‘We lost six pre­cious lit­tle ba­bies over 10 years’

About 14,000 women a year suf­fer a mis­car­riage in Ire­land, and still it is not talked about

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Miscarriage - Jen­nifer Uí Dhub­h­gain

Mis­car­riage and preg­nancy loss is still a taboo sub­ject, rarely spo­ken or talked about. I re­cently set up the Cork Mis­car­riage Sup­port Group with the help of a friend and with the sup­port of the Mis­car­riage As­so­ci­a­tion of Ire­land. Sadly, each year, about 14,000 women suf­fer a mis­car­riage in Ire­land.

The prob­lem is that mis­car­riage is not talked about. This means that at a time when women and men – the Moms and Dads – who have lost a baby need more sup­port than ever, it is dif­fi­cult to find. Of­ten peo­ple don’t know how to re­act or what to say, they may say noth­ing at all, leav­ing you to won­der if you ac­tu­ally spoke those words aloud or if you just said it in your head. They may make a well-mean­ing com­ment such as you can al­ways try again, at least you know you can get preg­nant or at least it hap­pened be­fore you were too far gone, all of which can cut like a knife. All they need to say is that they are sorry for your loss, and that they are there for you if you need them.

Just know­ing some­one is there can make a dev­as­tat­ing and heart­break­ing time a lit­tle less iso­lat­ing, a lit­tle less scary, and a lit­tle less lonely. And the sad re­al­ity is that one in five in this coun­try will suf­fer a mis­car­riage at some point in their lives. That is a lot of women, men and cou­ples who need and want sup­port but don’t know where to find it. This is why I feel it is so im­por­tant to have a peer-to-peer sup­port group in the Cork area, sim­i­lar to that which al­ready ex­ists in Dublin, Gal­way and Mayo. Thank­fully, the Mis­car­riage As­so­ci­a­tion of Ire­land was sup­port­ive of what I was look­ing to achieve, and it pro­vided, and still pro­vides, hugely valu­able sup­port and ad­vice.

Un­for­tu­nately, my mo­ti­va­tion be­hind set­ting up the Cork Mis­car­riage Sup­port Group comes from my own per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence of mis­car­riage where I felt iso­lated, lonely, lost and didn’t know where to turn for the sup­port I needed and craved.

I have just cel­e­brated my 11th wed­ding an­niver­sary. It’s been a great 11 years and we have three won­der­ful chil­dren. Peo­ple on the out­side look­ing in see a per­fectly “planned” fam­ily. Our old­est son, Daithí, is nine, our daugh­ter, Síofra, is seven and our youngest son, Oisín, just turned three.

But our per­fectly “planned” lit­tle fam­ily wasn’t easy to achieve. What peo­ple don’t see, or what we don’t show them is the heartache that we carry and will al­ways carry. We’ve suf­fered six mis­car­riages over the past 10 years.

When we were mar­ried in 2007 we were both young, I was 23 and him­self was 30. We were healthy and beyond happy. Once mar­ried the nat­u­ral next step was ba­bies. We got preg­nant eas­ily and we were over the moon. I read all the books and vaguely knew mis­car­riages hap­pened, but I never thought I’d be the one in five whom you hear about. We told peo­ple early on that we were preg­nant and ex­cit­edly awaited our first scan.

I went to the hospi­tal with my big bot­tle of wa­ter. Sit­ting in the wait­ing room I was burst­ing for a pee but re­fused to go as I wanted a re­ally good pic­ture of our baby to show off. Giddy with ex­cite­ment my name was called and in we went. On went the gel and the scan started. My hus­band held my hand as we looked at each other with an­tic­i­pa­tion and ex­cite­ment at see­ing our baby. The sono­g­ra­pher was quiet but at the time this didn’t reg­is­ter with me. She turned the screen to show us our lit­tle baby.

No heart­beat

There he or she was, a per­fect lit­tle baby shape in black and white. But there was no lit­tle flicker of a heart­beat. It was then that the si­lence res­onated and then came the words that tore our world apart. “There is your lit­tle baby but I’m so sorry there is no heart­beat.”

No heart­beat, what was she talk­ing about, she’d got­ten it wrong, she had to have got­ten it wrong, it was a mis­take, this couldn’t be hap­pen­ing. But an­other mid­wife con­firmed it.

I cried, maybe I wailed, I’m not sure. My hus­band cried and we held each other. I know we went to an­other room. I know we met a doc­tor who gave us our op­tions, none of which I wanted and none that seemed real. I know we left the hospi­tal and I know we drove home in si­lence. But I can’t re­mem­ber any of that. It’s like there is a fog or haze that is ob­scur­ing those mem­o­ries. All I re­ally re­mem­ber is the si­lence and those aw­ful words: “There is no heart­beat.”

