Just a few words of caution:
- If you are pregnant or in a place where it wouldn’t serve you to hear about pregnancy loss, then perhaps read this blog another time.
- Similarly, if you have experienced this sort of loss and might find this triggering, then please feel free to pass this by until you feel you are in a place to read a story. Conversely, this might help you to feel that you are not alone if you have experienced miscarriage, or recurrent miscarriage.
- In this post I have shared specific details, including some photos, so if you feel that seeing and hearing ‘graphic’ details of a miscarriage wouldn’t be right for you, then once again, please feel free to pass this by until maybe another time.
How it began
I don’t know what it is about Sex and the City, but I find this TV series very calming and relaxing when I’m going through a hard time. Maybe because it addresses many of the big issues women deal with in life, in a very clever, silly, humorous, and somehow lighthearted way; but without downplaying the realness and importance of these experiences.
Recently, I watched 3 entire seasons. Plus one of the movies. It was needed.
Because exactly 2 weeks ago my world was rocked in a way I hoped never to experience again. Unbelievably, for a third time.
I was just about 12 weeks pregnant. My third pregnancy within about a year. After two previous miscarriages.
We were so confident this time. Things were progressing well. Beyond the first two pregnancies which ended at around 8 weeks. We’d had our first midwife appointment. We were excited. Those who knew were excited. We dared to plan for the future.
Last Wednesday, at 11 weeks and 5 days pregnant, I decided to walk to work. I was working from a very local location for the first time. It was a warm day and I walked the 15 or so minutes, wheeling my case behind me. It was a lovely walk.
The first half of the day was a regular morning, getting stuff done. Then I decided to take a lunch break and check out the local cafés and shops. I had some lunch in a little French café. I went into a little shop to try on a couple of dresses that I thought would fit well over my already growing belly, as I was quickly running out of clothes that fit me well. As I stepped into the fitting room with joyful hope for the future, I felt…something.
I tried not to freak out because I knew it may not be what I suspected it could be. But I checked and saw that I’d had a small bleed.
I’m not even sure what I felt at that moment. Panic? I calmed myself by reminding myself that bleeding during pregnancy can be perfectly normal, especially if it was obvious old blood. But maybe…
Needless to say, I left the clothes in the change room and walked straight out of that store without a word. I called my midwife who suggested it might still be ok and to try and remain positive. She told me to go home and rest, and consider if I wished to have a scan or if there was anything else I wanted to do and she would help me.
Of all the days to have walked and be without a car. I couldn’t exactly walk home (not advised with threatened miscarriage and bleeding), so I called an Uber and sat on the bench on the street while I spoke with my midwife on the phone again. I’d recently had some blood tests done, including the pregnancy hormone HCG, which would tell us if the levels were where they should be for a nearly 12 week pregnancy. We hadn’t received the results yet so my midwife said she’d call the lab and ask and get right back to me.
Moments later, she forwarded through the results and then called me back. Before she could even say anything I could see that the levels were too low for this gestation. I knew.
She tried to reassure me by saying that sometimes this can happen if we are off with our dates of conception.
But I knew. I knew our dates weren’t off.
My Uber arrived as I pondered what the hell to do now. The driver tried to make small talk with me, and even tried to ask details about why I had to rush home urgently, but thankfully the drive home was only a few minutes long. I pasted on a fake smile as I jumped out of the car.
As soon as I let myself into the house, I decided to see if I could get in for an acupuncture appointment to try and save this pregnancy if there was a chance. They couldn’t fit me in for a couple of hours, so in the meantime I laid down on the couch and considered if I should go have an ultrasound. I also knew about an acupressure point to press to stop the bleeding (I learned this last time) and so I did that. I procrastinated for a bit about doing anything further. Maybe I didn’t want to find out.
Throughout all this time I had been texting Leigh at work. I could just picture him freaking out over there and wondering what was going on. He kept asking me if I was serious. Unfortunately, I was. This was actually happening again.
On my drive to my acupuncture appointment I decided to call the imaging place and see if they could fit me in soon for an ultrasound. Seeing as it was just about 5:00pm I thought I might have to wait until the morning, but as soon as they heard that it was a threatened miscarriage, they told me to come in right away even though they were meant to be closing. With my acupuncturists being understanding that I was cancelling last minute, I literally did a u-turn on the highway and drove straight over for my ultrasound. On the way there, I pulled over so I could let my midwife know, and she faxed them a referral right there and then, and I also let Leigh know what was happening.
Jumping up on the bed, I was not looking forward to seeing the image up on the screen in front of me, but I did have a small glimmer of hope that I would see a perfectly formed baby with a strongly beating heart. That that little bleed I’d had earlier was nothing.
Well. I did see a perfectly formed baby, but there was no beating heart. I could see that straight away. I could also see that this baby was motionless and small.
The doctor explained that there was no heartbeat, and told me how very, very sorry he was, and that he would check again just to make sure.
