Turn out the lights and wake me when it’s over. An immense loss with a little revived gratitude

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My next piece of writing was going to be a short piece poking a little fun at the first trimester of pregnancy. The joke being that women are often advised not to share news of their pregnancy until the 3 month mark, not just because of the risks but also to save friends and family from the constant moans, groans and emotional outbursts that ensue. The serious message was going to be about the importance of sharing with others what you are going through, the good, the bad and the ugly regardless – and especially regardless of the risk of losing a pregnancy. My first 3 months of pregnancy were lonely enough being confined to my bed; I can only imagine how awful it would have been not to tell anyone the reason I seemed to have fallen off the edge of the world.

My circumstances have since changed and so I feel called not only to share my own experience, to be vulnerable as I encourage my clients to do but to also draw our attention to what seems to be the trendy, sometimes even fashionable condemning of modern medicine. So now I will do all that I feel I can do and that is to share. Share my current struggle in hope that it may help to heal both myself and others and touch on a revived awareness that my present life has provided.

I became pregnant in July of this year. The questions followed of where I would deliver and how. I wanted some amount of control and believed in my own ability to deliver a baby without medical intervention. Women have delivered babies without the help of doctors since the beginning of our kind so there is no reason I couldn’t. I am also aware that many women died in labour or lost their babies before medical advances and that some still do. My partner preferred the idea of delivering at home, away from the interfering cold hands of doctors and their instruments. I wanted to share his confidence and yet felt frightened to be without a Doctor. I was bouncing back and forth with the dilemma of the all western medicine way or just going with nature’s plan and trusting both nature and myself.

Thankfully I did not choose just one way and met with my doctor regularly, intending to deliver in a hospital without pain medication. I was opting for a mix of complementary techniques and modern medicine. For the first 3 months I was more sick than I could ever have imagined. I was one of the unlucky women who had all day nausea along with a slew of other uncomfortable and painful symptoms. My body told me everything was OK. My hips expanded, my belly bloated, my breasts grew, I gained 4 pounds, looked like a pubescent teenager with the break outs on my face and all things pointed to a healthy pregnancy. We were picking names and painting the nursery. I do not follow the rule of thumb of keeping it a secret until 3 months had passed and so we had already told close friends and family. I was having dreams about the baby that just drew attention to my natural insecurities at the prospect of motherhood. I frequently asked my partner if he thought people could tell I was pregnant. I was envious of those women with the big bumps and looked forward to mine. The first 3 months were tough and knowing the risks of miscarrying I was just wishing each day away until we could fully embrace and celebrate this pregnancy. I held my belly and spoke to it and my partner kissed it goodnight. I was reading my parenting books and having wonderful conversations with my partner about the kind of parents we wished to be and wearing maternity pants! My counselling practice had suffered and our wedding date had changed to accommodate our new person and sometimes I felt just a little too lucky to have such a wonderful man in my life and a baby in my belly.

At 14 weeks and 2 days (past the 3 month mark), we went in for an appointment with our Doctor. She was trying to hear the heartbeat as she could not find it the week before. With no heartbeat found, she sent us for an emergency ultrasound the same day. The technician began moving the gadget around my belly and taking what sounded like photo snaps. She wasn’t saying anything yet and so with my inherent impatience I said “What are you seeing”. My partner had a smile on his face and his phone ready to take a picture of the little him or her on the screen. The technicians face looked worrying and I said “Is there nothing there??” and she replied “I’m afraid not”. I exploded in tears with a rambling of pleading sentences “but how, but how” is all I remember. My partner said in a voice I can not forget “I’m sorry??” as though he thought his ears had failed him. I stared at a black and white image of a dark bean shaped hole where a baby should be and sobbed and wailed like a little child in need of her mother’s arms.

