You’ve probably heard the statistic that 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in miscarriage. It’s an estimated figure because miscarriage can often happen before a woman even realises she’s pregnant, but it’s definitely not inconsiderable. My core friendship group has eight women in it, meaning the odds are that two of us may experience loss (I’m hugely thankful to be able to say that isn’t the case), but, like so many women’s issues, the subject remains taboo; talked about in hushed tones and, for those experiencing it, something you go through quietly, privately, then move on from, because heaven forbid your trauma should make anyone else feel uneasy.
Because of this silence, people don’t realise how traumatic an experience miscarriage can be. Until it happens to them. Yes, it’s a difficult, painful conversation to have – even with your closest friends – but we need to start it. The three women who have bravely shared their miscarriage with us here agree, and they hope their stories help anyone going through what they went through to feel less alone.
Lisa Hill, 34, Norwich
“I found out I was pregnant with what would have been our second child at the back end of 2020 – finally, some great news to end an otherwise pretty abysmal year. And this time, it was (slightly more) planned! We’d decided to stop ‘trying not to try’ that very month thinking it would probably take a while but just like that, we conceived. I couldn’t believe how easily it all happened, especially as so many of our friends were struggling with fertility.
I sat alone with the second positive test in hand and started to panic. How would another baby fit into our family (I have a two-year-old daughter)? Was this actually all a bit soon? How would we even cope? Hang on…I was officially going to be a ‘geriatric mum’ at 35. Who wants that? They really need to stop using the phrase ‘geriatric mum’! My thoughts spiralled, but as I got used to the idea and realised how much love we were about to welcome into our lives again, I felt a wave of relief wash over me. Yes, it would once again be life-altering but we would also be heart-splittingly engulfed with love for another teeny baby too. It would be ok. We would be ok! I told my husband with a cute reveal (his face was only marginally terrified before he managed to correct himself) and bought our daughter a book about becoming a sibling. I guess looking back that excitement overtook sensibility.
Sadly, just as we were getting used to snuggling up on the sofa, hands laced together over my belly, planning out our life as a four, it all came tumbling down. It started as abdominal pains, ones I could almost have brushed away, but over the course of the week, I started to bleed which grew gradually heavier. I kind of knew the blood probably spelt the end and, after a couple of hospital trips for scans and blood tests, my fears were confirmed. At 8 weeks pregnant, it was all over. Nothing we could have done. Just there with us growing one minute and the next, not.
I sat in a weird limbo of grief. How do you grieve something you never really had? Is it something you should even talk about with family and friends or something that should just be a bit of a ‘non-event’? I felt so sad to lose the little life our love had created but also I had tremendous guilt. The whole time I was pregnant I worried that I really wasn’t ready, that it was all too soon. I’d still not lost the baby weight from the first pregnancy. I’d not got my business up and running, that would never happen now! I could still barely cope with one, how would I manage two? I hadn’t appreciated it enough and now it was gone. Did I do this? Did I worry the baby out of my belly?
Christmas was a welcome distraction, but I drank and ate far too much to compensate for feeling so empty. I stuffed myself with all the things that would have been off the table if I were pregnant; countless bottles of wine and prosecco, five litres of Baileys and all the soft and veined cheeses. I put on 8lbs in a week. Apparently that is humanly possible. I genuinely felt like I didn’t deserve anything better than to repeat the cycle of binge and regret. When January reared its even-uglier-than-normal head, I was so down about being me I could barely look at myself in the mirror.
It was when I had to take a pair of scissors to hack at the elastic band of my old pregnancy leggings just to squeeze them on that I thought I’d better get a grip. I wasn’t just overweight and unhappy, I felt the worst I’ve ever felt about myself. No motivation. No enthusiasm. No laughter. No light to speak of. What kind of role model was I being for my daughter? What kind of wife was I being for my husband who was also grieving? This pity party was over. I decided to put down the tools that fed my self-loathing and pick up two self-improvement habits instead. I signed up for a 90-day fitness plan and promised to dedicate some time every day to me, be that yoga, a bath, mindfulness – whatever I felt might help me grow or find peace.
Fast-forward a couple of months and I can see that a lot of positives have come from hitting rock bottom as I did. After sitting with the grief and allowing myself to feel and truly mourn the loss (that part was really important), I’ve picked myself up, dusted myself off and grappled to find a better way forward. I wish miscarriage was discussed more openly – I decided to talk about it because I want to acknowledge and honour what I went through. I didn’t seek any professional support, but I talked about it with family and certain friends, and it made me feel better that they knew there had been a baby. Choose your audience though: the subject of miscarriage can cause huge anxiety for expectant mothers.
