Arriving at the first stop

I have seen so many of those videos on YouTube where couples find out they’re pregnant. There are the ones where people literally jump up and down and squeal. The tricky ones where the woman surprises the man and he either responds in disbelief or an emotional “ARE YOU SERIOUS!?!?” followed by lots of hugs. I have seen couples revealing a positive test to their families which usually results in “WHAT?! YOU’RE KIDDING?” and other such utterances and then lots of tears.

I don’t think we are different, we do things our way and excitement to me has never been something I have physically manifested in jumping up and down or squealing – draws too much attention from this easily embarrassed introvert. Plus, my awesome hubby doesn’t really do surprises, and neither do I!

Just a little bit of background for those wondering. I have always had a 27-28 day cycle with 6 days of bleeding. This is textbook normal, doesn’t usually change even if I am stressed beyond all belief. The only time I have ever had a change was when I was at the top of my physical game and competing in National Triathlon and Swimming where you end up with what they call amenorrhea which means that you have very light periods or even skip them entirely. This occurs mainly cos your body produces hormones when exercising at an elite level which stuffs up your cycle, also the lack of body fat contributes to this hormonal imbalance. Thankfully that hasn’t happened since I was 19. When I left sport it became ‘normal’.

So, when I had none of my usual HELL IS ABOUT TO COME symptoms the day my period was due I thought I should probably do a test. Remembering this was only 2 days after we saw the doc for our fertility results. I reckon there was about 1 second between the time the pee touched the stick and the test line coming up! I was pregnant. I calmly walked out to the kitchen and said to my Husband “Look at this”. In our own way, we were so excited (and relieved after all the fertility testing) as well as laughing because we had to make another doctors appointment so quickly! We texted our immediate families immediately and worked out our due date which was November 4th 2019. I was hoping for Halloween and my husband would have loved November 5th (Guy Fawkes Day!).

So off to the doc we went 2 days later where she rolled her eyes and said “Didn’t I tell you every time I give a referral for fertility nearly everyone gets pregnant!?”. More tests then for me unfortunately. Bloods again to check my blood type, hormone levels, immunity, thyroid hormone iron and HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). HCG (for those who don’t know) is commonly known as the ‘pregnancy hormone’ and is what those little lines on the ‘pee on a stick’ tests pick up. Basically, this hormone doubles every TWO DAYS (!!!) in the first trimester of pregnancy, slowing down after around 10 weeks and then becoming a thing of the past when you move into trimester two.

We got our Obstetrician (OB) referral and decided to use my private health I had been forking out with and go private. I rung the office and spoke to the midwife who booked me the hospital as well as my first appointment with my OB at 9 weeks. At this stage, I was just past 4 weeks, so there was a surprising way to go before I thought you would see your OB. My GP would look after me in the mean time. There was a lot of information to take in.

Can I just mention the FOOD issues? So you can’t eat basically ANYTHING when you are pregnant. Everything these days is so focused on risk management. No soft cheeses (shit…), no food that has been sitting out in a bain marie or similar (no food courts basically or uber eats), no deli meats no veges that haven’t been thoroughly washed, no mayonnaise or sauce made with raw eggs, no undercooked eggs (yolks or whites)… the list goes on. Anyway, I adhered to it of course.

I continued to take my Elevit every night (this is a pre-pregnancy and during pregnancy vitamin to help prevent Spina Bifida which is caused by not enough Folic Acid as well as giving you all other essential nutrients). Basically, don’t take it on an empty stomach unless you want nausea times a billion!

The bloods came back all good. I am A-, same as my Mum when it comes to blood type. We are 2% of the population so if you are A- like me help us out and donate blood! My husband is 0+ which means that I would need anti – D after this pregnancy so make sure my body doesn’t form anti bodies in case the baby has a +ve blood group. This basically affects future pregnancies – if you have anti bodies and a future baby is +ve blood type then my blood cells and body will try and get rid of it. Charming huh?

I also had developed what they call subclinical hypothyroidism. Basically this means a high TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) but normal T4 and T3 which is what the thyroid pumps into the blood stream. Basically it does me no damage but if it turns clinical it can hurt the baby. So this normal thyroid I had had only 2 weeks prior to being pregnant was now having a spaz so I started on Thyroxine 75mg every morning. Thyroxine collides with Elevit so you have to keep them apart like fighting siblings. I would have another blood test in 6 weeks to make sure the levels are right. This will prove to be a pain in the ass as time goes on… but that’s for another day.

I felt good, we felt good. I sailed through the first few weeks with no symptoms. My Mother and my Nana also had symptomless pregnancies so I thought nothing of it. I started having naps – which is strange for me. I started craving some foods too but not crazy like you see in the movies where they drink like 5L of orange juice and pack away a whole chicken. We planned nursery ideas in our head. We nicknamed our little one Ponyo (as pictured above) because we both love Ghibli films and Ponyo is such a cute little fish. I imagined her swimming around in there. I was on Pinterest for things for the room and we discussed all sorts of parenting things which was wonderful.

