It’s Miscarriage Awareness Week and my wife’s doing a bake sale at work to raise money for Tommy’s, a charity which endeavours to conduct research into miscarriage and stillbirth and support families undergoing these traumas.
Nothing particularly unusual about that.
However, she’s doing three half marathons as well.
And that’s because the experiences Tommy’s helps couples through are very close to our heart.
Delve a little deeper, uncover the heartache we personally went through two years ago this month and you’ll see the scar tissue is still raw.
I don’t tell our story at all to curry sympathy or to make anyone upset.
But if in some small way it helps people be a bit more open (and donate to this excellent charity too via her Just Giving page) it’s definitely a good thing.
The events of 28-30 October 2015 are indelibly etched into my memory.
And I hope they always will be, in honour of our very young unborn child who didn’t make it.
We’d only known we were pregnant for about twelve days with ‘BB2’ when my wife noticed unexplained bleeding.
Her doctor mind went into overdrive. Whilst fearful, I tried to stay rational. This is quite normal, right? We left Sophie with her grandparents and visited A&E to get a bit of clarity.
The stuffy waiting room was overpowering but eventually the consultant got round to us and booked us in for a scan for the following day. Unfortunately, it was to be in Preston but we took what we could get.
Things improved over the rest of the day with the bleeding stopping and this left us feeling pretty positive ahead of the ultrasound.
Not even torrential rain the next morning could dampen our spirits, particularly as the sonographer was pleased to inform us that everything looked ok – the foetus was present and, although smaller than we’d thought it would be, things were progressing.
We bought some breakfast, chatted about the future and, after picking Sophie up (thanks again, Gran and Grandad) headed home.
Four hours later, our world caved in.
The bleeding began again, this time far stronger. We were ringing up friends and family members for help and prayers, most of whom we’d not even told that we were pregnant yet.
With the autumn sun descending behind the clouds, my wife got an emergency appointment at our own local surgery and it was actually with a GP friend of hers. Floods of tears later, he sorted us a consultation at the main city hospital and its EPAU (Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit) for that evening.
We were so grateful to some good friends for having Sophie go to bed at theirs.
The hope and optimism of earlier had drained away and as we drove to the hospital, darkness masked our tears but the silence in the car was punctuated by involuntarily sobs.
After getting access to the unit, we waited in a brightly lit room with three others, two couples and one lady holding her abdomen. You could almost smell the fear and anxiety.
We were called for blood testing and then it happened. My wife needed the toilet and disappeared for a few minutes. When she came back, silent tears were pouring down her face and in her hand she clutched a red-stained tissue.
“I think it’s over,” she choked, handing me the soaked tissue.
What do you do at that point? Where can you go? You know all the stats – one in five pregnancies miscarry – but you never expect it to be you.
We still had to go through an appointment with the lead nurse on duty. She examined my wife and seemed sure that our worst thoughts were correct.
Another scan was needed to be certain though and that couldn’t be until the morning. So back we went. Lambs to the slaughter.
This time, we were in the main ultrasound room, surrounded by lots of pregnant people, many of whom were seeing their babies on screen for the first time.
A phone rang and an excited mum picked up. “Yes it’s amazing!” she exclaimed down the handset. “Its a boy! I’m so happy.”
Every word – however unintentional- was a dagger in us, sitting there waiting for the inevitable to be confirmed.
And that’s the harsh reality. Juxtaposed with absolute happiness is the sheer misery of couples in the situation we were in.
Having to tell our story to yet another member of staff, this time the sonographer, was hard but nothing compared to the rush of sadness which greeted her, “No. There’s nothing there anymore.”
The confirmation was horrible. Our baby – due on/around my 30th birthday – was not going to make it and that definite knowledge was heartbreaking.
We were abandoned in the room while she went to get a colleague to provide a second opinion, leaving my wife in extreme physical discomfort as well as mental anguish. Then, following their short discussion, we were ushered back upstairs to EPAU where, thankfully, we met the same lovely staff nurse from the previous night. Her words of consolation did help but, with nothing more they could do for us, we were free to leave.
Ashen, we left the hospital to contemplate what we’d been through and the gulf of sadness which threatened to overwhelm us.
And, sorrowfully, this is the experience of over 20% of pregnant women and their families. We were only eight weeks into pregnancy and had already developed such attachment. The pain that faces those whose pregnancies progress so much longer is unimaginable.
But it’s all so often in secret.
We feel passionately that God was with us through the situation and protected us throughout the sadness. And, we have been so blessed to have had a follow-up pregnancy and Harry was born almost a year to the day of the miscarriage on 1 November.
If BB2 had progressed, we wouldn’t have ever met the wonderful little boy who has enriched our lives in countless ways.
My wife now wants to raise awareness and promote the work of Tommy’s, to help others who have been through it and to fund research which could prevent it in the future. I am so proud of her for her efforts and hope you all will be too.
If you want to support this cause (and her rather bonkers half marathon running too), then please visit her Just Giving page here.