Trigger warning: Contains discussion of miscarriage
Sadly, like many women, I have recently suffered twomiscarriages.
When it happened to me, I found myself looking online for similar stories to mine. Reading these helped me to process what was happening and also made me feel like I was not alone.
Upon talking to my friends, so many opened up that they have suffered a miscarriage too, or even multiple losses. I remember at the time writing a list of how many had gone through this painful loss. I stopped counting when I quickly got to 17.
Miscarriage really is far more common than we realise, yet it is spoken about so rarely.
The reason I am writing this piece is not to elicit sympathy, but to share my experiences with someone who may be going through, or have been through, this too and I hope they take comfort in knowing that you really aren’t alone.
My husband and I are the very proud parents to our three year old daughter. Aurelia was conceived naturally after only six months of trying. I had a straightforward pregnancy, followed by an uncomplicated natural delivery. Everything went smoothly and we didn’t really put much thought into the possibility that things would go any other way. As I learnt the next time we tried, it certainly was a case of ignorance is bliss our first time around!
I hope people take comfort in knowing that you really aren’t alone.
Throughout this journey, my saving grace has always been Aurelia. The thought of not being able to have another child would have been heartbreaking for us both, but we are under no illusion how incredibly blessed we are to already have a healthy, happy little girl.
We started trying for another baby when our little lady was around 18 months old and I couldn’t believe it when I fell pregnant during the first month.
We were just about to go on a family holiday to Greece to celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary and I remember feeling unbelievably fortunate to be in this amazing position. I even took some home pregnancy tests away with me just to keep checking every few days.
The blue lines were still showing up and I was delighted to see the number of weeks increasing on the sticks too. I had a swollen tummy poking out of my swimsuit, which made me smile every time I caught a glimpse of it.
I was on cloud nine and when we returned home we booked in for an early scan. I was around seven weeks pregnant by then.
The middle of the screen looked dark and blank, and Alison wasn’t saying anything at all.
I remember almost throwing up with morning sickness in the taxi on my way to the appointment. But I thought this was a great sign, as it must mean the baby was busy growing.
I had the same sonographer, Alison, at the same clinic who undertook all my scans throughout my first pregnancy, which made it feel all the more familiar and safe. As I lay down on the bed, Alex was sitting beside me holding my hand and we were both giddy with excitement as we waited to see our new baby for the first time.
It was different to last time though. The middle of the screen looked dark and blank, and Alison wasn’t saying anything at all. She asked me if I was sure of my dates, which I was, and then I felt a huge sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I will never forget her next words, “I’m sorry, but there’s no baby here. ”
It felt like an out of body experience and I was so confused.
“I don’t understand what you mean,” I said.
“You are pregnant, but there is no baby. This is what is called a blighted ovum.” she replied.
I felt like I’d been stupid to get carried away with it all.
We were taken to another room and Alison tried to explain the details to us, but nothing was really going in. My head kept spinning and I just felt empty.
How had the pregnancy tests told me I was pregnant? How had the weeks increased, and how could my symptoms have been so strong if there was no baby? How was I going to phone my mum and sister, who were waiting to hear our good news and let them down?
I felt like I’d been stupid to get carried away with it all, but as most women who have had a positive reading will tell you, you almost start imagining the rest of your life with your new bundle of joy about a minute after those two magic lines show up.
READ MORE: How To Talk To Kids About Miscarriage
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“Oh is it like a phantom pregnancy?” I remember a friend asking. This made me feel embarrassed, like I’d imagined it all up! Of course they didn’t mean this to upset me, the truth is that neither of us really understood it and we hadn’t even heard of this before.
I was so confused, feeling the loss of the baby we had hoped for, whilst at the same time feeling like I wasn’t entitled to feel loss, because there was never one there.
I know many women who have seen their baby with a beating heart at their first scan and then been given the devastating news that there is no longer a heartbeat at the next. I told myself that I should feel grateful. On the scale of miscarriages, I was fortunate this trauma hadn’t happened to me.
A blighted ovum occurs when a fertilised egg implants, but doesn’t develop into an embryo. The pregnancy sac develops in the womb but the sac is empty.
As I understand it now, a blighted ovum is the term for a particular type of early miscarriage.
It occurs when a fertilised egg implants, but doesn’t develop into an embryo. The pregnancy sac develops in the womb but the sac is empty.
