The Happy Baby Project

A happy baby needs a happy mum

3 is the magic number*

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* yes it is, when it comes to miscarriages

So, the HBB is sadly a recurrent miscarrier. That means I have had 3 miscarriages in a row. And for those in this unfortunate predicament (1% of all women apparently), and for those going through a heart-breaking 1st or even 2nd miscarriage, given there is SO little help out there for us, I thought I’d write down some things I know about it. I hope, as always, this helps.

  1. The sadness is all-consuming

I am heartbroken to lose a thing I loved so much. My heart feels heavy – particularly first thing in the morning and often last thing at night. I had so much love for this baby, I wanted it so badly, and each time I got pregnant I loved it just the same (even though I tried not to).

Is it better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all? Nope. I know trying and failing to get pregnant in a year would be hard, but getting pregnant and miscarrying regularly is harder. “You should feel pleased you get pregnant so easily” is a hollow compliment.

It is also hard because I want to be happy mummy to my toddler. But mummy IS sad right now. But maybe it’s OK for children to see their parents being sad sometimes – it helps them to know they can express their emotions too.

  1. Anxiety and Stress

This fills me with unhealthy and angry adrenalin and keeps me awake for nights on end. For one thing, my hormones have gone up and down like a mad rollercoaster – I have been pregnant and then not pregnant 3 times in the space of 9 months – which is stressful for my body.

And then as with any stressful life event there are tangible anxieties that stem from it – am I letting people down at work? Should I tell people? Why do I feel so ashamed? What if something’s wrong with me? Will they ever find out what is wrong? Is this affecting my friendships or my relationships or my other child?

Finally, there is stress about hypotheticals – will this happen again? How many times? Will I ever have another child?

I’ve learnt two things that help with this. Mindfulness, to try to live in the present and appreciate what I have, and not worry about the future. And secondly, to treat these worries like floating lanterns – acknowledging each as a valid worry, then letting it go and float up into the wind.

  1. I’m angry

At the world.

At mother nature.

At my body.

At the NHS.

At the government.

At Facebook for unannounced baby bombs (miscarrier lingo for pregnancy announcements and newborn photos).

4. Sometimes friends and family don’t know how to help

While the vast, vast majority of my friends and family have been brilliant, some have been a bit distant, and some unsympathetic. I have also noticed that after 3 miscarriages, the texts and calls faded a bit. I wonder whether people just don’t know what to say anymore; or if some think by the time you have 3 you’re used to it? Actually, 3 is the hardest, the lowest ebb. I’ve needed to reach out to friends to say I need help. For a tough cookie like me, that’s been hard, but I think you need to tell people you’re in pain and need a bit of love. It’s the love of friends and family that has kept me going.

The fact is – when you are grieving you want that grief acknowledged, and not belittled.

You can still grieve a lost child if it was only alive for a few weeks.

You can still grieve a lost child if you already have a child.

You can still grieve a lost child if the chances are you will have another child one day.

You can still grieve a lost child if you’ve already lost other children previously.

You are not only grieving a lost child, but the loss of hopes and dreams, the loss of plans and the family you wanted, and that you can never get back.

You are grieving and there is sadly nothing you can do to make people react in the way you want them to. All you can do is avoid people with unhelpful responses until you feel stronger.

5. Jealousy is a hard pill to swallow

I want to be a good friend, but it is hard sometimes to deal with friends who are pregnant, or who have the family I wanted (2 kids with a 2 year age gap please!). For some people it seems so easy.

It’s not that I don’t want them to be happy – I do. But sometimes it makes my stomach twist with longing to be reminded of something I want so badly, and something I can’t have. And it kills me every time my toddler cuddles a baby and says he loves it – all I want is to give him his own sibling to cuddle.

I have valiantly attended baby showers and cuddled newborns like a seasoned politician, coming home to blub on the sofa, but now I feel I need to give myself a break, and hope my friends will understand

6. Miscarrying regularly takes up a lot of time

If I recall the last year – most of 2014 for example – I have mainly spent it miscarrying.

