Miscarriage is an incredibly personal thing to go through and experiencing one can leave you feeling confused and isolated. I understand the reasons why many don't want to talk about it openly, but if the reason is because of a feeling of guilt, failure, embarrassment or shame then we need a shift in culture, to build one where women, and men, don't feel that way; one where miscarriages need not be merely whispered about.
As part of the Tommy's #misCOURAGE campaign to encourage people to speak up, I am sharing my experience in the hope that it might make at least one other woman feel less isolated, and to show my support for others who have lost a pregnancy.
The first time I had a positive pregnancy test I was ecstatic but, even just after one miscarriage, that joy is peppered by anxiety, fear and dread.
James and I met as teenagers and married 11 years ago. We'd always wanted children, and having had anorexia in my 20s I always expected to struggle to conceive, so when I got pregnant for the first time relatively quickly we were so happy; I'd assumed the hardest part was over and was blissfully ignorant of the reality of what could happen.
At around six weeks I had a feeling something wasn't right. I went to my local early pregnancy unit, hoping to be told that I was worrying over nothing, that I was just being neurotic. But a scan showed the pregnancy wasn't developing as expected and I was told that I should expect to miscarry within a week.
We spent the next week playing an agonising waiting game, hoping desperately that the doctor was wrong but a week later I started to miscarry. I'd been told to expect 'just a heavy period' but after 24 hours of light bleeding I started to lose a lot of blood. I was in excruciating pain from severe cramping and what felt like contractions, and I was completely terrified. I felt I had no choice but to call an ambulance. The hospital checked me over and sent me home but the pain and the bleeding continued until I passed a large piece of tissue, after which things improved. But things didn't return to normal for a while. I was in shock for a long time, both physically and emotionally and I felt traumatised by the whole experience. I was also grieving and although doctors reassured me that it wasn't my fault, I couldn't help wonder if there was something I'd done to cause it.
I was open about what had happened with friends and family. They gave me a lot of support but although the responses I got, such as 'they are so common,' 'at least it was early', 'at least you know you can get pregnant' or 'it happens' to some would be encouraging, I personally didn't find them helpful. I knew these things already and hearing them they made me feel like my grief was unnecessary, an overreaction. Losing a baby at any stage of pregnancy can be emotional and traumatic; I was just so gutted and sad and all I wanted to hear was something simple such as 'I'm so sorry'.
Six months after the first miscarriage I fell pregnant again. I was the healthiest I'd been in a long time and so I felt positive. At an early scan at seven weeks we saw a heartbeat, which was hugely reassuring. We dared to think that things were going to be different this time, but were still nervous.
However a week later I woke up feeling what I can only describe as empty and, in my gut, knew something was wrong. I didn't tell anyone I was going back to the early pregnancy unit, as I knew they'd say I was worrying unnecessarily. But my fears were confirmed, and I will never forget the silence from the doctor in the moments leading up to being told that the baby had died just the day before.
I was fortunate to be offered an ERPC the following day. Although it was physically easier than the first time, I found it emotionally even tougher. Not just because I'd had no time to prepare myself for the end, like I had with the first, but because I was worried that it was never going to happen for us. One happens a lot, I know, but two-in-a-row? Not so much.
Although at that point I hadn't had three miscarriages, I was fortunate that my GP referred me for some tests. They all came back normal, and even though I knew this was a good thing I remember feeling disappointed because I'd so desperately wanted some answers, some explanation.
Eight months later, I fell pregnant again. It was an extremely anxious time but the pregnancy continued problem free and when Ben arrived in March 2013, we were completely euphoric and incredibly grateful.
Just over a year later, when we had decided we wanted another baby, I was pregnant again but as I stared at the positive test I knew this one wasn't going to work out. By now it was my fourth pregnancy and I knew that something wasn't right, so it was almost a relief when I miscarried again two weeks later. Although I had expected it, it was still devastating. We were so grateful to have Ben but it didn't take away that desire, that longing to add to our family.
After some further tests, I discovered I had subclinical hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid, and started treatment. I fell pregnant for the fifth time just before I received this diagnosis and my first scan at six weeks showed that the pregnancy wasn't developing as expected and I went on to miscarry, for the fourth time. I was left feeling confused, angry and anxious. I couldn't help wonder what it was that I was doing wrong. I was exhausted and overwhelmed with grief and fear that this was going to happen every time. I'm currently pregnant for the sixth time and so far all is well and I'm due early next year.
I know that there are worse things than suffering an early miscarriage and I know that, at that stage, you haven't had time to become attached to your child, but you do start to plan and dream and the loss of that, teamed with the physical trauma, however early, can be heart-breaking.
I'm supporting tommy's #misCOURAGE campaign and their call for further research into this area.
Their research helps to save lives and create new ones. Their support and tireless search for answers is so vital to couples and families like mine.