One year ago today I experienced my second miscarriage; almost a year prior to that I had the first. Looking back at these last two years, I sometimes feel disconnected as if what I went through didn’t really happen to me. I was a voyeur to someone else’s life. Maybe it was because I was busy with the demanding routine of a young toddler the first time it happened. The second time I was most certainly distracted by my Nani’s (maternal grandmother) terminal illness. She passed away two months later. Losing her made every other pain I went through insignificant. The pain is still raw but that is not the reason I am writing this post.
Today I promised myself I would acknowledge my lost babies because I have been unfair in not recognizing them as such. I categorized my losses as minor because they both happened within the statistically common first trimester. I was a stat with the first one; a blighted ovum which occurs in one out of two miscarriages. The fertilized egg implants into the uterus but the embryo does not grow, however the placenta continues to grow until the body realizes something is wrong and aborts it. In my case I became aware of the pregnancy early at about 2 weeks and the next 4 weeks were spent in creating a home in our hearts for our second child.
A recurring theme in my life seems to be death and miscarriage. Shortly before I found out I was pregnant my Dadi (paternal grandmother) passed away in Karachi. She was another strong woman of influence throughout my childhood, but suffered through dementia and was bedridden for many years. I transferred the pain of her loss into hope for new life and desperately wanted to take away my father’s pain on losing his mother, by having him look forward to another grandchild.
We had an ultrasound at 6 weeks to confusing results because they could not confirm if my dates were wrong or if there was something to be concerned about. So the next two weeks were spent in the 50% chance game. Good news vs your worst nightmare. To top it off my HCG levels were rising so that just gave us hope. Finally at 8 weeks our GP gave us the bad news. She confirmed the diagnoses and prepared me for next steps. My options were either to take medication to induce the miscarriage or wait until my body caught up and let it happen naturally.
The moment you become a mother you are bestowed with limitless capabilities of self-sacrifice and hope. They never run out and are driving motivators to every decision you will make about your child. In my mind I could not consciously force the miscarriage. There was always the ‘what if?’ factor. I left it up to God. I trusted my body to do what it had to. Logically I knew there was no longer a question of a baby but each day I bled for the next 40 days was a day of lost hope until it culminated in a sharp labour like pain to pass out the remaining placenta. I had not cried until that point. I broke down by the toilet, but I had to see what loss looked like. I put my hands into the bloodied bowl and grabbed the gelatinous yet firm tissue the size of my hand. Was I crazy to do so, disgusting or morbid even? I had a bizarre sense of closure after that. It was over. Chapter closed.
My husband, my family were of great support. It was his loss as much as mine but he was my rock throughout. I didn’t know what to do next except to dust my pants and move on, no point in harboring self-pity. We rationalised the whole experience as something that for reasons unknown to us was not meant to happen and left it at that.
The second time I miscarried however I was angry. It started out all too familiar with the uncertainty of dates and repeated ultrasounds. It wasn’t a blighted ovum this time but I was showing two gestational sacs instead. There was of course no time for anything to grow in them, because soon I bled out. The possibility of twins vanished before I could even wrap my head around it. 8 weeks of the same torture and no cause, no answers? A little known fun fact by the way, have you heard of the three-strike rule? Because of the statistically common case of miscarriages in the first trimester our wonderful public health system does not refer you to a gynaecologist until you have experienced THREE miscarriages. Until then you are stuck with a general physician who may or may not be in uncharted territory.
Thankfully my GP decided not to wait for the third miscarriage and referred me to a couple of specialists, hopeful that since I did have a gynecological history on file perhaps one of them would see me. At this point I was thinking if you were aware of my history why wasn’t I referred to a specialist to begin with? But by then I didn’t see the point in dumping my frustration on her. Instead I learned two very hard and valuable lessons.
- Do not assume Doctors are the ultimate authority to be followed blindly.
- BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE.
Whatever pain I had turned into anger; anger at what a waste of time this was; anger that this could have been avoided. I lost time distracted by this when I could have focused more on spending time with my Nani. I don’t know where my mind was in all of this. I think I came across as ‘normal’ and went about my day. I wanted to desperately talk to my Nani about this because I could talk to her about anything and she would have my back, make me feel better. She was skilled at listening. But this was not the time to be selfish. She was suffering and I didn’t want her to worry further.
Then I saw her take her last breath. With that a light went out. My world became a little colder, a little darker.
A couple of months afterwards I got a call to see the specialist and things sort of took their own course from there. I was being monitored every few days with blood tests and ultrasounds and by the grace of God with minimal interference I was pregnant again. This time I was watched like a hawk and given the hormones my body wasn’t producing enough of to make sure I was able to carry the pregnancy safely. Which I am 32 weeks into today (touch wood!)
With this pregnancy I have been taking things one day at a time and enjoying every moment. I continued to run in the first trimester, took up yoga in the second and walk on a daily basis. I feel stronger physically and emotionally and with each in-utero kick to my belly I get the reassurance I need. This is not to say I am without worry because after the last two years how could I not be. But you know what? In my heart not a day goes by that I don’t think of my grandmothers, my beloved Nani and Dadi and their incredible lives of resilience and strength. They were survivors and I am blessed and honoured to be a lot like both of them. They are my guardian angels and I can feel them watching over me.
It’s Remembrance Day today, and while we took a moment of silence for our war heroes, I also took a moment to embrace and accept my personal battle. For anyone who has been through this I want to say there is no hierarchy of pain. No one’s situation is worse than another’s and neither does it deserve any less acknowledgment. These are moments in our lives which change us in some way, they redefine us and we are a little different moving forward. And they will forever stay with us like a new line etched in our palms. Never be sorry or ashamed. Speak loud about it because acceptance sets you free. You’ll never be a prisoner of your experiences again.
Thank you for listening. I promise the next post won’t be sad. Have some fun stuff on the pregnancy announcement, family photo shoot and baby shower galore! Stay tuned…