I didn’t expect to be writing this piece. I expected to be sharing a grainy black and white image of a baby, my baby, on Instagram, along with a witty caption – letting the world know I would be expecting at Christmas. However, at my 12 week scan, alone amongst the chaos of COVID-19, the sonographer’s smile quickly faded as she increased pressure, her movements, a touch frantic. A second opinion and then the words that I felt coming but devastated me all the same: "Have you had any pain or bleeding Rebecca?"
This didn’t make sense. It was my fourth pregnancy, and I’d never had any problems. I’d heard of miscarriage, of course, but it surely didn’t apply to me. My three pregnancies were complete plain sailing, even the midwives commented at my appointments that I was a baby carrying machine.
I did everything right. I gave up drinking well before we conceived, I took folic acid, I didn’t eat rare meat, soft cheese, tuna, egg yolks. I exercised but not too strenuously, I self-isolated. I’ve done this 3 times before, I was 100% diligent and it still happened. It wasn’t my fault. It’s never anyone’s fault.
What followed was a mess of impersonal, corona-led testing and procedures. The medical jargon floored me; our baby was referred to as the ‘product of conception’ and ‘pregnancy tissue’ by the doctors that removed its tiny form from my body. With a miscarriage, the baby hasn’t seen the world so the loss is almost brushed aside, treated as less than a baby. What is totally underestimated is the imprint that this baby has already made on the world of the mother. A mother who shared her body, planned her baby’s birth, chose names, envisaged eye colour, hair, smiles.
Women who lose a baby through miscarriage are often unintentionally abandoned by society when they need the support the most. Miscarriage is not taught, it's not talked about, it's not understood. It's taboo. We are letting down our brave women by sweeping it under the carpet because it is not a comfortable subject.
We’re all still stuck in this place where we think it’s only acceptable to show the shiny, aesthetically pleasing side of ourselves and miscarriage is dark and is ugly. But it is not going anywhere, and with around one in four recognised pregnancies ending this way, it is time we start a dialogue and offer women (and men) the education, support and care they are so desperately lacking.
Reaching out and talking to friends who I knew had experienced this aching despair has been the only thing that’s brought me anything approaching comfort: to know I’m not alone. Without exception, these women said "I wish it was more acceptable to talk about, I wish we could normalise it so it isn’t such an isolating experience." So I set up a community on Facebook (one in four - miscarriage support group) and overnight I found myself with over a thousand new friends, all with a voice and a story, all desperately seeking comfort and peace, all lost and alone in the grief and solitude of miscarriage.
A positive pregnancy test is merely the first step in the journey to have a baby and should be advertised and used as such. Currently pregnancy tests can show you a positive result up to six days before your missed period, during these six days you may have a miscarriage (classed as a chemical pregnancy) and your period arrive right on schedule, causing unnecessary trauma and heartache. If you are trying for a baby, hold out to see if your period arrives before testing.
If we could talk openly about miscarriage, without fear, shame or embarrassment, women who go through this pain would at least feel safe to share their stories in order to seek guidance and comfort from others who have experienced the same loss.
This grief, during lockdown, has felt very isolating. Miscarriage is such a traumatic experience in its own right, fuelled by the silence enforced around it. It is time to change, to open up, to reach out and share a post, ask a question, send a message. We all know someone who has been through it, look for them and let them know they’re not alone. Healing lies in sharing and kindness.
Written by Bex Campbell