However, despite the pregnancy being unviable, you may have symptoms of early pregnancy, such as breast tenderness, nausea and vomiting. When combined with a positive pregnancy test, this understandably leads you to believe you are pregnant and in a sense you are. Although, unfortunately the development of fertilised egg to embryo does not then continue successfully and so a blighted ovum eventually results in miscarriage.
Some women choose to wait for the miscarriage to happen naturally. Others take medication to trigger it and in some cases, a procedure called a D&C is used to remove the placental tissue.
Some reports I have read say that it is the cause for 50% of first trimester miscarriages. Yet I had never heard of it until now and almost none of my friends had ever heard of it either.
As a precaution I was advised to wait a week and return for another scan, which sadly confirmed our fears. I had a D&C procedure in hospital a few days later.
Each blood test that came back with positive results allowed me to have a little more hope.
We fell pregnant again five months later and were absolutely over the moon. We tried not to get too carried away after the pain of the first miscarriage, but consoled ourselves that the chances of it happening again would be very low.
This time we waited anxiously, as it was still too early for me to have a scan. So instead I started going for regular blood tests to check that my HCG levels were increasing sufficiently. They were doubling every other day as they should be and once again I had all the classic pregnancy symptoms.
I so wanted to get excited, to start thinking of names and planning what would happen once the baby arrived, but had to hold myself back just a little while longer. Each blood test that came back with positive results allowed me to have a little more hope.
When it came to the scan I couldn’t bring myself to look at the monitor. I closed my eyes and squeezed Alex’s hand desperately waiting to hear the good news from poor Alison again.
Instead the room was silent as she concentrated. Then I heard the words I had been praying not to hear.
“I’m so sorry, but there is no baby.”
The fear set in that it might never happen for us at all.
A blighted ovum was suspected once more. This time instead of feeling sad, I felt consumed by anger.
Why had this happened again? How long would it set us back from trying again? Then the fear set in that it might never happen for us at all.
This was March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to peak. It was explained to me that my first option was to go into hospital for another D&C procedure, or alternatively I could wait it out at home for things to happen naturally. I decided to wait.
If I’m completely honest I was afraid of touching our post, never mind going into hospital! We were going to be at home as a family anyway, so I felt reassured that when it happened Alex would be around to help look after Aurelia and support me.
The weeks passed, my symptoms continued and the home pregnancy tests maintained positive readings all the way through to 12 weeks. Nothing happened.
In the build up to the 12 week scan I kept secretly hoping and dreaming this meant they could have made an error and when I was called in i would see a little miracle baby.
Sadly this wasn’t the case and I was informed that the pregnancy sac was empty again.
I was devastated, but at least we could move forwards
Although no baby was present, the placenta and sac had continued to grow. Essentially my body had not realised yet that the pregnancy wasn’t viable and so I was still producing enough HCG to show the positive pregnancy readings and why my symptoms had continued.
My hormones were like a rollercoaster. I physically felt pregnant, the only way I can describe it is I felt as though my body was playing an incredibly cruel trick on me.
I was given medication and painkillers to take at home that would bring things along. Without going into too much detail, after a day spent between bed and the bathroom I was in no doubt that the medication had done what it was meant to do.
I was devastated, but at least we could move forwards and start to deal with the second miscarriage having happened.
Three weeks later I was asked to attend another scan to ensure there wasn’t any tissue remaining that could cause an infection. I would now have been 15 weeks along. Distressingly, it confirmed that the medication hadn’t in fact worked and that I needed to go into hospital the following day for a D&C after all.
I am now lucky enough to be almost five and a half months pregnant with our second daughter, affectionately known as ‘Bean’ for the time being.
It wasn’t the blissful first trimester I’d experienced when I was pregnant with Aurelia. I’ve been pretty terrified at every scan (I say every as I keep going back to check Bean is OK!) and I still can’t look until I hear she’s doing well.
Despite this, I am enjoying my pregnancy now and getting very excited to meet our little girl in the full knowledge of how incredibly blessed we are and how much we have longed for her. I intend to fully embrace the remainder of this pregnancy and celebrate it as I know I should.
READ MORE: How To Talk To Kids About Miscarriage
READ MORE: ‘I Had A Miscarriage At Work’