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.

Leaving the Shire.

“There is no real going back. Though I may come to the Shire it will not seem the same; for I shall not be the same.” – Frodo Baggins

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

— Gandalf.

Deciding to join the millions of others typing their thoughts and journey’s behind a screen was not something I ever saw myself doing. However, some journeys are worth sharing – if only so that others who walk the same path can find comfort in familiarity.

I chose to align these writings with my home, Middle Earth to liken our journey to the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings…in a way. These journey’s are never clear with pre-determined paths to take. There are many mountains, long days and long nights and many dangerous encounters. There are life-changing decisions to make, there are moments where you lose your way….when you lose your sanity. There are the Fellowship who join you on your journey and try to support you in their own ways each with a different personality. There is the Samwise to my Frodo, my amazing husband, who is your voice of reason and who walks beside you not out of necessity, but because they simply want to be there. In the end, you aren’t who you were when you left. But that’s ok. Journey’s are made to change you.

Our journey (and I specifically use the word “our” as a lot of writings surrounding pregnancy are squarely focused on women – sometimes this is negative attention, sometimes it discounts the fact that our partners are a part of this too) has already presented us with a number of challenges.

We have always wanted a child to share our bubble with. The decision to go on this journey together is not as simple as walking out the door and saying “You know what? I think we shall have a child” (well it wasn’t for me anyway!). Being in the medical field and working in Paediatrics presents you with a day that often involved 100% of what goes wrong (both with little ones and their mothers) which doesn’t always provide you with a rose tinted view of pregnancy, birth or having children. It takes a lot to remind yourself that this is a small percentage of all those who have what is classed as a ‘normal’ experience. Normal being a word I dislike – purely because normal can be ANYTHING (which will become more clear with our experiences so far). Having established finances, and achieving what you want with your career as woman is a lot more of a necessity these days than when my parents were young. I guess the changes you experience once you have a responsibility for a younger human being mean that you need to feel like you can tick a few things off before you feel “ready” or “prepared”? In reflection, what this really means is that sometimes it is better to find out who you are as a person and walk your own path for a bit before you decide to veer in another direction. That was something both my husband and I had to do (in our own ways).

We started the long journey from the Shire (our bubble) over 12 months ago now. We had no idea how long we would be on the road before we conceived and whether that was even going to be possible. I am 36 years old, so if you are like me…. DON’T GOOGLE….all you will see is how old you are, how your body is starting to fail you and how unfit you are to consider taking this journey so late in your life. It sows the seeds in your mind already that anything you encounter that blocks your path is likely your fault and yours alone. The “35” age issue was created in the absence of tests that can now determine genetic abnormalities between 10 – 12 weeks gestation, as well as a battery of fertility tests that even the most bouncy twenty-somethings can be told devastating news of their infertility/early menopause and other complications. There is also a strong possibility that the problem lies with your significant other – though that is never the first reason to cross your mind.

We had been trying for the standard 6 months with no luck before my GP ordered the battery of fertility tests. You see, if you are over 35 they give you 6 months before suggesting you take these tests to find out whether there is an issue with you conceiving. Now, bear in mind that my husband and I are extremely pragmatic people and therefore would prefer to know if something is going on. So the tests begin…..

Bloods…. SO MANY BLOOD TESTS! I had my hormones tested, my immunity and resistance to chicken pox, rubella and many other diseases, my iron levels, thyroid function, FSH and LH (follicle stimulating hormone and leuteinising hormone which are involved in ovulation, egg quality and production). You need blood tests pre-ovulation, post ovulation and two days after your period finishes. You have ultrasounds…. both external and internal (which is about as pleasant as it sounds) as well as updated pap smears and general health checks. All the while your friendly medical team saying “don’t stress, stress makes things ten times worse… just relax and don’t worry” – while you are being poked and prodded and tested within an inch of your life. Don’t forget… you are still over 35 and still feeling responsible.

My husband also had tests. Just basic bloods (which aren’t necessary but he already had had some done a couple of weeks prior for being under the weather so bonus there! He had a sperm count and quality test (which is likely a lot less traumatic than an internal ultrasound!). Already you feel like the weighting on you, as a woman, is massively disproportionate. You almost resent men for not having to share in your testing trauma.

As for the results, well my tests came back all within normal limits with no signs of any major issue surrounding my fertility or ability to conceive. My husbands first test came back with low count and high morphology – this can be due to a poor sample but his general health, mental health and other factors can also influence this. A second test revealed normal count and morphology – so we were given the initial ‘all clear’.

Two days after receiving our final results….. we got our first BFP (big fat positive for those not trained in pregnant women google forum speak)….. We had arrived at our first stop. But is it Rivendell… or Weathertop where we will be confronted with Nazgul? Fun fact – it took Frodo and Samwise approximately 6 months to get to Mt Doom… it took us just about the same amount of time to conceive… was this the end of the journey…. or just the beginning?

Who am I?

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”  – Bilbo Baggins

Who am I? I am a regular average 36 year old woman currently in the thick of one of the biggest adventures I will ever take – the journey to pregnancy, through pregnancy…and back again.

Why do this blog?

  • There is so much information available to us online these days, most of which is medical confusion (I am in the medical field so in no way am I saying ignore your docs!!). But my emotional journey has been helped by seeking out REAL storied by REAL women and couples so that you can align yourself with someone else for even just a second.
  • These journeys are not walked on paths paved in gold with Skyrim style clairvoyance to show you the way. There is a real part of pregnancy conceiving and loss that is kept quiet and swept under the rug. And it shouldn’t be.
  • I am 1 in 4. I am the 25% who has lost a baby to miscarriage…Twice. 25%!!! There are a lot of us out there who know this path. This is NORMAL this is a story that needs to be told and not hidden away in shame.

It is not easy to talk about loss. It is not easy to admit that you lost something – that’s what miscarriage is. You lost something. You. But YOU didn’t really – there are so many factors, so many reasons and so much more involved than you can fathom.

This blog is my unique journey (which is FAR from over). It’s a way for me to help to break the stigma surrounding miscarriage and pregnancy loss. It’s a way for others to connect their experiences to mine so that we have others who have trod this path with us. So we can feel understood, listened to and that someone else gets it.

I have gone through two miscarriages so far and I write this on the morning of my first D&C experience (my first miscarriage was natural but we shall talk about that later). I have experiences every colour of emotion along with my husband who walks this path with me. You are never alone in this. I hope that this can bring you some reassurance and some real experience.

I encourage you to tell your story – even if it is only to your partner, your Mum or your close friend. Talking really does help and there are so many who can be inspired and soothed by your words.

Image by theemibee (Redbubble)

We are not alone.