Trigger warning: Miscarriage, pregnancy loss and termination mentioned.
“So, you’ve had a termination,” he said.
It was like he had actually punched me, to the point I felt so breathless I was unable to do more than utter a faint yes.
Up until then, everyone had referred to what I had gone through as a medical/managed miscarriage, which, while no less horrible, is a far gentler way of describing it.
While it might sound ridiculous, it had not occurred to me up until that point that it could be considered a termination, although, if you look at it in clinical terms, that is what it is. Unless you are a doctor, though, I think it is impossible to hear that word and feel detached, no matter what your stance on the issue (and, for the record, I am pro-choice).
Obviously, by the time this realisation hit, the medical side of things was over – although it would not have made a difference to the outcome.
We had seen a second sonographer who confirmed the baby had the fatal condition anencephaly (I am grateful for the fact that they were both so highly skilled as often, I discovered afterwards, it is not picked up until a later scan). It is safe to say this had not been covered in the pregnancy book I had started reading. While I knew, in a faraway sense, about miscarriage and I had forced myself to read about the conditions babies could be born with, especially as an “older” mum, anencephaly was not on my radar. It is hardly surprising as it is rare, one in 1,000, according to the research. Our baby just happened to be “the one” on this occasion.
We had been taken to another room, all the way attempting to avoid eye contact with other pregnant couples in the corridors; some laughing, some with their happy tears still fresh on their lashes.
We sat, together but alone with our thoughts.
In the scanning room the sonographer told me I could cry if I wanted. At that point I just felt numb. It was having to phone my mum and dad and tell them the news that they were not going to get their much wanted grandchild that I broke. My mum had popped out so, sobbing, I had to tell my dad, which somehow seemed even harder. I am not sure why. I am equally close to both of my parents but there is something terrible about hearing your usually rock solid dad’s voice crack.
What happened next remains a bit of a blur. I know several people came to see us and there was talking, questions and options discussed but, after everything was said, there was only one outcome.
These hours feel like something I saw out if the corner of my eye. I know it happened but I did not catch enough of it for it to really register – I could not even remember the name of the condition when I got home and had to Google a phrase, which was a big mistake. Not only did it come up with some horrific photographs of anencephalic babies but also stories of people who had continued with their pregnancy and had babies who had either died at birth or lived a few days.
On expert advice, we opted for a medical miscarriage (which meant we could have a post-mortem to find out more about what caused the condition and whether it was likely to happen again). When we left that day I had already taken the drugs to start the process. From what I understand, it does not usually happen that quickly but we were “lucky” in that a consultant was at the clinic and they had space for us. We were due back in a couple of days to take the second lot of drugs and end the pregnancy.
While nothing outwardly happened in those first few days, I instantly felt like something was missing. Like someone was missing. I hadn’t realised how different it felt being pregnant, to no longer be alone in my own body, until it was gone.
I know I was only 12 weeks along but I had already bonded with the baby. “Off we go to get some lunch, Lily,” I would say, practising the name we had already chosen, although, as it turned out, we were actually having a boy.
Back at the hospital a few days later, and without going into unnecessary detail, we were put in a private room on the gynie ward, opposite the delivery suite, and I was given the second lot of drugs. A nurse checked on us sporadically and also when Mark sought them out because the “just like strong period pains” actually felt a lot like my insides were being torn out.
I “miscarried” into a cardboard pan on a toilet in a bathroom all by myself.
It was a sight I would continue to see every time I closed my eyes for months afterwards.
For the final part, please click here.