He checked again. It was clear. He apologized again, many times, as I burst into tears.
Our baby was measuring just under 9 weeks, and the sac was measuring nearly 11 weeks, which meant it had continued to grow.
This baby had died almost 3 weeks ago and I didn’t know it.
I felt at that moment, as this lovely and empathetic doctor tried to console me (very different from my first experience in the emergency department), that I was watching someone else go through this, because surely this was NOT happening to me again. Surely not.
He left me in the room for a moment, suggesting if I needed to contact anyone that he would be happy to give me some time. He left me in the room with a huge picture of my dead baby up on the screen in front of me. I sent a couple of text messages and then he re-entered the room and suggested we could call and talk to my midwife together, which was nice. She wasn’t available to pick up the phone just then, so he handed me my report, warning me that unfortunately the medical terminology they needed to use on there was ‘missed abortion’ (such crude words, but I understood), and let me know that I could decide to wait and see if things would happen naturally on their own, or I could consider organising to have this done medically, which entail taking some medication to start the process, or having a D&C (dilation and curettage) where you are put under general anaesthetic and the contents of the uterus are removed manually. He left it with me and I went home. Home to do who knows what.
My first two miscarriages happened naturally on their own, at home. I didn’t need any intervention. The second time I didn’t even see a doctor or do anything medical. It all just happened effectively and with no complications. I was quite sure that I would wait to see how things progressed on their own.
Natural miscarriage at home
I honestly don’t remember what I did that evening. It’s hazy now. I think we were both just in disbelief. But I had no further bleeding beyond that initial little bit earlier that day, or pain, or anything else to indicate that my pregnancy was no longer progressing.
On Thursday morning, Leigh went to work early and I stayed home to rest and take care of myself after the awful news of the day before. Who knew how long, how many days or weeks, it would take before my body decided to expel this baby.
I was spending some time resting on the couch and watching TV, and then at some point I started to experience some cramping – what some people might feel as period pain. It started to get stronger and stronger. I used a hot water bottle across my pelvis for pain relief, which worked a little, but only for a while.
I realized these were contractions and I was essentially going through labour. It was going to happen today.
I knew what was coming.
Eventually I started to bleed and passed one or two large blood clots.
I decided to take some pain medication, because although I was planing for a completely natural birth experience for this baby, there was now no reason for me to suffer excessively through this sad experience.
Almost immediately my body reacted badly. At first I didn’t know if it was the pain meds or the labour, but I started to feel nauseated and break into a cold sweat. I also felt faint and thought I might pass out and started to formulate what I would do in my head – call Leigh, the midwife, an ambulance? – but almost as soon as I started to feel terribly, I vomited. The moment my body got rid of the medication, I felt fine again (except for the contracting).
I was still bleeding, still contracting.
Then all of a sudden, my water broke.
I was not expecting this. I could feel a huge pop and then a big gush of clear fluids followed. It seemed like a lot of fluid. The ‘contractions’ subsided immediately.
I was able to go lie down on the couch. I felt well enough to call Leigh and tell him what had just happened. I continued to rest.
Within a couple of hours or so, Leigh came home from work. I sent him to the store to pick up a couple of items for me and he was only gone mere moments before I felt I needed to go into the toilet to pass something.
What happened next was unbelievable.
I basically birthed my baby, along with the placenta. I was worried that I would miss it and accidentally have it drop into the toilet or flush it unknowingly, but I caught it all, into my hands. And it was kind of amazing. I examined this tiny little foetus, with tiny and delicate and perfect hands, feet, fingers, toes. I could see the eyes and other facial features, the spine was visible. Because it was no longer suspended in fluid, it was a little jelly-like creature, no longer looking as perfectly as it did on screen during my ultrasound while it was in its correct environment. Where it should have stayed and grown.
I put it into a small container, the placenta too.
Leigh came home just a few minutes later. “You won’t believe what just happened”, I said to him. I told him that I basically birthed this baby. I asked if he wanted to see it.
He previously said that he didn’t think he could. That it would be too awful. So I didn’t expect it when he immediately said yes.
I put this tiny 3 or 4cm baby into my hand and showed him. We were fascinated. Leigh said, ‘He has my eyes’. It was kind of funny and sweet and sad all at the same time. He took a few photos. It seemed important to do this.
I sent photos of the baby and placenta to my midwife as she had been monitoring me all along (and still is), mainly to ensure that there were no ‘retained products’ because this can quickly lead to infection and is very dangerous. I knew this wouldn’t be a problem. My body is very good at doing its job and removing everything naturally, quickly and efficiently.
Although this was my third miscarriage naturally at home, this was nothing like my first two, which were not only a few weeks earlier on in gestation, but I feel that those little souls had passed even earlier than that. With those two miscarriages, I don’t remember any real pain beyond light period pain, no waters breaking, no foetus to see. Just a tiny bit of placental tissue. And I didn’t have a little baby bump like I did this time. Which, interestingly, disappeared almost as soon as that bag of waters broke.
