Recurrent miscarriage can be especially cruel. This is the story of how Nick and Sarah met their rainbow and the difficult journey they had to take to get there.
Meeting our rainbow
We couldn't be more happy and proud to welcome our beautiful baby daughter into the world.
It has required enormous determination from us to reach this point. I have written anonymously for Tommy's about recurrent miscarriage from a guy's point of view but for the rest of this I hand you over to my extraordinary wife Sarah...
Here is her story
The amount of times I had pulled up to this very supermarket either recovering from yet another miscarriage, operation, in the process of trialling a new treatment plan or simply going into to buy some nice food to cheer myself up after yet another hospital visit.
The other times would include hurriedly rushing out to buy another box of ovulation kits as my fertility app was flashing at me to take an ovulation test or the pregnancy test, which were once joyous but now dreaded. The one or two lines that sent me into an anxiety meltdown regardless of whether I was pregnant or not. The two lines offering that initial rush of excitement followed by extreme apprehension that me and my husband would then repeat the long process again.
Here I was, looking for the trolley with a baby carrier... a dream I thought would never happen in a million years after eight miscarriages and four operations here I was in a car with my rainbow baby sleeping soundly in the car seat behind.
I can't believe that finally after five long years of loss after loss, grief, and treatment plan after treatment plan, here she is. Being mummy to my rainbow baby is the proudest achievement ever!
Finally, I give huge credit to my husband who has been incredibly supportive throughout this whole journey and I am so proud of him. His strength and courage to carry on and pick himself up after every loss has been a true inspiration.
The journey- October 2016
Enduring one miscarriage is hard enough, but for some couples this heartbreak is repeated.
1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage but only 1 in 100 women suffer three or more miscarriages in a row.
Suffering recurrent miscarriage can be a lonely experience and can also tinge future pregnancies with high levels of anxiety.
It is an experience that affects both mothers and fathers, yet many fathers report feeling overlooked after loss or recurrent loss.
For one husband and wife who have asked to remain anonymous, they have experienced recurrent miscarriages and supported each other throughout.
He says that whilst his wife has to endure the physical pain, the psychological pain is something they both endure.
We must remember that fathers and partners are hurting too.
Here is his story
In many ways we had done things very traditionally: we were together for a number of years before getting married, we worked at our respective careers, then bought a family house and family car in parallel with trying for kids.
We could even have been in an advert where a couple goes through life transitions, which includes a scene painting a house, and ends up with becoming grandparents wearing Christmas jumpers.
The original kid has become an astronaut in the meantime. Seems all so very easy, except for the astronaut bit.
For us though, trying for kids was to be the start of a long and painful journey, which we still find ourselves on today.
This is my attempt to share my experience, from a guy’s point of view, which I wish was a remote 'story' but unfortunately it is not.
I will firstly go to the numbers: seven miscarriages over almost three years, four operations for my wife under general anaesthetic including one on holiday, numerous hospital visits and tests, countless medications, two medical trials and the number I don't want to say is how many heartbeats I have seen in scans that have gone on to die.
The numbers seem cold and factual but for each there has been so many tears, bleeding through various fabrics, stress, heartbreak and hours spent in hospitals.
I recall various films and soaps where there is a tearful moment where the news of a miscarriage is revealed and how as a viewer it feels. It is our reality times seven.
We are both otherwise fit, healthy and successful people, both with professional jobs, and from the outside looking in, everything would appear normal. It is part of what makes this situation so baffling and one of the (many) misconceptions about miscarriage.
There are other couples in our situation, although there are not that many of them, who seem very similar.
For most couples I would imagine a word association for pregnancy would result in words like exciting, wonderful and may be even a superlative like awesome. For us that same word association would be stress, pain and death.
There is no joy in pregnancy for us. That has been taken away from us forever.
The wait between scans is horrendous and stressful. No discussions anymore of baby names or what colour to paint the kids bedroom. Scans should be great moments of joy. I have seen happy families in waiting rooms whilst we sit there anxious and alone.
For us there has never been a joyous scan, no precious photos to capture these life moments. There are two scenarios: false optimism as a precursor to death or revealing death itself. I do not look at the scans anymore - often medical staff do not seem to understand why although the reason for me is palpably clear. Those moments of brutal heartbreak.
I am going to share details of two of the miscarriages.
For one of them, having read through the information leaflet handed to us, we opted for a medical miscarriage.
One evening, my wife haemorrhaged and was in crippling and chronic pain. She was going through contractions and the same pain as giving birth but without the joy of life at the end of it. This was in our lounge.
The paramedics came around. Gas and air. I then had to see paramedics in our kitchen with a plastic bag full of blood clots, which to this day is the closest thing to my own baby I have ever seen.
It was my wife who endured all the physical pain though.
