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Emily and Mike

Brief Outline: Emily and Mike’s second pregnancy following a miscarriage at 12 weeks of pregnancy. Emily had heavy bleeding from 7 weeks of pregnancy. At 20 weeks Emily’s waters broke and she went into premature labour. Their baby was born showing no signs of life at 20 weeks plus 4 days. Emily was 31 and Mike was 28.
Background: Emily and Mike are married. Emily works as a personal assistant and Mike is a telecommunications engineer.

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Emily was interviewed age 33, Mike age 30. Emily became pregnant age 31 after previously having a miscarriage at 12 weeks. She started bleeding heavily from 13 weeks of pregnancy but her daughter Clementine seemed to be still growing normally. Mike frequently took Emily to hospital over the next seven weeks with bleeding. Emily was frequently checked and then discharged home and they felt their anxieties were not taken seriously. At 19 weeks Emily went to hospital again and discovered her waters had broken and that she had a high risk of infection. Emily and Mike were faced with a very difficult and painful choice. They were asked to go home and make a decision about whether to have the pregnancy induced as the risk of infection was life-threatening for Emily and their baby, but in the knowledge that their baby would be too young to survive. 

However that night Emily went into labour naturally and gave birth to their daughter the next day after a painful labour. Clementine showed no signs of life at birth. Emily and Mike spent time with her and felt very cared for during and following her birth. They found the hospital bereavement team particularly good, especially the care they offered and their organisation of Clementine’s funeral. Emily and Mike decided not to take Clementine home with them but appreciated the visits they were able to arrange to spend time with her in hospital. Local charities also offered help and support to them both. Friends and family were particularly supportive yet Mike finds that as a man his feelings are often forgotten about. Emily and Mike agreed to have a post-mortem but found it offered little understanding as to why Clementine died.  

Emily then got pregnant again but miscarried at 13 weeks. Following help from her midwife, Emily underwent tests to try to understand why she had lost her three pregnancies. The investigations were useful as they highlighted a clotting problem that treatment could help in future pregnancies. At the time Emily and Mike were interviewed they were thinking about trying for another baby but were extremely nervous.
 

Mike and Emily were anxious about how their baby might look, but she was like a very tiny baby.

Mike and Emily were anxious about how their baby might look, but she was like a very tiny baby.

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Mike: I remember the nurse saying that she looked great when she was born. And she was, she was - she was exactly what you'd expect a baby to look like, but just smaller, like everything was there in proportion, nothing –

Emily: Perfectly formed, yeah.

Mike: Like I mean, it wasn't like a - like a fetus, you know, they're slightly still developing. Like she, she was ready. All she was going to do from there was get bigger.

Emily: Mmm.

Mike: She was perfectly formed. So, to – 

Emily: I think we were even shocked at that. Because I – 

Mike: Yeah.

Emily: -that was one of the things I was really anxious about, it's like, what is she going to look like? Is it going to be disgusting?

Mike: Fingernails, and little things like that, as well. Just these tiny details that - to me, that's - that wasn't a miscarriage. In no way, shape or form. Medically it was. But I don't, I don't think it was. 

Emily: Because I - yeah, we were worried of what she'd look - I didn't know if she'd still look sort of like blobby, or - you know, be squid-, I don’t know. I just didn't know what to expect at all. So, I, we were both surprised, weren't we?

Mike: Yeah.

Emily: And when we've shown people photos, they're like "Oh, my goodness - she is a, like just a tiny little baby." So, yeah. I think that terminology - I don't know how you’d, on earth you'd go around changing it. But I do feel like it doesn't do justice to what we went through. 
 

Emily and Mike felt the word stillbirth much better described their experience than miscarriage.

Emily and Mike felt the word stillbirth much better described their experience than miscarriage.

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Mike: I, I don't like - Miscarriage is obviously in common usage, everyone uses it. If you're pregnant and you don't have a baby, it's a miscarriage as well. But I think from like a - There has to be some better way of like categorising different stages of what a miscarriage can consist of. 