I mis­car­ried our baby in hospi­tal the next day, when I should have been 13 weeks. I stayed overnight in a ward with a lady and her new­born. She qui­etly asked a mid­wife dur­ing the night if she could take the baby to the nurs­ery, this was for my ben­e­fit as she clearly knew I’d lost mine. I felt ter­ri­bly guilty that I was rob­bing her of her spe­cial time with her lit­tle baby, but it broke my heart a lit­tle bit more each time I heard that new­born’s lit­tle cry or gur­gle.

Back home, life around me went on and slowly got back to “nor­mal”. We were told it was just one of those things, bad luck and to try again if and when we wanted to. With that in mind we de­cided to try again. Again we got preg­nant quickly. We were of course happy and ex­cited, but we didn’t have the same in­no­cence as we knew what could go wrong. It was no longer some­thing we read in the books or some­thing that hap­pened to other peo­ple.

We got an early ap­point­ment at eight weeks but walk­ing around Wil­ton shop­ping cen­tre be­fore our scan I told my hus­band I had a bad feel­ing, but we put it down to nerves. We’d had our bad luck and things would be fine. But things weren’t fine. They were far from fine.

Mo­lar preg­nancy Again there was the si­lence but there was some­thing else, con­cern etched on the mid­wife’s face. She went and got a col­league while we tried to com­pre­hend what was go­ing on and that we re­ally were los­ing our sec­ond baby. She re­turned with a col­league and to­gether, in hushed whis­pers, they ex­am­ined the scan. They both agreed what we were look­ing at was a mo­lar preg­nancy. A mo­lar preg­nancy is a rare com­pli­ca­tion that hap­pens when the tis­sue in­side the uterus be­comes a mass or tu­mour. I had to have surgery and then had to have bloods taken ev­ery sec­ond day un­til lev­els reg­u­lated. All this fol­low-up meant it was dif­fi­cult to grieve our sec­ond loss.

Months later I was given the all clear and we de­cided to try again. We were preg­nant be­fore long. It was a nerve wrack­ing time and ev­ery ache and pain caused panic and worry. But this time things went smoothly, other than bad morn­ing sick­ness, and our son Daithí was born in 2009.

We knew we wanted to have a brother or sis­ter for Daithí and started try­ing again soon enough. But again it was fraught with sad­ness. We had our third mis­car­riage in Au­gust, 2010 fol­lowed by our fourth mis­car­riage in Oc­to­ber, 2010. I had been preg­nant five times but had lost four of our ba­bies. I was an­gry, heart­bro­ken and was start­ing to think it wasn’t meant to be. Thank­fully, a year later, in Oc­to­ber, 2011, our daugh­ter Síofra was born. It re­ally is true that a year can change so much.

Our story didn’t end there. We went on to suf­fer more heartache when we had our fifth and sixth mis­car­riages in Feb­ru­ary and Novem­ber 2013. Of our eight preg­nan­cies we’d lost six ba­bies. Af­ter our fourth loss we found out through ge­netic test­ing that I carry a bal­anced Robert­so­nian Translo­ca­tion which is a form of chro­mo­so­mal re­arrange­ment. While there were no known health im­pli­ca­tions for me, it did mean we were at a higher risk of mis­car­riage.

One last try

Af­ter a lot of think­ing, wor­ry­ing, talk­ing and more think­ing it was with a heavy heart we de­cided we would try one last time and then call it a day on this stage of our lives. Once again get­ting preg­nant wasn’t an is­sue, I had very bad morn­ing sick­ness and was in hospi­tal on drips a num­ber of times but I have never been so happy to be sick. Our lit­tle boy Oisín made his en­trance into the world happy and healthy on the 23rd of Oc­to­ber, 2015.

And with the birth of Oisín our fam­ily is com­plete. We are blessed with three won­der­ful chil­dren over the 10 years we had been on this jour­ney but it was an ex­tremely dif­fi­cult road.

We lost six pre­cious lit­tle ba­bies who will al­ways have a place in our hearts. We ex­pe­ri­enced sad­ness over and over that no one should have to en­dure but in re­al­ity one in five will ex­pe­ri­ence the same dev­as­ta­tion and heartache.

Oc­to­ber is Preg­nancy and In­fant Loss Aware­ness Month and we now have a pub­lic Face­book Page (Cork Mis­car­riage Sup­port Page) where peo­ple can get up­dates on meet­ings. We also have a con­fi­den­tial Face­book sup­port group that peo­ple seek­ing sup­port can join by email­ing “Loss” to corkpreg­nan­cy­loss@gmail.com. Along with the on­line peer-to-peer sup­port we also hold monthly sup­port meet­ings on the third Tues­day of ev­ery month at the SMA Cen­tre in Wil­ton in Cork from 8pm to 9.30pm.

These meet­ings pro­vide peo­ple a safe place to talk, in con­fi­dence, about the loss of their baby.

While we are not med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als, what we of­fer is a safe place to share ex­pe­ri­ences among peers and to be met with com­pas­sion, em­pa­thy and un­der­stand­ing.

I know we left the hospi­tal and I know we drove home in si­lence. But I can’t re­mem­ber any of that

Jen­nifer Uí Dhub­h­gain with her hus­band and three chil­dren

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