Miscarriage: Nothing could have prepared me for that hauntingly empty black and white ultrasound screen

‘When will I stop rubbing my empty belly or feel a sting when I hear babies on my strolls?’

Photograph: Bríd O'Donovan

Nothing could have prepared me for that hauntingly empty black and white ultrasound screen. The midwife keeps rubbing my belly back and forth with the scanner device and I look between her, my husband and the screen. I give her a minute before asking whether it is normal not to see anything yet and she says, “No, it’s not.”

She stops looking and takes off her blue gloves. She starts talking about silent miscarriages and pregnant bodies not recognising that pregnancies are over. Is it? I listen to her while tears fill my ears as I lay down on the hospital bed. Is this really happening?

I get another scan with a more advanced machine and then an internal scan that shows something too small for an 11-week old embryo.

No heartbeat, no growth.


That wasn’t all, though. There are two embryos.

I lost two babies at once.

The secrecy of . . . miscarriageOpens in new window ]

The midwife explains the hospital guidelines are to wait another week before calling it a miscarriage.

“But would there be any hope next week?”

“No, it’s 99.9 per cent over. But we have to wait. I’m sorry.”

I carry my dead embryos inside me back home. All I can think of is my son’s face when I have to tell him it’s over. He used to check the a baby growth mobile app with me every day, rushed every Thursday to tell me it’s now the size of a blueberry or a grape or a fig and that he can’t wait for it to be a watermelon.

When I tell him later that the baby has “disappeared”, he thinks I’m joking and laughs nervously. Then, we lock eyes. He sees my serious, sorry face and I see the shock spreading in his eyes then the upset lips before he buries his innocent face in the leather couch. He cries for a few seconds then asks to watch Bluey.

The week goes by slowly. I weep the first two days while reading about silent miscarriages. I had never heard of them before. I close my eyes at night and see two small corpses inside me.

On the sixth night, before my follow up appointment, I see blood. Tiny spots. My body is finally catching up and I feel the beginning of a funeral inside of me.

The next day, in a small room at the hospital with other couples, a bulletin board displays phrases like “support groups”, “baby loss” and “grief”.

The first couple is called in and the room is so tiny we can hear the midwife speaking behind the door. I wonder if the others will hear my story when I’m inside but I don’t seem to care about anything any more. I hear my name shortly afterwards. The midwife is choosing her words very carefully and using “Thank you” and “Sorry” a number of times while she does an internal scan. She confirms the miscarriage and I don’t have a reaction left in me.

“Do you want to see the screen?” she asks and I turn my head away with a “No”.

Pregnancy after miscarriage: Society and medicine’s views appear to be changingOpens in new window ]

She moves us to another room and tell us to wait for a doctor who will explain our options. I notice she is carrying pictures of scans and I ask her if that’s mine. “Can I see?” I don’t know why I change my mind but I look at the two tiny dots where she points, the two embryos. I let go quietly of two tears and she asks if I want a copy. I say, “No,” again and she leaves with the last memory of my twins. The doctor comes later. He is young – too young, I think. He explains all the things I have read about already. I chose the pills and we leave.

The next day I bleed my twins out of me. I had been expecting a heavy period from two to four hours but it’s nothing remotely close to that. I bleed from 9am to 9pm and soak through all my four pairs of pyjamas. My husband goes out to buy me extra things to wear and post-partum pads. After 9pm, the bleeding is heavy-period normal and I let myself surrender to sleep.

My body is sore for the next two days. I take a trip down all sizes of sanitary pads before I feel ready to go out for walks but my mind is nowhere close to normal. I go to pick up a prescription from my local chemist. The pharmacist asks me to confirm my address but I can’t seem to remember it.

“Twelve?” I hesitate and she nods encouragingly the way you do with a child trying to spell their name. I manage to remember the rest slowly before she hands me the brown bag.

I blame myself for sharing my pregnancy news before the end of my first trimester but, then, I remember the support, casseroles, texts and offers of play dates for my boy. I would not have managed without those friends.

My husband is by my side all times except when he has to do school drop-offs and pickups. I burst into tears one day while we are in the car because I am afraid to let him go back to work. I am scared of turning off the TV. I’m terrified of being left alone with my thoughts and I feel guilty for him having to babysit me all the time. He reassures me that he’ll stay as long as it takes for me to find normality again. But I don’t know when will that be. When will I stop rubbing my empty belly or feel a sting when I hear babies on my strolls? When will I stop being angry that no one talks openly about miscarriages or prepares women enough for the pain of this loss?

“I really, really, really wanted the baby,” my boy mutters while playing with his blocks.

I sigh. “Me too, honey. Me too.”

“Maybe one day it will come back?”


Suad Aldarra is a Syrian storyteller and data scientist based in Dublin

Baby Loss Awareness Week 2023 runs from October 9th-15th

Help is available from associations such as The Miscarriage Association of Ireland and Féileacáin.