One in four pregnancies end in miscarriage but many of these can be prevented. As pregnancy charity Tommy’s launch their awareness campaign, Francesca Dresner says she’ll never forget the four babies she lost.
I still remember the dates of every miscarriage I’ve had because they are the day I lost my child.
The last one was three years ago but it’s taken until now to be able to talk about that part of my life without crying – just. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I went through. It changed me and showed me how strong I am. But at the same time it’s something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
My husband Andrew and I were over the moon when I fell pregnant in 2008, just a year after we’d married. I was throwing up 20 or 30 times a day for almost nine months then, after a hard labour, Harry arrived safe and sound in April 2009. It never crossed my mind that he wouldn’t.
By November 2010, I was pregnant again and we were so happy, but just days after a positive test I started bleeding. We went to the doctors and I was told I’d miscarried. I was devastated but put it down to bad luck.
By February, I was expecting and I can’t explain how thrilling it was to hear our baby’s heartbeat at our eight-week reassurance scan. But when the sonographer wired me up at our 12-week scan I couldn’t hear anything, I actually asked her to turn up the volume. Andrew put his hand on mine as the sonographer said, ‘There’s a problem’.
Everything after that is a blur, I felt so empty. I remember, when we’d arrived, I’d seen a little room off to the left with sofas and tissues and wondered what it was for. I found out when they took us there after giving us the terrible news.
I cried and cried on the journey home and kept saying I needed to see Harry. At home I ripped off my maternity trousers and threw them in the bin. I was so angry and confused. I felt like a fraud, what was wrong with me? They couldn’t do the ERPC until the following day so I spent 24 hours carrying my dead baby which was unbearably traumatic.
After some tests I found out I had antiphospholipid syndrome, or ‘sticky blood’, which can cause problems with clotting during pregnancy. To me this was positive news as it meant all this could be resolved, right? I had another positive pregnancy test in November and started treatment immediately. With successful six and eight-week scans behind us, the lowest point of my life came at a 10-week scan when we were told that our baby had died.
When the doctor said there was no heartbeat I went into shock, screaming and crying. This was, for me, my most devastating miscarriage. I’d been so sure that, this time, it would all work out. After that I lost all hope.
Later we learned that the pregnancy had been a ‘partial molar’ which meant I had a very low risk of developing cancer. But it wasn’t the thought of cancer that bothered me most, it was that my dreams of a baby would have to be put on hold for six months. It had taken a lot to bring myself to try again and having to wait was a huge blow.
I got pregnant again but a 10 week scan in the January found our baby was too small and had a very slow heartbeat. The doctor said he or she was unlikely to survive and I left hospital carrying a child that I knew was dying. A few days later I’d started bleeding and a scan showed our baby was gone, yet another chromosomal abnormality.
Somehow we managed to pick ourselves up and by April I was pregnant. I’d spoken to my doctor and we’d put in place a new treatment plan. I remember sitting in the waiting room for my nine-week scan, texting my friend to say I was about to be told I’d had another miscarriage. I was so sure I’d lose this baby too that I was making plans for someone to care for Harry while I had an ERCP. I’d even packed an overnight bag.
I guess I’d just got to the point where I couldn’t allow myself to hope but miraculously there was our daughter, kicking away. I can’t explain the terror of my 12-week scan, crying hysterically and shaking. The sonographer held my hand and I heard her heartbeat.
I was dogged by anxiety throughout my pregnancy. I had a bruised stomach from prodding to make the baby move, my poor girl probably got no sleep at all.
As they wheeled me in for my C-section I still daren’t believe it would be okay but after nine scans, 323 injections and months of anxious waiting our beautiful, longed-for baby girl Poppy was born in December 2013. I was elated.
Looking back, I don’t know how we kept going but I’m so grateful that we did.
Miscarriage is a devastating experience which is why Tommy’s work is so vitally important. Their tireless research will ensure fewer women go through the agony I did.
It’s a taboo subject and I think that needs to be broken. Until it happened to me I didn’t know how many of my friends had been through miscarriages. Some of them told me they had had four too but no one else knows. I was very open about it from the beginning but others have said they’re scared of how people will respond. And it’s true, some people do respond in ridiculous ways and say things like ‘oh well, at least it happened early.’ I know it’s difficult but I just wanted people to say they were here for me.
I still remember the dates of every miscarriage I’ve had because they are the day I lost a child. Every year on Baby Loss Awareness Week I light candles for my four lost babies, they will always be a part of my life.
Tommy's charity funds research into pregnancy problems and provides information to parents. From Monday 16th November they will be launching their awareness campaign called Miscourage and will be encouraging people to show support or share their stories using the hashtag #misCOURAGE on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
This month, Tommy’s conducted a survey amongst over 5,000 UK women who have experienced miscarriage. They discovered some upsetting truths including:
80% felt like a failure after their miscarriage
70% felt that their friends and family didn’t know how to support them
65% felt that they couldn’t talk to their best friend & 35% didn’t feel like they could talk to the baby’s father.
‘Women in the UK have to endure three consecutive miscarriages before their case is investigated,’ says Jane Brewin, Tommy’s CEO.
‘It isn’t acceptable in this day and age to put parents through this much suffering. We would like to see an immediate reduction to tow and ultimately our aim is that every miscarriage is taken seriously and investigated.’
In April 2016 Tommy’s will be opening Europe’s largest miscarriage research centre.
For more information or to get involved with the campaign email: firstname.lastname@example.org.