I am 1 in 4: October is Baby Loss Awareness Month
October is one of my favourite months of the year, I love the subtle change in season that seems to creep in around about now, leaving the September sun behind and transitioning into misty mornings and earlier nights.
The trees are desperately trying to protect and keep hold of their flame coloured leaves but, sadly they are pre-destined to fall and blanket the ground.
Like those trees, 1 in 4 women feel the loneliness of ‘secret’ grief.
I have two beautiful and boisterous boys who fill my days with noise, dirt and infectious laughter and I’m due my third in a matter of days. But, this doesn’t mean that I don’t ever think of my other two babies that I never met.
I am currently a very fragile mix of hormones, excitement and nervous energy as I wait for signs of my impending labour. This October feels very different for me, and I think that’s a good thing as it will be a birthday month, a reason to celebrate.
Before I enter the craziness of caring for three boys aged 4 and under, I’d like to reflect and tell my story of losing the two tiny lives, that for a very small window of time, existed within my own body. Two little ones that I failed to protect and keep safe…one of the most basic requirements of being a mother.
My Lost Pregnancy
I always wanted a sibling for Stanley, I never envisioned him as an only child. So, when we found out we were expecting again I was naturally over the moon. I did exactly what I’d done with Stanley, a home test then doctors appointment to confirm, followed by my booking appointment with the midwife. I’ve never smoked, I stopped drinking as soon as that little blue line appeared, and took my folic acid daily.
As the weeks crept by, we kept our little secret until the 12 week ‘safe zone’ was in sight. It fell around Christmas time so I made a plan (Ben just goes along with me when it comes to things like this…I’ve never been one to shy away from putting the effort in) to announce the pregnancy to close friends and family via a homemade Christmas card featuring my little Stan the Man.
Everyone loved the announcement cards, who wouldn’t?…just look at Stanley all big smiles and tiny toes. Super cute!
Christmas came and went, and we were thrust into the new year. I had been suffering from morning sickness, something I’d never experienced while pregnant with Stanley, and I felt ‘different’ not something I could put my finger on, just different. I knew I was carrying a boy from the start with Stan, just call it Mother’s intuition as I had absolutely no evidence whatsoever, until I was proved correct at the 20 week scan. This time however, I just ‘knew’ it was a girl.
*YOU MAY FIND THE FOLLOWING DETAILS UPSETTING*
However, I want to write a completely truthful account of my experience.
The Bubble Burst
On the 5th January my little pregnancy bubble was burst in the worst way possible. I was 14 weeks by now. I felt tired, weak and queasy. I rested and that evening after Ben had put Stanley to bed I lay on the sofa, and took paracetamol as I had back ache. Nothing too out of the ordinary, nothing to cause alarm.
I needed the bathroom and stood up and that’s when I realised something was terribly wrong. I could feel a warmth running down my legs. I ran to the bathroom, leaving a trail of blood and a shell shocked hubby in my wake. I was numb, I knew what was happening but adrenaline took over and I went for the practical side of things, stripped off and sat on the toilet waiting for the initial ‘gush’ to subside. Except, it didn’t!
I layered up thick maternity pads and quickly shoved on knickers and leggings. I remember telling Ben that we needed to go to the hospital (talk about stating the obvious) and asking him to ring my mum so she could come over to watch Stanley. I remember that I was yawning a lot, my ears were ringing and my vision was becoming tunnelled. Blood was still seeping through all my sanitary protection and out through my clothes, I couldn’t keep up with it.
The next thing I remember is two first responders leaning over me, they were talking but I couldn’t hear them properly. Then paramedics burst in. I was put into the back of an ambulance and blue lighted up to the hospital. Ben had to stay until my Mum & Dad arrived because of Stanley. I remember hoping that he hadn’t been woken up with all the commotion. Afterwards, my Mum and Dad told me that they saw the ambulance come flying past them as they were heading to my house. Mum said it was awful knowing ‘her little girl’ was in there, which just goes to show that us mums never stop worrying about our children, no matter how old they are.
If you’ve read my Pregnancy Ponderings post you’ll know that our hospital is roughly 15 miles away. I think that distance doubled that night as it seemed to take forever to get there. I was taken on the trolley into A&E and placed in a corridor with approximately 10 others. The paramedics left me and I was alone and waiting. Blood by now was seeping into the sheets and mattress I was lying on. I felt hugely embarrassed as it was painfully obviously where the blood was coming from…I felt so ashamed. By this point I was getting cold and started to shiver and again must have fainted, I have no idea if anyone attended to me or not at this point. I’m guessing not, because suddenly Ben was stood next to me but I have no memory of him getting there and I was still bleeding on the trolley.
