'Can you film this?': Why actress Tahyna MacManus documented her miscarriage

Tahyna MacManus is sharing her miscarriage heartbreak.
Tahyna MacManus is sharing her miscarriage heartbreak.  Photo: Supplied

"Can you film this?" They are not usually words a woman experiencing a miscarriage would say to her partner, but that is what Tahyna MacManus asked husband Tristan.

The Australian model and actress, now writer and director, was suffering her second pregnancy loss when she decided to document her devastation in a bid to help others. 

The result is the documentary M.O.M (Misunderstandings of Miscarriage), which includes McManus' own video diaries and interviews with friends, including fellow actresses Teresa Palmer and actress Claire Holt.

MacManus, nee Tozzi, says she was '"naive" about miscarriage until she lost her first pregnancy in 2015 and hopes this documentary will help lift some of the shame and stigma surrounding pregnancy loss.

"When I was six weeks along, I decided to surprise Tristan with the news on Father's Day. About four days later … I woke up, went to the bathroom and there was just blood," she recalls.

"At that point I really hadn't known anything about miscarriage. It wasn't really even on my radar.

"It was my first experience of pregnancy and because I was young it was just so far removed from what I thought would happen to me."

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MacManus rushed to the doctor, but while in the waiting room she began experiencing cramps and heavy bleeding. When the sonographer found no sign of pregnancy, a "heartbroken" MacManus was told to "go home and have a Panadol".

"I was just so devastated," she recalls. "We had already named the baby. We had told family."

MacManus says she had questions, but no opportunity to ask them. Living in Los Angeles at the time, they also "had no family support".

MacManus eventually turned to close friend, actress Teresa Palmer, who had been through a similar experience.

"Apart from that, I didn't have a support network. Tristan didn't know what to do or say," says MacManus.

"My mother had never had a miscarriage. On top of that, Tristan's parents were devastated and that was really hard. I felt I was not only letting my husband down but letting my family and extended family down."

MacManus, who starred in the Australian TV show Blue Water High and Hollywood blockbuster X-Men Origins: Wolverine before turning her hand to writing and directing, took the miscarriage hard. She says she became convinced "something was wrong with" her or that she had somehow caused the miscarriage.

Before she had a chance to work through her grief, MacManus found out she was pregnant again in the middle of 2016. 

She says "the joy of pregnancy is somewhat taken away after miscarriage". When she began to suffer spotting, she assumed "I was probably going to lose this one as well".

They returned to Australia during her third trimester and after a "terrifying" pregnancy, including complications at 28 weeks, daughter Echo was born in April 2016.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Daughter

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MacManus put the trauma of the miscarriage behind her as she embarked on motherhood. Eighteen months later, the couple decided to try for another baby.

"I really wanted to have a sibling for her and I love being a mum and I love having kids around me, so I was really excited to start trying again," says Tahyna.

They were in Ireland when they found out they were expecting but the first inkling something was wrong came when she went for a scan back in Australia just before Christmas 2017 and the sonographer asked if she was sure her dates were correct.

The couple pushed their worries aside and went ahead with plans to tell their families the news on Christmas Day last year. But when they went back for the 12-week scan, their world came crashing down again.

"I went in and they said 'So sorry, there is no heartbeat'," MacManus recalls.

"It was such a crashing, overwhelming feeling and I remember laying there and putting on a brave face … and as soon as the sonographer left the room, I just could not control myself. I was just sobbing."

Once again, MacManus felt isolated but this time she decided to act.

"For some reason I said to Tristan, 'Can you film this?'," she says.

"He felt really weird and uncomfortable about it, but I felt so alone and I wanted to start documenting it. At the time I didn't know what I was going to do with [the videos]."

She talked to friends, including producer Kelly Tomasich, her partner in production company Neon Jane Productions, who encouraged her to explore the idea further.

She also partnered with charities, including The Pinks Elephant Support Network, Sands Australia and Bears of Hope to create a resource for women going through miscarriage, as well as their partners, extended family and friends.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I am 1 in 4. This is a tricky one that took me awhile to share - on one hand I am overjoyed at our impending arrival and on the other hand thinking of the 3 little lives that didn’t make it this far. On this day in particular -Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day - I think of all those little ones and the women and families who had to endure the tragedy of Miscarriage. I began documenting my experience on film in an effort to shatter the shame and stigma associated with miscarriage and loss. Thank you to those who have shared their experience with me so far - I always wish to hear more - if you have a journey to share please email via website in bio and visit @neon_jane_productions for more. #M.O.M

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Interviews with other women who have experienced miscarriage will featured in the documentary. There will also be input from IVF specialists, obstetricians, grief counsellors and relationship therapists in a bid to address the misconceptions about miscarriage and the shame women feel.

McManus is now pregnant for the fifth time with the baby due early this year. Filming a documentary about pregnancy loss while pregnant has been equal parts confronting and terrifying for MacManus but she says she has no choice but to finish what she started.

"I have to let these women be heard and I have to let the extended community know that their grief is not in vain and they are allowed to feel exactly what they are feeling," she says.

The documentary is due to be completed around the middle of the year, and while it is now attracting interest from major media channels, McManus says that after its initial release, it will be freely available to women via a website.

For miscarriage support visit Pink Elephant SupportSands, Bears of Hope.