This doesn’t mean that my first two miscarriages weren’t emotionally painful. But having experienced this labouring and birthing process – albeit I know that was on a much, much, much smaller scale than a woman with a full term baby – made it a bit different. I can’t even imagine how those women who have later term losses, stillbirths, or infant deaths must feel. I don’t know how I would handle it. This was about as horrible as I thought I could feel.
The next day I had an online appointment with my natural fertility practitioner/specialist (there was no way I was managing my own case through all of this – and this person is one of the best) and he provided me with some advice, and also organised for me to see an Obgyn here in Melbourne who would squeeze me in the next day (on a Saturday!) in order to have some genetic testing of my baby (which we decided to do), and check up on me also.
We kept our little baby and placenta in a tiny jar in the fridge. Yes, that is as strange as it sounds.
We had been considering whether to have some testing or just bury it somewhere safe. When I found out that we could have testing with a small sample of tissue taken and not have to leave the whole foetus with them, we decided to do it and see if we could get some information to see why this perfectly well-looking baby died.
As it turned out, when I arrived for my appointment, with my own baby in my bag, the doctor had had to rush off to attend a birth. Perfectly understandable. The nurses weren’t so empathetic as everyone else I had been dealing with so far. They wanted me to leave ‘the products’ with them. Helllllll no. So I said I would just go home and take my baby with me. I think they thought I was some sort of deranged crazy lady. After some deliberation, and phone calls to the doctor, they agreed to take a ‘sample’. As I reached into my bag to give them my baby to cut a chunk off, I burst into tears, of course. I wasn’t expecting to, as I’m usually pretty good at keeping it together out in public or in front of people I don’t know. When I apologised (because they looked super uncomfortable) the nurse at reception actually said not to worry, it’s understandable to get upset when schedules and appointments change. Um, lady, you have no clue if you think that’s why I’m upset! I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
When I got home I was scared to look at my tiny foetus to see what was taken. I was shocked to see she had removed half of it. I was at once re-traumatised and yet at the same time consoled myself with the fact that this was a good thing and we would get some useful information from this. I’m so glad we got a few photos before this happened.
I have now returned to working after taking more than a week off. I allowed myself to sleep as much as I needed to, watch as much (aforementioned) trashy TV as needed, spend as much time at the beach as I needed, and implement whatever other self-care that I needed. I have been participating in my pregnancy loss Facebook groups and gaining a tonne of support and understanding. I have shared with some close friends and family and everyone has been super, super supportive. I’m going to whatever appointments and professionals I need and that has been helpful.
And strangely, while I needed the time off, almost all my clients rescheduled or cancelled on their own, without knowing that I needed this to be done. I didn’t have to do the work of contacting everyone and asking them to reschedule. Just one, and she was very understanding. The universe taking care of me? I don’t know. I hope so. Because I wasn’t yet in a position to understand why we were going through this again.
I know there’s a lesson in everything, but I haven’t entirely (yet) been able to understand why this happened or what my lesson is supposed to be. I know my learnings from my first two miscarriages, but it will take some time to fully understand why this needed to happen.
This experience has really pushed me to get moving on a few projects related to pregnancy loss that I had been pondering and procrastinating on for months. And I’m glad I now feel motivated to get them done and out into the world to help other people.
I am feeling hopeful again. I am a ‘do-er’, so I have to do something to look into preventing this happening a fourth time. Now that I am part of a club no one wants to be a part of – recurrent miscarriage. I have been staying in touch with and consulting with my team – my (natural) fertility specialist, my (medical) fertility specialist, my midwife, and my acupuncturists. All the best of the best. And I’ll also continue with osteopathy and massage therapy and other therapies as needed. And I have all my own knowledge, but I am allowing others to manage and take care of us in this. I’ll be working with them to ensure all the necessary precautions and supports are in place for our next pregnancy, beyond what we had in place this time. And I am confident there will be a next time.
We are still waiting on results of the genetic testing. And life goes on. It’s amazing how the world continues to turn around you when you are experiencing these hard times. It almost seems that everyone should stop what they’re doing and take notice. It’s strange to try and be normal in the world. But that is exactly what we will do. And everyone we meet will be none the wiser. This makes me think of all the women (and men) that I meet and know who have had the same experience and yet I have no idea.
I will continue to talk about this. In my regular everyday life, and also more public speaking on pregnancy loss. We need to talk about miscarriage more.
I would love to hear your story if you have experienced the loss of a baby. What helped you?
Have you experienced miscarriage? Or know someone who has? My ebook is now available. This ebook guide will provide you with a wide range of information and advice to learn how to nourish yourself with self-care and heal from his loss. Information includes what you can do to take care of yourself using food, nutrition and lifestyle; where to find support and understanding; and who you might like to reach out to to provide care for you and how to prepare for conceiving again when you feel ready. Learn what you can put in place for yourself that will be the best self-care at this time. Get it here.