what has happened in these last weeks - miscarriage.
I'm sure I'm not the only woman, person, parent who has a problem with the word: miscarriage.
I've hesitated and wondered and worried about posting this and even as I write, I have scheduled this only as a draft post, so it may never see the light of day. Also as I start to write these early sentences, it's only 10 days since we found out we'd lost our babies - twins, conceived naturally, as was our daughter 3.5 years ago, against all the odds and prognosis of IVF and infertility.
However, writing something down in any form seems to be the only thing which is helping to make sense of anything and as I search online and in my 'pregnancy' books (oh the irony) for snippets of wisdom and hope, the emotions I feel are just not captured fully by anyone else. That's kind of obvious to say but none the less true.
We found out in early February that I was pregnant and it was early on in the pregnancy too as we'd already been having investigations as part of our attempts to get pregnant over the previous 11 months. The weeks trickled on by and I began to know I was pregnant as well as just relying on the little blue cross on the special wee stick...tiredness, sickness, hormones all over the place and skittish, clumsy and emotional with it.
In the half term week I went away with the Bean to my mum's, leaving Andy decorating at home with my dad. During that week, M had a bad night, up and down with nightmares and what looked like a temperature and it was during one of these visits in the night that I made a loo stop and noticed a smear...nothing more than that on the loo paper. Fresh, bright blood, not in any quantity but none the less there.
If I hadn’t glanced down at the paper, I wouldn’t have known. I was 6 or 7 weeks along. There had been no problems before this. It was my second pregnancy. I knew that strange fluids and sensations were the order of the day. Who goes to the doctor because of a smudge she can barely see?
As I crawled back into bed on my own in the spare room bed at my parent's home, what used to be my bedroom as a child and teenager, my hand was instinctively and constantly on the small left over baby-bulge from my first pregnancy. Lying there, my praying in tongues gift (discovered during a terrible emergency landing in JFK airport in New York 11 years ago) came into full force again and I gabbled away in prayer, not really knowing what I was saying but emotions of fear, disappointment, worry and some small sense of hope rattled through my mind.
The following morning, speaking to NHS direct my mind was put to rest - I had no pain, no temperature, no excess bleeding so they weren't worried. I tried not to be too and instead was proactive and went to my doc's on returning home and they referred me to the Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU) for a scan on the Monday.
The scan showed a pregnancy sac, no heartbeat as it was too early but everything they expected to see was there.
Fear and trepidation were suddenly not so all encompassing, but we still didn't have anything concrete to pin our hopes on. What if the heart never started beating, what if the bleeding began again? What if...
And so we waited - and the next 2 weeks were some of the longest of our lives. I took a week off and rested...I knew that nothing I could do would make any difference to the eventual outcome but I was due to be away from home for 2 nights and I didn't want to be elsewhere should something happen.
2 weeks on and we turned up for our next scan at the EPU - feeling more hopeful and yet still terribly scared. We were pretty certain that nothing else untoward had happened in those 2 weeks to make us concerned and yet we also knew so many people who had thought everything was fine and had been told bad news.
So in we went, out came the cold, cold gel on my tummy and 30 minutes later, the scanner eventually spoke to us...honestly, she had said nothing for all that time. We were lying/sitting there thinking 'what the heck is going on'. And she turns the screen to us and says "So, it's a twin pregnancy..." - like we already knew!
We spent the next 2 weeks coming to terms with this mammoth sentence of only 5 words....the implications were huge. We would be going from a family of 3 to 5 within a few months. We had plans for Andy to seek ordination and that suddenly seemed crazy and scary. I realised I was unlikely to be able to return to work and had to get my head round being an at home mum, full time...which I have never been before, apart from Bean's first 4 months. I was going to be HUGE...I worried about what this pregnancy would do to my body - a body that hadn't really recovered, weight wise from just having one baby 3 years ago! We worried about money, we got excited about dressing them the same (or different)...would they be boy and girl or two the same? Having to think of 2 names was daunting but fun. The excitement of being pregnant and due just a few weeks after my sister and the reality that we would be giving birth to cousins who would be as close as siblings was an incredibly special experience. Our lives and the lives of all our family and our closest friends, for a brief few weeks, took a turn that we had never imagined and it developed in us a huge dependence on God, cos we didn't know what on earth we were going to do, and we also gained an understanding of the omnipotent plan and timing of our Father.
15th March 2010 and I was off on a work trip up North, just a night away. Once again, I got up to the loo in the middle of the night and found a streak of blood. Once again, my mind was put at rest by NHS direct and it was suggested we phoned the EPU on my return home. The EPU slotted us in on the Thursday and nothing else had happened so I contemplated going on my own. Like last time, I thought they would reassure us by saying...as we had grown accustomed to...'oh, these things happen with twins'.
Initially, it became apparent that only one twin was still in evidence. We had read about vanishing twin syndrome, meaning that one of our babies had not developed beyond the initial embryo sac stage although there had been a heartbeat. It is then absorbed into the remaining twin. The sonographer then went to get a colleague, saying she wished to get a second opinion and I was asked to empty my bladder. When I returned to the room, it was just Andy and I and we could see on the ultrasound screen a brief screen shot of the one embryo sac remaining, very clear and obvious. This was the last time I looked at the screen. After this, I had an internal ultrasound conducted by the second sonographer and part way through the scan the first sonographer put her hand on my knee. I knew then that things were not good. The words spoken were "my colleague agrees with me that there is also no heartbeat here". A slightly longer sentence than the news at our previous scan...and devastating with their finality. The roller-coaster which had been twisting and turning and making us both feel queasy and off the rails over the last few weeks came to a sudden and shuddering halt.