I have missed a whole load of work, lots of events, holidays and parties. I have spent around 8 months not drinking alcohol, and the remaining 4 months drinking excessive alcohol. I have thought about starting a gym regime 3 times and then stopped because I got pregnant, and then thought about starting again. I have got fat and dieted 3 times. I have unpacked and re-packed my maternity clothes 3 times.

Several of my friends got pregnant months after I first did and have now had their babies. I’m reminded of an egg and spoon race where we all started together but I kept dropping that damn egg and keep having to go back to the start.

I am in a constant state of limbo.

I have been pregnant for 9 months and yet I have no baby.

7. Channelling a happy sheep (bear with me on this one)

There is evidence (if you read Dr Regan’s book on miscarriage) that by just being looking after – monitoring and hand-holding – the likelihood of having a successful pregnancy that ends in a live baby, increases from around 65% to around 80%. And that’s with no medical help or intervention – just extra scans and care.

That’s 15% of women who will have a baby JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE LOOKED AFTER AND GIVEN SOME TLC.

And that’s something the NHS should heed because (see below) if you have 1 or 2 miscarriages, they do precisely jack shit to help you out. Unless you are one of the lucky ones with a sympathetic GP or you pay for private help, you are left on your own, bleeding and alone, trying to work out what is going on yourself – mainly through Dr Google and Mumsnet.

That’s 15% of women who will take home a baby just because they are being cared for. That’s 15% less scans and GP visits, less EPU trips and ERPC operations, less anaesthetists and surgeons, less time off work, less boxes of tissues, less counselling and pain and grief. Just because they get some care.

My lovely midwife friend, the daughter of a sheep farmer, described this phenomena differently. “I would never expect a sheep to give birth if it was scared”, she said.

And so here I am, channelling a happy sheep.

8. Being the perfect plant pot (again bear with me)

Here is something practical we miscarriers can all do. This is from a friend who visited Zita West,who I’ve heard good things about. Sadly, her consultations aren’t cheap, however it is this sort of pro-active, helpful advice that miscarriers like to hear.

A friend who visited one of her acupuncturists, was told birth was like planting a seed – and your job – or your uterus’ job – is to be the best soil possible.

So how do you do that? Well, cut out booze, eat well and exercise. Get your partner to cut down his booze too, and take a supplement. Try to de-stress – acupuncture and reflexology helps. Which is easy to say but after a miscarriage you are bloody knackered and want to drown your sorrows in a vat of gin. But when you get strength back, it is something to think about.

Supplements may help too – evening primrose oil, Agnus Castus, Pregnacare, Q-10, to name but a few.

Will it help? Who knows, but it makes you feel like you’re doing something.

9. Recurrent miscarriers become walking medical dictionaries

Only those who’ve lost several babies will be familiar with terms like luteal phase defects, uterine NK cells and antiphospholipid antibodies. You need to know this shit because sadly the medical world often needs to be prodded to do any testing, and often don’t agree amongst themselves what the best course of action is.

The NHS (and BUPA) won’t do any testing until you’ve had 3 miscarriages. There is some statistical evidence for this – given only around 50% of tests actually come up with something.

singe_04

The NHS when you have 1 or 2 miscarriages

This kills me for two reasons.

First, it shows a complete lack of TLC and care for miscarrying women, and completely disregards the hideous grief that accompanies a miscarriage. Remember that 80% statistic?

Second, basic blood tests (they say in half of cases you never find a cause – which surely means in 50% of cases you do?) could highlight a problem which could be rectified. And that could mean 50% less miscarriages – less scans, less surgeries, less tissues, etc etc. In my case, that is particularly painful as one consultant believes my problem is a “simple hormonal issue” that turns out could have been solved with an £8 prescription drug.

Since my 3rd miscarriage, I’ve been offered NHS recurrent miscarriage testing but its slooow – taking months which if you’ve already been miscarrying for months is hard to bear, particularly if your body clock is tick-tocking or that age gap is steadily widening. So I’ve augmented this with private help – costly but at least it happens quickly and you know all your bases are covered.

