Niamh Sherlock: My Silent Miscarriage

This powerful piece was originally written by Niamh for her blog, wehoneybear. Niamh is a past-pupil of mine and has kindly given permission to republish the story here. Between 1/4 and 1/5 of all pregnancies in Ireland end in miscarriage.

And then there were 2

First off, if you feel people overshare on the internet this blog post is not for you. This is all about sharing. If you tend to roll your eyes and wish people could keep private information private then please close the page and return to your day. You are not welcome here.

If however you came about this page because, like me, you need to read about the pain, fear and isolation that miscarriage brings then I hope you get something from this. I hope at the very least you feel connected to someone else who has experienced your journey.

If you are pregnant try not be scared by my story. Look around you, look at all the people who once were babies. All the numbers point to your pregnancy being wonderful, healthy and ending with the greatest joy in your new child. This is for those of us who sadly did not get the same ending and the people who will be supporting us through it.

 Now that the introduction is over here is my story.

My Silent Miscarriage

 

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The Emotional Truth

On Friday 28th August my husband and I went for a 10 week scan at a private scanning facility in Dublin. Leaving the house the last thing my husband said was ‘Let’s go see our baby‘. I’ll never forget that sentence, the reason I mention it is because that is where our frame of mind was. We were going to see our baby. We had booked a 10 week scan because we couldn’t another 2 weeks to see our little future.

During the scan it became apparent to me quite quickly that we were not seeing what we should be seeing. I saw my uterus, I saw the gestational sac but where my baby should have been, there was just vacuous space. I asked the sonographer where my baby was and why I couldn’t see it. I didn’t need her to answer. As I climbed off the bed and she wrote notes I looked at my husband. I clicked my fingers, banged my foot and really quietly said ‘shit.’ What I wanted to do was peel off my skin, break open my ribcage and allow my heart to explode into pieces. That is no exaggeration, I felt the pain of restricting my heart from breaking as it wanted to break.

We drove into Holles Street, my husband and I. The only sentence that touched the silence was ‘I’m sorry’ which we said to each other multiple times. Sorry for the pain each other was feeling, sorry that we had dared to believe, sorry that in our own pain we couldn’t take away each others. Upon arrival in hospital we dodged the glances of the happier people, they also looked away as would I. When you are in that high it is too hard to be reminded that there can possibly be such a low.

We met a nurse, I remember looking at her and feeling like I was a young child. I tried so hard not to cry, I tried to answer questions and to not to ruin her day by sobbing. At that moment in time all I wanted was the pregnancy to be out of me. I couldn’t bare to be carrying around such a lie. My body had tricked me for weeks, made a fool of me and I wanted control back. I needed to just lie down, have it sorted out and wake up at a future date when we could smile again. I wanted control back.

Unfortunately, that was not to be which I’ll explain more of below. We were sent home to return the following Monday. As you can imagine sleep did not come that Friday night. I lay awake searching for answers, what would happen next. I wanted to read about the pain I was feeling, I didn’t want to know that there would be other pregnancies, that 1 in 4 end like this. I wanted to know that it really was the end of the world. That people knew this was my 1 in 1, my 100%, I had lost the only pregnancy, the only baby I ever had and that it was not ok. I was looking for comfort in other peoples pain, maybe I’m weird or maybe that was just the depths of my grief.

The weekend that followed was sad. It was endless hours of shock and sadness but broken with the support and love of other people. We had told some family and friends about the pregnancy and let all our nearest and dearest know about the miscarriage. I cannot recommend this enough. You may be better at dealing with things in private and of course that is the best way for you, but if you are unsure, and if you have people who love you I would recommend sharing it with them. I felt very broken in the days that followed our news, I was unable to put on a brave face or keep up appearances and so in order for me to deal with what was happening I needed people to know. I needed them to expect nothing from me and to know that I wasn’t being rude, distant or prickly, I was just grieving and all my energy was going to that.

Monday arrived and we met a lovely midwife who mothered us, something we greatly appreciated having both lost our mothers in years previous. She told me I was going to be angry with her but I would have to return a week later for another scan and then I would receive my options. This procedure is to give the pregnancy a chance which unfortunately for me was not needed, however it is a legal procedure which they must adhere to. The scan showed two sacs and one embryo, perhaps it had been a twin pregnancy but we won’t know. She saw that some bleeding had started internally and so I may miscarry naturally. Again I was sent home with a longer wait ahead but with more information for me to process which helped.

