This blog post is of a personal nature and rather hard to write, so bear with me.
9th - 15th October 2017 is Baby Loss Awareness week, and I'm getting involved by breaking my silence on the two occasions I suffered the loss of a baby. Not many people that know me, know that I have lost one baby let alone two. One goal of the awareness week is to campaign for better care of those suffering and another is to "break the silence" so here goes.
In 2012 my partner and I decided to try for a baby and in 2013, about a year after I abandoned my contraceptive pills we were overjoyed to get a positive pregnancy test result, but that week in August 2013 turned out to be the best and worst week of my life. Just days after discovering I was pregnant, I started to experience severe pain whilst I was at work. I had so much pain I could not stand or sit. I confided in my HR manager and called my midwife who advised to me to go the early pregnancy unit (EPU) in GWH in Swindon asap. I called my husband to collect me from work and off we went to the hospital.
I was scared, really scared but trying to put a brave face on for my husband. I saw a lady leaving with her partner and a small child, she was crying, "that's not going to be me" I thought to myself, attempting to be positive. We were seen by medical staff and I was told I probably had a water infection but I should go back for a scan the next morning. So the next day we returned to the EPU and had the scan.
My worst fears were realised there and then, when the person performing the scan leaves the room to get another expert, your heart sinks. "Yes, you are pregnant, about 7 weeks" she reveals, "but the baby is ectopic, stuck in your fallopian tube and this is what is causing the pain, your fallopian tube could burst at any time, and this could be life threatening to you". I was instantly devastated. I had read about ectopic pregnancy and I knew I would lose my baby.
I had to explain to my husband what this meant, as he looked on at the scan in front of him, an image of the tiny embryo and it's heartbeat.
"You'll need to have surgery today, we'll get you booked in" I was taken to a bed in the EPU curtained off from other patients. I asked my husband to call work and explain, and get my things from home.
Whilst I waited for him to return, I was left completely alone by the staff in EPU, sobbing my heart out. I know they had dozens of other women to see that day, and they could not spare any time.
I was prepared for my surgery, to have my fallopian tube and with it.... my baby removed, taken from me, there was nothing they could do save my baby and on top of that I would lose a fallopian tube too, reducing my chances of conceiving in the future. The staff who took me to the theatre were so kind, holding my hand as I waited.
I remember waking up from my surgery feeling distraught in the recovery room. I was crying and obviously very distressed. It was late and nearly all the staff were gone, one person, a women, was there who told me I had to "calm down" in a manner that was not at all caring, she obviously had no idea of what I had just endured and how I was feeling. This just made me more upset.
My husband had the difficult job of telling our parents the news, I'm sure it must have been very hard for him. I thank him for doing this for me, for telling my employers and explaining to our friends (and neighbours); who had dropped by to check if everything was OK as they had seen us rush off together but saw only my husband return home.
My husband appeared on the outside to have no problem telling people what had happened, even though he was hurting, yet I found it and still do find this extremely hard to talk about. Most people don't know what to say to you when you tell them, some say well meaning phrases that you expect to hear, but they feel awkward, you can sense it from their body language. Only our families and closest friends seemed to be able to handle the topic. We (my husband and I) have discussed it a few times and he says it's different for men, as all the medical stuff is not happening to them, although they feel the loss they are also feeling more sorrow for their partners. I am lucky my husband is of the newer generation of men that can talk about this stuff, not be afraid to tell other people and also support me in my hours of need.
Afterwards I never heard anything from anyone professional offering any support, despite my GP and the Hospital being aware of what I had just experienced.
This is the reason that I am speaking out about my experiences, the more we talk about this the less taboo the subject is. I also want to see an improvement in the support parents get in and outside of the hospitals. I received varying levels of support at GWH, ranging from a caring person who held my hand to the opposite end of the spectrum as I awoke from my heartbreaking surgery.
In 2014 I fell (unexpectedly) pregnant again and against all odds, following emergency surgery 7 weeks into my pregnancy to rectify a twisted ovary, our beautiful daughter was born in July 2015.
May this year, 2017. I was thrilled yet scared to have become pregnant a third time, but again just days after our joyful discovery and 6 weeks into the pregnancy, I started to lose our baby. I hoped that what I was experiencing was not a miscarriage, I knew it was not ectopic or another twisted ovary, but after a day of symptoms I was in pain and I asked my husband to take me to hospital in Gueret.
It was Sunday, there was only a skeleton staff in the A&E department. I booked in and explained what was wrong. They found an english speaking member of staff to look after me. I had a scan in the deserted maternity ward. I explained my history to the Frenchman undertaking the scan. He tried hard but could not find a tiny baby. The english speaking lady took me back to a room in the A&E and left me alone for over an hour whilst she telephoned experts in Limoges to get more insight and confirm the bad news. "I'm sorry I have taken so long, but I needed to get a specialist opinion given your history and I'm very sorry but we are sure you have had a complete miscarriage". Devastation. She went off to find my husband and now nearly two year old daughter who had gone to lunch in the hospital grounds.
Another two hours later I was discharged after having injections and more blood tests. I'm blood type b negative which has it's own ramifications on pregnancies if the baby has RH positive blood. I could have an allergic reaction to a baby with RH positive blood and this is very bad for the baby.
I had to have follow up blood tests to monitor my hormone levels, and saw my doctor after the results concluded I was no longer pregnant. She was very kind, and offered to set up a appointment with a specialist for me should I get pregnant again to follow me more closely next time.
The healthcare system here in France is different to the UK, but again there was no support offered. I was expected to get back on my bike and keep trying, no counselling, nothing.
I really hope that this week raises enough awareness to improve the care of parents experiencing baby loss, no matter what stage of the pregnancy they are at and that the healthcare system offers the same level of care no matter where you live in the UK. France has a lot to learn and it can, if the UK and other countries set a great example of how to offer support. I would not want other couples to have the experiences we have had. I also hope that people will start to talk more openly about baby loss. I know a few women here and in the UK who have experienced babyloss; some are open books, others like me are less inclined to speak out, to avoid making other people uncomfortable. Let's change this, baby loss isn't a dark secret.
I also think dad's/partners need more support, they are going through loss too and should be offered support if they feel they need it, it's so hard on them coping with their feelings and being a shoulder for the mum too. My husband was not supported at all professionally. Luckily we have a close family and a network of friends who we can rely on to help us through these tragic times.
To end this post on a positive note, I would like to thank my husband for his support. Through everything he has been there. Thank you Phil.
P.S. I'm planning a tattoo or three to commemorate all my babies.