There is a beautiful road not far from here that winds through mountain and pine forest down to the coast. It is the alternative to the motorway and it is now the route that I take every fortnight or so to do my big supermarket shop.
Driving on this road never fails to make me sad as it is also the route to the hospital where we went for the 12 week scan for our second baby. Mr B and I were full of hope and happiness as we drove along and we remarked on how nice the journey was going to be for all the endless antenatal appointments and also the big one: the birth day. We stopped at a picnic area on the way to give Bibsey her bottle. It was a beautiful day.
We went on the same road the next day when I went into the hospital for a D & C because the scan showed that our baby had not survived beyond 10 weeks. I stayed over night and returned home the next day on that lovely road.
I wrote about this experience back in June but I didn’t go into the detail of what happened during the scan or overnight in the hospital. It was all too raw and I couldn’t see what purpose it would serve. Thanks to an inspiring post by the currently very pregnant Very Bored in Catalunya, in which she writes about her experiences of miscarriage care here in Spain, I can now see a point.
Mumsnet is running a campaign for better care for women going through the ordeal and trauma of miscarriage and inviting bloggers to help raise awareness for the campaign by writing about their own experiences. Also expat writer, mother and blogger over at Salt & Caramel is hosting a linky in support of the campaign where we can share our stories.
My experience of miscarriage was in Spain where I also gave birth to our daughter but I believe the issues are the same here as they are in the UK and that feelings of pain, sadness, helplessness and failure that miscarriage brings to the lives of the people involved, are universal. To compound the issue, people don’t tend to like talking about it – the absolute opposite of childbirth in fact.
What Mr B and I went through back in June, while dreadful and miserable, was not a horror story. I could be forgiven for expecting it to be horrific considering my experience of giving birth in a Spanish hospital. My heart goes out to women upon whom yet more misery is heaped, when they are at their most vulnerable, by insensitive staff and inappropriate procedure. For me what made the whole thing bearable at all was the moments of kindness and care from hospital staff in amongst the general air of clinical coldness.
This kindness and consideration is an important part of what Mumsnet is campaigning for. See here for details of the proposed Miscarriage Code of Care.
Here is the rest of my story.
When the doctor who was carrying out the scan delivered the news to us it was so matter-of-fact, that I thought perhaps the empathy had been lost in translation. I think that he may have said it three times in three different ways, because I didn’t seem to be ‘getting’ it. I couldn’t believe it.
Luckily Mr B was with me. In the waiting room we were just deciding that he should take a restless Bibsey out for a walk (she was getting bored and I thought that I would be fine on my own) when they called us in. He was the one who helped me off the examination table – the doctor was already sitting behind his desk – and he was the one who held Bibsey while I struggled in Spanish to glean the details from the doctor about the next course of action. Essentially where I had to be and when. This included having to go down the the hospital reception, take a number and queue up to jump through some administrative hoop that I didn’t understand. Anyone who lives in Spain will know that queuing for anything whether it be at the meat counter, Social Security or the doctors, is like entering the Wild West. And if you ain’t got a number or a friend in the queue, you ain’t armed. Neither of us could face this hurdle so we left.
Mr B dropped me off at the hospital the next morning at 8.30. He couldn’t stay with me because he had to take care of our daughter. One of the downsides of expat life is not having family around to help out in times of crisis.
I got lost trying to find the ward. The written instructions from the bloody doctor not only directed me to the wrong floor but also to the wrong wing of the hospital. How much easier it would have been if he had just told me to go to the maternity ward. Needless to say I was in tears when I finally found where I was meant to be.
I was greeted by a young nurse who literally held my hand and talked me slowly through what would happen. It was her kindness and sensitivity that got me through the seemingly endless hours of waiting. They can’t tell you when your surgery will be. I had to insert some pessaries which I understood would soften my cervix and advised to pee into a pan for them to examine. Thankfully there was nothing to see and I was finally taken down to theatre at 5.30pm having had nothing to eat or drink since 11pm the night before.
All I remember is that I was sweating profusely and crying and I just wanted to tell everyone that I had a daughter and that I needed to get home to her. The surgical staff were kind, professional and cheerful actually. As was the nurse in charge when I woke up in recovery. His name was Paco. There was some other harriden in there who, without preamble or warning (perhaps she thought it wasn’t worth the bother of explaning to the Inglesa), manhandled my legs apart and whipped a swab out. I had no idea that it was in there but it did explain some of my discomfort.
I had a room to myself in the hospital that night. Although I was lonely and sad I know that this is preferable to sharing with a new mother and baby, which is certainly not unheard of. My sister flew that evening from Germany to come and see me. She found her way in a hire car all the way from the airport to the hospital and then on to our village. Amazing sister.
They didn’t discharge me until after 4pm the next day, and even then I had to ask and ask to have the line taken out of the vein in my hand before I could leave. In my notes it says aborto retenido, which when literally translated means ‘missed’ abortion. I does seem to be a rather cruel linguistic twist that the word for abortion and miscarriage are the same in Spanish.
My sister was waiting for me and drove me home along the road. I have cried too many tears on that road but I will continue to use it because it is beautiful and because I don’t ever want to forget. Perhaps for the same reason as I kept my hospital bracelet. It is a reminder, something physical. Because although we don’t often talk about it, I was pregnant, it did happen and I don’t want to forget.