I was a broken mess and I felt like my grief was wrong because it wasn’t a real baby, like I was being dramatic, over-the-top.

Toni and her husband Matt had a miscarriage in 2015 which left Toni with PTSD. The couple live in Leicester with daughters Phoebe and Willow. This is Toni's story.

A lady holding a newborn baby in hospital

As soon as Matt and I got married 10 years ago, I felt this primal urge to have a baby. Luckily I fell pregnant quickly and it was an easy pregnancy. I was seriously ill with pre-eclampsia at the end, but we had amazing care and it all worked out fine.

Wonderful news 

I became pregnant again in 2015. We were delighted when we realised that we’d be 12 weeks on Christmas Day. We booked a private scan on the 23rd so we could tell our parents on the day. We’d even bought a personalised calendar for both Grandmas, planning to stick the scan picture on baby’s due date. It feels so silly now, so naïve.

Absolute devastation 

When I was having my scan, I knew immediately there was something wrong. We were told that the baby was measuring at 8 weeks and that there was no heartbeat. I burst into tears. The sonographer was so kind and explained she wanted to investigate everything, but an internal scan confirmed that there was no heartbeat. They booked me a hospital appointment for the 27th December. I was absolutely devastated; I couldn’t comprehend what had happened.

The next day I completely fell apart. We’d booked pantomime tickets for Christmas Eve, I was so paranoid I popped to the toilet every 30 minutes. One time, I came back and couldn’t find my husband and daughter because they’d gone to get a drink. I had a panic attack, I felt so scared. It was the complete lack of control.

After Christmas we went for the hospital scan and I was treated awfully. The sonographer said they couldn’t see anything on the scan, and I needed to come back the following week. I showed her the letter from the clinic but she said the NHS didn’t accept the results. In desperation I said I couldn’t continue carrying a dead baby and pleaded for tablets but she told me intervention would be classed as an abortion as the miscarriage hadn’t been confirmed. I was in absolute pieces.

They told me if I miscarried naturally it would be like a heavy period. I started bleeding on the first day of January and it got worse of the next few days. By day 8 I believed I must have miscarried. I called the hospital and was told there was no point having a scan.

Contractions started

Tired of moping, I went to Tesco and that’s where the contractions started. I felt like I was going mad, this was like labour, but I was sure I’d already miscarried. The next day, I woke up in the early hours of the morning in terrible pain with the urge to push. When I stood, I felt something fall between my legs. I put my hand there to hold it in and, when I pulled my underwear down, I saw my baby.

I was so scared, I didn’t know what to do. I wrapped my baby in tissue, placed it in an empty sanitary towel box and put the box on a high shelf. There was blood everywhere, so I cleaned the bathroom and then went back to bed. I didn’t tell my husband until the morning, he was upset but I’d obviously not been thinking clearly, I was in shock.

I called the hospital and they told me to ‘bring the pregnancy tissue in and we’ll get rid of it’. It wasn’t ‘tissue’ to me, it was our baby. That day we went to a garden centre, bought a lovely planter and, once our daughter was in bed, we buried our baby. It has been a great source of comfort to both of us.

Left to cope with the trauma 

I wasn’t offered any follow up care  after this devastating experience. I struggled with anxiety and felt very low. In fact, I felt like I was losing my mind. Even though our daughter’s bedroom windows were always locked, I would see her little body falling and crashing to the patio, so I’d constantly check on her. I was obsessed with the idea she’d fall, that vision was so clear it’s like a memory, I still see it now.

When it rained heavily, I’d see the water turn red as it went through the planter were our baby was buried and ran onto the patio.

Every period was horrific, I’d get flashbacks and struggle to cope with a pain so similar to the miscarriage. Even when I wasn’t on my period, I’d constantly check for bleeding.  We’d wrapped our scan pics and pregnancy test inside a teddy, and I’d sit in my room for hours, crying and hugging it. My arms felt so empty.

3 months passed and I was still really struggling, I was paranoid, especially about our daughter. My GP diagnosed me with PTSD and wanted me to go for counselling. I was a broken mess and I felt like my grief was wrong because it wasn’t a real baby, like I was being dramatic, over-the-top.

By the time I got my counselling appointment I was 6 weeks pregnant with our second daughter and felt that going would jinx that pregnancy. The following 9 months were awful; I was convinced I’d lose my baby again.

Seeking support 

I went to a different hospital because I couldn’t face that building. I had extra scans and they were all fantastic. A couple of times I experienced reduced fetal movements and they scanned me. I was so anxious and constantly looking for reassurance.

Labour was difficult as I found every contraction triggering. Every twinge reminded me of our miscarriage. When our daughter Willow was born, her cord was around her neck and she had to be resuscitated. It was horrific to watch.

Two years on and my anxiety hasn’t gone, it’s just changed. I have to take steps to stop myself being a ridiculously overprotective mother. It’s a control thing, I’m paranoid my children will be ill. I have to talk myself round. It’s irrational but it’s leftover trauma from our loss.

The root cause of the anxiety is what I went through. I’m angry because, if I’d had access to psychological care I needed, I wouldn’t have been on my own, cleaning a bathroom, with my baby in a box on a shelf.

A study held at Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research has revealed that 1 in 6 women experience PTSD following a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. Read more about it here

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