'Did I even have the right to talk about it?': Three Irish mums on miscarriage
One-in-three women in Ireland miscarries a pregnancy, yet it is something that isn't always spoken about openly.
Here, three people share their raw and real experiences...
Karen, Dublin, 40
I got pregnant on my honeymoon. I was 37 and I had wanted to have a child for a long time so I was delighted. But at the beginning of the sixth week, there was a flow of pinkish blood when I went to the bathroom. I went to the hospital, and they did a scan and the baby was OK – we saw its flashing heartbeat on the screen. It turned out I had a UTI, so they said they would post me out some medication, and scan me again in two weeks time. The medication came, I took it, and I waited, but something didn’t feel right. When I went for the scan there was no heartbeat.
I was told I had two options – I could have a D&C in a few days time, or I could take tablets, which would induce the miscarriage. The midwives said the pregnancy sac was big and that taking the tablets would be painful, but the doctor said it wouldn’t be more painful than a heavy period, so I went with the tablets. This probably sounds weird but I wanted to pass the baby. I did not like the idea of it being taken away from me while I was unconscious. That night I took the tablets and ended up on all fours in the bathroom moaning in pain, while my husband looked on helplessly.
The next few weeks were a blur. I was in shock I guess and it continued this way until I got my first period. I knew this was not a massive loss – I had only been pregnant a few weeks – but my body didn’t feel that way at all. I felt missing, in some way that was very hard to talk about. And I was not sure I had the right to talk about it – all around me friends were losing parents, could I really grieve for something I had only known for some weeks? But I did not feel right until I conceived again. Now I have two boys, and it’s all in the past, but I do think about the baby sometimes, or what she might have been for I was convinced from the very beginning that she was a girl.
Nicole, Mayo, 28
When I got pregnant I went to the doctor, thinking I would be referred to a hospital to have a scan. But she told me that one in three pregnancies end in miscarriage and that she would see me in two months time. When I told people I was pregnant they seemed surprised that I would tell them; it was as if I was not pregnant until I was 13 weeks. I found that hard to get my head around – surely you are pregnant when you are pregnant? I waited twelve weeks, and on the day before my scan, I woke up in terrible pain. I went to the hospital but the doctor who examined me sent me home – I wasn’t bleeding he kept telling me – and I miscarried in the taxi home. I was furious – I could not help thinking that if my pregnancy had been more supported and more acknowledged it might have gone full term. In other countries, women are scanned regularly from the beginning, and when they bleed or have pain they are admitted to hospital and given proper care – their cervixes are closed, they are given hormones to stabilise the pregnancy. When I talked to other women about it, they nodded sagely. It turned out lots of them had miscarried as well. That made it harder to talk about it. It seemed like some rite of passage I should just be getting on with. But I didn’t know how to get on with it. It’s such a funny thing to grieve for. Now I am pregnant again. I refuse to buy into that cult of silence that says I should pretend I am not pregnant until the first trimester is over. And I refuse to believe that my baby isn’t a baby just because it hasn’t been born.
Mary, 39, Limerick
I miscarried with my third child. It was week 13 and I had told everyone – my family, my friends, my boss. I was so surprised when it started: I thought the hurdle was going to be getting pregnant, and I had been right; that had taken a while. I had no idea it would take so long – there were days and days of bleeding and cramping. My husband was away, I have two small children and a really pressurised job so I didn’t have the luxury of going to bed. Once the bleeding started, I ended up putting on a pad, taking a painkiller and going into work. It was all a bit surreal. The thought of starting again was so hard. I felt cheated of all that hard work I had done – all that vomiting and gagging for nothing. I hated telling people I’d lost the baby – it’s such an awful phrase – I felt like I was saying I had mislaid it or something, as if I had been in some way negligent. But what was amazing was how many of my friends admitted that they had had a miscarriage too. The lack of sympathy from the medical world was shocking – in the hospital one midwife pretty much said, "well you are getting on a bit aren’t you?" As if it was only to be expected. If I had been starting out I’d have found such clinical coldness pretty bruising. But it made me so grateful for the children I had. So much so I didn’t try again. I think my body was trying to tell me something.
Nikki Walsh is a writer and editor with a passion for what makes us tick. She lives in Dublin with her husband, her son and a heap of books, mostly on psychology.