I was a young mother when I had my first miscarriage, only 21 years old with two healthy girls. I thought miscarriage was something that happened to other people or that happened on TV programs. I had no reason to believe that a woman of my young age who had a proven track record of being able to have babies would have a miscarriage.
My husband and I were enjoying parenthood so much we decided to get pregnant with baby number three when our second daughter was only ten months old. It took six months to get pregnant.
Then only two weeks after I had gotten a positive pregnancy test, I started to feel really ill. We were in London at the time, running a book stall, and I began to feel dizzy and nauseous so I went to the rest room to splash water on my face and use the toilet.
As I sat down that’s when I saw it -- blood. My husband told me to sit on a chair and rest while he spent the rest of the day selling books.
When we returned to where our car had been parked, it was gone, so we had to walk to the nearest police station to report it as stolen. While in the station, I suddenly got abdominal pain and began to bleed heavily so the police called the ambulance that blue lighted me to the hospital.
The staff refused to scan me because it was the weekend, yet wanted to admit me because of the bleeding. I had to wait until Monday to go back to my home town and be scanned.
There, they informed me that there was an embryo, but no heartbeat. I asked for a picture of the baby but was told --
"It’s not a baby."
I asked again, "Please, let me have a picture."
The sonographer said, rather abruptly, "There’s no heartbeat. It's dead tissue, not a baby."
I was devastated and my husband broke down in front of everyone and he never cries at anything. We sat in the hospital room, crying and hugging each other.
The staff didn’t care less. They said I was only six weeks pregnant and could easily try again.
That wasn’t the point. It would never be THAT baby. It was my child, my hopes and my dreams, and I loved it from the moment the test turned blue. I had seen a photo of my child they wouldn’t let me have.
We complained to the staff who told us they might still have the picture stored. They looked but had wiped it from the computer.
They then told me they might be able to put one on an X-ray picture for me if I paid for it, so I gave them £20 for an X-ray picture and they gave me ... a picture of the miscarriage, my empty womb with bits of retained tissue.
I was horrified. I told them this wasn’t my baby. The midwife looked shocked and said, "You know what it looks like, don’t you?"
Of course I knew what an unborn baby looked like. I’d had scans with both my girls. I was appalled and felt they had tried to deceive me.
We made an official complaint. Their insensitivity and lack of compassion made the pain of my miscarriage so much worse.
But there was something good that came out of this. The hospital changed their policy as a result of my complaint and now if a mother wants a picture of her deceased baby, they will give her one.
Never let anyone tell you it isn’t a baby. It IS your child and it’s normal to grieve at whatever stage of pregnancy.
Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting.
She is a mother of five who practised drug-free home birth, delayed cord clamping, full term breast feeding, co-sleeping, home schooling and flexi schooling and is an advocate of raising children on organic food.
Edited by Jody Smith