This is not a normal miscarriage; it is called a molar pregnancy and is very rare. The majority of women with a non viable pregnancy will either miscarry naturally or at least have some obvious warning symptoms before the 3 month mark. Basically the cells split off as they are supposed to but they only developed a Placenta. An embryo, from what we know right now, did not develop or if it did it was only there a short time. The placenta became like a tumour, multiplying and growing far bigger than it should. It sent my hormones through the roof which now explains why I have been so incredibly sick. I have since had surgery this week to remove everything from my uterus. I could not go home and stay hidden under my duvet. Instead my partner and I had our days filled with waiting rooms, needles and finally a hospital stay. Unfortunately I lost a lot of blood in surgery as a result I am anemic and exhausted. Bouncing between my physical and emotional struggles and seeking anything to distract my mind while I recover. We must now wait for the results of a biopsy to make sure what they found is not cancerous and my blood will be monitored for at least six weeks. We have been told we cannot try for another baby for a while and when we do we will be monitored closely. Had I lived in a third world country, or turned away from all western medicine, or even just lived a 100 years ago or less, this pregnancy would likely have killed me. Had we not had the technology to listen for heartbeats or ultrasounds to see right into where the baby should be then It would likely have gone unnoticed. The placenta would have continued to grow and eventually spread to my blood and other organs. One could say “well that was mother nature’s way of eliminating me”, but when it comes to your own life and we can no longer look on from afar, there is no question that I will do whatever I can to survive, just as humans always have. I have a rediscovered gratitude for medicine and for our unique unrelenting curiosity as humans.

This is a loss for us and a terrible shock. I am truly grateful for the support of friends and family and know that nobody can go through this alone. We must now readjust, and somehow replace the space in our head that was so completely devoted to thinking about our baby and our future. How this is done I have yet to figure out. All I know right now is that I still wake each morning, even though all I want is to turn out the lights and wake when there is a baby in my belly and happiness in my heart. The space will be filled again and I am confident we will have a healthy baby some day but for now we must focus on my health. My message to other women or couples is not to negate their loss just because it is common to lose pregnancies. Your body, mind and soul must grieve. Do what you feel is natural for you and let nobody, including society, try to tell you how you should do things, what is the best way, and how you should compose yourself. What is natural and best is not putting yourself in one box or another, it is simply doing what feels right for you. You are human and already have the innate will to survive within you. Let this guide you.

My love goes out to all other women, couples and families who have experienced any type of loss and hope that my sharing, encourages yours.

I am still Limitless!

4 Responses

  1. Janet says:

    Sarah, This is such an all-encompassing, powerfully moving writing on such a sad tragedy for you! My empathy, love and hugs go out to you and your partner, as you survive this tragic loss in your lives. Your strength shines through in the positive thought processes you describe of your condition and your greatfulness for modern medicine. Sharing these thoughts so eloquently, I’m sure, will so help pull you back from the edge of the world, although it is such a dark time for you both. Your description, as ever the counsellor with strength, can also only help and encourage others going through similar losses. I can only wish for you that your physical recovery will come soon, and even though this will always be with you, that there will be a healthy baby in your life in the future!

  2. Jamie Farrell says:

    Hey Sarah,

    Such a sad story but knowing you, albeit briefly, I have no doubt you’ll find the ‘positives’ in this tough time. You always were limitless…take care.

    Jamie

  3. Danyelle says:

    My heart breaks for your loss. I delivered a stillborn (38 weeks ) Feb 21, 2012. Although I had no medical issues having to recover physically makes the whole process so much harder.
    Grief is the hardest thing I have ever dealt with it sneaks up on you when you least expect it. Prior to the loss of my daughter I had no idea how many women and families deal with the loss of a child. The loss of a child at any age is devestating but what I found the hardest to deal with are the what if’s, should be’s and I want’s.
    The fact that you and your partner are sharing your stories and I share mine we bring to light that neither medicine is prefect or right they are just the right ones for us. I had midwives a perfect pregnancy with no risks and did “everything” right and I sit here working every day to find the good.

    ((( hugs))) , my hope is that your recover and the next few months go forward the way you want.

  4. neasa says:

    Hello Sarah

    Just read your blog and I wanted to reply. I am also Irish, originally from Dublin but now living in the South of France. I had a molar pregnancy diagnosed at 8 weeks gone in Setpember and a D&C on the 30th. I share your gratitude to modern medicine which meant I was diagnosed and treated quickly. It was a real shock to go from delight at expecting a baby to understanding and grieving the loss and worrying about the followup. I am now on hcg testing and waiting to get negative.
    I have benefitted most from hypnosis therapy and from talking through things with sympathetic friends (not everyone has understood or knew how to be sympathetic in my case which can be hurtful)

    anyway I wish you all the best and enjoyed reading your posts

    take care

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