When I established Tall Mum In Manchester I wanted to be honest about my miscarriages. I’m not looking for sympathy. I simply want to tell our story and hope that it will encourage others to talk more openly about miscarriage. But, being open on the internet also means telling people much closer to us – and that seems so much harder.
I wrote the first draft of this post 13 weeks ago. It’s taken me all this time to build up the courage to share it but, with Pea’s due date imminent, it’s now or never.
At 23 weeks pregnant I feel pretty relaxed about my pregnancy (until I think about labour and breastfeeding – but those things still seem way off in to the future), so this morning’s tears caught me totally off guard.
I didn’t give the anniversary of my first miscarriage more than a passing thought; I’m pregnant now, things are going well and I have everything to look forward to. But today, for some reason, I found myself reading through text messages I sent to my friend last year. Conversations we had the first time I found out I was pregnant.
So, with those emotions fuelling my writing, here goes.
Trying to conceive
I’ve always wanted children but we weren’t in a rush to have a baby. There were other adventures to be had and it felt like time was on our side.
In 2014 we decided that our 1000 mile cycle through Italy would be our last duo adventure and we would start trying for a baby on our return.
It must have taken my body a little while to get back to normal after all the training and 2 weeks continuous cycling. I’ve heard that lots of exercise can mess with your menstrual cycle and when we got back my period was late. I convinced myself to wait a full 7 days before taking a pregnancy test and planned to buy one on the way home from work that Monday evening. My period made an appearance at lunchtime. I wasn’t pregnant. I hadn’t expected to get pregnant straight away, but my body’s little trick left me feeling disappointed and a little sad.
It was only when we started trying for a baby that I had any sense of my biological clock. Every month that passed I got more frustrated that we were becoming older parents despite knowing that it could easily take a year or more to conceive.
I started to resent secondary school sex education. Whilst I understand that it is possible to get pregnant after having sex only once, and that you can, in theory, get pregnant from having sex at any time, that advice expires once you’re ready to have a baby. We are told so often how easy it is to get pregnant that no-one prepares you for the possibility that it could take a lot longer.
Finally falling pregnant
After 8 months, and just as we were contemplating lying to the doctor about how long we’d been trying, my period was late again. I remember feeling extremely tired and having an afternoon nap. Still trying to be patient, we ordered a pregnancy test from Amazon. I took it the day it arrived. It was negative but I didn’t believe it.
Anyone who’s taken a pregnancy test will know that you are supposed to wait a few days after a negative test before taking another one. This allows your hCG levels to increase if you are pregnant or your period to make an appearance if you’re not.
So, we waited a few more days before I took the test again.
This time it showed positive almost straight away. Hubby and I were over the moon. We’d finally got there; we would be having a baby in October 2015.
Several of my closest girl friends announced their pregnancies around that time, or they were just about to give birth. I was excited to be going through it with them.
Things started smoothly. I didn’t experience any symptoms other than tiredness and life carried on pretty much as normal. I continued to run, I played netball and even went skiing for a week.
My mum would tell you that I never sounded like I truly believed in my first pregnancy. From my point of view I just wanted to get to my 12 week scan. I knew there was a possibility of miscarriage, that as many as 1 in 4 pregnancies end this way. It’s something too many friends have had to experience.
One Friday, 10 weeks in to the pregnancy I had period pains and started spotting. I had read that spotting was common in early pregnancy and it wasn’t heavy so I tried to ignore it during the day. By the evening it started to get heavier, but still nothing like the beginning of my period. I decided to call the emergency gynaecology unit for some advice. They told me not to worry but to get back in touch if the pain or the bleeding got worse. So I spent the weekend worrying and still spotting but not in any more pain. By Sunday tea time, just as hubby was cooking a roast dinner, the bleeding worsened and I knew I needed to go to hospital.
The nurse who examined me reassured me that my cervix was closed, which meant I wasn’t actively miscarrying. She debated keeping me in overnight for monitoring but eventually agreed that I could go home provided I went back if things changed. I was booked in for a scan the following day. I passed 3 big clots of blood that night but the bleeding didn’t get any heavier and I still wasn’t in any pain. I tried to stay optimistic and somehow managed to sleep.
The following morning we went for a scan. We had to sit in the waiting room with lots of pregnant ladies who were excitedly waiting for their 12 and 20 week scans, all the time hoping that we would come away just as happy.
As I was supposed to be over 10 weeks pregnant I had an external scan first. I remember the sonographer telling me off for only having a half full bladder before reporting that she couldn’t see signs of a 10 week pregnancy. I had to have an internal scan to work out what was going on, which revealed that I’d had a complete miscarriage. The baby had gone and there was no way of dating the pregnancy or telling when it had happened. I realised that those blood clots were what was left of our baby.
