"There's so much blood, Ed, I can't get up. I can't stop it from coming out."
Those were the words I had to say to one of my coaches at the gym yesterday evening. As I climbed off the exercise bike, I felt a gush of liquid between my legs, and I immediately knew something was really wrong. My natural instinct was to cup my hands underneath me, and as I did I watch them fill up with blood. It was pouring through my leggings, and all I could do was fall to my knees and wait for help.
As I knelt on the floor of the gym, which was packed with people, I knew I was having a very public miscarriage. It's hard to put into words how I felt in that moment. Scared, I think, mostly. The amount of blood I was losing, at the rate I was losing it, was frightening. But I also felt completely overwhelmed. I'd not long before found I was pregnant again with baby number three, and totally buried my head in the sand about it up to that point.
When Hollie was born, just three months before, I felt complete. Our family was finished, or so I thought. And I couldn't have been happier. I genuinely had no desire to have any more children, and so to find out we were pregnant again, so soon after she arrived, was a total, excuse my language, head fuck. I found out very early on, and I was in genuine denial about the whole situation, until events at the gym forced me to face it.
Up to that point I had gone round and round in circles about what to do. Honestly, I didn't know if I wanted another baby. Actually, that's a lie, wanted is the wrong word. I didn't know if I would survive another baby. Sounds dramatic, but having first hand experience with PND, I was terrified by what another baby in the house, so soon after Hollie, might mean for not just for my mental health, but how it would affect Eamo and the kids too.
Eventually the bleeding at the gym stopped long enough for me to get to the toilets to get cleaned up. I was in a state of shock, I think. And I'll be forever grateful to two wonderful ladies in the gym, Kim and Evie, who pretty much undressed and cleaned me up enough to get me home. It was like a blood bath, and not a nice experience for any of us.
At home I showered and went into 'mum mode', putting Rex to bed and laying with him until he fell asleep. I thank my body for letting me do that and him be asleep before the next part of the evening unfolded. As I went back downstairs, I felt another gush of blood and so went to the toilet. Blood was pouring out of me again, which I thought would stop like it had earlier. But it didn't. And I started to feel faint.
For the first time in my life I felt compelled to call 999, who sent out an emergency response, but the ambulance service weren't sure how long they would be. In the meantime, I was advised to lay on the kitchen floor with towels underneath me, my hand pressed firmly in to my abdomen to try and stem the bleeding. I was shaking, cold and, in that moment, never been more scared.
Eamo and I decided, after a while of waiting and me feeling worse by the minute, to call his parents so they could be with the kids and we could drive straight to hospital. On the way, frightened and very upset, I made Eamo promise if anything was to happen to me, he had to make sure they both knew just how much I love them.
We ended up in hospital for a while, during which time I lost a lot more blood and some huge clots (and god knows what else, I couldn't look). I was placed under observation and a cannula put in my arm. Eventually, after the most unpleasant trip to the toilet, the bleeding eased. When the consultant came by, she said exactly what I already suspected. She was worried I'd miscarried, but needed a scan to check what had happened. We left hospital in the early hours of the morning, and I felt completely numb.
I had a miscarriage between Rex and Hollie. A missed miscarriage, they call it. My body hadn't figured out that the baby was no longer alive, and so it just desperately clung on to it. A thought which still makes me so emotional. It's like a woman's body is built to create and protect their babies, and will do so even when the baby can no longer be protected by anything or anyone. In the end I required surgery to remove the baby's remains, and had to do so in a theatre right next to where women were going through the joy of giving birth. It was utterly heartbreaking.
When I found out I was pregnant this time, I remember having a gut feeling that I might miscarry again. My body had not long given birth, and I'm not getting any younger, so I guessed there was a distinct possibility the pregnancy wouldn't make it to 12 weeks. In my head, leaving the decision up to Mother Nature somehow made it easier. My thinking was if this pregnancy was to end, a miscarriage would be the least traumatic way.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
I have close friends who have miscarried in a similar way to how I did in the gym, but, and this is not to say for a second that I didn't believe them, I don't think anything could have prepared for me just how traumatic losing so much blood and seeing what my body had already made would be. There was no warning, no pain, it just happened, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
Speaking to one of the doctors at the scan, she said every woman is different when it comes to miscarriage. For some it's just like a light period and over in a matter of hours, for others it's hard to believe you can lose so much of your insides and still be breathing. I got the latter, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. As we headed to the scan the next day, I just wanted it over with. For them to tell us what we already knew and the recovery process begin. But this is me. And nothing is ever that straightforward.
Despite all the blood loss, the scan revealed a gestational sac, with a foetus inside and a little heartbeat. Then six-and-a-half weeks old, this tiny human must have clung on for dear life in the twelve hours previous. Honestly, it felt like finding out I was pregnant all over again, and it was hard to feel anything other than disbelief and confusion. The most likely explanation was that there were actually two babies, and I lost one.
