Pregnancy, Termination and Miscarriage
Well here we go, with yet another really, really difficult post to press publish on.
Lets start with saying that this probably isn’t the story that you were expecting. I’m going to talk about pregnancy, miscarriage, and termination. The last thing I want is for this to turn into a debate. And believe me, all of the judgement and nasty things you may be thinking about me by the end of this post – I can guarantee that I’ve already thought it about myself. This post isn’t to justify what happened, or to look for support from other people. I only hope that it can reach someone whose feeling as lost, hurt and confused as I was, and give them the sense of acceptance and understanding that they’re looking for.
So where do I begin?
I’ll take you back to the end of August 2017. Things were looking really good for our little family of four. We had a big month of birthday celebrations to look forward to in September, the kids were getting along great, Cooper had started sleeping through the night, and Nick and I had a new found spark in our relationship. We had been working so hard to get to this place, and were finally so happy – everything seemed to be looking up for us! Part of the reason why Nick and I were doing so great, was because I’d just had my Mirena IUD (birth control) taken out, and at the risk of sharing TMI, I finally had my sex drive back! I had my Mirena inserted after we’d had Cooper, and whilst it was great at not letting me fall pregnant, I had gotten to a point where after YEARS of being either on hormonal contraception, pregnant or breastfeeding, I wanted to give my body a break. The plan was to track my cycle and use condoms on the days I was fertile. DING DING DING – here was out first big mistake. As I’m sure you’ve already figured out, our plan failed and within weeks of having the Mirena removed, I was pregnant.
Nick and I had only ever planned to have two children. We didn’t find out Cooper’s gender while we were pregnant, but we had decided that even if he was a girl we wouldn’t try again for a boy. We got lucky, and were blessed with our pigeon pair! My girlfriends can attest that when they would talk about longing for more children, I was always incredibly firm in knowing that we were done with our two. It felt right for us, just the four of us in our little tight knit family unit. Cooper had turned one, we were moving out of that ruthless “baby” stage, and it felt good!
So as you can imagine, when I realised I was pregnant my heart sank. It was so foreign to me looking down at that positive pregnancy test, and not feeling the joy and excitement that I’d felt with my two pregnancies beforehand. It literally felt like I was having a bad dream, and I’d soon wake up and roll over to tell Nick that we needed to be more careful with contraception. I felt sick. I was terrified to call Nick and tell him the news. But I did, and thankfully this conversation was the beginning of him being THE MOST supportive partner I could ever ask for.
The day we found out I was pregnant was a Saturday, and we made an appointment with our GP for the following Friday, to organise a termination. I spent the rest of the week cancelling plans, avoiding my family and friends, and feeling so confused and isolated. For the most part, I didn’t give our decision much thought. We had a plan, this wasn’t a part of it, and it needed to be sorted out. I wasn’t thinking “what if” or imagining what the future could look like for us if we continued with the pregnancy. I did my best that week to numb my mind and push all of my thoughts out of my head. I completely shut off from Nick, and despite him begging me to speak to him, I had no idea what to say even if I tried. It felt like the longest week of my life, and the night before the appointment I began to crumble. Nick walked into the bathroom to find me bawling my eyes out on the floor of the shower. I remember him dragging me into his arms and asking me whether I needed more time to think about our decision, to which I replied “I’ve already had too much time to think”. Little did I know, this was only the beginning of a very long and drawn out process.
Our appointment with our GP went as well as it could have, and I’m so grateful that he was so understanding, informative and non-judgemental of us. This particular GP knew all of my history with PND and anxiety after Cooper was born, he knew what we had been through in the last year and was supportive of our decision. He gave us the referral that we needed to the termination clinic, and all of the information that we needed regarding our options. We decided a medical termination was our best option, and when we got in the car to drive home, I called the clinic and made our appointment for the next Tuesday. I have a lump in my throat as I reflect on the way I was “handling” (or not handling) the situation. How numb I was feeling, just going through the motions, making the calls and booking the appointments as if I’d simply broken my leg and needed surgery to fix it.
