Written by Kate Rawson
In 2014 I had a miscarriage. I was seven weeks pregnant and woke up one morning to blood on the bed sheets. I googled it and only read the reassuring posts, when I went to the GP she did not seem too worried either. She said she would contact our local Maternity Unit for a scan but she was very keen to send me away with a smile on my face. A week later I went for an ultrasound that showed a little grey patch in my womb where a foetus should have been. Comments like, ‘It’s just one of those things,’ and ‘You’ve got time to try again,’ were reassuring and well-meant but reinforced the message that this was just a blip in my life and not important. I had a two year old son so I cried when he wasn’t looking and got on with it.
The next year I got pregnant again and decided to tell a few people straight away. It had been odd telling friends that I was pregnant and not pregnant in the same breath after my first miscarriage, plus I could do with some cheerleaders.
I was in the playground with my now three year old when I realised I was going to miscarry again. It was just a little cramp, but I knew. I was eleven weeks pregnant and we had had an early scan that was fine so this was a horrible shock and the miscarriage itself was quite traumatic. Still the old lines were being peddled, ‘It’s normal, it’s nature’s way.’ I was not feeling normal anymore.
My third attempt was riddled with anxiety. I was obsessed by dates and measurements and symptoms and statistics in a way I had never been before. I wrote a blog to try to process some of those feelings. Then I came across a research study at my maternity unit that offered regular ultrasounds during the first trimester. I went every ten days but those five seconds before I heard the heartbeat were agony each time. Maya Al-Memar was the doctor running the clinic and when she told me her interest was in miscarriage, that it was “the last taboo,” I just wanted to hug her.
Fortunately, I went on to have another beautiful healthy boy but I was left with an uneasy feeling, not just about the trauma of miscarriage but how there seems to be very little room for it in society, little support, little public conversation.
I’m an actor and a writer and decided to write a radio play about miscarriage after re-discovering my blog. It struck me that this was such a common story (they weren’t lying! Around a quarter of a million women miscarry in the UK each year) but it is so rarely told.
I had never written anything based closely on my own experience before, my last play was a show about a woman who is obsessed by Marilyn Monroe!
This play would focus specifically on early pregnancy loss (occurring in the first trimester) as this accounts for around 75% of all miscarriages, and I wanted it to be a warts and all account, not whispered hints to make it more palatable for people. It’s so easy to dismiss the experience for other people’s benefit. Finally I wanted to reflect the incredible feat of so many women who lose a baby in pregnancy and come out the other side, try again, maybe fail again, all without telling anyone/taking time off/ having a complete breakdown!
There has been progress in miscarriage care since my experience, there is now a National Centre for Miscarriage Research, and counselling is offered at miscarriage support groups and by charities. But these services cannot meet the demand, are not always visible to the people who need them and many rely on good will alone to survive.
The NHS is stretched and there are no simple answers, but I do think that breaking the silence is key, kindness and a desire to listen and understand can make all the difference.
You don’t have to suffer the death of a loved one to be able to empathise with someone who has, because we talk about that grief, and we have seen that story on TV; we have imagined ourselves in that situation while watching our favourite Netflix drama. But while the subject of miscarriage is off the table it will remain an isolating experience with only the people who have been through it knowing the language with which to talk about it.
My play is called Little Blue Lines and there will be a reading of it at RADA during Baby Loss Awareness Week. I’m very excited to hear it spoken out loud for the first time and I hope I can take it to a wider audience to start lots of interesting conversations about miscarriage.
Lead photo by Michael Hayes
Headshot by Nicky Talacko