Emily: I feel she's more under the stillbirth bracket. Because I gave birth, and she was still [laugh]. You know? So I sort of feel like that actually fits the description much better.

Mike: Yeah.

Emily: I quite often say I had a stillborn daughter. Because I did. I gave birth, and she wasn't alive.

Mike: Yeah. 

Emily: So actually, I think she falls under that bracket. I don't know why at twenty four weeks it is considered a stillbirth, I don't know. There's obviously a reason behind it, but I - I think if you have to go through a birth, and the baby doesn't survive, to me that is what –

Mike: Yeah. I mean, the different - yeah. 

Emily: Because I think sometimes when I'm trying to give someone a kind of quick version of it, saying I had a miscarriage just - again - brings back that sitting on the loo and bleeding. It doesn't tell people what we went through. Whereas if you say stillborn, people are like "Oh." And they get it. You know?
 

Emily and Mike were in and out of hospital with bleeding for 7 weeks. Although they felt something was wrong, they didn’t feel they were taken seriously.

Emily and Mike were in and out of hospital with bleeding for 7 weeks. Although they felt something was wrong, they didn’t feel they were taken seriously.

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Emily: And I think we were quite aware at that point that we sort of felt something was wrong, but it felt like we weren't being taken seriously, perhaps. Quite often when I would turn up at A&E, they'd sort of say - you know - I'd say "I'm bleeding." And they'd sort of be like "Yeah, yeah." And then send me off to do a urine sample, which would obviously just be bright red. And then I'd bring that back, and they'd be like "Oh, you are." You know? It was almost like – 

Mike: That was very frustrating, was every time, and we went to the hospital a good three or four times, and –

Emily: Three, I was admitted three times.

Mike: And every time we went there, we had to go through the same rigmarole of going to A&E, waiting for two, three hours –

Emily: I'd have to sit in the waiting room.

Mike: Going to get into a bed in A&E, wait around more.

Emily: I'd be hooked up to a drip, wouldn't I.

Mike: Yeah.

Emily: And I often had to stay in overnight, just for sort of observation. But it just felt like nobody really knew what was going on. And, you know, I do understand that until a certain age, or - you know - or stage of your pregnancy, they can't really do very much. But it did feel like we weren't really getting any answers, and we just keep being sort of sent home. 

Mike: And you just got the feeling sometimes that people think that maybe you're just being a bit of like a –

Emily: A bit dramatic.

Mike: Yeah. About it. Or, I’m not sure quite what the - hypochondriac, is it?

Emily: Yeah. Yeah.

Mike: Yeah. Just - It was just like you were making a big deal out of something - like 'you're pregnant, people bleed when they're pregnant', but. I, like - trying to - And like I kept trying to tell doctors, like "This isn't just a little bleed, this is a substantial bleed -"

Emily: I'd soak the bed, and things.

Mike: When, when - When we had to call the ambulance out as well, they asked me to - Well, to me, it was one of the worst things, like because we weren't sure if it was just a large clot, if Emily had miscarried. And they said that you have to get that out of the toilet. So that was pretty, pretty upsetting for myself. And then trying to tell that to another random doctor, I know that's how A&E work, so I've nothing against that, but having to explain that to them, that this isn't just like a little bleed, again. There's, there's not something right. 
 

Emily didn’t want to go through labour but appreciated the encouragement of her midwife to do it.

Emily didn’t want to go through labour but appreciated the encouragement of her midwife to do it.

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Emily: We had a lovely bereavement nurse that - before we left - that came to talk to us, and went through everything, which was incredible. She was so nice, wasn't she?

Mike: Yeah.