The weekend passed in a blur, and the day of our appointment rolled around. I was nervous to go to the appointment, not because of the termination itself, but because I was scared of getting judged by the people at the clinic. Thankfully Nick came with me as my security blanket, but I still remember being too ashamed to make eye contact with anyone in the waiting room. Before long one of the nurses called me in to fill out paperwork and take some tests. She got me up onto the table for an ultrasound, at which point I turned my head because I couldn’t bear the thought of looking at the “baby” on the screen. After a few minutes, she told me that she couldn’t actually see anything in my uterus, and that I would have to do a urine test and then an internal ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy. I was confused and saw a glimmer of hope, maybe I wasn’t pregnant at all? However after both of the tests were done, it was confirmed that I was in fact pregnant, but there was no sac able to be seen in my uterus. I was then called in to see a doctor, who informed me that they weren’t going to be able to do a medical termination that day because they were concerned that I was either 1. miscarrying 2. having an ectopic pregnancy or 3. too early on in the pregnancy to tell. I felt confused and frustrated. It had already been over a week since I’d found out I was pregnant, and here I was being told that I would have to wait another week before having any type of confirmation on what I could do moving forward. We were warned that my body may begin to miscarry the pregnancy more over the week, and if there was any sign of bleeding or cramping I was to go to the emergency department at hospital.
The next morning I had put Cooper down for a nap and was hanging out with Charlie in the playroom, when I started to get a really uncomfortable feeling in my stomach and bottom. It felt almost as if I had excruciating trapped wind, and soon felt hot and dizzy as waves of nausea washed over me. As the pain got worse, I made my way to our bedroom and crouched over our bed, going in and out of consciousness. Charlie, my sweet angel girl, heard me crying out in pain and came into the bedroom to find my phone to call Nick, before running off to the kitchen to grab a Hydralyte out of the freezer for me, bless her. Through gritted teeth I was telling Nick that I was cramping, when all of a sudden I felt something warm and wet flood into my underwear. I reached down, and pulled my hand back up covered in blood. Before I knew it, Nick made some calls and my best friend, Nicks best friend, and my Mum and sister all arrived at our house. I was helped into a hot shower, the pain started to ease off, and I got into the car with Mum to go to ED.
Our wait in triage was short, and I was taken to an examination room where I had a blood test, a nurse put some type of plastic device up my vagina to check that I didn’t have any clots or blockages, and an internal ultrasound performed by two males. As respectful and professional as the medical staff were, it was all incredibly invasive and humiliating. The blood test and internal ultrasound came back with the same results as last time, I was pregnant, but with no confirmed sac to be seen inside my uterus, and a lot of blood in there waiting to come out. Once again the doctors feared that the pregnancy was ectopic. As I was being told that I would need to stay in hospital overnight, it all hit me like a tonne of bricks, and I fainted. I was scared, and in so much pain. I felt overwhelmed and missed my kids, I just wanted to go home and hide under the covers of my bed. I stayed in overnight and was fasting and being prepped for surgery incase of emergency, but was discharged the next morning with no more answers other than an appointment booked for the next week at the hospital again.
Another week. Another whole week of being pregnant, and not having any type of closure. It was torture. Despite a few people now knowing what was happening, I was still avoiding my friends and family. I didn’t know what to say to anyone, didn’t know how to reply to the well meaning messages and phone calls. I didn’t want to make plans, incase I was to start bleeding or cramping again while I was out. So I spent a lot of time at home with the kids, laying on the couch watching movies. I had SO much time to think, and by this point I couldn’t push the thoughts out of my head any longer. “Why Charlie and Cooper, but not this baby?” “Maybe this is my body making the decision for me” “I wonder if it would have been a boy or a girl”. It was relentless, this never ending cycle of guilt and grieving. Confusion about whether I was even allowed to grieve over something that I didn’t even think I wanted in the first place.
The next Monday I went to my appointment. I had another internal ultrasound, again performed by a male. Again, uncomfortable and humiliating. And again, I left even more confused than I was before. At that appointment, I was told that there was not one, but TWO sacs now in my uterus. I’d gone from a suspected ectopic pregnancy, to all of a sudden, the possibility of twins? The ultrasound confirmed that one of the sacs was not a viable pregnancy, but the doctors were still unsure about the other. The term “molar pregnancy” was also being thrown around, meaning if that was the case it would be months of continued testing. I reeled at the news. I had miscarried one, but maybe the other could survive? Maybe it was a sign, that we were supposed to keep this baby after all. Maybe I had made a huge mistake?
