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'I called my soldier husband in Iraq to tell him I'd miscarried for the seventh time - then the phone went dead'

Mirror logo Mirror 2/04/2017

Credits: Amanda Prowse © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Amanda Prowse

As a family we were beyond excited that I was pregnant – the baby would be the first grandchild and great-grandchild. I bought tiny socks, little vests and wrote a list of names. But it was not to be. I started bleeding and lost the baby at a little less than 10 weeks. I felt not only distraught, but disappointed and, dare I say it, guilty that I’d let my family down. Watching my dad’s face crumple and my mum hold me tight and tell me it was OK and that I could try again, was incredibly hard.

The medical team assured me there was no reason for me not to go on and deliver a healthy full-term baby in the future, as is the case for ‘most’ women who experience miscarriage. Often there is no explanation for miscarrying. This was the first time I heard the phrase ‘these things just happen’. I gave away the little socks and vests and got on with my life.

I fell pregnant again, only for this pregnancy to end in the same way with a miscarriage at 10 weeks. I felt hollow, cheated and watched my dreams of motherhood slipping through my fingers.

It was with great caution I informed my nearest and dearest when I fell pregnant again. The announcement was tinged with apprehension that removed a little of the joy. This time, I got lucky and that pregnancy, while not easy, resulted in the birth of my beautiful son. He felt like my reward for the loss I’d experienced, and with my newborn child in my arms, my life felt complete and all memories of my miscarriages were swept from my mind.

The relationship with the father of my son broke down and when I met my now husband Simeon, who also had a child from a previous marriage, we decided it would be perfect to add to our family with a child of our own. I fell pregnant quickly and we were over the moon. But getting pregnant was never the problem for me – staying pregnant was. Caught up in the excitement and full of hope, we planned for the arrival of our baby. At the time we were living in Germany where Simeon, a soldier, had been posted.

It was nine weeks later that I woke in the middle of the night with a familiar cramp in my stomach. I crept from the bedroom on all fours and lay on the bathroom floor, weeping. Simeon held me tight and told me we already had so much to feel thankful for, we had two children between us – this was a sad, sad thing, but we could try again. And we did, which resulted in miscarriage number four at a little over six weeks and two more miscarriages at 12 weeks. Each time I was told ‘these things just happen’. But why did they keep happening to me?

The last time I fell pregnant, I suffered with chronic morning sickness and everyone told me this was an indicator of a strong pregnancy – I so wanted to believe that. Simeon was posted to Iraq and I waved him off with mixed feelings; happy because even though we were going to be separated by war, our baby was growing inside me, and what better connection could there be to the man I loved? But I also battled the worries that came with having a husband in a war zone – how would I cope with a baby if anything were to happen to him? The thought of him not being around to be part of our child’s life after we’d fought so hard for it was horrible.

When I had my 12-week scan and was told everything looked ‘good’ I nearly jumped for joy! We were home and dry. My only sadness was Simeon wasn’t there to share the moment with me.

I once again bought baby clothes and talked to my baby. Convinced it was a girl, I told her about her daddy who was far away, but who was going to be the best dad in the world. I wrote to Simeon daily, planning all the wonderful things our little girl would do.

My sickness subsided and I felt on top of the world. Due to my history, I went for a routine scan at 23 weeks. It was a Wednesday and I remember lying on the couch and watching the screen, excited to see our baby. The sonographer was chatting to me, but then went quiet. And I knew. She calmly told me she was going to get a colleague, as she wanted a second opinion, but I knew what she was going to say.

Our baby had died at 22 weeks. I’d had no symptoms, no bleeding. They were keen to start the process that would expel my baby, but devastated, I asked to go home and spend one more day with her, knowing it would help me to say goodbye in my own time while she was still with me. I arranged to go back into hospital on the Friday. Simeon knew I was having the scan and managed to call from Iraq. I sobbed the moment I heard his voice. Then, without warning, the phone went dead. My heart leapt – was it due to loss of signal, which sometimes occurred in his location, or had something happened to him? There was no way for me to get in contact… I felt alone and frightened.

I spent the night and next day on tenterhooks. I knew that when Friday dawned, I would go back to the hospital for the pregnancy to be brought to an end. I was drained and dreading going through it on my own.

Unexpectedly that morning, I woke to the sound of knocking on the front door. My heart raced and I feared it was the knock all army families dread. Had something happened to Simeon? I was shaking as I opened the door.

My tears streamed, as standing there, staring at me was Simeon. Still in his desert combats and with sand in his hair, he wrapped me in his arms. He apologised for abruptly ending the telephone call, as he knew the only flight leaving the camp was lifting off in a matter of minutes and he explained that if he’d delayed even a little bit he would have missed his chance to be with me. He held me and said, ‘I told you I’d always come to you if you needed me.’ And he was right, I truly did need him. He stayed by my side during the procedure, holding my hand.

I find it hard to talk about all of my losses. The recovery was difficult with my hormones going crazy and my body producing milk for a child I was never going to feed. I didn’t even know what words to use, let alone how to grieve. I disliked the term ‘failed pregnancy’ because it made me feel I had done something wrong. I finally gave up hope of us having a baby.

Simeon is still a serving soldier and, of course, I still worry about him when he is away. The loneliness doesn’t fade, but the bond we have, in part because of what we have been through, is strong. I sometimes think of the ages the babies would be now and what they’d be doing. These thoughts make me sad, but also bring me comfort. I wish there wasn’t such stigma attached to miscarriage – and I wish I understood why it ‘just happens’.

Miscarriage: The facts

● A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy during the first 24 weeks. After this time, it is termed a still birth.

● 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage. This figure rises to 1 in 4 for women with a BMI over 30. Women under 30 have a 1 in 10 chance of miscarriage, while women over 35 have a 1 in 5 chance. Only 1 in 100 women will experience multiple miscarriages.

● Three quarters of these are early miscarriage, which occurs between the date of a missed period, up until 13 weeks of pregnancy. They often happen before the woman even realises she is pregnant.

● Vaginal bleeding is the most common sign of miscarriage (though light vaginal bleeding can happen in the first trimester of pregnancy), along with cramping in your lower abdomen and discharge, fluid or tissue from your vagina.

● The NHS estimates up to two thirds of early miscarriages are related to chromosome abnormalities. A late miscarriage could be down to health problems, such as diabetes, severe high blood pressure, or problems with the cervix, uterus or placenta.

● For advice and support, go to Tommys.org

Amanda Prowse is the author of The Idea Of You (Lake Union, £8.99), a novel inspired by her experience of multiple miscarriages

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