Why I'm not being silent about 'silent miscarriage'

After a smooth pregnancy and labour with her son, Alice and her husband Brian hoped to give Frankie a sibling but were heartbroken by the shock of a missed miscarriage. In this blog, Alice reflects on the complex feelings of grief and guilt, and the support that has helped her to cope with the loss.

As an only child, I always said I’d have more than 1, and we’d spent around 5 months trying to get pregnant with number 2. We had bought the double buggy, talked about names, and told our little boy that he was going to be a big brother; that’s how confident we were that it would all be okay. “Your little one has a strong heartbeat”, the doctor said, “there’s 80% chance now that everything will be alright”. Sadly, it wasn’t.

I felt much sicker with this pregnancy, which everyone said was a good sign – and being a couple of years older than last time, plus chasing after a toddler, being exhausted just made sense! Our first scan looked good, and I was already showing, so we started telling friends. I had to scale back my work teaching dance and drama to children, as jumping up and down wasn’t ideal when I felt so poorly, and telling the truth was easier than making up a story.

Since we lost the baby, I’ve questioned myself over and over about whether telling people was the right thing. Would I do it like that again? I’ve not found an answer to that yet.

The words you never want to hear

As I neared the 12-week mark, everything felt fine, and I wasn’t so sick and tired anymore. Then one day I noticed some spotting and immediately panicked so went to get checked out. Due to Covid-19, I had to go into hospital alone. The doctor seemed to think all was fine, but when she did a scan, I could tell immediately that something wasn’t right. She said the words nobody ever wants to hear: “The pregnancy has stopped”, “there’s no heartbeat”.

It’s called a missed miscarriage, when you lose the baby but there are no symptoms. It turned out that our little one had died just 2 days after that first scan. I can pinpoint the moment it would have happened; I was celebrating a friend's 50th at lakeside house, having a wonderful time, surrounded by the people who love me the most. This has comforted me at times, but also made me blame myself.

Perhaps if I hadn’t swum in the cold water, or if I hadn’t stayed up so late that night... I know deep down that these things don’t really make a difference, but you can’t help wondering.

Grief and guilt I couldn’t get over

I had to ring my husband from the hospital to say “we’ve lost the baby” – one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I was given the choice of medication or surgery, and decided I just wanted to be at home with my family so opted for the pills. The rest of that day is a bit of a blur, but I remember the drive home sitting next to my son as he sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, no clue that his parents were completely broken.

Luckily, I found the process physically pretty painless, but emotionally things really started playing around in my head. I went from loving something with all my heart to wanting it out of my body; I hated that feeling, it made me feel so guilty. I couldn’t get over the fact that this little thing had been inside me for weeks, not living. Nobody warned me that you can tell the exact moment it happens, and actually seeing the baby was the hardest moment by far.

Finding a support network

Having told so many people about the pregnancy, I decided to be very open about the fact we had lost the baby. I posted on social media and was overwhelmed by how many people got in touch to say: “we’ve been there”. That support has been amazing, but at the same time, hearing about how often this happens has left me petrified of future pregnancies.

People have said it’s brave to talk this openly, but miscarriage needs to be spoken about more so that others don’t feel alone if it happens to them.

I joined the Tommy’s Support Group on Facebook, where I have learnt so much, as well as finding it a huge source of comfort. Many people expect you to bounce right back and some have even said “it wasn’t a baby yet”. As part of the Tommy’s community, I found those who truly understand the emptiness and helplessness and why it’s not possible to simply “move on”. That said, every day gets easier, and you do find ways to cope.

Through the group, I’ve been able to process my grief and understand you can live your life happily without forgetting. I feel lucky to have my beautiful boy, though nothing feels right at the moment and I still cry every day. I’m able to drink gin and run big trail races again, even if I don’t want to be able to. I know the ‘what ifs’ will never go away, but I also know this will get easier and perhaps when we’re ready we’ll try again

This happens to so many people, and we don’t always know why; Tommy’s work helps us to find those answers and their support is invaluable.