Experiencing recurrent miscarriage is like entering an endless dark tunnel. Once you enter that tunnel it is a fight from start to finish; uneven ground, uncertainty and a fear so great that you can't actually acknowledge just how big it is.
Uncertainty, disappointment, loss, grief, hormone extremes, a life that is by punctuated medical appointments, day-stays in hospital and curious colleagues wondering why you're away from work so much.
Recurrent miscarriage is defined as three or more miscarriages in a row. I've had six miscarriages; four before I had my oldest child, then one in between each of the pregnancies that 'stuck'. So I've spent some time in that dark tunnel and navigated that map of fear and pain; I learnt a few things along the way. If you're navigating that painful journey you'll know it is an isolating and lonely road.
Here's some advice on how to get through it, from someone who has been there and come out the other side.
Research is key
Around one in 100 couples will experience recurrent miscarriage. That is a statistic that I discovered when trying to arm myself with as much information as possible.
That statistic somehow made me feel a bit better. It helped me understand that recurrent miscarriage is not that common, but common enough to warrant continued research and specialists dedicated to helping couples like myself and my husband.
I also discovered that after three or more losses you still have a 75 per cent chance of having a healthy baby. Those odds were encouraging for me because there were plenty of times when I thought I would never hold my own child.
Research as much as you can. Recurrent miscarriage is incredibly disempowering, especially in a world where we all believe we are in control of our own lives and destinies. Recurrent miscarriage will show you that you are not.
By learning as much as you can about what is happening inside your body, you will take back some of that power. Research and knowledge will help you ask the right questions of your doctor, and help you see that there is hope.
Choose your doctor wisely
You will never feel more vulnerable in your parenting journey than when things go wrong at the very beginning.
Doctors see miscarriage every day and some can be flippant about it. Some doctors don't like their patients asking questions, some doctors see recurrent miscarriage quite frequently and forget that for you, it is isolating and scary. So it is important you find a doctor that respects your right to question them.
It was only by continuing to question my doctor about some test results that I didn't feel were as insignificant as he claimed them to be, that we were able to determine what was causing my miscarriages.
If you don't trust your doctor completely or feel that they are doing their best to help you, it is your right to change doctors. Having a doctor that you trust and is sensitive to your circumstances can make an enormous difference to how you respond to your very fraught path to motherhood.
Look for specialist support
Most major cities offer specialist support for women experiencing recurrent miscarriage. The Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne have a Recurrent Miscarriage Clinic, and in Sydney you can access a similar service at RPA and RHW through the Early Pregnancy Management Clinics. In Brisbane there is a Recurrent Miscarriage Clinic at the Royal Brisbane & Women's Hospital
The doctors are trained specifically in recurrent miscarriage and high-risk pregnancy management, they offer weekly scans to check for a heart beat, these scans commence as early as five weeks into the pregnancy. Prior to this they will do HCG readings through regular blood tests to try and gauge if the pregnancy is viable. If you miscarry and need a D&C, they will arrange it.
There are other support mechanism in place, such as a counsellor, ad hoc scans if you have sudden bleeding or you are feeling anxious or insecure about the pregnancy.
Take back control where you can
As I have mentioned, recurrent miscarriage is incredibly disempowering. It is easy to feel like this nightmare is happening to you and there is nothing you can do to stop it.
The reality is that it is unlikely that you can do anything to stop it, simply because it is widely known that miscarriage is never a woman's fault. But to help alleviate this sense of powerlessness, there are some things you can do.
I started having acupuncture and seeing a naturopath. I exercised more and ate better. I didn't put my life on hold by doing this but I felt like it was something I could do to take back a bit of control of my body.
In the end, I'm not sure if any of these thing helped with the final outcome - having a live baby, but they certainly didn't harm me in any way. It's worth finding something that you think might help improve your odds - it may not be acupuncture, but it might be yoga or meditation, or running.
See a counsellor
You may feel like you can manage the emotional fall out from miscarriage after miscarriage but it's important that you don't underestimate the far-reaching implications of such trauma.
Most recurrent miscarriage or early pregnancy management departments have counsellors available as part of their care plans. It's worth making an appointment, it's amazing what a chat with a trained counsellor can do. If you don't 'click' with the in-house counsellor, see your GP for a mental health plan, which will help fund between five and ten sessions of counselling with a psychologist that ou can build a rapport with.
I have three children now - aged 10, eight and four. I am grateful every day for modern medicine and my own stubbornness to never give up on having a baby. But I still look back on that period of my life as one of darkest times I've ever experienced.
Be strong and persevere, but most of all be kind to yourself.