• robynsherwell

The Other Two Week Wait

This is the story of my experience with early miscarriage, which eventually led to me writing the song Two Weeks. My hope is that anyone who can relate to this experience can find solace in knowing they are not alone.


In the summer of 2017 my husband and I suffered a miscarriage. I was nearly 10 weeks along, I had seen a doctor, been given a due date, and our twelve-week scan was booked. I had a pregnancy tracking app on my phone providing the week-by-week progress of our tiny baby. It was my first pregnancy and it never crossed my mind for an instant during those early weeks that it would end in miscarriage. I felt deeply bonded with the life I carried.


But then came the bleeding. At first, it was so mild I didn’t worry, once I had obsessively checked multiple articles on Dr Google, and learned that a little bleeding can be normal in early pregnancy. However, later that day, after I had finished a meeting in central London and following an alarming bathroom trip, I began to panic. After a frantic search on my phone, I made my way to the nearest Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU), only to find them shut for the day. I rang 111 from a busy street corner and, having answered their questions, I was advised to make my way to the nearest Urgent Care or A&E. I was seen within 2 hours at A&E at St Thomas, where my husband joined me - but since I was ‘stable’ in myself, and they could not do a scan in emergency hours - the triage staff sent us home to wait and see what happened next. It was a Friday night. We tried to take to heart all the ‘it could be normal’ advice given, then waited it out all of the next day, deciding we wouldn’t go back to A&E or the EPU unless things significantly changed.


That Saturday came and went in a haze. I tried to push away the thought... "No. I can’t have a miscarriage. I'm healthy. I'm meant to have this baby. I have a due date. This can’t happen to me." I was afraid my heart would break beyond repair if it did.


By Sunday morning, there was clotting and cramping. I had moved past “How on Earth will I cope if it is miscarriage?" to “If this is what’s happening, I need to know now so I can start to face it. I need help.”


We went the EPU first thing, but couldn’t get a scan until 2pm. The hospital was eerily quiet following the devastating London Bridge terrorist attacks the night before. There was a police presence and no one was being admitted unless it was urgent. We were allowed to pass instantly when we said it was for the Early Pregnancy Unit. By now my mind was a broken record of speculation. Had I done something wrong? What was happening? I needed answers. It was wrecking my head.

Finally, our appointment time came. As I lay there during the scan, I tried to breathe - at least very soon I would know either way what my body was dealing with.


The nurse was silent for a while, and then apologised for the prolonged silence. The news was far from definitive. She could see a pregnancy, nicely located right where it should be in the uterus (ruling out ectopic), and could see a little pregnancy sac. However, she could not make out the flicker of a heartbeat. My womb looked healthy and well, but the pregnancy a little small for what should be. She said it was possible the baby was just a little behind, or I conceived later than we thought – which, she said, would mean it was nothing necessarily out of the ordinary to not catch a heartbeat just yet. Equally – since my cycles were reported as regular - late conception was unlikely, and that fact, together with bleeding and cramping, did not bode well. Given the facts at hand, her position was not to diagnose. “It’s no harm to wait,” she said, “and see how things develop. Maybe baby is just younger than we think, and well enough, and you are experiencing some bleeding for some other reason” - of which, she added, there can be many, and many can be normal. The policy at that point was to wait.


“Two weeks,” she said. “Just come back in fourteen days.”


Two weeks? My narrow, media-shaped perception of miscarriage as something sudden and clear-cut imploded. After breaking down in tears in the hallways of the EPU, I went home to drift in a state of limbo, confirmed pregnant, but with a ‘pregnancy of unknown viability.’ It was one hell of a trip, I can tell you. Two weeks, with the most polar of outcomes apparently simultaneously possible, like Schrödinger’s paradoxical cat… I was a walking conundrum. Waiting to see what transpired, a life or a loss. Unable to process, not knowing whether to hope or to grieve. I felt afraid, and horribly uninformed. I turned to online forums, dark corners of the internet overflowing with women’s grief, for details of exactly how their pregnancies had released, how they’d coped, what to expect when you’re expecting to miscarry. How would I know when my body had actually passed the pregnancy ? What could I expect to see? And if my body didn’t manage it naturally, what would a surgical or D&C procedure mean?


Those two weeks were a crash course in surrender. I’d never felt more helpless. I usually take action to cope with things that come my way - but that wasn’t possible here. It was a physical experience of grief. My body was losing something. So was my heart. It was a gradual, mind-bending time.


