Miscarriage laid bare – let’s talk about it (please)

The 3rd of May was a day for surprises. Surprises for my husband anyway – I knew before I took that test what the result would be. When he got home from work I gave a handwritten and decorated note to our toddler. “Take this to daddy!”. She waddled out and handed it to him. “I’m going to be a big sister!” it read. His head snapped up and his jaw dropped. “Are you serious? Really!?” He asked. I nodded and he gave me a kiss and we laughed. This would be our 4th baby and wasn’t part of the immediate plan so I hadn’t known what his response would be. “I just love being a dad so much!” was even better than I could have hoped for. We were elated.

A week later I had my first minor bleed. Not unusual for me – we have three children and I have bled in every single pregnancy, however we had suffered two previous losses – a third pregnancy had ended at 6 weeks and our fourth had begun with the loss of a twin. I got in touch with the Early Pregnancy Unit for reassurance and was booked in for a scan.

Sitting in the freezing cold cupboard they used for early scans I said a little prayer for a happy outcome. The lady used the internal probe and after a few seconds said “There is the gestational sac and the yolk. Baby’s too small to be seen yet but everything looks good so far.” She went on to explain there was a small area of blood which would be where my bleed had come from but that it was separate from the sac and should be harmless. I had had this before with my second daughter so was reassured. I was booked in for a scan a week and a half later to check the progress and told to expect possible further bleeding from this little pocket of blood.

I went for the second scan feeling cautious but hopeful. The bleeding had been coming and going so I had some nerves but when I got in there the sonographer put me at ease with a joke about the wedge cushion and the gymnastics required to get on it on top of the bed. Another internal but she found baby pretty quickly. “There’s the fetal pole, just as we hoped!” She said. She thought she saw the flicker of the heart but couldn’t spot it again so put it down to a trick of the eye before showing me my very very tiny baby. I admit I shed a few tears of relief – perhaps I had been more tense than I realised. I was booked in for ANOTHER scan to look for a heartbeat the following week. That was the Thursday. How quickly things can take a turn in the wrong direction….

Sunday, we had filled the paddling pool for the girls and I was going to don my own costume and hop in with them. It is easier to keep hold of the toddler if I am in there and it was a lovely hot day. I went into the bathroom to change and saw blood again. I should point out that the pocket of blood had still been there on scan day so it wasn’t entirely unexpected to see some but this looked different. Instead of the tiny bitty clots I had been having there were a couple of slightly larger ones. A few wipes revealed more. I went outside and told my husband. “I don’t think this looks too good, baby”. He climbed into the pool and told me to go and try to relax. There was no pain so we retained some hope even after a few more bathroom trips. We went to bed that night in a state of “Wait and see”.

Bank holiday Monday. No more waiting and seeing necessary. I had what I can only describe as early labour pains in my back and belly and down through my hip bones and into the tops of my legs. I got in the bath to try and ease it. My husband was in there talking to me when we noticed we could see the blood swirling in the water. He went to get me a pad for when I got out and as he went so a long thick clot emerged. I called him back. There was no question this could have been related to the small in utero bleed – it was just too big. After getting out of the bath the bleeding became very obvious, there was a lot of it, accompanied mostly by midsized clots. I get anaemic quite quickly so he suggested I call 111 for advice on the pains and blood loss.

“OK my love,” said the voice on the phone, “I will get a practitioner to call you as soon as they can”. I put the phone down feeling dazed and got up for another trip to the bathroom.

“Woah!” I yelped as I felt something big and frankly horrible exit my body. I waddled to the bathroom and was horrified by the size of the clots I saw. I grabbed my daughters potty and began crouching over it. I knew they would ask me again to describe the amount of blood lost and this would not only give me a more accurate guage but also make sure if anythinh came out that shouldn’t I would catch it. It genuinely felt that scary. The contents of the potty within 5 minutes looked like something from a horror movie. The phone rang and I described it to the 111 practitioner.

“OK my darling I am going to send you an ambulance”. I protested – my husband can drive me, but she insisted if it had got to that stage ao quickly she wanted me paramedics with me. I was freaked out but I had three little girls who had no idea what was happening. We quickly decided that as the 4yr old had seen the amount of blood from walking in on me before and now the imminent arrival of an ambulance we had to explain it. We couldn’t let them think this was a normal period as they would one day have to have them themselves and it would scare them half to death. We decided since it would show them I was still ok I would explain it.

