As featured in IVF babble.
IVF Babble Surrogacy Ambassador Kirsten McLennan talks about devastating miscarriage.
Author and IVF Babble Surrogacy Ambassador Kirsten McLennan is proud to share her debut book ‘This is Infertility’, out now.
Here is an extract from Chapter 5 of her book, when Kirsten had a missed miscarriage.
Once we arrived at the clinic, we were led into a small dark ultrasound room with no natural light, the walls closing in on us. My legs in the stirrups, the nurse popped up the probe for the scan. I’ll never forget the look on her face - deadpan, not a shred of emotion. I felt sick. She asked how far along we were.
“Just over seven weeks”, we nervously replied in unison.
A few moments later she said in a slow and measured tone, “The thing is, the baby’s heartbeat is too slow. It’s also measuring too small for 7.3 weeks. And the gestational sac is an abnormal shape, it’s not round. I’m really sorry but I don’t think your pregnancy is viable.”
I burst into tears. Immediately I started to beat myself up, Of course, it hadn’t worked. Why did you let yourself get so excited this time? You’re so stupid. You should know better by now. She called for a second opinion and the next doctor confirmed her diagnosis. The pregnancy was not viable. We would inevitably miscarry. In that dreary small room with no windows, I vowed we would never have another scan in that depressing room.
On the drive home, I felt numb. Not sad, not angry, just numb. My mind was grappling with what had happened, trying to make sense of it. The nurse had explained that we had had a ‘missed miscarriage’ or ‘silent miscarriage’. This is where the baby has either died or not developed but as you don’t experience the usual miscarriage symptoms of bleeding and cramping, you never know. For many women, the pregnancy hormones continue to be high and so you still feel pregnant. A cruel trick. Even a home pregnancy test will show a positive result. So, you usually don’t find out until an ultrasound.
In the same monotone voice as the nurse, I called my parents. They were over by the time we got home. I also texted one of my good friends and within a couple of hours, a large box of delicious cupcakes was at our doorstep. It was these acts of kindness that always helped us get through the harder times.
The nurse asked us to come back later that week, at almost eight weeks, for a follow up scan. Feeling vulnerable and raw, we went in for our next scan. Trembling all over, Ryan squeezed my hand tightly while she inserted the ultrasound probe. Silence. There was no longer a heartbeat. The baby had passed.
We had expected this would be the outcome, but you always hold out hope. And I had prayed that morning for a miracle. My prayers always went something like this: Please God, if you bless us with a baby, I promise I will be the best mum ever. I will also make sure I treat everyone with kindness and I’ll do more to help people, I’ll do whatever you want me to do. Just please please please let it work this time, I’m begging you.
But my prayers weren’t answered that day.
The nurse gently told us we had a choice to make. We could wait and let my body expel the baby naturally, which could happen any day or take a few weeks, or have a D&C. We opted for the D&C. Known as Dilation and Curettage, the dilation refers to opening the cervix and the curette refers to removing the contents of the uterus. This meant a lower risk of infection and we could also biopsy the embryo to get any critical genetic insights. But most of all, the D&C would mean it was over and we could move on.
The D&C was on a Thursday, the day before Good Friday. Five days later, I was due to start a new job. The job was with a former colleague who had brought me across to his new workplace. Being a friend of many years, I explained what had happened and he understood. As my manager, on my first day at work he continued to tell me to take all the time I needed and to go home early. He definitely went above and beyond at work with supporting me during this time. And in the years to come.
Miscarriages are common but it doesn’t make them any less heart breaking. It’s estimated that 15 per cent of confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage. Yet from talking to my friends, I would say the number is higher. Many women will experience a miscarriage. Whether the pregnancy happened naturally or through fertility treatment, after a month of trying to conceive or after five years, or whether the baby passed at five weeks or 12 weeks, it really doesn’t matter. A loss is a loss. It is the loss of what could have been.
In my experience, it’s a suffering that doesn’t compare to anything else. It rips you open and leaves you feeling raw, confused, lonely, and sometimes even guilty. You can feel at peace with it one day and accepting of what has happened and then without any warning, you can be an emotional wreck the next day. For me, I found that the only thing that helped was to acknowledge my pain and not push it aside; to not beat myself up about what had happened; and to not give myself a time limit to grieve. And above all else, to not suffer in silence.