noun: miscarriage; plural noun: miscarriages
1. the spontaneous or unplanned expulsion of a fetus from the womb before it is able to survive independently.
“his wife had a miscarriage”
synonyms: spontaneous abortion, stillbirth
2. an unsuccessful outcome of something planned.
“the miscarriage of the project”
synonyms: failure, foundering, ruin, ruination, collapse, breakdown, thwarting, frustration, undoing, reversal, setback, unsuccessfulness, aborting, non-fulfilment, misfiring, mismanagement, perversion
So there you have it in black and white and so far as definition 1 above quite shockingly plain English. I’d never realised how common an occurrence they were until R and I had one a year for three years and slowly but surely folk came out with their own stories of loss and eventually hope. I’ve been asked to write a little about how it felt from the man’s perspective and this is it.
R and I met in June 2009, by the September were living together and in the October we were on holiday in Lanzarote. It was on that holiday that we made the decision that R should stop taking the pill and we’d ‘give it a go’, neither of us were young so far as having children was concerned so time was of the essence and hey we kind of liked each other…
Almost immediately R fell pregnant, this was amazing and I remember feeling elated that
(a) We’d created new life that would be our child
(b) My testicles actually worked!!
Point ‘b’ may seem a little childish but I can’t tell you the relief of knowing that my undercarriage actually functioned as it should.
So fast forward to around ten weeks and R starting bleeding, steadily bleeding. I remember pacing round our living room demanding that surely that the midwives should or could do something…anything and wishing that Google and it’s plethora of information didn’t exist because then I wouldn’t know that this bleeding was most likely the start of a miscarriage. Alas it was and a few days later R’s body ‘passed the products’ of the pregnancy, rather morbidly she retained the little sack for the midwives as requested (not that they ever came to see) and for me to see when I returned from Bristol after working up there for the day. It reminded me of the body of a small squid, we were heartbroken, upset and in disbelief that we’d had a miscarriage.
So far as I was concerned miscarriages happened in soap operas much like plane crashes or meteor strikes, they exist just not in ‘real’ life. I did all I could to support R emotionally and physically over the weeks afterwards until the physical signs had gone and all that was left was wondering about what could have been.
Moving on another year and, after lots of disappointing months of periods arriving like clockwork R and I started using a Clearblue fertility monitor. It basically meant I knew what day of her cycle R was on and, when the indications were right it was ‘time’. If I say that sex became a bit of a chore as it was so premeditated maybe you’ll get the picture. Again at around the same time as pregnancy number one R thought she might be pregnant as she was late, but then one evening whilst cooking dinner she told me through floods of tears she’d had a heavy bleed with ‘something in it’. So that was that we thought but, after speaking to the local midwives we were advised to go for an emergency scan.
A very brusque Doctor with little joy in his life ushered us into a side room, pressed zoom a few times and zoomed in on a heartbeat! We were amazed, absolutely amazed and left with the news R was around eight weeks pregnant and everything looked ok. There was some suggestion that the first bleed might have been a twin but we were just elated that there was a pregnancy and the excitement grew up to our twelve week scan date.
We were again blessed with a stroppy sonographer who berated R for still having belly bar in and was quite off with us, her attitude changed within a few seconds of starting the scan. We all three stared at the screen from our various vantage points looking for our little collection of cells and it’s heartbeat but there was no telltale flicker on the screen. That little heart had stopped beating.
We had second opinions, an internal scan (which looked thoroughly unpleasant and uncomfortable) and with the miscarriage confirmed we were taken away from the other happy expectant folk in the waiting room to a side room somewhere. We were eventually sent on our way with kind words, a leaflet with pansies on the front about grief and guidance of the options to R to ‘get rid’ of the products (yup that word again) had ‘gone’.
