Missed miscarriage and loss within Jamaican culture

Georgina Lewis-Vasco, 35, a project manager, suffered a missed miscarriage at 11 weeks. She lives in Manchester with husband Pedro, 33, son Nathaniel and baby Ava.

Almost as soon as we met in 2014 we talked about children. We’re both from big families and were in no doubt we wanted our own. We started trying after we got engaged in the summer of 2017 but work stress put our plans on hold. Then, 2 months later, it just happened. It felt like it was meant to be and we felt this unadulterated happiness from the start.

Even though I was aware of the 12 week rule, I told my immediate family straight away which was probably a bit naïve. We even went out and bought some clothes. We were imagining what our family would be like from the beginning which made it so much harder when we lost our baby.

The first trimester was easy, no illness or nausea, we were just counting down until that 12 week scan. I’d had a bit of spotting the week before but they did an internal, said everything looked fine and brought our scan forward for the following day. Our anxiety was alleviated, I felt absolutely fine and we were just excited to see our baby. I think that’s why it was so shocking.

I’d never heard of a missed miscarriage

It was the 22 December and, as we looked at the monitor and saw the shape of a baby, Pedro grabbed my hand and we smiled in this moment of joy.

Then the sonographer said that she couldn’t see clearly, asked how many weeks I was and, eventually, did an internal scan. That’s when she told us that there was no heartbeat and I was devastated.

She started using clinical terms then which felt so dismissive. That was our baby, not a foetus.

It felt quick and perfunctory, like she wanted us out of the room. I didn’t really understand what she was saying, I thought maybe she had got it wrong. We were taken upstairs, past all the happy, pregnant ladies waiting for scans, and then given the same news. I asked for another scan so they said to come back a week later. I went home absolutely hysterical because, as much as I was hoping, in my heart I knew.

A week later another sonographer was much kinder when she confirmed our loss. I wanted a D&C because I’d spent a week terrified to go to the bathroom alone in case my baby fell out in the toilet. My heart was absolutely broken and I knew I couldn’t go through that. But even the D&C choice felt awful, having my baby taken from me.

Afterwards I moved into a period of depression, five months in a really bad place. I think that the hardest thing was nobody had known I was pregnant so I couldn’t discuss it which made my loss feel so isolating. I’d put on a brave face at work and then cry all the way home.

I became aware of Tommy’s as I trawled the internet searching for answers. I had asked questions of the doctors and nurses at the time but they gave me no comfort. They were very dismissive, I suppose because they deal with miscarriage all the time, but I didn’t.

We decided to try again

Just making the decision was hard because I couldn’t face the idea of losing another baby. It happened straight away and I had 2 days of joy followed by unbelievable anxiety. I decided on an early reassurance scan because I wasn’t sleeping and felt really low.

We made it to 12 weeks but waiting until 20 before we told people, I just couldn’t get my hopes up. Everything went fine and our rainbow baby, Nathaniel, arrived on New Year’s Day 2019. We were so happy but it did surprise me that I didn’t stop grieving that first child, I never really have.

Ava arrived on January 14 2021 but I still feel like a mum of 3.

I will never forget that first experience of being a mother, the excitement, the dreams.

It hasn’t been easy to move forward and that’s where support forums and Tommy’s were instrumental, along with counselling. What I did find though, in all the trawling, is that stories of loss very rarely come from Black women.

I didn’t even feel like I could speak to my wider family

My mum had 5 children, my grandma 8, which is common to Black families. Maybe that’s why I never expected to miscarry.

In my family of Jamaican heritage we typically tell it like it is, our family is very open so it shocked me that I felt so unable to speak about my loss.

I think that I just felt, very acutely, that I’d failed and I kept that feeling, that shame, hidden for almost a year.

People just don’t understand this loss. Although my husband listened to me, he rarely brought up the subject himself. I guess, like most guys, he wanted to make everything okay but couldn’t. He wanted to keep moving forward but I was so consumed by our loss, it was on my mind all of the time.

I got to the point where I felt I couldn’t speak about it, like people were ready for me to be better in a way that you wouldn’t be expected to be better if someone older, someone who had lived, had died. There’s such a contrast, nobody said to me when my granddad died, ‘It’s okay, you’ve got another granddad’.

Tommy’s resources were so helpful that, in May 2018, I ran the Great Manchester 10k and raised £2000 for them. There’s such a lack of awareness and understanding. These stories are so important.  

Loss is overwhelming and we must have these conversations so that we all feel supported through our grief.