Having a miscarriage can be described as an 'unfortunate' consequence on the journey to becoming a mother. Well-meaning clinicians hark back to Darwinism to describe it as 'your body's way of expelling a foetus that was never going to live'.
But when you are losing your baby, that is little comfort.
My husband and I had been trying to conceive for 16 months when we sought the help of an obstetrician specialising in infertility. We had the battery of tests and the infertility was diagnosed as 'unspecified'. I was booked to have my fallopian tubes flushed, when my obstetrician called to tell me that I was already pregnant. I felt relief and vindication; I am a woman and I can get pregnant.
Finding out so early happily prolonged that transcendent period when you know you are pregnant but no one else does. It was our secret that a tiny, perfectly imperfect little being was growing inside me. We heard the baby's heartbeat and it brought us closer than we had ever been.
My husband had gone away. I was nine weeks pregnant and at my desk on Level 19 of my work building when the pain first started. I went to the bathroom and froze at the sight of blood trickling down my thigh.
The pain intensified. I went back to my desk. I rang my husband forgetting he was on a plane coming back to Melbourne. The blood oozed out while I sat at my desk.
I made it back to the bathroom in time to vomit. I knew I was in trouble. I called my obstetrician and was advised to get to an Emergency Department. I vomited again.
There is never a good place to have a miscarriage but at your workplace must be one of the worst. My handbag and phone were at my desk. I needed someone to get them. I waited until the next person came in and called out. This person didn't know me and went to find someone who did. A tribe of people came back.
By now I was vomiting every five minutes. I am a very private person, especially at work. I didn't want anyone to know I was having, what I was quickly and devastatingly realising, was a miscarriage. I called out for someone to get my handbag and phone and yet more people gathered in the toilets.
I knew I had to get downstairs in the lift without vomiting. I realised the pain was too intense for me to stand unaided. I was stuck. I had to accept help. A colleague helped me to the lift. It was lunchtime. I prayed the lift would go express from Level 19 to Ground, but predictably it didn't. It stopped at nearly every floor and with each intake of new people the horror of having a miscarriage at work was revisited on me.
I could feel blood dripping down my legs and pushed them together to hold it in. I crouched down and looked for something to vomit in. My hand found my handbag. The lift doors opened and I made it past security and into the foyer before vomiting again. It was mortifying.
I called my husband. His plane had landed but he was 45 minutes away. I refused to call an ambulance to my workplace, which ironically is the Victorian Department of Health. I knew word would spread through the building, with much discussion of the possible diagnosis.
I tried to get a taxi to the nearest hospital. It was only five minutes away, but I couldn't walk. Three taxis wouldn't take me because the fare was too short. I was left hunched over outside the building, while colleagues were streaming in and out of the building on their lunch breaks. Someone brought me a bottle of water.
My husband came and got a taxi. We went to the Emergency Department of the nearest hospital. I walked to the front of the triage line and told the nurse I was losing my baby.
By then, I knew it was too late.
They brought me in straight away, took my bloodied dress off and started the morphine. My body shook against the steel of the hospital gurney from shock. I went for an ultrasound. There, on the screen was the evidence I was having a miscarriage. The baby that I had so longed for was leaving my body.
There was nothing to be done. They had already told my husband while I was being wheeled back from the ultrasound.
I put my bloodied dress back on and the nurse found me some plastic underwear with a giant sanitary pad. I was told to go home, get in bed and over the course of the weekend, my precious baby would slowly seep out of my body.
And it did.
It shocked me to my core that having a miscarriage was so primal and can take so long.
More of my baby came out every time I went to the toilet -- drip by drip. Dark red blood, tiny clumps of my baby, hour after hour. I would examine the blood, searching for a recognisable trace of my baby.
It went on and on and after 24 hours, I was losing my mind. My obstetrician advised us to go to the Emergency Department at the specialist women's hospital. Unfortunately, the staff weren't emphatic (perhaps because of their frequency, miscarriages have become normalised for them). They couldn't understand why I had come when another hospital had already confirmed it was miscarriage. I was sent home with stronger pain medication -- endone. It wiped me out and I can't remember much more. Just another 24 hours of fitful sleeping or sitting on the toilet while my baby seeped away.
We got an 8am Monday appointment with my obstetrician. I lay on the floor in his rooms; I could barely lift my head. Another internal ultrasound and he sent us back home telling me never to let anyone give me endone again -- it was simply too strong for me.
The problem was our house was getting renovated in readiness for a newborn.
I couldn't go home and continue to have the miscarriage with the builders there, nor could I face telling them. My husband needed to work and a ring around of our friends found a home for me to sleep and cry in until the builders finished for the day. I will never forget the kindness of my friend Zoe, for mothering me and for being astute enough to keep her toddler away to prevent the sight and noise of him heightening my heartbreak.
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It took two weeks before the bleeding stopped and blood tests showed that my lost baby had completely left my system. I went back to work and explained it as food poisoning. Three years on, I still can't use the first cubicle in the Level 19 ladies bathroom. It will forever be the scene of a lost dream.
Outwardly, I looked exactly the same. There was no evidence of the miscarriage, no scar, no crutches. It was as though this event that changed my life over a weekend never happened.
But inside I was different. And I didn't realise at the time, so was my husband. We didn't talk about it after and we should have. Life just resumed.
My obstetrician was kind. He suggested we didn't try again naturally and that we use artificial insemination. Because I felt like so much time had already been lost we started IVF a month after the miscarriage.
I didn't find injecting myself with the IVF drugs every day hard. It gave me a sense of purpose and control over my body again. On the day of insemination, my husband gave a sample, I did acupuncture before and after and with a couple of minutes of discomfort, a potential life was created.
And a new baby did come. Not to fill the void the last baby left, but to create their own unique kind of specialness in our hearts.
The pain of the miscarriage has long gone. But the pain of what might have been never will. Sometimes I dream of that lost baby and my mind kaleidoscopes through still pictures of their unfulfilled life.
But I am luckier than others. It was only once, it was early-term and I am now blessed with a baby to watch grow. But like all mothers that have lost a baby, as E.E. Cummings penned, I will forever "carry your heart; I carry it in my heart".
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