Sarah initially didn’t struggle to get pregnant naturally – until the emotional and physical trauma of three miscarriages took its toll. Here, Sarah, who is the guest speaker at a forthcoming Fertility Support Group meeting, shares her story of heartbreak and hope.
“The first time I miscarried was a total shock,” says Sarah. “I was eleven weeks pregnant and started spotting at home but had never known anyone who had miscarried and assumed there was nothing seriously wrong. I then went to work where I had a heavy bleed whilst sitting next to a male colleague. It was horrible.
“I phoned my boss to explain that I needed to leave the office and drive myself to hospital and she let out a large sigh because she had work for me to do.
“I found myself in a room at the hospital having a scan to confirm whether our baby had died. I saw the sonographer’s face drop and I just knew. I had been looking at our baby on the screen and falling in love with it but there was no heartbeat. My whole world collapsed.
“I remember coming out from behind the curtain and sitting down with this perfect baby scan in front of me and staring at it knowing that it would be the last time I would see our baby. Someone was talking to me about miscarriage and handed me a booklet but I didn’t hear any of it – I was too stunned.”
Miscarriages are the most common cause of baby loss – affecting around one in four pregnancies (source: The Miscarriage Association). Prior to her first miscarriage Sarah had not been prepared for anything to go wrong with her pregnancy.
“I had fallen pregnant really quickly and me and my husband Dan were in a little happiness bubble,” she says. “When I had the initial bleed we just assumed everything would be fine.”
Sarah was sent home by the hospital “to take some paracetamol and let nature take its course” and she booked the next day off work. “I needed to process what had happened,” she says. She then woke up the following morning in excruciating pain and bleeding heavily. “I thought that having a miscarriage would be like having a period. I have never experienced pain like it,” she says.
Dan called an ambulance and Sarah, still dressed in her pyjamas, was taken to Bedford Hospital and was put on a morphine drip. It was at this stage that her first experience of miscarriage was made even more traumatic. “I was taken from A&E to the maternity unit and was put in the waiting room with a load of expectant mums. I had a young baby crying next to me. My pyjamas and dressing gown were coated in blood, I looked like something from a horror film,” she says.
“It was just as shocking for them as it was for me, it was an unpleasant experience for all of us.”
Sarah stayed in hospital until she had had her miscarriage. “It was like going through labour contractions, everything was really strange. I hadn’t expected that level of pain at 11 weeks, I really feel for women who miscarry much later on in a pregnancy,” she says.
“Afterwards and once I had properly processed my grief my main focus was on raising some money for the Miscarriage Association. I did a sponsored walk and a sponsored silence and raised £2,500.”
After her ordeal Sarah went on to have two more miscarriages. “We put off trying to get pregnant again for two years after the first miscarriage,” she admits. “Initially we felt as though if we tried again we would be forgetting the baby we lost.
“It is important to recognise how miscarriage affects men too. Dan was in total shock after our first miscarriage and sent me off in the ambulance on my own and went off to work because he didn’t know what to do. I carried that annoyance with me for two years that he left me to go to hospital on my own but it turned out that he was traumatised with grief and once we sat down and talked about it we were in a better place as a couple to try again. We had to overcome the grief together first.”
When she had her second miscarriage Sarah found herself back at Bedford Hospital in the maternity unit waiting room. “I had to go through the pain again of sitting with expectant mums and it was at that point that I realised that something really needed to be done about it,” she says.
“Myself and my mum started a petition to get a separate waiting room in Bedford Hospital for women experiencing a suspected miscarriage so that they wouldn’t have to sit with women in the maternity unit like I had.
“Five hundred people signed the petition and the hospital listened. I went in with my mum to have a meeting with them and they told me that they were setting aside a dedicated room with a separate entrance for women having a suspected miscarriage. I felt like we had achieved that for the babies we had lost and it really helped me. No other woman would have to go through what I did and felt really pleased and proud about that.”
Sarah had her third miscarriage at just six weeks – on Dan’s birthday. Third time she was able to sit in the separate side room at Bedford Hospital she had campaigned for. “It was a much better experience being able to sit in the separate room,” she says.
After that the couple didn’t get pregnant naturally again and were referred for IVF at Bourn Hall after it was found that Sarah had severe scarring on one of her fallopian tubes.
By the time they arrived at Bourn Hall Sarah and Dan had been trying for a baby for five years – and had lost three babies along the way.
“We never found out why I kept miscarrying,” says Sarah. “I joined groups through the Miscarriage Association and realised that we often blame and doubt ourselves, wondering if we could have done anything differently; it is a normal part of the grieving process.
“Miscarriage is such a taboo subject. I found out who my real friends were. Sometimes people just don’t know what to say to you so they avoid you or they say the wrong thing. I had one friend messaging me when she was pregnant telling me about her morning sickness which I found unbearable. I would have given anything at that time to be feeling sick knowing I had a healthy baby growing inside me and so I found her messages really insensitive.
“In contrast I also had other friends who confided in me after my campaigning that they too had suffered a miscarriage and not told anyone. I did have some counselling but I found the most useful therapy for me was talking with and listening to other people who had gone through the same experience. “