On episode 21 of the Hidden World of Women Sophie spoke with Emma about her late term miscarriage. Sophie has kindly agreed to share her story with us for this blog post. This was written only two month after her loss and the emotions are very raw. Thank you Sophie for sharing this with us and letting others know they are not alone. If you are in Australia and experience miscarriage, still born or newborn death SANDS and Red Nose Grief and Loss have services to offer support.
So I wasn't going to share this, been going back and fourth thinking it's inappropriate, but hey you don't have to read it and everyone else shares their birth story, just that this one has a different ending. This is all I have of Harrison and he will forever be a part of our lives. Everyday is still hard, my anxiety has sky rocketed since and isn't getting any better with the help of Corey being an absolute nightmare at the moment.
But hey, this too shall pass right, I just need a year long holiday, is that too much to ask? ;-)
Harrison Phoenix Johnstone.
Yanchep Lagoon, 19th January 2019, I was a couple of days late for my period but wasn’t worried…after all, surely I wouldn’t get pregnant after two ‘whoopsies’
I remember being paranoid I’d get my period whilst swimming at the beach with my family, I kept asking my sister to keep an eye out.
A day later still no period. Decided to do a home pregnancy test and that second line appeared almost immediately. I cried. This line was so strong it took the ink out of the control line on the test. Daniel was waiting nervously outside the toilet door for the result, I showed him. He was just as shocked as I was, minus the tears.
We decided not to tell anyone, including our children. We had to get our heads around this first, we really weren’t planning on anymore kids. In fact, Daniel was supposed to get the snip just before Christmas. Unfortunately, the Doctor called in sick and we never rescheduled because we had used the money on Christmas.
As weeks passed, I told my family, as expected they too were surprised by our news. But I found comfort in letting them know as I knew they would support me through this pregnancy.
I was still so very nervous and anxious, a million things would run through my head almost daily, how will I cope with Corey AND a newborn? Will there be complications during my fourth c-section? Where will the new baby sleep? Which twin prams are good? I wonder what this baby will look like? Will it be my fourth boy or will I have a daughter? I absolutely, utterly hate to admit but I even thought of abortion because I was just so shit scared. I slowly started accepting this was supposed to happen, I was supposed to have a surprise baby, he’d be a play mate for Corey Daniel said, I got a little excited. After all babies are a miracle! Who would ever regret having another baby whether it was a surprise baby or not?
I was measuring eight weeks and two days gestation when I had my first scan. I was due September 23rd 2019. The heart rate was 174bpm, nice and strong. I must say, it never gets old seeing that little human forming inside you, that heartbeat flickering away, it’s truly amazing and just makes my heart burst.
I had all necessary bloods done, all was looking perfect, right on track! Of course it was, I’d had three relatively problem free pregnancies prior, why would this one be any different?
In the mean time I started to research prams, think of names, all that stuff that comes naturally when you’re expecting. I thought of how we’d tell the boys once we were past the ‘safe zone’ (12 weeks) and then how to tell the rest of the world IE. Facebook.
19th of March 2019, now 13 weeks and one day. It was the day of the nuchal scan to test for Down Syndrome etc. Heart rate still nice and strong at 159.3 bpm. Hands, feet, all forming and clearly seen on the screen. Baby was jumping about and being very cooperative for us to get all the measurements. We got some great shots, including the nub. This is the genital tubercle, all babies have it no matter boy or girl. But depending of the angle of the nub you can very accurately predict the sex. Going by one particular photo, I almost thought it looked girly, it was long and straight, next picture showed some ‘stacking’ looks like a little pebble sitting on top of the tubercle. Ah I knew it, it was a boy. No one believed me. Not until we’d have it confirmed later on when the genitals are properly formed anyway!
For days I studied the nub, thinking perhaps there was a chance this was my girl! I couldn’t wait to book in my gender scan and confirm, although deep down I knew this would be my fourth boy.
As we had now passed the safe zone we decided to tell the kids. We brainstormed some ideas but couldn’t agree on one. We eventually agreed to keep it simple and write it on our letterboard for when they came home from school. It read ‘Seth and Jett you’re going to be brothers again’
Took them a while to notice. But they saw. Jett was almost confused? Somewhat speechless I think? Haha. Seth cried tears of joy and hugged me. They both asked what gender it was, to which I replied and said that I wasn’t too sure yet but it’s looking like it could be another baby brother. As much as they’d love a sister, they were still just as pleased to have another sibling. They are amazing brothers to Corey too so I know they’d be amazing to this one.
A few days later I had booked my gender scan, for April 4th 2019. The countdown was on. It was also around this stage that some of my pregnancy symptoms had started to disappear, I thought nothing of it because I was now in the second trimester. It’s normal for nausea etc to decrease.
