A celebration of parenting with Katrina Roe

Tag Archives: recurrent miscarriage

When I was in primary school, a friend gave me an autograph book.  I thought it was great fun to get all my friends and family to sign it and write a little message.  Most of them were silly rhymes or jokes, but there was one message I still remember.  It was from my Dad.  He wrote, “To my second red-headed daughter and nicest Christmas present I’ve ever had.  Love Dad.”  He was referring to the fact that I came home from hospital on Christmas Day.

Something about those words from my father spoke very powerfully into my young heart.

I still find it hard to understand exactly why that message was so precious to me.

Maybe it was simply because they were words of affirmation that were written down for me to keep. 

Written words endure.  They carry the weight of intention.  We know that the person wrote them deliberately, so they somehow mean more.  We have evidence of being loved, special, cherished.

Perhaps it was the idea of being somebody’s gift that resonated with me.  And not just any gift, but a Christmas gift!  To a child, Christmas presents are really exciting.  And not just any old Christmas gift, but the nicest one ever?  Really?  Could that be true?

My Dad is very much a present person.  He would always buy extravagant gifts for all of us, but especially for my Mum.  Each birthday and Christmas she was showered with expensive lingerie and nice perfume or dresses that cost a week’s wages, even when we couldn’t afford it.  Then she would model the new clothes and we would all join in with admiring comments, while Dad said something appreciative like, “Whackydoo!”  From his actions, it was clear Dad thought that presents were important.  Gift giving is definitely one of his ‘love languages’.  So being called a present by my Dad was a poignant expression of love.

The idea that children are a gift is not a new one.

It dates back to ancient times.  The Hebrew Scriptures say, “Children are a gift from the Lord.  They are a reward from him.”  Harsh words for anyone going through recurrent miscarriage or infertility, but the part about children being a gift, that bit I can relate to.

Last year on my birthday I unexpectedly discovered I was pregnant. 

My one-year-old had just weaned herself and we had plans to go out with friends for karaoke, so for the first time in almost two years I was looking forward to having a few drinks and letting my hair down.  I also knew it was technically possible, but extremely unlikely, that I could have fallen pregnant recently.  Just to rule it out, I did a pregnancy test.  I almost passed out when I saw a feint line appear in the positive window.

For so many women, seeing that line would have been a source of joy – a gift, even.  But for me, pregnancy is scary.  I’ve been pregnant nine times and have two children.  I’ve had far more sad endings than happy ones and some of my experiences have been unusually traumatic.  So when I found out I was pregnant, the overwhelming emotion was one of fear and anxiety, of feeling incredibly vulnerable, while still wanting to be hopeful.

At the time, I didn’t tell my family – I didn’t want them to be anxious for the next twelve weeks.  So I kept my feelings to myself and went about my day as if nothing had happened.  I had lunch with my parents, I went out as planned but drank mineral water – (not what you need for karaoke!) – and I made a passable show of trying to be relaxed, while on the inside I was stressing about how I would get my hands on the specialist medications I needed before the looming Christmas break.

In spite of my worries, the pregnancy went smoothly.  At thirteen weeks, we had a very thorough scan in which we were told that the pregnancy could now be considered low risk.  I started to believe we were having another baby.  I started to change my plans for the New Year and make new ones around the baby.  I started picturing my family with three kids and wondering how on earth I would get dinner cooked every evening with my husband on night shift and a toddler and a newborn hanging off me.  I started telling my friends we were expecting again.  Then at a routine check-up, just before sixteen weeks, there was no heartbeat.  Later that night, I was giving birth.  And for a few minutes, there was a tiny, purple, perfect little boy, wrapped up in a blanket on my bed.  And then he was gone.

Lost.

“I lost a baby.”

So here’s the thing.  I don’t want Alexander’s life just to be an accident.  A mistake.  A regret. 

When I think or speak of Alexander, I think or speak of loss.  But when I think or speak of my other, living, children, I think of them as a gift.  When really the only difference is the amount of time I got to keep them for.  If Caillie or Molly died tomorrow, I hope that I would still consider their lives to have been a gift to me.  So I hope that one day I can see Alexander like that too; as a precious gift, not just as a loss, because every baby deserves to loved, special, cherished.

Right now, it still hurts too much, but one day I hope I can write:

“To Alexander, my second son and the best birthday present I ever had…”

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Caillie's lost tooth

We recently had a big moment in our household.

Our six year old, Birdy, lost her first tooth.

I realise that mightn’t sound like a very big moment, but it was special to us.

You see, Birdy has been waiting a very long time to lose that tooth.  She’s already six and she’s been waiting since she turned five to lose a tooth.  She’s seen all her friends losing their baby teeth – some of them have even lost three or four – and all the while she’s been waiting to lose her very first one.

