Whilst I feel that I have been pretty open about us having experienced a miscarriage earlier this year and some of the emotions that went with it, I’m conscious that I haven’t really shared much beyond that and so, as this month marks both Baby Loss Awareness Week (9th-15th October) AND would have been the month that I gave birth had we had a healthy full term pregnancy, it feels appropriate that I now share a bit more of our story.
I had spent much of my adult life looking for “the one” – going on reams of blind dates, experimenting with internet dating etc. and, whilst that led to some very memorable relationships and experiences, it also resulted in quite a few heartaches. In fact, I had almost given up hope of ever finding my “significant other” – and then I met Jamie, the man who I am now proud to call my husband.
Jamie and I were both 41 when we got married in November 2018 and whilst I remember having a lot of conversations about venues, photographers, dresses and menus in the run-up to the big day, I also remember a few with people encouraging us to “start trying now” that, because of our ages, we didn’t have that much time on our hands, that biological clocks were ticking…I could see where people were coming from but I was worried that if I got pregnant before the wedding then nausea, bloating, tiredness – or even a miscarriage – could turn what is supposed to be such a special time into a really stressful one and I didn’t want that – so we waited – and, having had the most magical wedding and beautiful honeymoon, I’m really pleased that we did.
It was in February 2019, just a few months after the excitement of the wedding that I noticed I was feeling different to how I normally do before my period; I felt tired, breathless and constantly thirsty and so, getting carried away, I took a pregnancy test…the result was negative. My instincts told me though that something was different inside my body and so I decided to speak to my gynaecologist in case something serious was going on – however they reassured me that everything was fine and suggested that, in the future, I should wait for at least 5-7 days after missing my period before taking a test. That month’s period never arrived and so Jamie and I decided that we would wait for 7 days (a lucky number for some and also our house number!) and then do another test.
The days seemed to drag but finally Day 7 arrived, another test was taken and we were overjoyed when the stick showed a positive result…we were pregnant! Of course I took pictures of our pregnancy test stick, wanting to remember this special day for ever. We then spent hours excitedly trying to decide which of our close friends and family we would tell first, who we would feel comfortable sharing such special news with so early on. It just so happened that our parents came over that afternoon for the “Premiere” of our wedding video and we decided that it would be the perfect time to share our happy news – and so, after tucking into a delicious lunch and pondering what cravings I might expect over the new few months, we told them. They were delighted – and so were we.
I spent the rest of that evening – and the days afterwards – downloading all the different baby apps, trying to learn as much as I could; what size it was right then, when it would be due and how big it might be – the apps made me feel connected and, as we had agreed not to share our happy news more widely until we got to the 3 month stage, it gave me somewhere to get answers to the questions that were constantly popping up in my head.
My pregnancy symptoms started pretty much straight away. I was tired, my appetite increased, I got up about 10 times every night to go to the toilet and my tummy became swollen and rounded – but I didn’t care because I knew that something special was happening inside and I felt extra reassured when we registered at our local GP, I had some blood tests done and everything was fine.
Our excitement gradually got the better of us though and we found it too hard to keep the news from some of our closest friends – how could I not tell my nearest and dearest friends when I speak to them every day? I desperately wanted to share what I was going through – the excitement, the highs and lows, the burning questions I needed answers to. And if I didn’t tell, then I knew my rapidly swelling stomach would give me away – I was getting bigger and bigger every day to the point where some of the people we told asked if we were having twins or even triplets!
I wanted to try and capture every single moment of the journey and so most evenings I did a quick selfie so I could track how big my bump was getting, trying to imagine what I would look like come 9 months when I was already fairly big at less than 12 weeks…In fact it was the rate at which my stomach was growing, and the fact that I had already had to buy some looser clothing, that led to use deciding we couldn’t wait for a 12 week scan – that we wanted something sooner – and so we started researching places where we could get it done earlier.
After lots of phone conversations the earliest date that was available was a few weeks away on 20th March – my Mother-in-Law’s birthday – and, convinced that this would make the day even more memorable, we decided to book it. As it turned out, it will definitely be a day we will never forget.
It got to the week before the scan and I distinctly remember sitting on the sofa with Jamie one evening and telling him I thought my stomach had changed – that I didn’t feel as big as I had done in the previous weeks. He reassured me that everything was probably fine and that I was just being understandably overcautious, but I wasn’t convinced – deep down inside I knew something wasn’t right – it was like my gut was trying to tell me something.
