My Miscarriage and Moving On

Social media is a strange thing. Like a flock of technology peacocks, we display our practically perfect lives in the most bizarre ways. Every gym workout, every beer, every “cheeky” Nandos (I mean, really? What exactly is cheeky about it? It’s a bloody Portuguese chicken restaurant!), every picture of your child in their new school uniform is shared. Even what you had for your tea. If you didn’t Instagram it, did you even eat it? A friend, who is anti-social media said recently “Who gives a shit what you had for your tea? Why do I need to see a picture of that?” She isn’t wrong. We can’t bear for anyone to think we are anything less than gleefully happy.

Of course, there are a few exceptions. The passive aggressive, Jeremy Kyle style over sharers who play out their dramas for all to see. Usually, these are people I haven’t seen since school or the distant relatives who I can’t quite bring myself to delete, due to entertainment value. Yes, I’m a nosey bastard and I’m not ashamed to admit it. But we’ll skip all that for now.

I should point out that I am as guilty as anyone on social media. Yes, I am an unapologetic baby bore but I am fairly typical of my age group. Most people I know, aged between about 28 and 40, are fully engaged in a huge baby boom. Facebook is filled with scans of fertilised eggs or a child’s first poo in a potty or statuses bemoaning lack of sleep. (Christ, don’t I know about lack of sleep! See my last blog). In these desperate attempts to portray our shiny happy families, there is no mention of any other side to all this unprotected sex that 30 somethings are having with wild abandon. No one dares hint at any heartbreak.

No one dares share their baby news until 12 weeks have passed. Except for me. I couldn’t hold my own water with any of my pregnancies (not literally; incontinence has come AFTER my kids were born). I was so ridiculously excited that I was having a baby, I absolutely had to tell everyone! Not on social media but, among family and friends, it was common knowledge. I honestly didn’t get why I should keep it secret and I still don’t.
In a world where every brain fart is shared in the public forum, we don’t tell people we are pregnant until it’s “safe”, until everything is ok, until you know that the baby is alive and well. Perhaps it is a superstition, a fear even. I can’t say it’s something I can relate to, with any of my pregnancies.

This December will be the first December that I have not been pregnant since 2012. That’s three consecutive Christmases with-child; a fair old stretch without a Christmas tipple (I will be making up for it this year!). No, I’m not an elephant with a ridiculous gestational period (though my arse would suggest otherwise). I have had three pregnancies in as many years but only two resulted in children and let me be honest about it; it’s fucking horrific.

When James was 8 months old, in October 2014, I discovered I was pregnant for the second time. It wasn’t an accident. I wanted two children close together. My husband, Rob, is a twin and I have a brother 16 months younger than me (I look younger though. Fact). It seemed normal for us to have a little buddy for James almost immediately. As with my first, I told everyone. We found out whilst on holiday in Anglesey with friends and shared the news immediately. I was ecstatic.

Despite having a dream pregnancy with James, this one wasn’t so straight forward. I bled at 5 weeks. A scan at 6 weeks struggled to show anything other than a dot. We went back two weeks later and, despite further bleeding, thankfully, everything was as it should be; A little wriggly blob with a healthy heartbeat.

On Tuesday 9th December 2014, three days before our 12-week scan, I bled again. I felt physically ill. I wasn’t in pain, but I was terrified. After speaking to my GP, I went to Liverpool Women’s Emergency Department. It was packed out. I wasn’t the only suffering a nightmare pregnancy. The hospital couldn’t scan me that day as it was too busy but a doctor examined me. My cervix was closed. There was no new blood. Everything looked fine but they would scan me on the Thursday. Thursday seemed pointless, if all looked fine, we would wait until our scan on Friday. It wouldn’t happen to me anyway…

I woke up on Wednesday 10th December 2014 to more blood. It was heavier this time. Previously, I had spotting but this time, it was clearly staining my underwear. I sent James to my mum’s and went straight to the Women’s. They agreed to scan me immediately.

As I lay on the bed with what looked like a giant dildo up my nether regions (there is no dignity in pregnancy, ever), I was still in denial about what was going to happen. All the signs were pointing to the worst and, indeed, that was our fate.