The rollercoaster of emotion of finding out I was pregnant in the first place, then thinking I'd lost the baby, and then finding out that wasn't the case was, to put it mildly, hugely overwhelming. The trauma of what happened in the gym and ending up in hospital barely had time to register before I was thrust back into realising I was still pregnant, and the terrifying feeling that the bleed I had just experienced could happen again. I left hospital with a million thoughts cycling through my mind about what to do next.
I know, and obviously completely understand, people have strong feelings about terminations, and I thought twice about talking about it here. I have friends who can't have children and others who have really struggled to fall pregnant, so the privilege situation that I am in in being 41-years-old and able to have another baby has not, for a second, escaped me. However, I can only live my life for me and my family, and, being completely honest, I really had to seriously consider whether having another baby was the right decision for us all.
How I felt made being able to be open and talk to anyone about it incredibly difficult, as I had no idea how they might feel at me considering a termination. The friends and family I did confide in were wonderfully supportive, however, no matter how hard they tried not to, I could always tell what they thought I should do. And I was struggling so much with how I felt myself, I decided to cut myself off a bit from talking about it to others as I didn't want people's feelings clouding my own. But I knew I needed to talk to someone, so in the end I decided to look for help outside my immediate circle of support.
The hospital very kindly put me in touch with BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisory Clinic), a charity who specialise in supporting women with unplanned pregnancies. They offer counselling services, as well as organise any treatment you might choose to have. I had three counselling sessions with them, and the lady I spoke to, Kate, really helped me work through how I really felt about everything.
I had so much whirling around in my brain about having another baby but what it really came down, she told me, was what I wanted. She told me to forget everyone else and ask myself what I want, and to focus on the answer of that question. She said deep down I already knew, I just needed to stop all the other thoughts I was having about everyone and everything else cloud my decision. So I took her advice to stick to the decision that made me feel the most at peace for a few days, when, a day later, Hollie became really poorly.
She was diagnosed with bronchiolitis, and we ended up in hospital with her for a week. She needed oxygen support, a feeding tube, a cannula, multiple blood tests and it was, frankly, horrific. For her and me. I spent that week in hospital scared shitless that Hollie wouldn't be ok, wanting so much to make her better and feeling utterly helpless that there was very little I could do to help get through it.
Hollie being in hospital really reinforced the decision I had already made about the baby. All my fears up to that point had stemmed around how I would cope with another baby. And, if I couldn't, how would Rex and Hollie be affected? But I realised that, more often than not, I cope much, much better, even in the worst situations, than I could ever have imagined I would. My job is to love and protect my kids, and I knew, right then that a termination wasn't going to happen, and we would soon be a family of six.
Since then, I have had to work a lot to keep my anxiety under control about having another baby. With Hollie going through various, extremely challenging phases, I have had moments where I've doubted the decision I've made, and still feel, to a degree, hugely overwhelmed by what having another baby means for me and my family.
I was still in a position whereby I felt like I needed support, particularly in the form of being able to talk to someone openly about how I was feeling. When I went to see my midwife, Kana, for the first time, I was about 14 weeks pregnant. And I still felt really emotional about the whole thing. Rather wonderfully, I have the same midwife who looked after me with Hollie, so I felt comfortable enough to be 100 percent open with her about why it had taken me so long to come and see her, and how I was feeling. She was so supportive, which honestly made all the difference, and she referred me to Bluebell, a local charity to me that provides support to help families with mental health and wellbeing through pregnancy and after birth.
I was referred to Bluebell's buddy service, which is basically where you are assigned a lovely volunteer who you can speak to up to six times throughout your pregnancy and birth. I as contacted by Jo from Bluebell a couple of weeks ago now. We had an hour-long chat and I cried a lot. But it was wonderful to speak to someone who actually understood exactly how I feel, and didn't recoil in horror when I was totally honest about how I'd first felt about the pregnancy overall. She also reminded me of Open Space, the utterly amazing support group I went to after Rex was born.
Now 28 weeks pregnant, my head is, thankfully, in a much better space. I still have a lot of anxiety about having this baby, but most days find I'm able to manage it well. On the days I can't, I have the support of my family, a few really wonderful friends and Jo to fall back on. It's hard not to feel a huge sense of guilt in needing so much support before the arrival of this tiny human. But it's been such a curve ball in terms of the path I thought my life was going down after Hollie was born, the monumental adjustment is taking some time to work through. I'm just very glad I have the support in place that I know I will need over the next few years.
It's taken me almost five years and nearly three babies to be able to ask for and organise such back up, something I know a lot of parents don't have access to or want to ask for. I remember thinking if I told anyone how much I was struggling with Rex they would take him away from me, so for a long time I suffered in silence. But the truth is, there is more support out there than you might think, and my real hope is anyone reading this in need of some can reach out and get the same. xx