How we coped with losing a baby for the second time
Siobhan O'Neill White on dealing with grief after a miscarriage
Published 17/08/2010 | 05:00
Eventually we came to terms with our loss and I believe we have a better sense of empathy as a result of what we went though. Although we were devastated to lose our baby, the experience enriched our lives in a special way.
We were lucky enough to go on to have three clever, healthy and wonderful children and were happy with our lot.
Then we discovered I was pregnant. This was not a planned pregnancy and there was an element of shock when we saw those two blue lines appearing.
Once that initial shock wore off, we decided four children would not be much more work than the three we already had, and we started looking forward to meeting our baby.
All seemed to be going fine. My breasts were tender, I had a sense of smell to rival any bloodhound and my belly was growing nicely. I was not as sick as I had been on the three pregnancies I carried to term, but with all the other signs I felt comforted things were going well.
Then a bombshell was dropped at our first ultrasound. We expected to see a little heartbeat, but as the nurse started the scan, within a few seconds, we knew something was wrong. She then did what expectant parents dread in these situations -- she excused herself to get a senior colleague to come take a look. I could see from her face it was bad news and when the doctor came in, I was already waiting to hear the worst.
They informed us we had either a seven-week foetus that was not growing or, possibly, if my dates were wrong, a five-week foetus that was too small to detect a heartbeat yet. They advised we wait 10-14 days for a repeat scan, to find out for sure.
For two weeks I threw myself into work and tried not think about it. All the while my belly continued to grow and my other symptoms persisted. My husband was convinced it was going to be OK and tried to make me believe the same. On the day of the repeat scan, as we drove to the hospital, news broke about the scan mis-diagnosis scandal, where expectant mums were advised their pregnancies were not progressing when, in some cases, these diagnoses were found to be incorrect.
As the news played on the radio, the tears started to spill from my face -- could it be possible this was all a mistake? Could they have been wrong about our baby?
The media made it sound like a common mistake, when in reality it is most likely very uncommon, but the fear the hospital was wrong gave us hope.
Sadly, the scan that day confirmed our worst fears -- our baby was not growing and a miscarriage was inevitable. Disbelieving this could be happening to us for a second time, my husband asked them to re-check in case this was another mis-diagnosis.
It was not. They explained, as gently as they could, that there was no mistake. It had been two weeks and there was still no heartbeat. At almost 10 weeks, a heartbeat should be very visible. They took blood and asked me to come back in 48 hours for repeat blood tests, to confirm the pregnancy hormones were decreasing.
Having already walked around for two weeks with this nightmare, I wanted the whole episode to be over. I cried and begged for a D&C (the gynecological procedure known as dilation and curettage) but they suggested it would be better to wait and go through a natural miscarriage.
I was inconsolable but they would not be deterred -- they offered me sympathy and advice but no further action would be taken until the blood tests were repeated and it was 100% confirmed this pregnancy was not viable.
Those 48 hours were excruciating; there was no hope but the miscarriage had not yet happened. There was nothing to do but wait.
The repeat blood tests showed a significant drop in pregnancy hormones and they also performed a repeat scan to make sure they were not missing anything.
In terms of confirming the bad news, they could not have been any more thorough. Only then did they agree to book me for a D&C the following week, as there was no sign of a natural miscarriage.
Still, many media outlets replayed stories of scanning incompetence at certain hospitals. This upset us, at a time when we were dealing with so much.
While it is imperative for couples to question when they believe a pregnancy diagnosis is incorrect, the way the stories were told made this time more difficult for us, and probably for other couples.
With both our miscarriages we were scanned twice, with time in between to eliminate any possible mis-diagnosis, so we know there was no mistake.
While we now have to deal with the grief and sadness of our loss, at least we can take comfort in the fact that we were well looked after and everything was done properly.
Now, with the D&C over and life slowly returning to normal, it's time for us to go and buy another tree to plant in our garden, in memory of the second little baby we never got to really know but who has already become, and will always be, an important part of our lives.
Support for miscarriage from Miscarriage Association of Ireland is at www.miscarriage.ie