Yet another appointment was booked for the following week at the hospital. Another week without answers. That weekend we had our best friends wedding. This wedding was so important to us, Nick was the best man, and we didn’t want anything to ruin our friends special day. We were dealing with a lot at home, I was exhausted from the constant hospital visits, ultrasounds and blood tests. I’d also started to get morning sickness, and was dosing myself up on anti-nausea to keep the vomit at bay. Nick and I were mentally drained, but we put on brave faces knowing that we had to get through one weekend, and then hopefully we would get a resolve the next week. It embarrasses me to say this, but I was drinking the night of the wedding. My head was so messed up, and I just needed a carefree night to escape my thoughts. All was going well, and Nick and I were enjoying ourselves for the first time in weeks, until halfway through the grooms speech when I felt myself start bleeding again. You see that’s the thing about miscarriages, it’s never a good time. As soon as the speeches finished I dragged Nick off to the bathroom with me. In a fluster, I tried to clean myself up as I bled all over the floor. We missed the married couples first dance, and walked back into the reception with eyes on us, and a whole lot of questions. I felt uncomfortable, and didn’t know what to say to people, so awkwardly told a few people what was happening. We didn’t want to leave the wedding, so waited until early the next morning to go back to ED for more blood tests.
The day later I went back to the hospital again, for another internal ultrasound. I know it sounds like I’m repeating myself, and that’s because the process just repeated over and over. By this point it was over 3 weeks since I’d found out I was pregnant. I’d had 6 appointments, 5 blood tests, 4 internal ultrasounds, 2 big bleeds, been to ED twice and stayed overnight in hospital once and fainted numerous times. This appointment was the breaking point for me. The internal ultrasound showed that the second sac had a heartbeat. It was now a viable pregnancy, an actual baby. I stumbled out of the appointment and into the courtyard of the hospital, and called Nick in hysterics. After all of that, after all of those weeks waiting, and tests and appointments, we were back to square one. The hospital had made me wait, had let the baby develop, and then turned around and said “okay NOW you can terminate it”. I knew that there were precautions that needed to be taken, but I felt like the medical system had failed me, I was furious!
I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do now. We still only wanted two children, but the reality was that another child wouldn’t be the end of the world for us, it would simply set us back. I was scared to go back to square one after how far we’d come, terrified at the possibility of dealing with the darkness of post natal depression again. The guilt was tearing me apart. How selfish of me to prioritise the four of us over this unborn child, but at the same time I knew that I had our established family and our benefits to consider in this decision.
Before I was put in this position, I’ve always been “pro-choice”. I’m thankful for the medical system that we have in Australia, and the options that are available to us. I know so many women who have had terminations themselves, I just never realised how difficult it would be to make the decision until I had to do it myself. It tears me up inside to know that there are people who are struggling to fall pregnant, and here I was with two healthy children and had fallen pregnant again. I felt horribly selfish and irresponsible, but they were the cards that we had been dealt. We’ve not struggled with infertility, but it took a year for us to fall pregnant with Charlie, so I can only slightly imagine the pain of not falling pregnant month after month, or year after year of trying. My heart honestly goes out to every single person struggling to fall pregnant, and I hope that if that is you, and you’re reading this, I’ve not offended or upset you.
Our decision came down to this, I would book in for a surgery the next week. After the previous 3 weeks, something just didn’t feel right about this pregnancy. We had been advised that if we were to follow through with the surgery, everything would have to be sent off to pathology for testing, and that was enough for Nick and I to know that this pregnancy was not going to carry to full term. Maybe it is mothers instinct, or maybe I’m trying to justify it for myself, but I know in my heart of hearts that the pregnancy would not end up being viable, and I wasn’t willing to wait around for that to happen. In our eyes, our third pregnancy was a miscarriage.
Three months on, the pregnancy is still something that I think of often, and it still effects me daily. I feel relieved, because I know that it was the best outcome for our family. I feel uncomfortable when people ask me whether we’re going to have any more children. I still feel angry and frustrated with the medical system, and the drawn out experience that we had. I feel guilty. I feel heartbroken. I feel clucky when I see pregnant bellies or newborns, and it hits me in a gut wrenching kind of way. I feel like a liar when people give me sympathy about the miscarriage. I feel like who am I to be upset? Who am I to grieve? Who am I to empathise? I often wonder “what if?”. But most of all, I feel like our third pregnancy didn’t work out for a reason, and in that case I’m going to make damn sure that I put 110% into moving our family onwards and upwards, and making sure that it didn’t happen in vain.