Anna Whitehouse

Journalist, editor, mother and the founder of Mother Pukka - a portal for news, events, reviews and honest commentary for people who happen to be parents. This is Anna.

A photo of Anna Whitehouse sat on the sofa talking about her experience of recurrent miscarriage

Anna is the founder of Mother Pukka, a successful online blog with 139k followers, and co-presenter of the Dirty Mother Pukka Podcast. Together with husband Matt (or Papa Pukka), she aims to ‘parent the shit out of life’ and entertain followers with irreverent and funny tales debunking the ‘myths’ of parenthood.

This is Anna's story

'Tommy’s has offered up a bosomy hug, whether through pixels or real life. They’ve connected me with people who sit in that hole with me and say, "It’s shit, I’m here."'

I’ve had seven pregnancies and two little babies born through that.

We’ve lost babies ranging from 6 weeks to 19 weeks and my daughters are the reason we talk about that loss, because I see them as two little beacons of hope for anyone else going through recurrent miscarriage.

When I post about miscarriage I get 50 messages and respond to every single one because I know where they’re at. I know what I wanted to hear when I was going through it. I’ve been pregnant seven times, I have two children and far from feeling resentful, people tell me, ‘You give us hope’.

To me, Eve and Mae are symbols of hope that I wish had been there for me.

The hardest bit is that moment in the scanning room, just this dark abyss while you wait for a heartbeat.

We’ve had 2 out of 7 so there’s such fear, and three seconds can seem like a lifetime.

Loss is extreme peaks and troughs in a very short period of time which any human will struggle to navigate. I always felt I was quite strong but that doesn’t help fix the fragments.

I would dream about losing our daughter in a car park, that sickening feeling of loss every moment, checking your pants for blood every time you go to the toilet.

Every birth announcement pierced my heart a little bit.

I was desperate to be fully happy for friends but I think you have to accept that, when you’re grieving, your mind isn’t where you want it to be and you shouldn’t beat yourself up. People are very understanding.

I think the only way through is to be honest and say it, ‘I’m happy for you but I’m just a little bit broken right now.’ There should be no shame in the grieving process.

Each time we got pregnant the word ‘Congratulations’ kept coming and made me sick to the core.

I almost wanted to say, ‘We’re not even out of the starting blocks. We’re not there.’ It’s not the right word. ‘Congratulations’ is for when you’ve bought a house, got a job, a baby has been born. A lot can happen in nine months.

After our third miscarriage Matt and I hit a bit of a brick wall in terms of our hopes for having a family.

There was a distance, we were going in different directions because we hadn’t really talked. Matt was trying to be strong but wasn’t saying how he felt, looking back he was grieving almost more than I was.

Miscarriage can break people, but we had a very open conversation and he told me he didn’t know what to say to make it better.

He also said that, in a little way, he felt relieved because we weren’t financially sound at the time and he knew that sounded callous but it’s just different ways of seeing things. At that moment I said, ‘Family doesn’t need to include a child. We are a family.’ And that moment changed everything, we weren’t ‘trying’, we were living.

The power of social media, of sharing has shifted a lot and certainly helped me.

Cutting yourself off, doesn’t help. I remember, day by day, getting a little further away from everything because I was trying to deal with this huge grief. Going on forums felt like a way of validating that grief, of feeling less alone.

I think letting that grief out is essential whether you need to go for a run and cry on your own, or whether you’re someone who needs people.

The real light through our journey of loss was realising how to speak to somebody who has lost a baby.

Sympathy tries to rationalise, to find solutions, while empathy looks you in the eye, puts the kettle on, stacks up the Jaffa cakes and says, ‘It’s shit and I’m here.’

The worst thing is somebody saying nothing at all. It’s hard, I know, but I still appreciate that acknowledgement that I’d been through something because that was a little life we lost.

Eve is just seven months, but I’ve always been very open with Mae, who is four, because she knew there was a baby in my tummy, and then there wasn’t.

I remember I miscarried in the toilets of her nursery and just started uncontrollably sobbing in front of her which was difficult for her to compute.

I told her, ‘Sometimes, through no fault of your own, a baby doesn’t stay in mummy’s tummy’. She asked if the doctor could put another one in. 5 minutes of her slightly bonkers questions, the simple way she saw things, got me out of a funk. I explained we’d had a few siblings before her who didn’t make it earth side, but they’re very much with her.

I explained that I wear seven rings on my fingers, one for Mae, one for Eve, and five for their little siblings who are still very much with us as a family. That’s how we remember them, as a family.

Miscarriage is taboo because it’s not seen as grief but, bizarrely, as a medical, clinical thing.

There’s that element of, ‘it happens to 1 in 4  so just get on with it’. I couldn’t find the others, I felt like I was on an island, grieving for a person but being told it was just a jumble of cells.

The first time I miscarried I went back to work the next day, I didn’t tell anyone. The second time I took three days but still didn’t say what had happened. By the third time, I just felt that it wasn’t just a few cramps, a bigger pad, it’s loss, it’s emotionally and physically painful, all-affecting and not something to hide. Work were very understanding.

I’d felt very alone. I’d cry on the tube, and I think that was the point where I realised I needed to tackle it by talking to people, people who’ve been there.

What Tommy’s has done for me is open up the breadth of loss which is in no one form.

Every mother, potential mother, friend of a mother, grandmother has felt that fear of giving a name too soon and waiting too long in the scanning room to hear a heartbeat. It’s not just about loss, it’s about fear of loss and Tommy’s has offered support and started that conversation.

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