*This is a post I wrote when I was 8 weeks pregnant*
I have heard people say some pretty amazing things to me in my life so far. ‘I am in love with you’ , ‘It’s a boy!’ , ‘I am so proud of you’ to mention just a few. Earlier this week I heard six little words from a complete stranger that made me feel the most relieved and happy I have ever felt. The words came from a lovely lady, I think she said her name was Kirsty, and up until she said them I had been on the verge of tears and full of fear for days. Kirsty is a lovely sonographer at the Early Pregnancy Unit in Singleton Hospital and what are these words she said, you may be wondering? The sentence that flooded my whole body with relief and caused a strange sob/laugh to escape from my mouth was this – ‘There’s a live baby in there’. A live baby! I had been bleeding on and off for about five days, the blood changing from small spots to a heavy enough flow to need the protection of a sanitary towel, in the hour we had been sitting in the hospital waiting room I was convinced I was going to be told I’d lost the baby by the time it was my turn to go and be scanned. I am currently 8 weeks and 5 days pregnant and for the past month and a half I have been full of anxiety that I am going to have a miscarriage.
Miscarriage anxiety – the first trimester
Bleeding in early pregnancy is common, it is also really terrifying. The miscarriage statistics strike fear into the hearts of all mums to be, it doesn’t matter if you are expecting your first baby or your fifth. 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in miscarriage, those odds are heartbreaking and when it comes to pregnancy, you can’t just take it for granted that you are definitely going to be meeting your baby when you first see that extra line on your pregnancy test. Blood doesn’t always mean miscarriage though, you can bleed in early pregnancy for lots of reasons and for no apparent reason at all. Luckily for me, and also confusing for me, I have been bleeding for no apparent reason. My baby has a heartbeat, is developing well for my dates, Kirsty could see nothing wrong in my uterus and, although it’s still very early days, everything is ticking along nicely. When I first saw that deep red spot of blood in my underwear though, I didn’t stop to consider the fact bleeding is common in pregnancy, instead I cried myself to sleep that night and convinced myself my baby had died.
This pregnancy wasn’t planned, I was terrified when the pink line appeared on the test and I quickly slipped into a dark place. We weren’t supposed to have another baby, we were happy with the two children we already have, adding another baby into the mix wasn’t what we had planned for this stage in our lives. It took me a good two or three weeks to come around to the idea, for the fear to subside slightly and make space for excitement and joy. Once this happened, once I decided I was actually happy about this little surprise, a new kind of fear and anxiety set in. I became scared that I was going to have a miscarriage. No way could I be lucky enough to have three healthy babies. How, when 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, could I be confident my third pregnancy wasn’t going to end in heartbreak?
I have felt so sick these past five weeks. The feeling reminds of a really bad hangover, except it lasts for weeks on end and I haven’t drank a single drop of alcohol in months. I am so tired, so drained, my energy levels are lower than my iPhone battery that is permanently running on 2% power. I feel rubbish, to put it bluntly. But for each morning I wake up and feel sick before I have lifted my head off the pillow, for every afternoon I am fighting sleep at 3pm so I don’t miss the school run, I feel relief. If I still feel pregnant, then I am still pregnant. Morning sickness is horrible (and lasts all day, by the way) but atleast it is my little daily reminder than everything is still ok, my baby is still ok. If more than a few hours pass and I can’t remember the last time I felt nauseous, I start to panic that something terrible has happened. When the next wave of sickness crashes over me, I feel rotten and horribly unwell but it makes me happy too, an unpleasant but welcome reminder that all is well in utero.
Although I was still feeling sick, when Kirsty squirted the cold clear gel onto my belly and pressed down with the scan machine, I was convinced she would see nothing or she would see the baby but no flickering heartbeat. I lay on the narrow hospital bed and stared at the ceiling in the dimly lit room, following the curtain rail around the bed with my eyes and studying the tiles on the ceiling. The bleeding was getting heavier, I was convinced baby number three was gone. Ever since the first drop of blood appeared, despite the sickness and constant exhaustion, I had told myself this was going to be the end, how could it not be? ‘There’s a live baby in there’ , those words, I can remember exactly how she said them, the smile in her voice and the confidence she had with her findings. I was so happy and so relieved and so surprised, I was as sure as anything that this was not the news I was going to be given. Kirsty turned the monitor towards me so I could see, and there was our baby.
He or she looked like a baby! Ok, so it doesn’t have limbs yet and looks a bit extra-terrestrial but it has a little head and body and I have never been so happy to see anything in my life. There was a constant tiny flicker of white to grey in the middle of it’s body, the heartbeat. My baby’s heart was beating, what a beautiful sight. Now, every time that miscarriage anxiety creeps in, and despite the scan it does still creep in, I close my eyes and picture that tiny little baby with the flashing white and grey heartbeat. When the voice in my head starts shouting at me ‘1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage’ , I now let Kirsty’s voice shout ten times louder, her professional reassurance echoing around my brain – ‘There’s a live baby in there’.
Miscarriage anxiety, for me anyway, never really goes away. As all my pregnancies have progressed and morning sickness has subsided and baby kicks and a growing belly now inform me that everything is as it should be, there is still that worried voice in the back of my head reeling off statistics I’ve read about late miscarriage and still birth rates. The thing is, I have never had a miscarriage and I still feel this way, I can only imagine what the anxiety must be like for women who are pregnant again after loosing a baby in the past. The thought of a miscarriage is enough to fill me with fear, to have actually experienced it and then found the courage to get pregnant again amazes me. Women are so amazing and brave and strong.
I know you can never be fully sure how a pregnancy is going to go, nothing is certain when it comes to bringing a new life in to the world. I am sure though that I feel so much better after my visit to the Early Pregnancy Unit, we may not be completely out of the danger zone for an early miscarriage but I feel I now have something positive to think about whenever those worries about losing the baby show up. Miscarriage anxiety is something I experienced in all my pregnancies and I think it is a very common worry for mums to be. Try and think about the positives, don’t torture yourself with the statistics and if you are worried, speak to your midwife or offload your concerns to a caring and supportive ear. I know I am one of the lucky ones, not everyone will hear the news I received on their visit to the EPU but just remember, us women are amazing and brave and strong and, whatever happens, you will get through it. Don’t let the ‘what ifs’ take over.
Did you suffer with miscarriage anxiety in the first trimester? Do you have any useful coping strategies to share with other mums to be in the comments?