The longest third ever

CW – miscarriage talk

It’s 3am and the light of my phone is bathing my face in the otherwise dark room. My partner rolls over to look at me, bleary eyed and probably half asleep.

“Babe. You need to sleep.”

“I’m just looking up the chances of miscarriage at 11 weeks. After a clear Harmony test.” I say this tongue in cheek because I know it will annoy him, but every word of it is true.

“Oh. That’s great.” These words are breathed out in a kind of sigh, and they are blanketed so heavily in sarcasm, I know he is quite awake.

My husband thinks I have a morbid obsession with miscarriages. He’s right. He also thinks that using Google to self-diagnose, and trawling though countless forums about miscarriage experiences is basically the worst thing I could do. He’s probably right about that too. He’d be shocked if he realised the extent to which I have self-diagnosed and trawled though! Whilst I am no member of any forum, such as babycenter.com, I have – no joke – spent hours and hours reading thread after thread of the angst, fear, hope and joy that comes with trying to conceive, failing to conceive, conceiving but losing, and birthing. You should see my Google history.

I started experiencing anxiety after the birth of daughter a year ago. It has waxed and waned, but at the moment is hanging around 24/7. It doesn’t bring panic attacks and it doesn’t stop me from doing things. It could, but I don’t let it. It just physically annoys me and mentally drags me down, like the rock that’s sitting in my chest right now.

I know everyone thinks I should loosen up and stop worrying about miscarriage. But all those people that think that have never experienced what I, and so so many women have experienced. Ours came before our daughter, it was our first pregnancy that we lost. So our daughter is our little rainbow pocket rocket. Getting pregnant again though, now, is an anxious experience of course, but it is somewhat buffered by the existence of our sweet little girl running around me all the time. However, I just assumed that I would miscarry again. I don’t know why, I just did. I told a friend in Mother’s Group, “I just feel like miscarriage is part of my story.” What a terribly pessimistic thing for me to think! But I know I think it for the same reason that women who have lost, fight the urge to get attached to the attachment inside them. Why women don’t announce until they feel sure, so sure, that maybe this one will stick for good. For self-preservation. The friend in my Mother’s Group said that maybe it will always be a part of my story because of the effect it has had on my life, but it doesn’t necessarily leave me doomed to have more.

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Stories of miscarriage can trigger a reliving of my own experience that throws me off for days. When someone close to me lost a pregnancy a year after my own miscarriage, and when I was close to popping out our rainbow, I was sucked into the black hole of grief that had taken me some time to escape. When a pregnant friend had some bleeding and messaged me, concerned, I was of course so worried about her. She was given the all clear, after a doctor offered her an ultra sound to check out what was happening. This threw me into a bizarre emotional rage that my doctor, when I had seen her about my own bleeding and cramping, did not offer me this. She did not even use a foetal doppler to check for the heartbeat… and I know there is one at the clinic! I cried at home, so full of rage and resentment at the realisation that perhaps if my doctor had have performed this simple check, I could have been made horrifically but at least immediately aware that my baby was gone. I could have had the warning. I could have had an operation. I could have avoided losing my baby in the toilet of my workplace, Friday night, sometime between 3 and 4 o’clock when most staff and thankfully all students had gone home.

This fit of regretful, sad rage only lasted twenty minutes or so. I even vowed that next time I saw my doctor I would ask her why she didn’t check my baby’s heartbeat. Did she follow protocol? Why did she just let me go home with basically a “well there’s nothing we can do, except wait and see” prognosis? There is clearly no point – no point – in pursuing this, but for those twenty minutes or so I was completely irrational and angry – I was a different person to who I actually am.

Because we lost our first baby at 10 weeks, getting to this magic number was an all consuming task for me. I counted down, day by day. I waited impatiently for the scan and DNA test we would be doing. My partner came with me on the day, with our one year old. We started the scan, and straight away were presented with a little blob on the screen, heart beating away inside. One sac, not twins, and a good looking little blob.