“Listen girls,” I began, “an ambulance is coming for mummy shortly. You know that bleeding you saw before? Well there is a lot of it so they have to make sure mummy won’t get poorly because of it. You see, mummy had a baby in her tummy. She doesn’t anymore though. It went to Heaven. That’s why I am bleeding. You know how I told you about periods, and how the blood was like the body changing the sheets to make the bed for a baby if we wanted one? Well this is like that, except there were more sheets to change.”

“So we were going to have a baby brother or sister?” Asked our 6yr old, “but now we’re not? But why, mummy?”

“The baby must have been very poorly sweetheart. Too poorly. It’s heart hadn’t yet started beating and it will have felt absolutely no pain. It’s a sad thing. I am very sad. But sometimes things just aren’t right and the body has to stop holding on to the baby and let it go to Heaven.” They gave me cuddles but seemed more concerned with me being sad than actually being scared or particularly sad themselves. The ambulance arrived and my husband ushered them out so I could be questioned and checked over without having to worry what they might see or hear. His mum who lives next door had spotted the ambulance and come to make sure we didn’t need her help so he briefly explained and she offered to take the two older girls next door with her so he could come back in to see how I was doing.

I was giddy, and trying hard not to cry, and still having the contraction type pains. Each of the stronger ones seemed to send more of the large clots leaving my body and each time I yelped, half with fear and half with disgust. At one point it made me retch. Although the paramedics were happy with my readings they relayed the blood loss to the doctors at the hospital who told them to bring me in, to my dismay. I had hoped to be told that since my stats were ok I could just go to bed and let nature take its course. They were so nice though – they gave me time to breastfeed my 17 month old – which relaxed me and sent her off into a nap – and advised me to get a book as A&E was busy. After a quick root around my husband found me his Kobi and my Kindle, my phone charger and my pads so I could take spares. As the tot was asleep I told him to stay with her and check on the girls (who I could hear playing through the wall). Tbh I wanted to be alone with my thoughts and knowing the girls were able to go straight to him if he was needed helped me feel better about leaving. Off I went.

When I got to the hospital it was chaos. Bank holiday surgery closure meant every knock, bump, cough and sore throat was in A&E. The nurse asked me what I was in for and when I said 111 had sent me because of blood loss during a probable miscarriage she replied “that explains a lot – 111 sends everyone in “Oh, you have a cold? I will send an ambulance for you”. I tried to tell her I had offered to stay home but the docs had insisted but she had already turned on her heel and left before I could finish. I was lightheaded, dizzy and felt like I needed to sleep  but she came back to ask more questions. I explained the blood loss and the dizzy feeling but someone else walked in and asked how many weeks I was. “6 or 7, we weren’t exactly sure…” I started but she had gone again. The first nurse did my blood test and stuck a cannula in my arm for “just in case”. Again I told her I felt very lightheaded and started to add that my ferritin levels sometimes went low even if my haemoglobin iron levels looked good (and it had caused me to collapse in the past after blood loss) but she showed no sign of listening. I was told to give a urine sample in the toilet and then sit in the waiting room. So much for being alone with my thoughts. I felt the eyes of someone with a broken leg, someone on a drip, someone waiting for stitches and half a dozen other people upon me. Here was a somewhat pale but otherwise healthy looking woman with a tendency to grip her stomach, breathe deeply and waddle to the toilet. I felt like I was wearing a sign saying timewaster. Every now and then I would think about why I was there and duck my head so nobody would see the tears. I shouldn’t be here. I had only just seen my baby and it was fine. I should be home enjoying the day with the family. Finally a few hours later a porter arrived to take me to a ward. Eh? Nobody had told me I was going to a ward. In fact nobody had told me anything. Still, I aim to please so I hoppes on the proferred wheelchair and off we went. We got to the ward and a bed had been made up – I was alarmed – was I staying? What had my blood test revealed? What was going on?! I stopped someone but they told me someone would be along shortly to settle me in and then I would know more. I sat. And I sat. And I sat. I texted hubby to tell him what was going on and that nobody had spoken to me yet so I wasn’t really sure what was happening myself. He tried phoning the ward to see if someone would tell him, but nobody answered. Soon an hour and a half had passed and still I waited to be acknowledged. I decided it was fair by now for me to approach the nurses to ask as I had nothing with me if I was there all night and visiting hours were nearly over, plus if I was coming home later hubby needed to arrange for the girls to be watched while he picked me up.

