In a child-friendly, Catholic country like Spain or Hungary it is nothing out of the ordinary to be asked how many children one has. At one stage in my life, after the experience of losing a child, this question would have caused me distress and led to a brief response with a quick excuse why I had to walk off somewhere.
I adore children and studied child psychology, mostly to become a good mother taking child development factors into consideration when raising my children. Sadly, fate decided it was not to be: I have not given birth to a child. This was not by choice but a result of several miscarriages and two ectopic pregnancies which eventually resulted in a divorce.
The reason I decided to bare my soul like this is because of a very moving tweet about losing a child I read recently.
“I am heartbroken to share that our baby Sasha passed away in my womb at 36+ weeks. I had the honour of birthing him on 21 Jan. I am exposing my pain here because Sasha will always be my son & because I can’t bear the silence & (self) stigma around #stillbirth.
“The only thing worse than losing a child is the thought that they might be forgotten. If you don’t know what to say to people who have lost a child, say sorry, say that you are lost for words. Use the child’s name & consider remembering their birthday ❤️
“It is painful to talk about #childloss but it is even more painful to keep quiet about your child, the love of your life. The thought that your child could be a taboo is heart-wrenching. So try not to disappear, try asking about the child, it will mean a lot to the parents.
“Thank you to all the midwives at @BSUH_maternity who have supported us, hugged us, cried with us, dressed & spoke to Sasha, & helped us have a positive birth experience (which sounded impossible to us at first). You have helped us see kindness & light in the cruellest days.
“Thank you to everyone who took the time to think of Sasha, write or say his name. We never expected to see so much kindness from strangers. You are helping us feel Sasha’s magic, which we would like to spread by fundraising for other bereaved parents:”
The second story of losing a child and stillbirth came to my attention by sheer coincidence, if there is such a thing. I contacted Canterbury Soroptimists, part of the UN Soroptimists International group, to ask if they would draft an article for us for International Women’s Day. When their Communications Manager started following me on Twitter, I saw that she had her own tough story to tell:
The start of my fertility journey
My challenges with infertility began in my mid-twenties when I experienced Secondary Amenorrhea, which is an absence of periods for 3–6 months. With regular visits to the doctor and numerous scans, they discovered that I had cysts on one of my ovaries and I needed a laparoscopy to remove them. The surgery was successful, and my periods returned a few months later. Sadly, it didn’t last long, and I was diagnosed with menorrhagia (heavy or prolonged bleeding) soon after. I bled for three months, and I couldn’t go to work.
In 2008, I discovered that I was pregnant with Nathan, my firstborn. A year after his birth, I experienced Secondary Amenorrhea for the second time. After two years of trying for another baby, I was referred for fertility treatment at King’s College Hospital, London, but an ultrasound showed that I had cysts on my ovaries again. I was recommended for a second laparoscopy and I stopped the fertility treatment.
A miscarriage followed by no support
In 2011, I found out I’d become pregnant without treatment, but when I had my 12-week scan, there was no heartbeat. I was devastated and asked for several ultrasounds to confirm. I chose to stay home until my body naturally released the foetus, which only occurred two weeks later. It was heartbreaking and plunged into depression; my saving grace was support from my family.
What I discovered was that women who experienced miscarriages did not have adequate aftercare and must rely solely on family or another support group outside the health sector to support them. My mental wellbeing was not taken into consideration.
When I left the hospital after my 12-week scan, I was not offered any support or allocated a mental health professional to ensure that I was coping. I found out I was pregnant again in 2013. I was overwhelmed by anxiety and worry and became overprotective during pregnancy. Although I had a few health problems, I welcomed my second son, Joshua, in 2014, when he was born via c-section.
Another heart-breaking loss
We became pregnant again in 2018. It was a high-risk pregnancy, and I was tested positive for Edwards’ syndrome. When I was 22 weeks pregnant, my daughter was not growing well. I was referred to a specialised clinic for weekly examinations. At 35 weeks, a week before my planned caesarean, my daughter died and was delivered via c-section.
We called her Mayah, which means ‘close to God’. I was devastated, but she’ll forever be a part of me.
I found this loss even harder than the first, and the pregnancy itself had been very challenging. I’d had so many health issues: high blood pressure, blood sugar of 22, gestational diabetes, and blood clots. I was fighting for my life.
When you are thrown into the tempest of grief and loss, the trauma is lonely. You feel like the only person in the universe that has suffered a loss. Life as you know it is gone, the emotional pain is greater than the pain of childbirth. Everything is turned upside down and all you can do is collapse in the middle of the chaos and curl into a foetal position. No one else seems to be able to hear you, they try to console you, but it will take more than just mere words to bring you back to normality.
That’s where I was in the middle of my storm, I had a mental breakdown, and I didn’t have the strength to carry on. So, I surrendered and let go. I had to release myself from any control I had at the moment and focus on taking care of myself.
The transition from passive mourning to active remembrance is critical to building resilience in the aftermath of loss. I had to transfer my energy from loss to proactiveness. Change was the challenging part. It was such an important thing for me to take some time. I took a career break and made a true journey to find myself. It also allowed me to spend time with both my boys, they needed me too.
The journey to normality was one stage at a time: there is no rush; take your time. This is what I did. I wanted to honour Mayah and one of the ways I can do this is through Mayah’s Legacy. The pursuit of this journey through this charity has brought me life and hope. The focus was no longer on my pain, but on supporting other families that have experienced pregnancy loss.
I look forward to honouring Mayah every day as long as I am here to do so.
My own experiences made me aware of the issues related to pregnancy loss, which is why I found Mayah’s Legacy.
To find out more about Mayah’s Legacy, you can visit the website here.Instagram: MayahsLegacy
Key statistics about pregnancy and losing a child in the UK
In the UK, it is estimated that one in four pregnancies ends in loss during pregnancy or birth.
- 716,704 births were registered in 2020 (613,935 England & Wales; 46,809 Scotland; 55,959 Northern Ireland)
- There were 2,638 stillbirths in 2020 (2,371 England & Wales; 198 Scotland; 69 Northern Ireland)
- Approximately 60,000 babies were born prematurely in 2020
- An estimated one in five pregnancies ended in miscarriage (one in eight if we only count women who realised/reported the miscarriage)
- Estimates suggest there are 250,000 miscarriages every year in the UK, and around 11,000 emergency admissions for ectopic pregnancies
- There were 1,719 neonatal deaths in England and Wales in 2020
- 209 women died during or up to six weeks after pregnancy between 2015 and 2017 – this equates to 9.2 women per 100,000 who died from causes associated with pregnancy, during pregnancy, or soon after.