I love writing, and I usually find it comes naturally…but this piece is a little more tricky. It is very personal, and quite sad. I deliberated about whether to include what I have to say in a blog post – such a public forum – or to save it for my diary. But then I thought, this is all about being a mummy, and not the light and fun times of being a mummy. I can’t ignore the shadows.
About four or five weeks ago, we found out I was pregnant. It was planned, and we were excited and playfully chatted about names. I told Elka there was a baby growing inside me, and she pointed at my belly saying “Babu”, in her sweet, curious way. I recently started to tell other people my news. Tentatively at first, and then very openly. It is exciting stuff, falling pregnant.
About a week ago, I started to feel unwell. My tummy was upset, and it lasted for days. I eventually rang the Nurse Help Line, and they recommended I visit the Emergency Department at the hospital, as it was the weekend, and my GP was unavailable. The long and the short of it is that over three days I went in and out of hospital, waiting hours to see doctors under harsh fluorescents and in amongst lots of sick people, and over-worked staff. Not my favourite place to be.
On Monday morning I had an ultrasound. I was said to be 10 weeks pregnant. The radiologist kept asking me in a typical Lismore fashion, “What does your instinct tell you? Do you feel pregnant?” I was looking over at a scan of my uterus and all I could see was a black space shaped like an egg. The radiologist eventually got around to telling me that one of four of the following was going on. Either 1. I had never been pregnant, and my body had mimicked the stages of pregnancy, even forming a sac. 2. I had had an incomplete miscarriage – my body had destroyed the foetus, and the sac remained. 3. I was in a much earlier stage of pregnancy than initially thought and the scan couldn’t detect the foetus at this early stage. Or, and this was very unlikely, 4. I had an ectopic pregnancy, where the foetus implants outside of the uterus – something that is very dangerous to the mother.
He eventually put his money on number 2. incomplete miscarriage (those were his words), and the black and empty space on the ultrasound said it all. He sent me down to ED with a warning that when faced with “options” for dealing with an incomplete miscarriage – i.e. let it complete naturally, or have a D&C – I was to decide for myself which option to take, and not be talked into one over another. Lying under the fluorescents again for another couple of hours, on my own, waiting for Greg in ED, I felt, of course, very sad. Our fears were (somewhat) confirmed – I was miscarrying. It was highly unlikely I could still be pregnant. All I could see was that little black shape. I tried to take my mind off things by reading my Psychology text book, but eventually gave in, threw the book on the ground, and lay with my head under a blanket with a box of tissues. I’m not usually one for crying other than in romantic movies, but it couldn’t be helped.
They discharged me again and referred me to see the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit, where I should have been sent straight away. I was stable, and didn’t need emergency.
That night at home I began to experience pain. I went to bed, dreading ringing the Nurse Help Line again for fear of being sent back to Emergency. I woke in the night with more pain, but was able to go back to sleep. In the morning, I realised that the pain was in fact contractions. Similar to childbirth, in that they came and went, about three minutes apart, but at about 30% of the strength. Still bloody painful. It was all over reasonably quickly, and I “gave birth” to a little sac which contained the very beginnings of a placenta but no more.
In truth, I felt relieved. The pain had subsided. I was relieved I didn’t have to make a decision about having a D&C, relieved that my body could do what it had to do with little drama. I was relieved it was over.
It sounds weird but I had a high – post-birth hormones are the same. Adrenaline to kick you into serious child-rearing action. Of course, there was no child. But nevertheless, I buzzed around cleaning, which is not my natural state. I spent a couple of hours sprucing up the garden, and did everything I had to do.
The obstetrician confirmed that the miscarriage was complete, and gave me all the information about how to deal with grief, and who to refer to if things got bad. She and the midwife were very supportive.
That evening, we had a burial for our little sac. I asked Elka if she would like to choose a spot, and miraculously she took us to where we buried her placenta some time ago. She wanted it buried right next to the placenta. She threw some dirt in the hole, and then picked some flowers. It was very sweet. Another opportunity to cry.
A few days later, the high has faded, and I am left feeling empty, and low. I close my eyes, and I can see that black, empty space in my uterus, and that sad empty sac.
In some ways, this has brought up an older grief I experienced when my best friend died tragically eight years ago. That experience has been close to my heart in these last few days. Ironically, I received a letter from her mother in the mail yesterday, which was timely and beautiful.
I also miss being pregnant, both physically and emotionally. It is like my body has deflated, and I am on my own again.
In another way, I am fine. Physically, everything feels normal. And I am excited to be able to drink wine again, and go to hot spas. It sounds trivial, but they are small but comforting compensations. The other beauty is that I have a whole new set of eyes for my little ray of light and joy, Elka, who has been empathetic and sweet. She has been buzzing around so joyfully. I am thrilled with her perfect innocence, and her endless fascination and curiosity with life. She makes me feel fortunate.
Everyone’s experience of a miscarriage must be very different, depending on where they are in life, if it is a first pregnancy, or if they have miscarried in the past. This is my experience. I want to share my perspective on it. In the end, I am left in wonder at the body’s amazing ability to take care of itself. I wouldn’t go through it again, if I had the choice, but like most things in life, I am sure it has helped me grow as a person.
* This story has been adapted from www.internationalmothersproject.com