‘We lost six precious little babies over 10 years’
About 14,000 women a year suffer a miscarriage in Ireland, and still it is not talked about
Miscarriage and pregnancy loss is still a taboo subject, rarely spoken or talked about. I recently set up the Cork Miscarriage Support Group with the help of a friend and with the support of the Miscarriage Association of Ireland. Sadly, each year, about 14,000 women suffer a miscarriage in Ireland.
The problem is that miscarriage is not talked about. This means that at a time when women and men – the Moms and Dads – who have lost a baby need more support than ever, it is difficult to find. Often people don’t know how to react or what to say, they may say nothing at all, leaving you to wonder if you actually spoke those words aloud or if you just said it in your head. They may make a well-meaning comment such as you can always try again, at least you know you can get pregnant or at least it happened before you were too far gone, all of which can cut like a knife. All they need to say is that they are sorry for your loss, and that they are there for you if you need them.
Just knowing someone is there can make a devastating and heartbreaking time a little less isolating, a little less scary, and a little less lonely. And the sad reality is that one in five in this country will suffer a miscarriage at some point in their lives. That is a lot of women, men and couples who need and want support but don’t know where to find it. This is why I feel it is so important to have a peer-to-peer support group in the Cork area, similar to that which already exists in Dublin, Galway and Mayo. Thankfully, the Miscarriage Association of Ireland was supportive of what I was looking to achieve, and it provided, and still provides, hugely valuable support and advice.
Unfortunately, my motivation behind setting up the Cork Miscarriage Support Group comes from my own personal experience of miscarriage where I felt isolated, lonely, lost and didn’t know where to turn for the support I needed and craved.
I have just celebrated my 11th wedding anniversary. It’s been a great 11 years and we have three wonderful children. People on the outside looking in see a perfectly “planned” family. Our oldest son, Daithí, is nine, our daughter, Síofra, is seven and our youngest son, Oisín, just turned three.
But our perfectly “planned” little family wasn’t easy to achieve. What people don’t see, or what we don’t show them is the heartache that we carry and will always carry. We’ve suffered six miscarriages over the past 10 years.
When we were married in 2007 we were both young, I was 23 and himself was 30. We were healthy and beyond happy. Once married the natural next step was babies. We got pregnant easily and we were over the moon. I read all the books and vaguely knew miscarriages happened, but I never thought I’d be the one in five whom you hear about. We told people early on that we were pregnant and excitedly awaited our first scan.
I went to the hospital with my big bottle of water. Sitting in the waiting room I was bursting for a pee but refused to go as I wanted a really good picture of our baby to show off. Giddy with excitement my name was called and in we went. On went the gel and the scan started. My husband held my hand as we looked at each other with anticipation and excitement at seeing our baby. The sonographer was quiet but at the time this didn’t register with me. She turned the screen to show us our little baby.
There he or she was, a perfect little baby shape in black and white. But there was no little flicker of a heartbeat. It was then that the silence resonated and then came the words that tore our world apart. “There is your little baby but I’m so sorry there is no heartbeat.”
No heartbeat, what was she talking about, she’d gotten it wrong, she had to have gotten it wrong, it was a mistake, this couldn’t be happening. But another midwife confirmed it.
I cried, maybe I wailed, I’m not sure. My husband cried and we held each other. I know we went to another room. I know we met a doctor who gave us our options, none of which I wanted and none that seemed real. I know we left the hospital and I know we drove home in silence. But I can’t remember any of that. It’s like there is a fog or haze that is obscuring those memories. All I really remember is the silence and those awful words: “There is no heartbeat.”
I miscarried our baby in hospital the next day, when I should have been 13 weeks. I stayed overnight in a ward with a lady and her newborn. She quietly asked a midwife during the night if she could take the baby to the nursery, this was for my benefit as she clearly knew I’d lost mine. I felt terribly guilty that I was robbing her of her special time with her little baby, but it broke my heart a little bit more each time I heard that newborn’s little cry or gurgle.
Back home, life around me went on and slowly got back to “normal”. We were told it was just one of those things, bad luck and to try again if and when we wanted to. With that in mind we decided to try again. Again we got pregnant quickly. We were of course happy and excited, but we didn’t have the same innocence as we knew what could go wrong. It was no longer something we read in the books or something that happened to other people.
We got an early appointment at eight weeks but walking around Wilton shopping centre before our scan I told my husband I had a bad feeling, but we put it down to nerves. We’d had our bad luck and things would be fine. But things weren’t fine. They were far from fine.
Molar pregnancy Again there was the silence but there was something else, concern etched on the midwife’s face. She went and got a colleague while we tried to comprehend what was going on and that we really were losing our second baby. She returned with a colleague and together, in hushed whispers, they examined the scan. They both agreed what we were looking at was a molar pregnancy. A molar pregnancy is a rare complication that happens when the tissue inside the uterus becomes a mass or tumour. I had to have surgery and then had to have bloods taken every second day until levels regulated. All this follow-up meant it was difficult to grieve our second loss.
Months later I was given the all clear and we decided to try again. We were pregnant before long. It was a nerve wracking time and every ache and pain caused panic and worry. But this time things went smoothly, other than bad morning sickness, and our son Daithí was born in 2009.
We knew we wanted to have a brother or sister for Daithí and started trying again soon enough. But again it was fraught with sadness. We had our third miscarriage in August, 2010 followed by our fourth miscarriage in October, 2010. I had been pregnant five times but had lost four of our babies. I was angry, heartbroken and was starting to think it wasn’t meant to be. Thankfully, a year later, in October, 2011, our daughter Síofra was born. It really is true that a year can change so much.
Our story didn’t end there. We went on to suffer more heartache when we had our fifth and sixth miscarriages in February and November 2013. Of our eight pregnancies we’d lost six babies. After our fourth loss we found out through genetic testing that I carry a balanced Robertsonian Translocation which is a form of chromosomal rearrangement. While there were no known health implications for me, it did mean we were at a higher risk of miscarriage.
One last try
After a lot of thinking, worrying, talking and more thinking it was with a heavy heart we decided we would try one last time and then call it a day on this stage of our lives. Once again getting pregnant wasn’t an issue, I had very bad morning sickness and was in hospital on drips a number of times but I have never been so happy to be sick. Our little boy Oisín made his entrance into the world happy and healthy on the 23rd of October, 2015.
And with the birth of Oisín our family is complete. We are blessed with three wonderful children over the 10 years we had been on this journey but it was an extremely difficult road.
We lost six precious little babies who will always have a place in our hearts. We experienced sadness over and over that no one should have to endure but in reality one in five will experience the same devastation and heartache.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and we now have a public Facebook Page (Cork Miscarriage Support Page) where people can get updates on meetings. We also have a confidential Facebook support group that people seeking support can join by emailing “Loss” to email@example.com. Along with the online peer-to-peer support we also hold monthly support meetings on the third Tuesday of every month at the SMA Centre in Wilton in Cork from 8pm to 9.30pm.
These meetings provide people a safe place to talk, in confidence, about the loss of their baby.
While we are not medical professionals, what we offer is a safe place to share experiences among peers and to be met with compassion, empathy and understanding.
I know we left the hospital and I know we drove home in silence. But I can’t remember any of that
Jennifer Uí Dhubhgain with her husband and three children