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I only knew I was pregnant when I miscarried; this is how it felt…

Trigger warning: This piece contains a description of miscarriage and mentions pregnancy loss and may be distressing for some readers.

Pregnancies, like stories, are supposed to have a beginning, a middle and an end. So what happens when a pregnancy ends before you even knew it began?

It’s 3 am, the morning after Mother’s Day and suddenly I’m awake. Thick with sleep, I stumble bleary-eyed to the bathroom, galvanised by gnawing stomach cramps and an urgent need to pee. Sitting slack-kneed on the loo, I feel a rush of something heavier, warmer than wee. The toilet roll is ruby-dark with blood. I’ve always had heavy periods so this isn’t unusual, but still I pause before reaching for a tampon. Pushing it in is weirdly easy. A mini alarm bell rings faintly somewhere, before I silence it.

On my way back to bed, I grab an old towel from the cupboard and, lying back down, press it between my legs. My boyfriend murmurs in his sleep as I listen to my heart thump, eyes wide in the darkness. I feel the persistent flow pulse between my legs. Still, I wait. The need to wee and the cramps continue; when I go back to the loo, the tampon falls out in a mass of blood and mess. The ambulance comes soon, with two friendly paramedics asking questions, taking my blood pressure. And then, in a blur of swapping pyjamas for tracksuits and trainers, we’re in our car, heading to the hospital. Still the blood flows, soaking through the giant, nappy-thick pads the paramedics gave me. In the brightly lit A&E ward, a man snores loudly, raspily, his legs and back splayed against the uncomfortable blue plastic chairs. Apart from El Snoro, we are the only people there. I frown at the snores, comical under any other circumstances, and the high-pitched beeps emitting from the hospital bowels like a deranged heartbeat. It feels lonely, deserted and sad, and I decide we won’t be there long. “It’s probably nothing,” I whisper to my partner. A nurse gives me a small plastic tub to take to the toilet and pee in. Containing the gush of blood and other stuff into that little pot is a challenge. More alarm bells. As I wait to be seen, I feel increasingly peculiar. I’m hot, dizzy and clammy, and suddenly lying down on the cold floor is the only thing to do. I’m used to fainting, and know to follow the warning signs and get low, the sooner the better. So that’s how another nurse finds me, face-planted on cement, when she walks past.

Her voice floats down to me from above: “Why is she lying like that?”

From the cool, quiet floor comes my reply: “I was about to faint.”

“Well, she can’t stay there,” she says, ushering us over to a row of seats, gesturing for me to lie down.

A little later, we’re taken to a curtained cubicle where a nurse tells me I’m having a miscarriage. As she speaks, I black out. The next faint is a little later, when I’m in a wheelchair, being taken for a scan to see if anything “viable” is left inside me. I slither out of the chair and onto the floor like a drunken worm, giving the orderly a fright. Faint number-three happens in the crowded waiting room; I regain consciousness with a bouquet of concerned faces looming above me. We hadn’t had a clue I was pregnant. “Eight to ten weeks,” confirms the kind-eyed gynaecologist. They decide to operate on me to stop the blood loss and make sure that “everything is removed”. I’m wheeled to the operating room and given a general anaesthetic. I fall asleep to the sound of the surgeon’s quiet voice, gently asking me inane questions that I never get round to answering. When I wake up, dazed and dozy with morphine, the gynaecologist comes to see me. She asks if I want to see what was removed, holding up what looks eerily like a tub of beetroot hummus. I look away quickly. “No thanks.”

Image Source: Author's Own

My boyfriend goes home to sob, walk the dog and source some lunch for us. He returns later that afternoon, bringing a champion’s feast sourced from a local Italian deli: panini bursting with thick slices of mozzarella and tomato, golden-crusted arancini, fizzy pop, crisps, even a fistful of cannoli with vanilla, lemon and pistachio fillings. He has always expressed love through food; I have always gobbled both up. We smile as a visitor opposite us chats about plantain and curried chicken to her bedridden friend on a liquid diet. The sounds and smells of the hospital wash over us. Life goes on: mundane, tragi-comic, precious, painful. A month after the miscarriage, I feel raw and bruised, as if a layer of me has been forcibly removed. Walking around like a wound, tender and tight. Perversely, I seem to have become a baby magnet: they’re suddenly everywhere I look: in films, on the streets, in friends’ arms, all over Instagram. Two months later: I remember what happened with something akin to awe, recalling the immediacy and shock of it all, the bright lights, the mass of blood, the juddering blood pressure, the faints, the floor’s embrace and the hospital bed. Other things come to mind, too: the nurses’ kindness, the flowers sent by family and friends, turning our kitchen into a mini hot house, the notes floating like doves through the letterbox, the texts received, the hugs given. The card I took ages to send to the A&E team: ‘Thank you for being absolutely bloody brilliant.’ I wonder if they remember me when they finally read it.

Five months later: the wound feels thinly scabbed over. I get an occasional ache in my lower left side: hello, ovaries. The grief remains close to the surface, oozing out unexpectedly. On the radio one morning, a presenter discusses a new government review into enhanced support for parents who have lost a pregnancy before 24 weeks’ gestation. Suddenly I’m back at the hospital, dizzy and disorientated; my cheeks wet with tears. Work feels jarring. Friends feel far away.

Rebuilding strength

I decide to start PT sessions to burn through the funk and to shift the belly-wobble reminder of what wasn’t. A reminder that means some of my clothes don’t fit. When I turn up to meet Hannah, my trainer, a session for new mums and babies is taking place in the gym. Fuzzy-haired, velvet-skinned babies as plump as Botticelli cherubs, sitting amid dumbbells and kettlebells like ducklings that got lost. In a fiercely air-conditioned studio, I start crying as I explain why I’m here.

Our training sessions help. Despite my puny arms and seeming inability to hinge instead of squat, lifting weights feels like medicine. There’s satisfaction in the muscle aches, hunger and tiredness the following day. I want to take back control of my body, deadlift by deadlift, goblin squat by goblin squat. No beginning, no middle, no end; just life in its constant, irregular waves, moving through me.


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