The Vagenda

Those ‘Retained Products of Conception’ Were My Baby

I lost my virginity in 1998, to a boy called Adrian in Gran Canaria (well, to be perfectly honest, there was another incident a few years before – but I’m pretty sure there was no actual penetration that time round, so I only mention it here for the sake of integrity).  It’s now 2013 and I have just had my second miscarriage. In the vast majority of the time between these two momentous occasions, I have been wholly, entirely and dementedly preoccupied with NOT getting pregnant. Now I stand at the junction of some unexpected crossroads.
You see, I listened in sex education classes. Not so much to how it all works, but to the horrors of teen pregnancy: the evils of ‘not fulfilling your potential’ and the nightmare of not being able to do exactly as you pleased for the foreseeable future. And doing exactly as I pleased was kind of my thing. I went to sixth form, university, saw a bit of the world, experimented with various recreational intoxicants, all the while doggedly ensuring that there were to be no babies, no foetuses, no embryos around to spoil my fun. Even the idea of a rogue blastoplast made me check my pill packet for the seventh time that evening, just to make sure.
Then, a couple of years ago, a switch flicked in my head. My husband and I declared (quietly and only to each other), ‘We should try for a baby.’ I was 31. I started taking notice of my body in a way I never had before. I even had a conversation which included the term ‘cervical mucus’. And before the end of the year, I had the double pink line, which told me that I was having a baby. 
We were the lucky ones. We were excited. We wanted to tell everyone. But here’s the thing: you’re not supposed to tell a fucking soul. My tits (which are pretty ample at the best of times) were bursting out of my clothes; the nausea was a constant (as was the need to wee); and I hadn’t felt this tired since unadvisedly staying up for 48 hours straight and then deciding to cook a roast dinner for all of my friends. That time I ended up almost flooding my flat after falling asleep with the bath water running. This time, I was hoping that there would be something a little more productive to show for it.
But hope is all it was. It turns out, the reason you’re not supposed to tell anyone for the first 12 weeks is because (depending on which website you read) anything from a seventh to a quarter of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. And heaven forfend that you should be able to talk openly and honestly about this loss with others. Hell no. I pretended, with my first miscarriage, that I had flu. Although if there was a vaccination against the soul-crushing helplessness that I felt after this loss, then no one ever informed me.
We found out at our 12 week scan that our baby had no heartbeat and I had, in fact, been carrying a dead foetus around with me for the entire Christmas season. It’s hard to describe the atmosphere in the room when the sonographer is desperately trying to find a heartbeat when there isn’t one, but safe to say it was worse than the feeling I had when I found the overflowing bath I mentioned earlier. Then there was the operation, helpfully called an Evacuation of Retained Products of Conception. For me, the retained products of conception were my baby, and despite all the research in the world telling me that there was always a chance that this would happen, I defy people not to start thinking ahead when they see those pink lines appear.  But oddly, that’s why the loss is so unusual. It’s not the same as losing a newborn, a child, a parent, a friend. Many people just don’t get it at all. It’s the loss of something in the future, however counterintuitive that may sound – and having to have your legs hoisted into stirrups and this future scraped out of your uterus is pretty fucking devastating.
But we tried again. And we got pregnant again. This time the joyous celebrations are absent.
‘I’m pregnant,’ I say. 
‘Great. Come on, we’re late for dinner,’ comes the reply.
I vow not to look browse any chatrooms or read anything other than the NHS website. I will take the time to sit down and rest more during the day: I will…oh shit.

My second miscarriage was at only 6 weeks. On the plus side, at 6 weeks there is far less time to get used to the idea of being pregnant and the chemical-induced misery is far less potent, as the hormone levels are much lower anyway. 

