This is our story of love and loss
TRIGGER WARNING: Miscarriage, Pregnancy and Infant Loss
This is our story of love and loss. It’s a story that weighs heavy on my heart and one that I feel so strongly about sharing. We understand that whilst our story may resonate with and provide support for some people, for others, reading our detailed experience may be triggering and we kindly acknowledge that and send love and compassion. In sharing our experience, we hope that we can rewrite this story from one of grief and trauma, to a beautifully uplifting and supportive resource for others who are or have experienced early pregnancy and infant loss. This is our story.
On 6th January, 2021 we found out that we were pregnant. After experiencing an early miscarriage in the September before, we were equally excited and nervous. But I had faith that this time would be different. I had started to feel those tell-tale pregnancy symptoms; nausea, extreme sense of smell, tiredness, dizziness and hormonal swings. I could already feel my pregnancy progressing. Once I surpassed the 6 week mark when my previous pregnancy had stopped, I could feel my anxiety over losing this one begin to ease. I took comfort in the fact that each pregnancy test I took displayed a darker positive line than the one before, and that with each passing day my nausea and exhaustion seemed to reach new levels.
At 7 weeks exactly I was due to host a workshop for Newcastle City Council and I woke that morning unable to get out of bed. My nausea and vomiting were extreme, I could barely get myself up due to exhaustion and when I went to the bathroom I noticed some spotting of blood. I knew this feeling all too well and I started to panic. I was 3 days away from my first dating scan, was yet to see a heartbeat and knew the chances of another miscarriage at this early stage were really high. Being a public holiday, our midwife advised us to go straight to the hospital for some blood tests and an ultrasound. Our bloods looked good and my HcG levels were within the normal range, however we knew a scan would be the only way to know for sure that our baby was still with us. Due to current restrictions, I had to go into that ultrasound on my own. While the technician began the scan I mentally prepared myself for the words I thought I was about to hear. I laid there silently while she moved the probe around my belly, searching for my baby. She asked me to give her a minute as ‘this one looked a bit complicated’. My mind was racing; maybe she has found an ectopic pregnancy? Maybe she can’t find anything at all? Maybe everything we’d hoped for hadn’t worked out...again? As she wiped my belly clean she smiled and said ‘Do you mind if we do an internal ultrasound because I think you might be having twins’. I burst into tears. The relief I felt was overwhelming. She asked me if I had been very sick. I replied, ‘very’. Much more than with my sweet Xandy. She said she could see two yolk sacs, but it was complicated. They were both in the same amniotic sac together. one had a heart beat, one did not. One was fully visible and could be measured, one was sitting in the corner of the sac and was difficult to see. She said they were measuring small, which was likely the reason why Twin B was difficult to get a read on. ‘Twin A’ and ‘Twin B’- my mind was blown. She also said that I had a Subchorionic Haematoma, a pocket of blood between the placenta and the wall of the uterus. She said the next couple of weeks would give us more answers, and that no matter what happened with Twin B, Twin A should be fine. I didn’t care about the complications. The universe had blessed us with 2 babies. I felt like the sweet soul I had lost in September was coming back to us, along with another beautiful one. I floated back to the room where Owen was waiting and couldn’t wait to tell him. Twins was the absolute last thing either of us expected to hear and we were suitably shocked. For the next couple of days we would catch each other’s eyes and laugh. This was incredible.
We still went to our scheduled dating scan a few days later, mainly because I wanted Owen to experience what I had already seen. And partly because we hoped something would have changed in those few days and maybe we could get a read of Twin B. That ultrasound showed the same as the one before; except Twin A’s heartbeat was strong and healthy. All we could do was wait and another ultrasound was scheduled for two and a half weeks’ time. Over the next week we were relishing in the concept of being parents to Twins. We hypothetically planned out the things we would need to buy, I panicked about how I could parent these babes the same way I had my sweet Xandy, and we joked about the fact that Owen had previously been undecided about having more than two children whilst I always said I wanted three, and yet my over achieving body had made that decision for us. Because we were yet to see a specialised doctor, we researched everything we could about Monoamniotic-Monochorionic (Mono-Mono) Twins; babies that share a placenta and an amniotic sac and make up merely 1% of all twins. Despite our excited state we also attempted to prepare ourselves for the potential long road ahead of this journey of ours. Mono-Mono twins inevitably encounter additional challenges than other twins due to their shared sac. The risk of entanglement is high, as well as restrictions to movement and growth. Typically, they are born prematurely between 30-32 weeks so a stay in NICU would be a strong possibility. And that’s if they even make it through their 50/50 chance of reaching the second trimester. Selfishly, I also found myself grieving the pregnancy and birth experience I was longing for this time around. I had hoped to rewrite my experience from a traumatic one with my sweet Xandy, to one of calm empowerment. The chance for another vaginal birth was off the cards due to the risk of cord prolapse during labour, and my hope for a peaceful home birth was shattered. I feared that we wouldn’t even make it to that stage and that one or both wouldn’t survive pregnancy at all, or that they would be born with significant health issues.
The week following that news saw us riding a rollercoaster of emotions we just weren’t expecting. Then came another blow. On February 1stour beautiful Xander had a freak accident in our backyard which resulted in a fractured left Femur. We knew from recent experience that he had broken a bone. The painful scream is one we had heard only in the October before when he fractured his right Tibia. Unlike his previous break, this bone couldn’t be put in a cast and sent home to heal. He needed to be fitted in a traction bed with a weighted bag, ropes and pulleys, holding and stretching his leg into position. This also meant that we couldn’t go home. We were looking at a 4-6 week hospital stay with our sweet boy unable to move from his bed. Our little family was feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
That first week was a sleep-deprived, anxiety-stricken blur, however I will forever be in awe of Xandy’s resilience and grateful for the support and care we were given. With weekly x-rays needed to monitor his healing process it didn’t take long for word to get around that I was pregnant. We joked in disbelief about the turn of events our life had encountered during a short space of time, and sarcastically likened it to the chaos our new family dynamic would likely turn into with the arrival of two new babies. With so much happening around us and our attention turned solely onto Xandy, the days between our ultrasounds passed by quickly. Before we knew it we were enjoying Valentine’s Day in an empty hospital ward just the three (or 5) of us, feeling grateful for the extra quality time we had been given. That Sunday afternoon I started to spot again. I tried my best not to panic and kept reminding myself of the facts; I had a haematoma and spotting can be normal, and I am 10 weeks pregnant and the chance of a miscarriage at this point is low.
On Tuesday 16th February we went to our ultrasound feeling hopeful. We had prepared ourselves for what we thought the worst-case scenario would be; Twin A was progressing, but Twin B wasn’t. What came next was far from what either of us expected to hear. There was a deafening silence when the technician placed the probe on my belly. I was asked to empty my bladder in preparation for an internal ultrasound, just to ‘check’. I felt sick. My two little jelly beans were inside their shared sac. There was minimal growth since the last scan, but not enough. And a missing flutter that we had so clearly seen merely two and a half weeks prior. Both had passed. I asked, ‘what next?’ I was told that I could wait and see if my body would miscarry them naturally, but not too long due to the risk of infection. What was too long though? Nobody could say. I could also take a pill to induce a miscarriage by signalling my cervix to dilate and my uterine lining to shed, or undergo a procedure called a Dilation & Curettage (D&C) to surgically remove my pregnancy. I didn’t want either of those options. My body had created these two little miracles and I wanted to see this through. So, I waited.
It didn’t take long for things to progress on their own. In hindsight, the spotting I had experienced on the Sunday was the beginning of my miscarriage. By Wednesday afternoon I changed from a panty liner to a regular pad, and I had started to cramp. At 7pm that night I started to experience heavy bleeding and a ‘gushing’ of blood. We had already decided that Owen would spend the night at the hospital with us. He quickly drove home to feed our dog Henry and I changed to a maternity pad before he left. I sat down on the chair next to Xandy’s bed and read him stories while we waited. He was gone for 30 minutes and by the time he returned I had soaked through my maternity pad, my underwear, my pyjama pants and onto the chair. I attempted to stand up and felt clots of blood falling out of me. I walked to the toilet and couldn’t believe what I was passing; handfuls of clots and so much blood. The nurses advised me to go upstairs to the Emergency Department to make sure I wasn’t passing too much blood too quickly. I didn’t want to leave Xandy, but I was worried that things would get worse and they would admit me into a different ward and we would be separated anyway. Before I left I changed my clothing, layered two maternity pads on top of each other and wrapped my jumper around my waist. I walked 100 metres down the corridor to ED and didn’t notice until I arrived that I had already soaked through all of the layers. I was shaking, pale and dizzy. They admitted me through immediately. My blood count was low, but not dangerously. My blood loss was substantial and by this stage the clots were the size of my fist. We stayed for a few hours while my bleeding subsided and I begged them to let me go back to Xandy’s ward where I promised I would come back if things got worse. By lunchtime Thursday the bleeding had worsened again (I was now needing to wear adult nappies) and the pain was brutal leading into the night. I passed more large clots through the night until finally on Friday morning, I passed what appeared to be an amniotic sac. I examined it closely because it looked and felt different to the other tissue I had been passing. It was firmer than a clot, had an area on one end which appeared to have a small cord or attachment, and inside I could see two white shapes about 1cm long each; my little jelly beans.
Things started to calm down after that. My bleeding had levelled out to a heavy period and my clots had reduced down to around the size of a 20-cent piece. The ED had referred me to the Acute Gynaecology Unit at the hospital who had already contacted me to monitor my progress, and the wonderful paediatric nursing staff had connected me with a beautiful Social Worker named Emma. We had also been moved into a single room on the ward with our own ensuite and some privacy where we could attempt to process this experience. The following Tuesday we were gifted some beautiful news; Xandy’s leg had healed enough for him to start some light weight bearing. This meant he could come out of traction and we could go home. On Friday, ten days after I started to miscarry, I had a follow up ultrasound and blood test. The scan showed that I had in fact passed my amniotic sac, most of my uterine lining and my HcG levels had dropped from 12 000 to 45. My body had successfully passed my babies.
It has been seven weeks since we lost our babies. Our sweet little boy Xandy is moving beautifully on his healed leg, we have just come back from a much-needed holiday and life has returned to our new normal. We trust in our journey and have faith that our experience has happened to us for a reason. My hope in sharing our story is to reduce the stigma around miscarriage and to help others who have been touched with infant loss. We are not an anomaly. We are 1 in 4. We are your friends, your family members, your neighbours, your colleagues. And it is important that our voices are heard. Because losing a baby, or babies, changes you. It plunges you into depths of grief you never thought possible and feelings of shame and failure you can’t explain. When we share our stories we are reminded that we are not alone. I will be forever grateful for the kindness, love and support we received during this time from family, friends and the beautiful hospital staff we met along the way. This is our story and we thank you for allowing us to share it with you.
*If you or someone you know is experiencing pregnancy and infant loss I encourage you to reach our for support. SANDS, Red Nose and Bears of Hope are just a few beautiful organisations who provide amazing support during this time. Visit https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/kidsfamilies/MCFhealth/Publications/pregnancy-and-infant-loss-parents.pdf for more information.