Claire took part in the London Landmarks Half Marathon 2019. This is her story. You can support Claire on her journey.
By Claire Sweter-Millar
I will be honest, I wasn't sure that I really wanted to be a mother, but all that changed when I married Ian in August 2008. We had lived together since 2001 so the next logical step would be to start a family. Little did we realise how difficult that would be.
My first pregnancy I was unaware I was pregnant at the time. I woke up feeling ill in the early hours of the 1st March 2009. I felt something drop inside me, and I knew I had to go to hospital. It was very traumatic, and the doctors estimated me to be 20+ weeks. My baby had passed away inside me. It felt like an out of body experience as such I didn't deal with it. I didn't want to see my baby, I was in a daze. If I could go back and change it, I would.
The odds of having a second miscarriage are low so the doctor said he could see no reason why I couldn't go on to have a healthy baby. I fell pregnant again in the spring of 2010. I had bleeding the pregnant at an early stage, about 6/7 weeks, so I knew I was having a miscarriage. Life carried on, I was muddling through it as best I could, and no one really broached the subject. I mean, what can you say? I've been on both sides and it's tough.
I fell pregnant again end of September 2010. This one felt different. I got to my 12-week scan and I felt elated. I thought ‘Yes, it's going to happen’. Everything was going to plan till week 16. My waters broke prematurely, and I knew there was no way the baby would survive. This was 1st December 2010. I was distraught, thinking ‘Oh no not again’. I went to EPU and the scan showed the baby had no fluid.
'I was admitted to give birth to a baby who wasn't going to come home with me. We spent time with our little boy, we named him Christopher. He was perfectly formed but so tiny.'
Normally after 3 miscarriages you get referred to a consultant but because my early miscarriage wasn't counted this wasn't offered to us. We tried to get on with life, weighing up the pros and cons of trying again. This time we waited a good 6 months and tried to get on with lives the best we could, but we felt empty. I think both of us were grieving - my grief was released as anger/resentment, Ian bottled his feelings up. It was tough. I fell pregnant again end of June 2011. I again got to my 12-week scan feeling hopeful. Again, not to be. My waters broke prematurely at 14 weeks. I was inconsolable, with all sorts going through my mind - Not again, why me? I had a scan and again there was no water in the womb. I went through the same process, giving birth to a baby that we would not take home. We named our little girl Hope. She passed away September 11th as we worked out what to do next. Should we try again?
'I was mentally and physically exhausted, my grief had built up and I felt I wasn't in control of my body or mind. I honestly thought I was going mad.'
We saw a consultant early 2012 and I thought she was going to tell me to give up. I would have agreed with her if she had as I wasn't sure if I could go through it all again. She sent us for chromosome tests, and both came back negative. She then said ‘Right, if you fall pregnant again, you will go onto aspirin straight away’. She also said I will have my cervix stitched and be put on a pessary for about 28 weeks of my pregnancy. We still weren't sure about what we were going to do. I didn't realise how common miscarriage in the second trimester was. If you reach that stage, it's normally viable and you will go on to have a healthy pregnancy. We were still dealing with our grief so we both undertook counselling separately and together. It was at this time I started doing research online I came across the Tommy’s website. It wasn't until I started reading testimonies written by bereaved parents that I realised how common miscarriage was, even within the second trimester. It's a taboo subject that needs speaking about.
After the consultant’s words of encouragement, we tried again. I followed the consultant’s plan and reached 12 weeks, and then had the stitch at 13 weeks. I was really nervous to go to the 20-week scan. We found out we were expecting a little girl and we called her Natalie. This was new territory for us, and we found it very scary. We took it week by week. Soon we were at 37 weeks and the stitch was removed. Natalie was ready to arrive, and she was born on 26.03.13. We finally had our baby to take home. Natalie was joined by her sister Louisa on 30.05.15. They are both my miracle babies that, in the darkest days, I didn't think it would ever happen. We are so grateful for the help and support given to us by the medical professionals and friends and family. I'm so happy to run for Team Tommy’s in the London landmarks Half Marathon to break the taboo of miscarriage, and so Tommy’s can carry on their research to prevent baby loss. I run for Gabriel, Angel, Christopher, Hope and all the babies born too early.
'The day of the half marathon was an amazing day .. My baby was guiding me around, the sun was shining and she was with me throughout the race. Crossing that line with the balloon for my Angel was the most emotional thing. '
'I just kept thinking if only people talked about it, just maybe I could have been a little more prepared and people around me would have a better of understanding of how painful it was and how it stays with you'.
'I can honestly say that there has not been a single day in the past eight years where I have not thought about my 14 lost babies. So I am running the London Landmarks Half Marathon, which is hugely outside of my comfort zone as a non-runner, in honour of Sebastian, Elsie and my other 14 loves.'