The term silent miscarriage is because my body had continued to believe it was pregnant even though the pregnancy was not developing. I was told it was a good sign that my body really wanted to be pregnant. I did not feel that. Finding out at our scan felt cruel, I felt like a fraud, all those weeks acting pregnant when I wasn’t. I wondered if maybe it was all in my head, had I made up the symptoms? Should I have known? I couldn’t touch my stomach, I couldn’t look at my body. It had fooled me so cruelly, I couldn’t bare to be attached to the lie. Those feelings subsided, thankfully, I never blamed myself for the miscarriage but I still do struggle every so often with the feeling that I didn’t know what was going on. Honestly I felt a tinge of embarrassment. How could I be so stupid and not notice? It was my body, surely I know when there is a baby growing and when there is not? Medically though my body did think it was pregnant, I try to remind myself of that. These were feelings my husband has been trying to help me with. He has been more than I could have wanted through all of this. I may write again about our partnership through this, I have been lucky to have a man that loves me, wants a family with me and so shooed away any regret I had for him being married to a woman who thought she was pregnant.

The Physical Truth

I feel like this is important because we were sent home from the hospital on Friday with no information on what was to come. I know that the two things that could happen were a medical or natural miscarriage. The only way this could end would be in miscarriage however I had no idea/ have no idea what to expect from it. In my exhausted emotional state I started to really fear the physical side of this.

I was worried about what we were meant to do if it started. How much blood loss was too much? How much pain was too much? What pain should occur? What pain is a sign that something is going wrong? The weekend seemed endless but thankfully I did not miscarry during it. We met the midwife Monday morning and she answered some questions. I am sharing them with you incase you also have them.

The first thing she said was ‘It will hurt, and you will bleed. You will need ibuprofen and paracetamol and very thick pads‘. That helped, at least it gave me the information I needed to prepare for what was to come.

I asked if it starts at home should I come back in?
She replied that it was best to let it happen at home however if I had a moment of doubt or questions I was of course welcome to come back.

I asked how much blood loss would be too much?
She told me more than one pad soaked in 30 minutes. If I bleed more than that it would be worth returning.

Those two points of information calmed me greatly, small points but incredibly important. They told me I would not die, that pain was normal but either way I was welcome to return.

Words 

Perhaps you are reading this because you know someone who is going through a miscarriage. Personally, I have not been offended by anything a person has said to help so please try not worry about the words you say. You are there, that is a big deal. I appreciate that their words have been said in kindness and by even wanting to speak with me they are putting themselves into a vulnerable position. Below are some things that I didn’t really want to hear…but again that’s just me and also I was not offended to hear them, it may give you insight into the thought process of the person you are speaking with.

That:
Miscarriages happen a lot.
Man, this feels like the end of the world right now, the fact they are common feels heartbreaking but really does not help me feel better, This was our baby, our pregnancy, March was our month to become a family. Statistics are meaningless at this moment in time. I want my pregnancy back.

You will go on to have a healthy baby
I do believe this is true however right now I had so many plans for this child I can’t think of giving them to another. My first pregnancy ended without giving me my child, I’ll never get that back no matter how many children I have. However I do know that we will be parents and I appreciated that people were just trying to help me see past this awful time. If someone is scared that their miscarriage means they can’t carry a pregnancy soothe them with the truth that most people who experience miscarriage do go on to have healthy pregnancies and children.

What did help
When family and friends told me that it was awful; that they couldn’t believe it was happening to us, that they couldn’t imagine our heartbreak that really helped! For others to acknowledge the pain we were in felt so comforting. In those first few hours and days its hard to think past that specific moment in time and thoughts of the future are too much. Any words that acknowledged the loss genuinely helped make me stronger, I knew people weren’t waiting for me to be back to my normal self, they were happy to be with me at my lowest time and would wait for me to return.

And now…

I am still at home waiting to miscarry, my next appointment is this week. Waiting to miscarry has been tormenting. I feel like I am under imminent threat, whether rightly or wrongly I have felt slightly trapped at home, worried to leave incase something should happen. Equally it is true that I have no great ambitions to leave the house. The whole process is cruel, its the only word I can think of that sits right. Miscarriage is cruel, waiting to miscarry is cruel. It does not discriminate, it does not give you answers but only questions. It tests your resolve to the extremes. As a woman it expects you to be both physically and emotionally strong enough to deal with it, it leaves no choices.

I never believed I would have one. For some reason I thought I would be spared which perhaps has added to the shock. Of course there is no reason I should have thought that. Getting pregnant is a miracle, it took us months and so why I should think I would be so lucky twice, to get pregnant and to keep it, I do not know. I do however have hope that next time will be different.

I plan to continue to write about my experience. In my opinion there is not enough information publicly available on miscarriages. Its hard to find out what really happens, how people really feel and I personally needed that. If you have questions about my experience please feel free to contact me. Lets be honest, no-one wants to be in the miscarriage community but in reality thousands of us are. We may as well help each other out.

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You can see Niamh's original post here and you can find Niamh on twitter here.

 

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