Note 1: This is a detailed, graphic, emotional, but ultimately positive post. Please do not read it if you think it will upset you. I wanted to give other women thinking of miscarrying naturally an account of what it was like for me. I know that the few accounts I found online of a late first trimester miscarriage were very reassuring when mine ultimately happened.
Note 2: This miscarriage was at 11 weeks 5 days, and I passed a 10 week 4 day old embryo. I have previously miscarried at 13.5 weeks, but the baby was only around 8 weeks in size by the time I miscarried. When I say “last time,” or refer to my other miscarriage, this is one I mean (I have also had several earlier losses).
I should preface this by saying that I didn’t intend to miscarry at home this time. Because I have a history of bleeding very badly from the uterus (after birth and after miscarrying), I reluctantly opted for surgical management, or an ERPC. This is where the hospital uses a small suction tube to remove the contents of the uterus. I was very, very frightened of bleeding during surgery, or of ending up with scarring that might affect my fertility. Ultimately, I had surgery booked for the Tuesday, but I miscarried on the Saturday beforehand.
A lot of the sensations were familiar to me, not only because I have miscarried before, but also because I have given birth before, and physiologically, it is a very similar process that your body has to go through.
On the previous Thursday I was getting some tightness in my lower back. I recognised this from the days before labour with my two boys. However, since the heartbeat had only stopped 6 days previously, I thought I still had plenty of time. Last time I miscarried it took 4-5 weeks to miscarry after the baby’s heart stopped.
On the Friday, I started bleeding very lightly. Enough for a pad, but only just. It was like a light period day. The tightness in my back was there on and off, but I had no other signs.
On Saturday morning, I woke up with period-like lower backache. It was quite pronounced and was slightly worse than my normal menstrual pain. The following account starts on Saturday morning.
I was still bleeding lightly, and the pain was coming and going in the morning, but it was hard to determine the “edges” of it, if that makes sense. I knew that they were mild contractions, but I couldn’t detect the start of them. I’d just suddenly be aware of the tightness in my back and then it would fade away just as quickly. I also had three bowel movements in two hours, so at that point, I began to think I wouldn’t make it to the Tuesday for my surgery (your body tends to shift everything out of your bowel before you give birth). Because I knew I’d lose blood, I juiced six oranges and drank them with two Spatone (iron rich water) supplements.
All pain had eased off by midday, and I was bored of waiting. I knew the contractions and bleeding could start fairly quickly – I didn’t want to stray too far from home, but I needed some fresh air and so did the boys. We bundled them in the car and drove 10 minutes to a forest park so they could run around. As soon as I got in the car, the contractions started up again, a little stronger. At the park, I found that walking around slowly really helped. I was astonished that I hadn’t done this for my two births as it was so much easier to bear them when I was moving.
After an hour, they were coming every few minutes and I felt like I needed to be at home. My main concern was suddenly bleeding everywhere, so we got in the car and headed back.
We got home and as I got out of the car I felt the bleeding pick up. It was like the heaviest day of a period.
DH sorted lunch and a film out for the boys and I paced around upstairs, doing some tidying up, trying to will on the contractions. I checked my cervix, but it was pretty much closed, which was a disappointment. I wanted everything over and done with quickly to minimise blood loss.
I thought about going into hospital, but figured I would just end up sat in A&E for hours and I could manage the initial stages better at home.
The start of proper contractions. They had a beginning, middle and end, and were happening regularly. I had to breathe through them and I hoped they were working. I would get a contraction, I’d breath through it, it would tail off, and then I’d get a gush of blood. At this point I was passing a fair amount of clots and I switched to sitting on the toilet as there was too much for a pad to hold. The biggest of the clots was probably the size of a golf ball, the rest were mostly 50p sized. The interesting thing about blood is how fast it clots. In previous miscarriages, I’d assumed these clots were bits of tissue, but they aren’t. Blood simply coagulates very quickly and because there is so much of it, it sticks together in jelly-like lumps. Then it passes out of you and looks like raw liver. Because I knew all of this, and because the blood was coming in time with my contractions, I felt pretty calm that everything was OK.
I ran a bath to help with pain relief – it was lovely, but DH was worried about me being on my own, in case I fainted. I didn’t think I was losing blood too heavily, but I got out after 15 minutes because the water had turned red and it smelt so metallic, like a copper pipe factory. I was also concerned about the boys coming in. Before getting out of the bath, I checked my cervix and I was 2-3cm dilated. I could feel the membrane of the pregnancy sac and I felt really positive about how things were progressing.
The bleeding slowed down a little, and the contractions eased off. I started to worry about when I was going to pass everything. The husband put DS2 to bed (I read him a story sitting on the toilet as he was upset about me not being available for bedtime), and then he went to look after DS1.
