2020: THE YEAR
2020 was what Harriet and I called ‘The Year.’ We had done so much positive visualisation, affirmations, journaling and meditation. There was no way we wouldn’t have a great year. We truly believed that 2020 would bring us happiness and a pregnancy. It would be better than the horrific year we had in 2019.
We were wrong.
The thing we want more than anything in the world is to start a family. We have been going through the IVF process for over 5 years now. We have watched people break up, meet new partners, get houses and have a child, some of them have their second, all in the same time we have been trying.
WHY AM I WRITING ABOUT MY MISCARRIAGE AGAIN?
The truth is I have hesitated to write about it this time. I am embarrassed it’s happened again. I am worried that people will think ‘why don’t they give up’ or ‘they should really just adopt.’ I fear people could think that I am being ‘dramatic’ and am trying to get attention. BUT it’s because of these worries that I am writing about my miscarriage.
1. IVF isn’t easy. Most women typically see success rates of 20-35% per cycle, but the likelihood of getting pregnant decreases with each successive round, while the cost increases. The cumulative effect of three full cycles of IVF increases the chances of a successful pregnancy to 45-53%. This is if ALL cycles are at the same clinic with the same methods. We have done x3 cycles at The London Women’s Clinic and I have got pregnant 2 out of 3 times. Great odds but the problem now is carrying full term.
2. Miscarriage is NOT spoken about enough. I really don’t think enough people fully understand the impact of a miscarriage. The mental, physical and emotional turmoil it creates. I don’t think enough people can fathom the horror of being forced to have a scan on your own because your partner can’t join you due to Covid. Looking at the empty screen, finding out your baby is gone and being completely alone. I have been told it’s ‘bad luck’ and ‘to get back on the horse again’ and to ‘let it go’ … of course we will keep trying but it doesn’t take away the experience I’ve had. The hope and the loss. Celebrities like Chrissy Teigan and Megan Markle have also helped shine a light on the impact of miscarriage. Whether you agree with someone writing a blog, sharing on instagram or talking about it to the media it’s THEIR right to do it.
3. I couldn’t be me without speaking about what’s happened. I’ve always been open and I’ve always shared about my life. I teach from my experiences and I connect through shared experience. I’ve been a different person over the last week, I’ve taught differently and I’ve engaged differently and no one knows why. I feel like I am lying and I struggle to connect when I’m not sharing such a big part of myself. Whether I talk with someone in my community or not about what’s happened doesn’t matter. They know and I know they know and it makes it easier for me to be more quiet and reserved without judgement.
So here is my second experience of miscarriage. Much different then the first and perhaps more painful. I’ll be negotiating a miscarriage during Christmas and am grateful this year will be different. I never thought I would say I am happy for Christmas to be cancelled BUT it does make it easier to grieve and mourn without the pressure of staying jolly in front of friends and family for days on end.
A week ago we found out I was pregnant again and that 2020 was actually going to be ‘The Year’. I felt instantly calm when the line appeared and I knew that all of the visualising and woo woo stuff we had done had finally worked- the year had made us wait but it was still going to be The Year.
With each blood test, each day, each hurdle the result remained the same – I had a very strong pregnancy. We now had to wait for the 7 week scan on January 5th. We WOULD get there this time. I hadn’t told friends and I hadn’t told my family. I wanted to wait until the scan or maybe I would tell them on Christmas as a surprise. Our minds ran away with us again. Planning due dates, trips to Canada, looking at pregnancy apps and chatting about what other Margate babies would be in the same year as our child.
This is the fun part. The fantasy part. The daydreaming part. The part I was so hesitant to let my mind and heart begin to entertain. But this is what pregnant women do right? This is what pregnant women do who haven’t had miscarriages. I should have known better.
I am now going through my second miscarriage and there is a high chance I will still be having a miscarriage when Christmas morning rolls around.
I woke up on Wednesday and the calm was gone. I knew something was different. I was filled with anxiety and dread and couldn’t shake it. But midday I was bleeding heavily with clots and intense cramping. I felt the ground give way and my heart break again. We rushed to our clinic to have my HCG levels taken. Asked to show the blood, humility gone, I went into the bathroom to show my nurse the bleeding. Standing in front of her, pants around my knees, bloody pad and heavy clots filling the toilet. I sobbed. Days earlier I had been standing in the same place with smiles and hugs, today felt like a twisted version of groundhog day.
