Coping with miscarriage: ‘It’s never less sad. But the sadness shifts – still visible but not overwhelming anymore’

How do you ever recover from miscarriage? Will it ever hurt less? Yes, says Charli, who miscarried 2 years ago: the sadness is still there but it doesn't take your breath away all day...

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Miscarriage hurts. We all feel it in different ways, and maybe to different degrees, but it hurts. And it can take time – probably more time than we think – for that hurt to fade from something all-consuming to something we’re better able to cope with.

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That’s certainly how it’s felt for Charli Hatton, 36, an educational psychologist who lives in east London with her husband. She had a miscarriage 2 years ago.

This is Charli’s story…

“We started trying for a baby in 2017, when I was 34. And we hadn’t been trying for long before I got pregnant.

“In April, when I was 9 weeks pregnant, I suddenly had terrible cramps. After a few anxious hours, the cramps seemed to pass. But later, I started bleeding and so we rushed to A&E.

“I remember the day in snapshots: the blood; the pain; the blurry medical staff; the apologies; the confirmation of our fears; the silent darkness of the final scan to show that my uterus – which had once been full of promise – was now ’empty’; the sobbing; the body-shaking cries that were both mine and not mine.

I was in my body and also outside of it. Simultaneously raw and numb. The sadness overwhelmed me. I dwelled in the grief

“But after two weeks, I returned to work.  And, once my periods returned, I began to try again. At that point, I thought I was OK.

“I was certain that I had fallen pregnant again, 6 weeks later. I was wrong. Our mind and body can work together to play tricks on us.

“When my period unexpectedly came, I was completely crushed. The sight of unwanted blood took me back to that awful day in April. I muddled through the day at work and left in a blur.

“I gradually found myself spiralling into a mixture of activity and inertia. The sadness and numbness returned. I didn’t realise how unwell I was becoming. I felt so unlike myself.

“I completely compartmentalised everything: I sucked in all my feelings and went to work, had meetings with parents who were really struggling with their children who had additional needs, and then I would leave again. I used to cry in between my meetings.

“I kept working and pushing myself until I was forced to take time off to rest and recover.

“I don’t want to tell anyone how to feel but, when I miscarried, I lost all of the things I’d hoped for that baby.

I had lost a child, even though they may not have ever lived and breathed outside of me

“You start becoming a parent from the day you find out you’re pregnant. Even though there isn’t a child running around the garden yet, there is in your mind. You don’t fall pregnant and then have no feelings about your pregnancy until you’re given a baby.

“I hadn’t told my two best friends that I was pregnant. I was waiting until the 12-week scan to tell them, with photos of the scan. But then I had to tell them I’d had a miscarriage, which was quite difficult because they didn’t even know I was pregnant in the first place.

When people told me I could try again, I would say, 'I don’t want another one. I want THAT baby'

“I couldn’t function. I had a breakdown when someone said they were pregnant because it felt like it should be my turn, not their turn, that they should get in the queue.

“Before the miscarriage, my husband and I had told different people that we were expecting. I’d told a Tesco delivery driver once. She came back again – after the miscarriage – when only my husband was home and said, ‘How’s it all going with the pregnancy?’ And she was so upset when she found out. I wasn’t there; it would have been really hard for me to hear that. Other people’s sadness is hard.

“Gradually, I did feel better. However, I am changed by this experience. The sadness, which once consumed me, has shifted to the edge of my view. Still just visible, but not overwhelming anymore.

For me – and here comes a Stranger Things reference – miscarrying is a bit like falling into the Upside Down, into this weird parallel universe, one that no one wants to be in. I think people do talk about miscarriage but I think you don’t hear it until you’re in it. You're not alone. We're all out there, but no one sees us until you drop into the Upside Down

“When I miscarried, when I dropped into the Upside Down, all sorts of people – good friends and acquaintances – started sharing their stories with me. They said, ‘Oh, yeah, welcome. It’s not very nice down here. But this is where we are.’

“I wish I’d known that I wasn’t just going to gradually feel better each day. That I was going to have good days and bad days, that I was going to feel OK, and then out of nowhere just drop back again. I’d think I was doing OK, then something would just knock me, completely, out of nowhere.

“It’s never less sad. But it doesn’t stay a sadness that takes your breath away all day every day.

“I still think about it. I still cry about it but I am OK now.”

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