This year, Baby Loss Awareness Week is being recognised between 9-15 October.
Here, Peppy user, contributor and journalist, Sam Rider, shares his personal story of miscarriage and highlights how the way we talk about miscarriage and baby loss needs to change.
1 in 4
The sad reality is that miscarriage is extremely common.
It affects one in four pregnancies in the UK – a shocking number. More than 80% occur in the first 12 weeks, but the statistics only tell half the story.
They don’t speak of the panic and confusion that sets in with every trip to the doctor, or of the physical trauma and emotional loss of the miscarriage itself. And despite those odds, you never think it will happen to you.
For my wife Kathryn and I, it was after the 12-week mark – when the probability of miscarriage drops from 25% to just 1.7% – that things took a turn for the worse.
Our “Miracle Baby”
Our difficulties had actually started long before then. We had been trying to conceive for almost 18 months and were on the waiting list for IVF.
Our doctor even told us it would be a miracle if we conceived without treatment, so when Kathryn found out she was four weeks pregnant in March 2021, we thought the miracle had come true.
As is customary, we kept the news to ourselves until our 12 week scan, when the sonographer told us everything looked great and we could finally start to really enjoy being pregnant. We were delighted to tell our family and friends, but shortly after, around 13.5 weeks, Kathryn started to experience some bleeding.
Given this was our first pregnancy, we had no idea if this was normal. And because our maternity ward doesn’t see expecting mothers until they are 16 weeks pregnant, we were left to the Early Pregnancy Unit and our A&E department. This just led to long waits and dead ends.
To put our minds at ease, we booked a private scan. It uncovered a small subchorionic haematoma – a buildup of blood in the womb that can increase the risk of miscarriage – but we were assured that most women go on to deliver a healthy full-term baby.
However, over the next few days things just got worse. More heavy bleeding led to rushed trips to the hospital, more scans, more assurances that the baby’s heart was beating and everything looked fine, yet no sign of things improving.
Throughout this whole episode there was a twisted symmetry with the 2020 European Championships, which meant every day has now been timestamped in my mind.
When England were playing the Czech Republic early in the tournament, I contracted COVID-19, meaning I couldn’t be by Kathryn’s side for any of the initial hospital visits. When England were cruising past Ukraine in the quarter-finals, Kathryn was rushing to hospital with the bleeding getting worse.
Then, with Kathryn now 15 weeks pregnant, we were on the sofa watching England edge past Denmark in the semi-finals, when she noticed she had a high temperature and fever. It passed quickly, but later that night Kathryn woke up in severe distress.
Paramedics rushed us to the hospital and gave her gas and air, and then morphine, yet it barely dulled the pain as she began bleeding more heavily.
After almost five hours Kathryn finally settled but it was too late. The doctors examined Kathryn and told us her cervix had opened. A scan confirmed our baby’s heart was no longer beating.
The words crashed over me like a wave and I crumpled to the floor beside Kathryn’s bed, my head swimming. Kathryn just lay there in stunned silence.
They explained Kathryn was going through what’s termed as a “late miscarriage” and shortly after, in the room, she passed the baby.
Later that day we were allowed to head home, where we began contacting our family, friends and colleagues to notify them that we had lost our baby, having only told them we were pregnant just three weeks earlier.
Despite the physical and emotional trauma, we had to return to the same hospital the next day. While the nation was in raptures ahead of England’s first major tournament final since 1966, Kathryn was in hospital having surgery to remove the remnants of the pregnancy.
Three weeks later we had a small funeral at our local crematorium arranged by the hospital, and later scattered our baby’s ashes at a place special to us by the sea.
The truth is, nothing can prepare you for the loss of your unborn child.
As the partner of the person going through it, you feel especially powerless. My wife tells me that for all the physical pain she endured, nothing compares with the emotional pain she felt that day and still feels today.
It’s a unique kind of bereavement. You mourn the loss of a baby you never had the chance to meet, of a life that could have been. You also mourn the loss of the future you imagined enjoying together as a family.
In the days and weeks after the miscarriage, my wife and I felt like we were drifting, directionless. We were lucky that our employers were very understanding and they allowed us plenty of space to grieve, but for Kathryn the timing left her in a difficult position.
She hadn’t told all her colleagues we were expecting as it was still early, so she had to break the news that she was pregnant and had lost the baby in the same breath.
Help at hand
Peppy really came into its own at this point. From the beginning, I had been in contact with one of Peppy’s practitioners, Hannah, via the app.
She helped keep me calm when I couldn’t be with Kathryn in the hospital. She directed me to trusted resources and advised us when her symptoms were serious enough to warrant calling the hospital. And afterwards, she pointed us to the Miscarriage Association and Tommy’s charity, where we were able to get further professional support.
This simple act of signposting shouldn’t be overlooked. A lot of UK companies have set up groups for colleagues who experience baby loss and have mental health champions, but without clear signposting most employees simply don’t know they exist.
A lack of awareness about miscarriage in the workplace can also create additional obstacles. Managers aren’t sure how to support their people. Employees aren’t sure how to ask for help. But miscarriage is common and talking openly about it should be too.
By sharing our stories, among our friendship group and with our colleagues, hopefully we can start demystifying the difficult reality of miscarriage and baby loss.
As Tommy’s charity says, losing a baby should never be just one of those things. Access to an informed and caring support network for anyone affected by miscarriage, however, certainly should be.