This October The Assistant Quarters is once again raising funds for Tommy’s in support of Baby Loss Awareness week and the many bereaved parents and families who have lost a baby as a result of miscarriage, stillbirth or premature death. In this post, we wanted to share why we are supporting Tommy’s campaign and why it is so important to our Founder, Claire, who has herself suffered four miscarriages since 2016.
What is Baby Loss Awareness week?
Baby Loss Awareness Week falls on the 9th -15th October each year. It is an opportunity for parents and families that have been impacted across the world to commemorate their babies’ lives. It is an also an important opportunity to help break the taboo that surrounds baby loss and raise much-needed funds for charities, such as Tommy’s, so that they can continue to research the causes of baby loss and how to stop it happening.
Standing with Tommy’s – Together for Change
There are many amazing charities supporting families impacted by miscarriage, stillbirth or baby loss. Tommy’s current campaign #togetherforchange is one that is particularly close to our hearts so, like last year, we have decided to raise funds to support them. According to Tommy’s website, did you know?
- In the UK, 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in miscarriage, stillbirth or premature death.
- The emotional impact this has is devastating and leaves parents with so many unanswered questions.
- There is still silence and shame around baby loss. But if we can talk about it openly and honestly, not only can we help each other feel less alone, but we can also pave the way for greater awareness and more research to stop it happening.
How Are We Raising Money?
We have decided that during October, for every hour of client work that is billed, we will donate £1 to Tommy’s charity. So, every 1 hour = £1 towards much-needed research and support. We hope to raise even more than we did last year and also help do our bit to raise awareness and break the silence surrounding such a heart-breaking moment for so many people.
Why is Baby Loss Awareness Week Important to The Assistant Quarters?
When The Assistant Quarters launched in early 2017, Founder Claire and her husband had already sadly suffered three miscarriages since 2015, going on to suffer a fourth miscarriage in May 2017. To hear a little more about Claire’s story, read on…
WARNING: Possible trigger post due to talk about miscarriage and baby loss.
When I was growing up I always knew that I wanted a family. I’d always imagined that I’d be well on my way and be married with at least one baby by the time I was thirty! However, I got married just a few days before my 30th birthday and our 1st daughter arrived not long before I turned 32, both events happening in the same year as William and Kate were married and gave birth to Prince George (I assure you that’s where any similarity ends!!). My pregnancy was relatively plain sailing, no real morning sickness, no super weird cravings, just some insomnia and a desire to ditch the London commute as my bump got increasingly bigger! We suspected we were expecting whilst we were on holiday in Kos and a quick test as soon as we got home to the UK confirmed the news. We hadn’t long decided to start trying but it all happened quickly for us. I was so excited I woke up Daniel with the news barely giving him time to open his eyes before I thrust the test under his nose! My Nan blurted out the news of our pregnancy excitedly at her 80th birthday party just as we’d decided to tell family and friends. Before we had even had our 1st official scan.
At that time the concept of miscarriage was alien to me, something that as far as I knew, only a few colleagues at work had been through in my circle of friends. Looking back, I had no clue how much they were hurting. How the grief of losing something that you hadn’t yet had the chance to hold could rip your heart in pieces and consume your every thought. How any number of instances could trigger a memory of you sat on a loo bleeding or sat in a hospital waiting room and to the point of a panic attack. At one of the early scans for my daughter I remember a nurse at my GP surgery trying to find a heartbeat and whilst I held my breath for what felt like an age, I didn’t really have any clue of about what it would mean if they didn’t.
Fast forward to October 2015. Our daughter was 2 years old. It felt like literally everyone around me was announcing they were pregnant with baby number two. It was the done thing and the “do you think you will have another?” questions had started. I knew to my very core that I wanted to grow our family, but hubby was hesitant. He had struggled a little with the adjustment and as our daughter had never been a great sleeper, the thought of more broken sleep seemed unappealing. When I discovered I was pregnant again I was nervous and we had discussions about whether it was the right time. On the 4th December, on the day I started to bleed, we had been arguing about how we would cope. I thought the bleeding and the miscarriage was the universe saying “well the two of you weren’t exactly jumping for joy were you!?”. But inside I was. There’s no right time, everyone does what they can to make it work. The miscarriage happened naturally at 6 weeks. I was devastated and had to put my brave face on to get through Christmas.