One surprising thing I noticed when I told people is that they ask how far along I was, as if there is an appropriate response if it’s under or over a certain amount of time. When I say 8 weeks, I can almost see them thinking “well, it’s not that bad given it was under 12 weeks”. This reaction is what compelled me to talk about my experience, as it makes women feel like it’s a bit of a non-event, something they shouldn’t be that upset about. It’s never a non-event for the person it happens to.
I didn’t want this baby to be a footnote in my life, swept under the rug along with life’s other dust bunnies. I wanted it to be our turning point, to be forever entwined with us as the springboard that took us from surviving to thriving. And it is. I now feel fitter and stronger – both mentally and physically – than I have in the longest time. I hadn’t realised how low I had been feeling since my first pregnancy and exercising, eating well and making sure I take time for self-care has finally got me feeling at my most optimum.
I know that when we are ready to try again, if we are lucky enough to conceive and go to full-term, that we will be the best versions of ourselves for the new addition to our family thanks to this experience.”
Jazmin Farrell-Cabrera, 33, Manchester
“When I saw the second line pop up on the pregnancy test – the first I’d ever taken – I didn’t really contemplate the idea it would end in miscarriage. I knew it happened (it has happened within my family), but it’s so quietly experienced that I didn’t realise just how common it really is. Yet as the pregnancy progressed, I began to get a niggle that something was wrong, even after a private scan at eight weeks which showed us our little bean’s heartbeat.
The day before my 12-week scan, I wrote in my journal that I couldn’t shake the feeling it was going to be bad news and on the morning of the scan, I felt sick to the stomach with nerves. I tried to remind myself that the odds were overwhelmingly in our favour, but something didn’t feel right. Call it instinct, maybe.
The scan was on 26th March 2020, mere days after the UK entered in to its first lockdown of the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning partners were no longer allowed into hospital appointments, so I went alone. Waiting on that bed for the sonographer to find our baby’s heartbeat felt like a lifetime and when she said “I’m afraid it’s not good news” – six words I’ll never forget – my response was “I knew it”. I called my husband, who was waiting in the car park, delivering the news to him through huge, wet sobs. He later told me that he was pacing the car park as I rang and when I told him, he crouched in a corner, head in hands, where he remained for a while. A woman spotted him and asked if he was ok. I’ll never know who she was, but I’ll always be grateful to her for being there for him when we couldn’t be together.
It’s called a missed or silent miscarriage. It happens for much the same reasons as the more commonly known spontaneous miscarriage – usually a problem with the foetus, meaning it likely wouldn’t have made it to term (nature’s way of ‘weeding out the weak’) but for some reason, your body doesn’t realise the loss, so there’s no bleeding, no cramps, no real indication anything is wrong until a scan tells you otherwise.
I was sent on my way with not even a leaflet about what was happening to us, just an appointment to return in two weeks’ time. One of the hardest things we had to do was tell our parents, which we did from the hospital car park. It was as hard for them as it was for us, especially with lockdown meaning we couldn’t see each other.
I spent the rest of that day in bed, eating the Easter eggs we’d bought for family we now couldn’t see, while my husband got back to work for writing children’s TV (not the easiest thing to be doing after the news we had just had), as he had a deadline to hit. The next few days passed in a blur of walks, trying to distract ourselves with TV or lying in bed. The tears were regular, heavy and came on without warning but by the Monday (three days later), we both went back to working from home – we needed the distraction, to not be alone with our own thoughts, to think about something that wasn’t the foetus still inside of me.
I still didn’t allow myself to drink alcohol or eat any of the foods pregnancy had prohibited, I even carried on taking my pregnancy vitamins – my mind wanted to give the baby the best possible chance just in case they were wrong. I clung on to that tiny glimmer of hope. However, as expected, a scan two weeks later confirmed the news and I was sent up to the early pregnancy unit to discuss my options. Only Covid meant I had none.
There are three ways of treating a missed miscarriage: expectant management, where you wait for the body to catch up and, when it realises, naturally bring on the miscarriage; medical management, where you are given tablets or a pessary to open up the cervix and induce the contractions that will help you pass the foetus; or surgical management, where, under either local or general anaesthetic, a medical professional will open up your cervix and vacuum or scrape out the foetus, sac and everything else associated with the pregnancy.
After hours of research, I had gone to the hospital armed with the knowledge that I wanted surgical management under general anaesthetic, knowing I’d already waited two weeks in which nothing had happened. However, Covid meant my only option was medical management. I was terrified but regardless of how much I fought, I couldn’t get anybody to agree to my wishes, so off I went, with an appointment for two days later. By this point I just wanted it over.
