Miscarriage stigma as a British Indian family

Anjali and her husband spent years trying to conceive but sadly experienced recurrent miscarriage and unexplained infertility before finally having their rainbow babies via IVF. Having felt isolated by the baby loss taboo, Anjali is sharing her family’s story to let others know they’re not alone and don’t struggle in silence.

We had very similar ideas of how our life together would look when we first fell in love: after travelling the world, we’d buy a house and have a family. After 7 years of courtship and a year of marriage, eventually we felt ready to ‘settle down’. 

When it came to having children, we were somewhat naïve, thinking we’d stop using contraception and boom! 9 months later we’d have a baby – but we tried for over a year and had no luck. 

This wasn’t in the plan; we weren’t prepared for this. 

After 2 heart-breaking early miscarriages, each time doctors reassured us how common they were, saying that 1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage. If it was indeed so common, I kept wondering why no one was talking about it in society or my social circles.

We’re both British-born Indians

While we had very different upbringings, our families shared one common trait: a general inability to discuss real life. There has always been a taboo around the issues that truly matter. We don’t like to broadcast any of the bad or difficult things in life. Instead, we sweep them under the rug for fear of judgement from others.

‘We don’t want people to talk,’ they say, even when I really need to. ‘What will people think?’ they ask, without considering what I’m thinking and how it’s making me feel.

It’s often instilled in us - sometimes unconsciously - that the more productive we are, the more we’re worth. The homes we own, the cars we drive or the careers we’ve chosen… these are the metrics by which we are judged within South Asian communities. So, when I struggled to have a baby, I began to feel worthless, almost like I wasn’t fulfilling my duty in giving our families a child.

After a year of trying, we were finally referred to the fertility clinic at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. I was not in the best place to begin fertility treatment; between the lingering pain of 2 miscarriages, feeling increasingly isolated by the experience and still in slight disbelief that this was happening at all, I stepped into that clinic with a lot of anxiety. 

Our consultant couldn’t find anything ‘wrong’ with us

We were told we had ‘unexplained infertility.’ Due to previous miscarriages, they believed I was unable to keep a pregnancy without medical assistance during the first trimester, and advised us to proceed with in vitro fertilization (IVF). 

IVF was the most challenging experience I’ve ever been through; I dreaded each appointment. The fertility clinic was on the top floor at the furthest end of the hospital, and the long walk through the cold corridors felt never-ending. Over countless appointments, my body was poked and prodded so many times. 

IVF almost destroyed my visions of becoming a parent. The whole process was very cold and clinical when I wanted to feel joy, excitement and love – that’s how I had imagined having children would be.

My expectation of how I would have children did not match my reality. Just when I began to question my ability to endure this, physically, mentally, emotionally, we got the news: our first round of IVF was successful. We were finally having a baby! Our elation was unparalleled.

During the sonogram, my husband and I looked at each other and both burst into tears, but this time tears of joy. The due date happened to fall on my birthday, which felt like a special sign. We started to plan how we would tell our families. Since we both love Christmas, we decided to tell them on Christmas Day. We were finally giving our families the gift we all wanted.

At our next scan, there was no heartbeat

Sitting in that dark room with the sonographer and my husband, I burst into tears of disbelief. We’d made it further than ever before, done everything right and had the doctors on our side – it should have worked, this couldn’t be happening again. But our baby had died, and a few days later they removed its tiny body from mine.

This loss broke me; it felt like I would never become a mother. 

While I was recovering from miscarriage surgery, a relative told me they were pregnant, and it was an excruciating reminder of our loss. I wanted to be happy for them, but it was too soon, and I didn’t have the energy to pretend.

I’ve always considered myself to be a strong person, but a miscarriage is a death we experience in our bodies. It’s incredibly intimate and traumatic. 

We were transparent with our families throughout the entire process. They knew every time we lost a baby, and they knew that we were going through fertility treatment, but they didn’t know how to talk to us and so each new heartbreak was met with awkward silence. During our third miscarriage, we were living with my husband’s family while the sale of our home went through – so we should have felt embedded within a support structure, but instead felt completely isolated. 

We, along with the other difficult things in life, were swept under the rug by our families.

We supported each other but we were in it alone

2 years of heartache and 3 miscarriages meant we just couldn’t do it anymore, so we decided to take a break and spend some time celebrating the life we’d built together, settling into our new home and enjoying being us again. 

Almost 8 months later, we felt ready to try again. Our diets were healthier, and we’d read that acupuncture alongside IVF had positive results so booked some sessions to coincide with my treatment; having been through it before, we felt better prepared for this difficult process.

During this round of IVF, we exceeded all the statistics: the doctors retrieved 21 eggs, 15 were fertilised, 10 got to day 5 and we transferred 2 embryos. Those embryos became our beautiful boys, Krish and Bodhi.  

Our babies are now our happy place

The 4 years it took for us to have our rainbow babies were some of the most difficult and darkest moments of our life, but we’d do it all again for them. Krish and Bodhi are everything we hoped for and so much more. At only 3 years old, my boys already know they were made by science and love; they even call themselves “science experiments”!  

Being Indian is something I’m incredibly proud of, but I do understand my culture has its blind spots - certain topics that just aren’t up for discussion.

That’s why I am here to remind those who may be experiencing this now, or have experienced it and have felt silenced, or feel that no one held space for them: you are not alone.