Emily: Because - Just to explain exactly what would happen. And I distinctly remember her saying about how every single woman that she has met says "You know, I don't want to go through the labour, it's horrid - I just want - can you just sort of get it out of me and get-?" You know? And she said like "There is not a single woman I've met that regrets doing that, and doesn't want to then hold their baby," and all that sort of stuff. So, but you just still don't believe it until actually, she is right [laugh]. Which you realise afterwards. But it just seems so insane, that - you know - I just wanted it to go away, and sort of be over, because I kind of knew it was.
 

Emily felt the birth was awfully hard work but was reassured by her midwife who explained it was exactly the same as giving birth later in pregnancy.

Emily felt the birth was awfully hard work but was reassured by her midwife who explained it was exactly the same as giving birth later in pregnancy.

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Emily: I still had to push and everything.

Mike: Yeah. 

Emily: Because I said to the bereavement midwife afterwards, I said something like "Gosh, that was awfully hard work - I can't imagine what it's like to really give birth." And she said, "But you did." She said, "You still had to get to -." I think I had to get to six centimetres dilated or something. And she was like, "That's the majority of the hard work, it's just the same, and you did really well. And you were - you know." And again, because she was small, you sort of think you don't, but I still had the awful contractions, I had to do the breathing, and still had to push, and all the - you know - I had to deliver the placenta afterwards. I still had to do exactly the same, it's just that she was small. 

But I don't think I was ready for that.
 

Before they got home, Mike’s parents had tidied away all the things they had bought for their baby.

Before they got home, Mike’s parents had tidied away all the things they had bought for their baby.

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Mike: We'd obviously - we had a room full of baby stuff that we'd obviously acquired from our friends and family. And things along those lines. So again, that was something afterwards that we just –

Emily: You family were - your parents were great, they just cleared that room out then. Because we had all the cot and everything ready, so.

Mike: Yeah.

Emily: They've got all of that in their garage [laugh]. And we've got lots of stuff in the loft, haven't we. But strangely, again I don't feel sort of sentimental. Those things are just things.

Mike: Yeah, they were never used. It was just, just - obviously hard to - yeah.
sut I - I don't - that sort of - It wasn't that kind of stuff that I'd kind of cling to. I don't know. 
 

Emily talked about how she felt physically and emotionally when she got home.

Emily talked about how she felt physically and emotionally when she got home.

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Emily: Then it's that awful thing of like you're going home –

Mike: Yeah. Yeah, it didn't feel right.

Emily: You know, you feel really guilty [struggling against tears]. But your Mum and Dad had come here, hadn't they. And they'd done like - done a shop for us, and cleaned the house, and were here for us when we got back, which was really nice. But it is just a very strange feeling, isn't it.

Mike: Yeah. 

Emily: You do feel just bereft. And panicky. I think the first few days I got through it [laugh] drinking whiskey, didn't I. I had to have like a whiskey to take the edge off in the morning. It just felt - And the day after, I - Obviously my body just felt like I'd been hit by a truck. And my boobs were filling up with milk, and all - you know - all those kind of things, which are pretty awful. 

Mike: They were all the sort of normal things you'd expect to be going through, but – 

Emily: - but without, yeah-

Mike: ultimately it was like a lost cause. 

Yeah.

Emily: Yeah, so that was really tough. And it's just, I don't know. Just the strangest feeling. And I just felt so panicky. And we didn't know what to do with ourselves, did we. We kept going for walks. And then as soon as I was out, I wanted to be home again. And then as soon as I was home, I wanted to be out again. I couldn't find peace anywhere, or settle. And I was really struggling to sleep, and it was just such a - I've never really felt grief like it. I've grieved before, but it was just another level, wasn't it. 
 

Emily and Mike talked about how helpful they found it when the midwife came around after the birth to check on Emily’s health.

Emily and Mike talked about how helpful they found it when the midwife came around after the birth to check on Emily’s health.

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Emily: And the midwife came round, she did a – [midwife’s name], the lovely one, popped in on us and did a check-up on me, and everything, which was great. 

In those couple of weeks?

Emily: Yeah.

Yeah.