I was eventually moved into an examination room. I’m a bit hazy on the details but I can remember telling the nurses that I was going to pass out, my ears were ringing and I couldn’t see properly. The bed was then tilted back so that my feet were higher than my head. After answering a few questions I was transferred over to the Maternity Assessment Unit.
Up until this point, nobody had mentioned, pregnancy, miscarriage, loss or the baby.
Again, due to the lack of beds I was put in a chair and told we were waiting for a sonographer to become available. This was the point at which my heart broke and the tears came hard and fast. I knew what I was facing and deep down I knew that the scan wouldn’t pick up a heartbeat there had just been too much blood….so, it just seemed unesscessarily cruel that I was now sat with only 6 flimsy curtains separating me from other mums to be who were all hooked up to monitoring equipment.
I could hear 6 happy and healthy heartbeats in stereo, it was deafening!
I sat there shivering with my baby that had probably already died, or was dying inside of me, still bleeding heavily and was forced to listen to the sound I was praying against all odds I would hear from my own womb.
It came as a relief to be called into the scan room, anything to get me away from those heartbeats. The scan was performed, and the room was absolutely silent – my heart broke! Nothing was said to us apart from ‘all done’ and the fact that they were keeping me in and I would be taken to the Forget me Not suite.
Once settled into one of the rooms on the Forget-me-Not suite (charity based), I was introduced to Liz who was one of the bereavement midwives that would be caring for me during my stay. This lady was love, care and sensitivity personified. She wiped my tears and stroked my head. I was still losing A LOT of blood and she hooked me up to drips, binned my clothes and just generally saw to my needs without fuss.
My nightmare wasn’t over by any means, just as I was feeling a bit more with it and had managed a cup of tea (so stereotypically British, but always readily available during a crisis). I needed a wee and with Ben’s help shuffled over to the en-suite, Liz had already advised me to leave the door open and that I wasn’t allowed to flush as they would check for clots etc. I can’t remember anything more until I woke up back in the bed wearing an oxygen mask with an alarm blazing and approximately 20 medical staff around my bed including someone with a defibrillator trolley to my right. Liz was saying ‘STAY WITH US EMMA’ loudly and somebody was putting something cold into my arm, I felt it travel up my vein.
I tried to lift my head to look for Ben, Liz must have noticed as she told me he was still there on the chair in the corner, and stepped aside so that I could see him.
The person I saw wasn’t my hubby, Mr Yorkshire and he of stern stuff and few words, had gone…a small frightened figure, head in hands with grey skin sat in his place and it scared me more than anything that had happened up to that point.
I must have gone out again or perhaps I just fell asleep, I’m not sure as the whole thing is still foggy and a bit surreal to me now.
The next time I woke, I felt a bit better but weak and bone weary. Lifting my head off the pillow required energy I just didn’t have. My bloods and observations were done again. Consent forms were brought in and signed by Ben. Blood was ordered. I had no idea of the time or even what day it was by now. Still nobody had mentioned the baby or said the word miscarriage…I found this really strange and it all added to the dream like state I found myself in.
As I regained some strength my thoughts turned to my little boy at home, and I ached for him. After asking Liz if it would be OK, Ben gave my Mum & Dad the all clear to visit with Stanley. It gave me the boost I needed, nothing beats a cuddle from a toddler!!
Mum, Dad, Ben and Stanley went home together late afternoon. Ben with instructions to bring in clothes for me…I had lost absolutely everything I had been wearing! I stayed in again overnight and slept like a baby inbetween the obs rounds. Liz popped in every now and again to check on me and to make me a cuppa, so that I didn’t have to leave my bed. She also found me a phone charger so that I could ring Ben and say goodnight to Stanley. It was little touches like this, that meant so much to me.
The next morning, I was visited by a consultant and finally I was informed that my pregnancy had failed. I was also told that all the ‘products of conception‘ had come away naturally and that I wouldn’t need a D&C. Their so called product of conception was so much more to me, that was my baby and Stanley’s sibling. It’s an absolutely awful clinical term and one that I think the NHS should revise using with parents.
I was given leaflets on cremation and my rights to religious/humanist services etc, unbelievably I was looking at funeral arrangements for my baby. I signed the nesscessary consent forms and put them on the bedside table. I didn’t want to deal with it, I was so tired.
