You never think it will happen to you. But then you’re sat in a scan room, staring at your bright blue socks as you wriggle your toes against the soft white sheets, waiting for the sonographer to say something.
But they don’t. Instead they call someone else in. And in the split second before she speaks, you realise that your world is about to fall apart.
“I am so sorry.”
I have had four miscarriages in the last three years. Two losses in the first trimester, and two losses in the second trimester.
My losses went from bad to worse. The first was an early pregnancy test, followed by a late and long period, known as a chemical pregnancy. The second was a 'blighted ovum' where a gestational sac was found, but no embryo was developing. I lost that pregnancy whilst at work, and just carried on as if it wasn't happening. I didn't know what else to do.
Then there was Rivaan. My tiny little boy. He was born “sleeping” as some people prefer to describe it.
Rivaan arrived in a perfect amniotic bubble, after a straightforward and strangely beautiful labour. I’ve felt so bizarre admitting I ‘enjoyed’ the birth. But it was the only thing we were able to do together. My husband holding my hand, and my baby being born.
The next few weeks are a blur. I have snippets of memories. Agonising over whether to have a post-mortem, sitting in a funeral home being shown a catalogue of tiny coffins. I thought people were mad having these conversations with me, but then I’d realise they were talking to me about this because I had lost my baby.
I know how intense it might feel to read this. Almost too much. I understand this, I felt this too while reading so many other people's stories in the early days of my losses. It is horrific.
But so many women and families have had similar experiences, and so few feel able to talk about it openly. And so when this does happen, the person going through it often has no idea how to navigate it, or what to expect.
Like me, millions of women do not get answers to why their baby died. But I know I am one of the ‘lucky’ ones with the excellent care I received at King’s College Hospital.
I sleep-walked through all my investigative tests, which all came back normal and we were advised to simply try again. So we did, and we got pregnant again that same year.
I was terrified, depressed, and exhausted with grief. But I was fast approaching 40, and waiting didn’t feel like a good option.
I did what you’re strongly advised not to do, and listened in to my baby’s heartbeat from home regularly. It was beautiful, and precious and fragile. I had a number of reassurance scans, supported by Sarah Phillips, the amazing bereavement midwife at King’s. I returned to work and tried to get through the days and weeks and months.
Then, one day, again well into my second trimester - I was back in the same scanning room. I’d had a scan just four days earlier – my baby’s heartbeat was strong. Everything was normal. Everything was going to be okay, despite the tears streaming down my face as they applied the cold gel. This reaction had been pretty standard for all of my scans since losing Rivaan.
Silence as she moved the device across my belly.
“I am so sorry.”
Roe was born four days later. The birth was traumatic this time. I lost a lot of blood and ended up having to go into theatre.
Like I had done with Rivaan, I spent the night with Roe. He lay beside me, wrapped in a tiny yellow gown and placed in a special cot that’s kept cold. I had brought leaves from the myrtle tree we’d planted for Rivaan, and rose petals which I placed beneath him.
I had experience this time, and knew how to try and make our brief time together special. I bought LED candles, a book to read him, and decorated the little white box they placed him in with metallic felt-tip pens. I lay the little knitted blue teddy we were given in our memory box, by his side.
I know how terribly sad all of this sounds, and it was. But it was also beautiful and loving and important for me to do. I know many women, and their partners, can’t or don’t want to do this. My partner chose not to. But I mention it here to try and remove some of the horror from this situation, and replace it with love. The love a mother has for the baby she carried.
If you have lost a pregnancy, I am so sorry. If you know someone who has experienced the loss of a much wanted pregnancy, consider asking them about it. They might not want to share, but the acknowledgement of their loss is likely to be greatly appreciated.