Then my worst nightmare, the words “Hmmm, this doesn’t look like a ten week old foetus though”. My heart dropped, I stopped breathing. And the voice in my head was saying “It’s dead. It’s gone. You’re gonna miscarry again.” Then another voice, “Stop it Jacqui – YOU CAN SEE IT ON THE SCREEN. There’s a heartbeat.”

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It was 8 and a half weeks. But it was fine. My dates were wrong, with an incredibly long cycle and an astoundingly late ovulation. The receptionist cracked what she thought was a joke, “A week a half early!? Whose fault was that?” I think I muttered something like, “Um, my body’s?”.

We discussed what date to return for the blood test, as we couldn’t do it until I was actually 10 weeks. I stared at the calendar on my phone but didn’t really see it. Tears welled up and my partner whispered to me, “Hey – it’s okay, we just wait a little longer.” I looked him in the eyes which made me tear up even more, “It just took so much for me to get to this week, and now we are being rewound…”

I realised that my entire being of energy had gone into making it to the day we would see our little bean on the screen, see the heartbeat, and see that everything was looking okay. My whole mental and physical capacity had been used up, to get to this moment, and now I was deflated and forlorn.

But everything was fine, I had to keep telling myself, so there really wasn’t anything to be upset about.

And so we went back to 8 and half weeks. I let the weeks pass trying not to dwell too much on the time frame involved. I continued to feel my anxiety constantly, with no let up. All the time. I mentioned to my partner that maybe I should go to the doc, and see if I needed to take something. He pointed out that maybe it would disappear after the 12 scan, that my body was subconsciously on edge, even if I felt like I wasn’t stressing. I went for the 10 week blood test, and had a very, very anxious wait until the results came back a week later regarding Chromosome issues – all clear. Then there was just a week left until the 12 week scan, right in the midst of my family’s December Christmas celebrations. We told everyone that we were expecting, always with the caveat of “So far all looks good, but we are just waiting to see the baby again at the scan in a few days.”

Before the scan, my partner asked if I was nervous. I don’t know why, but I wasn’t. Maybe because I had had shocking nausea for weeks, and so I was pretty reassured that the hormones were still kicking around, and so was baby. I also think that with the extra week and a half, I had fallen into a sort of resignation. Whatever would happen, would happen, and I’d find out very soon.

The doc silently scanned away, checking the screen and taking screen shots and measurements. Just as I was about to ask (probably with some frustration) how everything was looking, she said all the things you want to hear. “Great measurements, looks perfectly normal, healthy looking baby” etc, etc.

And so here we are. We have made it to 14 weeks today. And my anxiety did peel away with the celebrations with family, and a slow and relaxing post-Christmas break of doing not much, and being away from home.

And today is therefore the beginning of the second trimester, and the end of the longest pregnancy third I’ve ever experienced. I’m still scared, but I’m feeling good. How lucky are we to have another little human on the way? So, so lucky.

Why did I write this blog? Not really sure, just a shout out to those who endure a tough time when pregnancy comes around again but you have lost before. I am fully aware that I wrote a very similar story last time, with my rainbow pregnancy, but I guess this is a pain that doesn’t really ever fix itself.

 

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Best of times/Worst of times

Dear mother expecting a Rainbow baby,

You will be okay. You will make it. But – yes, it’s hard.

It’s okay to feel confused when you know you are pregnant again. It’s okay to feel scared. It’s okay not to be excited until you feel that it’s right to feel excited. It’s okay to cry.

If you just live day to day, that’s fine. Don’t book shit in. Don’t mark each week in your calendar. Not until you are ready. Protect yourself. When people say “This time will be it!”, just smile and nod. But don’t feel – if you don’t want to. People just love you, and might not understand the leap of faith that actually believing those words requires you to take.