The sonographer showed us to a quiet room in the ultrasound suite and hubby and I just sat holding each other and crying while we waited to speak to a nurse.
By the time we got home I wanted everyone who knew about the pregnancy to be told what had happened straight away. I needed to get it over with. I couldn’t bear the thought of them thinking I was still pregnant. Luckily hubby took care of that.
Over the next few weeks I had regular blood tests to rule out ectopic pregnancy (because the scan hadn’t shown any traces of the baby in my uterus) and to make sure my hCG levels returned to normal. I had some very light bleeding for a few days and that was it. The pregnancy was over. I kept thinking about how much time we’d lost.
We did our best to stay positive and focus on the future. We’d been told that there was no reason to wait before trying to get pregnant again and the nurses reassured us that getting pregnant in the first place was a good sign because it suggested that we didn’t have fertility problems. I clung to that for as long as I could.
The niggles and doubts crept back in again during the 4 months it took us to conceive again. I used an ovulation tracker but we tried not put too much pressure on ourselves.
When the next pregnancy test showed positive we were both optimistic. We had a lovely weekend in Paris thinking it would be one of our last trips just the two of us.
A second miscarriage
Just over 2 weeks after the positive pregnancy test, I started spotting. I remember the feeling of dread that came over me. I couldn’t believe it was happening again. We didn’t bother to call the hospital, we just got straight in the car. I had a scan, which showed a yolk sac and pregnancy sac but no baby.
They put me at about 5-6 weeks pregnant, which didn’t fit with my dates (I thought I was just over 7) but was apparently inconclusive. They could see signs of bleeding in my uterus but I hadn’t actually miscarried.
We had to have another scan 10 days later to get a clearer idea of what was going on. By the time it came round there was nothing left.
My body has been extremely good at getting rid of untenable pregnancies and I know I’ve been lucky not to experience any severe bleeding, any pain, nor to have had to undergo any medical procedures. But there we were, 15 months in to trying to have a baby with 2 miscarriages behind us and nothing to show for it.
Finding a way to take control
Our first baby would have been due a month after my second miscarriage. Pregnancy and birth announcements were popping up on Facebook and my friends started to have their babies. Happy as I was for each of them, each post was a reminder that our own attempts were not going well.
Facebook is one of the worst places to be when you are having difficulty getting pregnant. I don’t resent other mums for sharing their happy family times but a constant stream of baby pictures when it’s the one thing you want and the hardest thing to get is like being punched in the stomach repeatedly.
After miscarriage number 2 I felt like I needed to take some control of the situation. I’ve never been good at letting problems work themselves out. Hubby and I were both taking preconception vitamins, I threw out all my sports water bottles and replaced them with BPA free ones (some studies have linked BPA to miscarriage), I carried on drinking decaf tea and I cut down my alcohol consumption to almost nothing. Hubby also cut back his caffeine and alcohol consumption. We decided not to book any more trips abroad in case flying in the early stages of pregnancy had been a contributing factor. I had no idea whether any of these things would make the slightest bit of difference but I needed to be doing something.
We were told that I could attend for early pregnancy monitoring in our next pregnancy. Research has shown that it can reduce the chances of things going wrong although the reasons why are unknown. I’m so glad I asked if there was anything we could do differently as this information wasn’t volunteered but it reassured us both.
As it happened my body had decided that it was ready to have a baby. I had one period before falling pregnant again.
A better start
A few days after the positive pregnancy test I visited the early pregnancy unit and a blood test confirmed that my hCG levels were high enough to warrant a scan, which was booked in 2 days later.
The scan showed a yolk sac and pregnancy sac but no baby. All too familiar, and not that reassuring after my second ultrasound experience but at least this time things were as expected for my stage of pregnancy – just shy of 6 weeks. We were booked for another scan at 8 weeks to see how things were going; the 23 December was going to make or break our Christmas.
This time round I felt grotty pretty much straight away. I knew something was different. By the time of the scan I was fairly convinced this baby was going to work, but past experience stopped me from getting my hopes up. Sure enough, 2 days before Christmas we saw Pea 3’s heartbeat for the first time. Things were going well.
I didn’t have my dating scan until 13 weeks and those first weeks were the longest weeks ever. Fortunately we had Christmas to take our minds off it a bit, and my hormones were doing everything to make this pregnancy known. We both started to feel more confident.
By the time we had our first proper, external scan I would have been surprised if anything had been wrong, but there was still that niggling doubt until our baby came in to view on the screen and the sonographer confirmed that everything was OK.
Talking about our experience still makes me cry. Somehow it’s easier to write it all down. I was lucky to have friends who shared their own stories with me. I knew they understood what I was going through and seeing them give birth to healthy babies kept my hopes alive that I would one day be able to do the same.
If you have been affected by miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or molar pregnancy, support is available from The Miscarriage Association.