The devastating moment pregnant Newshub journalist was told: 'I haven’t been able to find a heartbeat'

 "I expected the emotional, but I never thought the physical would be so brutal."
"I expected the emotional, but I never thought the physical would be so brutal."

Warning: This story discusses pregnancy loss.

Newshub journalist Dianna Vezich shares her harrowing experience following a miscarriage at 3 months.  

"I expected the emotional, but I never thought the physical would be so brutal." 

She is telling her story in hope that it will help other women who miscarry not feel so alone.

After meeting various gynaecologists during this experience, Dianna also wants to share their expertise in a range of areas concerning women’s health. 

As part of a women's health series, she will release four other articles on issues involving miscarriage, fertility, endometriosis and periods.

The scan 

It was April, 2020. We were still in stage four lockdown so I was masked up and alone.

With Covid-19 restrictions, I wasn’t allowed to bring anyone with me to my 12-week pregnancy scan. My husband waited at home watching our toddler and wished me luck as I walked to the car.

"Now, would you like the package deal where you get the two main scans plus any others that may crop up in your pregnancy?" asked the receptionist. "The package deal is the same price as what you would pay for the main scans but you just have to pay upfront."

"Well, I guess the package deal makes sense," I replied.

"Okay love, well what’s your due date?" she asked. 

"1st of the 11th, 2020," I answered.

"That sounds like a lovely day to have a baby," she replied.

Maybe she’s right, I thought. I initially wasn’t a huge fan of the 111 combination but I can be odd and superstitious with numbers.

"Do I pay for it all now?" 

"No," she said. "You can pay after your scan, love."

The 12-week scan is a funny feeling. It’s too early to feel your baby move so you just hope everything is all okay in there as you really have no idea what’s going on.

The baby’s heartbeat was detected at around ten weeks and the chance of a miscarriage after that drops significantly - to something like a 5 percent chance or even less I’d been told.

When I got into the room, I lay on the bed and waited for the radiographer to begin. I was her first patient of the day and she was having trouble logging into her computer. After trying for about 10 minutes and having no luck, I was about to offer to come back another time even though I didn’t want to do that. 

Like many pregnant women will tell you - you really look forward to the scans, eagerly counting down to seeing your precious bubba safe and sound in your womb.

"Look, I can do this manually, but you won’t get any images to take home today. But you can phone up and we can try to get the photos to you later on," said the radiographer.

"Okay well as long as you’re able to do your checks and get your measurements, I guess that’s all that matters," I replied.

So off she went, punching in my details into her system, before my darling baby popped up on the screen.

'Hmmm,' I thought. Something didn’t look right.

Dianna is speaking out to open up the conversation, close down the shame and stop the stigma.
Dianna is speaking out to open up the conversation, close down the shame and stop the stigma. Photo credit: Getty Images.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but the image of my baby was static which seemed odd. It must be the manual system I thought. 

I hadn’t clicked yet. I was oblivious.

The radiographer pressed with her wand on my belly in silence. I’m usually one to ask questions - the obvious, "Is everything okay?" But this time I didn't.  

She had seemed a bit stressed with the IT issues and I didn’t want to annoy her. She had to get the baby's measurements.  

Still, I was oblivious.

After about five minutes of more measurements and more silence, the radiographer stopped pushing with her wand and said I could wipe off the gel off my tummy.  

'That seemed very quick,' I thought. 'Thank God, everything must be okay. Oblivious to the very end.

"I’m all done," she told me: "But I’m so sorry to say, I haven’t been able to find a heartbeat."

It was like a loud bang shaking me to the inner core.

There was nothing I could say. 

I screamed and wailed.

I felt like someone had punched the living daylights out of me. Those words seemed to come out of nowhere. That was the last thing I expected to hear. It was absolutely hideous.

The radiographer did her best to comfort me, but what can you do?  

She said the reason she had to keep taking measurements for those five or so minutes was that it’s important to know the baby’s size, when he or she may have passed etc.  

It looked like my baby had passed the week before. It was what they call a "missed miscarriage."

I had been walking around for about 10 or so days with a dead baby inside me. I was absolutely oblivious.

I have no criticism of the radiographer’s actions. She had a very hard job to do. I understand that.  

But I didn’t understand why my baby had died.  

I had so lovingly carried this little one for three months. It was a full first trimester filled with nausea and extreme fatigue. I definitely felt very pregnant.  

Somewhat ironically, I'd taken time off work as the pandemic had taken hold. I didn’t want to put my baby or myself at risk. In the end, COVID-19 had nothing to do with my loss.

I could not stop crying but still walked out thanking the radiographer as I normally would. 

I then awkwardly walked past the receptionist with tears racing down my face.  

"Umm, do I need to pay anything?" I asked her. 