When it finally did fall out, it couldn’t have happened at a better time.

You see, just three days before we had lost our little baby boy, Alexander.

I was fifteen and half weeks pregnant when we discovered that there was no heartbeat.  When you lose a baby like that, you don’t just lose them here and now, you also lose your future with them.  You lose the hope of looking forward to their birth, of seeing their first smile, of hearing their first words, helping them take their first steps and holding their hand on their first day at school.  In that one horrible moment when the ultrasound operator says, “I’m sorry, but I can’t find a heartbeat”, you lose all those first moments.

So when Birdy lost her first tooth, I was excited and happy to see her so excited and happy.  But it was also a reminder that even in this sad time of loss, there are so many ‘firsts’ to look forward to with our two girls.  One day soon, Molly will take her first steps.  Then there will be her first day of pre-school and school, there will be special birthdays, holidays and graduations, maybe one day a wedding and grandchildren.

Instinctively, I wanted to make this ‘first’ occasion special for Birdy.  After she went to bed, I stayed up late, writing a colourful letter from the Tooth Fairy.  I covered it with sparkles and sprayed it with perfume. When she woke up, she was so excited to find her gold coin and to discover her letter.  I have no doubt that writing that letter from the tooth fairy was therapeutic for me.  I had fun creating it and I enjoyed the anticipation of seeing her face when she found it, but it also sprang from a desire to make my girls’ childhood as magical, joyful and tender as I can.

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Losing her first tooth brought Birdy such simple pleasure.  Seeing her happy made me feel happy, even in the midst of such deep sadness.  A tooth falling out is really no great achievement – it’s just a natural process, one small part of growing up.

But growing up is something Alexander will never do.

Childhood is so fleeting and every child’s life is so precious.  That’s why even losing a tooth is worth celebrating, worth treasuring, worth smiling about.


Wow.  Life has certainly changed for us in the last few weeks.  I’ve recently returned to work after three and a half years of being a full-time Mum.  There’ve been some big changes to our schedule and some big changes in routine for Birdy.  But for me, the biggest changes have been the psychological ones.

Not only am I no longer defined by my parenting role (“What do you do?”  “I’m a full-time Mum.”) but for the first time in five years we’re NOT trying for a baby (or as the parenting blogs put it TTC – trying to conceive).  This has required a massive shift in my thinking.

For those who aren’t familiar with my backstory, we started trying for our first baby almost exactly five years ago.  It took us about a year to get pregnant and nine months later, our little girl Birdy was born without a hitch.  A year later, we decided to try for number two.  We fell pregnant straight away but discovered at eight weeks that the pregnancy hadn’t progressed.  That was five miscarriages ago now.  In the past two years numbers 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 have all come and gone.  As you can imagine, just dealing with this situation has almost been a full-time occupation for my husband and I.

Last week, I saw a renowned miscarriage specialist and heard an explanation of unexplained recurrent miscarriage that totally changed my perspective.  Rather than being a result of the body being unable to carry a baby to term, repeated missed miscarriages may be the result of the body hanging on too long.  That is, it’s completely normal for a large number of fertilized embryos to be abnormal.  In most people, these embryos are spontaneously aborted before you even know about it.  In recurrent miscarriage sufferers, the body’s quality control filter may be set too high – meaning abnormal pregnancies are allowed to progress for longer than they should.  In this case, achieving a successful pregnancy is just a numbers game… if you have the endurance to keep playing.

After our last traumatic miscarriage in March this year, my husband and I knew we were close to throwing in our hand.  Landing my new job in May cemented that decision, for now. I still hope that one day we will try again, but for now, we’re just getting used to the idea of not being pregnant any time soon.

But that’s not the end of the story.  After my last miscarriage I felt an overwhelming sense of despair at the idea that I would never again have another child.  And that convinced me of one thing.  I’m not ready to give up.  Even though I can’t face the anxiety of another pregnancy right now, I definitely want more children.  So that leaves one obvious course of action: Adoption.

Cautiously, prayerfully, hopefully we are considering whether there might be a little baby out there somewhere who might become part of our family one day.

If we choose to go down that road, I know it will be a long and sometimes painful journey.  But it’s been a long and painful journey anyway.  Maybe adopting could be the light at the end of the tunnel.


The thing about having just one child is that nearly every day somebody says something like, ‘Are you planning on having more children?  You don’t want to leave it too late.’  People I barely know make these kinds of comments to me all the time.  And yet, every time it still surprises me.  Does the general population not understand that for many, many people, having babies is not an exercise that works to a schedule?

