From the moment I saw those two faint lines show up on a stick soaked in wee the planning began. How would I decorate the nursery? What names did we like? What would our baby look like? What would be our due date? Of course a sense of anxiety was there as well – working as a midwife I know first hand how pregnancy and birth can go wrong.
But as we approached five weeks the nausea and fatigue began and my fears began to subside, feeling reassured in the symptoms of a healthy pregnancy.
My husband and I eagerly counted down the weeks and days until we could have our first scan, and share our news with the friends and family we hadn’t already told. He couldn’t stop annoying me as we sat in the waiting room, his excitement and pure joy was palpable, if not mildly irritating.
So what came next needless to say was the shock of our lives.
As I lay down and the doctor put the probe on my belly, we waited with bated breath, waiting to hear confirmation of a baby we were certain we had been blessed with.
But the words that came next brought us crashing back down to a horrible reality: “I can see your baby, but I’m sorry there is no heartbeat.” The tears immediately began flowing. But how can that be? I’m feeling all the right things, I’m a fit and healthy 27-year-old, I’ve had no pain or bleeding, surely there has been a mistake. Millions of questions came to mind but all I could think of was get me away from here as fast as possible.
We left that Friday afternoon devastated to say the least. Desperately I inspected all the ultrasound pictures, Googling all the information and measurements I interpreted and clutching at straws that somehow they had got it wrong. Desperately hanging onto hopes until I could see my doctor on Monday and have our questions answered.
At my next visit, it turned out they had called it too early and there was still a chance that perhaps the dates were wrong and it had been too early to see a heartbeat. So a follow-up scan was needed in a week’s time.
God, what an emotional rollercoaster. Of course I got my hopes up again. “Yes, that’s it!” I thought. “They have definitely got it wrong, this cant be happening to us, I know my baby is happy and healthy and growing just fine.”
How delusional I was. We turned up again at the same dreaded place where our hopes had been crushed the week before. Hoping and praying that this time we would be leaving victorious.
But again as I waited anxiously she confirmed what we did not want to hear. “It looks like your baby is even smaller now, I’m sorry.”
This time I held in the tears, determined not to cry. Pretending I hadn’t been crushed for the second time in a week.
I held it in so well until my husband dropped me home and left for work and they came flowing. And kept flowing. He happened to forget something so he came back into our room a few minutes later and found me sobbing on the bed. Holding me and saying all the right things that people say but both finding no comfort in the loss of a future we had envisioned for the last two months. For the baby we had already shortlisted names for. It was a girl, we were convinced.
Then it was just a wait and see. Wait and see when this little, much wanted life would start to leave my body.
But just as my heart was holding onto this baby, so was my body.
Two horrible weeks after that first scan and almost two months after first discovering we were pregnant, I called time on the waiting game and presented to the hospital for medical management.
Taking the tablets I waited for the pain and bleeding to start. It was four o’clock in the morning when I knew it was happening. I felt the little life leave me and I felt nothing. Numb and strangely removed from the whole scenario.
We left the hospital that day leaving behind the pregnancy and baby we so badly wanted. I wondered where it was now. And felt sick of the thought of a stranger carelessly inspecting it and then no doubt disposing of it. Something I unfortunately knew all too well in my field of work.
A couple of days later and the tears are flowing again. All part of the process, I’m told. Something I myself have told women I have cared for. How strange it is to be on the other side as midwives who cared for me reiterated the things I already knew. How grateful I am though for their support. It reminded me of what an incredible role we have in women’s lives during this extremely vulnerable time, and gave me a new sense of empathy I could not have known before.
There are moments throughout my career that have truly touched me and left an imprint on me that I will never forget. It surprises me to realise these moments are generally ones of total grief and despair.
A woman labouring stoically, all the while knowing that their baby had a condition meaning they would not survive even days in this world. The baby that had an undetected syndrome in utero meaning her parents lives would be changed forever; and not in a way that they had imagined. Or the seemingly healthy baby that endured unforeseeable birth traumra, with very poor outcomes expected.
But what about all the early pregnancy losses I have witnessed as well. All those times women are waiting in the emergency department to be seen by a midwife and have their fears either relieved or confirmed. Whilst I always felt sad for these women and occasionally shed a tear with them, I’ll admit it was fleeting in the scheme of all the other heartbreaking outcomes we are partial to as midwives.
LISTEN: Libby Trickett on miscarriage. (Post continues below...)
Now knowing first hand this kind of loss, I will not be so quick to move on from these, sadly, all too common experiences.
My husband has been nothing short of amazing. One positive to take out of this is a renewed sense of closeness in our relationship and certainly an appreciation for him. I could not have gotten through the whole experience without his unwavering support.
As we shared our loss, our friends shared theirs too. We take comfort in being able to relate to those who have been through the same thing. In fact one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage. Devastatingly high odds.
So why don’t we talk about it more? Why is it seen as taboo to share early pregnancy news? Because of this high chance of it ending before it has really begun? So what. The support from our family and friends at this incredibly sad time has been what has helped us through.
That’s what expectant parents need, no matter what the outcome.
If you need support or information about miscarriage and early pregnancy loss, Mamamia urges you to call Sands - Australia's miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death charity - on 1300 072 637.