You hear about miscarriages but until you’ve actually experienced yourself, it’s difficult to imagine the intense pain and emotional trauma it brings. It happened to us earlier this year.
We had been trying to conceive for a few years and while everyone was getting married and having baby #1 & #2, we quietly ‘tried’ in the background trying to focus on our own journey.
But it wasn’t easy. I’ve always been in control of the goals I wanted to achieve and yet I felt that falling pregnant was out of my control. It was frustrating. It strained our marriage. It was exhausting.
After a few years of trying, we went to see a fertility specialist at Genea. She was amazing and explaining all the tests and facts to us. One thing she didn’t sugar coat was my age. It was time to get cracking but we still had a few months to try on our own.
And she sent me to do a whole bunch of tests. I can’t remember all of them but, they tested my hormone levels and my follicles. Cristian had a few tests done too. It wasn’t long til the tests came back – all looked good. Our ‘condition’ was unexplained infertility. There wasn’t too much we could do with that information except to keep on trying. The doc sent me to track my cycles with blood tests. It meant that for two weeks in a month, I had to go into the city at 7:30am to get my blood test. And after every test, someone would call you and tell you when it was ‘go time’. Romantic, I know.
Three cycles later, nothing. We had about three more months to try naturally before IVF. And when that didn’t work, the doc sent us to get our paperwork sorted for IVF. It was something we didn’t want to do but I felt that if I didn’t give it a hard go, I’d regret it.
In March, we were meant to start our first IVF cycle. I was nervous and excited. That’s when Covid hit. The nurse on the Zoom call let me know that the IVF clinic was closing because of Covid. She told me to keep trying naturally because you just never know. And so we did.
That month something was different. My period was late and my basal body temperature stayed elevated for more than two weeks. Curious, I bought some home pregnancy tests. I was going to wait til the morning to take my test as the box advised but it was 5 am and I couldn’t wait any longer.
Two pink lines. I couldn’t believe it.
I wanted to wait for a respectable time to wake Cristian but I couldn’t wait. He had fallen asleep on the couch. I quietly nudged him and asked him if he wanted good news. He said ok sleepily. That’s when I told him: “You’re going to be a dad”. He was starting to wake up and said ‘what…?’. Then I showed him the test and told him that I was pregnant.
We were buzzing, on the highest of the highs.
We were so excited about our news that we quickly went to the walk-in clinic to confirm it all. A blood test later and yup, it was confirmed. We were pregnant.
The next few weeks we were in our heavenly bubble with this perfect secret to keep. The doctor said that in week 6.5-7 weeks, we’d be able to see bub’s heartbeat in a scan. Those two weeks felt like a lifetime. Filled with anxiety, I went to the forums to see what other mums were experiencing in the same weeks- a bad idea. Some spoke of their symptoms, others spoke about pregnancy loss. I focussed on the latter. Bad idea. At about week 6, I started spotting. Just light spotting which I thought was normal. The doc at the walk-in clinic said it was probably just implantation bleeding. Still, I Googled and read all the articles available until I was satisfied with one that calmed my nerves.
On the day of the scan, I was nervous. Cristian and I waited in the reception area until we were called in. The sonographer came in and asked how I was feeling and then went straight into the scan. At first, he put the wand on top of my belly and said he could see the heartbeat but that an abdominal scan this early on was like trying to see in a dark room. He advised a vaginal scan which we agreed to. He spent a little more time on the scan and then told us the report would be available the next day. Just as we were leaving, I asked how bub’s heartbeat was. That’s when he said they usually like to see the heartbeat at over 100 bpm (beats per minute) at this stage. But then he also explained that dating scans can be off by a few days and that we should see the doctor and not worry.