Then it happened.

I was out to lunch with friends and made a usual bathroom trip (you get a few of these starting in early pregnancy cos your bladder works overtime!), wiped and saw the smallest streak of bright pink blood. My heart immediately stopped and my medical brain started going like the screen in The Matrix and scrolling through everything I could remember about pregnancy and bleeding. Immediately I thought the worst.

I quietly returned to the table and whispered in my husbands ear that I had had some bleeding. He reassured me and we decided to go home as my brain was starting to dissolve with anxiety and attempts to reassure myself.

We booked a doctors appointment where I learnt that bleeding “can be normal, but can not be normal”. Now, you will hear this phrase ALL THE TIME when you are pregnant. Everything is normal. Everything is not normal. Panic, but don’t panic. The long and the short of it is STAY OFF DOCTOR GOOGLE. I say this from experience. Go and see your GP or OB and follow their lead. There are stories on every aspect of the bell curve and you will find yourself more and more in your head trying to grasp at something that shows you you are on the right path and that everything will be fine.

The spotting and bleeding continued. On and off. I had some back pain which I thought was muscular, turns out it may not have been. Good work on self diagnosis, Physio.

I was sent for more bloods. HCG again. 2 days apart. The first number was great. The second was rising but hadn’t quite doubled and I got my results about 2 hours before I was supposed to start work for the day. An emergency ultrasound was organised for that day and my husband rang me in sick to work (which in my job is a nightmare to organise – you can’t be sick when you are a health professional, or self employed in my husbands case!).

The ultrasound technicians were great. I went in, they lay you down and your heart starts beating in your face and pounding in your chest. Time stops as the screen comes into view. Now bear in mind that I am able to read ultrasounds to a pretty decent extent. Even my husband could tell something wasn’t right.

No heartbeat.

Our little Ponyo, suspended in space was no longer swimming and was still. Everything was still.

“There’s a little pregnancy there, but I am sorry, I can’t find a heart beat. I’m sorry guys”

“That’s ok.” I replied… That’s ok?! What the hell kind of response is that? That is NOT ok. I am NOT ok.

I went numb, my husband gave me a hug. Tears started to form in my eyes as I quietly got changed and walked out to reception.

“No charge”. The receptionist said with sad eyes.

We got outside and the tears started to fall. My heart was broken and my husband and I hugged each other and got in our cars to head home. Empty.

This is a missed miscarriage. As in, my HCG was still rising so my machine of a body had not yet realised that anything was wrong and continued to think the pregnancy was progressing as normal. People think of a miscarriage as happening quickly. Well some do, some people just start bleeding and that’s that. Missed miscarriages are awful, drawn out and waiting around for your body to realise what your head already knows.

Your baby is gone. It has died.

This was a Friday when we found out. My GP rang and was amazing and empathetic as always and said she would ring on Monday to see if things had started naturally or whether we would need to look at other options to help me.

I was emotionally numb. My husband and I cried and sat on the couch. We ordered both Hungry Jacks AND McFlurries from Maccas and watched TV together. I cried to him and we talked about everything we were feeling. This is IMPORTANT. My husband and I have learnt the value of talking over the past few years. You need to express what you feel because your brain will start telling you all sorts of horrible things. You need support. Your partner needs support.

This is something you are going through together.

I thought of Ponyo. Still. Sleeping forever inside my belly. I felt cramps – both in my tummy and in my heart.

We decided to post on Facebook about what happened. This is something I wouldn’t normally do. But this happens to 1 in 4 women, 25%. Yet it is a taboo subject shrouded in grief, sadness, shame and blame and no one ever talks about it.

I liken it to getting a root canal. Horrible experience. The doctor tells you the medical plan of what is going to happen. Then you hear from 50 of your friends how their root canals went and you have a continuum of experiences to go off and the reassurance that so many others have gone through it.

Miscarriage is silent. But it doesn’t have to be. I don’t begrudge those who prefer to keep it to themselves for their own reasons. But I do believe that there shouldn’t be a shame stigma surrounding it. After our Facebook post, we received a lot of love and support which was beautiful. I had over 150 private messages from friends, family and other women (and men!) who had all experienced this too. I was completely taken aback as to how many of my friends had been through this too. It’s more common than you think. Their stories and ability to understand was what REALLY helped me and my husband deal with the psychological and emotional side of a miscarriage. Especially this early in the process.

So, I will tell you exactly how a natural missed miscarriage happened to me. So you will have a friend who has been there too when everything feels like you are old mate Frodo who has just put on the ring to find himself alone and invisible in a scary world.

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