THE RUNAWAY TRAIN OF HOPE YOU WISH YOU COULD STOP
We Googled every possible article and conversation on Mumsnet about bleeding and full term pregnancies. The bleeding stopped and in the corner of my heart grew hope. This hope was only encouraged in the morning when the nurse called to say my HCG levels were still exceptionally high and that we needed to go to EPU (early pregnancy unit) at QEQM for a scan as there still might be a pregnancy. Bridled by this news we tried to keep hope at bay but it was too late. We were once again letting our minds run away with us.
THE MOMENT YOU'RE TOLD IT'S OVER AND YOU'RE ALONE
I’ve read the articles and the petitions about women having to go for scans on their own because of Covid but the cruelty of this only really hits when you experience it. I left Harriet in the car park and went into the hospital.
I sat in the waiting room of women with growing round bumps and smiles where I held back tears. There was the discussion with a nurse who took my details. Then the floating numb, unaware of the movements you are making, to another area of the hospital for the scan. The same room, where a year ago, we had Harriet’s 12 week scan to an empty womb.
Lights, beeps, wands, uncomfortable pressure as the probe moves inside you, a screen where you try to interpret the grey blobs and shapes and the silence. My sonographer didn’t speak to me as I desperately looked for the embryo sac that would confirm I was still pregnant. ‘Is that the sac’ I finally blurted as I couldn’t wait any longer.
‘No, there is no sac. You have had a miscarriage.’
The scan lasted another 15 minutes. I closed my eyes as the tears fell and waited as the man took images of my endometreomas and attempted to locate my left ovary. Stuck behind my uterus with adhesions it’s never easy and he wasn’t able to locate it. Maybe he wasn’t actually able to locate the sac either? Hope holds on even in the bleakest moments.
For every woman who has had to have a scan on their own during this pandemic and to every woman who has been told their pregnancy failed on their own I am sorry. I am sorry that you experienced that. I am sorry I experienced that. I am sorry we were alone
YOU SIGN UP TO THE PAIN
Days and nights blur into each other. You spend them half asleep numbly going through the motions but not really feeling anything. You just wait for the waves of grief to hit you and knock you down and catch your breath when the waves slow down and settle.
It’s been 6 days now of numb existence. I have had moments of getting out of the house, moments of laughter, moments of feeling slightly like myself…but then you remember, recoil and retreat.
Harriet describes the journey of IVF as cutting your chest wide open, exposing your heart and walking into a fire. You walk, or run, straight into pain, suffering and torture. You know it’s coming but you have to go through it to end up with what you want in the end. Each time it becomes harder and harder to stitch yourself back up.
My mother in law put it so perfectly when she said ‘Most people when they get pregnant expect a baby but when you get pregnant you expect a miscarriage’.
When you experience miscarriage, especially in your first pregnancy, the joy of getting excited and anticipation is taken away. For some maybe only momentarily but for us it will always be there, it will be there until there is a baby in front of us. A friend of mine has experienced similar trauma to us and is in her last trimester. Before my miscarriage started she sent me a workshop for women who experience anxious pregnancies. I would have attended if I hadn’t started bleeding and I would highly recommend any woman who is anxious in their pregnancy to not ignore it and seek out similar training and workshops.
I'M UNSURE HOW TO END THIS SO I'LL LEAVE YOU WITH THESE WORDS, THEY'RE NOT MINE.
I sent this text to my friend Jenny. Her son died tragically almost 3 years ago.
I feel like I keep being shattered into tiny pieces and every time I manage to put myself back together it happens again. I watch the pieces of myself fall back onto the floor and scatter. And each time I lose some of those pieces forever and there’s less and less of me to put back together…
My best friend, a woman who has experienced far greater tragedy than me, put it so perfectly that I will leave this blog with her words.
‘Just to rebuttal. I know that I am only 3 years into the grief of loss but if you think that you are going to lose these pieces of you forever I beg to differ. Because yes, those pieces are lost but you’re going to be a different person as a result. More empathetic, kinder, more gentle. You and I are not going to be these empty vessels of sadness forever. We are going to eventually have lights at the end of our tunnels that bring us joy and refuels us. So yes those pieces are lost but I am confident that somehow you’re going to have a family and then those pieces that are lost become something else. I’m hopeful for you and I’m hopeful for me’
I hope she’s right.