As part of this blog, we invite readers who have experienced pregnancy loss or stillbirth to share their stories with us. You can submit your story on our Share Your Experiences page.
We’re very grateful to Sarah for getting in touch with her experience. Thank you, Sarah, and we wish you all the best.
I held the pregnancy sac in my hand, alone in my bathroom at home, and stared at it for a while. It was on a piece of toilet paper, had come out as I wiped away this seemingly never ending flow of blood after a visit to the loo. It was my fourth day of bleeding. I was miscarrying at seven weeks, a number that is so small that I almost feel the need to justify it. It took me a while to tell people, to explain to close colleagues why I’d had some off work, or to tell friends the real reason why I wasn’t my usual, happy self. In my experience, when you tell people you’ve miscarried the first thing everyone asks is ‘How far along were you?’. Probably because they don’t know what else to say rather than because of a real desire to know details.
But to me it feels like they’re quantifying my grief, and as though seven is too small a number, too insignificant for it to be valid. And so I try and highlight my sadness by giving more details. Telling the story of nine years spent trying to conceive naturally. Of how our amazing four year old son was conceived after fertility treatment and how we always knew he’d be an only child as we couldn’t put ourselves through that emotional or financial burden a second time. But that didn’t stop us from wanting a sibling for him. Of how this unexpected pregnancy felt like a miracle, how it was a miracle, how it gave us back those dreams, hopes and desires of being parents for a second time. But no-one, besides my husband and I, can really understand those nine years of pain and longing, the unexpected delight, and the crushing disappointment of holding what should’ve become my baby in my hand, on a piece of toilet paper, alone in my bathroom as my husband was at the park with our son.
No medical professional had used the ‘m’ word yet. You see, seven weeks is such a small and insignificant number that I hadn’t yet seen a midwife for my ‘booking in’ appointment. I didn’t even come under our early pregnancy unit and instead had to walk into A&E and tell them I was pregnant and bleeding after a tearful phone call to my GP. It was so early into the pregnancy that my scan was inconclusive and so I was sent home to wait with another appointment set for two weeks time, and a reassurance that they could clearly see a tiny embryo in the sac and so maybe I’d got my dates wrong, that lots of women had bleeding in early pregnancy and so I shouldn’t worry. I had been bleeding for 24 hours by this point, I knew my dates weren’t wrong, a 2mm embryo with no heartbeat is not what should’ve been on that scan photo. My baby was dead, maybe its heart never started to beat in the first place, and I was sent away with no information, was forced to Google ‘what to expect during a miscarriage’ and then sit at home and wait it out.
And so I wasn’t given choices, no options of how to dispose of the remains of my baby, no invitation to a memorial ceremony like the ones I know other people have attended. No one even knew I was pregnant because of this silly, cultural tradition of keeping it secret for the first 12 weeks ‘just in case’. Miscarriage is very common, you know, one in every four pregnancies end like this so best not tell anyone you’re pregnant until you’re past the first trimester. To me, the discourses of miscarriage seem intended to normalise something that is far from normal for the women who experience it. These discourses are so at odds to the trauma and grief and physical pain and fear that I felt when alone in my bathroom on that day, or in the days before and the weeks and months after. Nobody talks about pregnancy loss so it feels like a dirty secret, like I should just be able to pick myself up, dust myself down, and carry on as if this never happened. So I flushed the remains of my baby down the toilet, sobbed in a heap on the floor for around 40 minutes, and still question whether that was the right way to say goodbye.