"No love, you don’t have to pay anything," she replied with a look of horror on her face, a look I’ll never forget. "Please take care of yourself."

Little did I know this was only the start. I had no idea of what was coming, no idea this miscarriage could have cost me my life.

Auckland was in alert level 3 when Dianna found out she had lost her baby.
Auckland was in alert level 3 when Dianna found out she had lost her baby. Photo credit: Getty Images.

My decision 

I was able to see my obstetrician immediately. I needed to know more.

I arrived and stood lurking by the door, too afraid to walk in with my red, crying face.

There were several visibly pregnant women in the room waiting for their appointments.  The contrast couldn’t have been more stark. The receptionist spotted me waiting by the door and ushered me down to a spare room before making me a cup of tea.

It was there I phoned my husband and told him our baby’s heart was no longer beating.

His reaction was the same as mine - instant, loud sobbing.

Although I knew the scan was right, I wanted a miracle.

Remember the technical difficulties the radiographer was having? Maybe the obstetrician would scan me again and we’d realise it was all a big mistake.

What a story that would be to tell my baby when he or she was all grown up.

The obstetrician didn’t need to do a second scan.  We both knew the truth.

In my case, I was given three choices of how to pass my baby - waiting for the miscarriage to happen naturally, taking medication to bring it on or doing a surgical procedure called a Dilation & Curettage (D&C). 

I was given about a week to make my decision before we would need to act. 

When you miscarry you're then handed over from your midwife or obstetrician to the hospital.

After consulting with the nurses and doctor, I chose to take the medication and because of where I was at in the pregnancy, I was able to do this at the hospital. I was told in the majority of cases women who miscarry at an earlier stage and opt for the medication have to take it at home.

We were a few days into alert level 3 during the first lockdown when I was due at the hospital.

We dropped our son at his grandparents before making the depressing trip to the hospital to say goodbye to his little sister or brother.

There was more early morning traffic on the road. After a month at Level 4 you certainly noticed the change. There was more life out there. Things felt slightly more 'normal'.

Yet here we were about to go do something that seemed far from normal.

When we arrived on the floor I was meant to be on the first thing I noticed was the nearby maternity ward. It was where nurses pushed around newborn baby beds and new dads carried around empty capsules that would soon be filled with their little bundle of joy.

Although it was on the same floor, the ward I was headed to was separate.  I learned that back in the day everyone was put together. Women who miscarried were in a bed next to a woman who had just given birth.  Thankfully times have changed.

My blood was taken and a few checks were done before I was given the medication that would enable me to pass our little bubba.

I was told it can sometimes take a few rounds. I prayed to God this didn’t drag on. I put on some music to try and relax and started walking round the room hoping that it would soon kick in.  

About 1.5 hours after taking the medication I passed our teeny, tiny darling angel. The baby was still in its sac. I had been warned it would be incredibly small and while fully formed "not a baby as we know it that you could hold in your arms" because of its size.

My husband and I hugged each other and cried. I prayed and I thanked God for not dragging it out. 

The nurse said I still needed to pass the placenta.

After feeling a huge gush of blood I ran into the bathroom to see that my hospital-grade pad had filled in seconds. I ripped it off and my husband helped me put on another one but the same thing happened again, maybe several times. I had never seen so much blood. "I think this is too much, please get the nurse," I yelled.

When they both rushed back in the nurse looked at all the blood in the bathroom and ordered me onto the bed before the emergency button was pushed. I then clicked what was happening - I was haemorrhaging. The doctor and charge nurse rushed in. 

She kindly and calmly held my hand as the doctor tried everything she could to pull the rest of the placenta out manually. It was the most uncomfortable feeling - to put it mildly. But I tried not to panic knowing I had to let the doctor get this out.

I started to recite my phone number in my head to make sure I was still with it. Yep, I’m okay I thought, I’m still aware of everything that’s happening. I could hear my music and the TV playing along in the background.

It didn’t take long before I started feeling dizzy and light-headed.

At the same time the doctor said "there’s too much blood, we need to go into theatre".

 Wow, this is all on I thought. How has this happened?

"Please don’t let me die," I said. "I don’t want to leave my son."

As part of a women's health series, she will release four other articles on issues involving miscarriage, fertility, endometriosis and periods.
As part of a women's health series, she will release four other articles on issues involving miscarriage, fertility, endometriosis and periods. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Looking back perhaps I sounded dramatic as deep down I knew I wasn’t going to die in a hospital but it was the most frightening moment of my life. Had I been on a remote island - well I hate to think. Excessive bleeding is what killed so many women in childbirth in the olden days. Although modern medicine has changed this, postpartum haemorrhage still kills women to this very day.

I was wheeled down the corridor clutching my rosary beads I brought into hospital with me.  I think the charge nurse may have still been by my side as I was taken down - bless her.  

