‘I just wiped the tears away’: the hidden heartbreak of miscarriages - and how firms should support staff

Laura Collins, editor of the Yorkshire Evening Post, writes about her personal experience of miscarriage - and how employers can do much more to support their staff on this issue

“There are often feelings of guilt and shame around miscarriage and encouraging people to open up in the workplace instead, and seek support, is a great step in the right direction” (Photo: Shutterstock)

It was just a routine day at work on The Yorkshire Post’s newsdesk. On the surface I looked cool, calm and collected.

As I directed a team of journalists – in my previous role as Head of Content for The Yorkshire Post and its sister title the Yorkshire Evening Post – to report on the big stories of the day, I had to remain composed.

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After all, there is a huge responsibility weighing on my shoulders to keep focused to make sure that we hit our deadlines. I couldn’t falter at the heart of the news operation for two big daily newspapers. I simply had to keep going.

But, deep down, I was falling apart as I grieved for the little life I knew I was never going to meet.

What nobody in my office knew at the time was that I was going through the incredibly raw heartache of a miscarriage.

Just earlier that day, my dreams for what could be were literally flushed down the toilet. I had dared to let myself get excited about what could be, but it was cruelly taken out of my hands.

For me, in that moment it hit me – it was a fight or flight response.

‘I just wiped the tears away’

After an incredibly emotional phone call with my husband outside the office, I just wiped the tears away from my face as there was absolutely nothing I could do. I felt completely helpless about what was happening to my body and I couldn’t stop it.

Instead, I took the feeling of helplessness and submerged myself into the world of local news to block out the pain. Having a busy job was a huge blessing as I just threw myself in with both feet.

I felt guilty about not telling my boss at the time, but I didn’t even know how to approach the conversation. Where do you begin?

By the way, I was pregnant but now I’m not. It all just sounds so wrong, doesn’t it? I hadn’t even told my family about what had happened and I had absolutely no idea where to begin to tell those who I was working with.

I didn’t want to be judged and, ultimately, I didn’t want to be seen as a failure. This was my secret and I didn’t want anybody else to know.

Sadly this wasn’t to be my first miscarriage. It happened again – and my body had let me down once more.

I’ve always thought of myself as a tough nut to crack with a rod of iron running through me. But I struggled. Picking up the pieces the first time around was incredibly tough but for me the second time around was even tougher.

Every baby announcement from my family, friends or colleagues was like a punch in the stomach. Their joy was nothing but another reminder of my failure.

The need to open up and talk

On the surface I’d smile and wish the biggest of congratulations but deep down I was still mourning twice over. Over the course of time I’ve come to realise, after finding myself in the situation again, is that opening up and speaking about miscarriage isn’t a dirty secret.

It is a bereavement, a grief and a sense of loss that has to be recognised and, more importantly, acknowledged. And it is only very recently that I’ve felt as though I can finally open up more broadly about what has happened.

It has taken me a long time to reach that point.

After I spoke openly about my experiences earlier this year in my role as editor of the Yorkshire Evening Post, I was so incredibly touched by the response of readers. Finally, I realised that I was no longer on my own.

So many people have been through this but we just don’t talk about it. That is why today I am proud that our sister title is able to back the call by the Miscarriage Association to support the Pregnancy Loss Pledge.

It encourages a supportive work environment where people feel able to discuss and disclose pregnancy and/or loss without fear of being disadvantaged or discriminated against.

A pregnancy loss policy in workplaces

The campaign also urges firms to implement a pregnancy loss policy to ensure that it is included in sickness, bereavement or other workplace policies – while also being mindful of the needs of partners, too

Now we are calling on businesses to follow in our footsteps and commit to supporting their own employees through what can be an extremely difficult and distressing time – JPIMedia, the publisher of NationalWorld, the Yorkshire Post and the Yorkshire Evening Post, is fully throwing its support behind this campaign.

There are often feelings of guilt and shame around miscarriage and encouraging people to open up in the workplace instead, and seek support, is a great step in the right direction

And that is why more businesses need to shift the focus of their own internal HR policies to support those, like me, during one of the toughest times imaginable.

I know that I am not alone in this, but for so many other couples out there who are going through this hidden heartache on their own, the silence speaks volumes.

Laura Collins is editor of our sister title, the Yorkshire Evening Post.

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