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The Secret Pain Of Miscarrying In Your Twenties

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Photographed by Tayler Smith.
"I was so excited when a pregnancy test finally came up positive. Within a week I'd picked out the nursery furniture, the buggy, the names," says Néna, who was 27 the first time she miscarried. "None of my friends had kids at that point, but my best friend had fallen pregnant a month earlier, so I felt like we were in it together."

At 11 weeks, Néna and her husband couldn't wait any longer and told their families. "I hadn't had any sickness, we were going to have the scan the following week and everything felt fine, no bleeding or scary stuff," she says. But then came the moment neither of them had been prepared for. "We went for the scan when I was 12 weeks and three days. I knew what I was expecting to see, but I didn't see it – it was just empty. It was black. The bottom fell out of my world."

Despite not experiencing any bleeding, Néna had suffered a miscarriage. "It's called a blighted ovum, which means there's an issue with the egg. Basically your body still thinks you're pregnant, so it was still growing all the bits to support a baby that wasn't there," she explains. One in four pregnancies end in miscarriage – although the figure drops closer to one in ten for women in their 20s – but it's so rarely talked about that women often feel isolated and left in the dark when that loss strikes.

For Amy, who was 21 when she miscarried, the experience was more drawn out, but no less devastating. "I was only about 8 weeks pregnant and was on the train when I started having this pain – oh my god, it was terrible," she remembers.

By the end of her hour and a half journey Amy was losing blood, and went straight to the nearest hospital. "They kept telling me 'it's just your body getting used to you being pregnant', but I still knew something wasn't right. I was losing a lot more blood than I knew was normal – it was like I was having a period."

After "the longest 48 hours of my life, waiting for a scan", Amy was given the news she'd been dreading. "I think it's harder in your 20s because you don't have the life experience to know how to handle such a big thing," she says. "I had comments like 'lucky it happened sooner rather than later', and 'everything happens for a reason'. But what is the reason? Why? You become bitter."

It's so rarely talked about that women often feel isolated and left in the dark when that loss strikes

For both women, one of the hardest things about miscarrying so young was the isolation. "I didn't have anyone my own age to talk to about it. My friends were all still going out, going on holidays, whereas I was engaged and ready for a family – I was living that life instead," says Amy.

Néna had to distance herself from her pregnant best friend, but says she was really supportive. "I think she knew I couldn't necessarily be around her, but she popped around one day and left a box of bath stuff and a hot water bottle with a lovely note. She was brilliant, I'll never forget that," she says.

However, other friends that Néna had expected to understand said some of the most unhelpful things. "It's like a silent grief, but people don't get that – they'd say 'at least you know you can get pregnant', or 'my cousin had a stillbirth and that was worse.' The only thing you can say to a woman who has lost a baby is: 'That’s awful, I'm sorry.' Nothing makes you feel better," she says.

"Another friend fell pregnant a month or two later. I so wanted to be happy for her, but I was so unhappy for myself," Néna adds. "I don't think you ever get over it – even now. It was an awful thing to happen at an age when I should have been in my prime. These things shouldn't happen to someone that age but sadly they do, and nobody tells you until it happens."

Rachel was just 18 when she had her first miscarriage, and "just didn't think it would happen to me." Now 25, she's suffered a devastating 12 miscarriages over the last seven years. Each time it happened, Rachel says: "It was heart-breaking. I wanted to end my own life because I felt like I wasn’t a real woman. I kept thinking, 'what am I doing wrong? I was trying everything I could to have a baby."

She adds: "I didn't talk to anybody about it, even my partner. His way of dealing with it was working all the time, and I just blanked it out. People were always very nice to me, but they'd say things like 'you're so young, you've got so long' – but I wanted to choose when I would become a mum."
After her first four miscarriages, Rachel gave birth to her daughter two-and-a-half years ago, and is due to marry her partner next year, but they've struggled to have another baby. "Sometimes I fall pregnant one month after another, and miscarry each time, sometimes I go a couple of years without falling pregnant, and that's worrying," she says. "We aren't trying at the moment, because it's too hard when it doesn't happen, but we're not not-trying. Hopefully one day I'll have another."

Néna also went on to have a baby 18 months ago, shortly after turning 30, but miscarried again when her son was just seven months old. "The physical side of that one was horrendous, but that desperation had gone because I had my baby," she says. "Even when motherhood's been hard I haven't cared, because I went through so much shit to get him that I'm going to savour every minute."

For Amy, who's now 32 weeks pregnant: "The thought of getting pregnant again [after the miscarriage] scared the life out of me. I couldn't relax and enjoy this pregnancy until about 18 weeks. I was being sick an awful lot and having spotting – so I kept thinking it was happening again," she says. "Now I know everything's fine and he's due in October. It will be a year on from when I had the miscarriage."


For support with miscarriage go to the Miscarriage Association or Tommy's #MisCOURAGE campaign.
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