The day of the scan finally arrived and, together with my Mum, I took my Mother-in-Law out for lunch in Marylebone to celebrate her birthday before we went to meet Jamie at the clinic for our scan. We were in high spirits as we all squeezed into the scanning room and I was asked to “hop up on to the bed” and it wasn’t long before the sonographer had cold jelly on my stomach and was rolling the scanner slowly around it trying to find what she was looking for. Our excitement rapidly started to fade though as the small screen remained dark and our mothers were asked to leave the room so that an internal scan to try and get a clearer picture. I knew then that it wasn’t going to be good news…
Everything from then on turned into a bit of a blur…she attempted the internal scan only to find that the “wand” wasn’t working and, with the confusion and tension increasing by the second, she then tried again and it wasn’t long before she stopped, took a deep intake of breath and, turning to look at both Jamie and I, softly said “I’m so sorry, there’s no heartbeat” and the colleague she called in for a second opinion confirmed the same news.
I felt frozen – unable to breathe – but mindful that I had hold everything together and stay strong for Jamie and our Mums. Then the realisation hit me – I had ruined my Mother-in- Law’s birthday – what was supposed to be such a happy day had now been spoiled…I also felt incredibly confused – I didn’t understand what I had done wrong – how only an hour ago I was ravenously tucking into a delicious lunch, very much convinced that I was “eating for two” – and yet here I was now, feeling utterly bereft. I repeatedly wanted to ask if they were sure, if there could have been some mistake? How could I have felt and looked so pregnant but there be nothing there? Maybe they got it wrong? Maybe that “wand” really wasn’t working?
Despite all of that though, I couldn’t cry, the tears just wouldn’t come and Jamie and I walked slowly out of the scanning room to meet our Mother’s back in Reception, acutely conscious that we were surrounded by other women in various stages of pregnancy – that until a few moments ago I thought I was one of them.
We were directed straight up to see an Obstetrician where I learned that I would have to have a procedure known as a D&C and, desperate to get it over with, we scheduled it in for the next day.
Somehow that evening Jamie and I found the courage to go out and join my Mother-in-Laws birthday celebrations – although it was far from easy for either of us to put on a smile – especially when my young niece excitedly came up to me and asked “where’s the baby?” and, holding back the tears, I had to reply that the baby was no longer with us, that it was now a beautiful star in the sky, playing with all the other stars.
It was the next day, whilst sitting on a hospital bed waiting to go down for my D&C that I decided I wanted to be completely honest with my Instagram followers – that this wasn’t something I wanted to keep from them or pretend had never happened – and so, from that very hospital bed, I wrote and shared the news – not quite expecting the response that I got.
I was stunned by the number of women who reached out – within just hours of me sharing the news I received over 180 messages…Messages that were heart-warming, people reassuring me that I wasn’t the only one, that hard as it felt right now, things would gradually start to feel better. And, as comforting as these messages were, it also made me incredibly sad – sad that there seemed to be this “society” of women out there who were emerging, albeit virtually, with openness and kindness often sharing their stories for the first time, sad that it was they, not the Obstetrician who got me through the dark days that followed…that reassured me that how I was feeling was to be expected, that they too had felt like something precious had been cruelly stolen from them. I will be eternally grateful to those ladies.
What happened next seemed almost too much of a coincidence to be believed. I was sitting in the car, on my way to run some errands, trying to figure out where I was going to find the strength to get through the day, when my brain registered what was being talked about on the radio – it was the Vanessa Feltz show and the topic was miscarriage…Before I knew it I had dialled the number and was speaking to Vanessa live on air, telling her my story and listening to those of many other ladies. I don’t know where the courage to make the call that day came from – but I truly believe that opening up about it and breaking the silence was one of the best forms of therapy I could have received at that time.
In the weeks and months that have followed the miscarriage I have done my best to stay as positive as I can – to be happy for those who were pregnant when I was – or who have subsequently become pregnant. I won’t pretend it’s easy, sometimes I feel my heart is about to break, but I know no good will come from being bitter and jealous. I just have to remain hopeful that we will have our own happy news to share at some point in the future and that people will be happy for us then too.
If you have been through a similar situation or know someone who has then please do point them in the direction of some of the amazing charities out there who passionately want to support people going through such a difficult time but also raise awareness of a subject that is still so rarely talked about – two such charities are Miscarriage Association (www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk) and a Jewish charity called Chana (www.chana.org.uk)