With my first son I was naïve. I thought miscarriage was something that would be more likely to affect woman who were older, women that smoked, overweight women, or unfit women. At twenty-nine I suppose I could not call myself a young mother, but I was certainly not an old mother in today’s terms. I had been put off cigarettes at an early age, courtesy of my mother who smoked in the car leaving me dizzy and sick. I was fit, really fit now I look back on my running, footballing, gym-ing self. I was thin but thanks to a recent holiday swamped in cheese and wine in France, not too thin.
So when I became pregnant for the first time I gave only a moment’s thought to the possibility of miscarriage. I had read that miscarriage affects twenty percent of pregnancies, but not even that led me to believe that it may happen to me. And after my twelve week scan, where everything was confirmed to be “just fine”, I presumed that was it – everything would be fine. And it was.
It was when Blake was nine months old that I sensed that I might be pregnant again. A pregnancy test confirmed it. I had mixed feelings about the pregnancy. I was anxious about the possibility of having a second child so close in age to Blake. It seemed we had barely begun to enjoy life with a baby and our sleep was broken. It was late February and I was due to start work at the beginning of April, I’d have to tell my new boss about my pregnancy within a couple of weeks of starting and that made me feel guilty, and nervous.
But as they days wore on I began looking forward to a second addition to the family. I let my mind wander. What would the new baby’s room look like? Did we need to buy anything new for our little one? It would be hectic at Christmas with four under fours at my mother’s house. We could do this; it’d be crazy but we’d be fine.
I first began spotting at around six weeks. It was so light that I convinced myself that it was no big deal, even though alarm bells were faintly sounding in the back of my mind. I did what I’m sure everyone does – I Google-d it. The consensus on all various forums was “if it’s light brown spotting and not heavy, you’ll probably be fine.” I selectively ignored the comments that said there’s a fifty percent chance that spotting will end in a miscarriage. I’ve since decided to ignore statistics about miscarriage, to me they are meaningless.
Eventually, I went to see a doctor. I first had a scan. The sonographer said that it was too early to tell whether there was a viable embryo, but there was a sac that looked normal. She said, “you might miscarry in the next couple of weeks” without so much as a blink of an eyelid. She was cold and factual, and heartless. I had tests over a number of days to ascertain the HcG levels in my blood. Everything looked great. My doctor even joked that I might be having twins there was such great leaps in the HcG readings from day to day. And at eight weeks, the spotting stopped.
In the meantime, I was ill. I only found out more recently that even if the embryo is a non-starter you might still feel sick as anything, as other aspects of the pregnancy can continue to develop, like the placenta.
It was my husband’s birthday when I went to visit the obstetrician. 11.5 weeks. I will never again schedule a scan on a birthday or anniversary. I readied myself for the possibility that our little embryo had died, but I didn’t really believe it. The obstetrician invited me to undertake a scan, which I did. On the screen there was just nothing. A sac, but nothing else to see. I can still remember the image so vividly. A gaping hole where I so desperately wanted to see something squirming. “this is what we call a non-starter, I’m afraid”, the obstetrician said with a long sigh. I didn’t cry. The obstetrician asked if I was ok, “yes, it’s ok, I know these things happen for no apparent reason.”
The obstetrician advised that I had a few options. I could wait to miscarry naturally. I could take a pill and that would “hurry things up”, or I could opt for a surgical procedure or “evacuation of uterus” as the forms clumsily described. I opted for the surgical procedure. I didn’t want to miscarry at only my third week back at work.
I arrived home. I didn’t cry. My husband was more upset than I was. I was just a bit numb really, and I think that I had been building myself up for the likelihood of a miscarriage for weeks, so perhaps I had began to grieve weeks ago.
The day of the procedure, I was feeling probably like anyone would: anxious, uncertain. I’m really glad I had an operation. It was a lot easier than waiting and fearing what might be. That moment I miscarried could have been at work, in the car, in the supermarket, in bed. Who knows what the hell I would have done if I experienced a miscarriage sitting at my open plan desk at work. I am glad that it was in a hospital.
The operation itself was fine. I began counting down from ten for the anesthetist. The next thing I asked was whether I’d had the surgery yet? “Yes, yes you have,” laughed the nurse. A few hours were spent lying with a magazine watching football on the television, then I was discharged. It was when I opened the door to our home that I was overcome with intense and sudden explosion of grief. I cried uncontrollably as I ran down the hallway to grab my one-year-old son. I held him tight. My mother in law looked uncomfortable. I took myself into bed and hid under the covers and slept.
Today I continue to debate in my mind whether we’d be having a boy or a girl. I change my mind, but usually it comes back to a boy.