Pregnancy and Baby Loss Awareness Month
October is significant to me for many reasons. The main one is that it is my eldest daughter’s birthday.
Secondly, it marks a month when there is so much talk of pregnancy and baby loss awareness, which can trigger me. And finally, I have a lot of hospital-related memories linked to October. Let me start at the very beginning…
Having tried and failed to get pregnant for a couple of years, my then-husband and I attended a fertility clinic at one of the local hospitals. I was scanned, he was tested and finally, we were told that the next step would be a laparoscopy and dye test. It is a procedure which can tell you if your tubes are blocked and should give a reason for your infertility.
Just one week before I was due to have it, I saw those two significant blue lines on a pregnancy test. May 2010. I had almost given up hope of ever seeing them for myself. I was a member of an online forum and the TTC (trying to conceive) section was full of POAS (peeing on a stick) posts where women found themselves with a positive result.
Unfortunately, just a couple of weeks later, I began spotting. Deep down, I knew something was wrong. My amazing GP arranged for a scan at the early pregnancy assessment unit (EPAU) for the following week. We went, knowing almost 100% that the outcome wasn’t going to be the one we wanted. The sonographer confirmed our suspicions that the pregnancy was not viable. In fact, there were no signs of a pregnancy at all. I was baffled, but they sent us home, no further information given. Later that evening, a nurse rang to apologise that I was not given any follow-up care and explained I had three options. I only take painkillers when I absolutely have to, so allowing nature to take its course was what I chose. A scan two weeks later was arranged to check that everything was happening as it should.
I arrived, once again, at the EPAU, reliving what had happened last time. At least this time, I knew that nothing could upset me as much. Unfortunately, I was wrong, very wrong. This time, they saw fluid-filled cysts that looked like grapes on the scan. I was advised that they thought I was suffering a molar pregnancy and that I would need to have an emergency D&C to remove all products of conception (what a lovely term). They handed us a leaflet and asked if we had any questions, but they didn’t really have any answers.
The two-page information leaflet frightened me. Although it gave a little information, it was overwhelming, and the use of the word ‘cancer’ petrified me. The chances were in my favour though, and so I tried not to worry too much. We decided not to tell our parents about the possibility of it being any worse because a miscarriage in itself was serious and upsetting enough. In reality, I was desperate to reach out for support, but I went along with it anyway.
The procedure was upsetting. I bled a lot and ended up with an infection. This was July and I was shivering cold one minute, unable to get warm, but sweating profusely the next. I was prescribed antibiotics over the phone and a couple of days later, I started to feel a bit brighter. I was still bleeding though and felt nauseous, like I had with my morning sickness, a lot. I had been informed that the products would be tested by histology and I would receive the results in two to three weeks. Assuming that all was fine, I returned to work, did the three-legged race attached to my headteacher, and actually taught my first full week that term. The last day of term was a welcome relief and I headed to the pub with my colleagues to say goodbye to some.
Celebrating the end of term with a takeaway is a tradition of mine. I rang for a curry and was so hungry after skipping lunch because I was so busy sorting everyone and everything out. I then rang my parents to chat to them about my full week of work. As I ended the call and stood up, I haemorrhaged. Fist-sized clots were almost falling out of me. I wasn’t prepared for that. What was happening to me? Arriving at the hospital, they quickly informed me that my complete molar pregnancy was confirmed, and I was admitted, possibly with a view of repeating the D&C procedure. I fainted overnight, needing fluids, as I had lost a significant amount of blood.
As the hospital were preparing to discharge me a couple of days later, Charing Cross (the hospital renowned for molar pregnancy research and care) were trying to contact them, but to no avail. I was informed I ought to walk around and get some fresh air, ready to go home even though a scan showed a 2cm tumour in my womb. Eventually, Charing Cross were successful and as I returned to the ward, a nurse bluntly told me I would be going to London, starting chemo and my hair would fall out. Not what you would expect from a nurse to be honest, but I laughed it off (as I always do!) and said it was fine as I had suffered from trichotillomania most of my life, so it wouldn’t bother me.
Blue lights on, the ambulance took me from Norfolk to London. Arriving on the oncology ward, it struck me how serious this was. The clicking of the drips, the constant shouting of the other patients, even the wooden interiors, everything unnerved me. Despite all of this, the staff were incredible. I had chemo on and off there and at the NNUH for several months. Of course, there were a few ups and downs due to lack of funding such as no chemo-trained nurses on the night shift when I had just started my treatment and having to take myself, my bags and my chemo drip from one ward to another. However, overall, my experience was a positive one.
I won’t go into all the details, but I will say that I never realised longing to be pregnant could actually result in me having cancer. I never expected to lactate after ending my chemo treatment either. I focused so hard on recovering physically from the molar pregnancy that I ignored my emotional wellbeing.
Pregnancy and baby loss awareness month and week, for me, are a challenge. I read poems and quotes and, for the most part, they talk about the heartbeat stopping or the baby not developing properly. For me though, there never was and never would be a heartbeat. My pregnancy was a mass of cells, but my body was pregnant: I had morning sickness, I had a bump, my hCG levels rose, I had imagined the birth, the first words and the first steps.
Despite gruelling chemotherapy and nearly losing my battle due to a mistake with the administration of my chemotherapy, I am blessed to have gone on to have two rainbow babies. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I certainly am in many ways. Moreover, I’d like to think that I try to avoid taking things for granted these days.
Article By Vicki