For me, falling pregnant has not been the issue, at least not recently.  Last year, after Birdy turned one, we decided it was time to think about another baby.  We fell pregnant straight away.  The baby’s due date was December 4.  Unfortunately, at eight weeks, we discovered that I had miscarried the baby some time earlier.  We were heartbroken.  I had been so excited about the idea of a new baby at Christmas.  I found it hard to accept that this would no longer be the case.  I just hoped I would be pregnant again before Christmas rolled around so I would not feel the loss so keenly.

Our doctor told us there was no medical reason to wait before trying again.  And that there was no reason to believe things would go wrong again.  I fell pregnant straight away.  I told my family the happy news as soon as I got the positive pregnancy test.  I wanted everyone to feel better.  Two days later, I was no longer pregnant.  The embryo had failed to implant properly.  Feeling foolish, I called my family to say I wasn’t pregnant after all.

Two months later, I was pregnant again.  This time I was more cautious and told nobody.  I didn’t even go to my GP.  I just waited to see what would happen.  At about five weeks, I started to feel dreadfully ill with abdominal pain.  A few neighbours had mentioned they’d been really sick with a gastro, so I thought I’d caught it too.  Later the bleeding started.  Eventually I went to hospital and was told I’d experienced an ectopic pregnancy that had naturally aborted (An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that is not located in the uterus).  Once again, there wasn’t going to be a baby.  I couldn’t believe this was happening to me.  We took a break from babies for a few months to get our heads together.  Suddenly everything seemed uncertain, everything was stressful.  I started to feel anxious about the idea of another pregnancy, but I knew I wanted to give Birdy a brother or sister if I could.

In November, I discovered I was pregnant for the fourth time that year.  My husband and I did not want to get our hopes up.  We went cautiously to an ultrasound at five and a half weeks.  The embryo was where it should be.  An early heartbeat was visible.  It all looked promising.

At seven and a half weeks my obstetrician could not find a heartbeat. He sent me over to the hospital for a more powerful scan.  I’ve never felt so tense in my life.  I felt sick.  I couldn’t believe it was happening again.  The internal ultrasound showed that the baby’s heart was still beating, but it was not as strong as it should be and the fetus had not grown as much as it should have.  After I pressed him, my doctor admitted that he expected the baby to miscarry.  I hoped and prayed he was wrong.  Most of my friends and family told me things would be OK.  The doctors were just being cautious.  You can have too many ultrasounds these days, they said.  Too much information will just make you worry unnecessarily.  It will all work out, they said.

On December 3, a week later, we were told the worst – the baby’s heart had definitely stopped beating.  So on December 4, the day I should have been giving birth to my second baby, I was admitted to hospital for another D & C.  Meanwhile, a close friend of mine was having her baby at another hospital down the road.  In the exact time that my friend had carried one healthy baby, I had lost four pregnancies.  While she was welcoming her child into the world, I was having mine suctioned out of me.  I know that sounds crass, but its not a pleasant procedure.  The sadness was suffocating.   As I lay in my bed, the grief overwhelming me, I had an image of myself being dashed against the rocks in a raging ocean, completely powerless.  If I did not have Birdy to cherish, I don’t know how I would have got out of bed.

As I’m writing this, I know there will be people who are going through the same thing, who don’t yet have their precious child.  It must be even more devastating for them.  But I have found it helpful to read and hear about the experiences of other women and that’s why I wanted to share my story.  In fact, a number of friends have asked me to write about miscarriage on my blog.  I recently finished reading a book called My Seventh Monsoon, by Naomi Reed.  In the book, Naomi shares about the five painful miscarriages she experienced.  I found it helpful to read her story, although she was clearly writing with the benefit of hindsight, from a time when her three boys were safely in her arms.  Naomi felt that God carried her through that difficult time.  I’m afraid I haven’t felt that.  And I haven’t even felt that something good will eventually come from all this pain.  I have another close friend who has had several miscarriages; she now has two beautiful children.  Their stories give me hope that one day I will also be on the other side of this journey.  But I wanted to be brave enough to share this experience with others while I’m still on the journey, when I don’t know what the ending will be, when the raw emotion of loss has not been dulled by the safe arrival of another baby.

I don’t know what the future will hold.  I feel sad for what I’ve lost.  And I feel sad that pregnancy is no longer a state of joy for me, but a time of fear and anxiety.  I dearly hope and pray that I will not have to go through the pain of another miscarriage, but only time will tell.  I don’t think I will ever make sense of what has happened to me, but I hope that one day I will be at peace with it…  If that’s possible.

Have you been through the pain of a miscarriage or infertility?  How do you cope when everyone around you seems to be having a baby?  Have friends and family been helpful or do you feel that nobody understands your situation?  If you’ve come out the other side, how has your point of view changed over time?  Please also feel free to share anything that helped you deal with your loss and grief (and those things that were definitely NOT helpful.)

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