Miscarriage is one of the hardest things we can face. Miscarrying on call, as a doctor – we can only imagine.
All too often, we end up walking through baby loss alone, to some degree. Hear below a stocking story from one of our FHH readers, Dr Katherine – she miscarried whilst in the middle of a 13-hour shift. We hope this brave story helps open up the conversation surrounding miscarriage and gives you courage to talk about your own experience and not feel as alone.
Over to Dr Katherine…
Trying to Remain Level Headed
Whilst I sat in the car waiting for my husband to appear out of the airport arrivals, I sent him a text asking him what we were doing on the 4th of June, a mere 8 months away. He, ever baffled by my desire to book social events months in advance, got into the car and asked what crazy plan I was trying to rope him into this time. ‘How about having a baby?!’ I asked him, with a picture of a positive pregnancy test at the ready to prove it was true. This came after nearly a year of trying to conceive, with endless negative pregnancy tests, expensive ovulation predictor kits and worries about needing to seek fertility help with a fertility specialist.
Being a medic, I am probably more aware than most that 1 in 4 pregnancies sadly end in miscarriage. Prior to getting pregnant I was adamant I would be open with it from the start, that even if the pregnancy did end in miscarriage it was important to me that baby loss was not something to be ashamed of and only good things could come from talking about it. However, after a year of trying to conceive, when the two blue lines finally appeared on the pregnancy test, I immediately felt vulnerable. I knew that people knowing would make no difference to the ultimate outcome but it felt that telling people somehow made the likelihood of miscarriage greater. From being a person who prides herself on being rational and practical in their approach to things, when it was my turn to act the way I thought was right and important, I caved in to being superstitious and nervous. I kept the pregnancy a secret that just my husband and I shared.
Six weeks later, I had a Miscarriage at Work.
Just as I had not told anyone I was pregnant, I didn’t feel able to tell anyone what was happening, so continued to work a 13-hour shift instead. No-one talks about what to do when you have a miscarriage, especially at work. Looking back at it now, I really do question why I kept working. Was I embarrassed? Did telling someone make the inevitability of it more real, or did I feel obligated to keep working knowing that it would be difficult to get someone to cover for me? Honestly, it was likely to be all three. Early pregnancy is a minefield: the tiredness, the nausea, the worry, the inability to remain in an upright position without a myriad of sugary snacks – and the secrecy.
The day it happened I woke up feeling different. It was hard to put my finger on it but I felt less pregnant. Before going to work, I did another pregnancy test, knowing full well that even if my intuition did mean something, it would still be positive but it gave me the reassurance I needed to get on with the day. I was in the midst of a very busy week of on-calls, covering the Intensive Care Unit and, as is normal, I was on the go from the start of the 13-hour shift to the end. Mid-way through the morning I started to have low back pain and some spotting which got progressively heavier as the day went on. I had no doubt what was happening but still clung to any story I could find on Mumsnet with a positive ending, whilst sitting in the staff loos whenever I had a second to escape the mayhem of the ward.
Related Article – What not to say to a Woman who has had a Miscarriage
I intermittently cried behind the locked door, wiped my eyes and then got on with the next job required of me. I used a cold as an excuse for anyone questioning my now rather blood-shot eyes. By mid-afternoon it was obvious that things were progressing, so I called the early pregnancy unit at the hospital I was working in. They told me to come up when I could. So, bleep still in hand, hoping I wouldn’t be needed urgently, I went to see them and had a scan which confirmed what I already knew. By 9pm I was emotionally frazzled to say the least and, walking to my car, finally spoke out loud what I had been holding in, that I was having a miscarriage, that I was no longer pregnant.
The first person I told, in a rather more hysterical manner than I had planned was the consultant I was meant to be on-call with the next day. Telling her over the phone seemed manageable compared to the face to face admission I had avoided all day. Maybe it also helped that she was female and recently returned from maternity leave, rather than the male consultant I had been working with that day. Whatever the reason, the fact that I felt so unable to tell someone, speaks volumes about the taboo that still surrounds early pregnancy and pregnancy loss.
The Importance of Baby Loss Awareness
Just today I told a friend who is a barrister that I was writing this, to which she told me that the same thing had happened to her mid-way through a trial in the High Court. I had never shared my story with her and she would likely have never shared hers with me had I had not by chance been writing this. The secrecy that far too frequently surrounds early pregnancy and miscarriage does nothing but make people feel isolated and inferior when things don’t go to plan. Lots of women end up dealing with miscarriages at work, in secret. I wish I could say that when I became pregnant again I was much more open about it, but sadly, if anything, I was even more cautious about sharing our news in those crazy first three months. I know from both the statistics, and the amount of people who have told me their experience when I shared mine, that I am far from the first or last person who is going to go through this at home or work. We can’t do much to change the statistics but we can change the way we approach it and the support we give one another. I hope if I find myself in a similar situation again I am brave enough to be honest about it.
Read more – Baby Loss Awareness – Dealing with Recurrent Miscarriages and Secondary Infertility