Thursday 19 June 2014

The power of talking

This morning I was helping at a playgroup I used to take my boy to. It reminded me how valuable my mummy friends are as we talked honestly and openly about the difficulties we all face at times. They were the first non family I left my boy with when he was still a tiny baby. They were the ones I've talked to about our infertility issues and how sometimes I think I am slowly going mad. They reassure me I'm not alone and give me a hug and a cup of tea and I feel better. 

And yet I didn't talk to any of them about my miscarriage. I'm not sure if it was embarrassment or shame. After all, the medical professionals had made it clear that it was nothing, something so common it was undeserving of anything beyond cursory acknowledgement. When doctors and nurses and specialists tell you it's nothing why would you think any different ? It's being daft to make a big deal about something that happens to so many women isn't it ? To think you'd be entitled to any kind of support or counselling to get through something so minor. 

It happens to so many of us and yet the experience of miscarriage is marked by the silence required by not having a space in which to share it. That and the personal emotions linked to something so personal and yet so common.

We found out on a Sunday morning that I was pregnant - we had been trying for over a year so it was a pretty big deal and we agreed that as it was early December we'd see how it was going before deciding if we'd tell our families at Christmas or not. We were so delighted that we were already thinking about what to tell our 2 year old son and if he would understand what it meant.

A short while later I was at the doctor's surgery with my son for something else and I mentioned that I was pregnant and something wasn't right. The doctor dismissed me with a "let's wait and see what happens" and sent me on my way.  He didn't ask what was wrong. The following day I knew something was badly wrong and took a test and it said I was not pregnant. I was distraught and phoned Hubbie at work to tell him what had happened. I punished myself for not waiting for Hubbie to be at home with me when I took the test. Then I made call after call for help. I called the surgery to see if I could see someone. I couldn't. I called the hospital infertility unit to see if they would see me for an early scan and left message after message - most were unintelligible from the tears as I tried to explain what was happening to my much longed for pregnancy.

Then I took my son to playgroup and talked to a complete stranger who told me she had miscarried a few times and she hoped it wasn't happening to me. I thanked her and called my neighbour to see if she could watch the boy while I went for a scan as a walk-in. She kindly agreed and didn't ask too many questions about why.

At the hospital I sat surrounded by pregnant women and waited. I felt increasingly scared and upset as I kept being asked what I was there for. Then I finally got called into a side room that was adjacent to the one where the scan was to take place. As I got undressed and waited to get called I heard one  woman after another expressing joy at the sight of her precious baby as I waited and prayed that  they would find something in my womb. The last time I'd been for a scan it was with Hubbie and it was to check how our son was doing. It was a joyful and exciting time. 

When I was finally called in the woman didn't look up, she just asked, "was it you who left all those messages in tears ?" I nodded that I had and apologised for being upset. She got on with the business of applying gel and had a prod around before doing the scan and telling me - very matter of fact, "nope, there's nothing there." Big fat tears rolled down my face against my will. I ached. I wanted to howl with the pain. She asked my age, I told her I was 42 and she said, " Oh well it happens at your age." We were done. I asked if there was anything I had to do and she said no and left me to get dressed.
  • I didn't tell my family -  most of them still don't know and won't unless they read this. I told one friend the day after I had the scan that confirmed it and even then I dismissed it as 'nothing really.'
  • Hubbie and I agreed to treat it as thought nothing had happened and we did.
  • I felt stupid for making a fuss, so I didn't. It was nothing, the doctor and sonographer had said as much.
  • I was annoyed with myself for doing the test, because if I hadn't I would never have known and we wouldn't have been so uplifted by the false promise of a baby that wasn't to be.
  • I hated my body for failing to keep the baby, for being so useless.
  • I was angry that I hadn't seen the signs when all the websites I was looking at kept talking about miscarriage. If I hadn't read them I wouldn't have cursed it and made it happen. Yes, I really did believe this.
I felt alone. As though it was just me and no one else - after all it happened so early on it didn't count did it ? Everyone else was entitled to feel pain and upset and anger as they had a 'real pregnancy' and a 'real miscarriage.'

It was ungrateful of me to be so hurt wasn't it ? I have one son already, surely another is just being greedy ? After all some women can't even have one child and I want to have another ?

Without support services women drive themselves crazy with self-loathing, punishment and judgment about something that frankly we have no influence over at all. The medical profession sees miscarriage as a perfectly normal thing to happen. Miscarriage isn't a medical or chemical process to me. It's the loss of a real person. The end of a baby that might have been.

I am grateful and blessed that I have my son and I give thanks for him every day. It isn't ok to tell me that I'm ungrateful for wanting another. Genuine and heartfelt empathy from other women has been my greatest support. It's not a competition to see who has suffered the most, but a shared experience that far too many of us have had. 

Mumsnet conducted a survey of the support services provided to women who have experienced miscarriage - this post is part of the campaign to illustrate and address the shortfall in appropriate counselling and care. Read here about the Mumsnet miscarriage care campaign.


  1. Your post rings so true with me, and the mumsnet campaign is much needed. I am currently attempting to write my own post on this topic, but after 3 lovely children later - my 2 miscarriage experiences still hurt and make me upset. So let me focus on you.

    You are / have felt real pain - physical, mental and in your heart. You will never forget your lost little one and those who make flippant comments just don't understand. I find support from women like you, who gave shared this experience and understand the feelings that come with the loss. I am shocked at the 'professionals' you encountered. I have had awful and wonderful support at two contrasting hospitals. But it was me who did the most damage blaming myself for the loss for so many years afterwards. I now try to pass all the love for the babies who were not mine to keep into the ones I have.
    Sending you strength.

  2. Such insensitive handling of you and your feelings.

  3. I found reading this incredibly helpful. I've just suffered a miscarriage at 11 weeks of my 2nd child and my son is now almost 5.
    I am so sorry that you were not treated in the right way or with respect. I think it is partly because many people don't talk about miscarriage, so its effects are misunderstood.
    You are not at all ungrateful wanting another.