It was a gloomy, grey and wet day at the the time of the gender scan. Daniel picked Corey and I up from home and off we went. My phone going crazy with messages asking for updates on the gender, and how long until we get seen. I was greeted by the lovely sonographer from ‘Beautiful Beginnings’ and then filled out a little paperwork. As we walked in I felt something, I knew something wasn’t right, but at the time thought it may be my nerves? And come to think of it, the whole pregnancy felt off? When I envisioned the future with four children I couldn’t quite see it clearly? It felt like I was making it up? I don’t know how to explain it….
We had a small joke with sonographer about how I knew it was going to be a fourth boy, I showed Corey the big TV so he could have a look, but he wasn’t interested. She started the scan, as soon as the device was placed on tummy and I saw the image….. I felt instantly sick. Usually the heart beat is the first thing you see. I didn’t see it. It was quiet, she looked and looked and moved around to try find it and that’s when she said ‘’I’m so sorry Sophie, I can’t find the heart beat’’ she was holding my hand the rest of the time, still trying to find it. It wasn’t there. He wasn’t moving.
Daniel just looked up at me, then her, and thought that somehow there was a mistake, he was in disbelief, as was I. I was in hysterics crying, I felt like the world had fallen on me, I was dizzy, I couldn’t see, I wanted to wake up. Or just be taken away by something and put to sleep. It was in this moment that I also realised, gender means nothing, it’s nothing!! I just wanted a healthy baby. Why was I stressing about the gender?
The sonographer suggested we go to Joondalup to have another scan and get it all confirmed.
Daniel made the first gut wrenching call to my Mum, he was in tears. Meanwhile I’m briefly updating my friends via messenger on what had just unfolded, one even thought I was joking.
I then called my sister, I couldn’t get the words out properly, just yelled, crying ‘’we lost the baby’’ She yelled and cried down the phone too.
We had to stop off at Daniels work place so he could tell them what had just happened as we were now heading to see my midwife where she would then book me in ASAP for an appointment at Joondalup Hospital. We dropped Corey off to a friends for the time being as I just couldn’t function. I then called my dad, trying to put words together about what had happened, he couldn’t quite understand me, but eventually did and he couldn’t breathe. He could hardly talk to me and had to put the phone down.
Sitting in the waiting room now at Perth Pregnancy Centre, with pregnant women and new babies surrounding us was just unbearable, I went numb, still sobbing, trying to hold out on literally just crumbling to the floor in a big heap.
My midwife called me in and hugged us both. It was only 2 weeks ago that we were here and she couldn’t find the heartbeat, but as I had an anterior placenta it was normal not to find it, we heard the placenta beating away, doing its thing anyway. I wasn’t too worried at the time.
All mandatory paperwork was sent off and we were out of there quickly. We went home to just process everything and wait for the call from Joondalup. We wondered how on earth we tell the kids? So many thoughts went through my head as I sat on the couch, I asked Daniel why? What did I do? Was it because I bought and lifted a heavy, second-hand chair? Were we really not supposed to have another baby? Is it because I thought of abortion? Daniel and I said this to ourselves when I fell pregnant ‘’if it’s not meant to be, nature will take care of it’’
It eats me up, that I thought that.
I sat there also thinking about the now dead fetus inside my womb. Lifeless. Not growing. Not moving. My body didn’t even know, hence why he was still inside me and I hadn’t a clue! If it weren’t for the gender scan who knew how long I would have walked around with a lifeless little human inside me? I kept bursting out crying, it was uncontrollable. I have never ever cried so much in my life. It hurt; no words can come close to describing the pain. I almost vomited every time I cried.
We received the call from Joondalup for a proper ultrasound to confirm, luckily got an appointment the same day.
We arrived and didn’t wait long. But again, more pregnant women. It was like I was being punished. As the sonographer was talking to me I could hardly hear him, I wasn’t there, I was elsewhere, kind of like outer body. I remember him saying that it was too late to surgically remove my baby, and that there was a high chance I’d have to birth him. It felt like a stab to the heart, why are they making me do this? It’s torture. There HAS to be another way?? Three different people came in to scan my tummy. All took measurements and confirmed my baby had definitely passed. I was also measuring right on time, meaning we don’t think he had been dead long.
As he was measuring this big, it meant he had bones forming, it was dangerous for him to be removed via a D & C (dilation and curettage)
I had to birth him. There was no other way.
I had to birth him. There was no other way. I wish I could have been put to sleep, at that very moment and it all be over with when I woke. They asked if I wanted to come in this evening to start the process. I wasn’t ready. Not that I ever would have been. But I wanted to prepare the kids, and I kind of wanted to spend one more night carrying my baby boy. I wanted to hold onto what I had left. So we booked in for 8am the next morning. It was done. Booked.
It was now nearly school pick up time, Daniel went as he was able to compose himself which I am so very thankful for. He was so damn strong and that’s where I found some strength from, as I had none. With out him I honestly don’t know what I would have done.