But of course, I was worried. Anyone would be. As soon as we left the clinic, I Googled “fetal heartbeat at 6-7 weeks”. The first article popped up and said ‘normal’ was between 90-110bpm. Great, I was safe. We had a mini celebration and I updated my mom. The next day I went to the GP who printed my report and said all looks OK except the baby’s heartbeat was a little low. She said, “Look, I want to be frank with you. It doesn’t look good”. And when I asked her what a ‘normal heartbeat’ was, she told me to “Google it”. At this point, I was really worried and asked if there was anything I could do. She told me there was nothing and that it was up to God (not even knowing whether or not I was religious). I came out of the walk-in clinic so distressed I balled my eyes out. From this experience, I’ve learned never to go to a walk-in clinic to see a GP. There are GPs that are specialised in caring for women in pregnancy. Good GPs are worth the wait.
The next week was stressful. I had to present a class which was a good distraction but also tiring. On top of that, I couldn’t tell anyone at work what was going on because I thought it was taboo to do so (note: the second time around, they were the first ones to know…and so supportive too). Later that week I started spotting again, but this time it was more frequent. I tried to Google articles that would calm my nerves but this time there were few.
I still remember that Thursday morning. I woke up because I felt a gush of blood leave me. It wasn’t spotting this time. And when I went to the bathroom, it was as if I was getting my period. I woke Cristian up right away and he told me not to worry. It was Friday, the last day of the workweek so I focussed on that. But by about noon, the bleeding was getting heavier and heavier. Cristian called the GP and they told us to head to the emergency right away.
We were admitted pretty much straight away and I was met with one of their female doctors. She said that she often saw women come in with a full bleed and go on to have healthy pregnancies. I was not convinced. She took my blood tests, blood pressure, and all the routine stuff before telling me that she did not have the proper equipment to check if the baby was ok. When she learned I was scheduled to have an ultrasound later that day, she advised to wait for that appointment. I felt like in my state of emergency, she was trying to turn me away. This was the hospital – how could they not have the proper equipment?! About an hour later, a midwife came to visit (I thank my lucky stars for her. She was amazing. She looked at my test results and ushered Cristian and me into the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit. She explained that no matter what, it was a positive sign that we were able to get pregnant. I kept thinking…” right that’s it, we’ve lost the baby”.
Because it was Covid, Cristian could only stay with me in the waiting room. When it came time for me to have an ultrasound, he had to stay outside. At a time where I needed him the most, he couldn’t be there. We were both devastated. The sonographer called me into the room and asked me to get undressed. I remember crying and telling her I was bleeding and that I didn’t want to get her bed dirty. She was so calm and assured me that she’d seen it all.
And so reluctantly I got undressed and let her scan my abdominal. At first, she said she couldn’t see much. And from what I saw, the yolk sac wasn’t there anymore. And she advised that a vaginal ultrasound would give us a better view of what was going on. That scan confirmed my worst nightmare. With her hand on my knee, she softly said: “I’m so sorry but the yolk sac is no longer there. I think you’re having a miscarriage”.
My worst fears were realised. A few minutes later, the midwife came in with Cristian. I tried to hold back my tears but I could see Cristian’s pain mirror mine. We both lost the baby we so wanted. I remember seeing him wipe the tears streaming down his face – it felt like they just trickled out of there like a leaky tap. The midwife took us to the waiting room where we waited for our paperwork. From there I tried to fight back the tears so I could release it all when I got home. And I did. I remember sobbing in Cristian’s lap with our dog Fudge, looking on with a worried frown. Fudge put his paw on my hand as if to say “it’s ok mom”.
From there, I cried what felt like a lifetime of tears. I would sob out of nowhere, all the time. But they say time heals all wounds and it does, sort of. Things got better day by day and we were kind of normal again.
The midwife called to check in a week later and let us know we could try again after my period came back. And it did. I don’t have scientific-proof but I credit acupuncture and Chinese medicine for helping my body recover. Of course, I also am grateful for my own body, for healing itself naturally. We tried again and got lucky. But that’s another story. I’m grateful. Not everyone gets their rainbow after a storm.
If you’re coping through something like this or know someone who is, I hope this story was helpful. I’ve always meant to write it but I didn’t have the courage to. Even now, months later, I still have tears when I recount the experience. So if you need someone to chat to, I’m here.