Another one was on holiday in New Zealand where we went for Christmas. I had been borderline depressed for probably a long time but decided to try and approach it with fresh air.
We knew my wife was pregnant but it was early days and we figured the change in pace of life might do us all good and medical advice was that it was a good idea to go.
I was having a haircut in a small town on the South Island. She went for a wander and came back looking pale. We knew. So we searched for a hospital, which we eventually found, and they left us in a staff room extremely anxious as we waited to see a nurse.
The cheery staff carelessly put up Christmas decorations around us.
The small hospital did not have the expertise or equipment to deal with this so after a short consultation we cobbled things together and drove our camper van down to Dunedin.
Not a pleasant journey.
Here there were other layers of complexity: payment (the NHS is awesome in this respect and we are thankful), the fact that we were due to fly home soon and parking a hulking camper van in downtown Dunedin.
After further consultations, it transpired that the only way we could be declared fit to fly was to operate. The night before the operation I was sick down the aisle of the camper van, which was probably nerves.
The next day we managed to find a spot to park and after a lot of tears it was done. Surgical wards in Dunedin is not in the guidebooks. How we managed to get through all of this and make it up to the North Island in time for Christmas I do not know.
Holiday to escape right?
The loneliness of this was actually no different to being back in the UK. Miscarriage is unbelievably isolating. I have been to the Arctic and felt a warmer embrace from the world.
Around you are family and friends having kids of their own, and whilst you are happy for them, the pain of seeing them is often too much.
But give yourselves a break: this is normal.
There are few that would understand this intrinsically but even a remote understanding would do.
Signing baby cards at work, being surrounded by people talking about their kids. Recently we went to a tourist attraction and were passed by a seemingly endless stream of babies in buggies, toddlers, doting mothers and action fathers with big rucksacks - we felt like aliens.
The pressure to act like the world is a happy smiley family place is perpetual.
I have been on my own whilst my wife is being operated on, wheeled around a corner with her wedding rings tapped up - put on at a time of joy, now ready for surgery.
It is when she is wheeled off that I really start crying and walking up and down hospital corridors.
Happy jolly photos on social media is different to our reality.
The other day my family, which includes a nephew I have yet to meet, had a get-together. On that same day, we went to an appointment where a nurse showed my wife how to inject Clexene into her leg then both of us went off and did long days at work.
Jolly photo of leg bruises from multiple injections?
That's another thing: work. Having a full-time job for the people around me is rare. I guess people are busy being parents and relentlessly documenting it all on social media.
So through all of this misery we remain together and we remain strong. It does not break us. This is despite our consultant who recently described our lives as torture.
We have a new vocabulary of medications and doctors names. My wife is awesome and special. There are a few kindly souls that are a help and are there for us. We now have a supportive GP and consultant - for me it is communication and compassion that marks the difference.
There has also been random kindness from strangers.
Unfortunately, biology means that my wife has to endure all of the physical pain but the psychological pain is ours.
No matter what numbers you are quoting, you are ridiculously strong.
Of course there are those couples who have endured more miscarriages. The whole 'there is always someone worse off than you' is of course true; however, this argument is completely flawed in that logically this would dismiss anyone ever talking about any issues.
The quest continues - but why not give up? A question that is usually asked by those with kids. Easy to say but we want to be parents and that drive is innate and powerful.
I don't know whether this is a 'help' to anyone and I certainly don't mean it to scare or put anyone off a particular course of action - these are decisions for the couples involved as guided through medical advice. It is simply my brutal experience.
Yes there is anger (and this has eased with time) and yes there is pain and ladies, your man is hurting too so please give him a hug.
Through it all though, there is also the togetherness and strength of us.
We are miscourage.
If you have been affected by this story and want to read more about men experiencing miscarriage you can do so at our pages about your partner’s reaction to miscarriage here.
Miscarriage can have a devastating effect on all family members. You can read our information about how this loss can affects the whole family here.
If someone you know has experienced loss and you are struggling to know how best to comfort then then you can take a look at our advice on supporting someone after miscarriage here.
A BBC News investigation has found that some private baby scanning studios are misleading customers by advertising “reassurance” scans that do not diagnose serious conditions and abnormalities.
In this Q&A, we sit down and chat with with Tom Willmott, a researcher based at Tommy’s Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre in Manchester. He gives a rare insight into a novel and exciting area of pregnancy health research, known as ‘maternal microbiology’, looking at what we can learn by studying bacteria in the mouths of mums-to-be.
A recently published article, co-authored by Professor Catherine Williamson from Tommy’s Research Centre at King’s College London, suggests that certain pregnancy complications can indicate future health issues for women.
Tommy’s has received a grant from the UK Government’s Department for Health and Social Care to support the costs of its PregnancyHub information and support services throughout the summer, due to rising demand in the wake of coronavirus.