As part of Baby Loss Awareness Week 2022, solo-mum-by-choice Claire shares her experience of miscarriage and solo parenting.
At the end of the article, Claire has put together some helpful tips for those experiencing miscarriage or baby loss.
This story comes with a trigger warning.
My first miscarriage was discovered at a 10 week scan. This was also my first pregnancy having been unsuccessful three previous times. I had planned a bit of a girl’s day out with my best friend, who was also going to be my birth partner. I was becoming a ‘solo mum by choice‘, so without a partner, my friend was attending the scan with me and then we were off for a fancy lunch to celebrate. Her job now was to tell everyone that I had lost the baby. And my job now was to get it confirmed at my NHS hospital, find out my options of how to ‘lose’ the baby, and deal with baby loss.
I didn’t know there was anything called a ‘missed miscarriage’. It means that the foetus had implanted, but had stopped growing and died. Your body just doesn’t realise it. The baby measured approximately eight weeks. I had lost it two weeks previously, but I still had morning sickness and my tummy still felt a little bloated. I had no signs of miscarriage – you know, like the ones you see on TV, writhing in pain and bleeding out.
I chose to have a D&C. Before I headed down for surgery, an overwhelmed and busy nurse was doing my pre-surgery checks as I was going under a general anaesthetic. Out of habit asked me if there was any chance I could be pregnant. I ended up comforting her when she realised her mistake. When I woke from surgery, I received a phone call from a baby brand I had signed up to asking if I wanted to receive a discount to share with friends for nappies.
I grieved for motherhood – I had daydreamed of becoming a mum, the things we would do, our slightly matching outfits, whether we would look alike, had I done something wrong, was it that heavy bag I carried? I had already taken the massive decision to become a solo mum, so I thought I had got past the hard parts, of telling family of my decision, and then choosing a sperm donor. A medical institution was getting me pregnant. It was on. SMBC here I come. Not only had I imagined that it was going to be a girl (I had the name sorted), but my family and friends were super excited. I knew the date the baby was created, I knew the date the blastocyst was transferred, and I knew my due date. I now know the date I found out I had lost the pregnancy, and the date the baby left my body. I was mad, and sad, and scared. And once again I was reminded that I have absolutely no control over my body or getting, staying pregnant.
I became a woman on a mission. I was going straight back in. I was going to get pregnant asap, and become a mum. It took two more attempts to get pregnant with my son. I threw all the meds at it – blood thinners, IVIG’s, aspirin. A pregnancy after a miscarriage is scary and tense. Every single thing you do is considered. Will this be the thing which makes you miscarry again? My son was born 13 months after my D&C. I had an elective section. I wanted him out swiftly and safely, and my mum gasped when she saw him. He was pink and wriggly and screaming, and perfect.
My second miscarriage happened at 14 weeks two days. I was visiting my parents with my toddler to celebrate my birthday. I had been bleeding from about seven weeks with a subchorionic hematoma, so I was having scans twice a week to check on the baby as the bleeds ranged from spotting to bleeding heavily. I was taken off the blood thinners to help with clotting. Ironically the bleeding stopped the day before I lost the baby. I woke in the morning, used the bathroom, and gave birth. I won’t go into details, other than to say the baby was perfect. I went downstairs and hugged my son. A week later I needed another D&C to remove the placenta.
Any baby loss is horrific. This one hit home a little differently. I grieved for my son too. He wanted a sibling and in fact still asks. This was my last blastocyst, and at 45 years old I knew there wasn’t going to be any more. In some way the finality of growing our family helps. I don’t think I could cope emotionally with being pregnant again. I don’t consume myself with hope and daydreams. But when I see my now school-boy with his friend’s younger siblings, and I see how gentle and thoughtful he is with them, I grieve all over again for not being able to give that to him.
Since having my son, and making new friends, its remarkable how common miscarriage and baby loss is. I have friends who have experienced it in the past, or have had them recently as they try to grow their families. What makes it unifying is that we all understand each other. We know how each other feel. And how sometimes we just want to talk about it a bit. What also helps me, if that’s the right word – is that both babies I lost are from the same egg collection. Technically twins. So, wherever they might be they are together again.
Remind your clinic that you’ve had a miscarriage. Sadly, not everyone will read your notes before your appointments. Remind them, let them know you’re anxious, ask all the questions you may have. Kindly at my first appointment back at my clinic, they scheduled it with a nurse who had had a miscarriage herself. She knew exactly how I was feeling, let me take my time, and had tissues handy.
Seek out a community of people who have had the same experience. This might be people you already know, you might find them online, your clinic may have a support group.
Don’t be afraid to ask for more tests at your clinic. For nothing else but for your sanity. Some clinics may regard additional tests as ‘add-ons’ – it’s your prerogative to ask and if you feel you need to, change clinics.
Consider a ‘fertility massage’ – it concentrates primarily on the uterus and lymph area. It helps soothe and clear the uterus, and can be helpful after a D&C (the massage helps increase blood flow and break down scar tissue.)
Once you have a successful pregnancy – make sure it’s added to your notes that you have had a miscarriage. Let the medical team know during appointments, if your blood pressure is high before a scan, ask them to redo it after you know the baby is ok. Any time you are concerned about your pregnancy go to the ‘Early Pregnancy Unit’ at your hospital to be checked. Cramping, spotting, lack of movement – they are there to support you and the baby.
If you think that collating a ‘karma bank’ will help you, do it – I have lost count of the number of people I helped in the supermarket, to cross the road, let jump in the queue…everything helps, right?