Niamh, 44, had her first miscarriage when she was 26 years old and subsequently experienced two more. Here, she tells of the loss and sadness...and the support that helped her through.
I was taken completely by surprise when I looked at the pregnancy test with its positive two lines. I had just come home from working in San Francisco and was planning on going back to college to study photography in Cork. My boyfriend followed me two weeks later and, both in a little shock, we started planning for our unplanned pregnancy.
I arranged an appointment and scan as early as I could. A couple of days before this was due, we decided to visit my folks in Dublin. On the bus back down to Cork, I got very strong cramps in my belly and just as I turned my head around to tell my boyfriend, my waters broke. I was 26 years old and 17 weeks pregnant when I lost my first baby: it took about eight hours of constant bleeding, clotting, cramping and crying through a long winter night on a ward with other pregnant women. The nurses working that night were amazing, despite seeing this happen on a ridiculously regular basis.
Struggling to cope
The loss was very traumatic and struggled to communicate with anyone but, sadly, especially my partner. I moved back to Dublin from Cork to clear my head and we broke up over time. I was simply too upset and felt so much guilt about losing the baby so late, we just weren’t able to get past it. However, I did meet someone else 10 years later and fell pregnant twice with him.
My second and third miscarriages happened quite close together – and were completely different to the first. I was eight weeks pregnant on baby number two when I went for a scan. Immediately the sonographer said that there was a problem, called in a doctor to review and I was told that the baby had no heartbeat. It’s so hard to hear those words. This time, unlike the first, I had to stay in hospital for a D&C [dilation and curettage, a procedure carried out after a miscarriage]. I don’t think I’ve ever been as scared as I was on the way into the operating room. The nurse sat me down and let me have a cry for myself and for my second baby.
Expecting the worst
My last loss was a little more complicated. I felt unwell so I went into the hospital for bloods. They sent me home with the promise to call with blood results and about an hour later, I got a call telling me to come straight into A&E as they thought I had an ectopic pregnancy. Another scan showed that it was a small fibroid hiding in the womb lining and the foetus was nestled in the womb.
As this was so early in the pregnancy, around four weeks, it was impossible to hear the heartbeat yet so for the next three weeks I was in and out of hospital for scans. There was never any strong positivity about this pregnancy and I guess I was expecting the worst from the beginning. I was in bed one evening after a scan and woke to heavy bleeding. This time there was no need to rush into the hospital as I had a complete miscarriage in my bathroom.
When I lost my third baby, I was referred to the Rotunda to have investigations. They found no reason[s] – especially as all of my three losses had been so different but they did investigate, so that put my mind at ease at the time.
"Grief consumed me and I was lost for a while."
Road to recovery
Looking back, I can now see how badly I coped with my first miscarriage. Grief consumed me and I was lost for a while. I was lucky to be able to deal better with the second and the third. They were also different as both were earlier in the pregnancies. After the third loss, I looked for support and I found the Miscarriage Association of Ireland. I went to a meeting and immediately knew I was on the road to recovery. One of the best things that was said to me after my second meeting was that I needed to know that I wasn’t going crazy – it was okay to feel how I was feeling, all of the sadness at my losses. That helped me a huge amount.
Being honest, I would love to be a mum and thought this would be something that would have been a much more simple event in my life. At this point, I feel that, as it hasn’t happened by now, it’s not going to happen. I think I’m okay with that. It’s been a long road getting to that acceptance.
For anyone going through something similar, know that everyone who has lost a baby through miscarriage has felt the sadness, grief, guilt and desperation that you’re feeling. It’s not your fault, you couldn’t have done anything to change the outcome. Miscarriage is a ridiculously common event that still isn’t talked about enough to make it more accepted. Talk to someone – there’s help out there. Keep going, be as strong as you can be and talk to the Miscarriage Association when you feel ready. You’ll be okay.