real life

'I had a missed miscarriage. Here are 5 things I wish I'd known.'

This post discusses miscarriage and pregnancy loss, and may be triggering for some readers. 

On some level, I 'knew' the risks that came with early pregnancy. I 'knew' why the 12-week wait was a societal norm, and I 'knew' women close to me who had suffered an early pregnancy loss. 

In reality, though, I knew nothing.

At least, nothing that would be of any help to me when I became one of the 'one in four women' who suffer an early pregnancy loss.

And when it came to the topic of a 'missed miscarriage', I had absolutely no idea that there was such a thing; not until it became my reality.

Watch: The comments women receive after a miscarriage. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

"I can’t see a heartbeat."

No amount of rational thinking or emotional numbing can prepare you for when the worst-case scenario actually happens. 

But we had heard the heartbeat - less than a week ago, and another two weeks before that.

We had actually seen it fluttering on the screen.

But I’ve had no other symptoms.

"...Are you sure?"

I did not know that roughly three per cent of miscarriages are considered a 'missed miscarriage' or a 'silent miscarriage' – meaning that the mother does not experience any of the usual symptomology. 

And while nothing could have prepared me for the shock in that dimly lit ultrasound room, here are some things I wish I had known.

1. There are no warning signs.

Naively, I had thought that miscarriages were always foreshadowed by some pretty explicit symptoms, be it heavy bleeding, lower back pain, or cramping. 

And just as naively, I had thought that in the absence of these symptoms; I had nothing to worry about.

2. You should probably listen to your gut feeling.

In the case of missed miscarriage, most women do not find out that they have lost their baby until they’re in for their next ultrasound. 

Had I not gone in for a 'reassurance scan' a week after visiting my obstetrician, it’s more than likely that we would not have found out until the upcoming 12-week scan that our baby had died just weeks earlier. 

That’s two more weeks of thinking everything was okay, two more weeks counting down to the end-of-trimester 'safe zone,' two more weeks of getting excited about the future. And while part of me still wishes I could have held onto two more precious weeks of thinking everything was okay, I know that listening to my gut that time was the right decision – even if it meant hearing the worst possible news.


3. It’s not your fault.

The terminology around miscarriage is already slightly controversial, but a missed miscarriage adds a whole extra level of internalised shame to the equation. 

Not only did my body fail to do what it was meant to, it quite literally missed the fact that my baby had died. 

While it’s confronting to realise that not even the medical specialists in the field can explain what causes early pregnancy loss; at the same time, it’s slightly comforting to know that you’re not the only one who has zero control over this horrible situation. Nobody does.

4. People will say weird things. 

Disclaimer: If someone close to you has a pregnancy or infant loss, all you need to say is: "That sucks, I’m so sorry." 

Do not - under any circumstances - preface your next sentence with, 'At least...' 

Or God forbid - say something like, 'Everything happens for a reason.' There is no reason my baby died. And if there was, I’d want to speak to the manager. Now.

Listen to The Quicky, where Claire Murphy looks into the grief, shame and guilt surrounding miscarriage and who we can work to bring it out of the darkness. Post continues after podcast.

5. There’s no right way to grieve.

Whether it’s switching off social media, messaging people instead of taking calls or distracting yourself with anything and everything in between breakdowns, the last thing you need is feeling ashamed for your grief – whatever it looks like. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for meals, to accept help, and to let things fall apart. The absolute last thing you need during this nightmare of a time is to feel guilty for not grieving 'the right way' – as if there is such a thing. 

When I stumbled across the Pink Elephants Support Network on Instagram, it was as if somebody had switched on a light. Pink Elephants is one of the only not-for-profits out there that directly supports women experiencing pregnancy and infant loss in Australia. 

In honour of Infant Loss Awareness Month, I am raising funds for the work of Pink Elephants Support Network through my startup, WillPro. In the next coming weeks, 10 per cent of all orders will go directly to The Pink Elephants Support Network to help expand their circle of support, break the stigma and raise awareness surrounding early pregnancy and infant loss.

So if you (like the nine million other Aussies out there) need to get your Will done, why not do it now and help build the Pink Elephants #circleofsupport while you’re at it.

After working in Estate Law and witnessing the devastating impact that dying without a will has on the loved ones left behind, Elisabeth set out to create WillPro - an online will-writing startup - to make doing your will a simpler and more affordable process for all Australians. Together with the end-of-life wellness startup i.Decide, Elisabeth is passionate about breaking the taboos surrounding the topics of death, grief and mental health and using humour to make these heavy topics a little bit lighter. You can find out more about WillPro and their fundraiser for The Pink Elephants Support Network here.

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. 

Feature Image: Getty.