Both of us broke down - left alone by the professionals we looked at each other wordlessly. I was given a glass of water and helped off the bed and then we realised we would have to gather ourselves as scans needed to continue in the room we were in.
Only 2 weeks before we had left the scan room with wide grins and slightly hysterical laughter on our faces. Now we struggled to gain composure or even walk properly. We were ushered to an examination room next door and spent the next 2 hours being counselled in our options, signing various bits of paper, taking it in turns to cry and sorting out a pick up from nursery for the Bean who had no idea of what was going on.
We opted for an ERPC on the Monday (this was Thursday) and so had 4 days to wait through. The procedure was recommended for a twin pregnancy and had a quicker recovery time which, with a 3 year old at home was important to us. I had bloods done, sitting next to a heavily pregnant lady who was waiting for doubtless more exciting tests and then we went home....
The Monday of the procedure was a day I don't really wish to remember in great detail. The procedure happened, we came home a few hours later to my mum who had come to help out with looking after us all. And I set about, we set about, recovering physically and emotionally from all that happened.
I’m sure I’m not the only woman out there who has a problem with the word miscarriage. It sounds like a mistake I made: Whoopsie, I dropped the baby. I was carrying them all wrong. Forgive me. But what are the alternatives? “I lost the baby”? How bad a mother do you have to be to misplace a baby who’s inside you? “The baby died” is a little too direct for most people. There are feelings of guilt - what could I have done differently? Feelings of disappointment at the loss of all the things we had hoped and planned for which now would not be. Overall, the sadness was all encompassing, almost feeling as though I had flu and belly sickness all in one go.
At the moment I found out I had miscarried time itself split into two paths. The timeline we were supposed to follow veered one way, and I went in the other, ridiculous direction, this road down which we wouldn't be having twins in September 2010. Two roads diverged, and I took the one I didn’t want to travel, because the other had a road closed sign across it.
And so now, as I conclude this post, we are 5 weeks on from the ERPC and we're slowly gaining a level footing. The roller-coaster stopping so quickly left us jarred and shaky. I felt as though I had flu for about 2 weeks once the effects of the general anaesthetic had worn off. Then I went from manic busyness trying to keep focused on anything other than....you know what. Then I went through a stage of not wanting to see anyone so going out became a minefield. But each of those emotions and reactions has run their course...and we're on an even keel now, give or take the odd moment of contemplation, tears or anger. Getting back into routine this week after the Easter break has helped us to feel more normal and settled into this new form of life. Life as we know it now will always include the fact that we are a family of 5 in our hearts. My dad had taken to calling them the Ginger Twins - and that is how I address them in my own mind. We donated to and placed a message on a memorial with the Miscarriage Association calling them the Ginger Twins. It felt right to give them a characteristic - but unlike others we know we haven't named them. We'll be buying some fruit trees in pots soon which will be a permanent reminder of our babies and offer something positive and lasting and something we can take with us wherever we go in the future.
There are things that have amazed me about our journey thus far. I'm amazed by the number of people who have had the same experience - some a short time ago, others many many years in the past. We've had cards and gifts and flowers and food from precious, special people who have come and been led by us and what we need. The church, the community of believers have comforted and held us in many different ways. That has been such a blessing. I have been amazed by how M has dealt with it all as she was quite aware that Mummy had a baby in her tummy and now she hasn't. But she is hopeful and tells me often that there will be a baby there again soon. She hopes for me when I cannot hope on my own and gives me strength and a sense of perspective. I have so much to be grateful for.
And last week I met an old friend at a funeral of another dear friend. It was terrible circumstances but a wonderful chance to share together. And she told me she has suffered a miscarriage too and had found the journey painful but forming in so many ways. In the week that followed, we exchanged texts, she sent me some Scripture from 2 Samuel 12:22-23 and yesterday a book arrived in the post which I have read from cover to cover and which has inspired me to finish this post and have the courage to publish it.
Jesse - Found in Heaven
This book has much great wisdom in it, some theology which I'm still grappling with. The gem within it though, which has inspired me today was the number of women quoted in the book who had held the pain and the sadness of their baby loss inside them for so long. The author herself did not tell her story for many years and the book has seemingly broken open for her readers and those who hear her speak the release they have been searching for or are unaware they needed.
Some people have said to us - is it difficult that people know what's going on for you? But really, everyone who knows our loss and our circumstances has blessed and comforted and allowed us to heal and grieve honestly. I know what it is to hold pain within you and share it with no-one and eventually it bubbles up, surrounds you in an uncontrollable way and causes as much pain in that resurgence as it did originally.
So, we offer our story, as it is at the moment as a part of the bigger story that we know God has in store for our lives. We are broken and fragile, blessed and hopeful, stunned and still smiling. Miscarriage is a strange word - but that is what we've been through. We have lost more than our babies but we know that we are different people now to what we were 6 weeks ago and we're excited about what that might mean for our marriage, our family and our purpose and plan in God. God knows what he's doing.