The medical management didn’t work. I was admitted to the hospital for the day, alone, given a bunch of tablets to take and spent the day feeling spaced out and vomiting (turns out, Codeine doesn’t agree with me), but still my body clung on. I was given another appointment for a week later – the day after my birthday. That next appointment showed that despite everything, the sac had actually grown (but my body had absorbed the foetus). This meant that although they would now, in theory, agree to surgical management (after a lot more fighting from my side and a lovely sonographer who advocated for me), the sac was now past the size that is the usual cut off for surgical and the consultant would have to ok it. Later that day I got a call to say the consultant had agreed and I was booked in for four days later, a full five weeks after my 12-week scan.
For me, surgical management was the best of all of the options we tried. I was admitted for the day again but the procedure itself took just fifteen minutes. I felt a slight scratch as they injected the cervix with anaesthetic and before I knew it, it was over before I realised it had begun. I had to wait for an hour after the procedure to see how my body reacted and I went home feeling physically fine – and mentally relieved it was all over. Three weeks later, I had to take a pregnancy test to confirm it was negative (it was) and then all that remained was to wait for my period to return, which took two weeks, and for my husband and I to decide if we wanted to try again.
We did. Once again, we were extremely lucky to fall pregnant again the first month of trying and as I type, I am 38 weeks pregnant with our rainbow baby, a little girl. Pregnancy after loss is something that isn’t spoken about a lot – and is something I want to speak about more – but it is hard. It’s been 38 weeks and I’m still checking the tissue for blood every time I go to the toilet and fretting over movements (or perceived lack of) but I’m trying to push all of the negative thoughts to the back of my mind and focus on how, so far, this little girl is perfect, and reminding myself that it’s a new, different pregnancy. I envy those who can enjoy their pregnancies without the shadow of loss in their minds but equally I remind myself how lucky we are to be here at all – some people have much longer, more difficult struggles and would love to be in the position we are in. But I don’t think I’ll relax until she’s safely in our arms.
During my surgical management, whilst a bit high on gas and air, I proclaimed loudly to the three medical professionals in the room that ‘miscarriage is a bitch!’ and I stand by that. One in four pregnancies is thought to end in miscarriage yet it is shrouded in secrecy, like something one ought to be ashamed of. I understand it is just too hard for some people to talk about and I respect every person’s decision to share or not share their story. However, my husband and I wanted to shout about ours – we wanted to acknowledge our first baby and have people know that if, God forbid, the worst should happen to them, they can turn to us. Since opening up on our social media pages, we have had numerous people get in touch to say they’ve experienced loss or infertility too. To look at them you’d assume their journey has been free from any bumps in the road, but there’s the friend who admitted their child will be their only one due to difficulties, the friend who went through a missed miscarriage at a later stage than we did and most recently, the friend who had just found out about her loss during her first pregnancy. Scrolling through social in the aftermath of our miscarriage, it was hard seeing pregnancy announcement after pregnancy announcement, instinctively assuming that it was easy for them, questioning why we had to go through such heartache when it seemed so simple for everyone else. But you never really know what’s gone on behind closed doors and the difficulties people have faced in getting there. We hope that by sharing our story, we’re helping people to see that they’re not alone, even when they feel like they are.
For anybody struggling through loss, we found the Miscarriage Association so helpful and have dedicated ourselves to raising money to support them and the incredible work that they do. There are pages of advice, forums to chat to others experiencing loss on, and a dedicated phone line you can call for support and advice. They also sell cards you can send to a friend going through loss which not only support the charity, but are carefully worded too.
Support from friends and family was invaluable to us during that time – we needed to cocoon in our own little bubble and grieve together, but cards, messages and gifts from friends to say they were thinking of us meant so much more than they could ever have realised. Equally important were the messages that came a few weeks down the line – the grief doesn’t stop after a few days, it’s prolonged and it will never really go away, you just learn to live alongside it. We have a tree we go visit to remember our first baby and even when our rainbow arrives, we’ll not forget the little one who was sacrificed so that she could be here.
Despite everything, I must say a huge thank you to the NHS. The staff were exemplary as they battled through the first weeks of an unprecedented lockdown, where all of their processes had changed and they were very much on the frontline, and I’m glad that many hospitals, mine included, have now changed their policies so that partners can be there at scans or when going through treatment.
To anyone who knows someone going through loss, please just let them know you are there for them. One of my best friends rang me the minute I told her the news and made me laugh at a time I never thought I would laugh again and for that, I will be forever grateful. Don’t forget about the partner in the relationship, too – they may not be going through the physical side of things, but the grief is just as raw. Hold tight – better days are coming and you can and will get through this, you are stronger than you know.”
