Before I begin, let me just warn you that some of this letter will be graphic. If you can’t stomach a bit of blood, this one isn’t for you.
When I first didn’t write to you a few weeks ago, it was so I could finish prepping for an interview for the new book. I didn’t expect the break to roll on for the following two weeks. But then again, I didn’t expect to find out I was pregnant the next day. I also then didn’t expect to start bleeding a week after that. And then I didn’t expect to finally, after a week of is-it-isn’t-it-oh-shit-yes-it-definitely-is have a miscarriage a week after that, just shy of being seven weeks pregnant.
I didn’t expect to have to drive up to a maternity unit, inevitably full of women with babies and round bellies, while my belly was dripping into my pants. I didn’t expect to have to walk in completely alone, because my partner was not allowed to come in with me, yes even if you’re bleeding copious red blood and passing clots. I didn’t expect to have to take down my trousers and pants, wondering how to lay my pants with their bloody liner so the blood didn’t get onto my clothes or the hospital chair. I didn’t expect to have to lie down on an examination table and have an ultrasound wand inserted into my bleeding vagina and pressed around my painful, empty womb, while no one was allowed to touch me or hold my hand. I didn’t expect to have to be told that they couldn’t find my baby and that they didn’t know if I was having a miscarriage or if I had an ectopic pregnancy. I didn’t expect to start crying in front of strangers. I didn’t expect to feel so humiliated and alone.
No one can prepare you for how lonely early pregnancy is. You are alone with your body. You are alone with every twinge, with every spot of blood. You are alone every time you pull down your pants in the loo and wonder what you are going to see. It didn’t occur to me before I got pregnant how isolating it would be – after all, I would be going through it with my lovely wonderful supportive partner.
But it turns out it really does matter whose body it is. I am the one experiencing it. And I then have to decide which twinge or spot I should and shouldn’t tell him about. What is me being crazy and what is something he should know? After all, 20% of women have spotting in their first trimester – did you know that? I didn’t. I now know everything there is to know about everything that can go wrong or right in early pregnancy, AMA.
They tell you that a miscarriage isn’t your fault. That there is nothing you could have done, and that you’re very likely to go on to have a healthy pregnancy the next time. That is, if you can face putting yourself through it again. No one tells you how to do that.
No one tells you how to handle knowing that once you’ve had one miscarriage your risk of having another rises from 5% to 20%. No one tells you how to handle knowing that the statistics around miscarriage are tenuous bullshit because if you go to your GP rather than the hospital no one bothers recording it. No one tells you how to handle the humiliation of having to go through this on your own.
I’ve said humiliation twice and I know many of you, good feminists that you are, will tell me, but Caroline you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to be ashamed of. Tell me that again when you’ve miscarried in a pandemic. Try not feeling humiliated bleeding with your pants off in front of strangers while being told that your body has failed in one of its most basic functions, and there is no one in the room to turn to. I keep replaying the moment in my mind. I’ve never felt more vulnerable, I’ve never felt more utterly alone.
I knew it would be bad before it happened. The night before the scan I had a panic attack about going through it on my own. But I also tried to tell myself that these were extraordinary times, that we all had to make sacrifices. Having now been through it and experienced that trauma first-hand I can tell you that the refusal to allow partners to attend scans is inhumane. It is traumatising an already traumatised woman and it needs to stop, now.
So there you have it. My explanation for the radio silence. I hope normal service will resume next week, but I know you will understand if it doesn’t.