I will never forget the woman who told us that our baby had died. She was big and brash and as Scouse as Scotty Road; direct, maybe even abrasive. Yet she was so compassionate. She has the worst possible job and yet is so gentle in delivering the news no one wants to hear. I couldn’t have asked for someone more understanding. Since then, I have spotted her about the Women’s during subsequent visits. Each time I have wanted to throw up. As lovely as she is, seeing her is like seeing the face of the grim reaper in a nurse’s uniform. Ironically, I last saw her when we registered my second son, Joseph’s, birth. It almost felt like closure. We had won. We had a healthy baby boy.

Rob and I sobbed uncontrollably when she told us. In all the trauma and confusion, I handed in my full maternity file, including the previous scan pictures. To this day, I am devastated about that. I don’t have any evidence that my baby existed. I was given three options; let nature take its course, have a tablet to speed things up or have an operation. I knew I wanted the operation without any hesitation. Nature could take weeks and I was terrified of what I might pass, especially after being told to get a bloo block as “things don’t look so bad when the water is coloured.” It struck fear in my heart.

My operation was scheduled for the Monday. Monday was shit. Monday felt like a million years away. I left the Women’s terrified to go the toilet for fear of what horrors would be staring lifelessly from the pan. I had no concept of what sizes things were or how they looked. The thought was horrendous. How I would get through five days of bleeding and looking after a 10 month old without having a breakdown?

Luckily, if you can call it luck, I didn’t have to wait until Monday. I woke at 1am Thursday morning with what felt like labour pains. Suddenly there was a huge gush and I was soaked in blood, destroying the bed sheet. I refused to let Rob turn the light on. He took me to the bathroom and cleaned me up in the dark. I couldn’t look. He changed the bed sheets and surrounded me in towels. Five minutes later, another huge surge. We had no idea if this was normal so Rob called the hospital and they told me to go in straight away. As Rob had to stay with James, my dad took me to hospital. He stayed with me until I was cleaned up and sent to a ward.

Within 5 minutes of being on the ward, I felt another wave of blood. The nurses transferred me to a side room. After being cleaned up twice more, I got up to go the toilet. Another huge explosion in the bathroom. I blacked out and, suddenly, I was on the bed with anaesthetists and consultants hovering over me and being asked to sign consent forms as I may need a hysterectomy. I remember woozily asking the doctor if I was going to die. I don’t remember her reply. I’m assuming she said no but I felt so drained and weak that I was certain the end was nigh. An icy IV drip brought me round. I didn’t realise how cold a drip is. I was freezing to the point of trembling. As I was prepared for theatre, ghastly and bizarre as it was, I felt huge relief. This was going to be over and I could go home.

After an emergency evacuation of my uterus, a blood transfusion and an overnight stay, I went home. I have to say, most of my friends and family were amazing. Even people I hadn’t seen in a long time were wonderful. Cakes and flowers and visits and texts. Not that there is ever a good time, but two weeks before Christmas was a pretty inconvenient time for it to happen. Everyone is so busy which meant all the support was even more touching. I say ‘most’ of my family and friends because some were, quite frankly, shit.

Part of me remains furious and unable to forgive those who claim to love me, claim to be my closest family and friends, but didn’t even bother their arses to text to see how I was. Part of me does understand though. What do you say to someone who has lost a baby? “I’m sorry” doesn’t seem to cover it. “How are you?” might seem stupid. No one wants to talk about miscarriage because it is awkward. People are scared of saying the wrong thing and, yes, some people did say completely wrong thing and, for a brief time, I thought that they were total arseholes. Things like “It’s probably a bit easier for you because you have James” Well, no actually. One child doesn’t replace another. My grief is my own and not remotely comparable to anyone else’s, so please don’t tell me how it is easy for me because it isn’t. Despite my vitriol, I do know that they meant well. They were trying to find a positive. People aren’t great with death. And it is a death. Even if you didn’t have a baby bump or even a scan picture, that baby absolutely counts as a life and you are allowed to grieve. You should grieve.

