“It’s amazing what your mind tells you in grief. The cause of my miscarriages was something beyond my control entirely, but my mind was so fraught with confusion. I dealt with it the best I could and blamed myself for everything.”
Rob and I started dating in 2011. When I fell pregnant in 2013, at the age of 24, I must admit it was a bit of a surprise. That baby might have been unplanned, but it was very wanted. We were devastated when I had a first trimester miscarriage, but the doctor told me I had nothing to worry about as I was so young. Rob proposed the following year and we got married in December 2014.
Not just 'bad luck'
I had a second miscarriage in February 2015. Again, my GP brushed this off as another case of bad luck. However, I was beginning to feel anxious. In my mind, two out of two felt like more than bad luck but I started a new job around the same time and put my worries to the back of my mind. In January 2016 I had a third miscarriage. This was now regarded as recurrent miscarriage and I finally got a referral to a specialist consultant.
I had to undergo lots of testing. When my blood test results came back, they revealed that my levels of blood clotting cells were slightly elevated. This means that, whilst my blood is normal most of the time, if I injured myself, a wound would heal at a quicker rate than expected. We were told that the presence of these cells can sometimes be a cause of recurrent early miscarriages.
All the testing took a long time and we were told to keep on trying. We had another two miscarriages, one of which was so fast, I didn’t even have time to make it to the hospital.
Consumed with guilt
It all became too much. I was overcome with guilt and anxiety and couldn’t help but blame myself. My first miscarriage was my fault because I had a glass of wine with dinner when I was two weeks pregnant and didn’t realise. One of my miscarriages was my fault because I travelled to Germany and the fatigue caused by flying was bound to have made it happen.
“My last miscarriage was my fault because I got cocky at 11.5 weeks and bought a baby grow with kittens on it. If I hadn’t tempted fate, I wouldn’t have miscarried. If I’d have bought that baby grow at 12 weeks my baby would still be here.”
I fell pregnant again in November 2017. I had to wait until I was six weeks before I could have my initial scan. I remember I went in that day expecting the worst. I was distraught when they told me that my baby was measuring a little smaller than expected in line with my dates. I left the hospital convinced, because of this, I was going to have another miscarriage. But I went back the following week and the little ball of cells within me had developed into a little ball of cells with a heartbeat. Another two weeks passed us by before I started bleeding. I was certain then, that I was miscarrying. But, at my next appointment and scan, the little ball with heartbeat had turned into a baby with a heartbeat!
An anxious first trimester
I started bleeding three more times during the course of the first trimester. Each time I would go to the hospital, convinced I’d had a miscarriage and each time they scanned me, they reassured me things were looking okay. The reason for the bleeding remained unexplained as no obvious cause was found by doctors of midwives. This added another layer of anxiety to an already stressful pregnancy.
It was a horrendous time for me emotionally and I was overwhelmed with anxiety. After all the losses, I couldn’t believe that this baby was going to stay alive. I found everyday tasks and working full time became very difficult as I was tired physically from the pregnancy and mentally because of the worry of past losses. We didn’t tell anyone that we didn’t see in person (where I was forced to admit it because of a baby bump) that we were expecting because I truly believed that it wasn’t going to happen. We kept it secret from everyone, with the exception of our family and close friends.
“I was robbed of the joyous social media ‘baby announcement’. Other people take so much pleasure in this, but I just couldn’t do it.”
I felt reassured when my bump started to grow, and I could feel kicking. I was still very worried but started to relax a little. I even started trialling hypnobirthing and working on my birth plan. I tried to seek out the good things in my pregnancy, like finding out the baby’s gender – a girl and having a small baby shower with my nearest and dearest. However, the happiness surrounding these events were short lived as I would quickly go back to being anxious and overcome with worry about my baby.
Something wasn't right
At 28 weeks pregnant, I began to feel like something wasn’t right. My bump didn’t seem to be growing anymore and I started to actually lose weight. After a scan, it was confirmed that my baby was showing signs of intrauterine growth restriction. This is when an unborn baby is growing slowly in the womb and is at risk of health problems. I was quickly booked in for weekly scans and monitoring.
It was terrifying as my baby’s movements began to slow down and around 30 weeks. I could clearly feel the pattern was different, but I felt as if people didn’t believe that what I was feeling was real. I got the impression it was assumed by some that I was only worrying because of past losses and not because there was a genuine problem. I had to really assert myself, but I am so glad I did. Our baby needed to be delivered urgently when, at 36 weeks and 6 days, she tailed off the growth curve completely and her movements had slowed right down.
The next day, at 37 weeks, I was taken for a c-section. Everything went well with the delivery and our daughter, Ivy, was born very healthy albeit on the small side.
“I’d spent 9 nine months convinced that she was going to die. I hadn’t planned to look after her. I couldn’t let myself imagine getting there. Of course, I was elated that she was well, but I wasn’t happy I was her mother.“
What followed, was a very complicated case of postnatal depression. I felt incredibly unprepared for what lay ahead. The journey to get Ivy had been so difficult and I felt like nobody understood what I’d been through. I was completely numb in my feelings towards her. I was very fond of her and I definitely didn’t want anything bad to happen to her, but it took longer than I expected to really bond with her and feel a loving connection with her. I think that, for women who have had losses, particularly those who have had multiple losses, there needs to be more support when they finally get to take home their rainbow baby.
People deserve answers
To mark Baby Loss Awareness Week last year, I decided to start writing about my experiences. I wanted to document my losses and use the process as an outlet. When I first had a miscarriage in 2013, Instagram wasn’t really a thing. I was young and my friends were at a different stage in their lives, so I felt very isolated. If my blog reaches just one person and they feel less alone, then that is a brilliant outcome for me. In fact, when I first posted to my social media about what we’d been through, four people I knew reached out to me and shared that they had been through similar experiences. We were all suffering, alone, and had no idea.
The Tommy’s Tell Me Why campaign is important because people need to be given answers. It is a crucial element in the grieving process. The more answers I got, the better equipped I felt to make sense of what had happened to me. I’m slowly healing from my experience, but it changed who I am as a person completely and I don’t think my anxiety surrounding pregnancy loss will ever leave me.
Laura is sharing her journey on her Instagram, @mamaprozac.
1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss – and most parents never find out why due to a shocking lack of research. It doesn't have to be this way – and Tommy’s research is finding the answers. But research into pregnancy loss is currently seriously underfunded compared to other medical conditions.
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