Missed miscarriage and grieving during a global pandemic

Rachel, 42, has experienced 2 miscarriages. The second, during lockdown, left her feeling very isolated and unsupported. Rachel and partner Mark, 46, live near Birmingham. This is Rachel’s story.

Mark and I have been together almost 4 years now and he has 2 daughters from a previous relationship who I get on with very well.

We had the conversation about children pretty soon after getting together and actually started trying about 18 months ago.

We fell pregnant quickly which was a shock but very exciting and I was looking after myself, planning for the arrival.

Then, in December 2019, I had my first miscarriage at around 9 to 10 weeks

My first scan was booked in when, around 9 weeks, I started to have a bit of a bleed. My doctor reassured me it can happen in pregnancy but said a scan would let us know what was going on.

It was a very surreal experience, we were expecting to see a heartbeat but there was nothing and we just felt so numb.

The sonographer probably knew but wanted to be sure so booked us into hospital but with the bleeding, not being able to find a heartbeat, I knew it wasn’t a good situation. 

The following Monday we were at hospital and the nurse told us that we’d had a ‘silent’ miscarriage and I burst into tears. It wasn’t a term I’d heard before. I think there’s so little awareness of miscarriage, you think that it’s a bit of a bleed. You don’t think of the next step and yet there they were talking me through my options, go home and wait or go down the surgery route. I felt so overwhelmed.

There’s the psychological side, coming to terms with your loss, but there’s also that wanting the experience to be over.

I went home and the bleeding became quite heavy, I thought I’d miscarried but when I went back for another scan I hadn’t so, in the end after 2 weeks, I had surgery just before Christmas. 

It went fairly smoothly and I felt very looked after. I have fibroids so they asked about that a lot. When we got home I was exhausted, yet I couldn’t sleep. My brain was whirring and I had a panic attack. I’ve had anxiety in the past, I talked myself down.

I’d told my parents before the operation but we didn’t really end up telling anyone else, we just dealt with it. Mark was incredibly supportive.

It was autumn 2020 when we started to have the conversation again

We knew time wasn’t on our side and, although we needed time to recover from our loss mentally and physically, we decided to try again.

I fell pregnant in November and, again, miscarried at around 10 weeks. Covid made the whole experience very different. I’d had initial meetings with my GP over the phone and only saw them once when I thought I was having a miscarriage.

I completely understand them not wanting to get people in unless it’s an emergency but it was hard, emotionally, to go through it alone.

Again I started bleeding around the same time and I kind of knew. I came into the room to tell Mark and just burst into tears. The doctor referred us to the EPU at Birmingham for a scan but the hospital were not getting people in at that time because of Covid.

I was told that if I was in so much pain that painkillers were not helping, or if the bleeding became a haemorrhage, I should call back. It was very strange and isolating. The bleeding slowed so the hospital said to wait a week then do a pregnancy test, which was inconclusive. I then waited another week to do a test which came back negative.

Both situations were difficult but the second was so hard because I didn’t have the reassurance of knowing I could go and see a doctor or midwife

I went through the whole experience without having a single pregnancy check up or scan.

That’s the thing with miscarriage and the way it’s perceived. It’s not over in a day and you deal with it, it can go on for weeks, so much uncertainty, has it happened? It’s exhausting but you can’t sleep, I'd never thought of that before it happened to me but it was prolonged and tortuous.

After the second one I did talk about it to family and close friends, I felt like I needed to talk. I also looked at forums from people like Tommy’s and those resources were really helpful to me.

What I found really surprising is that, when I shared my experience, so many people had their own stories of loss. A really close friend shared, for the first time, that she’d suffered 3 miscarriages.

This last 18 months have been crazy and, although we still want to get pregnant, there’s conflicting advice on how long to leave it after a miscarriage. I spoke to my doctor and, although you normally have to wait to have 3 miscarriages before they will look into it, she did some blood tests and I’m booked for a scan to check my fibroids so I feel quite supported.

I also know about the Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research in Birmingham and have emailed them so we’re exploring that option as well. I’m hoping that, because I got pregnant so quickly the first 2 times, we will again. I’m hoping.