Every single person who did rally around me, asked me how I was. I, however, was guilty of not talking about it, shrugging and saying “fine” or “umm ok” If I was really pushing it, I would say “a bit rubbish” It didn’t even skim the surface. Let’s face it, I’m British. We live in a society where “How are you?” is almost rhetorical. The answer is always “I’m fine, thank you” The answer is never “I feel like my soul has been ripped out. I will always blame myself for this. I will always wonder why I wasn’t able to keep my baby alive. Is it because I’m fat? Is it because I had a glass of cider before I knew I was pregnant? It’s driving me insane and I hate myself” It’s not polite to say how you really are. It’s morbid. But those feelings are a real fact of life. One in five pregnancies ends during the first 12 weeks. It is frighteningly common. You will know someone that has lost a baby, even if you don’t think you do. It also happens much further along the line and it is terrible. It’s earth shattering and life changing but no one talks about it because it is uncomfortable. Uncomfortable for them. I suppose, there is an element of them being kind. People are essentially good and kind. They will assume you don’t want to talk about it and want to spare you the pain. Maybe you don’t but maybe it would be nice to be given the opportunity.

The whole thing didn’t really hit me until January 2015. Christmas was over, Rob had gone back to work, visits had stopped and James was in nursery four days a week. I spent a lot of days listening to Fleetwood Mac and crying alone. Even now I can’t listen to Landslide or Gypsy or Sara without crying. Even in public. The words, the meanings. Yes. I’m one of those saddos. It’s cringe worthy. I’m still that 13-year-old listening to music in her room thinking “no one understands me except these lyrics.” Thanks for the support though, Stevie Nicks. I bloody love you.

Rob and I decided we would have called our baby, which we assumed was a boy, Sam. It felt right for us to name him, to acknowledge he was there. It was important for me that it was something we agreed on. Partners get forgotten about when it comes to losing a baby. No one stops to ask them how they are feeling, just how the woman is. Just because they don’t physically go through it, doesn’t mean it isn’t devastating for them. It changes you both and, in turn, it changes your relationship. For Rob, everything was traumatic; losing the baby, not being able to come to hospital with me as he had to stay with James, getting a phone call at 4am to say his wife was in theatre but not knowing what was going on… But I don’t think anyone once asked him how he was feeling.

As February neared, I got to the stage where I needed to go back to work and concentrate on life again. People were right; there is some truth in having James helping. I had to get on with life because I had someone more important than myself to care for. He did get me through. He’s a sod and I moan about him but I know how lucky I am to have him and his brother.

Nine months after losing Sam, I fell pregnant again. Once again, I told everyone early on. Losing my baby wasn’t a dirty little secret I should have kept to myself. If I was going to suffer the same fate, I was not going to hide it. There is no shame in losing a baby. It was a difficult pregnancy. Lots of bleeding, lots of scans and lots of stress. The shadow of what had gone before hung over us and every time we went to the Emergency room at the Women’s, I was expecting to get the same news. It ruined my pregnancy with Joe. However, I do fully appreciate how lucky I am to have a chubby little rainbow baby. Some women never get that opportunity.

The support of family and friends was important in my recovery but I never really got any ‘professional’ help. As great as the hospital were, on the day I found out the baby had gone, I was handed a leaflet about the Miscarriage Association and sent on my way. Perhaps it is my fault, but I didn’t do anything with it. A leaflet felt meaningless I wasn’t aware of anything else being available until a short while ago.

Back in July, James’ nursery held a fundraiser for the Honeysuckle Bond based at Liverpool Women’s Hospital. The team provide support for those who have suffered miscarriage, still birth and infant loss. Liz, who owns the nursery, had lost a baby 20 years previously and felt strongly about promoting the cause. Because no one talks about it, few people know about the support available. The service wasn’t running when I lost my baby and I wish it had been.  I have recently been in contact with the team regarding fund raising and they have kindly offered me counselling, even now, almost two years on. I am not sure if I want to do that but it’s great to know that it is there at any time.

As part of my post baby health kick, I have entered the Liverpool Rock and Roll Half Marathon in May 2017. I have decided to do it to raise funds for the Honeysuckle Bond. Recently, a close friend and a member of my extended family have lost babies and I hope that can benefit from the support. The service is so important.

So like the baby bore Facebook wanker I am, I’ll be sharing all my training sessions and photographing my high protein meals to bore the living shit out of everyone. It won’t be to show how perfect my life is. Instead, it will be to show how my awful my life actually was at one point and to let people who aren’t lucky enough to have scan pictures or stories of sleepless nights that help is available if you need it.

If anyone would like to sponsor me, please go to All proceeds will go to the Honeysuckle Bond at Liverpool Women’s hospital. Don’t forget to click Gift Aid too. Thank you.

1 comment:

  1. You are amazing Jemma Angelsea! That is all xxx Sarah McConville xx