I am the 1 in 4
Warning: this blog contains details concerning miscarriage. Some readers may find it distressing.
It began in January 2020. We had just moved into a new sprawling open plan living style home, which was much different to our old heritage home. We moved a few suburbs over, on account of our old landlords needing to sell their property. In amongst moving, there were a lot of feelings, but the main ones for me were stress and exhaustion. Moving sucks, and you can’t convince me otherwise. It is a huge task and really is a life altering event, especially with a toddler in tow.
I was surprised when I looked down at a very faint line on a home pregnancy test only days after moving in. We weren’t trying, I thought, as the boxes and bags full of our stuff felt like they were closing in around me. I was so happy, and a bit smug, as we were officially one of those couples who fell accidentally. I welcomed the news, as we were thinking of starting to try for our second baby in the coming months anyway once we had settled in. The faint line appeared on Thursday, and I decided on Saturday, that I would take another, as the line was only faint. With our first son Henry, the line got darker day by day, and it didn’t take long for that second line to darken and even overtake the control line, but when I looked down at the second test this time, I noticed the line was just as faint, possibly even fainter.
Perhaps my urine wasn’t concentrated enough. Perhaps this baby wasn’t producing as much hcg as Henry. Maybe it was a girl and they didn’t spike hcg like boys did. People always spoke about how comparing pregnancies was dangerous territory, so I put it out of my mind. My period wasn’t even due until Monday, so I decided to relax and stop testing. Sunday came, the day before I was heading back to work for the year, and I noticed some brown spotting. Implantation bleeding, was my first thought, followed very quickly by miscarriage. I was so early, was there even anything to miscarry?
The next day at school, my first day with my new kindy class, I found out I was no longer pregnant, if I even was in the first place. I was confused, and sad, but more so very curious as to what went on with my body over the last month. I started googling (which in this case was informative and helpful) and learnt what a chemical pregnancy was. A chemical pregnancy is a non-viable pregnancy which is miscarried before 6 weeks. Mostly due to chromosomal abnormalities and often written off as a slightly late period, it said that they are common and, in most cases, not a sign that something is wrong, just a ‘bad seed’. I grieved for a day, but because it was so early, the whole experience was very fleeting, and I found healing through it was quite straight forward. My doctor said because it was such an early loss, we could try for another baby straight away. He also said that if I hadn’t taken the early test, I most likely would never had known, which made me annoyed at myself. He finally said not to worry, these types of pregnancies happen very regularly, and aren’t officially ‘counted’ as a miscarriage. This made me feel relieved, yet still sad to understand it didn’t turn into anything.
We decided to start trying for a second baby and a sibling for Henry. Nothing happened in February and my cycle was cut short a few days, possibly due to my body recalibrating. During March we tried again, and we fell pregnant for a second time this year. It was a surprise as it happened so quick, and I couldn’t believe our luck. All three of my pregnancies to date have taken 4-8 weeks to occur, and in that moment, I felt supreme luck, joy and gratefulness.
The lines on these tests were getting darker this time. Still I never thought they got as dark and Henry’s but at least there was progression. I went to my doctor to get it confirmed at what I thought was 4 weeks and 2 days, and he said my levels looks to be around 4 weeks, which matched! The pregnancy was going along fine, my breasts were on fire like with Henry, and the nausea was beginning, but wasn’t as bad as it was with him. We told a few close friends, and were gearing up for a wonderful Christmas baby, imagining the birth announcement, and singing carols this year with a newborn in my arms. It felt too good to be true.
At 7 weeks and 1 day, I went to the bathroom. I wiped, and noticed brown blood, and then I noticed some on my underwear. I instantly panicked, because I had been here before, and I couldn’t believe our chances of being here again. I felt like I came into the bathroom pregnant and flushed the toilet not pregnant. I saw my doctor that day, shaking as I drove across town. He assured me spotting was normal, but miscarriage is also a very normal part of the reproduction cycle and life of a woman. Neither piece of information calmed me at that moment, because having two losses back to back felt like a cruel joke. Not knowing for sure what was happening within my body, I booked into an emergency ultrasound that afternoon, and because of social distancing and COVID-19, had to attend the appointment on my own. I lay in the chair, and the sonographer told me she was going to have to do an internal as she couldn’t see the baby. She asked how many weeks along I ‘thought’ I was, and I told her, very sure of the dates as I diary them to track my cycle. She found the gestational sack, telling me I was no further than 5 weeks and I probably have gotten my dates wrong.
I was crushed. I knew in my heart my dates weren’t wrong. I knew in my heart that something was not right. Maybe it was mother’s instinct, intuition, a gut feeling; I wasn’t hopeful. Over the next two days the spotting slowly began to become more and more heavy. On Wednesday, where I should have been 7 weeks and 3 days, I went to the doctors and told him what was happening, and after he read the report from the ultrasound, he said that I was most likely experiencing a natural miscarriage. I felt like I already knew but hearing it from a doctor was painful.
I am lucky to have a beautiful, calm and nurturing doctor who assured me of many things during my consult. When I asked him through tears, ‘what is wrong with me? Why has it happened twice now?’ he said this: currently, the statistics of pregnancies ending in miscarriage are around 1 in 4. It is believed by many medical professionals that the reality is that it is most likely 1 in 3. He told me the nature of my miscarriages suggest that we have merely had some unlucky chromosomal abnormalities, and that was common across all women. He said that the chances of our next baby being healthy is around 80%. He also said, it happens to a lot more women that I realise, but people often don’t speak about it. We are cautiously optimistic about next time, but obviously quite scared. Part of me doesn’t want to go through trying again because I am scared that everything comes in 3’s. I don’t know how I would deal with another loss, but I also believe that not having any hope at all is more devastating.
If you are the 1 in 4, understand you are not alone. I am possibly the most boring and normal woman health wise, except for a little low iron, I have no risk factors, so I was shocked to even be in this boat. Miscarriage doesn’t discriminate, and can honestly happen to anyone, and probably does whether they realise it or not. It does not make you infertile, it does not mean that you’ll never have a healthy baby again or ever. In fact, studies show that women who suffer a loss may even have a better chance next time that their next baby will thrive and be healthy. I will do a blog post on our trying to conceive journey post loss, but I just wanted this post to raise awareness of the normal. It is nothing to be ashamed about, nor should it be something that you are too concerned about.
When my doctor learnt of my second unlucky loss, he looked me in the eye and said, ‘I do not want you to entertain the thought that there is something wrong with you, because there isn’t. You have just been unlucky this time, Caitlin.’ I hope that those words can be of a comfort to you if you, like me, are the 1 in 4.