R elected to go home and let nature take its course naturally as she didn’t fancy surgical procedure or drugs. Those days waiting were strange, disconcerting and emotionally draining but came to a head early one Monday morning as I awoke to R’s guttural moans from the living room. She was clearly in horrific pain and was bleeding quite heavily, she’d decided not to wake me as I had to go to work but this had all kicked off two hours previously!!
A couple of phone calls to the local midwives and then the maternity unit (80 minutes drive away) and I was advised to call 999, there’s something very grown up about pressing those hallowed numbers but within around five minutes we had an ambulance with two lovely technicians and R was eventually (after more heavy bleeding) put in the ambulance for the trip to Exeter. What I didn’t find out until later was that the ambulance had to stop due to R’s blood loss en route as they were very concerned so it was a blue light run to Exeter.
What I did next I can’t explain, I went to the loo (routine what can I say), had a shave, got dressed and then drove to the hospital. Don’t ask why but it seemed the right thing to do at the time, a bit like the bag I packed for R that included a thong rather than the ‘big pants’ that would have been a little more practical. Perhaps I was in shock?
It turned out that R’s cervix had become blocked so as much as her body tried it was struggling to pass the products of pregnancy. Believe me when I say that day I saw things that would make many a student doctor blanch!
We’re perhaps fortunate in our household to make a joke of anything and everything, it’s how I (and many others) cope in times of stress. We cried together, I often cried alone but slowly and surely we put ourselves back together again and distracted ourselves with wine, holidays and work. I found it tougher than the first time and remember being especially annoyed at the NHS not wanting to offer any tests or support until we’d had three miscarriages. THREE?!?
So (and there’s a pattern emerging here) we again lived by the monitor, that monitor controlled our sex life once more to the point that the whole act at times became little more than a biological transaction. If that sounds harsh then it should, I longed for spontaneity and (as I’d now call it) ‘leisure sex’ that’s about mutual enjoyment rather than reproduction. We even laughed at the amount of years we’d tried to avoid pregnancies and now it was all we were trying to achieve!!
Eventually we were pregnant once more, R went through a dry (and at times tedious) Christmas and we soldiered on in the hope that this time was the one whilst joking privately that at least this time we’d get some tests done if / when the house of cards came tumbling down. Those cards did indeed come down once more at a scan where we were told that there was ‘nothing’ there and the pregnancy must have stopped growing at around ten weeks. I swear my heart broke a little and as I supported R I wondered what was wrong with me and why I couldn’t be a Father. Luckily (if you can use that word) there wasn’t the drama or ambulance ride as this time nature took care of everything which was confirmed with yet another scan.
Following that final miscarriage we had tests, it was around 3 vials of my blood and 11 of R’s along with a chat. A bloody chat, all the money we pay in taxes and we got a chat. I was fuming, absolutely livid. I don’t know what I expected them to do but I expected more. Alot more.
In summary the three miscarriages very nearly broke us, it hit me harder than I ever realised and it’s only in the last six months R admitted she was on the brink of leaving me. The black dog followed me relentlessly wherever I went, people with babies became ‘smug parents’ women or couples with a baby bump became ‘smug pregnants’ and as much as I love ‘One Born Every Minute’ on Channel Four it brought me to floods of tears every week. Looking back I must have been hell to live with yet R persevered, she’d come home from work and I wouldn’t speak, I’d snap about anything and nothing, the miscarriages had slowly brought me to my knees. Whenever I think of those dark days I have to thank her for her dedication / lunacy and for sticking by my side, I’ve never felt the love I have for her with any other person on this planet and strongly believe adversity has made these bonds stronger.
If I could offer advice to anyone else that’s suffered unexplained miscarriage even on repeated occasions it’d be don’t ever give up hope that one day your dream will come true.
On Friday November 22nd 2013 at 08:43 our dream came true, our beautiful son Noah Ace came into our lives and all the hurt and pain was put so far from our memories as to not to dampen our days anymore. I can happily say it was all worth it but we’ll never ever forget those three extra stars in the night sky.