We struggled with grief and guilt after our miscarriages
Princess Anne’s daughter Zara Tindall suffered a miscarriage just before Christmas. With up to 20% of pregnancies ending tragically before 12 weeks, Lisa Smyth talks to two NI women about the pain of losing their baby.
‘I thought it would never happen to me’
Blathnaid Scullion (30), a GP, lives in Lurgan with husband Gerard (28) and their five-month-old son. Blathnaid had a miscarriage on March 13, 2015, and an ectopic pregnancy on May 27, 2015. She says:
We were so excited when we found out we were pregnant that we told our families the news - but then when I was about eight weeks I started to bleed.
My GP sent me to the early pregnancy unit and they did a blood test and asked me to come back in 48 hours to do another and see whether my hormone levels were dropping.
I got a phone call after the second test to say I had lost the baby - there was no follow up.
The wait between the tests was really hard because I was still hoping everything would be okay, but once we got the results there was nothing we could do.
I wanted to get pregnant again straight away and we did, but then I started bleeding again and it turned out to be an ectopic pregnancy.
I had to have emergency surgery and lost one of my tubes.
We started to try again straight away but it took about six months to get pregnant and that was really hard because I was worried I might not be able to get pregnant.
It was the worst six months of my life. I'm a GP and have dealt with patients who have had miscarriages, but I never anticipated the emotional side of it.
From the very first day I had a positive pregnancy test, I was imagining what my baby would be like, what they might achieve in their life, so I felt the losses very hard.
I know that miscarriage is very common because of my work, but I never thought it would happen to me.
Usually I am a very lucky person. My family says I am the type of person who always comes up smelling of roses - nothing like this had happened to my mum or my older sister, so I just never thought it would happen to me.
I ended up putting a post about my miscarriage on Facebook by accident.
Gerard had asked me to write down how I was feeling to try and help him to understand, then he suggested I put it on Facebook as it might help others.
It isn't like me to be so open and I was just about to take it down when someone commented and I decided to leave it up.
Being open and talking about my losses definitely helped.
I wanted people to know the babies had existed, I felt as though I was making some kind of commitment to them. I needed people to know that I was nearly a mum. But I felt so guilty afterwards, like I had done something wrong.
So many irrational thoughts went through my head - I had taken the pill for years and I thought maybe it was that.
I wanted to talk to people about what had happened, but when I said we had lost a baby you would see them recoil in horror.
They would say things to try and make you feel better, like 'everything happens for a reason'. But it was so difficult for me and I would tell then that unless they knew what the reason was not to say that to me.
What I needed was a hug and for someone to tell me that it was terrible and it shouldn't have happened to me.
I wasn't sleeping well and struggled to keep up a front in work that everything was fine. When I got home I would fall apart.
I would cry all the way into work.
One day I was in the kitchen when I broke a glass and was distraught. Then my husband told me that I wasn't myself and I realised he was right. After that I went to see a counsellor for six weeks.
She was really amazing and it really helped me.
I didn't get any support from the health service when I experienced my losses, but I don't blame the medics as I know how much pressure they are under.
The doctors and nurses would want to help their patients, but they just don't have the time.
My experience has definitely helped me when I am dealing with my patients.
Previously I would have been optimistic, giving people advice and telling them that everything happens for a reason - and all the other things that aren't helpful but I wouldn't do that now.
A doctor friend of mine told me how they spoke to a patient who had a miscarriage - telling her about me and how I had gone on to have a baby and that would happen for her and she could forget about what happened - it made me realise how some people don't get it.
You never forget the baby you lose, dates like due dates will always stand out, the babies will always be a part of our lives, a part of me.
Everyone deals with the grief of miscarriage differently, I don't think there is any right or wrong way."
‘I wanted to try for another baby to get back what I lost’
Fiona Masterson (27), a beauty therapist, had a miscarriage seven years ago. She lives in Newtownabbey with her partner Jason (25) and their children, six-year-old Caera and two-year-old Orin. She says:
I suffered a missed miscarriage which was picked up at about six weeks, although the medics suspected my baby's growth and development had stopped at about five weeks.
I had been having mild cramping and didn't know whether it was normal or not. When the pain became very severe I rang my GP who told me to go to hospital where I had a scan but the doctor couldn't see anything.
I was hoping everything was going to be all right. While I was worried I was trying to stay positive - but blood tests showed my pregnancy hormone levels were starting to drop, so I was told I had lost the baby.
Because of my age and the fact I had never had a baby, the doctor didn't want to do a D&C (surgical procedure to clear out the womb) because of the risks associated with it, so I was told me to go home and wait one or two weeks and see if my body would do it itself. For me, that was probably the hardest part.
While the doctors and nurses are lovely I wasn't told what was going to happen. Your whole life is on hold, I didn't know what to expect, I was afraid to go out of the house, I didn't know when it would happen or what the pain would be like.
A lot of my friends didn't even know I was pregnant, so it was a very traumatic time and I just stayed at home and Jason or my mum stayed with me.
I went back a week later and the doctors said they still didn't want to do a D&C so told me to wait another week.
They were planning to bring me in for the procedure the following week but the day before I started to bleed.
When it actually happened, I was on my own so I rang my mum and she came home straight away and took me to the hospital.
They weren't sure if everything had come away itself, so I ended up having to go for a D&C that night anyway.
I tried to get on with life as normal afterwards, I cried, I was upset, but I did try to be as normal as possible, I tried to keep going as though nothing had happened as it was too painful to deal with at the time.
I wanted to try for another baby straight away, I wanted to get back what I'd lost, even though I knew in my head that having another baby wouldn't replace the one I had lost.
I just felt like that was what I needed but I know now that I was grieving for a long time afterwards.
You feel as though you have done something wrong, you keep asking yourself what it was you did. We called our baby Alex, as we didn't know whether they were a boy or a girl and we thought it was a good name for either.
The doctors had no idea why it had happened, they told me that unfortunately it was just one of those things that can happen, which isn't exactly what you want to hear.
About a year later I moved to Belfast and that was when I realised that I wasn't ready to have another baby. I needed to take time, and that is when we fell pregnant and we had Caera.
I have always wanted to be a mum so finally having Caera meant I had that baby and it did made things a bit easier.
As soon as I found out I was pregnant with Alex, I felt like I was a mother - but then I had the miscarriage and as far as the world was concerned I wasn't a mum. However, even after Caera arrived I still wasn't over the miscarriage. I was working as a beauty therapist at the Beauty Company in Belfast and found out what Ruth-Ellen Logan was doing there working with people going through fertility treatments and who have experienced baby loss.
She started treating me and it was the first time I started to feel like my old self again. I cried so much, more than I ever had before, it was such a huge emotional release, I really started to heal for the first time. I finally started to let go of all the trauma and pain I had been holding on to for so long.
Suffering a miscarriage can do one of two things to a couple, it can tear them apart or bring them closer together and it definitely brought Jason and I closer together.
Jason knew I was traumatised after the pregnancy ended early but the treatment helped me become myself again. I knew then I wanted to help other women who had been through a miscarriage so now I do some work with Ruth-Ellen, having trained with her.
The important thing for women to know is that they can't blame themselves for the loss. It isn't anyone's fault. Also, no matter how you are feeling, there is always support out there. You just have to allow yourself to be supported."