I was still feeling dizzy but must have been okay to sign a consent form. From memory it’s a form about the risks of surgery - maybe the fact that a hysterectomy may need to be performed if needed to save my life. It was all a bit of a blur.

I’m conscious of sounding dramatic but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t. It was an emergency but thank God for our health system.

There were so many people in the operating room and I was looking around frantically trying to figure out who the surgeon was but before I knew it a mask was on my face. I was being put under - the mask was my last memory.

When I woke up in recovery the clock on the wall said 1.30pm. I remember going into the theatre at 11.30am and immediately recalled everything that had happened leading up to it.

"Did you have to do a hysterectomy?" I asked the nurse who was helping me wake up from the anaesthetic.  

"No, but I think it took a while in there as you kept bleeding," she replied.

It turned out my large fibroid "could have potentially" caused my hemorrhage. No one wanted to give a definitive yes or no but it may have played a part.

"Does my husband know I’m okay?"

"We’ll go get him now." Gosh, the poor guy had been sitting in the room waiting for me for all this time.  He must have been worried sick.

Later that afternoon we had a priest come to the hospital and bless our baby. My husband and I held each other by the hospital bed as we said goodbye to our angel.

As sad as I was I immediately had a new appreciation for life. I wanted to get out of the hospital and celebrate it but most of all I just wanted to hug my son.

I also wanted to hug the nurses and doctors.

I owe my life to them. How do you repay those who have saved your life? All I can say is thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

My seven week miscarriage

In the weeks that followed I was back in hospital several times with continued heavy bleeding. What I was experiencing bleeding-wise wasn’t normal.  

I was reassured I wouldn’t hemorrhage again and that it was probably my fibroid that was causing the issues.  

There was talk of "retained products of conception" (an awful, clinical term) still inside, giving me the medication again to try and pass it, or perhaps putting me into theatre again.  

I felt so ripped off.  I couldn’t even grieve for my baby as I was so busy trying to deal with the physical complications.  

I had no idea a miscarriage could drag on for so long. I expected the emotional but I never thought the physical would be so brutal.

The turning point came when a kind, senior gynaecologist started overseeing my case.

After analysing my post-miscarriage ultrasounds with an entire team, he thought there was a tiny bit of tissue left behind but was willing to let me see if it would pass naturally before contemplating a second trip to theatre.  

I was told my fibroid was the reason it was taking longer to pass. The fact I had an iron infusion after the miscarriage would help increase my haemoglobin levels but I was definitely given a deadline for how long I could bleed like this before having to go in for another surgical procedure. With a plan in place, I no longer felt so alone.

Life went on, I bled, I worked a bit, I bled, I celebrated my son’s second birthday, I bled.  The hospital sent me a sympathy card to say sorry for my loss which I received while still bleeding (the sweetest gesture).  

While I tried my best to get on with life, the bleeding was a constant reminder of my miscarriage and mentally I coudn’t move on until it stopped.

I was approaching my deadline of heading into theatre again.

Then seven weeks after it all started so suddenly and so unexpectedly, it stopped so suddenly and so unexpectedly.

I didn't believe it at first and kept waiting for the bleeding to return any minute. But time ticked on and suddenly I hadn’t bled for about 14 hours.

Then there was nothing overnight and the next day and the next day. My miscarriage that started in April had finally ended in June.  

As I write this in October and approach my baby’s November due date I know there will be more triggers. But I’m at peace with my loss and at peace with all that happened.

I’ve chosen to share a lot of this in detail as I don’t feel any reason to hide it. For far too long the issue as well as the physical process of miscarriage has been taboo. I assumed it was an “instant” event for lack of a better word and had no idea about all that was involved.

Regardless of what I went through - at the core of it, we physically lost our little baby.  But we gained another family member as this baby will always be part of our life and is so special to us.  A friend said that perhaps my late mother wanted a grandchild to care for in heaven.  It’s an image that makes me smile and cry at the same time.

My miscarriage was extreme and my intention is not to scare people that this will happen to them. This didn’t happen to many people who I know that miscarried. But through my chats with doctors, nurses and other women I learnt that there are most definitely cases like my own of miscarriages that certainly don’t go to plan. 

This is my personal story only and not intended to be used as any medical advice.  If you need medical advice please seek medical attention.  

During this tough experience, I met so many incredible gynaecologists who really have seen it all.  Through what I saw and what I learnt, I feel there is a need for good-quality reporting on women’s health issues.  Ladies - Google Doctor is not our friend.  This is why I’ve picked the brains of some of New Zealand’s top gynaecology specialists in order to write articles on issues that affect so many females - from miscarriage to fertility and endometriosis.

Let’s open up the conversation and close down the shame and stigma.