The dating scan turned into a nightmare as soon as I saw the lifeless form on the screen above me. “A missed miscarriage at approximately eight weeks gestation,” the sympathetic consultant said.
He couldn’t tell me how long ago my baby had died, but I reckoned I’d become pregnant anything up to 12 weeks beforehand. The dating scan had been arranged just to give my husband and myself, both nervous and excited at the prospect of a second child, some idea of when to expect it. I’d always been irregular. We had no idea, as we walked into the private clinic, that we were about to be given such devastating news.
I was eerily calm; meanwhile, my husband was in uninhibited tears. Only minutes before we’d been talking about names for the baby, and suddenly everything had been taken away from us. The consultant had a few quiet words with us, assuring us that this had no bearing on our future prospects for parenthood, that such events were extremely common and that there was every chance that the next pregnancy would be successful.
He also said something about my options now, but I was too numb to make any decisions at this point. My husband was in tears, but none came from me. Optimistically, I’d arranged a booking-in appointment with the midwife at my GP’s surgery a couple of hours later, and we decided to go ahead with the appointment to get more of a perspective on what we had to do next.
I was still in a form of shock – still not in tears, but utterly thrown off-balance, weak in the knees, as if I was drunk, and not speaking much sense, as I remember. I was supposed to be working from home, too – I remember taking a work call that morning and dealing with it, but afterwards having absolutely no recollection of what was said.
The midwife was sympathetic; she had seen me throughout my first pregnancy, nearly three years ago, and remembered us. She told me that I could wait for the miscarriage to “happen” naturally, but that this could take up to a couple of weeks. I could be prescribed a pill to bring on the miscarriage, or I could go to the hospital for an ERPC, described as a minor operation to empty my uterus. Thinking clearly at last, I opted for the latter option. I couldn’t bear carrying around my dead baby for weeks, and I felt I could not get on with life until this horrible phase was over. It was a Friday and we called the hospital to try to get me taken in, only to hear that it would take up to a week for a suitable appointment. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. I collapsed in tears, unable to handle the thought of carrying on in limbo for another week, for that’s how it felt. Such ops were not carried out at weekends, the receptionist told me, and Monday would be booked up. There was a small chance I could be seen on Tuesday, but no promises. I felt powerless and very insignificant, and also pretty angry at what seemed like a failure in the system, for women in my position.
Somehow I got through the weekend, trying to come to terms with the change in our lives, with bouts of spontaneous crying and overwhelming melancholy. We had only known for sure I’d been pregnant for a week, but we had been so excited and had made so many plans, it had felt so real and perfect. Our darling two year old knew Mama wasn’t happy and kept hugging me to make me feel better. All I could do was cry some more.
Tuesday came not a moment too soon, and thankfully they found me a bed. The three of us set off first thing to the appointment, which unfortunately was in the building where I had given birth to our son. Happy memories would now be overshadowed by sad events. I was given a private room, with a beautiful view, but I was too sad to care. Left alone eventually, I was given a gown and led to the prep room, where I was put under a general anaesthetic. This was something I greatly feared, but seemingly seconds later, I was awake again and the ERPC was over.
A wave of relief washed over my still-limp body. Soon I was wheeled back to the room, which looked brighter and more pleasant than it had before. After a little sleep, I was given toast and a drink and I forced myself to get up to go to the toilet – one of the prerequisites for being discharged. I was bleeding but not much – and had been given a maternity pad, which I ditched as soon as I got home.
I was happy to be picked up at lunchtime (early I was advised, but I’d shown a good recovery) and taken home by my husband. I recuperated at home and felt pretty tired for the rest of the day, but at the same time I felt a weight lift off my shoulders.
I talked on the phone to a few friends and family about what had happened. I was amazed how many of them had experienced similar situations, either miscarriages, missed miscarriages or still birth (which must be much, much worse). One friend, with a child just slightly older than our son, had since had five early miscarriages. Others had, sure enough, gone on to have healthy babies with no side effects.
After another day’s rest, I went back to work. The maternity pad had been replaced by a slimline towel, and I carried on bleeding for about 10 days, no heavier than an ordinary period. Apart from those who needed to know, I told no one at work – several women were happily pregnant and I didn’t want to rain on their parade.
Afterwards I felt vaguely low, and run down, which I’m told is normal in the circumstances. I avoided social contact, as I felt I was miserable company, and only spent time with my husband and son. Weeks later, I am starting to come out of it, I think.
One thing has changed though. Whereas, before, we were happy to try for a second child, we’ve put things on hold for now. Despite the doctors’ assurances, I worry about the heartache of another miscarriage.
Who knows what the future holds? We are planning a relaxing family holiday. Maybe, afterwards, we can look to expanding the family further again, maybe we will be happy as we are. All I know is, I think every day of the little one we never got to know.
My husband’s view
When our first baby was scanned, we saw a whizzing, spinning little livewire, leaping around in his little womb-space. This time though, we saw a baby shape, but no motion. Looking back, I remember thinking that the baby was just sleeping. I thought that my wife seemed a bit less than excited, but now know she was worried at that point.
The scan progressed and the doctor didn’t appear too cheery either. He sighed, then told us the bad news – that the baby was dead. I felt like someone had smacked me round the head with a concrete slab. We were not having a baby. Worse still, the little one we never got to know had to be taken away, so Sharon not only had the shock of the news but also the procedure to deal with. One day I was feeling ready to become the protective provider, a few days later, I was as useless as men are in tragic circumstances, trying to look after Sharon, after loss, not joy.
Now, some weeks later, I can only ever wonder what the baby would have been like, what caused the miscarriage, how we could have done things differently. Our first child is such a strong character that I will always wonder what sort of person the second baby would have been. Like so many of the most important questions in life, there is no way I could ever find an answer. I look at our first child now and am even more thankful for the little wonder he is – if anything, I love my wife and son even more than I did before.
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