“Excuse me… sorry to bother you, I don’t like to pester and I know you have been busy but I have been here an hour and a half and nobody has spoken to me. I don’t even know if I am in the right place…”

The nurses rounded on me, defending the doctor as if I had attacked.

“The doctor is very busy, she is covering two wards, she will be with you when she has time!”. The doctor, who was sat behind them, stood up and asked “Has nobody at all been to you, checked you blood pressure, anything?”she asked.

“No,” I said quietly. “I wasn’t trying to rush you I just… I just have kids at home and I don’t know what’s happening with me tonight, or why I am here by this point even”. The tears fell again. I just wanted to go home and curl up and cry without the feeling I was being watched. She told me she would be with me in five minutes and she was. She conducted a speculum exam and told me (as I had already known from my less frequent pains and trips to the toilet) that the bleeding had lessened and I could go home but to come back for the scan that had been booked what felt like a million years before.

That scan was today.

It shouldn’t be getting to me as much as it is. I knew. I have cried til I couldn’t breathe because I knew. Husband has stayed home from work with me all week to just be there for me while I cried and ranted. But somehow hearing the confirmation from the same sonographer who last week showed me my baby that today there is nothing left knocked the wind back out of me. I had a last minute surge of hope for a miracle last night and this was that hope being pulled out from under me like a rug. I am devastated. Heartbroken. Angry. Denial has passed (at least for now) and with it went bargaining. I have emailed the amgulance service to thank and praise the paramedics and already been told they are going to receive letters of commendation from their boss as a result of that praise which made me feel like I was in control of something and had done something good, but for the moment every joy is tinged with either sadness or hostility or both. Why me? Why again? Why not, I guess.

The reason I am writing this is much the same as the reason I wrote to EMAS about the paramedics. Something to do. People don’t talk about this stuff. We tell our birth stories and describe the discomforts of pregnancy but when it  comes to when the unthinkable happening early on we have to resort to forums to talk about it. But my babies existed, they may not have been with me physically for long but they will remain with me forever in my heart. Why should that be an uncomfortable topic for people? So I am sharing this experience and even one of the most raw and personal photos I have ever taken of myself (if it works). The picture is that trip to the toilet when realisation hit and hope left. It is an ugly photo but none of my words can express the devastation as honestly as the photo does.

If you are reading this because you have been there, I am so sorry. Please talk about it and let’s not let miscarriage continue to be treated as “our little secret”.

Love to you. Xxxx

The truth about breastfeeding a toddler (according to me lol!)

Well the first thing to say about it is that it doesn’t usually hurt as much as you would expect. Feeding a toddler with most of their teeth is the same as feeding a baby with none (though I reserve the right to amend this soon as the fangs are coming through!). The only time those gnashers come into contact with flesh is when the little bugger falls asleep hehe! Poppy is now 17 months old and shows no sign of quitting the boobie feed. Daily, nightly and ever so rightly, if I am there then so is she!

I never planned nor intended to keep going for this long. I am not a mummy who feels the bond will be broken when I give up this “special time in our lives”. In fact I feel more awkward about feeding at this age out in public than I ever did when I first began breastfeeding way back when my eldest, Izzy, was born (her first public feed was in a church as my Godson was Christened). There has been so much publicity surrounding extended breastfeeding of late that I feel if I whip one out and pop Poppy on I may be hunted down with torches and pitchforks by baying villagers. Baby feeding seems to be the new witch hunt… switch to formula too early (or, God forbid, skip breastfeeding althogether) and you obviously don’t care about your baby’s health and wellbeing. Quit breastfeeding too late and you are “hanging on” to the baby days, stunting your childs emotional independence and obviously don’t care about your child’s health and wellbeing. I can’t comment too much on formula feeding partially because I don’t feel strongly about it either way – we combination fed Izzy after a few weeks so she had one bottle a day that my husband gave her for daddy bonding time and the rest of the time was breastfeeding. That’s been the extent of our experience with formula as Poppy would never touch it. Even when I was away from her at four months old, taking a few hours a week to learn dressmaking, she turned her nose up at daddy’s bottle and screamed until I returned. We tried giving it to her from a beaker. A cup. A straw. Nothing worked. Then we tried cows milk and still nothing. However if I expressed she would have a little from any of the drinking paraphernalia aforementioned (mainly because my body doesn’t seem to express well unless she is feeding off the other side simultaneously so a little was all I could ever manage). I can comment on her emotional independence though – if she is midway through a feed she has demanded and something more interesting catches her eye, she is up and off like a shot. Children, dogs, cats, adults – anyone who looks interesting can persuade her to bugger off and leave me there, boob hanging out and dripping like a coffee machine. Her independence, emotional or other, remains intact and flourishing.

