to take a couple of Nurofen and book a scan when it was all over. By Friday evening, the bleeding was very, very heavy. I was wearing night time sanitary towels and soaking them through at an alarming rate. I didnâ€™t sleep much. By Saturday morning the miscarriage proper had started in earnest. It was very, very painful â€“ I was having what in effect were labour contractions and I would rush to the loo to pass the biggest and most solid clots and pieces of tissue and there were many. I didnâ€™t look down the toilet at all, just flushed and went back to the sofa. The painkillers I had werenâ€™t even touching the sides of the pain and I was doubled over, moaning in agony as each contraction hit.
By Monday, the worst of it was over. I was still bleeding pretty heavily but it was no longer quite so painful and I could actually leave the house for a short time. It was all over by the following weekend and I went back to the clinic for the follow up scan in the week. Thankfully, I didnâ€™t need to have an ERPC, my body had got rid of everything and I could get on with my life. I still felt numb, still felt like my future was bleak, but I could function again. I went back to work, went out in the evenings again, started trying to plan for a life without a baby.
As the summer wore on, my due date was looming over me and I knew I had to be doing something that would totally occupy me on the day. I decided what I needed was to get as far away from London as I possibly could, and do something as unrelated to babies as possible. So I booked a holiday to trek the Inca Trail in Peru â€“ nothing like anything I had done before and something which was about as different from my day to day life as it was possible to get. Preparing for the trek â€“ getting my inoculations and my equipment ready, getting mentally and physically prepared and organising my packing â€“ was my entire focus and I pushed my due date to the back of my mind, to be dealt with when it came.
The trek was absolutely the right thing to do. It is so exhausting that all you can focus on is getting enough food to keep you going and putting one foot in front of the other â€“ the air is very thin up high up in the Andes. On the third day of the trek we slowly made our way up to the highest point of the trail â€“ Dead Womanâ€™s Pass which is just over 4200m high. Itâ€™s called that because it looks like a dead woman lying on her back, By some weird twist of fate, the day we got to the summit was my due date which seemed pretty appropriate. After congratulating my fellow trekkers and sharing in the team sense of achievement, I made my way around to the other side of the peak and piled three stones up in a cairn with a few coca leaves pinned under them, a traditional Incan offering to the gods. My own offering was throwing three coca leaves into the air. They twirled their way down the mountainside and I said goodbye to Oscar. At last, I was going to start living again.
* this was some time ago â€“ their websites and leaflets are much improved now