This story does not have a happy ending.
It has a happy beginning. In February I discovered I was 5 weeks pregnant. Relief mixed with excitement mixed with terror. We’d been beginning to wonder if it would ever happen for us and now it had.
I’d always thought that if I ever got pregnant I wouldn’t worry about the 12 weeks rule and I’d just tell everyone. But now being in the situation it just felt so precarious. I felt vulnerable. So I kept quiet, except for a select few people on a need to know basis, plus family.
Oh it was such fun to tell my parents. A skype call home and a casual, ‘hey dad, what are you doing on such and such a date?’
‘I don’t know’, he replied, ‘Having dinner with you?’ was his guess.
‘No’, I said, ‘you’re becoming a grandpa’.
Cue shouts of joy, tears and a moment where my mother thought she might have terribly misinterpreted the situation and was the excitement because I was getting a dog? (She was shaking as she asked this, having got so worked up about a baby and then worrying she’d got it wrong)
I grew up around medicine so I knew all the risks and the rules. I knew there was a high chance of miscarriage, so we were cautiously optimistic. But, I kept telling myself, there’s a higher chance of everything working out just fine.
On the weeks marched and how excited we were. The fatigue hit me from out of nowhere and I was unbelievably exhausted. I could barely make it through a working day. I stopped my evening runs and my weekend cycles. Evenings were for sleep. Weekends were for sleep.
I didn’t suffer any terrible nausea, just a persistent feeling of being a little bit ‘off’ and some funny food preferences. I treated myself to lots of chocolate.
And so the weeks ticked by. 6, 7, 8, 9. I had scan appointments coming up, we started lining up nights out with friends looking forwards to sharing the good news. I had my pregnancy app that told me each day how the baby was developing. Heart, fingers, brain, lungs.
Easter weekend we spent out of town with Andrew’s family. As Easter Sunday rolled around (10 weeks! Congratulations, my app told me, your little embryo has just become a foetus) and the family got ready to sit down for lunch I ran to the loo again (typical) and noticed just a little bit of spotting. Don’t panic. It might be fine.
I sat through lunch a little bit subdued, listening to innuendos about eating for two and starting to panic. Afterwards I told my husband, had a little cry and lay down for a nap. Something was wrong. I just knew.
The next day nothing had changed, except the spotting was looking fresher in colour. This was not good. We had a relaxed morning and ate a late breakfast. After breakfast I went to the loo again and the spotting was gone, replaced by bright red fresh blood.
I started to cry again. My sister-in-law gave me a hug and told us both firmly to just go to the hospital and get checked out. It might be fine. You don’t know.
So we went and spent April Fools Day in the waiting room of A&E.
A urine test revealed that yes, I was still pregnant. But a scan told a different story.
‘There’s nothing here that looks like a 10-week pregnancy’. It was a missed miscarriage. Yes, I’d become pregnant and the embryo had implanted. But shortly after it had died. I’d probably never made it past 6 weeks. My body, my foolish body, had continued to believe it was pregnant. It had dosed me full of hormones. It had grown a placenta in preparation for the imaginary baby. But it wasn’t real. There was no heartbeat, or fingers, or brain, or lungs. There was just a dead embryo in an empty pregnancy sac.
I’d been expecting bad news, but I hadn’t been expecting this. (We’d walked over to the scan unit with another couple in a similar situation. ‘Are you feeling positive?’ she’d asked me. ‘No’, I said.)
They made me an appointment to come back in a week and have a follow up scan, and then a minor procedure to clear out the pregnancy.
We went home exhausted and numb. I couldn’t eat. I managed to choke down an apple for dinner but that was it. I decided I wasn’t going into work the next day, I needed some time to come to terms with it all. I started the process of telling people that I wasn’t pregnant any more.
My phone buzzed constantly with messages of condolence and offers to chat. But I didn’t feel like chatting. I didn’t want to be bothered. I could barely summon the energy to reply to texts. I just wanted to lie in bed and cry.
And so, lying in bed and crying the next day my boss phoned for a catch up.
Boss: Hi, how are you?
Me: Fine, how are you?
Boss: Are you in the office?
Boss: Oh, aren’t you working today?
