Back to the drawing board

The super-alert among you might have remembered that I was due to have a scan at 7 weeks – on the 17th, last Friday. And I did!

Before that day, I was told that since it was a heartbeat scan they needed me to have an empty bladder so that they could see as clearly as possible (god I talk about pee a lot on this blog, sigh, not my intent!) which meant I needed to sign in to the clinic and then go to the toilet, so that I would be ready when my turn to enter the examination room rolled round.

Only, on the 17th they were unusually busy. They kept me waiting for almost an hour(!) before I was finally seen, by which point my super-energetic kidneys had already been at work. But given that I didn’t know when I’d be called, it made timing things really difficult. If only they’d been able to give me a bit of advance warning! Anyway, I entered the consultation room and went up on our old friend the examination chair. When Dr. O put the ultrasound wand in and looked around on the scanner, it was admittedly hard to see: “There’s your bladder,” she said, pointing to a big dark blob on the screen. “Your kidneys are working well, at least.”

And how about the baby? Well, there was a heartbeat! I could see the little flashes of white on the screen as the tiny organ pumped away. But Dr. O wasn’t satisfied; it was too difficult to get a clear reading. What she could see looked rather small, but was that because it was actually small, or was it because of the visibility issues? She gave a troubled “hmm…”

“Can you come back next week?” she asked. “Then we’ll be able to check properly.”

“If it’s a matter of visibility, couldn’t I just go to the toilet again now and we scan again?” I asked.

She shook her head. “I want to be sure that it’s growing properly, so it’s better if some time elapses so we can compare,” she said. “In the meantime, have another injection today, and a final one on Tuesday. Only one more week of oestrogen patches and progesterone pessaries, too! The nurse will give them to you next.”

“Okay,” I said. “But seeing the heartbeat is a good sign, right?”

“Mmm, yes,” she said hesitantly. “But next week we’ll be able to be a little more confident that things are going well.”

I was relieved to see the end of the painful tape and gross waxy pessaries, at any rate. Horrid things.

My husband wasn’t worried. “You saw the heartbeat!” he said. “That’s a really good sign!”

“Mmm.” I was doubtful. “If you’d seen Dr. O’s face, you wouldn’t be so confident,” I replied.

Morning sickness was in full swing by this point, and I was struggling to find food that I could keep down. When I was pregnant with my daughter it was late summer, and I found that eating jellies and sorbets provided me with enough liquid and calories to keep going, but right now it’s February! It’s too cold to eat ice cream when your body is already cold and struggling with insufficient calorie intake! I was so tired. Nearly at the end of all the medicine and injections. Nearly at the stage where the placenta takes over and does its own thing with all the necessary hormones.

And what a long week it was! I still had one pregnancy test left, so used it mid-week to reassure myself. The line came up, positive, within seconds. Finally, Friday morning came round and I went back to the clinic. My ticket number was 42, which I felt was a good sign – hello, Douglas Adams fans – and there was almost nobody else waiting so I quickly went to the toilet as instructed, and waited to be called.

Waiting always feels twice as long when you’re anxious about something, doesn’t it?

Finally, my examination chair went up, Dr. O arrived, and the transvaginal ultrasound wand went in.

I could tell immediately that things weren’t right. Like, there was the gestational sac, and there was the little white foetus that I could now see clearly! But… where was the heartbeat?

Dr. O zoomed in and moved the wand around to get a clearer look. Yes, there’s the foetus, clear as day – small, too small – and no, no little white flash of a pulsing heart. The heartbeat I’d seen last week was no longer there.

Dr. O said my name softly, but I already knew. “It’s gone,” I said.

“I’m so sorry.”

The tears started before the examination chair had even fully descended and immediately a nurse was there, rubbing my shoulder and handing me a wad of tissues as I gasp-sobbed into my hands. I couldn’t get up out of the chair for several minutes, but then the nurse helped me gather up my things and took me round the back (so I didn’t have to walk past other patients waiting in the corridor) into the recovery ward.

And then I sat on the bed, and cried.

I sent a message to my husband, explaining what had happened. Can you take the rest of the day off? Or half a day?

I’m so sorry, he replied. It’s so busy here, I can’t…

Go home as soon as you can, and rest, he said.

I managed to regain half my composure, and went out into the waiting room to be called in to the consultation room to talk to Dr. O again.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” a nurse asked. I nodded, not daring to speak.

While waiting, I sent a couple more messages: to my parents, to a couple of close friends.

I need to hold it together until I get out of the clinic, I said.

Take deep slow breaths and close your eyes, one of my best friends said. I love you so much, you didn’t do anything wrong.

The nurse called me in to Dr. O’s room, and comfortingly touched my shoulder when I walked in.

“It wasn’t your fault,” Dr. O said, “at all. This was an issue with the egg.”

“Even though the grade was good,” I said. “My age has something to do with it too, right?”

“It’s not unrelated,” she acknowledged. “But it’s still not your fault.”

She nudged some papers toward me. “You’ll likely miscarry naturally, and it’ll be painful, and there will be a lot more blood than usual, like when you had the chemical miscarriage before,” she said, referring to another failed pregnancy in early 2019, “only worse. I think, to be on the safe side, we should do a D&C. Can you come in on Tuesday?”

I nodded.

“And because your blood is Rh- but your husband’s is positive, you’ll need an Anti-D shot,” she said. “But I’ll need you to read this agreement and sign it.”

“Are there people who don’t agree to it?” I asked.

“Well, it contains animal products…” she said, pointing two-thirds of the way down the sheet she gave me. “So some people have been known to object.”

“A nurse will talk you through the things you’ll need to do for Tuesday,” she continued. “I’ll see you then.”

Well, the preparation for a D&C involves IV anaesthetic and is therefore much the same as the preparation for egg retrieval was a few months ago: no food after 9pm the day before, drink the necessary rehydration solution, take an extra pair of knickers and several sanitary towels, and so on. I guess I’ll write more about it once it happens. Only a few more days to go.

“Telephone us if you start bleeding beforehand though,” the nurse said after taking my blood pressure. She handed me more tissues, and relieved me of my older, soggy ones.

“I’ll have to wait for a bit before we can try again, won’t I,” I asked, and she nodded.

“We normally say to wait for your period to come twice before trying again.”

“Oh…” This made me start crying again. “…I’d kinda hoped for a Rabbit baby, like me,” I said. “I guess that won’t happen now.”

She gave me a big hug. “I’m so, so sorry,” she said.

I hugged her back. “You’re all always so kind to me.”

“We know you’re doing your best!” she said. “And you know this doesn’t mean you won’t ever be able to have another baby, right? There’s still hope. Take the time you need, but don’t give up hope.”

Another good friend sent me a Starbucks coupon immediately – the closest thing to sending a hug is sending sugar – so here I am now, writing this post three hours later, sipping on my latte (the first caffeine I’ve had in nearly two months!) and wondering how I’m going to be cheerful for my daughter when she comes home from daycare. I can’t wait to see her.

But there’s a dead baby still inside me. I’m still carrying my baby and it’s dead. My baby was alive and growing but now is dead. My baby is dead.

I’m so sorry you couldn’t make it, little one. I’m so sad I’ll never get to meet you.

I wish today had brought better news.

7 Thoughts

  1. Oh Pippa, I’m so so so sorry. I’m also sorry that this comment is late, I hope it doesn’t cause you further pain I just also want to let you know that I love you and hope you’re taking care of yourself right now ❤


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