I don’t have a particularly special story, but it is one that broke me last year and meant that I needed help more than I ever have in my life so far. I’m so glad that the Rainbow Running Club exists and that I managed to find it last year. If my experience can help one other woman to stumble across the Club when she needs it most too, then writing this will be worthwhile.
Realities of conceiving
Why are we only taught how to avoid getting pregnant and not prepared in any way for how difficult, unfair and heartbreaking it can actually be when trying to conceive a baby? I was totally unprepared for this. I was aware that it might not happen in the first month or two, but it never occurred to me until I started actively trying to get pregnant that anything under a year is considered normal.
I do realise that this is absolutely no time at all in comparison with what some women experience, but our nine months of nothing felt never-ending. Each period arrived bang on time and with each month, I could feel my faith that we would conceive draining away.
Just like that, the time we’d spent waiting for something to happen felt like nothing at all - I had a weird light period, we took a test and, complete joy, it was positive - we were expecting a baby! I registered the pregnancy and my symptoms started kicking in; sore breasts, tiredness, craving certain foods. I was thrilled!
Then one day after a regular yoga class I attended, at about seven weeks pregnant, I noticed a small amount of blood when I went to the toilet. It stopped the same evening and after some panicked googling, I found that ‘spotting’ like this was likely to be nothing to worry about - probably too much stretching at yoga. I brought it up at my booking-in appointment the following week and my midwife was also unconcerned. It hadn’t continued, so it was just one of those weird pregnancy things.
The day of my 12-week scan arrived without further incident and my husband and I went along to the hospital, excited to see our baby for the first time. But he/she wasn’t there.
It was like something from a nightmare - the scan showed a big gaping black hole with no baby inside. I’d been nervous before the scan, worrying that they wouldn’t find anything, but I hadn’t really believed that would be the case. We were in complete shock. How could there be no baby without me losing him/her and having had no period for three months?
We were referred to the EPU (Early Pregnancy Unit) and a midwife sat with us to explain that I’d had a missed miscarriage; that our baby had stopped developing at around 6½ weeks and had no heartbeat, but that my body hadn’t realised. My miscarriage started two days later.
Our friends and family were brilliant in the immediate aftermath of our loss, they dropped round food and let us talk. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about losing a baby, however, it’s that long after the physical pain ends, the mental pain continues. After a month or two, from the outside I seemed back to normal and I was making a real effort to be ‘normal’ inside too. But I just wasn’t.
As much as my loved ones would try, they just couldn’t be there in the way I needed them to be. I felt under pressure to be seen to be moving on positively, to be picking myself up from our miscarriage and to be feeling better. I didn’t feel better. I still needed to talk and cry about what had happened, to be angry about how unfair it was, but I was struggling to find an outlet.
My husband suggested looking into counselling or support groups, but I just didn’t know where to start. I’d been given a leaflet about dealing with miscarriage at the hospital, but it focused on what would physically happen to me and really the only after care it suggested was the Tommy’s website. I needed more than a website, I needed to talk and feel understood.
Rainbow Running Club
While searching online for support groups that could help, I stumbled across the Instagram account @_mother_of_one_. I remember reading a post about how Lucy (the owner of the account) had felt incredibly lonely after her own loss and that she was trying to set up the Rainbow Running Club, a group for women to share their experiences of infertility and of losing a child so that nobody else would have to feel like that. The first meeting was to be a run, followed by cake and a chat in my hometown in a couple of months’ time.
I was absolutely terrified. Lucy’s post had really spoken to me and I knew that this was the sort of thing I needed, but it would mean opening up to a group of strangers and having to run (I hate running!). I followed the Instagram account and decided to think about it.
Over the next few weeks, Lucy posted more information about the Rainbow Running Club’s first meeting. If I joined, I wouldn’t need to run, I could walk or just go along for the cake part if I liked. I could bring along a female friend for support if I needed to and I could leave whenever I wanted to. These reassurances, along with my husband’s encouragement lead to me turning up for the Club’s first ever meeting on 15 September 2019.
Attending that first meeting was one of the hardest things I’ve done. My grief was still incredibly raw and I knew I’d end up crying at a stranger. I had a panicked meltdown that morning, but pushed myself to join and I’m so glad that I did. The women I spoke to that day completely understood me and could articulate what I was feeling better than I could. I left feeling drained but so much lighter.
I’ve now attended five different meet-ups and I honestly don’t think I’d be in the place I am today without those experiences. I’ve attended both Rainbow Yoga Club and Rainbow
Running Club events (always walking!) and I’ve found the activities to be a real ice breaker, helping me get over any initial fear or awkwardness. By starting off with an hour’s yoga class or a walk, it makes the chatting afterwards so much easier and more natural. I also really like not having to sit in a circle and talk about what we’ve experienced in front of lots of people - I’ve found it much more rewarding to have one-on-one or smaller group discussions. It’s so much less intimidating and I’ve learnt so much from the women I’ve spoken to about the many, varied struggles we all face on our journeys to motherhood.
If you’ve found this website on your own search for support, I really would recommend attending one of the Rainbow Running Club or Rainbow Yoga Club’s events across the UK. It will take a lot of courage to take that first step, but it really does help. I promise.