Miscarriage Stories: Nobody and I mean nobody talks about stillbirth in Ireland

We asked readers to share their experiences of miscarriage. These are their stories
Miscarriage Stories: Nobody and I mean nobody talks about stillbirth in Ireland

Life just moved on around my grief

‘We walked in with a baby and came out with a purple box from Féileacáin’ 

When we decided to try for baby number two we just assumed that it was a given. Our first son Donnacha was a 'honeymoon' baby and everything was straightforward and to us perfect. It took us over a year trying to expand our family and then all of a sudden I was pregnant four times in one year.

The first loss was in January 2020 and one of those blink-and-you-miss-it moments. My husband was away and I took a test which was positive and then overnight I started to bleed and didn't stop. I didn't even tell my husband until months later. I just tricked myself into thinking it was a mistake, the test was wrong and just got dressed and carried on.

The second loss in April 2020 at eight weeks. This time we knew I was pregnant and was getting the same symptoms I had on my first baby. I then started to bleed. This was our first experience with the hospital during Covid.

I had to go alone, masked and scared. I was told it was another loss by a not-so-friendly nurse. 'Just one of those things.' I took a week off work and then once again carried on, not really letting myself think about it or talk about it as I felt ashamed.

At the end of May 2020 I was pregnant again, I hadn't even had a period in between. We took a test every week for the first three to eight weeks to make sure it was really happening, we got a private scan at 10 weeks and saw our little heartbeat and a hand wave.

At 12 weeks, I went for my first scan in the hospital again on my own, masked and nervous. Everything was perfect and the baby was growing lovely.

We told all our friends and family in a socially distanced manner but enjoyed our baby bubble. At 17 weeks I had a routine appointment in hospital and went in on my own and chatted away to the doctor about birth plans and all things normal and how I thought I was starting to feel flutters. She went to do a quick scan and then went quiet, she couldn't find a heartbeat.

I was lying on my own in a mask in this room being told my baby didn't have a heartbeat. I had to ring my husband to tell him over the phone that this was happening. I then had to walk through the 20-plus pregnant women sitting waiting for their turns to see doctors, conscious not to cry and let them know something was wrong.

I was brought for further scans to confirm that the baby had passed away and then given medication to induce the baby to bring on delivery. Everything done is socially distanced and masked. That was a Monday and on Wednesday I was back in to deliver our baby boy, Joe. He was perfect with my long fingers and my husband's nose. My husband was able to be with me throughout the delivery and we had time with our son.

We walked in with a baby and came out with a purple box from Féileacáin. I remember walking with my head down as if I had something to hide because I wasn't bringing home my baby, the one time I was happy to wear a mask and hide my face. I was empty.

The nurses were amazing and I was lucky to have the nicest people around me at that time but due to Covid it made a surreal time even harder. No hugs, no hand squeezes just people trying their hardest to share our grief in any way they could during the lockdown.

We had Joe cremated and buried him with my husband's sister so he's never alone. Our son Donnacha saved us during this time, there's nothing like an innocent two-year-old to get you out of bed.

You feel like you should be grateful for what you have and lucky to have a son when other people find it hard to have any babies, guilt comes then on top of grief. You fake a mask of being ok but you're just empty, not knowing how to act or feel.

Being honest I still don't know how I feel about it all, are they my feelings or are they feelings I think I should have and behave in ways people think I should behave - the reality is no one can tell you how to grieve, or how long to grieve for... For me life just moved on around my grief and I'll live with it because it means I'll always remember.

At the time of writing this I'm 37 weeks pregnant. We found out in October 2020. This baby was a complete surprise to us both. It has been a rollercoaster few months and not an easy pregnancy. All appointments and scans have been all on my own and I'll never be able to fully describe the anxiety of going in not knowing the outcome waiting to be told bad news while again on my own. Only now with a few weeks to go is it only sinking in that this is happening for us and excitement slowly sinking in. This baby will be so loved as will all our babies.

One moment that stood out over the last few months was a doctor asking me at an appointment ‘is this your second baby?’ I said well no, it’s my third cause I gave birth to Joe and she replied very nonchalantly ‘ah yes, but technically your second child’.

Instead of correcting her and telling exactly what I thought, I to my shame, kept quiet and cried in my car because I felt I had let my babies down by not sticking up for them. When strangers ask ‘is this your first’, what do you say?

How do you explain to people that while you have one child at home and one on the way that you're actually a Mammy to three angel babies too?