Me: I was supposed to, but I was in the hospital yesterday so I’m not going in today.
Boss: Oh no, are you okay? What’s wrong?!
Me: I was pregnant but I’ve miscarried (starts to cry)
Boss: I’m so sorry. Please don’t worry about work. Take more than just one day off. Don’t come in the rest of the week. The office will survive. There’s nothing you need to worry about. Okay?
My boss is a very, very nice man with a good set of priorities.
And so I lie there weeping a bit more. The theme of my thoughts – It wasn’t real. There was never a real baby. Somehow my husband finds this comforting, that it’s just a collection of cells that never got anywhere. I find this worse. I feel like a fraud. Like I wasn’t really pregnant. Was all that tiredness real? Was I really that irritable? Did I actually HAVE to have that cheese & onion sandwich? Or did I imagine it all? And now I’m riding that hormone train in reverse as they slowly subside.
So here I am with a fat ass and nothing to show for it.
Anyway, life goes on and we had theatre tickets for tonight. In an effort to cheer ourselves up we decide to press on. At 3pm I drag myself out of bed and have a sit down shower. I still can’t eat anything much but I manage a pear. And shortly after 5pm I meet my husband around Waterloo. We slowly cross the bridge and try to choose somewhere for dinner. I honestly don’t care. I don’t feel like eating anything so I tell him to pick anywhere he likes.
The bleeding has picked up and it now feels like a proper period. I take some ibuprofen.
We go into pizza express and I manage to choose something to eat. Some olives arrive and I manage one. Then a tomato and mozzarella salad. I’m so tired I can’t even cope with cutting it into pieces. I ask my husband for help, who patiently indulges me and cuts a piece of cheese and a slice of tomato into finger sized pieces, which I slowly get down.
I don’t feel well so I go to the bathroom. I’m alarmed to see that I’m bleeding quite heavily – a steady stream like when someone has left the tap on just a little. The cramps are getting steadily stronger too.
I go back to the table, sit there for 2 minutes and feel worse. Back to the bathroom. I tell my husband I’m taking my phone because I might be a while. It’s all worse. A big gush of blood comes out and the cramps are becoming nearly unbearable. I feel a pain episode coming on.
I text my husband that I think we might not make the theatre.
I try to work through it, calming my breathing and telling myself not to panic. It’s no good. I start to hyperventilate and the pins and needles take over my arms and face. It occurs to me that this is not a good situation. This is not regular period pain. I am bleeding too much too quickly. I am in too much pain. So I text again: Too much blood and pain. Ambulance please.
Reply from my husband: Oh shit.
And then I’m on the floor, panting and groaning. Trying to find a comfortable position. Not particularly caring that it’s filthy, that I’m filthy. My body is turning numb. My husband comes crashing through calling out my name. I manage to unlock the door and he jams his foot in to keep it open. He tries to roll me on my side; I refuse. He tries to rub my back; I shout NO. He tries to give me water; I tell him to fuck off.
Eventually the paramedics arrive, and right on cue I start to throw up. Funny because I’ve barely eaten anything since breakfast 36 hours ago. But there it is – that April Fools breakfast, barely digested.
They manage to get me up the stairs and wheel me across a busy street into the waiting ambulance. They are calm and nice but I don’t particularly care. I feel slightly better, perhaps as a result of the ibuprofen kicking in. They offer me nitrous oxide. I say no. Then they offer again and I say yes.
It’s actually quite nice. It calms me down and makes me focus on my breathing. And then, we arrive at the hospital. I’m wheeled in and quickly transferred to an A&E bed, in a little curtained off room.
They set me up on a drip and give me some painkillers and some fluids. I almost instantly start to feel better and I calm down a lot.
Andrew updates my parents. (I had told him not to, earlier in the ambulance, not wanting to worry anyone). I think he calls my mom at one point and she cries.
Everybody is very attentive, but nobody seems particularly concerned about my bleeding. They haven’t asked me about it and I haven’t said anything. Maybe I should have? I get these strange gushing sensations and I start to wonder if I’m wetting myself, or if it’s related to the drip somehow. I lift up the blanket and see that blood has soaked through my jeans and I’m lying on a bloody patch of bed. At one point I’m asked to give a urine sample so I get up to do so. When I sit on the toilet a huge burst of blood gushes out. It’s such a strange sensation.
Eventually the doc comes around and asks me how many pads I’ve soaked through. I don’t know. I haven’t been given any pads. I’m just lying here bleeding on myself. I’ve bled through my jeans, I’m bleeding on the bed. He sends a nurse in to give me pads and to change the bedding. Another nurse comes by a bit later to ask if I’m still bleeding. Yes, I tell him, great big gushes of it.
They are waiting for someone from gynae to come see me before they decide if I need to be admitted. The doc comes by again. Gynae are in surgery, so he’ll have to look at me himself.
He is surprised to see how much I’m still bleeding. He can’t get a clear look at my cervix since so much blood and enormous blood clots are coming out.
Something about this physical exam triggers a lot more pain. Suddenly I’m back to ground zero, in huge amounts of distress. Groaning and shaking and hyperventilating. I keep hitting myself on my head. My husband tries to stop me but I need something to focus on other than pain and it’s the only thing in my armoury.
No more messing around. They are getting me morphine and I’m being admitted.
My husband is told I’ll be spending the night. He calls my mother to tell her, who starts to cry again.
The morphine is instantaneous. It goes straight to the brain and I calm down immediately. But it doesn’t last long enough and by the time they’re wheeling me to the ward I’m in pain again.
I hit my lowest point in the ward. It’s dark, there’s nobody around and we’re waiting for a doctor. I don’t think I’m hyperventilating any more but my entire body has pins and needles. My face, my legs, my arms, my chest. My stomach starts cramping as well and the pain is intense. I can’t lift my arms.
My husband is begging for more pain meds for me but they don’t yet have the full A&E records so they can’t administer anything until they know exactly what and when I’ve been given stuff.
The doc arrives. She tells me she needs to do another exam, and that it won’t hurt me any more than I’m already hurting. This isn’t true. She uses a speculum to crank open my cervix, which is a whole new type of pain, and a pair of tongs to fish around inside my womb. I don’t last very long before I tell her to stop, to take it out. She does, and then very calmly explains to me that something is stuck in my cervix. It’s dilating it, and my body is trying to ‘birth’ it out but it can’t. This is why I’m bleeding so much and why I’m in pain. She wants to try to pull it out, but I need to let her have another try. If she leaves it there I’ll be in pain all night.
Okay, try again. This time I’m ready for the pain and I manage to stay relaxed. After a minute or two I hear a quiet ‘got it’ and she pulls out an enormous lump of mangled tissue.
The pain relief is as instantaneous as the morphine hit.
My bleeding also slows down immediately.
This mangled thing that she pulls out is sent off for testing. It’s not recognizable as anything but it’s all been squished together. It’s large – about an inch and a half in diameter and 3 inches long. I’m guessing it’s the entire pregnancy sac.
By this time it’s nearly 1:30am. My husband finally, exhausted, goes home to grab a few hours sleep.
I’m kept in the ward and fed another drip. I’m told ‘nil by mouth’ in case I need an operation in the morning. Every hour or so I’m woken to have my blood pressure taken. At one point I’m swabbed for MRSA – nostrils, throat and genitals.
In the morning I’m taken in for another scan. It seems I’m through the worst of it. There’s still some tissue and blood to pass, but nothing more major. I can be discharged.
Eventually, a few hours later I go home. I shower, I sleep. When I wake up later that day I feel a bit better. I tell my husband that it’s like the sad has been knocked out of me. Having something to focus on, this big, bloody, painful episode, has helped with the grieving. I’m still sad but I’m not quite as heartbroken anymore.
It was something real. It was a real pregnancy and it ended in real style.
We re-book tickets for the show we missed, paying a stupid amount to get the last few seats left in April. We want to get back to normal and this is part of it.
I’m tired, and I’m subdued. I’m re-setting my expectations for the next few months. The pressure’s off our home renovation plans. The pressure’s back on an 80 mile cycle race I was expecting to gracefully bow out from. I cancel all my pregnancy appointments. No, I don’t need to reschedule thanks.
And life goes on.