The tests you can get are**:

** I’m no medical expert, just a recurrent miscarrier with a curious mind and a subscription to Mumsnet

  1. Hormone levels – this should be done by the NHS and is typically done at the start of your cycle and then around day 22. An example of this is a luteal phase deficiency which means you aren’t producing enough progesterone after implantation. This can be remedied with progesterone suppositories and in some cases, Chlomid.
  2. Blood clotting – things like thrombophilia, tested by the NHS. If your blood clots too much, it won’t allow blood to flow to the placenta. This is remedied with aspirin or heparin injections or both. Some people take aspirin “just in case” but others suggest this is dangerous. After 3 miscarriages, I defy anyone to not be a “just in case-r”.
  3. Immune problems – the NHS tests for some immune issues, but won’t test for NK cells and nor will BUPA. This is because it’s a controversial issue and some believe it’s not proven. But it’s not proven perhaps because there is a remarkable lack of knowledge and research in the world of miscarriage. NK cells are natural killer cells – helpful for killing cancer and other bad stuff, but in elevated levels in the uterus, they can attack a growing embryo. I wonder if I have this because I had terrible hives with my toddler and this is an immune issue. The only people that I’ve found to test for this are: Dr Thum at the Lister, Dr Shehata at Epsom hospital and Harley Street, and Prof Brosens and Quenby who are doing remarkable pioneering work in Coventry. Lots of people swear by these guys but you will have to pay (£360 in Coventry and up to £2000 for Shehata and Thum). Coventry and Shehata have a remarkable success rate but mean waiting for a couple of months at least post-miscarriage for testing before trying again, which for many of us is hard to do. The remedy for this is steroids.
  4. Genetic problems – You got a bad egg. Or bad sperm. Or bad sperm and egg combo. Especially prevalent in us ladies who spent most of our twenties hanging pissed off a chandelier in dodgy nightclubs in Ibiza. I can’t see what else you can do with this other than keep trying for a good ‘un, or get genetically screen IVF embryos, at a whopping price tag.

Monica from friends – is my uterus an inhospitable environment?

  1. Try, try again

Something like 75% of recurrent miscarriers will go on to have a successful pregnancy eventually. But when will this be? I’ve now met women who’ve had 5, 6, 7 miscarriages. I’ve heard of others who’ve had up to 10. Where does that leave your life – your marriage, your existing children, your work? Where does that leave your body and your mental health?

The NHS often suggests you keep going, that it’s a numbers’ game.

And we will. That is what my body tells me to do. But for a recurrent miscarrier like me, this is little comfort.

  1. I think sometimes I’ll only get over this when I have another baby

But it scares me how long that may take. And what I do if it doesn’t happen at all.

  1. I feel I need to do something to remember these babies

Because I never want to complain about being pregnant, or how annoying my kids are, or how awful the birth was. Because right now I would be just so happy to be there, no matter how bad it was.

This year of my life has been remarkably hard, one of the hardest years I’ve ever had to face. Some people plant trees, or get a tattoo.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do, but I never want to forget what I’ve been through, and I never want to take the good times for granted. I also never want to be bitter, or regret this year as its just part of my life and part of my story and my family’s story.

For my father we put up a bench. I’d welcome your thoughts on what to do for my lost babies.

————————————————————-

Update May 2015: To my surprise (and probably thanks to the fact that I’ve been writing about miscarriage recently rather than what to pack in your hospital bag) I’ve been nominated for the Best Baby Blog category at the MAD blog awards. I suspect I’ve got as much chance of winning as I have regaining my pre-baby weight, but what the hey, if you did want to nominate me then please feel free. Click on the link below and thank you.

Tots100 MAD Blog Awards
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27 thoughts on “3 is the magic number*

  1. Hi Sara, I felt the need to post again. I lost a little baby almost two weeks ago at 9 weeks and it is the single, most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever had to endure. I cannot imagine all you’ve endured to go through it three times. Everything was fine until suddenly it wasn’t. Three days of bleeding and multiple scans where everything was ok only to lose the baby on a rainy Thursday morning. Still processing what has happened. There were some small mercies. I was treated with immense sensitivity, dignity and privacy by the maternity hospital (where my two boys were delivered on such happy days). They were so kind and I didn’t have to wait the usual 6/7 days for a d&c (probably only because I had opted to go private on this baby as I did with the boys). Making women wait six days to bleed it out is beyond cruel. Anyway just wanted to reach out. Hope you’re doing ok and working through things as best you can. As they say, baby dust to you. Aoife xx
    Ps we are going to plant a lavender tree in the garden as a lasting memory. We also put a tiny birdhouse on the back wall for the teeny tiny sparrows and robins to shelter and nibble. I think of my baby as a little tiny bird that flew away before I had a chance to hold it.
    Take care and be good to yourself x

    • Oh my dear, I am so so sorry to hear that. There’s no other way to say it other than miscarriage is just fucking shit and unfair and awful. I don’t think many people understand how truly terrible it is unless you’ve been there. I have and I do and I’m really so sorry.

      What you’ve done sounds absolutely beautiful – the birdhouse and the lavender tree. I wish sometimes I’d done something but in my case, we kept getting pregnant again quickly and then we went through the cycle again. Its only now after 3 that we’ve taken a break and come up for air really. The grief can be unbearable. All you can do is keep going really, and slowly day by day it gets a little easier.

      I’m glad for small mercies that your treatment was good, and I hope your boys hug you extra tight. I’ve found two ways of feeling a bit better – the first is coffee, wine and holidays; the second is doing exercise and trying to eat well. Both opposites but both have their merits.

      If it gives some comfort, I know that it is really so common, and there is absolutely no reason why it would happen again. I am a rarity (sadly) of it happening more than once, you should remember that. I know right now that won’t offer much comfort though.

      Please look after yourself, rest and recover, be kind to yourself, allow yourself to feel however you want to feel, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’m also here if ever you want to talk.

      I’m thinking of you xxx

  2. Dear Sasha,

    My name is Ashlee. I’m co-founder of the Youshare Project, with the mission to connect people around the world through true, personal stories. I recently stumbled across your blog and read the above post entitled “3 is the magic number.” It’s honest and incredibly compelling. I think it would make a wonderful youshare, because I imagine many women around the world have experienced multiple miscarriages and could benefit from your story, and at the very least feel less alone with their own experience.

    If this sounds interesting to you, I would love to email you directly with more information and formally invite you to adapt your story to youshare and share it with the project. You have my email address and website. I hope to hear from you soon.

    Best,
    Ashlee
    http://www.youshareproject.com
    ashlee@youshareproject.com

  3. My heart breaks for you as I read this. I had a 12 week miscarriage after 2 1/2 years of infertility. This is where I am thankful I am in America and have a great doctor. We chose to do the chromosomal testing on the baby and had results (which showed nothing) within three weeks. It was piece of mind if nothing else. Most of us have to pay dearly for our healthcare but at least I can fight for help and feel like I’m getting somewhere. Keep the faith.

  4. Please, please, please contact Foresight: http://www.foresight-preconception.org.uk/ – they do wonders for people who have suffered recurrent miscarriages.

  5. I am so sorry to read this. I feel your pain. Last week I suffered my fourth miscarriage. One before my daughter and three since. We are finally getting referred to a consultant. But you are right just because you’ve lost before doesn’t make the process easier. If anything it is harder, more heart breaking and leaves a bigger feeling of emptiness. I hope that both of us have a much brighter future and we don’t have to feel the devastation again. Hugs Lucy xxxx

    • Thanks for posting this and sorry I’ve taken so long to reply. I’m so sorry for your losses but I hope your referral has brought some answers. Its a long process isn’t it? Mine has found some answers – but basically that my body is fucked so not sure I wanted to hear it! But I will be medicated next time which I think will provide me some comfort. Does feel like an uphill battle though and the grief is still all around us.

      Anyway thank you for posting and I hope things are looking up for you xx

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  7. God, what a shit year you’ve had. Thank you for sharing this. I’ve never had a miscarriage (or indeed been pregnant) but I have friends and family who have, and this is helpful to people like me to try and understand how they feel. So, you’ve already done something in sharing this with the world.
    As regards the NHS, yes, it can be shit, unless you need emergency healthcare or have cancer. For many things they are no good and if you can afford it could you consider private? Your health – physical and mental – is the most valuable thing surely.
    Take care.
    ps Trees and shrubs are nice but what if you move house…?

  8. I used to write letters to my baby Nicole (quite a different story but the emotions are those you’re writing about). It really helps. And actually got a tattoo.
    Beautiful post. I mean not beautiful story of course. I need to share it: You’re so right. People often don’t understand. And neither do the NHS.
    Love,Claudia

  9. I could’ve written this, I feel your pain too much – my heart reaches out to you. Sad words from you but so true. I’m seeing the consultants at Lesley Regan’s RM clinic now, on the NHS, so will see what that brings. I had one healthy baby (now 4) before 5 miscarriages including a late one at 19 weeks. The horror is indescribable to anyone that hasn’t experienced it. I feel very alone on this journey despite having many wonderful friends.

    We had some friends name a star for Barney, our boy we lost in December, and relatives gave us garden centre vouchers to buy a tree. Marking each loss visibly somehow made it better in the early days but now I just see that and my bracelet charms as constant reminders of our losses. I wish the pain eased but I think it’s still raw for me.

    Sending love from one understanding bereaved mother to another xx

  10. Sara, I’m so SO sorry to be reading this. I had my own miscarriage problems and we were trying for a year before the first one happened. When I saw the title of this blog my heart sank, knowing very well what it meant. Every time I post a baby picture, I remember the immeasurable sadness I used to feel when I was in your position. And I think every day about the ones I’ve lost and have nothing to show.
    Completely agree that the medical handing of this casts you totally adrift. I hope you are able to get some answers and meaningful support. Wishing you so much love and strength. Katie x

  11. I had 8 miscarriages prior to getting my precious little girl who is now 13 weeks old. This blog is completely spot on. Recurrent miscarriage is hell and I lost count of the amount of people who told me I was lucky as “at least I could get pregnant”. I also found that when I hit miscarriage number 3 people started to become more distant. The first miscarriage is at least you can get pregnant, the second is bad luck and the third people do not know what to say. I don’t understand why I a sorry for your loss is so hard. I am sorry for your losses it sucks and it isn’t fair. I wouldn’t wish recurrent miscarriage on my worst enemy xxx

    • Hi there so sorry to take so long to reply. Firstly, it is lovely to hear about your little girl, congratulations! But my god your story made me wince, you poor, poor thing. You must have been through the mill. Women truly are amazing, and strong. You will be an incredible mother. Thank you so much for sharing and for posting xxx

  12. thank you for writing this! It is something I feel do strongly about. I feel like the “taboo” of miscarriage forcing silent suffering is so archaic! I was going to get an oragami crane tattoos to represent each baby I lost as in Japan they are used to grieve for death particularly children. But I have never got around to it. We did plant minature rose bushes in our garden which flower around the due dates of the different pregnancies.

    We need to change this and speak about the impact on our lives and future pregnancies. The obsession I had with probability of miscarriage and dates of viability, absolute hysteria when I bled in another pregnancy and the fortunes spent on private scans!

  13. Your post has struck such a cord with me. After 3 miscarriagesover 2 years and no living babies, we were finally sent for tests on the NHS where thrombophillia was discovered. I’m now injecting myself daily with heparin and am 21 weeks pregnant. It has the been the longest, hardest journey and everything you’ve said, I feel I could have written it. The way I coped (and by coped I really mean ‘hung on by a thread’) was to write a journal for my unborn babies and to throw myself full force into being ‘healthy’ – heavy drinking and comfort eating became the way I coped. Meditation, yoga all helped a little. Have you heard of the ‘saying goodbye’ services? They also helped.

