Miscarriage from a partner's perspective and grieving as a couple

Matt Smith, 47, and his wife Yuen Kwan Li-Smith, 46, from London, have had 2 miscarriages. This is Matt’s story.
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I’ve always wanted children. Yuen and I had been together for a long time before we got married so, as soon as we did, we started trying but nothing happened. 

After 3 years, knowing time wasn’t exactly on our side, we went to get checked. I got the all clear and Yuen was waiting to have her tests when she miscarried. 

At the time we didn’t know what was happening, we thought it was a heavy period. I asked if she thought she might be pregnant, but neither of us really believed it because we’d had no luck conceiving.  

The next morning she was bleeding heavily and having severe cramps

Yuen still insisted it was a bad period and told me to go the football with friends. I went to the match but called her often to see how she was. I came straight home after, but later that night she passed the tissue and we both started to think she’d miscarried

We rang 111 and they agreed that’s what it sounded like and at the hospital the next day, the miscarriage was confirmed and they arranged a scan for the following week to check everything was clear. 

We were both in shock at that point, we had no idea that Yuen had even been pregnant.

We felt guilty, we’d celebrated our anniversary the week before with a few drinks and seafood because we didn’t know. Was that what caused it? 

I’m someone who wants to see the positive so I focused on the fact that we now knew we could get pregnant. I don’t think I realised the knock-on effect. 

At the scan the nurse had no record Yuen had been pregnant so insisted on doing a pregnancy test even though we explained what had happened. They were quite dismissive and cold and offered no support, no information. Nobody said, by the way you might feel rubbish for the next few months, just confirmed she had been pregnant. That’s not what we needed. 

Yuen went back to work too soon and had a bit of a meltdown. Despite trying, her manager didn’t seem to know how to deal with the situation. I was really lucky, my manager took me aside and explained he’d been through it with his wife and told me to take whatever time I needed. 

I learned really quickly what not to say when it comes to miscarriage. I like to fix things, but some things can’t be fixed. Sometimes it’s best to say nothing at all, to just be there and listen. 

I know I’ve been pretty switched off emotionally. I lost my Dad in 2016 after he’d been ill for a number of years. Looking back I realise that I shut down when he first got ill, in order to be strong for my mum.

Obviously I was really gutted about the miscarriage but I couldn’t cry. I still felt everything would be okay, I look back now and cringe. 

We started trying and Yuen fell pregnant again

Even though we were both quite anxious I just didn’t believe it would happen again. We both started getting quite excited, talking about names and turning the spare room into a nursery. 

She had a bit of spotting at 9.5 weeks but the EPU said it was normal. The next day she texted from the train to say she was bleeding quite heavily so going to hospital. I remember driving there and just thinking, ‘Please, not again,’ but, it wasn’t long after I got there that she miscarried. This was the one that really broke her. 

Again we had a scan booked for the following week and when we went it was the same nurses as the first time. As before, they insisted on another pregnancy test, as they had no evidence of miscarriage. Again we were completely dismissed and shut down when we tried to tell them what had happened.

It was almost as if they didn’t believe that Yuen had been pregnant

That’s when I let rip. I told them their attitude was unbelievable, that I knew they were following their procedures, but they were talking to a couple who had lost a baby. I was calm but absolutely furious and, from that point, they were very apologetic.

I understand medical professionals sometimes have to have a level of detachment but they must have compassion. There was a complete lack of care. 

One of my clearest memories is walking back to the car and holding the door open for a man, beaming whilst carrying his newborn to the car. We both said “congratulations” and Yuen just fell apart. It’s those moments that stay with you. 

I knew they didn’t investigate until you’d had 3 miscarriages. The pragmatic side of me understands that it’s probably about budgets but the other side of me really doesn’t. 

Again I couldn’t really respond emotionally

I think it bothered Yuen not to see me cry, I think we just process grief in very different ways. If I’m being honest, it was very lonely, 2 people trying to support each other but both feeling isolated. It was tough and I felt useless. It consumed us. 

I remember after the second loss, going to lunch with a colleague at work, who asked me, ‘How are you doing?’ It was the first time anyone had asked me that and I really appreciated it. 

Then Yuen found Tommy’s and a local support group where we went and told our story.

I was the only man there but I could see the difference it made to Yuen immediately. She was able to share her feelings in a safe space, to feel less alone. 

Counselling has really helped Yuen and, in the last year, she has taken ownership of her experience. I’m incredibly proud of the way that she is using what she went through to help others, sharing her story on Facebook during Baby Loss Awareness Week which led to many friends and relatives sharing that they’d been through it too. 

I think the fact that we don’t share our pregnancy news until 12 weeks makes you feel that, when you suffer a loss before that point, you are making a fuss out of nothing. Yet, from the moment you know you are expecting, you are parents.