pregnancy

'I lost my baby in the cruellest way. I feel like I'm not allowed to talk about it.'

This post deals with miscarriage and might be triggering for some readers. It contains descriptions some readers may find disturbing.

I gave birth to my dead baby – and nobody’s talking about it. 

I thought it was a stomach bug. 

Six months ago we all had a stomach bug, and I thought it was coming back to haunt me. 

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I couldn’t believe that I could have two in the space of six months, considering before then I had never had one. But I braced myself for the pain, and went to bed hoping to get a bit of sleep before the first vomit.

I was a little concerned about the baby, because I had read that having a high temperature didn’t bode well and could put it at risk. But honestly, I was just focused on getting through the next 24 hours. 

I got up at 1am because my body ached all over and I couldn’t get comfortable. I decided to run a bath. 

Tired of the bath after 15 minutes, I got out, dried myself off, and threw up. I was still thinking about the baby, and wondering if my raised temperature was hurting it in any way. 

My husband, Bryan, got up and asked if he could do anything, but I said that I needed to get a bit more sleep before the next vomit.

I got a metal bowl from the kitchen and laid down on his side of the bed so that I could reach it easily. Then I drifted back to sleep, despite the feeling in my gut. 

At 4am, my waters broke. 

Initially, I thought that I had lost control of my bladder because I wasn’t in a good state. But I very quickly realised that what was coming out of me wasn’t urine. 

My husband jumped up and saw the expanding puddle on the floor. 

“We’re going to the hospital. I’ll get the kids up.”

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We called the midwife, and she said that there’s nothing the hospital can do, we would just need to book a scan the next day and see what’s going on. I couldn’t wait that long, but it sounded like I didn’t have a choice. 

Then I did, because the bleeding and the pain started. 

I needed help right then and there. I didn’t need to wait until we got to a hospital, I needed somebody to come and help me right now. 

I got back into the bath to ease the pain and panic set in. My husband called the ambulance, and based on what he described they told him that we were way down on the priority list. But I needed to be at the top.

I had to make a choice. Sit in a bath that dulled the pain and wait for the ambulance to get there, or get in a car and travel more than 20 minutes to the hospital. 

My husband and mother (she had come over to take care of the kids) finally convinced me to get in the car. 

At the hospital, I was holding on to hope – or in denial. 

Drips entered my arm, blood exited. One nurse told me that the water could have been urine, but I knew better deep down.

We were taken up to Women’s Assessment, where we waited anxiously for more answers. Bryan took the opportunity to go down and move the car and get a coffee. Then the orderly came in to take me to the scan. 

“Can I wait for my husband?”

“We’re already 15 minutes late for it.”

I was wheeled out of our room to the scan, and placed against a wall in the hall while they got it ready. My eyes fixated on the linen trolley and the green wheel that sat askew. 

Even up until that moment, I still had hope. I still thought that it would probably be okay. 

Bryan rushed up at the last minute as I was being helped onto the bed, and sat in the seat beside me. The orderly thought that the screen on the wall was on – it wasn’t – and he asked us if we were okay to see it. We said yes. 

Out of the corner of my eye I could see the screen he was looking at. Before he even said anything, I knew what hope I had left was now gone. 

“I’m sorry.”

I was wheeled back into our hospital room, and visited by a flurry of medical professionals – some nurses, some doctors – who all came to say the same thing. It was a statistics thing. It was common. It was nothing that I did wrong. It was nothing that we did wrong. We could try again soon. 

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“Whenever you’re ready, you can start the process of expelling the product.”

The product? That’s my baby. 

“It’ll be a pill today that we’ll have ready for you within the next hour, and then you’ll come back in tomorrow for two more pills that will accelerate the process.”

I took the pill, then went home. We slowly made our way to the car, then slowly made our way out of the confusing hospital parking lot. 

We bought sushi and juice on the way home, filled the car up with petrol, exchanged superficial conversation. 

When we got home, our midwife was waiting for us on the doorstep. 

“How are you feeling?”

She explained to us that we needed to be prepared for it to happen at home. The hospital hadn’t thought to tell us that – we were expecting to go back in the next day and have everything happen there. 

She told me to rest up and to go back to the hospital if the bleeding got worse. 

I was lying down in bed, trying to keep the pain at bay. 

The morphine had me constipated, and the bleeding had me changing my pad every couple of hours. Suddenly, I felt a rush of movement, and an urge to go to the toilet. I heard the splash, and called out to Bryan. 

I was paralysed by its tiny arms, its legs, its miniscule fingers and toes. I resisted the urge to look for and see the gender. I already have two girls, so knowing that it might have been a boy would have killed me. 

We placed it carefully in a shoe box, and then turned our focus to the blood hosing down my legs. Back to the hospital. 

We agreed to let them take the baby away for testing, so that we could know whether it was chromosomal, or something else. Honestly, though, it didn’t matter. Where there once had been a baby, there was now a giant, gaping hole. 

Bryan took the rest of the week off, and we took it slow. 

We went for walks every morning, had big naps in the middle of the day, had the placenta fall out in the middle of the local supermarket. 

We questioned the amount of bleeding, wondering whether we had to go back to the hospital or not. We told the kids, who struggled to understand. 

We distracted ourselves with movies and early nights and home-cooked dinners. Friends came and dropped off dinner, brownies, flowers. 

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They said that they were sorry, that they wanted to know what they could do. Mum did the school and kindy runs. 

And then Bryan went back to work. 

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The text messages and emails stopped coming through, and suddenly I was expected to be over it. 

The kids needed taking care of, the lunches needed making, dinner needed cooking. The dishes needed doing, the washing needed folding. The dog needed walking. And all I had was a hole.

I was expected to smile in public, chat with the mums at kindy and school like nothing had happened, go to the supermarket and pay for my groceries, fill up the car with petrol. 

I was expected to carry on as normal, like we would wait for a bit and then try again. All in a days’ work.

As the days and weeks went by, I slowly started talking about it.

To friends, family. I slowly started opening up about the moments that hurt the most, the ones that were hopeful, and then the moments that were just frustrating. 

And what I came to realise is that almost everyone I talked to had been through it as well. 

Some had a miscarriage first, and then children. Some had one in between. Others had two children, three children, then miscarried – twice. But unless it’s acute, and you’re in the throes of it, nobody talks about it. 

Nobody talks about the pain, the hole ripped open wide that is almost impossible to stitch back together again.

Nobody is talking about the road to recovery, the expectation around grieving and feeling sad and lost and isolated. Life goes on, and our babies get left behind in a painful, hopeless memory. 

And still, we don’t talk about it.

You can find Rachel Sikkema on Linkedin.

If this has raised any issues for you or if you would like to speak with someone, please contact the Sands Australia 24-hour support line on 1300 072 637. 

You can download Never Forgotten: Stories of love, loss and healing after miscarriage, stillbirth, and neonatal death for free here.

Join the community of women, men and families who have lost a child in our private Facebook group.

Feature Image: Getty.