    If someone had said this to me when I was in my darkest days, I would have punched them in the face. But where you are now, is the start of the end of all this. It does feel too late, but those tests and (hopefully) the support you’ll get from the NHS, will be the start of a new, more hopeful journey for you. Xx

    • Just a little note (very late sorry) to say thank you for your message and I do hope its the start of the end! Testing has found some stuff (high nk cells, low progesterone) and I will also be on heparin and progesterone if I fall pregnant again. I am SOOOO pleased to hear you are 21 weeks (well now you will be almost 30!) – hearing happy stories after such heartache is always lovely. And thank you so much for taking the time to post x

  14. So sorry to read this but huge respect to you for sharing what is, unfortunately, still a taboo subject. Your bravery will most likely helping other Mum’s in waiting/their families who have or are going through similar. I truly hope your Rainbow baby finds you. In terms of rememberance what about little birthstone charms of what would have been their birthday months and wear them on a charm bracelet or necklace/pendant so always close to you…..or plant some bulbs by your Dad’s bench (even if it’s a public area, makes it nicer in fact), that way he can look after the memory of your little ones for you and you can visit when you can. Hope you get your happy ending xx

  15. I’m glad you wrote this post. I’m a mom of two and I feel very lucky about it. I’ve miscarried twice between my firstborn and my second. Both were early stage and still it hurts and it scares you!

  16. Oh Sasha, this is so hard for you, my heart is aching. I had several very early misses and then two at 12 and 13 weeks respectively. Our women’s hospital here, has a service once a month commemorating those babies “lost” ( where did they go?) before 20 weeks gestation, a rose bush is planted over the site of where the babes ashes are buried. I work there and see many, many tokens of love left year after year, I still sometimes sit with my babies and ponder what might have been. Things are done much better now, we have a designated perinatal loss service here to help women and their partners through this horrible time and a psychological department which is used if required. After my Alex died (the 13 weeker), I took a year off from trying for a baby and concentrated on looking after myself, it was very hard. I went to workshops organised for women like me, I jumped up and down and had genetic testing for me and my husband (nothing found btw, but the technology was rudimentary back then), I got to know my body really well. My next pregnancy was horribly bad, but I did end up with my darling boy (he is 21 now). I was a bundle of nerves and had PND for nearly 2 years…predictable, but no-one picked it up…be wary, this is common for women following multiple misses. My hope for you is that you are kind with yourself, try to be less angry (that’s a difficult one when friends are having babies, I know) and take your time. I don’t know how old you are, but I was in my mid-thirties when my family was complete and it is okay and more common these days to be an older Mum. My best wishes go out to you, your partner and your toddler xxx

    • I am very ;ate in replying, for which sorry, but I wanted to say thank you for your post. I am taking some time out as you say – well its kind of an enforced break but I think its good for me. I have also heard about the PND link and can understand it – these losses just make you despair at the world really. I should also say I’m sorry for your losses but its lovely to hear about your family. Thanks again for posting xx

  17. I’m sorry for your losses and I grieve for you. I can’t imagine the pain and anger. But what about planting an tree or flowers that bloom in the spring every year.

  18. I’m so sorry. The NHS is a wonderful institution, but unfortunately it has its limits. You will never forget, the pain will lessen, but you will find yourself with a tear in your eye on what would’ve been their birthday and watching your children together and knowing there should be another with them is the worst for me. My regret is that I never talked about it. I bottled it all up and then ended up with two experiences of pregnancy that were incredibly stressful and I didn’t relax and enjoy it like friends seemed to. Keep believing, you’ll get there. X

    • Thank you for your post (sorry it has taken me so long to reply). I know what you mean about it always staying with you – it feels like life, even when happy, will never be the same again x

  19. I am so so sorry for your loss. So much of this resonates with me. The time thing is a bugger. You are where I was in 2007/2008. So much of it spent pg or recovering from a miscarriage, both physically and mentally. I loved Dr Reagan’s book. So helpful and a real support. Unlike the the consultant I went to see who just shrugged and said keep trying, the bloods are clear.
    I had 3 miscarriages before my first child and another one in between my second and third babies and even now, with my complete family, I often boggle that I have been pregnant 7 times. 7! Take time to grieve or don’t, whatever is best for you and then I’m afraid you just have to try again. I hope my story shows it can work out.

    As for marking them. I knitted 3 pairs of baby booties and had them framed. They hung in the nursery when my first son was a baby. I haven’t added a fourth but I will.

    • Hugely late in saying thank you for your post. Your story and others like it do help me so much. I’m still going anyway, as you say we will try again. This time with some (private) help behind us which is a comfort. It is hard to despair sometimes though. Thank you for posting xxx

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