I’m loving that Fertility Friday is back on a roll! Today Jo tells her story about recurrent miscarriage, a pain that some of us sadly know all too well.
Finding myself single and pregnant in my early 30’s wasn’t part of my life plan.
During my 20’s if I was asked if I would ever have kids, my standard answer was “In ten years time”, but I wasn’t really sold on the idea. Whilst I liked babies and kids, I wasn’t really sure I wanted my own. I liked my life as it was.
Fuck. A baby? I can’t have a baby. I had too many things I want to do. I’d taken a year off work to return to uni and was in the midst of planning a three month backpacking trip around Europe. Fuck. A baby? I can’t raise a child on my own. I don’t own my own house, how will I afford a baby? But what if? What if this is the only chance I get to be a parent? What if I regret not having this baby? What if?
I rang a friend in tears, and blurted out that I was pregnant. What are you going to do she asked. “Keep it” I said, surprising both her and I.
Over the next week or so I started to tell a few people, and whilst the fear remained, there was excitement too. And then I had some spotting.
After work I went to Emergency at the nearby hospital. The doctor who saw me was lovely, and reassured me that bleeding in pregnancy was common. I had blood test to check pregnancy hormone level, then later a scan. “There’s the sac, no heart beat yet, but it may be a bit early. Your dates may be wrong”. But I knew they weren’t wrong.
I was told to come back if there was any more bleeding, which there was. My experience this time at Emergency was much less pleasant, the Dr I saw was horrid as treated me as a waste of her time and told me if was having a miscarriage there was nothing that could be done about it. Blood tests showed that my pregnancy hormone levels were dropping. I cried all the way home, knowing this was the end of my one shot at parenthood.
Over time the grief became less raw, and life moved on and I met my now husband. He didn’t particularly want kids, and I was reluctant to go through the pain of miscarriage again. But or our first wedding anniversary we went to Thailand and saw all these families at the resort we stayed out. The kids were hanging out in the pool, the parents lounging by the pool, cocktails in hand, a picture of family harmony.
Through rosy eyes and beer goggles, we watched them, and decided maybe that could be us too. So we decided to give it a go. We decided that if there was no pregnancy after six months, then we would just get on with our lives.
With this self-imposed deadline, there was no time to lose. I researched tips on improving my odds of getting pregnant, and tried everything to increase the odds of getting pregnant quickly.
The first month we were incredulous that no second line appeared on the pregnancy stick. With everything timed perfectly, how could we not be pregnant? The next month was the same, and the one after, and the one after.
During the fifth month I saw my GP for a referral to a fertility specialist. Being 35 I only had to be trying to conceive for 6 months before I could see one. I left the referral in my bag unopened. Later that month the stick looked different when I wee’d on it. Was that a second line? A visit to the GP confirmed it was. We rang family and friends to let them now we were pregnant.
For the next few days I wee’d on a stick to watch the line get darker…and then it didn’t. I researched possible causes, but what I suspected was confirmed with an ultrasound and my period starting.
I booked in to see a fertility specialist. I told him about our family history of miscarriages and got sent off for blood tests, a pelvic ultra sound and a pap smear. The morning of the pap smear there was a very feint second line on a wee stick. The nurse sent me for bloods and called me later to tell me I was pregnant.
Surely I couldn’t be unlucky enough to have three miscarriages, so we set about telling family and friends our news…and then had to untell them a short time later.
Three miscarriages meant I was now eligible for the recurrent miscarriage clinic. There was a three month wait before I could get my first appointment, then another month before I could get the results from the additional testing they did. Results showed I had a clotting disorder that increased my risk of miscarriage and complications in pregnancy. Taking a daily aspirin would help thin the blood and hopefully result in a successful pregnancy.
Months later, that second line appeared again and we held our breath. A scan at six weeks showed us something we had never seen before, a heartbeat.
With that heartbeat I was now a high risk pregnancy and would require extra monitoring; weekly viability scans up until 15 wks, three major foetal scans after that, ongoing appointments with the high risk team, and then, if we made it to term, an induced labour.
The first trimester was stressful, wondering what the viability scan would show, hoping there would be a heart beating away, but mentally preparing for the worst.
There were bleeds during the pregnancy that resulted in many hospital visits and two admissions with suspected preterm labour. The goal was to get to 36 weeks, but anything from 32 weeks onwards would improve the chance of survival for the baby. 32 weeks came and went and we all sighed with relief. Now to make it to 36.
The next few weeks saw several episodes of spotting. My obstetrician made it very clear that we were looking at an early induction, and if there were any signs of labour I would need to get straight to hospital and an emergency caesarean was likely.
We made it to 36 weeks and daily foetal heart monitoring began after an episode of reduced movement. My obstetrician made the call – induction at 38 weeks. The stress of my pregnancy was getting to both of us.
This stress continued on during the labour. Gel was inserted and then we waited, and waited, and waited. Nothing happened. I went to the toilet and when I stood up a big glob a red jelly fell to the floor. I assumed it was the gel. I pressed the buzzer for the nurses, the look on their faces told me this wasn’t normal. The on call Obs came in. He suspected that I had passed a clot that had probably been the cause of bleeding through pregnancy. The plan was to send me to the ward for the night and start an IV induction the next morning. If there were any further complications then I would be having an emergency c-section.
The next morning I was hooked up to the IV bright and early. The first couple of hours not much happened. And then it started to hurt. I asked the nurse to check my cervix to see how dilated it was, she told me they wouldn’t do that until I had regular contractions for about 2 hours. My plan for a drug free birth went out the window. I wanted drugs, there was no way I could go through this pain for another two hours. The gas made me nauseous, so pethadine was offered. I knew about the risks of pethadine if the baby was born to soon after it was given, but given my contractions were not regular yet, it wouldn’t be a problem. Shortly after I was given the pethadine I felt a weird sensation. “I’ve got to push”, and not longer after our precious girl was born.
Eight months after she was born, I was pregnant again. In contrast this pregnancy was much easier. There was only one episode of bleeding early on, and a scan where they thought there was a heart abnormality, but much more textbook, just with the additional monitoring that was required. Number two was induced at 37 weeks and was born two hours after the IV induction started. Our family was complete.
It has been 16 years since that first miscarriage, 12 since the second and third, and my children are now 10 and 8. For me, recurrent miscarriage was a harrowing experience, and while the physical side of the loss was painful, the emotional side left scars. It felt like everyone around me could get and stay pregnant without any drama, and it left me feeling bitter about having such a dysfunctional body. Having children helped ease the pain, but there will always be a piece of my heart that belongs to those babies who were never to be.