I then suffered two further miscarriages in May and November 2016. The first terribly close to both my husbands and daughter’s birthday. The latter yet again ensuring a dark cloud over Christmas. One was so bad I ended up in an ambulance to A&E I was bleeding so heavily. The advice being from 111 that time to sit on the toilet and not flush any of the remains. To try and catch it for tests only for the ambulance crew to tell us not to bother and to flush it away. I can remember howling with grief, sat there as I felt my body rejecting more and more of the pregnancy. When I got to A&E, a scan still showed a feint heartbeat. I clung on to the hope it would still be OK with every fibre of my body, with an anxious wait over the weekend before a proper scan on Monday. And then, the news that I’d dreaded, everything was gone.
By that point, I had suffered three miscarriages in just under a year. As we already had a daughter without any hitch, doctors and nurses had repeatedly told us that they wouldn’t be able to investigate why we were suffering the losses until we hit ‘the (anything but magic) number three’. Up to that point, it was just a case of trying our luck. But you feel anything but lucky when this happens – once or even more. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
I was, however, lucky to have some private medical insurance through my employers at the time. It didn’t cover all the tests, but it covered enough to tell us all wasn’t right. Tests showed that my body had trouble absorbing folic acid (not a huge problem in itself) but also that I had high natural killer cells (NK cells). This meant that every time I fell pregnant my body was treating it like a virus. A virus that it had to kill.
Our fifth and most recent pregnancy in May 2017 came loaded with drugs and more regular scans. By this point, I had set up my own business so everything that the consultant recommended, we had to pay for. In the facebook forums I would take solace in, he was well recommended, and I felt in safe hands. We got further along in the pregnancy than we had ever managed with the previous three and so I began to hope. Foolishly I went to my 9-week scan alone, thinking this time everything was going to be OK. But at as the consultant flashed up the image I could see there wasn’t a heartbeat before he could even get the words out to tell me himself. The next steps were explained to me in a blur and I remember sitting in the car, hysterical and unable to breathe. I then had to drive myself home. We were due to take my daughter to Disneyland Paris as a birthday treat the following week and I couldn’t face letting her down. As I wasn’t bleeding at that point, it was agreed that I could keep taking the medication I was on to halt any natural proceedings and then have an operation to remove the remains on my return. So I had to slap on a brave face, try and bury down the tears and grief and survive what should’ve been the most special trip for our family. I got asked by the staff if I was pregnant and was OK to go on particular rides. I wasn’t. Every photo of me on that trip reminds me of a horrible amount of grief and a horrible situation to be in.
The operation on my return was another level of trauma. Sat on a small ward with five other ladies having the same operation. My husband sat in the waiting room as he wasn’t allowed in with me. No comfort, no support, just strangers. I was crying as they put me under and I was still crying as I came round. Even then I had ainsensitive remarks from well-meaning doctors that we could always try again, that it obviously wasn’t meant to be this time. The remains went off for testing and it seemed like an age before we had any news. An NHS consultant this time informed us that there was an issue with some chromosomes. Further blood tests showed that this issue sat with me. Our only option to try IVF to filter out my bad chromosomes or to keep playing the odds. It turns out that we were completely oblivious to how lucky we were to have our daughter until now.
We haven’t tried again since. Every month I want to, every period is another punch in the gut that my body has let me down. As is every time I see the news that someone is expecting, or has given birth, or every time I see my husband hold one of our friends’ babies. But I hold it together, I don’t begrudge anyone, I’m happy for everyone of course but it hurts. My daughter is completely unaware of what has happened throughout. What she does know though is that she wants a baby sister. Something she talks about on a regular basis as she has seen many of her school friends becoming big sisters or big brothers since starting school. She dotes on every baby she meets, almost smothering them. My heart breaks all over again every single time I watch how much love she shows them, and just how much she wants to be a big sister.
Counselling has been a massive help to me, as has talking with friends. However, as a couple we have found it hard to talk about about what we’ve been through. It is amazing once you have been through this type of tragic situation, just how many other people reach out because they have been through it too. I don’t want to hide what I’ve been through, I’m not ashamed. And if I can help one other person going through it to feel less alone then I’m happy to share my experience. I also can’t think of anything better than to share my story to help explain why I want The Assistant Quarters to raise money for Tommy’s during Baby Loss Awareness week.
So here we are today and there’s currently a very big elephant in the room. Can we? Should we? When do we call it quits? I’m scared. I’m absolutely bloody terrified. But I also feel strong, I feel like now we have answers, I want to try. I need to try. I can’t give up hope.
If you would like to donate to Tommy’s please visit their website or, if you have been impacted by baby loss you can get support here. We’d also love you to pop over to Mutha.hood where you can buy a limited edition Strong Girls Club t-shirt to support the work of Tommy’s with £5 of every sale going straight towards the work and research that they do.