TRIGGER WARNING: MISCARRIAGE
In our toddler's newborn photos, taken by the wonderful Libby Edwards in Portsmouth, he is pictured posed with his Daddy's necklace. Hanging from this necklace are a St. Christopher, to keep Mr Arabella Jones safe, and a rainbow, to symbolise the child we could not keep safe in 2016.
I've tried not to keep our experience a secret, believing that miscarriage needs to be swept back out from under the rug and into conversation. So I set my mind to writing a blog post for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, hoping to shed a light on the so-called taboo of miscarriage. It has been harder to write than I anticipated.
In October 2016, at the age of 23, we discovered that we were pregnant for the first time. Aware of the statistics, and of the reduced risk of miscarriage after the first trimester, we chose at first not to tell anyone other than our respective mums until we'd reached the 12 week mark, which would be around Christmas. We went about our merry way excitedly planning Christmas gifts addressed to baby's Aunties, Uncles, Grandparents...we were almost certain nothing was going to go wrong; I was so sick in the pregnancy, we felt sure things must be progressing as they should.
And then in December I spotted two individual drops of blood. In a panic, I called my midwife, who asked if the blood was red and fresh. It was not, which was a good sign. Spotting can be perfectly normal in pregnancy. Nevertheless, a scan was booked for a couple of days later to check that everything was as it should be.
It was 23rd December. Thankfully Mr Arabella Jones, who was still in the Royal Marines back then, was at home on Christmas leave. He came and held my shaking hand as I was scanned internally. I was nervous, but even at this point I don't think I truly expected anything to be wrong. So when we were told there was no heartbeat, even though we could see a baby right there in front of us on the screen, it was a shock. I don't really remember what was said, but I remember crying in the room next door, afterwards. And I remember how it felt.
I cannot imagine having to go into that appointment alone, even though I imagine hundreds of military spouses have to do it every year. And of course in 2020, the year of the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of women have been placed in that very situation. My heart goes out to them.
We thought I should have been 11 weeks along at the time of our scan, but our baby was measuring just six weeks. I had had what is called a missed miscarriage, when the baby passes away but the mother's body, for one reason or another, does not realise and continues to display symptoms of pregnancy. My body had held on to our baby for that long, unable to let go.
I chose not to have surgery and instead opted for medical management, where tablets are given to induce the miscarriage. We were told that we could return to hospital on 24th December to have this done. We asked to defer, not wishing to lose our child all over again on Christmas Day. It was the right decision for us. We agreed the date of the 28th December and travelled home.
I was due to meet up with friends for a Christmas dinner. Mr Arabella Jones ran me a bath and called one of the girls to explain why I wouldn't be there while I tried to envelop myself and our lost baby in the safety of the warm water. We told our mums. They told our siblings so that we would not have to explain why we were so morose on Christmas Day. We removed all the Christmas presents addressed to Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, from beneath the tree. I cried and hugged my womb and learned what heartbreak truly means.
When we returned to the hospital on 28th December, again Mr Arabella Jones held my hand as I had the procedure. We went home and waited, not really knowing when to expect the inevitable. Nothing happened that afternoon.
It sounds bizarre and surreal now, but (being the festive season) my mother in law was hosting a cheese and wine party in the evening. I was determined that we should go along and show our faces. Most of the guests didn't know what had happened so I guess I thought it would be distracting. It was a mistake; not long after we arrived, I ended up miscarrying our first child in the upstairs bathroom. I remember it with vivid clarity but I won't share the details. It was uncomfortable. It was painful. I remember wanting nothing more than to be at home but I could barely move.
When I could get down the stairs, my female relatives seemed to know exactly what to do for me. Not a word was spoken...they simply gathered round me as I reached the final step in the staircase, somehow manoeuvred me into my coat and shoes, and took me home. I will be forever grateful to them.
We are so fortunate now to have two beautiful sons, but we will never forget our first child. The love I have for that little one will be etched onto my heart forever.
I really believe and hope that through speaking about miscarriage, we can help other parents come to terms with their own experiences. This Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, I will be thinking of my child. But I will also be thinking of the many parents silently enduring their grief, and of the children they are unable to see grow up.