12 April 2008

*Sensitive* Journey of grief, treatment, and too much information

It was about 7cm long, and mine, and I knew I couldn't cry. I fished it out of the bath, gasping in pain as it disintigrated slightly coming out of the water. I had wanted Martin to see it whole and recognise it as I had. It seemed unfair to have had that, that clarity, on my own. I called him softly, wanting for him to come without disturbing Morgan who I'd moved into our bed to feel his warmth while I laboured. He came, and saw, and I told him what he already knew. I had given birth to our baby, at nearly 14 weeks pregnant, and it was done. He asked to hold it, and I slid it onto his hand, the size of his little finger and so wrong there. I raged, but I still couldn't cry.

The bath was red now and I realised the wrongness, too much blood; I couldn't really think further than the protocol response so I sent Martin for the phone to ask what to do, for my notes with the phone number, and sat on the toilet hearing the blood gush away and feeling faint. The baby was wrapped in a tissue, I didn't know what else to do. A bit of amniotic sac too, but not much, I just felt somehow it should be kept together with the baby.

Somehow knew that the clots weren't needed, that they were just trapped blood. Remembered a useless disjointed phrase, products of conception, that was what I had in the tissue, plus blood solid or otherwise. A foetus, a little scrap of what had protected it, what was it called? Placenta? No, the word was wrong but it was all I could think of right now. Where was the actual placenta? I wondered, but I couldn't be sure I was thinking right so I stopped and just thought It's Over, a heavy little thought, over and over and It's Over.

My mum arrived to take me to the hospital, it had taken so long to talk to someone and I'd told the story over and over and whittling it down to short medical facts. I should be 13+4 today (I think), I had had no scan, I just delivered our baby ten minutes ago, I was bleeding so heavily I was frightened by it.

Two changes of clothes and ten changes of maternity pad, the second change of clothes just had to stay covered in blood. I was covered in blood, pouring with it, didn't want the children to see me, and hurried to the hospital where, as ludicrous as it sounds, I walked around for ten minutes thinking I was going to pass out trying to find the right unit and leaving pools of blood wherever I stood for more than a few seconds. My shoes were ruined, I was aware of not wanting to frighten other patients, I was in a room, on a table, still having contractions and being examined by a female doctor (so young, not much older than me, where did all the time go that someone so young could be doing this job?).

There was a lot of worried activity, a nurse trying to clean me up against all logic but with a kind of tenderness and a thought in her mind that I shouldn't be covered in dried blood like this, I would want to be clean(er). I did. She smiled, but she was concerned. I hadn't be exaggerating, she said, and I realised that this was the reason for my long drive and longer walk, they must have people all the time say that they are bleeding heavily. They mustn't often have seen it dripping off the bed in spite of the industrial pad (like a newborn nappy) and the three plastic-backed cotton-wool sheets under me.

I had a tiny vial of blood taken for matching in case I needed a transfusion, and a drip put in my hand as my heart was racing and I was faint even lying down.

Another doctor came to examine me, male, brusque and impatient. This won't hurt, he said. Lier, said my mum loudly enough for him to hear. I'm not sure the description needs any repeating for my peace of mind or anyone else's, but mum was right, and eventually he fished out the placenta and amniotic sac and declared them to have been causing the appalling clotting and rapid blood loss. He talked fast, over me, to the nurse, about treatment and theatre (I was fairly sure not the entertaining kind) and whether the miscarriage was "complete".

He used the phrase, "products of conception" too, and I thought, "I know that you mean my baby, please say baby," but didn't say anything. He followed this with discussing termination, whether about me or someone else I don't know, and mum looked like she was going to hit him. I interrupted. "Is there any chance there is another baby? Do I need a scan?"

He confirmed what I thought I knew, I was only passing clots and I was fully dialated, the foetus and placenta and amniotic sac were complete and there was no chance that anything had or would survive. The nurse said something about products of conception again and I asked her to call my baby a baby, or at least a foetus.

He wanted me to take some antibiotics, and some hormones, but seemed reluctant to fully explain what I wanted to know - what would they actually do? How could I make an informed decision?! Would they be compatible with breastfeeding. "With... what?" Breastfeeding, I'm still nursing my toddler and I have no intention of stopping or making her go without.

He didn't know, said "probably fine" and handed them over. I insisted, would my baby be safe? "Yes, she would be OK, but you shouldn't feed her for four hours." Four hours? Was that an arbitrary number? I asked, was he sure? I was not going to be treated without being allowed to make a decision about what it would mean for me and for my youngest living child. He said he was sure; I didn't believe him. But I took them, feeling that if I had to keep Morgan off the breast for longer I could do that better than ending up in surgery with an infection and my life in the balance.

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