I sit there waiting on the couch, trying to take in deep breaths, as soon as I saw my kids faces I just cried. Daniel explained to them what happened, and Seth just burst out too. He was yelling ‘’why is the baby dead? Why? Why?’’
Jett went silent and didn’t know what to do with himself. We all hugged and cried together.
Daniel went to pick Corey up, I felt jealous of Corey really, that he had no idea what was going on. Just living in his carefree little bubble. But I’m thankful he didn’t have to feel the pain either. Although I know he definitely sensed something wasn’t right. The rest of the day and evening was a blur. I don’t think I moved. Just cried.
I got my hospital bag ready and arranged for my Mum to stay with the kids whilst we were in hospital. As expected, we didn’t get much sleep at all that night. I dreaded the morning. But it came. My mum arrived and I just burst out crying again, didn’t even speak to her. Just hugged her. Both my boys were now crying too, they were worried about me and what was about to unfold. They didn’t quite know and I wasn’t going to tell them the details, just that our baby had to be removed.
The maternity ward.
We checked in to the maternity ward, yes you read right, the maternity ward, where there were yet more pregnant women and crying newborns. It was tormenting and torturous.
We were shown our room where it would take place. Just a normal room you stay in with your new baby. Not a birthing suite. I wondered where it’d happen, and how? Many nurses and doctors came in to talk to us, ask us things and tell us what would be happening.
I had to take some pills to start aborting my pregnancy, they were to be taken every four hours and placed up in my gums between my cheeks. I took my first one at around 10am. Nothing happened for a while, so another was taken at about 2pm. I was getting slight cramps at this stage but nothing bad. A nurse brought me a heat pack for the time being and offered me morphine for when it gets bad. I didn’t want the morphine for the pain of contractions, I wanted it for the emotional pain. They got worse and it was now time for a third tablet. It was painful now. I asked for the morphine. Shortly after I felt a ‘pop’ so went to check in the toilet….no blood.
Could It have been my waters? I didn’t know? The nurse swabbed the pad I was wearing and confirmed that it was my waters. I didn’t know how this all was supposed to work as I have never given birth naturally. Let alone this way and for this reason.
The cramps were full on now, it was happening. I suddenly felt a huge gush, I didn’t want to get up from the bed, I was scared. I asked Daniel to check, sure enough I was bleeding like crazy. We called the nurse in and she prepped herself. She told me I could birth wherever I felt comfortable. I wasn’t sure there was a right place? I just chose the toilet because I didn’t know if I wanted to see him come out. The nurse had put a bowl in there to catch him and the all the birth tissue.
I just sat there, hovering over the toilet waiting, Daniel and the nurse just watching me. It felt like forever and just so damn f***** up to be sitting there, being watched whilst I give birth to a dead fetus? What on earth was I doing? I never pictured this would happen to me.
I felt something come out, it wasn’t very obvious, but it was something. I got up to look but Daniel said ‘’Don’t look!! Look at me, look at me’’
I looked…….. I couldn’t see much as he was in a pool of blood, but he was there. I didn’t cry. I was beyond numb at this stage. They removed the bowl and cut the cord as my placenta was still inside me.
So there I am, back to waiting, hovering over the toilet. I was so desperate for the placenta to come out naturally as I knew it meant a D & C would be needed immediately if it didn’t. They gave me an injection to encourage the placenta to come out but it failed. I was so very scared and didn’t want to be put to sleep. I still suffer slight PTSD from Seth’s emergency c-section.
The nurse tried removing it herself but didn’t want to risk any damage. They called in a specialist, he was a big man, overweight. I was told to lay on the bed, legs spread, so he could feel and try find out why my placenta wouldn’t come out. This bit was oh so painful, I swear if you looked at my tummy whilst he was feeling around you could have seen his hand through my belly button. What the f*** was he doing to me?? Daniel was squeezing my hand whilst I cried in pain. All I could think was, why is this happening? Please stop! I wanted it to be a dream.
More waiting now as I get prepped for theatre, various nurses and surgeons asking me questions. All the while I am literally pooling with blood between my legs, I felt it soak the top of the many blankets I had on. I kept telling them ‘’I’m bleeding I’m bleeding’’ but they just sort of said ‘’OK, not much longer now’’
Was finally time to be wheeled into theatre. I was shaking profusely. They asked if I was OK, and I replied ‘’not really, I can’t stop shaking’’ She said ‘’Aw I know it’s all happening sweetheart’’
They helped shift me to the operating table. Hooked me up to all the heart rate monitors etc, then put the mask on my face and told me to count to ten. As I was drifting off I heard her say ‘’see you when you wake up’’
I woke in recovery where more questions were asked, I have no memory of what. I felt so defeated, deflated and empty. So very tired and sad.
