Last night my wife and I suffered our third miscarriage, and I just feel I need to share our story somewhere. Nearly every forum I looked on seemed to be based around the female in the partnership, but I am so grateful to have found somewhere where men can discuss their experiences too. I feel I need to write it down, and hopefully help others feel they are not alone. Some of this might be quite graphic, sorry.
Since trying for a family, we suffered two miscarriages within a year, both around the 10 week mark. With both of these pregnancies she had experienced some bleeding, so we had been to the Early Pregnancy Unit for early scans. Each time they said they couldn't see an issue with the foetus or any internal bleeding. However, each pregnancy ended with a miscarriage in bed at around 2am. I still acutely remember lying in bed listening to my wife crying in the bathroom, and knowing that we had lost our baby. She would emerge from the bathroom crying, telling me that she was sorry, telling me that she'd just held the foetus in her hands. I would clean up the blood and we'd cry and hug. We'd feel devastated, and empty, and grieve for our loss.
We were then referred to a multiple miscarriage clinic, as our local hospital has a unit that takes you after 2 miscarriages rather than 3. My wife was prescribed progesterone pessaries to take if we fell pregnant again. We felt we were in the right hands, and were positive for our next opportunity.
The problem was that, in the next 18 months, we didn't fall pregnant again, despite trying all the usual trying-to-conceive methods. We got an appointment at the infertility clinic, and were building up our expectations of receiving IVF.
However, 6 weeks before our infertility appointment, we discovered we were pregnant again - for the third time. We were elated but also anxious. Excited that our bodies appeared to be working again, but also entering the pregnancy with a real sense of trepidation, knowing what had come before. My wife took the progesterone as prescribed, and we were hopeful that it would make a positive difference.
However, throughout this third pregnancy my wife was very unwell. Far more sick and exhausted than in the previous two pregnancies. Unless she was at work, she would lie on the sofa all day. Even going for a short walk would exhaust her, and she'd often throw up in the bushes and side streets. We weren't sure if the nausea was the effect of the progesterone, or something else. This placed a lot of stress on me as I needed to constantly care for her - all the cooking, cleaning, washing etc, tasks that we'd normally share. All the while, the threat of a miscarriage felt like it was looming over us. I'd be anxious each time she went to the bathroom. I'd wait anxiously for her to return, expecting her to cry and tell me she's sorry again. It turned me into a wreck.
She had several large bleeds in the first trimester - like a large gush of blood - and we went to the hospital 3 times for scans. With each gush of blood we were convinced we'd miscarried, but each time the scan showed no issues. We'd leave the hospital relieved and excited, with a little picture of our baby in our hands.
We finally made it to our first 12 week dating scan, and were so happy to be sat in the 'normal' prenatal clinic room looking at our baby on the screen. The midwife said we were in fact measuring 13 weeks and 1 day - further along than we thought. All looked normal, she said, including the nuchal thickness. We left relieved and excited that we were possibly 'out of the woods' of the first trimester and into the second, buoyed by the knowledge that our chances miscarriage were now much lower. We had some trisomy screening bloods taken but thought nothing more of it, as the scan was normal.
Three days later (last Friday), we received an early morning phone call from the hospital, asking us to come in later that day as our Downs screening was high risk. We spent the rest of the morning worrying, but convinced ourselves that maybe 'high risk' was around 1/150 or so, as our scan was normal. But as the lady led us into a consulting room with three chairs carefully arranged chairs, we knew we were in for something different.
Our Downs risk was 1/14, she told us. The PAPP-A was very low and the bHCG very high. She said that even if the pregnancy continued, the PAPP-A was so low that we'd need consultant care. They took bloods for a more accurate screening test, called a NIPT, and said they'd have the results within a week. They also discussed our option to terminate the pregnancy.
I looked it up when I got home and found that low PAPP-A and high bHCG are both big risk factors for spontaneous miscarriage in the second trimester, as well as growth restriction and preterm birth. We spent the weekend worrying about what the NIPT test would reveal, and what our decision would be if we were faced with the news that our baby did indeed have Downs syndrome. It's the sort of decision I don't feel you can truly make until you are placed in position of having to make it.
But on Sunday night (last night), around 10pm, the decision was taken out of our hands. My wife started experiencing severe cramping pains. We thought it might be 'gas pains' from bloating caused by pregnancy, but she couldn't seem to relieve it. Then she sat on the loo. I could hear her cries of pain from the bathroom, and I asked if she was alright. "It's between my legs" she said. "The pregnancy, it's between my legs and I can't get it out." I opened the door and the bottom half of the baby - its legs and lower body - were sticking out. She was in excruciating pain. I grabbed a tupperware box and together we pulled the baby out and put it in the box. A few minutes later she passed the placenta, which we kept too. We called the hospital who told us to come in with the foetus.
We were there for about 4 hours, as they examined her and took her bloods etc, to check she was stable. I found the experience very different to when we'd previously miscarried pre-12 weeks. They asked us whether we'd like to see the baby, telling us they'd dressed it in some clothes, and if we'd like to give the baby a name. We said no thank you. We filled in a form about our preferred burial procedures, what sort of ceremony we'd like, and gave our permission for further testing on the foetus. Eventually we left at 3am.
We woke up this morning feeling empty and exhausted. I cried in the shower, I cried brushing my teeth, I'm crying now just thinking about it. We hug and comfort each other, but know that nothing can bring our pregnancy back. We've both just turned 35, so know that the odds of another pregnancy start to fall (although many do have successful pregnancies well beyond 35, my wife's sister was 50). But perhaps biggest doubt of all is whether we'll have the mental capacity to go through this all again. The pregnancy while it lasted was gruelling on both of us for different reasons, and the miscarriage this time seemed even more traumatic than the last.
My hope in some way is that the genetic testing shows there was some chance chromosomal abnormality with the foetus which meant it wasn't compatible with life. I think that would allow us to accept that maybe the progesterone did work, but we just got unlucky this time. That might allow us to consider trying again. For the time being we will just be together and be strong for one another, take some time to look after ourselves, and reconnect with each other.
I'm not sure what the future will hold for us if it's not a birth child. Maybe adoption, or perhaps we live our lives as a childfree couple. I try to be hopeful about whatever our future may be, as hope is a powerful thing.
My heart goes out to anyone experiencing anything similar.
Dear Tim, Firstly, our condolences go out to you and your wife. Thank you for sharing your traumatic story, I’m fairly certain that could not have been easy, but I hope that the fact you’ve wrote this all down, has allowed you to express some of the feelings you wanted to by doing so? It never gets any easier to process, I have only been through one miscarriage and that was enough to make me consider whether we should try again and possibly go through the heartache all over again. So I can totally understand your reasoning behind the doubts about the future. The fact that you and your wife are able to talk and comfort each other, is huge. That’s what I found helped me, was the fact that I opened conversations with my wife fairly soon after our pregnancy loss, this allowed us to be open with each other, and share the grief. Some of the guys on our admin team have been through multiple losses so they are probably in a better position to answer you further with regards to their decision making and future thought processes. Of course, like you say, there is other avenues available should you wish to look at those. If at any point you think you may need some professional help (other than our peer to peer) we can pinpoint you in the right direction using our connections also. For now though, feel free to use the site as you wish, and reach out to us further if you ever feel that you just need a chat with someone. It can be a lonely time, and we want to help every single person we can and let them know that they are not alone. Chris MFM 💚