Suffering a miscarriage at work
Stress, Burn out and my experience of losing a child I didn’t know I was carrying
It chokes me to write this. It’s a hard thing to pen. In August 2019 I went through a miscarriage. I wasn’t trying for a baby. I had no idea I was pregnant. All I knew about what was happening was an excruciating pain followed by a torrent of blood and sobbing in a hot bath, alone.
I was at work when it happened. I’d recently taken on a very stressful and an incredibly taxing job which was leaving me working 50- 70 hours a week. That evening, I was tapping away and analysing spreadsheets with the flicker of the halogen light above me, about 8 o’clock or so in the evening. I could hear the distant clinks of glasses and conversation from the work get together in the patio garden below me. It was my new normal. I was burnt out.
I was late, but not worried because I hadn’t had the wherewithal to be tracking anything on my trusty app or the headspace to actualise it. I was on the pill, afterall. In any case – I figured the stress I was under would be enough to induce a couple of weeks of lateness. But, it was more than that. About 4-6 weeks in hindsight.
I was struck with a familiar pain, right to the abdomen. A shockwave went through my body as I closed my laptop, walked through the empty cubicles with my bag half swinging from my shoulder half caught on my elbow as I bumbled into doors on my way to the bathroom; sweating. There was blood. An above normal amount. More than I would have expected having just come on my period. But, again, I didn’t think much of it other than; “this must be a really bad one”.
I walked to the station, feeling incredibly faint and nauseous. Although there were seats, I couldn’t sit. I was frightened of the blood staining the apphalstry beneath my long coat and in any case, sitting wasn’t an option. I couldn’t put any pressure on my pelvis. Standing slightly doubled was the only way I could hold myself together. Just about.
I waited for my connecting train at Victoria ready to pass out. I knew this wasn’t normal, but the shock of the pain, the denial of what was happening to me was overwhelming. I was on the pill. I had been careful, right? Overruled by my subconscious and an almost animalistic desire to just get home, hibernate, hide even, kept me from fainting and falling. Keep moving. Keep walking.
By the time I was fumbling with my keys to unlock the front door my trousers were drenched. Bent over double I ran the bath. I went to the toilet to assess the damage when I was met with my embryo in my underwear. It was very small, attached to some membrane-like skin. The reality set in and I wept. Sobbed my eyes out. Called my Mum where the word ‘miscarriage’ was first uttered aloud once I told her what had met me in my underwear. Is that what had happened? A miscarriage? I knew it was and I should have gone to the hospital but I couldn’t face it so instead, I crawled into the bath where the warm water lapped my sore and aching body.
I lay with my head on the lip of the bath for a long time, until the water had almost cooled.
The strange thing about that night was I didn’t have to be alone. I chose to be. I was so shocked and ashamed at what had happened that I needed a minute. I was exhausted. Tearful. Sore.
The bath was bloody. My body had bruising that had begun to become visible from the exterior of my abdomen and I just wanted to get into my comfiest pajamas and ruminate.
Before I had time to come too, my Dad had come through the door. He was staying with me that weekend.
“Kidda, are you okay. Your Mum’s text me. Do you need to go to the Hospital or are you okay?”
“I’m okay. Sore. Thanks Dad.”
“Alright, well. I saw the text and worried so I came back as fast as I could.”
“It’s alright. Probably nothing. I’ve had a bath and some pain killers.”
“Alright. Okay. Well, do you want a drink?”
So we sat, had a gin and tonic. He made me a hot water bottle and I went to bed.
I didn’t think to tell my boyfriend. I didn’t want him to think me careless. To think I had been untrustworthy or irresponsible with my contraception. I didn’t want to be responsible for this bodily malfunction. So at the time I said nothing.
Everything was confirmed with the doctor a few months later. It took that long for me to be able to process and digest what had happened. I can only describe my feeling at the time as if I had been eroded. Left a little bit scarred and swollen.
I told Pete, in the end. He was perfect. He was gentle. He was kind. This was enough to drive me over the edge because although I expected nothing less from him, his kindness made me feel blameless and that in itself was a validating and comforting thing.
I told my family. I told my friends. I began to speak about it openly and honestly. I called it by its name because if years of re-reading Harry Potter has taught me anything it is that; ‘fear of the name increases fear of the thing itself’.
So here it is; I had a miscarriage at work. I didn’t want to have a baby, but regardless of the fact I was guilt ridden and horrified that my body could do such a thing. I argued with myself and rationalised; well at least I don’t have to make a tough decision on what the right thing to do is.
The right thing to do. The reality is that if I had carried, I would have had to abort the pregnancy and the idea of that alone would have sent me spiralling. So, is that a silver lining? Is that a divine intervention by mother nature? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But, I’m still reeling from it. I’m still heartbroken in spite of what my choice might have been if I had realised I was pregnant for the long haul.
It took months for the hormones to subside. I left my job. I took some time. I think about it, all the time. Of the possibilities which are quickly stifled by the practical, the pragmatic.
I’m sad and I am sorry that this has happened. I am bereft and I am grateful at the same time.
Miscarriage is so common. Silent miscarriages happen all the time, although mine was anything but quiet. In spite of this I count my lucky stars that I was able to jump in the bath and sleep it off in the immediacy of the panic. That there were no complications. That I didn’t need medical intervention or care. My only anger that I carry and my motivation for writing this piece is that I didn’t know this could happen. That my sex ed had been signed off at the point of being able to half slide, half snigger at a condom on a banana. That there has never been a fair dialogue about sexual health.
I hope that it somehow adds to the fertility conversation, in some way great or small. I feel that miscarriage is something we all should know about, in all its guises. The symptoms. The pain. The ‘what to do next.’
So let’s talk. Let’s share, if you’re able. Just know that if you have experience of this you do not stand alone. You haven’t failed.