As Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day takes place on October 15, mum-of-seven, Jen Hogan, describes the emptiness of a failed pregnancy
I HAVE been pregnant eleven times. I have seven children. But I was not prepared for a miscarriage.
One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, though the rate may be higher, allowing for the fact that many occur before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Most of us will know someone who has been affected by miscarriage, or maybe we will have had one ourselves.
Sitting at home watching TV, while my 17-month-old slept, something felt wrong. A trip to the bathroom confirmed my suspicions. At three months pregnant, I had thought I was over the danger period. I was young, had a toddler, and never thought that I would be one of the four. With tears streaming down my face, I made a panicked phone call to my husband, who was at work.
A colleague jovially answered the phone, full of Christmas cheer. It didn’t take long for her to realise that something was up and my husband rushed to the phone.
The entire journey to the hospital, I hoped and prayed, and willed my baby to hang on. I convinced myself that the doctors could stop it if I got there on time. Maybe a stitch would do the trick. Maybe I had overstrained myself earlier. Maybe all would be ok.
I met my husband at the hospital and he tried to disguise his tear-stained face with a reassuring smile. As we walked into A&E, I struggled to calm my panic.
We made our way to the scanning room and waited. It was here that I heard one of the most thoughtless, seemingly cruel of comments.
It was after 6pm and I was told that there was no-one available to carry out a scan, and that I should come back the next day. “In any case”, the medical professional informed me, “we could find a heartbeat now and the foetus could be dead in the morning”. The words have never left me.
The next morning, we made our way to the hospital again. We waited in the early pregnancy unit, surrounded by the anxious faces of other parents with worries of their own. Once inside the small room, the news we dreaded was confirmed, as the sonographer explained that there was no heartbeat and that the baby was smaller than expected. The screen was turned to face me and I looked at the tiny outline of my baby, with no flickering heartbeat.
I cried and cried, and returned to the waiting room until a doctor became available to discuss our options. My broken-hearted husband tried to stay strong to support me.
I will never forget going into the doctor’s room to discuss whether or not I wanted an ERPC, or to wait for ‘nature to take its course’. I will never forget that surreal feeling, leaving the hospital and returning home to my toddler daughter, looking at her, knowing the sibling we earlier thought she would have was not to be.
I will never forget the emptiness I felt the next day, when I woke from the anaesthetic after the procedure and I remembered my baby was gone.
The next few weeks passed by in a blur. People didn’t know what to say and, sometimes, even the best-intended comments hurt. I wanted someone to acknowledge that I should have had that baby, not continually remind me how lucky I was to have my daughter. I knew I was lucky to have her, make no mistake I knew, but it didn’t lessen the grief I was feeling for the baby I had lost.
That’s one of the difficult things about miscarriage. People deal with it differently and it can be hard for the person looking in to know what to do, and for those going through it to know if their reaction and feelings are ‘appropriate’.
There is no right or wrong way to feel. There is only the way that you actually feel.
Future pregnancies were overshadowed by the fear of knowing that something could go wrong. Unfortunately, in between the births of other children, it did, three further times. While familiarity made it a little easier to cope with, sharing a ward with women in labour, as I awaited an ERPC, did not.
I have been in the reverse situation, also. While waiting to give birth, I have willed my fetal monitor to be a little quieter, as I heard sobbing from the bed beside me.
Talking, and acknowledging what had happened, were the biggest tools in helping me to come to terms with my miscarriages. Speaking to others, even anonymously through online parenting forums, offered huge support.
It’s hard for dads. There is an expectation that they will be the rock for their partners, but their dreams and hopes have been shattered, too.
Four different angels hang on our Christmas tree every year, alongside individual decorations belonging to my seven children.
Our eleven, precious decorations take pride of place and make us smile now, instead of cry. I know what a lucky woman I am. My beautiful rainbow babies came, but the four who started their journey and never completed it live always in my heart.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved