23 November 2020

Loss in a Pandemic – Katie’s Story

A guest post by Katie Day

 

My name is Katie Day and I am a Mummy to three, blessed beyond belief with one living baby boy Max at home and two babies who have ran on ahead. 

I am married to my husband Levi, an amazing Australian man who has been living in the UK as a motorcycle racer for the last 8 years. We have been married for 5 years this November and Max turned 2 in August. We have always wanted two children home with us, close together in age. When I fell pregnant a few months after Max turned 1, it was exactly what we wanted.

I went in to hospital in Mid-December 2019 to rule out ectopic pain and found at 10 weeks we had suffered a blighted ovum, which means that the baby did not develop past 5 weeks, and we had suffered a Missed Miscarriage, as I was still experiencing pregnancy symptoms which gave me no sign that there was anything wrong, let alone that my baby wasn’t growing inside me, I underwent an ERPC and although utterly heartbroken, we knew we had carried our little Max to term, so we just needed to try again to complete our family.

 

At the beginning of lockdown, my sister said to me, I assume you will stop trying whilst this crazy pandemic is going on and I said absolutely not, I am not putting our lives on hold, we want another baby, unbeknownst to us, I was actually already a few weeks pregnant when we had this conversation and on April 4th 2020, Levi and I were both overjoyed and petrified to find out we had fallen pregnant again. At around 6 weeks pregnant, I had some severe pain isolated to one side, so in I went to EPU at Ipswich Hospital in Suffolk, alone, due to the pandemic, to rule out ectopic. I walked in to the same sonographer who scanned me in December who told me our last baby wouldn’t be coming home with us. I was petrified, and even more so when he told me I had an irregular sac with no Fetal pole. 

An irregular sac means that the sac is collapsing (the start of a miscarriage) and I was scheduled for a return appointment in two weeks for a further scan, but I was told in very clear terms – if I started bleeding excessively I must return. I grieved that night for my baby as I had been told in no uncertain terms this is pretty sure you are about to miscarry. But as the days went by I didn’t bleed, my pregnancy symptoms ramped right up and on my return after an agonising two weeks, I lay on the bed alone, but they found a tiny little baby with a beating heart, measuring a few days behind but absolutely zero concerns.

I wasn’t alone anymore, I had a constant companion.

Due to my prior miscarriage, I wanted to book a private scan a few weeks before my 12 week scan for reassurance, so off we went to a private scan clinic close to our home in Suffolk, I was exactly 9 weeks pregnant, and the little image was incredible, they sent me videos of my baby waving to be able to share with my husband and little boy who could not attend due to the coronavirus and I felt so proud sharing those images with my husband who couldn’t come in with me. 

Due to the pandemic restrictions being lifted to have social distancing in the garden from June 1st and my scan being on the same day my Mum and Dad arrived to look after our son Max for us whilst Levi drove me to the hospital for our 12 week scan. It was the most beautiful warm sunny day and Max was so excited as he got to see Nanny and Grandad for the first time in 3 months.

By my calculations, I would be 12 weeks 5 days pregnant, and as we walked across the car park, Levi joked that there was no way we could hide my pregnancy any more, as I had an incredibly noticeable bump and although we had decided not to do an announcement it would feel great being able to share our news with our closest family and friends once that afternoon was out of the way.

He gave me a kiss at the door and said “I will be here when you get out, I love you.” I walked in to the ultrasound department, alone.

I was checked in by the same sonographer who told me my last baby had passed away, and who at my 6 week scan for this baby told me that my sac was irregular and I would miscarry naturally at home. My stomach went in to knots at the sight at this man, it of course wasn’t his fault, but I felt like every time I saw him bad news followed, I sent Levi a text saying exactly that and he said, not this time my love, everything is going to be perfect.

The female sonographer called my name, and she was a little cold, I explained I am incredibly nervous as my last pregnancy resulted in a missed miscarriage, and I needed clarity over if my uterus was Septate or not, she told me to get on the bed and cross my arms across my chest.

I clenched my eyes shut, but thought it won’t be long and you will see your little one on screen, come on open them up and look. So I looked, and thought I could see the little fuzzy flicker of their heart.

I thought gosh she is taking a long time to speak, why is she silent? I forced myself to say, ‘is everything alright?’ and she answered, I’m just taking some measurements.

My breathing picked up at this point, and I thought, it’s ok, you can see their heart beating, it’s ok, it’s ok. Silence continued, and I had my eyes closed again, her voice made me open my eyes in a flash, her words were, I’m sorry Katie, it’s not good news’. 

I now realise that her silence was her trying to come up with the words to tell me my baby had died. The next moment is a blur, I believe I screamed, shouted NO. It cannot be, I only saw them two weeks prior, they were waving at me. She must be wrong. She had to be wrong. They were fine, they were fine, why, why, no no. I WANT MY HUSBAND. She got my phone out of my bag and with shaking hands, I dialled my poor Levi, and screamed, they are gone, they are gone again. 

I will never forgive myself for that call to my husband, he says it keeps him up at night, hearing that our baby was gone and the state I was in and he was not allowed to be with me. They then finally let him in to me and while Levi wept, I was angry. I could NOT cry. I was in shock, I was numb. I felt like they must be wrong. But they had a second sonographer come in which is hospital policy when a baby’s heart has stopped. They were definitely gone. The sonographer was warmer now, more compassionate, I feel like she should have been from the off, especially when I told her we had suffered this before. She asked if we wanted multiple scan pictures for family and friends. For what purpose? We were pregnant, but they died, but here is a scan picture of them. This felt all incredibly confusing. In those moments I was totally lost, I felt like a trap door had opened below my feet and I had fallen through. 

We were told we needed to go up to Early Pregnancy Unit, what felt like my second home at this point, seeing as I had frequented there so much with my previous missed miscarriage and to check on this baby so many times, and I never wanted to step foot in there again. Up we went, and were told of our ‘options’. Wait another two weeks for conservative management– await my body to miscarry our baby naturally (I had already been carrying my baby around without a heartbeat for 2 weeks and 4 days, was still experiencing incredibly strong pregnancy symptoms, nausea, extreme tiredness, headaches, sore breasts etc, I don’t think my body likes to give up on our babies)

Medical Management – means taking medicine to help the pregnancy come away from the womb.

MVA – is a suction procedure that is used to remove the pregnancy tissue in the womb while you are awake (local anaesthetic given)

ERPC – surgery to remove products of conception but not on offer at the moment due to the current pandemic (general anaesthetic)

With my last missed miscarriage, I had an ERPC immediately, but as this wasn’t on the table, and knowing medical management is quite traumatic and sometimes doesn’t work, I would essentially be induced to labour my baby, I wanted an MVA, the nurse went away to get the paperwork, but when she returned, she advised my baby was too big for this procedure and the advise the doctor gave was that I was to have medical management, taken in the hospital and monitored by the nurses due to my gestation and it was booked for us to return at 9.30am the next day  (Tuesday 2nd June 2020)

I was scared. I had just found out I had lost our baby, and not only that but I was going to have contractions and labour them but they were going to be lifeless and I was going to see it all. I guess I opted for the ERPC last time and wanted the MVA this time because if I didn’t see everything, it might not be real.

But it was real, and I did see my baby, but it hasn’t traumatised me, I saw them and they were perfect.

Our check in time back at Peggy Cole Early Pregnancy Unit was 9.30am. After signing some forms, understanding as best we could, I had my first 3 tablets placed under my tongue at 10.15am. Knowing the reaction I had to just 1 tablet with my ERPC back in December, I knew what to expect but amplified, I shook uncontrollably, I couldn’t speak, I felt nauseous but luckily wasn’t sick because my nurse Kate (an angel who my baby sent to look after me) preempted how poorly the medication can make you.

I was told if nothing had happened in three hours, the medication would be repeated. Nothing did happen, I kept active, thinking gravity might help but I was administered my second three tablets under my tongue at 1.30pm. All of a sudden, I started to have contractions, there was nothing one minute, and urgent contractions the next. At 2.04pm, I felt the urge to push. I will save the gory details for my own memory but my the vision of my baby is not one that traumatises me, they were not covered in blood like I was petrified of. They looked exactly as they should, eyes, arms, tiny hands, tiny feet, perfect. But too perfect for this world. 

I passed the placenta exactly one hour later. I thought we were doing well, but things got a little complicated after I passed the placenta and my bleeding was borderline excessive and so I had a cannula put in and blood was requested, and I had a procedure done with gas and air to remove a large piece of tissue which was causing the bleeding and I had an injection to stem the bleeding. I then had a further 3 tablets under my tongue causing me to contract for one final time. By this point in the day, it was getting later and later and all I wanted to do was return home to Max, but it was not to be due to my bleeding and a very strange reaction to the medication which saw my bowel distend, and with a fear of why, the doctors made the decision that I had to stay in overnight.

Levi was able to be with me all day, and without him I would not have been able to get through what we had to endure, and I am the luckiest person in the world to have him and Max and our other two babies couldn’t ask for better. Levi left at 10pm that night to relieve my wonderful parents of babysitting duties.

I was lucky enough to have an amazing nurse overnight too, Wendy, and she chatted with me about lots of things. I told her one of the things I love most about being pregnant, is that you have a constant companion, when pregnant you are never alone. But for the first time in three months, I was alone and when she returned to do my observations an hour later, she came in with an Aching Arms bear. She told me I wouldn’t be alone thanks to the wonderful family of Ivy Jo Powell who had donated a bear. For the first time in over 24 hours since I found out our hearts were totally broken, I cried, I cried uncontrollably in that hospital room alone. I hugged that bear like my life depended on it. And of course, we have since donated a bear in memory of our little baby.

Aching Arms is a baby loss charity run by a group of bereaved parents who have experienced the pain and emptiness of leaving hospital without their baby.

I was lucky enough to be allowed home early as the medication they gave me to help my distended bowel helped and my bleeding was under control. I will FOREVER be thankful to the two nurses, Kate and Wendy who looked after me, I truly believe they were sent to me by my babies as without them I would have been more scared than I already was.

On Wednesday 3rd June, I thought gosh my boobs are still so sore, but this wasn’t something I was worried about, as my boobs had been super sore during this pregnancy, I just simply thought I hope that the hormones go away soon and they start to feel normal. I woke up Thursday morning and when I looked down I realised that the reason my boobs were sore was not due to my hormones, my breast milk had arrived. Which according to two breast feeding consultants I contacted, is incredibly uncommon and normally only happens to ladies who have miscarried in the second trimester, I was nearing the end of my first when our baby had passed away and my breasts were engorged, painful and on fire hot. When I googled what I could do, some of the advice was stop thinking about the baby that has passed away… if only I could turn my brain off that easily. My breasts were full of milk for my baby that had died, what a real kick in the guts.

I returned to hospital Monday 8th June, this time alone, I guess because the hospital assume I am over the worst of my trauma (which is cruel) as my bleeding had not slowed down in 6 days, and waited for 4 hours in A&E before being asked to go to Peggy Cole EPU at Ipswich Hospital. When I finally got to the unit, they said we have been waiting for you for 2 hours, we had to call down to A&E to get them to bring you up (confusion between departments) I had another examination and procedure done where I had another large amount of tissue removed from my cervix. The doctor wasn’t sure she had removed everything so booked me a scan for Wednesday 10th June, this wasn’t good news either and I had a mass of tissue that had a blood supply to it. I was told I had plenty of bleeding to go. The advice on the day of the scan was to wait another two weeks, but by Wednesday 10th in the evening, I started having contractions, every 15 minutes I would have a contraction, and with my husband returning to work meaning I am alone with our toddler I was in agony. I phoned my GP Friday 12th June in the morning hoping for a prescription for some pain relief as I couldn’t continue on in the pain I was in. The GP didn’t agree that I needed pain relief, she advised I absolutely needed further medical intervention, as not only was I still bleeding excessively and she was worried I would become anaemic, I was in more pain than when I gave birth to my son Max, and it was traumatising me. I had lost my baby, but I was still carrying pregnancy tissue around and my hormones were being played with. She called ahead to the gynaecology team and advised she was sending me back to A&E. 