By this point Ben had arrived back and we were waiting for my discharge to be arranged. Liz mentioned in passing that I’d haemorrhaged twice and lost a substantial amount of blood, much more than they’d expected which had sent me into Hypovolemic shock.
I’ve since googled it and learned that it’s life threatening which has made some sense of the room full of people and the crash team that I’d witnessed.
To this day, I don’t know if all this was explained to Ben as it was happening, because he’s never really spoken about it and I’ve never really pushed him on it. But, thinking back to the man I saw sitting in that room, I’m guessing he had a good idea of the state of play at the time.
Even now I find it hard to explain how I was feeling. I wasn’t overly upset, as in I wasn’t crying or showing any outward signs of distress. I felt ‘light’, my head felt fuzzy, my legs were like jelly. I felt numb. I wasn’t thinking about the baby I’d lost, I just desperately wanted to get home to the one I already had. I can’t describe how much I’d missed Stanley, it was as if it had made me realise just how fragile these little lives are. I just wanted to wrap arms around him and protect him, something that to this day I feel I failed to do for that little life inside of me.
I was also worried about my Mum and Dad, they’d already had to deal with a lot. I had a vague recollection of the state the house was in as I was carried out…so much blood! I knew they’d have cleaned all that up to protect Stanley from seeing it. I was also worried about the strain it had put on them, I was their daughter afterall and they’d just lost a grandchild too. Dad was also seriously ill and receiving treatment for Leukaemia…he’d been diagnosed a year ago to the day I took my ambulance ride, 5th January has not been kind to my family.
On a lighter ‘it could only happen to me note’ Ben had forgotten to bring me any shoes up, so I had to walk out of hospital wearing just his socks and Ben was sockless under his boots. The ‘Clampets’ were finally going home!
Home Sweet Home
Once back, I rested up and sleep was my friend. Flowers and cards arrived. People said kind words, and wrote lovely sentiments. A couple of close friends (you know who you are ladies) brought a mix of homemade and convenience food…enough to fill the fridge and freezer, along with cake, chocolate, candles, an adult colouring book to keep my mind busy and took Stanley out…I can’t tell you how much that still means to me!
Most people, and I don’t mean this as a criticism, moved on as if I was never really pregnant in the first place including people who I thought would be more supportive. I found that quite difficult if I’m honest, I couldn’t just sweep it under the carpet and forget it ever happened although I completely understand that it hadn’t happened to them, and that perhaps they didn’t know how to deal with me.
Ben didn’t want to talk about it really, and that was his way of dealing with it all, which I completely understand too. It did us all good to get back to some normality, I suppose. In some respects I think he had the worst deal, he had already lost his unborn child and had faced the reality of losing his wife too. I can’t imagine how scared he must have been, I was in the thick of it and can’t remember much but Ben had witnessed it all, ALONE. I will never forget that solid unwavering support from the man who became the rock we all now cling to.
He bought me a simple gift, and that said more than any upsetting conversations between us ever could. We had a cute, crazy toddler to love and look after so we muddled on together, both hurting in different ways.
There were also physical after affects for me, I was given iron tablets and had to inject myself into my tummy for a month afterwards. Writing this now, 3 years on I still don’t know what those injections were for. Which only goes to show that the whole thing left me a bit dazed and confused like I was there but at 50% opacity.
My bloods have never been right since, I often have to take iron now and I have low blood pressure which then significantly drops in pregnancy.
I hope I haven’t over shared and put you off, but I wanted to give a true account of what I went through. It wasn’t nice and it certainly wasn’t pretty. I experienced two very different levels of care within the same hospital, I can’t remember the names of anyone who ‘handled’ me apart from Liz which proves that kindness really is key to making a difference.
My friends and family members will be reading this and I’m fully aware that it might be the first time some of them will really have had the chance to understand what we went through. It felt like absolutely nobody wanted to talk about it at the time and that really hurt, but I didn’t want to upset anyone so I kept it to myself and just carried on.
The one thing I really regret is being so spaced out at the hospital that I never asked if they had determined the gender. I still feel angry with myself for that, even now. When I think of this baby though I always think of a girl but it’s hard not knowing for sure and it meant that we couldn’t give a name either.
I still had a little bump tummy for a few weeks after, not so much that anyone in the street would notice but I knew it was there and still found my hand instinctively going to it.
Pregnancy After Loss
I went on to have James, my little ray of sunshine and whirlwind of mischief. My early pregnancy was tainted with the worry that I could lose again. I was naturally wary about telling people as I didn’t want to appear ‘foolish‘ if it didn’t result in a baby yet again…which sounds completely bonkers but I felt like there’s still a level of shame and failure associated with miscarriage, nobody likes to talk about it which only makes that feel worse.