By the time I went to the follow up scan, I was fairly certain they would find nothing. I was still bleeding a little, but I tried to convince myself I was fine. I actively hoped for a clear scan. I wanted something definitive, to feel on stable ground again.


My womb was clear. Our baby was gone. I had miscarried. I felt detached. This time, I was taken to a private room, and offered tea for my grief, support leaflets and dietary advice to help boost my iron levels after blood loss. My cycles might be off-kilter for a while and I would still show up positive on pregnancy tests until my hormones settled down. I felt impatient throughout this follow up, especially after the two weeks I’d spent in the dark. I took the tests, I hoped for negatives; the bizarre irony of this change in circumstance taunting my mind.


Afterwards I tried to minimise the experience. “At least I wasn’t further along. At least it didn’t happen whilst I was touring or playing a festival. At least, at least, at least.” I tried to congratulate my body for handling this without medical intervention, to find something to be grateful for. I had read so many heartbreaking stories on the internet by then. I told myself that my miscarriage, now complete, had been relatively efficient, and I should be thankful for that at least.


I made tentative plans for the evening after the conclusive scan - to see friends, to drink wine, to do not-pregnant things, to forget and try to go back to some kind of normal. My friends (bless them) told me they were expecting. My brittle defences collapsed. This was exactly the kind of reminder I would have to navigate for months afterward, every time some unassuming curious friend or stranger asked if I wanted children one day, every time I was served an advert online about buying Clearblue tests, or moses baskets, or pregnancy vitamins. Living with pregnancy loss turned out to be quite the minefield. And for many, this is the ongoing reality.


Fast forward to now. I eventually found the space to write and record Two Weeks. Writing this song was cathartic, just to get that story down somewhere. But I couldn’t touch the subject for a long time. For months I told almost no one, guarding my grieving heart carefully. I’ve since had another pregnancy and welcomed a daughter, which was hugely healing and I count myself extremely lucky. But still, the recording process of this song was a tearful one. The vocals are virtually all from my original demo as I couldn’t face singing them again. But having been able to put something of the experience into music, I feel like I’ve integrated it a little more, and can let it be.


The truth is, you never know what people might be struggling with. Miscarriage is such an under the radar subject, but it is common, with one in four pregnancies affected. You can’t imagine how many families may be suffering in some way due to pregnancy and child loss, and how the impact of that can carry over into relationships, or into subsequent pregnancies, nor how it can affect confidence, motherhood, femininity, womanhood, life.


If I had any idea of the statistics at the time, even how normative an outcome it can be in early pregnancy, I might have felt less isolated. If I had more awareness of other women like me experiencing this, whilst it could never have reduced the sorrow I felt, it might have helped me do away with with the insidious side-helping of failure and guilt that went with it, thanks to the stigma surrounding this topic. To me, even the name is a misnomer, placing the burden of responsibility on women’s bodies, as if a woman can ‘mis-carry’ her child - as though she can mess it up somehow. I bought that narrative too, and hurt myself with it - I didn’t want anyone to know I’d failed at this. To confess to the loss of a pregnancy, and then risk responses that might make me feel worse? No way. Many people simply don’t have a framework for responding to this type of news. It's uncomfortable, they don’t know what to say, because we never talk about it. But thanks to so many brave people opening up about this topic, there are resources out there to help.


My hope is that by sharing my story in a little depth, beyond just a song I happened to write, I might contribute to that discussion and improve awareness so that women and families touched by this type of loss can feel better supported and understood.


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Below I've linked to some resources that may be helpful if you or someone you know is dealing with pregnancy or infant loss.



Resources:

Tommy's - Charity funding research into the prevention of baby loss, and offering advice and support for those experiencing it

Miscarriage Association - Information, support, helpline, advice, forum and stories from other women and families.

Stars of Remembrance - Part of the Miscarriage Association, this page offers grieving families a way of marking their loss with a star and a message. You can read the messages of others by clicking the stars. Previously 'Forget-Me-Not Meadow', there is an archive of those too - blue flowers with beautiful messages of love attached to each.

Baby Loss Awareness - 9-15th October every year, a week dedicated to raising awareness around pregnancy and baby loss, with useful resources for workplaces, partners, families, and ways to remember.

NHS - Information, symptoms, advice for where to go for medical help




Photo credit: Elliott Mariess



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© 2020 by Robyn Sherwell.