by Jillian Dingwall
Around two years ago I found out I was pregnant with our first child after our first time trying. Two weeks later, I found out at the scan that the pregnancy had failed. They told me I’d had a silent miscarriage, meaning that my body was not registering that there was no foetal heartbeat and would continue with the pregnancy as normal – for how long was anyone’s guess. Five weeks later and I was still carrying my failed pregnancy around, waiting desperately in vain for it to abort itself whilst trying to act normal to the outside world.
Google told me that one in five pregnancies end in some form of miscarriage, so I was not a special case, if anything I was pretty normal, but it seemed surprising to me that 20% of women have experienced a miscarriage and yet I knew of no one who had.
“Women should talk about this more” I thought. “I’m going to be different, I’m just going to tell people what has happened to me. It’s not a big deal.”
How Was Your Weekend?
A couple of days after I found out that I’d suffered a silent miscarriage, I headed off to work where, upon arrival at the office, someone innocently asked me how my weekend was. What a catastrophe of a question that turned out to be. This is what happened inside my head:
*Hmm. How do I deal with this? I mean I can’t just say “It was shit, I had a miscarriage.” That’s really awkward. This poor person just wants me to say that I had fun. I can’t tell them I’m carrying a lifeless embryo around, that’s a bit of a conversation killer. But I can’t lie. I’m really bad at lying. And anyway, why should I lie? 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, it’s quite normal, right? Oh god. Panic.*
“Uh, yeah, it was fine?”
*Okay, I’m usually really talkative. That was not the answer I’d normally give to that question. They’re going to know there’s something wrong with me. What if they ask me if I’m okay? Or what if they think I’m just a massive weirdo. Am I massive weirdo? Oh god. Panic.*
And this kind of thing happened to me multiple times a day…for an entire week.
So, this is why no one talks about miscarriage, I discovered. Women who have experienced it are not necessarily shamed or guilted into silence, some of us want to talk about it, we just don’t want to make everyone feel uncomfortable. I mean, it’s pretty heavy stuff. I can’t be laying that on the girl at reception who just wants to hear about how bad my hangover is.
I’m Still Technically Pregnant
I was 7 weeks pregnant when I found out that I had miscarried, no one knew about the pregnancy except my husband and our parents. Thanks to Google, I had been fully aware that I could lose the baby to a miscarriage, and for the most part I was mentally prepared for it. The problem was that with a silent miscarriage, despite the failed pregnancy, I was still experiencing all the symptoms: the sore boobs, the bloating, the hot flushes, the low energy, the lack of patience, the positive pregnancy tests. But I had no baby really. Just an embryo that had failed to turn into a foetus, an embryo that was in the biggest, fanciest, healthiest gestational sac.
As is procedure with a silent miscarriage, you are made to wait some time to ensure that there has been no mix ups with the dates, that the ultrasound equipment wasn’t faulty, and that your pregnancy has definitely failed without a shadow of doubt before you begin any termination treatment.
Due to various circumstances, I had to wait three weeks before I was taken into hospital to have, as they called it, the “product of conception” removed. That was potentially three weeks of people asking me how my weekend was, followed by me having a nervous breakdown over how I’m supposed to answer that question.
I had to tell my boss and I asked to work from home. I stopped leaving the house completely, I just couldn’t see anyone until this was all over. Suddenly I understood why this is so difficult. And it is so difficult. I hadn’t even dealt with the fact that I had lost a baby and the grief that this brings. I was too busy worrying about how to hide the fact that I had lost a baby so as not to make other people feel uncomfortable.
Blood, Sweat, Tears, and More Blood.
I was finally admitted to Mater Dei where I stayed for four days. I chose to have the pill that brings on contractions in the hope that I could induce the abortion without having to resort to the slightly more risky surgery. I had three doses of the pills over two days, and they managed to flush out literally everything except the pregnancy. I have never seen so much blood.
I had everything up there: ultrasound wands, strangers’ fingers, cold steel speculums, forceps, students’ curious eyes. All whilst bleeding and cramping profusely with tears streaming down my face.
After two days of bleeding, not eating, barely sleeping, and just general physical trauma, I decided to go for the surgery to put an end to this whole ordeal once and for all.
The surgery was under general anaesthetic, quick and painless, so much so that I dreamt of red velvet cake the whole time I was under. When I woke up, however, it was a whole different story.
For the short time that I knew I was pregnant, before I found out I’d had a silent miscarriage, I never really felt what I would describe as a bond or had even fully come to terms with being pregnant. I knew it would come eventually, but to me it was all so sudden and surreal to believe at that point. So, when I found out I had lost the baby, I thought that I wouldn’t experience any real grief or sadness. I’d been pregnant for such a short time it would be easy to write it off and start again.
As soon as I came round from the surgery I felt complete and utter devastation. It was gone, I could really feel that it was gone, and I was horrifically heartbroken. I felt so much guilt I can’t even describe it. This little thing that I had made with the love of my life, violently forced out by me before it was ready to go, now sitting in a cold, steel surgery tray in a lab somewhere all alone.
After all the pills I had taken, by the time the surgery came around the embryo had dissolved. I was literally grieving over an empty gestational sac. I cried for two days. Ugly cried, as if I had personally ordered the slow death of a puppy and watched it suffer.
I was so wrong about all of it: It is hard to talk about, for so many different reasons, and it’s impossible not to grieve.
So, I’m sorry little Dorothy. I’m sorry I forced you out so brutally. I’m sorry it didn’t work out. I’m sorry I hid you from everyone. I’m sorry you won’t be the one I get to look after, love, and guide through life. I enjoyed the short time we had together very much and I will miss you for a long, long time. Goodbye my little friend, and thank you for sacrificing yourself so that the next one will be perfect.
I won’t ever forget it.
Thank you to the amazing staff at Mater Dei who helped me through such a difficult time. If you’re struggling to come to terms with a pregnancy loss, you can contact the Bereavement & Support Midwifery Service at Mater Dei on tel: 2545 4442 / email: [email protected]
For more insights and experiences from Malta’s parents, visit our Island Parents section.