It’s okay if it’s one of those days where you find yourself sitting at the end of the bed crying, with no idea why. It might not even be that day you read a Guardian article about a woman who lost her baby at 15 weeks (don’t click on that shit!). Or not that time that your friend thought you strong enough to hear a story about her colleague who was bleeding, and lost. Not even that time you realise you haven’t deleted all the weeks marked on your computer calendar… and you get an alert saying “30 weeks today!” It might not even be one of those days.

You are just crying because it’s bloody scary! And that’s okay.

When you reach the week when you feel safe (if you ever do), it’s okay to still feel confused. Are you excited yet? Should you allow yourself to be? Do you feel happy? Is it wrong to feel happy? Don’t be hard on yourself. You might start to tell people. It’s okay to make a previous miscarriage part of your pregnancy announcement.

Say whatever you feel like saying – because if it makes others feel uncomfortable then that’s their diff. Miscarriage happens. So if you want to say “We are super excited to be pregnant, because we lost one last year,” then say it. If you want to say “I’m pregnant again” then say it. Your previous pregnancies happened. When people ask you how you are feeling, being pregnant, it’s okay to say “Actually I’ve been pregnant before” but if you don’t want to – don’t. Just smile and say “Great!”

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People will react in different ways. And some reactions will be stupid, or hurtful. But forgive these people, they just don’t get it. Someone who you adore will ask you, like a grown up to a child, “But Jac… how far along are you?” as if you would be telling him before you felt ready, or when it was very early, or when there was a good chance that you might lose your baby again… sigh. Another friend will say “But wasn’t it fun trying to get pregnant, hey? Hey?” Wink wink nudge nudge. As if the fun of sex would make trying again after a loss a fun filled journey.

Sigh. Just smile and nod.

Women will share their stories of loss – so many will whisper this quietly like a dirty secret. That’s their choice. And you might wish that they spoke it louder, so that miscarriage could be spoken of more. You might wish that they would grab your hand and say, yes, yes I know what you have been through! Loudly, proudly. So the young woman across the staff table will hear and in the future, when someone she knows goes through this ordeal, she will comfort them with the words “so many women feel what you are going through, let’s get through this together.”

You might wish this. So women will feel more supported. So women will feel less alone.

But that is their choice.

 

[This is where I wrote to, back last year when I was pregnant with my rainbow baby. I continued to ride the roller coaster of anxious moments up until the birth of my daughter. The last week was one of the worst, as I had one day where she moved a lot less, and then the day when the doctor suggested that she wasn’t growing. We got induced that night – without leaving the hospital from the 40 week appointment, and had our baby at 3pm the next day. She came on her due date and was a perfectly healthy 8 pounds.]

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Now that I have my rainbow baby, I don’t often think about my miscarriage – not like I used to. But when I do think about it… I know how lucky I am. I know that, had we not fallen pregnant again, I would be still struggling. And hoping.

I also have no doubt that should we become pregnant again – I will still be a walking anxiety zombie until that 12 week scan. A friend put it so well – that after you lose that first pregnancy, you will never truly have that glowing excitement that you had for that first time. You lose your innocence. Even with nothing to suggest that we will lose more pregnancies, knowing the reality of miscarriage and its 1 in 4 pregnancy occurrence, I sure as hell don’t want to waste any time trying to conceive. As soon as we are ready, I am sure we will try again.

Stay strong, mother expecting a rainbow baby. You are not alone in your strange excitement that is mixed with grief and worry – reach out for help whenever you need – and I wish you a life of sunshine, as well as rainbows.

And then a Rainbow appeared (in the form of two pink lines)

TW a bit of loss, not much

I found out that a baby born after a loss is called a Rainbow Baby… I love it! I love rainbows. I love sunshine amidst rain, the fracturing of light, all the colours, diversity and gay pride – all the best things!

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http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-i-m-having-a-rainbow-baby/

 

In December, my partner and I will bring a rainbow baby into the world, if all goes well – which I feel it will. This little human is truly coming out from behind the darkest clouds to light up our lives.

