Since writing this post within a couple of weeks of my fourth loss, I did get some answers as to what caused it. However I want to publish the post in its original because I genuinely felt that I’d done something that caused the miscarriage and I want to honour those feelings. I know that most women don’t get answers and that my feelings aren’t uncommon so it’s important to share them.
We’re walking to the hospital for umpteenth time in a year – neither of us saying much. You focus on your plans for the day ahead, all the meetings and deadlines, anything to make you forget the imminent emotional rollercoaster. For that morning on 30 June we are walking to the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit (EPAU) for our 10-week scan. When you’re under the care of the recurrent miscarriage clinic you get extra reassurance scans at seven and ten weeks (I’ve never found them particularly reassuring).
I hate this. As soon as I lie on the bed (is it a bed or a chair? I still haven’t worked this out) and the sonographer plops the gel on my belly, I burst into tears like I did at the 7-week scan. I ask for the screen to be turned off. If you’ve previously heard the words “I’m sorry there isn’t a heartbeat” then having a scan is hugely traumatic.
Our scan at seven weeks showed a strong heartbeat flickering away – our first flicker of hope. Once a strong heartbeat is detected at seven weeks, a pregnancy has a 90% chance of progressing to full term, unless you’ve had three or more miscarriages then it’s 78%. Once a heartbeat is detected at 10 weeks the chances of a successful full term pregnancy increase to 99%.
After the initial euphoria following the 7-week scan, I felt like I was walking on tightrope. My pregnancy symptoms weren’t strong and I worried I would have another missed miscarriage. I was a nervous wreck by the time of the 10-week scan.
“Do you want to see your baby?” asks the sonographer.
I open my eyes, it doesn’t sound like bad news. She’s smiling.
Kyle switches on the screen and there it is – our 10-week-old baby bouncing away with a strong heartbeat.
“It’s so wriggly,” I say through tears of joy – relief. The sonographer hands me a scan photo and in my hands I hold a miracle. After three heartbreaks we had a 99% chance of finally bringing home our rainbow. We’d never have to go to the EPAU again.
So what the hell happened in two and a half weeks?
“I’m sorry, I can’t find a heartbeat,” the sonographer says gently at the 12-week scan. I still feel faint when I remember those words.
“No no no no no,” I scream in shock. “It was fine at 10 weeks, what did I do to kill my baby?”
“You did nothing wrong,” he and his colleague reassure me.
But no one can tell me what happened or why this keeps happening to us. The tests after we lost our third baby couldn’t find an underlying problem with me. Our third baby – our daughter – had trisomy 16 which is incompatible with life which is why she didn’t make it. We’d both been tested for balanced translocation which could’ve been a cause for having babies with chromosonal abnormalities but those test came back negative. Just incredibly bad luck.
But how much bad luck can one couple suffer – to lose our baby when we had a 99% chance of having a successful full term pregancy after three miscarriages?
Our baby will be tested for genetic abnormalities but it could be three months before we find out the results. There may be nothing genetically wrong with the baby so we may never find out what happened. I remember hearing in church “Great is the mystery of faith” – great is the mystery of miscarriage.
When no one can give you a reason for your loss, you begin to question everything you did and blame yourself.
What did I do to kill my baby? I’ve never smoked or taken recreational drugs (sorry, I’m a square), I’m a pescatarian, exercise regularly and am generally healthy. I didn’t drink alcohol during pregnancy, stopped running and took folic acid and progesterone daily.
Was it because I swam in the sea or was it that box I lifted at work? Was it because I worked that weekend or was it because I was lying on my tummy? Maybe it’s because I can’t relax or because I don’t get enough sleep. Or maybe it was that box of unwashed grapes I ate on the train to York.
An hour before I undergo surgery to remove my baby, I google the different ways I may have accidentally killed it.
Because no matter how many times you’re told it’s not your fault, you can’t help but blame yourself when you’ve had this much bad luck.