I’ve never referred to James as a ‘rainbow baby’ as has become the trend for babies born after a loss. I know people find comfort in the term, it’s a nice one afterall – a rainbow being the bright and beautiful result of the sun shining after the storm has passed – but I wanted James to just be my little Jimbob in his own right, and not be attached to my grief and hurt.
Unfortunately between having James and my current pregnancy, I lost again. This time it was a completely different experience, however having gone through it before I was no better prepared.
My wonderful Dad passed away in August 2017, after losing his long battle with Acute Myeloid Leaukaemia…believe me, he had put up one hell of a fight and I couldn’t be prouder of the strength he had shown.
I was organising arrangements with my mum, James was 6 months at the time and Stanley was now 3. I felt a bit off but to be honest, grief and stress had played their part, and I was a bit run down to say the least.
With everything that had been going on, I couldn’t remember when I’d last had my period and they were still a bit irregular after having James so I wasn’t concerned and never even gave pregnancy a thought.
While at my Mum’s one day I had to go and have a lie down, I took paracetamol because I had stomach cramps and I slept for a few hours. I woke up feeling better and fully expecting to come on my period at anytime. Sure enough, I started bleeding and that was that.
I bled heavily, but not uncontrollably for around 4 days. I put it down to a ‘nasty one’, we’ve all had them, the month that seems worse than the others and knocks you about a bit…nothing I couldn’t handle and thought it was my body getting back on track after having James. Towards the end I passed quite a few clots but again, nothing too drastic.
The following day the bleeding had all but stopped and off I went to the supermarket to do a food shop, both boys in tow (oh joy!). I did the shopping, paid and went into the café because I felt a bit faint. After a hot drink for me and a carton of juice for Stan I felt much better but had a numb feeling ‘down there’ I went into the disabled toilet, both boys (still strapped into the trolley) along with all the food came in with me…not the most hygienic I know but what choice did I have?
I sat on the toilet and prepared to change my pad but there wasn’t really any blood on the one I was wearing. I then passed something, I stood up and looked into the toilet. I was looking at a very tiny foetus. I know this sounds completely unbelievable but I knew what I was looking at it had an eye and was shaped a bit like a kidney bean with a little stringy bit comi from it, there was nothing else it could have been.
I swallowed the panic that had rose, along with the acid in my throat and got myself dressed on auto pilot. I wasn’t bleeding, apart from a few cramps and the weird numbness I wasn’t in any pain and I was in a supermarket toilet with two boys. I didn’t know what to do, so stood there staring for what seemed like an age but mus have only been a couple of minutes. James started to cry and that brought took me back to reality. I decided to take a couple of photos, and then with shaking hands, I closed my eyes and flushed the toilet. On autopilot I washed my hands, left the toilet, packed the shopping and kids into the car and drove home.
Once home I put the shopping away, put James down for a nap and made Stanley a hot chocolate. With a cuppa in hand I then googled to see how far along ‘it’ was.
And, to my shame that’s all I really did about it, I rang my GP and requested a call back from the nurse. I explained what had happened to her and offered to send her the photos but she dismissed that idea. She said it sounded like a missed miscarriage, it was nothing to worry about and quite common and that I should come in to get checked over within the next few days. I didn’t. I didn’t want to bring it all to the surface again plus I had bigger things to deal with on the horizon, namely my Dad’s funeral that was in two days time.
Obviously, if I had started bleeding or felt unwell then I would have gone straight in but after the cramps had subsided that evening, I felt fine. So I filed it in my brain under ‘deal with it later’ and, that’s where it has remained until I wrote this post.
I’m now waiting on my third boy to make an appearance and throw our lives into chaos (in a good way) once again. This will be my last pregnancy and baby, marking the end of my ‘baby making’ years. Our family will be complete.
Yet, I’m still in two minds whether to publish this post (it’s sat as a draft for a few days now, and I keep re-reading and editing bits). I still feel ashamed and guilty for losing my babies. I know that there was nothing I could do to stop it and that I did nothing wrong. But still, it niggles and the grief remains. I will never know why it happened.
I am 1 in 4.
Please share this post, it took a lot for me to write it and I want others to feel like they’re not alone if they have lost. We need to end the stigma that surrounds miscarriage and still birth. Even if they were short, these little lives mattered.
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#talkaboutit #breakthesilence #waveoflight #babyloss #miscarriage #infantloss #stillbirth #SANDS