Sunday, 20 March 2011

Won one, lost one By Kate

We got lucky first time with Rosie. She was the result of one of the four in five pregnancies that ends with a baby. Second time round that luck took a holiday.

Instead of expecting a brother or sister for Rosie early in October as we had thought, we discovered from our first scan that we weren't expecting a baby at all. Our embryo had stopped developing at just over eight weeks and no heartbeat could be detected. A missed or "silent" miscarriage. The radiologist's mouth tightened into a line of regret. "Es un aborto," she said, "Lo siento."

We were stung by disappointment and slightly stunned, but took the bad news calmly. "Ah well," I said to Theo as I climbed off the scanning table, "That's that, then." It would explain why I had been experiencing so few pregnancy symptoms, especially during the last fortnight or so. Everything had come to a full stop.

When we got home, the tears came. Although I was already counting my blessings (better to lose a pregnancy early on; I know I can carry a healthy baby; I know I can get pregnant fairly easily; maybe a slightly bigger gap between children would be better; at least this takes the pressure off our return to the UK etc. etc....) it was still a sad loss and some grief was inevitable. Theo comforted me, as best he could. For him, the initial disappointment had rapidly changed into concern for my well-being. Cuddling Rosie helped me too.

But now we had to turn to the practicalities of the situation. Our radiologist had told me to go to hospital either today or tomorrow...but was vague about the details. A bit of research online told me most of what I needed to know and a friend who'd been through the same thing a few years before told me the rest. I would need a medical procedure called ERPC (Evacuation of the Remaining Products of Conception), once known as D&C (Dilation and Curettage). A straightforward operation performed under general anaesthetic. Bearing that in mind, we elected to go the following morning in the hope that I would be home that same evening.

Accordingly, we arrived at Urgencias Maternidad, Hospital La Paz at nine o'clock the next morning. Theo had taken the day off work so he could look after Rosie and support me as much as possible. We signed in and I was taken off to be scanned again. The staff were kind and friendly (a couple of the younger medics even attempting some reasonable English) and although none of them offered sympathy, they put me at my ease.

I had done the right thing by not eating any breakfast, although the news that I had had a few mouthfuls of water was greeted with some consternation. Eventually they judged I hadn't had enough for it to be a big problem. I was told to remove my clothes and jewelery, then put in a wheelchair and taken to a small ward for two on the fourth floor. It all felt strangely familiar as the room was identical to the one I had stayed in for five days after having Rosie. Except this one couldn't come close to the view we had had on the eleventh floor and the circumstances couldn't be more depressingly different.

Theo and Rosie came to give me a hug and bid me a temporary farewell, then I was joined by an older woman who was given the other bed as she waited to have a bladder operation. I smiled politely and did my best to keep up with her Spanish, using my own imperfect command of the language to explain why I was at La Paz. She nodded sympathetically and told me (I think) that she had also had a miscarriage. But she now had three healthy adult sons to her name, so not to worry. Although she suspected the miscarried baby would have turned out to be a girl and that made her feel sad. I nodded sympathetically in my turn.

A couple of nurses came in, gave me some forms to sign, then popped a couple of pessaries inside me to "soften things up" for the coming procedure. I was then left to relax in my bed and read.

An hour and a half later, it was time to go. My bed, with me in it, was wheeled down to the operating theatre. Outside it, I was asked the same succession of questions by five different people (No, I hadn't eaten since last night, Yes I'd drunk a little water this morning, but not much etc. etc.) Bafflingly, one junior anaesthetist asked me in broken English about the importance of the decision I had made. Confused, I replied, "Es un gestation interrumpido. Es un aborto. Este operacion es necesario, no?" He agreed it was. I think he had been under the impression that I was aborting a live fetus, for some reason.

The operation itself went without a hitch. The most painful part was having two needles inserted into the back of my left hand for the various drips, but the rest was plain sailing. The medical team helped me onto the operating table, stuck my legs in stirrups, tested my blood pressure, sluiced my nether regions with shockingly cold antiseptic then inserted a nozzle in my mouth...and I promptly passed out.

The next moment (probably about twenty minutes or so later) I came round trying to push this strange foreign object out of my mouth with my tongue. When I opened my eyes and saw various medics gazing down at me I remembered where I was. I felt amazingly refreshed and realized this was probably the first time I had slept really deeply since I had had Rosie, more than thirteen months earlier.

"What luxury," I said in Spanish, "Can I have some of that stuff to help me sleep at night?" They smiled and I was wheeled back to the ward, still attached to the drips, and was left to snooze off the effects of the anaesthetic for the next couple of hours.

Rosie and Theo returned to find me well-rested and reaching the exciting climax of my novel. It was then a matter of hanging around until a doctor could be persuaded to check me over and discharge me. Eventually one bustled in after Theo used the simple expedient of waving Rosie meaningfully at the nurse receptionist and saying the baby would need to go home for supper and bed very soon.

I was told I could breastfeed Rosie that evening provided I expressed the first lot of milk to get rid of any lingering anaesthesia. Then I was given an information sheet telling me what to expect over the next few weeks and what symptoms to look out for in the event of an infection. After that I was free to change back into my clothes and go. Which I did.

It was the next day that we discovered I hadn't only left the remains of an embryo behind me at Hospital La Paz. Unfortunately my wedding ring had slipped from the plastic folder where I had thought it would be safe and was most probably well buried among the hospital refuse by now.

I am very hopeful that a new wedding ring and a new pregnancy will both be forthcoming before too long. After all, you've got to try and be philosophical about these things sometimes.


  1. I stumbled onto your blog by using the "next blog" button on my own blog. Thank you for sharing your story of miscarriage. We lost our first pregnancy over 5 years ago and I was profoundly surprised by how much grief I had. We now have two beautiful children, which softens the grief a great deal. It's a topic many women don't discuss until they have to go through the ordeal themselves.

  2. That's kind of you to say so, Jen.
    Yes, I feel there's still quite a taboo surrounding discussion of the subject of miscarriage, yet it's so very common.
    It's good to hear you now have two children! I hope we can follow your example before long.