There is little more alarming that a spot of blood when you go to the loo, if you’re pregnant. Everybody knows that your periods are supposed to stop, and, although we probably all know someone who has had break through bleeding or spotting early on in their pregnancy, it doesn’t make it any less scary if it happens to you.
The start of my first pregnancy was characterised by several episodes of light spotting. This, although never accompanied by pain (which is the scariest sign of all), was worrying enough to result in two separate ambulance rides (once from work, once between hospitals), a day in a bed on Ward 4, several hours in A&E, three trips to the EPU (Early Pregnancy Unit) and more than one out of hours doctor’s appointment. Hysteria will get you a long way.
My second pregnancy was just as short as the first, but much less bleedy, lulling us both into a false sense of security that the outcome might be better. It wasn’t. So much for that theory.
But, for all of these minor episodes of spotting, nothing could have prepared me for what happened at the start of my third pregnancy. We had gone out for the evening and were in a local pub with friends. I was driving, so no need to fib about why I was off the sauce. I was faithfully taking my cyclogest (progesterone), and was (thankfully) wearing a pad, since that can be a rather ikky, messy business. Suddenly I felt what can only be described as a ‘gushing’ sensation. I excused myself and, upon reaching the ladies room, found that I was covered in bright red, fresh blood from the waist down. I cleaned myself up as best I could and asked a passing friend to fetch my husband. I felt strangely calm and detached. Oh well, here we go again. That’s that, then.
We stood staring down a toilet that looked like it had just played a starring role in a slashser movie, wondering whether to flush. We thought that our baby might be in there, somewhere, but there was just too much blood everywhere to tell. I knew that one of the best chances we had of finding out a cause would be to recover it and have it sent away for genetic testing, but, in the end, neither of us could do it. So we flushed.
If you have suffered a serious bleed during pregnancy, and miscarriage seems immanent, you are advised not to drive (in case you faint). My husband had already had a beer or two and I was the designated driver, but now I couldn’t safely drive, either. A friend kindly drove us the 20 minutes to the nearest A&E and dropped us off.
9, 10, 11 o’clock, 12 o’clock rock.
Having arrived at 21:00, we were seen by the triage nurse maybe an hour later, and I was cannulated. My theory is that they do this so that you can’t escape if you get fed up of waiting the further three hours after you’ve been triaged. Targets met; everyone’s a winner! It was almost 2 am before we were seen by a Doctor, 4 by the time we were discharged.
The whole time we were there (sustaining ourselves on chocolate and fizzy drinks from the healthy choices vending machine, having ascertained that I didn’t need to be nil by mouth), at no point were we offered a scan. We were given an appointment at the EPU three days later. Point 2 of the Mumsnet Miscarriage Care Campaign (http://www.mumsnet.com/campaigns/5-things-that-need-to-change-in-miscarriage-care) states that scanning should be available. The reality is that if you present at A&E with bleeding in early pregnancy, there is a good chance you will be waiting several days to find out whether your baby is alive or dead. It is my strong belief that this fact puts appalling mental strain on women and their partners in a, frankly, oppressive ’12 weeks of silence’ (or is that isolation?) culture. More steam to vent on that one another time!
We got home at about 4:30 am, I emailed work to let them know I wouldn’t be in (and set my cover lessons! How’s that for dedication!), and we went to bed. No alarm clocks. We would deal with the morning in the morning.
Tuesday was spent watching day time TV and eating fish and chips. There was a program about cats on. It was nice. Invariably, when we’ve had pregnancy related issues, it’s felt like all that’s on TV is One Born Every Minute, or a character in a favourite show is getting a scan (Bones, Breaking Bad, Homeland, all had story lines featuring scans right after I’d MC’d). The scan was booked for Thursday. We decided to be proactive so we got up and went down to UCLH’s walk in EPU first thing on Wednesday morning and waited.
There, against all odds, we saw a tiny little flicker of a perfect heart beat; 6 weeks, 5 days.
I believe that we experienced the full range of emotions over the course of those three days. It’s not a roller coaster ride I’d care to repeat.
And I know it didn’t, ultimately, end well for baby number 3. But it wasn’t anything to do with what happened that night. In fact, we were told that the combination of progesterone and aspirin can lead to these kinds of sudden, heavy bleeds. As far as this part of the story goes, it may not have been a happy ending, but I’ll take a happy middling. It’s a close as we’ve got, so far.
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