My main reason for carrying on is that, quite simply, she isn’t ready to quit. If you were sat at the pub and the barstaff whipped your pint or glass of wine (or something stronger) away you wouldn’t be best pleased. If you were thirsty and hadn’t had anything to drink for a while and someone sanctimoniously said “No you can’t have what you have ordered” without satisfactory explanation you would request to speak to the manager or simply leave and go somewhere you could get the drink you wanted. And quite rightly so -we are given the opportunity to choose as adults and whether we choose what is good for us or something naughty is down to us entirely. As children we have choices thrust upon us. “You have to wear a cardigan because it’s chilly”. This is probably true uif you are a grown up sitting at a desk but if you’re three, running around a classroom crowded with other hyperactive three year olds all kicking out body heat it is probably pretty tropical. But we grown ups know best. “Eat your carrots, you can’t say you don’t like then until you have tried them 15 times” (or whatever the books are saying this year). “Um, no. I have tried them mum and I really truly DON’T like them. Feel free to try my lukewarm pureed spinach 15 times before you tell me you don’t like it though.” Well breastfeeding is no different. Young Poppy here has a choice. Milk from an animal in a field run through a process of heat treatment and cooling, bottling and transportation to a coldstore until put out on a shelf in an openfronted fridge. Or she can have powdered milk that you add boiled water to then wait patiently to cool to the correct temperature (a bit like a pot noodle for kids). Or she can have what she has known since birth – fresh milk on demand,  untouched even by fresh air, at a perfect temperature, in a variety of flavours if mummy’s had something nice for dinner. All this and it comes with a free cuddle. I was going to say the second reason was her aversion to any other kind of milk but actually having read my own breakdown of the main reason I suddenly don’t give a crap about that second reason anymore.

So breast it is. Not because I have an attachment issue. Not because I am bohemian or hippyish. Not even because it’s ‘best’ (the jury is still firmly out on the nutritional benefits of extended feeding in the western world with our ‘superior’ diet – coz I reckon a Macdonalds is packed with nutrients). Simply because Poppy has voted with her tastebuds and her tummy and it turns out she thinks it’s best for her. And that makes it best for me too (even if my back hurts as she grows heavier, my sleep is STILL seriously disturbed by a little gannet in the middle of the night and I warily eye the fangs poking through her little pink gums).

So am an advocate of extended breastfeeding? No, not at all. If your toddler will happily leave you to partake in your first alcoholic beverage since that pregnancy test, let you take stronger painkillers for the migraine brought on by too many high pitched voices on kids tv or wear that gorgeous but high-cut dress with absolutely no boobie access without stripping – do it! Run for the hills while patting yourself on the back for breastfeeding through the socially acceptable period and quitting before your boobs hit the deck. But if you can’t… if you feel your child isn’t in that space yet and you are ok with carrying on for the timebeing at least… then settle down for that cuddle, use the excuse to request your other half to bring you a cuppa while you sit on your bum doing what only mummy can. And if you get nipped or pulled or your back begins to ache, don’t feel guilty for thinking “God I thought we’d be done by now”. But do try to remember why you’re not done. Because to your toddler you are awesome. You’re warm, possibly a bit squishy still (damn baby weight!), you’re a perfect fit for their ever growing body and they love you more than they have ever loved anything in their whole entire busy little lives.

Love you, my beautiful chunky monkey and gorgeous little princess.

Take care

TTFN xxxx