Being pregnant after loss is lonelier than ever in a pandemic, but Tommy’s has been my lifeline

I had 3 miscarriages before being referred to Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research at University Hospital Coventry. Now I’m pregnant again, but the coronavirus pandemic means having to find new ways to get the care and support you so desperately need when pregnant after loss.

Before I became pregnant last summer, I had never heard of Tommy’s – but when we lost our baby at 6 weeks, I found myself online searching for answers and ended up on this website. I was shocked to learn 1 in 4 women have a miscarriage, although it’s since brought me comfort to remind myself how many of us go through this. Grieving your baby, it feels like you are on your own, and sometimes it helps just to know I am not alone.

No one I know has experienced baby loss, so I didn’t tell many people at first. Of course my husband was going through it as well, but everyone grieves in their own way and we reacted quite differently; he likes to be proactive and looks at anything difficult as a problem to solve, whereas I couldn’t seem to get past my emotions. I had phases of being desperately sad and other times I was overwhelmed with anger, at myself, at the world.

A support system

When I fell pregnant again quite quickly, we were so excited, but then in October I miscarried again. We were basically told “it’s quite common, these things happen”, and left to deal with it. I felt completely crushed, and kept this loss to myself so it was an incredibly lonely experience. It was only after my third miscarriage, in December, that I started opening up about everything. The Tommy’s Support Group on Facebook was a real lifeline. As I read so many stories like mine, from people with similar struggles, I realised that it’s okay to feel whatever you’re feeling. For the first time in a long time, I felt understood.

No one tells you what a miscarriage is like. While the physical side is obviously horrible, you know that it will only last for so long, but I didn’t really appreciate how long the emotional impact would go on. Because I didn’t know anyone else who had been through it, I thought I wasn’t normal and felt like I should be moving on. Even months and years later, a miscarriage is still a loss and it stays with you – but people stop checking in and you start to feel silly bringing it up. You get the odd comment about “you weren’t that far along, it could have been worse” or ‘’it wasn’t even a baby at that stage’’. Mother’s Day hit hard, thinking about what my life would have been like if I hadn’t lost my babies, but it really helped to see that people in the Support Group were feeling the same and that Tommy’s had posted on Facebook to acknowledge how difficult the day is for us.

Cutting edge research

After my third miscarriage, I contacted Tommy's National Miscarriage Research Centre, which has a specialist recurrent miscarriage clinic at University Hospital Coventry not far from me. Tests showed that I have chronic endometritis (an issue with the lining of the womb) and inherited thrombophilia (a blood clotting disorder). These are both conditions which the centre is researching, so I spoke to Professor Siobhan Quenby about how I could get involved in a research trial.

I’m currently participating in the Alife2 trial, which researchers hope could reduce my risk of miscarrying again. This also means I have a specialist research midwife, who I see every time I visit the Tommy’s clinic. I can call or email whenever I need – for example, I was worried about stomach cramps, and she was able to ask and answer questions over the phone to reassure me. Knowing there is always someone who will talk to me and take my concerns seriously is brilliant.

A global pandemic

Now I’m in the early stages of pregnancy again but feel like I can’t enjoy what should be such an exciting time. All pregnant women have worries, especially those who are pregnant after loss, and in the current health crisis it’s very hard not to be consumed by anxiety. When I feel myself spiralling, I email the Tommy’s midwives or phone the clinic – sometimes you try to reason with yourself and it just doesn’t work but hearing it from the professionals who understand what you are going through is always so reassuring.

I had my 6 week scan before the coronavirus hit the UK, but now the impact of the pandemic means I can’t get the reassurance scans I would normally have at the Tommy’s clinic. I have nothing until the NHS scan at 12 weeks; it feels like forever to wait. I try not to look things up online as it usually leads down a rabbit hole that makes you feel worse. My hormones and progesterone pessaries don’t exactly calm my mind either! I’ve not had sickness or any symptoms to make me feel pregnant, which makes me panic that something’s wrong.

Pregnancy after loss

My grief hasn’t gone away just because I’m pregnant again, and coronavirus means I’ve had to find new ways to connect and cope. It’s tough because nobody seems to want to talk about anything except coronavirus, but your feelings don’t change in a crisis - if anything they’re magnified by being isolated. You can’t go for coffee with a friend or have a hug from your mum when you’re struggling.

Exercise helps distract me when I’m getting bogged down in my thoughts, so last year I joined a rainbow running club, where local women who had lost babies or struggled with fertility would meet up to work out or just to chat. Now we’re in lockdown, we can’t get together anymore. I try to focus on other small things that make me feel better – watching favourite films, losing myself in a good book, going for walks. I’m on the Tommy’s Support Groupmore than ever because it’s just nice to see that other people still care, you’re not being forgotten about, Tommy’s is still there.