This October, The Assistant Quarters is 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 due to 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 suffered four miscarriages since 2016.
What is Baby Loss Awareness week?
Baby Loss Awareness Week falls on the 9th -15th of October. It is an opportunity for parents and families impacted worldwide to commemorate their babies’ lives. It is also a significant opportunity to help break the taboo surrounding baby loss and raise much-needed funds for charities, such as Tommy’s, so they can continue researching the causes and how to stop it.
Standing with Tommy’s – Together for Change.
Many amazing charities support families impacted by miscarriage, stillbirth or baby loss. Tommy’s current campaign, #togetherforchange, 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, we can help each other feel less alone and pave the way for greater awareness and more research to stop it from happening.
How Are We Raising Money?
We have decided that for every hour of client work billed in October, 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 heartbreaking 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…
TRIGGER WARNING: Miscarriage and baby loss.
Our first pregnancy, when ignorance was bliss.
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 happened in the same year William and Kate was married and gave birth to Prince George (I assure you that’s where any similarity ends!!).
My first pregnancy was plain sailing, with no actual morning sickness, no super weird cravings, just some insomnia and a desire to ditch the London commute as my bump got increasingly more prominent! 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 Daniel up with the information, barely giving him time to open his eyes before I thrust the test under his nose!
My Nan excitedly blurted out the word of our pregnancy 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 into pieces and consume your every thought, how all manner of things could trigger a memory of you sitting on a loo bleeding or sitting 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. Whilst I held my breath for what felt like an age, I didn’t have any clue about what it would mean if they didn’t.
The start of our journey through baby loss.
Fast forward to October 2015. Our daughter was two years old. It felt as if 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 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 of December, on the day I started to bleed, we had been arguing about how we would cope. I thought the bleeding and the miscarriage were the universe’s way of saying, “well, the two of you weren’t exactly jumping for joy, were you!?”. The reality is, of course, there’s no right time, and everyone does what they can to make it work. The miscarriage happened naturally at six weeks. I was devastated and had to put my brave face on to get through Christmas.
The cruel rule of three, before help, comes.
I then suffered two further miscarriages in May and November 2016. The first was close to both my husband’s and daughter’s birthday. The latter yet again ensured a dark cloud hung over Christmas. One was so bad I ended up in an ambulance to A&E I was bleeding so heavily. The advice from 111 at that time was to sit on the toilet and not flush any of the remains. They wanted us to try and catch it for testing, only for the ambulance crew to tell us not to bother and to flush it away. I can remember howling with grief, sitting there as I felt my body rejecting more and more of the pregnancy.
When I got to A&E, a scan still showed a faint heartbeat. I clung 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.
Tests, tests and more tests… but finally, some answers.
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). Every time I fell pregnant, my body treated it like a virus. A virus that it had to kill.
Our fifth pregnancy in May 2017 came loaded with drugs and more regular scans. By this point, I had set up my own business, so we had to pay for everything the consultant recommended. 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, so I began hoping.
Foolishly I went to my 9-week scan alone, thinking everything was going to be OK this time. But as the consultant flashed the image, I could see there wasn’t a heartbeat before he could even get the words out to tell me. 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 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.
Finally, some answers, along with some slim odds.
The operation on my return was another level of trauma. I was sitting in a small ward with five other ladies having the same procedure as me. 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 around. Even then, I had insensitive remarks from well-meaning doctors that we could always try again, that it wasn’t meant to be this time. The remains went off for testing, and it seemed like an age before we had any news. This time, an NHS consultant informed us that there was a chromosomal issue.
Further blood tests showed that this issue sat with me. Our only option was to try IVF to filter out any embryos that inherited my bad chromosomes or to keep playing the odds. We were oblivious to how lucky we were to have our daughter until now.
We haven’t tried again since. Every month I want to, and 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 holding one of our friends’ babies. But I keep 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 is that she wants a baby sister. Something she talks about regularly 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 again every time I watch how much love she shows them and just how much she wants to be a big sister.
Things that have helped me to cope
Counselling has been a massive help, and so has talking more openly with friends and family. However, as a couple, we have found it hard to talk about what we’ve been through. It is amazing once you have been through this type of tragic situation, just how many other people get in touch to share their own experiences of baby loss. I don’t want to hide what I’ve been through, I’m not ashamed. And if I can help someone going through it to feel less alone, I’m happy to share my experience. I also can’t think of anything better than to share my story and 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 a big elephant in the room. Can we? Should we? When do we call it quits? I’m scared. I’m bloody terrified. But I also feel strong, like now we have answers, and I want to try. I need to try. I can’t give up hope.
How Can You Support Tommy’s?
If you would like to donate to Tommy’s, please visit their website. You can get support here if you have also been impacted by baby loss. 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. They are giving £5 of every sale to Tommy’s to support the work and research they do.