Then I realised you don't need to explain anything to anyone because you know and you will forever be a better person because of them babies. I am a better person for being their mammy and they will always be my babies.

‘She is buried in our local cemetery’ 

We had a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old when I found out that I was pregnant for the 3rd time. We had a holiday booked to Cornwall in June of that year. We travelled to Newquay from Dublin airport (I was 16 weeks pregnant at the time).

We arrived a bit late to Dublin airport so we had to rush through the airport with our 2 little girls, running to make boarding on time.

All was well until the third day of our holiday when I discovered that I was bleeding. Alarm bells immediately sounded as I had never bled on either of my previous pregnancies. My husband phoned a GP.

They advised that we immediately travel to the nearest hospital for a scan which was 60 km from our holiday home.

The NHS were very accommodating even though we were not UK citizens and had my scan after a short wait.

Unfortunately we received the devastating news that our baby had no heartbeat which was the worst day of my life and still is. I know that I had two little girls but it was still horrific and I kept thinking was it the stressful rush to make boarding or what had I done to cause this and felt so guilty for travelling.

We were treated with great sympathy by a counsellor who said that I could be admitted to hospital there to remove the foetus or I could let the baby pass naturally which I opted to do.

We got a flight home the next day and I got an appointment with my consultant who said that it would be best for my body to let the miscarriage happen when my body was ready.

I was bleeding for a week until my baby was delivered naturally with full labour pains. It was such a traumatising experience but on a positive note we were able to take our little baby home and she is buried in our local cemetery.

Our parish priest organised a beautiful little burial ceremony with just us present. That was 15 years ago and it still feels so raw and I am still grieving, because only my family really know about it.

So thank you for giving me this opportunity to put this in writing, this is the first time that I have written this down and it feels like a release for me. I don't know why it is not really spoken about although if I am ever asked how many children I have, I always say four because she is always our baby.

A year later we were blessed with a baby boy which helped with the healing process.

‘Nobody, and I mean, nobody talks of stillbirth’ 

My first pregnancy in 2019 was a miscarriage at 7 weeks. I actually had a stillborn baby girl in Dec 2020. She was born at 33 weeks. Nobody, and I mean nobody talks of stillbirth. We lost our baby girl at the height of a pandemic. It was the most traumatic experience of our lives. I don't think we will ever recover from it.

I don’t know what made me ring my GP that morning in late September. The cramps I had experienced the night before were like a bad period pain and kept me awake for a couple of hours but there was no bleeding and the scavenging of google in the wee hours assured me the cramps at 11 weeks were very common and probably just ligament stretching as the pregnancy entered the second trimester.

Wow, the second trimester! My 12-week scan was due in a week and we’d be able to start telling people I mused. Maybe it was something to even minutely ease the devastation so many of us felt after my mother had died suddenly at just 70 two weeks before then. I was still in the numbness and disbelief stage myself.

Anyway, in confirmation of my early morning reading, the GP told me the cramps were probably nothing and to head away over to CUMH emergency department.

As I walked out to the car in the late summer sun and birdsong, I saw a sole magpie and checked myself at noticing the bad omen and told myself sure life couldn’t possibly be so cruel that I would have to hear a masked medic say “I’m sorry” followed by heart stopping news for the second time in a few weeks, it just couldn’t, sure it couldn’t?

As I sat down in the emergency waiting room one woman already there began to weep. I debated whether to say anything but being bathed in fresh grief had given me a “life’s short” kind of bravery and I said ‘I just want you to know I am here and can listen if you want to say anything and am equally happy to leave you alone if you’d prefer to deal with things yourself’.

Her response was the first time I heard the term “missed miscarriage” and was shocked that she had had hers at 11 weeks, the same stage I was. I told her I’d been told I should be fine and she wished me well and the best of luck with my first as she was called into the examination area.

That must be awful, I thought. I had had a private scan at seven and a half weeks (so my husband could be part of the process) and had seen my foetus’ heartbeat strong and rapid and had a good report of the pregnancy there. All the sites I had scoured indicated that all of that taken on board, my chance of problems at 11 weeks were less than 3% from apparently.

All the indications of that day’s exams; the pregnancy test for HCG levels, the physical exam by the doctor, the unofficial opinion I plagued the two lovely student midwives for were all positive and that it was just cramps and everything would be fine.

But just in case, they booked me in for an ultrasound in the Early Pregnancy Unit for the next day.

I went into work again that day and told my boss I’d hopefully only be there for a short time as it was just a quick ultrasound today to be sure, to be sure everything was ok.

