My husband Brian and I have big families (his Irish, mine Pakistani). We have hundreds of cousins between us and there are always new babies arriving somewhere along the family tree. When we met, one of the things we bonded over was how much we both wanted a houseful of children –noisy, chaotic and joyful.
I remember calling him the first time I found out I was pregnant, we were so happy. I stockpiled pregnancy-friendly food and all the vitamins I’d need to keep the 2 of us healthy, whilst daydreaming about walking our September baby around an autumnal park. There wasn’t a single part of me that had entertained any other outcome.
I started bleeding at 7 weeks
A scan at the EPU showed I was still pregnant but we were told there was little else to do. We were sent home with a leaflet and our appointment was over so quickly we hadn’t caught our breath, let alone asked any questions. When I got home I opened the fridge, looked at the pregnancy food and burst into tears.
I wish the leaflet had explained that people react to miscarriage in different ways and any response is valid. I wish it had addressed our worries.
Why did it happen? Will it happen again? Without anyone talking us through it, pregnancy flipped from exciting to scary.
We silently brushed our miscarriage and sadness under the carpet and tried not to give either much thought. I wish I had known how much this first experience of pregnancy would colour everything else.
We were told to wait after our miscarriage, but we didn’t
I thought our next pregnancy was plain-sailing since it ended with our amazing boy safely in our arms. In many ways it was, but we were in and out of the same EPU with unexplained bleeding and told not to worry each time. It was impossible when our only other experience of scans and blood had ended in loss. When our son arrived, life got busy. I had no time to stop and no idea of the toll that year had taken.
A few years later we moved to a house by the sea with more bedrooms than the 3 of us needed. That was almost 4 years ago. It was easy getting pregnant first time round, we were lucky. It has been harder this time and we’ve also had 2 more losses.
Our second miscarriage was the earliest and the hardest
Brian was away for a few days and I was on my own looking after our little boy when the bleeding started. I somehow managed to get him ready and into school, where I saw a friend who told me she was pregnant. I couldn’t believe the timing, nor could I find the words to cut our conversation short.
After our first experience, we didn’t see any point in speaking to a doctor so we muddled through it ourselves. We let a few people in, but we’re so conditioned to think of early miscarriage as ‘one of those things’ that I found it impossible to unpick my own emotions, let alone be honest with anyone else.
I said I was fine, though I wasn’t. I broke down a month later and that’s when we were forced to tell people and forced to accept that miscarriage can be really hard.
By the time we miscarried again, we were in a better place
It had taken almost a year to get that positive pregnancy test, but we were ok. I had finally understood that we were grieving and that we had to give ourselves space to recover. And it was only after going through it 3 times that I felt I could ask for help. Our GP was brilliant and although we hadn’t lost the required 3-in-a-row she still referred us to a recurrent miscarriage clinic. We felt supported and heard instead of left floundering, waiting for the next loss.
There’s a lot I wish people knew about miscarriage. We all know the statistic that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss, but common doesn’t necessarily mean easy.
The physical and emotional pain is so often minimised that it’s hard to talk about it honestly without feeling like a fraud. I find myself repeating all the things I’ve been told. “At least it was early”. “At least we know we can get pregnant”. “At least we have one already”. It’s a hard cycle to break and to give yourself permission to feel your own feelings.
Miscarriage, to me, is grieving the baby you thought you were having and already loved behind closed doors, without anyone else even knowing. Often there’s no scan photo or bump and all that’s left are two lines that no one else has seen. There are no flowers, dinners on your doorstep or people checking in, just silence.
Our solution has been to let people in. “I’m sorry for your loss” or “it must be hard” are words we wouldn’t have otherwise heard, but are so important for anyone grieving, us included.
Some of the people we’ve told have surprised us by being brilliant
My parents are first generation British Pakistanis- stoicism is in their DNA and we don’t ‘do emotions’! They may not always get it right but I love them for talking, especially as miscarriage is still a taboo in many Asian families.
Others, less so, like person who responded to one of our losses by asking if they could borrow our carefully packed away baby items. They weren’t to know that those precious things represent all our hopes for another baby, but it sometimes feels like the sensitivity reserved for other losses isn’t there with miscarriage.
We’ve learned to build a supportive bubble around us and hopefully everyone outside of that bubble understands that we’ll be back when we’re ready. It can be especially difficult hearing about other pregnancies in the midst of loss and it’s normal to feel conflicted. Unexpected scan and bump photos are hard, but they’re made so much easier when they’re accompanied by a “thinking of you”. Feeling and being remembered are so important.
Pregnancy loss is different when you already have a child to look after, but it is still loss
We’re incredibly lucky to have our boy. After 4 pregnancies and 3 losses, he feels even more miraculous now. He has helped puncture the silence of grief but I still miss the babies that weren’t to be and feel guilty that we haven’t had the brother or sister he has so often asked for.
We’re not ready to let go of the dream just yet, whilst also appreciating everything we already have.
Not everyone walks into a recurrent miscarriage clinic and comes out with answers. I have a diagnosis and am on medication, which might help. There are no guarantees, but I feel as confident as I’m ever going to be embarking on this journey for a fifth time. I don’t think we’d be trying again if it wasn’t for that help, since the unknown was a scary place to be.