Hayley shares her story of going through pregnancy loss 9 times and the impact recurrent miscarriage has had on her.
It feels cathartic to write it down, and if it helps just one other person suffering from recurrent miscarriage to know that they’re not alone, then the process will have been worthwhile.
In 2016, aged 36, I lost my first baby. I was nine weeks pregnant and had barely had time to get used to the idea of being a mum. I’d known since I was 17 that I had polycystic ovary syndrome and having had a failed attempt at fertility treatment in a previous relationship in my late 20s, I’d pretty much ruled out any hope of motherhood.
Four years into my current relationship I realised that I had missed my period by a few days and on a whim decided to take a test. I hadn’t expected it to be positive, but when I saw those two pink lines, I burst into tears – this meant more to me than I realised. But when I started to bleed a few weeks later, I knew it was all over.
Over the last five years, I have been through this cycle of hope, excitement and loss nine times in total. I threw myself into my work as a distraction. As a busy magazine editor, there was always a pending deadline to focus on, so I would put my miscarriages to the back of my mind and carry on as usual. Most of the time no one even knew I was pregnant, so it seemed ridiculous to make a big deal of it.
Then, in the summer of 2017 my brother tragically died after a short battle with a rare blood cancer called multiple myeloma. Alongside my sister and parents, I held his hand and saw him take his last breath. He was just 45 and left behind two little girls. This was the most traumatic thing I have ever had to deal with in my life, and I began to view my miscarriages as insignificant in comparison.
I lost my fourth baby just a couple of days after my brother died, and I felt nothing. I took just a couple of days off work, and as far as my colleagues and the outside world were aware, I was dealing with it pretty well. “You’re so strong. I don’t know how you do it,” they would say.
No one knew, but inside I was broken. Some days I would cry on the bus on the way into work. Other days I just felt empty. I began to have intrusive thoughts telling me that I was worthless, that everyone hated me, that it would be better for everyone if I was dead. I’d hit rock bottom.
Shortly after my brother’s death, either through stress or the fertility medication I was on, I developed alopecia areata. I tried to forget about it and on our wedding day in 2018, no one knew about the hair loss. I’d had my fifth miscarriage the day before the wedding, and no one knew about that, either.
Eventually I lost half of my hair in big patches, but I hid it under scarves, pretending I had a new rockabilly look. Again, I carried on. Those who I’d opened up to about my alopecia would say I was brave. I’d shrug it off. This isn’t brave. Bravery is facing cancer head on. Bravery is risking your life to save others. Bravery didn’t apply to me.
And then came Coronavirus. To begin with, having to work from home and not seeing friends or family hit me hard. I felt very alone, and I just didn’t know what to do with myself. A few weeks into lockdown, my role was furloughed and eventually I was made redundant. In any other circumstance that could have tipped me over the edge, but I had no idea how much I needed a break from work.
In August I fell pregnant again, but this time I was feeling strong and positive. As before, I began my ‘miscarriage prevention’ treatment of heparin injections, high dose folic acid and steroids. I booked myself in for a private scan at 7 weeks for peace of mind, but due to the pandemic I wasn’t allowed to have my husband there.
I felt incredibly nervous about going on my own, having had such devastating news at all of my other scans, but this one was different. This time, I heard the words, “there’s a heartbeat!” and I burst into tears. I couldn’t believe it. I filmed the tiny flicker on my phone, and left the clinic excitedly clutching a photo of our baby.
A month on, and there was a delay with my dating scan, so we decided to book another private scan at 11 weeks. Again, my husband wasn’t allowed in, so waited in the car outside. I lay there nervously staring at the back of the screen while the sonographer gave me an internal scan, and then it happened. Again. “I’m so sorry. I’m afraid there’s no heartbeat.” I just couldn’t believe that this was happening to us again. I’d read so many times that your chances are that much better when a heartbeat has been found, and I hadn’t had any signs of miscarriage. I was a wreck.
The clinic referred me to the early pregnancy unit for further scans and to discuss my options. I opted for medical management, but all of my other miscarriages had been natural, so I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. I was given some tablets to take home where, to be inserted to induce a miscarriage. Within an hour of following these instructions I was in crippling pain as my cervix contracted. The bleeding was just uncontrollable. This went on for hours, until finally I passed a perfect intact sack with my tiny baby still inside. In shock, I collected it in a pot and the next day we returned it to the hospital for genetic testing.
This was four months ago, and I’m still waiting for the results. I feel completely in limbo, unable to move on from this loss, or contemplate trying again. I can’t hear or see anything about pregnancy without feeling a lump in my throat, and I have developed flashbacks to the miscarriage, sometimes for no reason but especially when I’m on my period.
I don’t know why I’m sharing this, really, but it feels cathartic to write it down, and if it helps just one other person suffering from recurrent miscarriage to know that they’re not alone, then the process will have been worthwhile.