But this time, the little fucker literally falls out of my uterus. 
There’s blood. Lots of it. It pours out of my vagina like a tap. I say this, not to horrify people, but because if you’ve ever been asked, ‘So, is it just like a heavy period?’ (and I have), then this is the answer that I have wanted to give. But it’s not just that. I feel broken.
Thirteen years of trying not to have a baby and now it feels like I never will.
‘Not true!’ I hear people say in a predictable kneejerk response.
And there are of course numerous stories of people who had 2, 3, 4, even 5 or more miscarriages and then a healthy baby; who had 4 rounds of IVF and then had a baby; who were told they could never have children, but then went on to have a baby. I know all this. And I sympathise wholeheartedly with anyone who has had to go through this, and worse too, but knowing all of it and more doesn’t help how I feel right now.
And the way I feel right now is that something about me doesn’t work. It’s bad enough that I’m suddenly noticing that every television programme ever made has pregnant women and babies on it – and that every advert ever made contains a family with young children (except those fucking awful Lynx ones, but don’t get me started on them) – and that everyone I know seems to be either a new mum or pregnant. Yes, that is bad enough. But you know what makes all of this so much worse? The fact that you’re not even allowed to talk about it. 
I took one day off work this time, claiming to have a cold. So this is me stating, on the record, that my miscarriage happened, and miscarriage sucks. And it’s pretty gruesome. And a headfuck. 
But maybe, just maybe, having a conversation about it might just ease some of the pain. 


13 thoughts on “Those ‘Retained Products of Conception’ Were My Baby

  1. It is very very difficult to talk about miscarriages, especially the early ones when nearly nobody knew you were pregnant anyway.

    I had one at 10 weeks when I was just about to tell my boss – and my doctor gave me a week of sick leave to look after myself so that when I got back to work it was as though nothing had happened for most people. Even now, 13 years later I find it so difficult to even think about it, and if ever miscarriage comes up in conversation (but then, it rarely does) I still don’t know what to say.

    But it happens more than we know, I suspect, which makes it something that we should talk about much much more.

  2. Excellent article. There is a post on The Opinionist about miscarriage that is also well worth a read – I can’t paste the link for some reason but google ‘the opinionist I had a miscarriage too’ and it comes up.

  3. This is a really moving article. You’re right, it should be talked about more openly between women as it’s something that a hell of a lot of us will go through at some point.

  4. This is so moving. I do wish people would talk about it more. We had a miscarriage in the family and as someone wanting to give support it is difficult because you dont ever know how or if to approach the subject. So thanks for giving an insight. It makes it easier to talk about if you have a faint idea as to what happens when… I wish you all the best.

  5. Very moving article. It’s so so hard to know what to say, and I’m pretty certain I’ve said the wrong thing to someone who went through the exact same experience as you, trying to offer comfort for the most terrible of situations. You are absolutely right, talking about it will perhaps help shoulder the awful burden a bit more. I wish you all the best for the future.

  6. Thank you for writing this article. I too had a miscarriage at 11 weeks, just as I was about to tell everybody. Really I had lost the baby at 6 weeks but the miscarriage happened at 11. It was just a little sac but like you say the fact that it wasn’t a fully formed baby doesn’t stop you from thinking of it as such and feeling absolutely devastated at the loss. I told my boss what happened and my doctor gave me a cert from work for a week. They asked me what I wanted put on the cert and I said miscarriage of course, it felt wrong to say flu because that just didn’t describe what I had just gone through. I told people at work when they asked and I was blown away by the amount of people who said “Oh that happened to me/my wife/my sister”. There is definitely not enough conversation about miscarriage

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  8. I had my third miscarriage in April (I’m 44) and what you wrote is absolutely spot on. It’s an incredibly difficult thing, on so many levels. Thank goodness we’ve all started talking about it.

  9. This article is so true and I always used to think that these superstitions are only in Indian society.
    We were trying for the second baby when I had my first miscarriage and an unexpected one. I got pregnant after six months again, this time I had symptoms and was very hopeful but at the same time I would be scared of what I might see when I go to pee. I eventually miscarried again. We decided to get the medical procedure done in another city where my Mother in Law lives. She had apparently invited guests for a get together. She did not cancel the get together because we cannot tell people. So there I was smiling, serving and greeting guests while carrying my dead baby inside me and getting ready for the next day’s procedure. People would ask me, how am I doing? And I would force a smile and say ‘Good’.