I was then wheeled up to my room where Daniel was waiting. I think I had a bite to eat and we tried to sleep. I didn’t sleep much. I hardly changed position on my bed.
I wanted to see him, I wanted to say goodbye.
I saw morning arrive, in and out of sleep. I was offered breakfast as was Daniel. I had many visits from different nurses again. All saying sorry and informing how it all went. They think they got everything out.
I now had a choice to make, do I want to look at my son? Daniel had told me that they brought him to Daniel last night whilst I was in theatre. He said he looked peaceful, his arms crossed over together on his chest. I wanted to see him. I wanted to say goodbye. The nurse asked a few times if I was sure and if I was ready….I wasn’t but I needed to see him. He’s my baby boy.
She wheeled in a bassinet, just like the ones the full term newborns sleep in, I couldn’t breathe, she lifted the blanket off of him. There he was, a tiny, red, gelatinous looking little human. I couldn’t quite get a good enough look at him as I was crying so much my eyes were flooded. He looked peaceful, just like Daniel said. He had 10 fingers and he had 10 toes. I couldn’t look anymore, I was a mess. I just wanted to go home. She wheeled him back out.
Daniel and I just hugged for ages.
I got the all clear to go home. As we were walking out there was an antenatal class coming through for a tour, followed by a father wheeling his newborn baby through the doors.
We were sent home with various brochures on bereavement, mourning and miscarriages. I didn’t want to read them. Not yet anyway.
We arrived home and again I just cried to my mum.
The next few weeks are a blur, I cried every single day for a week straight, and it eventually got less. I didn’t want to keep crying, I had to keep a brave face for my boys.
I didn’t really know where to go from here? Was there a reason we lost the baby? We had agreed to have him and my birth tissues to be tested in attempt to find a reason and perhaps closure? Was there something wrong with me? With him? We were told we would get results at my six week post partum check-up. That was ages away!
In between the waiting, Daniel and I had discussions on what to do now? Do we want to try again? Do we take this as a sign we’re not supposed to have a fourth child? Daniel wasn’t too keen, however I was desperate to fill the hole inside me, I wanted another. I felt that this was the only way I’d ever heal. I knew I had to grieve first. I wasn’t thinking clearly. We decided not to make any decisions until we had the check-up, because what if there was something wrong with me? I was kind of hoping there was, because I didn’t want to make the decision on whether or not we should have another.
Our baby boy's ashes were ready to be picked up.
About two weeks before my check-up I receive a call from King Edward Hospital. Our baby boys ashes were ready to be picked up. I was looking forward to bringing him home. I thought I was OK about it but I wasn’t. I cried. Daniel took the day off work so we could both pick our baby boy up.
We were greeted by a friendly pastor, where he took us to a small, dimly lit room. There on the table was a bag. He got it all out and confirmed that our baby was definitely a boy, that’s when I lost it again. I was trying to be strong but I failed. He showed us his ashes, they were in a little white box with a butterfly on it. They also did hand and foot prints for us, as requested.
On the way to the car we agreed on a name. Harrison-Phoenix Johnstone. I liked the name Phoenix because of what it represents (rising from the ashes with a renewed youth to live through another cycle)
We didn’t need to do a death certificate as he was born before 20 weeks gestation.
It was a while until I felt somewhat ‘normal’ again. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Harrison. Who he would have been, who he would of looked like….I’ll always wonder what if? Why?
Seth has asked me a few times if we will be getting another ‘seed’ planted in me to have another baby. Honestly, I’m not sure, I don’t think we will. I worry it’ll happen again and we’re very lucky to have three, beautiful, healthy boys already. So I am trying to move on and accept this is it for me. I knew I needed to see a psychologist though, I needed someone else’s unbiased advice on what to do from here. I booked a Doctors appointment and Daniel came with me to help with Corey, good thing he did because when I was called in and sat down, the female nurse exclaimed ‘’Ohh so I see you’re pregnant’’ with a huge smile on her face. She for some reason wasn’t updated at what had happened. Wasn’t her fault. Thankfully Daniel spoke for me and I now have a mental health plan in place.
We had the check-up and as expected no known cause was found. It was just ‘one of those things’ the male nurse told us, and if we were to try again that there’s a high chance I’ll carry a healthy baby to full term. There was nothing wrong with me, I did nothing wrong. It wasn’t exactly closure but comforting to know my body wasn’t the cause.
After opening up to a few Facebook pages, I have come to realise missed miscarriages are very common. I found some sort of comfort knowing I wasn’t alone, because I sure as hell felt it. It’s partly why I am writing this, I want to get it out, I want to remember him, because although not with us, he has made a huge impact on our lives and he will always be our son.
‘’You were carried only a moment, but are loved for a lifetime’’
‘’I fell in love with you when you were forming in my womb, now I carry you in my heart instead of my arms’’