Emily: Probably a couple of days afterwards, didn't she?

Mike: Yeah.

Emily: Just to check if I was still bleeding and all that. So, you know, like did the aftercare appointment, which I thought was great. Again, I'm not sure whether she had to do that, or whether she did it because she's [midwife’s name] [laugh]. I can't remember. 
 

Emily and Mike found their employers supportive in taking time off work and after six weeks Emily felt ready to get back into a routine.

Emily and Mike found their employers supportive in taking time off work and after six weeks Emily felt ready to get back into a routine.

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Emily: Yeah, six weeks I had in full. Tough. But I popped in, in between, just to say hi to everyone. Because I didn't want my first day to be the first time they'd seen me since she was born. So I just popped in, to sort of say hi, and saw all the girls. So that was quite nice. And again, terribly supportive, and kept in touch. But.

Mike: Well, I went back to work, and it was just - It was pretty hard. And then my boss just said "Look, just - you don't need to be here, we've kind of got it covered." So then I stayed for the extra two weeks that you were off as well. 

Emily: Yeah.

Mike: And he was, that - he was like, "Yeah, that's fine." So again, it was six weeks for both of us.

Emily: But again, I just wanted to get back. By that stage, I was ready to get back into a routine, and kind of get on with things, really. Because it just - We weren't achieving anything by the end of it, were we? If the funeral had been earlier, I think we probably would have gone back to work earlier, actually. But, because that sort of dragged out.
 

Mike found it extremely difficult seeing his wife in pain and feeling completely helpless.

Mike found it extremely difficult seeing his wife in pain and feeling completely helpless.

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Mike: I'd been through some pretty tough stuff in my life, but nothing sort of touched on how hard that was. And as a man as well, you kind of feel like you should do something. Well there's nothing you can do. 

Emily: Mmm.

Mike: And you see your wife in pain, and you're worried, and you've seen her being rushed off in an ambulance, and you're trying to follow behind her, and. Yeah. It's just, - it was pretty –

Emily: You're a doer, aren't you? So it was tough for you to not be able to fix it. 

Mike: Yeah.

So all of those weeks were tough for you? Again, it's not just the one day, it was the whole –

Mike: Yeah. I was - Yeah. And then going to work, and then something happening. And driving back from [town of work], going to the - meeting Emily at the hospital, and - The whole time as well, was like me not being able to stay there as well, so having to do all that and then come home each night. And then you just kind of –

Emily: I didn't make it easy. I'd cry my eyes out when you left, as well [laughing]. "Don't go." 

Mike: - sat here by yourself. So, yeah. It was really tough, but.

Emily: Yeah.
 

Mike and Emily went to counselling together. Mike was reluctant to go but found talking to a complete stranger really helped.”

Mike and Emily went to counselling together. Mike was reluctant to go but found talking to a complete stranger really helped.”

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Emily: We made it into a date night, didn't we [laugh]. So, we'd go, we'd have an hour session, and then we'd go out for supper or something afterwards, just to make it a bit lighter. Because it could be quite emotional. But yeah, that was –

Mike: I, really - I didn't want to go. I was like 'I don't need to talk to a stranger about this, I'm fine - I'm fine, let me deal with it in my own way'. But then when we did go there, I went obviously to support Emily, but when I got there it was actually really good, to talk to a complete stranger. 

Emily: Mmm.

Mike: Yeah.

Emily: It made me laugh, because he was like "I'll go just to support you," and then I couldn't shut him up [laughing]. So, so we're kind of here now, I think, and - We talk about her a lot, don't we, and - But probably not in depth. We'll mention her in passing. But I think this is first time I've forced myself to go through it again, so. It's good to do, I think, because I do think I'm starting to maybe try and block it out, because - I feel like it feels more traumatic now than it did even maybe sort of six months ago or something, I don't know why. Maybe because we're potentially on the verge of thinking of trying again. I don't know if I'm starting to feel nervous again, I don't know.
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