Nisha Patel, 41, London
“The journey of starting a family is challenging, but when I was younger I never imagined that would be the case. Everyone and everything around me portrayed this perfect picture of starting a family: that it’s easy and straightforward, that there are no challenges along the way. The process is simple, and your hopes and dreams will be fulfilled. Maybe I was young and naïve to think this, and I now know that the reality is completely different – something I only learned at the age of 36!
My husband and I married in 2012 when I was 34, some may think that’s quite late in life, but for us, it was the perfect age. We spent the first four years of marriage travelling, enjoying each other’s company and living life together. After taking an amazing trip to Peru, we decided that it was the perfect time to start a family. We both wanted children – in fact we always wanted two – and we never imagined that it would be challenging to get pregnant. After two years of trying to conceive and still no luck, we decided to seek medical advice to find out what was going wrong, why we weren’t getting pregnant.
We were told that in order to increase our chances of conceiving we would need ICSI IVF. To those of you not familiar with fertility lingo, the difference between the two is how the sperm fertilises the egg. With ICSI, each egg is individually injected with a single sperm, whereas with regular IVF, the egg and sperm (of which there are multiple) are left in a petri dish to fertilise on their own. Both of our two ICSI cycles failed. We had eggs that fertilised, but they did not implant into my womb, and the doctors suggested that we try an egg donor or sperm donor to increase our chances. I knew my clock was ticking – my AMH (anti-mullerian hormone, used to assess a woman’s egg count) was low and so was my husband’s sperm count meaning the chance of us getting pregnant with our own egg and sperm was minimal. Our hopes and dreams crushed in seconds and the idea of having a family seemed to slip further and further away.
Then, three months after our second cycle, in January 2018, we found out we were pregnant. It was a complete miracle! We’d conceived naturally against all odds. We immediately booked a private scan, which confirmed there was a baby. We called it our ‘little peanut’. The elation we felt was tinged with anxiety as we knew we had to get to the 12-week scan to make sure everything was ok.
Like most couples, we turned up for the scan a bundle of nerves and excitement. Lying there as the machine moved over my lower tummy, I watched the screen intently, my husband squeezing my hand tightly. We could both see an image, an image of a baby. The sonographer moved the device around and then called for assistance – as it seemed she wanted a second opinion on what she was seeing. We knew immediately something was wrong. They could see the baby, but detect no heartbeat. We had lost our peanut; our hopes and dreams died in a flash.
What happened next was a bit of a blur. The nurse came and told us some information but I barely registered what she said. All I remember is that they said we had three options: 1) they could conduct a suction procedure to remove the pregnancy tissue, 2) they could give me some medication to make the miscarriage happen sooner, 3) we could let nature take its course, wait, and in time the foetus would leave my body. I did not want any medical procedures and decided that I would let my body do what it needed to do. The doctors said it would take around 7-10 days and that it would feel like a heavy period. I didn’t know what to expect, so I just waited. And waited.
The days that followed the news that we had lost our little peanut were heartbreaking. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves; we carried on with work, didn’t anything to anyone, and tried to continue with life as we knew it. Then, 8 days after the scan, came the heavy bleeding, severe cramping and tummy pains. I had to take lots of painkillers to help the process, along with a glass of wine or three to deal with the emotional turmoil. We decided to tell some close friends and family about what had happened, which really helped and gave us the support we needed both mentally and emotionally.
When we came to terms with the fact that we had had a miscarriage; we broke down. We did not understand why it happened to us. We’d been trying for a family for years and years, experienced failed attempts at fertility treatment and then when it happened naturally it was crushed in seconds. It felt like the universe was against us. I couldn’t understand what we had done wrong, or what I could have done differently. It took us several months to move forward and come to terms with that fact that it was just one of those things, it was not meant to be and when our time was right it would be. The journey of conceiving, getting pregnant, having a baby and starting a family is challenging. Life is challenging, but we both continued to hope. We tackled each day, each challenge as it came and the journey ultimately made us stronger as a couple.
Six months after the miscarriage, we decided to go to private clinic on London’s Harley Street to try another round of ICSI. The process they used at this client was invasive, stressful and expensive but one that came recommended because of our situation. It was worth it though: in 2019, aged 39, I gave birth to twins – a boy and a girl. They are our world, our everything and we love them dearly.
We definitely need to talk about miscarriage more. I didn’t seek professional help or advice after it happened to me because I didn’t feel comfortable speaking about it. Maybe if the conversation were more open, that would have been different.
For those that are struggling to start a family, always keep hope and faith.”