“I’m sorry guys, there’s no heartbeat”

“Never had I contemplated the complete void that you fall into when you hear those words: “I’m sorry guys, there’s no heartbeat”. Writer Sarah Matthews writes about the deep pain of miscarriage…

Sarah Matthews is a freelance writer and mum of one. Here, for Baby Loss Awareness Week, she shares her experience of a missed miscarriage, discovered when she went for her 12-week scan.

It was all going to be so perfect.

The scan on the Friday, a week’s holiday to revel in our exciting news, and then back to work the following week where I’d be able to announce what I’d been hiding for the last three months.

“Hey guys, you know how I’ve been eating loads of crackers recently, looking like death warmed up and running out of the room every time one of you brings your smelly lunch in to the office? Well…”.

Except it didn’t work quite like that.

Of course I’d had the ‘but what if something’s wrong?’ worries in the run-up to the scan, but when I look back on it now I don’t think I really thought there would be. I mean, we caught the bus to the hospital.

Never for one minute did I think we’d be having to get back on that bus, acting like normal human beings, feeling anything but, surrounded by people whose worlds hadn’t just been shattered.

Never had I contemplated the complete void that you fall into when you hear those words: “I’m sorry guys, there’s no heartbeat”.

We were ushered out of the scanning room, round the back of the waiting area, so as not to upset anyone, and then left in a room. A pink room, with horrible pink chairs, and a horrible painting of a flower on the wall and a solitary box of tissues on a table.

A room with no windows and lots of fake bright light, and a dawning sense of realisation that this was just the start of a process which would have to get far worse before it got better.

I don’t remember much about what was said, just leaflets being thrust in to my hands. So. Many. Leaflets. All outlining our ‘choices’. But they didn’t really feel much like choices to me – wait until nature takes its course and spend hours/days bleeding painfully at home or go to hospital and take tablets to make the same process happen more quickly.

Surgery was apparently not an option at this point because our baby was measuring just over 12 weeks.

Go home and think about it, they said. As if I could think about anything else.

I read all the leaflets cover to cover, as if some magic solution might somehow appear, but I knew that I did not want to be suspended in this horrible limbo for any longer than necessary and we managed to get booked in at hospital the following day.

From that point on time became a blur. Holed up in our hospital room I took the tablets and waited for the inevitable. Hours came and went and not much happened, and then it started with a vengeance. And stopped. And started. And stopped.

After a day of rushing backwards and forward to the toilet, each time afraid of what I might see, it became clear that the surgical intervention we were denied at the start would be the only way this baby was coming out.

I can honestly say I was never in any real physical pain during any of this, and every nurse we saw was truly wonderful, but by that point I was more than happy to just let them put me to sleep, safe in the knowledge that when I woke up it would be over.

Of course, that was only the beginning of the healing process. I felt physically better within a few days, but then came what is possibly the most difficult part of any miscarriage – working out who to tell and how to say it.

When you haven’t even told people you are pregnant, how do you begin to tell them what you’ve been through? I hated, and still hate, the word miscarriage. It just seems like such a catch-all for so many different, equally difficult scenarios.

And I’m not sure that a lot of people really, fully, understand what it means. Maybe they’ve read about the physical symptoms, but unless you’ve been through it it’s hard to understand that it’s about the loss of so much more than just a foetus, a collection of cells. It’s the loss of hopes and dreams and excitement for a future that is no longer going to be what you thought.

I know there are millions of people who have lost babies at a much later stage than me and that what I went through pales in comparison. I’m also equally aware that there are those who are going through infertility struggles and would give anything to get as far as a fertilised egg.

But I think that’s why a lot of people struggle to talk about miscarriage. They feel it’s just something that happens, we keep quiet about it and we move on. And that’s absolutely not how it should be.

I’m not writing this for sympathy. I’m writing this to encourage the conversation.

To say ‘miscarriage happens’. It’s more common than you know – something you only find out after it happens to you and you do start talking about it – and it can be devastating.

But also to say, if you’re going through it right now, it is not the end of the world. It will be hard and your life will always be shaped by it, but there is every chance you will end up with a beautiful baby in your arms.

It’s a cliché to say ‘what’s meant to be will be’, and you’ll want to punch anyone who says it to you, but there is a grain of truth there.

I’m now the very proud mum of a two-and-a-half-year-old, born just over a year after we lost our first baby. She is feisty, funny and perfect. And she wouldn’t be here now if our first pregnancy had gone as planned.

Of course, I wish we’d never had to go through that to get to where we are now, and our second pregnancy was a really anxious time for me, but we made it. Stronger and wiser, and ready for the rollercoaster ride that is being a parent.