Lucy Stephenson: Miscarriage is far more common than most people realise

I WAS standing at the school gates waiting for my son to finish one of his first days in reception when I realised I was having a miscarriage.

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All I could do was try to keep a smile on my face for the four-year-old who was experiencing one of the biggest weeks of his little life so far; he had to be my priority in that moment. I also hoped that the physical evidence of what was happening to my body would not show through my clothes.

I’d barely been pregnant, but that did not make it any less heartbreaking. You often hear that women in labour become almost animalistic, their primal instincts taking over as they focus on the final stages of bringing their baby into the world.

Well, I believe the same must apply at the opposite end of the spectrum if the sobs which engulfed me that night, and for three full days afterwards, were anything to go by. I couldn’t control the noises I made as I grieved, nor the way my body shook as I did so. I assume the very mixed bag of hormones in my body at that point probably only made my reaction even more intense.

I was reminded of this experience last week when the Duchess of Sussex spoke out about her own miscarriage in the summer. Writing in an essay in the New York Times entitled The Losses We Share, she described how it had started like any other ordinary day. But a short time later she lay in a hospital bed, holding her husband’s hand as they both struggled to deal with the news that she had suffered a miscarriage.

The Duchess used her very personal experience to urge people to ask one another if they are OK, to see each other – really see each other – as human beings, all with things going on in our lives.

Jersey charity Philip’s Footprints, which supports families who have lost a baby or child, joined so many others around the world in praising the Duchess for sharing her story and showing others they are not alone. Because that’s the sad yet comforting thing for anyone who has been through it – around one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage. And around one in 100 women in the UK suffer recurrent miscarriages.

In the days since the Duchess’s article, other well-known faces have shared their own stories, also in the hope of opening up a conversation which remains very much taboo.

There have also been two high-profile cases of celebrity baby-loss reported in recent weeks for the same reason.

In a group of friends in Jersey of women of child-bearing age, someone saying they suffered a miscarriage will often lead to revelations from others that they have been through it too. It is far more common than many people realise.

There is no ‘better’ time to lose a baby; it hurts like hell whatever stage you are at and each family affected by miscarriage – early or otherwise – has the right to grieve for their loss for what could have been.

As Jo Nash from Philip’s Footprints said following the Duchess’s article: ‘Even for those who aren’t that far along it still hits people very hard – grief is not measured in weeks.’

And she added: ‘People do sometimes feel a sense of shame or guilt that maybe their body has failed them, which can be made worse by isolation. So it’s really important to reach out and realise that you’re not the odd one out.’

Returning to work after a miscarriage can also be tough, especially if you have had time off and need to explain your absence, fill in any forms or take part in a back-to-work interview. Do you lie and say you had a stomach bug or pour your (still breaking) heart out to your boss or HR?

The choice is entirely yours, of course, just as talking about it at all to anyone at any stage is as well.

But if there is one thing we can all take away from the Duchess’s essay it is that miscarriage is, sadly, more common than most of us realise. You are not alone if you go through it, even though it may feel like it at the time. And if you want to talk about it there are people and organisations who will be there for you.

We should also use her example as a timely reminder that you also never truly know what is going on in other people’s lives, even if they present a happy, composed face to the world. No one, no matter how beautiful, famous, privileged, successful or seemingly happy and carefree, is immune from heartbreak, stress, sadness and challenges in life.

As the Island heads towards a time of increased social isolation once again, with working from home now recommended and socialising with other households now becoming riskier following a rise in Covid cases, it’s a good time to remind ourselves that we are all human. And everyone can benefit from someone checking in on them from time to time – to see if they need a litre of milk but also to ask ‘how are you’ and really listen to the answer.

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