Opening up about miscarriage

Carla Miller sitting by window with light coming through | Poppy's funerals | London funeral director

Five minute read

Each year in October, Baby Loss Awareness Week gives an opportunity for anyone touched by pregnancy and baby loss to connect and share stories, and helps to break the silence around miscarriage and childhood death.

We’re so grateful to leadership coach and mum Carla Miller for sharing her experiences of fertility treatment, miscarriage and grief — and how she made peace with the struggles she faced.

When did you first start thinking seriously about becoming a parent?

I started thinking about it at 33, and then was ready to start trying at 35, but getting pregnant wasn’t easy.

Firstly, I was single. I had to think very carefully about what it would mean to be a solo mum by choice, and how I would support a child and parent alone. Luckily my parents have been hugely supportive.

Then, fertility tests revealed that I had premature ovarian insufficiency — it was unlikely I’d be able to conceive without donor eggs, so that required even more thought (and money).

Donor eggs were in short supply in the UK, so I travelled to Barcelona for IVF, using donor eggs and donor sperm. It worked first time, and I was delighted to be pregnant.

What happened after that?

At six weeks, I started bleeding. I went to the clinic with a friend. The clinic did a scan and told me that there were two foetuses, but both were too small and did not yet have a heartbeat. They said it was possible one might make it and that I should come for another scan a week later. I rested up, but ended up miscarrying. When I had the scan, there was nothing there.

I was devastated. It just hadn’t occurred to me that anything would go wrong after I got pregnant, especially as donor eggs are high quality.

I cried — a lot! I think it impacted me for at least a year. I couldn’t face baby showers, first birthdays or Facebook updates with scans and baby photos. I probably seemed fine externally after about a month — but I wasn’t. I stopped believing that life would always work out for the best. On the day they were due to be born, I suddenly found myself sobbing uncontrollably on the tube.

How did your family and friends support you?

Family and friends were very supportive and understanding. Friends acknowledged my loss and some sent flowers or cupcakes which I really appreciated. I tried to deal with it with grace and they were understanding when I skipped baby-related events.

Those who had had miscarriages shared their experiences too which I appreciated. I know it is more common than most people realise.

What didn’t help was when the nurse who did the scan asked if I’d try again — whilst I was still coming to terms with the loss of that baby.

After that, what was the emotional impact of trying to get pregnant again?

I wasn’t ready to try again that year. I felt like, if I miscarried again, it would be like falling into a dark hole of despair and I might not be able to get out.

A year later, I did try again, got pregnant again, but at the eight week scan there was no heartbeat. I probably shouldn’t have gone to that appointment alone. I waited a few weeks but didn’t miscarry, so I had a procedure in hospital.

I was more emotionally prepared for that loss I think and I bounced back more quickly. I still grieved that baby, but I knew I’d be okay as I’d been through it before.

What kept you going through several rounds of fertility treatment over many years? Was there a point where you felt you’d had enough?

After that, I tried one more time. When that failed, I decided to stop, or at least pause. Wanting to be pregnant takes up a lot of emotional and mental energy — I chose to enjoy life instead. I got to the point when I knew I could be happy even if I didn’t become a mum.

Then a relationship ended, and a year later I decided to give it one last try. I like to give my all to something — then it’s easiest to let it go if it doesn’t work. My son Charlie, who’s now three, was the result of that last try.

I was six months into the pregnancy before I really believed there was going to be a baby at the end of it.

You’ve written a book about your experiences. Why did you want to write it and what reactions have you had?

I wrote it because I wanted to bring an end to that chapter of my life and because I hoped it would help others. I’ve had a really positive response from women, saying it gave them hope and made them feel less alone in their struggles. I think being open about miscarriages, and recognising that they cause real grief, is important.

Read Carla's book — Whilst I was waiting: Heart wisdom for fertility struggles and miscarriages

In the book, I touch on the Buddhist concept of the second arrow — when something bad happens, it is like being struck by a single arrow. If you replay it over and over in your head and make it mean something more, then it is like being struck by a second arrow. We can keep hurting ourselves over and over again with that second arrow.

For me, telling myself stories about how I would never be a mum, that I wasn’t a real woman without a child or I was being ‘left behind’ by all my friends, was my second arrow. When I chose to see life without a child as equally full of love and happiness, just different, as life with a child, that helped me to be happier.

What helps you to remember your babies who died?

I like to think that they were little souls who didn’t have enough energy to grow and have gone off to be birds or flowers. I planted virtual flowers in a memory field for them and I light a candle each year. Had I not had my son, I planned to have a tattoo of tiny birds to represent them.

I believe I ended up with exactly the soul who was meant to be my son, so I am grateful for all the struggles and loss along the way.

Everyone is different, but is there one thing that you hope that others could take from your experience?

That miscarriages are worthy of grief and acknowledgement. That these struggles help shape you into a stronger, wiser person. That your worth as a person or woman is not related to your ability to produce healthy eggs or carry a child to term. And that if you can’t control a situation then find a way to make your peace with it and move on.

Read more interviews — hear why Gemma who chose to donate her husband's organs after he died and from Freddy about what it's really like working in a cemetery.

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