At A&E they sent me straight to Peggy Cole, where I sat on my own whilst my husband waited downstairs in the car for me for another 3 hours. In the waiting room I silently sobbed waiting for the registrar. I was finally seen and was advised I could wait another 2 weeks (which I don’t think I could have physically or mentally endured any longer) or an ERPC, I asked them please could they try an MVA, which they agreed to, and I had to return Monday 15th June 2020 for my final procedure in the loss of our little baby. My husband was not allowed to attend this appointment either. But there was a shining light, as Kate, the nurse who was with me the whole day of my initial medical management was the same nurse looking after me for my MVA. Without her, I would not have been able to go through this painful experience. This procedure was painful, but no more painful than I had already faced, and after a short while I was allowed home. No more contractions, no more excessive bleeding, no more physical pain. 

Two weeks on and a further visit following a positive pregnancy test meant I had to return to ensure all tissue was now passed (which it finally was after 5 weeks) I had attended the hospital 7 times in the loss of my baby – who we named Blake. 

Due to the pandemic 6 of those visits were completely alone. I wrote to PALs following my visits back to the hospital and they have actually changed their policy on how they discharge patients away from Peggy Cole Early Pregnancy Unit following our treatment as no woman who is treated in Early Pregnancy Unit following loss should be made to go and sit in an A&E for four hours bleeding when you phone in to them for advice first. This provides me with comfort that no further ladies will be treated the way I was following our complications with retained tissue. 

When you initially lose your baby, you are given a form to sign on what to ‘do’ with your babys remains, they will either be cremated with all other little ones lost that month and then any ashes scattered in the hospital memorial garden, a private service and cremation or a burial conducted at home.

 

We decided that our little baby who had arms, legs, perfect little eyes, deserved a proper identity (hence why they deserved a name) and therefore we would like to have our baby cremated privately so any remains are solely our baby, and we can scatter them with a rose we have named Baby Day. The private cremation was held on June 24th and both my husband and I wrote a poem that we read to Blake before saying our goodbyes before the cremation. It was a beautiful private service that our bereavement officer Cherrie Davey from Ipswich Hospital organised for us and I could not be more thankful to her for the organisation and the support following. Ali Brett the bereavement midwife has also advised if (hopefully) we fall pregnant again I will be under her rainbow clinic, and would be well looked after by her team so I am incredibly hopeful that this is something we can utilise and hopefully bring another baby home to make our family complete in the future. 

Cherrie also referred me for counselling with Petals and I am suffering with PTSD as I rarely have any respite from the never ending screaming from when the sonographer told me our babys heart was no longer beating and the hell thereafter of having to phone my husband and tell him is something that is haunting me whenever there is silence in my house or when I’m trying to sleep. These 6 counselling sessions which are provided for free have been vital with helping me process the grief and anyone who has suffered baby loss is eligible to request some counselling. 

Baby loss is like a big group of girls have had to come together and no one really wants to be in the club, yet here we are, and there are quite literally hundreds of thousands of us, and it is a community like no other, no one else knows what it’s like to feel loss from within you like another baby loss Mummy. Sources like Saying Goodbye (Zoe Clark Coates), Both Instagram pages of The infertile midwife and Laura Bradshaw and now Laura’s amazing website have kept me sane in my darkest moments. 

I also devoured a book called The Baby Loss Guide by Zoe Clark-Coates and I recommend anybody going through the trauma of losing your little one or if you have someone close to you grieving to also read. It has been a huge source of support for me and has a 60 day guide to processing your grief.

So that is our story. We are beyond blessed to have our beautiful Max, but we also have two other children who have run on ahead. Every child is a real blessing but already having a child doesn’t remove the grief I am feeling for my other child I have just lost, or the one before that. Each miscarriage has changed me, I am a shadow of myself now, a different Mum to Max than I would have been had I not faced this heartbreak, twice over, and I am fighting to come back to the Mummy he so deserves. 

 

Miscarriage is something that is so common, yet is such a taboo subject, I am speaking out because I want this to change. 

Katie.

 

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