It has been a hard road, and with this unbelievably wonderful development comes a strange sort of guilt. We didn’t have to wait too long. Only about 6 months after we lost our 10 week bean, I was able to see those crazy little double pink lines on the test. I left it sitting on the bathroom sink and watched my partner from the shower as he looked at it. Furrowed his brow and looked at it some more. And then looked at me. His expression was priceless. I had been waiting to see those lines for months; picturing them, hoping for them – even imagining them – but for him, he wasn’t completely sure of what he was looking at.

“It’s happening,” I said.

Our immediate reaction to this was so different from our first pregnancy. Surely the first trimester is the hardest time for a couple who have suffered a miscarriage or still birth. For us, there was no reason to believe that we would miscarry again – except the fact that we had miscarried previously. The stats do show that miscarriage is more likely to happen when there’s been one already (but I can see how this number might be affected by fertility or medical issues that reoccur with each pregnancy).

Up until about 8 weeks, I felt hopeful but overall pretty neutral. Just sort of going through the motions of life. The family members that we told would ask about the due date and we would quickly say “December, but we won’t talk about due dates yet, let’s just get to the ‘safe zone’…” And my beautiful sister would say “ooh I’ve got such-and-such to give you” and I would say, “Okay, okay, yes that would be great – but let’s just get to 12 weeks first.”

At 7 weeks and 2 days we had the optional dating scan. My dates were spot on. I wanted the early scan so I could ease my mind… last time we had two foetal sacks but only one foetus had a heartbeat. The other would probably vanish later on. It was complex last time – not dangerous, just complex. So at 7 weeks this time we were able to be reassured that we had one normal looking little bean. Not complex. But I still didn’t let myself get excited. We saw a heartbeat last time too.

Once I got to 8 weeks, I hit peak anxiety mode. I tried to keep busy, but I was feeling so exhausted and sick. Every time someone asked about the sickness I would say “yeah, it’s bad – but I’ll take it! It means everything’s still happening!” I lay awake at night – something I’ve done since my last pregnancy pretty regularly. I dreaded blood every time I went to the toilet. I almost expected it. When I felt cramps I would freak out. When I didn’t feel nauseous, I would freak out, until it returned. (A lot of my fear around this time was that I believed I had come far enough for a miscarriage to be very painful. Like the point of no return. It was either going to be great, or it was going to be really bad.)

I understand my loved ones saying “You have to be positive”, “It’s not going to happen again”, or “It will all work out when it’s meant to” but these phrases are just words that could not in any way ease the pain or the stress that I was feeling. Yes I needed to be positive – but I wanted to protect myself. No – you can’t tell me it’s not going to happen again! Because, well it might. Yes, miscarriages happen for reasons, I got that, but that didn’t make me feel better because I SURE AS HELL was not ready to go through another one.

The 9th, 10th and 11th weeks were just a sick, stressed, grumpy string of days. I had marked in my calendar each week milestone up to 12 weeks. From about a month out, I even marked in countdown days. 12 more days and we are safe, 11 more days, 10 more days, 9 more days… The ‘safe zone’ of course, is just a thing we say. Some say you need to get to the END of the 12th week, others the 13th. But to me it was all about the scan that we had booked for our last pregnancy, but hadn’t made it to. The 12 week scan.

I couldn’t actually believe it when we got to 12 weeks. I mean, I had only dreamt of getting there and when we did I wasn’t sure what to do! We had the scan and saw our baby moving around, drinking, waving… We left the clinic stunned, buoyed, and amazingly grateful.

WE MADE A HEALTHY BABY. AND IT WAS (PROBABLY) GOING TO BE OKAY.

It rained all the way home from our scan. Then the sun peeked out through the darkness, and a small, colourful rainbow appeared.

🙂

(I totally just made that last bit up, but hey, it’s my story.)

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