The support that kept me going through multiple miscarriages

Samantha and her husband Keith from Kent had 3 heart-breaking losses in 2 years, before coming to Tommy’s recurrent miscarriage clinic at St Mary’s Hospital for specialist care. The couple have since welcomed their rainbow babies Peter (now 3) and Matilda (11 months).

We were not long married when we started trying for a baby in 2014, and quickly fell pregnant. You don’t expect anything to go wrong, you just assume everything will be fine – but sadly an early scan found that our baby had stopped growing at around 6 weeks. I hadn’t had any pain or bleeding, no reason to believe my pregnancy wasn’t going well; it was such a shock.

Needing support after miscarriage

The doctor basically said: “it happens, you can try again” and sent us home, without offering support or signposting to places like Tommy’s that could help if we needed it. That cold response made the miscarriage harder to deal with, as I was totally unprepared for everything that came next. My family were all the way in Australia, and I didn’t have close friends in the UK who’d been through it.

It felt like we only really had each other, and neither of us knew what to do. 

After the surgery, I went back to work and just tried to carry on as normal, not realising that my pregnancy hormones would crash so my mental health would be all over the place. I’d been told “it’s so early it’ll be like a heavy period, you’ll be fine” but it was not and I was not! I’d known family members to lose babies, but it wasn’t something they’d really talked about, so I learned a lot of things I now want to share in case they can help others going through it.

In 2015 when I fell pregnant again, we were a little wary, and had an early scan to put our minds at ease. At 6 weeks, the baby seemed to be doing fine, so when we went back in for our 12-week scan it was devastating to be told we’d had another missed miscarriage. The response was less clinical this time – maybe as it was our second loss or because it happened later, but for whatever reason I felt more supported, and sadly from experience I was more prepared for the surgery.

Searching for answers

Working as a medical secretary in the NHS, I knew the rule was that we’d have to go through another miscarriage before they’d be investigated. This seemed so unfair, I asked my doctor if they could do anything sooner, but they said that any tests we ran wouldn’t find anything – and suggested I bring them a Tupperware of my baby’s tissue if it happened again, which obviously wasn’t quite the care and support I’d hoped for! I was so angry to be shut down like that after doing research and building up the courage to ask for help.

Miscarriage care is a postcode lottery so it can be very hard to get what you need – but once you find that support, it makes all the difference.

Looking online, I joined communities like the Tommy’s Baby Loss Support Group full of people going through similar things, who had information and advice to share that might help us. This became a vital support network when I had my third miscarriage, because it started while we were abroad so by the time I got to the doctors they said it was best to just let everything happen at home, which was physically and emotionally traumatic. I can’t imagine going through that if it had been the first time, with little to no care, and my heart goes out to anyone who experiences this.

Specialist miscarriage care

I’d read about Tommy’s pregnancy clinics, but they weren’t local to us so having come up against the postcode lottery in care before I was worried about being turned away again. Happily, the referral process is about what you need more than where you live, and we spent a lot of time in 2016 going back and forth to London for tests at the Recurrent Miscarriage Clinic in St Mary’s Hospital.

Following months of investigations, there were no answers in my blood tests, but a 3D ultrasound scan found a potential uterine septum (when the sides of the uterus join together, restricting the blood-flow in pregnancy and potentially causing miscarriage). The Tommy’s team were very upfront with us that surgery could correct the problem but that wouldn’t guarantee us a baby, and all we could really do was keep trying.

After years of disappointment, we didn’t want any false hope; we appreciated that the Tommy’s team were honest and open with us. 

In January 2017, I had surgery on my uterus, and by the summer I was pregnant with Peter. Naturally it was a very anxious pregnancy and the Tommy’s team supported me throughout, running more tests to see if I needed any specialist care and doing lots of scans for reassurance. Everyone was so calm and friendly, always ready to answer any questions, just there at the end of the phone any time of day or night.

Pregnancy after loss

Partners can feel left out in maternity care so I really liked that everyone spoke to Keith as well as me, supporting us as a couple and a family. Pregnancy anxiety is often dismissed, but when you’ve been through loss the fear of it happening again never goes away, so it was great to have a care team who really understood how to support parents’ mental as well as physical health.

Our beautiful baby boy Peter arrived in 2018, and the following year we fell pregnant with his little sister Matilda, who came into the world at a very strange time just after we first went into Covid-19 lockdown. Keith could only be with us for an hour after she was born, so we spent a night on the ward just mother and daughter, and since then have had a very quiet year at home as a family. 

Whether it was down to the surgery or not, without the Tommy’s team I don’t think we’d have our babies, because I don’t think we’d have been able to try again if we hadn’t known we were in such safe hands and would get the special care we needed after everything we’d been through. 

Supporting bereaved parents

Physically and emotionally, when you lose a baby it takes a toll on every aspect of your life, so without the right support I’m sure many people are too broken to try again. I share our story in the hope that others going through similar feel less lonely and realise there’s help out there – not just for mums but partners as well. Keith is passionate about this too, as he found it really hard feeling powerless to do anything when we kept losing our babies, and he needed an outlet for his emotions the same as I did.

It’s a long journey but you’re not alone on it.

There is a mindset of ‘these things just happen’ which makes people reluctant to talk or unsure where to turn when they’re struggling. Not everyone is comfortable having these conversations; we’ve actually lost friendships and relationships with loved ones who didn’t want us to talk about this, but it’s our life, it happened to us. We always tell people about all our babies.

When you share your story, other people open up and share theirs too – sometimes from a very long time ago, because that grief never goes away. Peter is now 3 and Matilda almost 1 but sometimes I still can’t quite believe they’re here. When they’re old enough to talk about it, our rainbow babies will know all about what we went through to have them, and just how precious they are.