I checked my cervix again and was probably a good 4cm dilated. I could feel the sac bulging out of the cervix, and I hoped it would pass soon, however, the pressure on the membrane must have been too much, because as I felt along the edge of my cervix, my waters broke.
They gushed out of me and something landed in my hand. I looked down and it was the baby. He’d landed right in the centre of my palm, a perfect, tiny, miniature, sleeping person.
I blinked a few times, unsure what to do.
I knew the hospital could test the baby’s chromosomes, which I desperately wanted, so I looked around the room and spotted an empty glass pot. I put him in the glass pot and breathed a few times.
For the next hour I continued bleeding in gushes, but the contractions pretty much stopped. This is what happened last time and I was afraid my body wouldn’t complete the job on its own. I knew I needed to pass both the sac and the placenta, but there was no sign of either. I could feel something sticking out of my cervix, but I couldn’t pull it down. The lack of contractions was worrying me.
At this point, we called the out of hours doctor for advice, and they decided it would be best if an ambulance took me into the hospital. I explained everything to them and instead of going to A&E they took me straight to the gynae ward. The doctors were extremely good – when I told them everything they agreed to take a quick look and see if they could remove what was still in my cervix. Interestingly, the bleeding had completely stopped by this point, which again was very reassuring for me (last time I bled continuously for 2 hours waiting in A&E).
They took a look using a speculum and it seemed to be broken pieces of placenta, which they removed with some tongs, and they kept an eye on me for the next couple of hours. I bled quite a bit after they removed what they could see, but it slowed down after half an hour or so.
As a precaution they gave me some IV fluid because I couldn’t estimate my blood loss.
At around midnight (I think), I got two sudden, really strong contractions. The kind of grab-the-bed-and-breathe-for-all-you’re-worth contractions that you get in late labour. After they passed, I felt like I desperately needed to poo, so I dragged myself out of bed, dragged my portable IV with me down the corridor and found the bathroom.
And I did poo! As if I hadn’t done enough in the morning! I also passed a lot of other stuff at the same time. I think it must have been the pregnancy sac, but I wasn’t going to fish around in the water to find out.
After that I went back to bed and dozed, quite fitfully, until morning.
They did an ultrasound and said there were just a couple of small pieces of tissue left inside, and after sorting out all the paperwork I was free to go home.
The husband and boys came to collect me and we walked out of the hospital together, into a beautiful spring morning. I held my children’s hands, breathed in the cool air, felt the warm sun on my skin and felt such peace.
I’d done it. I hadn’t died. I hadn’t needed a blood transfusion. I hadn’t lost my uterus. I hadn’t passed out or been in fear for my life. I had my family with me and it was over. The terrible, terrible thing I’d worried about for days was over. And it hadn’t been that terrible really. Not really.
Last night I woke at 3:30am to a series of painful contractions and I passed a few lumps while sat on the toilet. I think these were the last pieces they had seen on the ultrasound. I made myself a hot water bottle, put an old towel under me and went back to sleep. The pain drifted away.
It was complete.
This morning, I showered for the first time since Saturday morning and I walked downstairs feeling lighter, pain-free and somehow, okay.
Because this miscarriage has done something completely unexpected.
It has given me back my faith in my body.
It has given my body back to me.
After the horrendous missed miscarriage 19 months ago, I felt deceived, naive, betrayed, stupid, frightened, confused and so upset about what had happened to me.
I felt old, like a failure, broken, vulnerable and I doubted everything, every choice I’d made.
Before this miscarriage I was prepared to go through the same again, a physically torturous process that would leave me near dead and utterly depressed.
But it was, in comparison, a gentle passing.
And not only that, but the moment I caught my baby in my hand, it was like an apology from my body. It put the miracle of life and death right there in the palm of my hand. That baby could have come out at any moment, disappeared down the toilet, but I caught him.
My body gave him to me, an apology for not keeping him safe.
And I knew, somehow I knew, once I saw him laying there peacefully in my hand, in his mother’s hand, that I would be okay.
I’m obviously sad, obviously there have been tears, but the pain is clean and untainted. It is for loss only, and not for fear, trauma or deceit.
And for that, through the pain and the tears, I am incredibly grateful.
My body does work. It did grow a perfect baby. I don’t know why he died, but I am not a failure.
I am physically empty, my body is my own again, and I don’t know what we will do, but that is okay too.
After so many months of rain, my friend told me she thinks the sunshine was sent for me this weekend, and I felt like crying when I read her beautiful message.
But it wasn’t sent for me. It was sent for my baby.
The daffodils are in copious bloom and nature never rests. But for now, while my body quietly heals, I will.