I arrogantly now told my husband to go to work and I’d be fine as he’d only be able to wait in the car park anyway which is an “awful dose”!

I walked nonchalantly to the car again and saw the same single magpie on my way.

In the ultrasound room I waited excitedly to see how much the little one had grown since the last time I had seen them a month ago. “I’m having trouble seeing with the abdominal wand” the technician said, “I may need to go in vaginally”. That’s odd I thought, if they were able to see it fine through the abdomen when it was a lot smaller?

After what seemed like an age she said “I see it now actually, you can stay there”. Details in my head are fuzzy here but I think she indicated that the reason it was hard to see was it was very small and not moving.

After what seemed like another age I asked her if that was bad and she said “Yes, it doesn’t look like there’s a heartbeat and it’s measuring about the size of an 8-week foetus”. 

The disbelief I had experienced when I heard the words “I’m sorry, there’s nothing more we can do” a couple of weeks earlier were brought back to me and I felt as though my heart was about to explode.

“I’m just going to get a colleague to confirm and will be right back.” I couldn’t speak and my phone began to ring. The 2 ultrasound technicians came back into the room and the 2nd one said after a few seconds “I’m sorry, I can confirm there’s no heartbeat and it probably stopped at 8 weeks” so around the same time I had experienced the most shocking news of my life, could it have been that day, I’ll always wonder.

I tried to listen to the options I now had but it was hard to make a decision. It was even harder to decide and deal with completely alone. I could take tablets at home and try to let it happen naturally, “oh no sorry, it’s slightly too big to allow you do that safely at home, so you’re down to two options”. Or I could book in as an inpatient, take the medication and wait to pass the pregnancy in hospital over an unknown period of time but probably a few days. 

Or I could have surgery called an Evacuation of Retained Products of Conception (ERPC). "Because of Covid there’s a catch on the surgery, we’re not allowed to give general anaesthetic, but we will give you a sedative and you shouldn’t feel or remember anything." Completely alone, having just heard life-changing news already drowning in grief.

I chose the surgery then went out to the waiting room amongst all those that were at the various stages of their healthy pregnancies.

I texted my husband as I couldn’t answer his calls in the ultrasound room and told him I was sorry that the baby that was just as much his as mine was dead and had been for the past few weeks without us knowing.

Then for the first time since hearing my Mam had a few days to live I wept, the pain of everything beginning to work its way through the tightly sealed bottling I had managed for those weeks.

I quickly stopped again however when asked to move to the corridor as I probably wasn’t a helpful presence to anyone else in the room whatever the news they were about to hear.

I didn’t go back to work that day and instead drove to a misty beach with my husband and wept intermittently into the wind as the sun set.

The next day I went to the beach. My Mam had walked and swam in when she was pregnant with me and she had visited every year of her life even after moving away from it, I don’t think I missed a visit with her every year of my life either.

I relished the torturous cold of the September 29 water that Wednesday.

I was due for surgery and was not looking forward to it with no general anaesthetic. However, I don’t know if it was the freezing seawater or just nature working but at 6pm Thursday, the night before I was due surgery I felt waves of abdominal pains and bleeding. The pains and bleeding became more intense and were what I now know to be contractions and by the time my husband had rushed me into the CUMH I needed a wheelchair to be taken from the car to the emergency bed.

The kindest, most assured midwives anyone could ever hope to meet held my hand as they told me to bear down with each contraction. Within 20 minutes I had pushed out my poor little thing and they asked me if I wasn’t to see it. I did and will be forever grateful for the amazing treatment I received that night.

I lost a lot of blood and had had a fairly brutal experience so was kept in the ward that night. It turned out to be the ward I would have been brought into a few hours later in preparation for my ERPC. I couldn’t help but hear each woman’s story that brought them to those six other beds as they answered the questions asked of them prior to going down to theatre.

I was happy I didn’t have to make their journey and clung to the pain and memories of it from the night before as almost an acknowledgement of the pain and loss in my mind.

I had another ultrasound that morning to ensure I had passed everything the night before and was allowed to walk out alone. And that was where the support ended.

No one is worried about the change to my cycle length or the ovulation pains I now get I never had eight months on, no one has any answers as to why it happened in the first place and if it wasn’t for the volunteers at the Miscarriage Association of Ireland and the monthly Zoom meetings they provide I’m not sure I would have been able to carry on. There is no health service-provided mental health support and if I were to become pregnant again I would have to go through the whole process alone again.

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