Miscarriage or spontaneous abortion is the natural or spontaneous end of a pregnancy at a stage where the embryo or the fetus is incapable of surviving, generally defined in humans at a gestation of prior to 20 weeks. Miscarriages are the most common complication of pregnancy. The medical term "spontaneous abortion" is used in reference to miscarriages because the medical term "abortion" refers to any terminated pregnancy, deliberately induced or spontaneous, although in common parlance it refers specifically to active termination of pregnancy.
Does that sum it up?
One in four women experience miscarriage during their reproductive life.
Nice and cold.
So we all must know someone who has suffered this fate. Yet, no one talks about it.
If you lose a friend, parent, a living breathing person, then it’s acceptable to scream from the rooftops of your loss and pain. You are allowed to fall apart.
You are permitted to share memories of the lost loved one with everyone, without shame or fear of embarrassing anyone.
People won’t cross the road to avoid you, or not ring you. People really listen to you.
I was thirty two, a mother of two young girls. Getting pregnant was a piece of piss.
So, I was pregnant for the third time, and sailed along for weeks carefree.
On March 6th 1997 I had my three month scan.
With me was my daughter, her cousin both three years old, my mother in law, my sister in law who wanted to come in with me and see this beauty herself. A family day out.
I shall never forget how the blue sky shone for such a chilly day, because as I lay on that unforgiving bed looking up to the sky life was about to be shattered.
After some time of scrutinizing, I was asked to empty my bloating bladder, and have a vaginal scan. The odd thing was of it never registered with me anything was wrong, I was so blasé I thought maybe I was having twins.
But twenty minutes later the scan operator confirmed my baby had died, probably some weeks before. I stared at the screen seeing a perfectly still formed baby.
No words could convey emotion of such a death.
I was refused a D&C (curettage of the womb is the scraping of the lining of the uterus) for ten days. For ten days I carried my dead baby inside me, while trying to function for two young children. I prayed there had been a mistake. Prayed another scan would reveal a healthy beating heart. I carried the scan picture everywhere with me, willing it to breathe.
The D&C procedure still haunts me. Where did they put my baby? The imagery of lying there so wide and open, being violated sickens me even today.
I woke to sheets covered in blood; no one had provided a sanitary towel for me. I was alone, my body shaking uncontrollably from the shock of the anesthetic, struggling to find my feet while blood poured out all over the floor. I have never felt so alone. The raw emptiness inside reminds you your baby has gone, coupled with sheer volume of red, clotting blood compounds the reality of a miscarriage.
You cannot ignore it, or escape it.
The only saving hope was I would recover and try again. I was young. I had two beautiful children. I clung to all that was good in my life to save myself drowning.
In July I fell pregnant a fourth time. The baby died at 12 weeks. I became pregnant the following year. The baby died at eight weeks. And Boxing Day 1999, I lost my fourth baby at 10 weeks.
My fourth loss was my only natural loss. That is, my body did the job of expelling. The three previous losses had been dealt with by D&C. The pain of a natural miscarriage is the same as contractions during full blown labour. It’s not a matter of a period. It’s sheer labour knowing the end result is a dead baby.
In 2000, I was finally diagnosed with a rare blood clotting disorder known as Antiphospholipid antibodies (APA), proteins naturally produced by your body, but that mistake your cells for invaders. When APA attacks, they bind to a cell’s membrane, making it sticky. This causes improper blood flow.
1% of the female population suffer recurrent miscarriage. Of that 1%, 15% will suffer from APA.
I was starving my babies of oxygen.
I fought to get this diagnosis after heavily researching myself for over a year. I fought to see the top European leading Professor Regan who specializes in APA and recurrent miscarriages.
I fought so hard.
Her opinion was that it was an utter miracle I had not bled out during the births of my daughters, my second being born at home.
When we got the go ahead to conceive it was with fresh hope. But twelve months later I was not pregnant.
More tests. More invasions. Nothing wrong with me, I was told.
So another year passed.
Still no pregnancy.
I was offered IVF. At this point I knew deep in my heart enough was enough. With the risk of treatment, injecting a blood thinner called heparin (10,000 units subcutaneously every 12 hours), combined with facing another loss was too much.
Six years of my life, my children’s and my husband. The all consuming desire to what?
Keep hurting? Treading on egg shells every month, making love to make a baby, waiting, hoping, only to be crushed with negative tests every month.
The fear of repeated loss, the fear of hemorrhaging on treatment, what sort of life was that?
When does one say enough is enough? When the quality of life has become so poor. Believe me, trying to conceive can become an obsession, to the exclusion of everything else.
You no longer breathe life, you breathe babies.
I have not even covered the pain of every female you know getting pregnant effortlessly and producing bouncy babies every 18 months, and having to smile while you wanted to fold and hide from the world.
Or even the emotions of feeling a failure as a woman, unable to do what it is you should be able to do. The loss of your sex drive. Feeling your body is useless, just as much as you are.
Or even the fact you feel you’re being punished by God for some wrong you committed thousands of years ago.
After surviving a pretty horrendous childhood, I honestly believed God and I had struck some sort of bargain, and that any price of pain had more than been paid. I came to believe I was exempt from any tragedy to befall my life. It was a double blow.
Lastly, the comments well wishers force upon you.
“Maybe you just can’t carry boys?” (best friend)
“Oh well, think of it as a bunch of cells” (my sister)
“Well at least we know the fault doesn’t lie with my son” (Mother in law)
“Give it four weeks, and try again” (doctor)
“Well, at least you never had to go through the pain of a natural miscarriage like me, you never forget that pain!”(Mother in law)
“It’s like tossing a coin, sometimes you land on heads more than tails” (a consultant)
Its spills into every area of your life. Everything becomes tainted. Unreal. You live on dreams, and hope. You struggle to escape anniversaries of your loss, or upcoming birthdays.
Yes, my first lost baby would be ten this year. Ten years old.
But ten years on, I celebrate the woman I am. I have survived the loss of four precious babies. By helping hundreds of women who were as lost as me, who have gone on to have healthy babies, who have been loved, supported and believed in. I truly believe that’s half the battle.
Having someone believe in you.
My lost ones may not run across fields, or swim in oceans, but if you look up into the clear blue sky, they run across heaven, pure, untainted and at peace, watching over me until I get there.
Thank you for reading.