I work supporting kids up to the age of about 12, and three years ago my partner and I were trying to start a family of our own. But we were not doing well.
Twelve weeks into my pregnancy, I began bleeding and having very painful cramps. I’d had a miscarriage in an earlier relationship, but I had tried to imagine it was a one-off. But at 5 on a Sunday morning, I ended up collapsed on the floor in a pool of blood. I passed out from the pain and my partner had to call an ambulance. I lost my baby.
I can't overstate the horror of the experience of naturally miscarrying. The physical pain was intense, and it was coupled with a terrible grief knowing that this pain meant I was losing my much-wanted baby. I was in the hospital for just a day before going home and was left with this situation where I had to tell my manager what happened. It felt like it was the last thing in the world I wanted to deal with: Having to bloody put into words what was such an intense, powerful and horrible emotional experience, to write down "I lost my baby." It was a really demanding and hard, hard thing to do.
And... my manager was absolutely amazing. First, he sent flowers, which felt very human and validating, like he really recognized that we were going through something tough. He also said: “Do what you need. We're here, we're all thinking about you.”
I took a week off, then went back to work. Although I wasn’t being pressured to go back, I definitely felt responsibility about my workload and about the kids I was supporting at the time.
“Miscarriages are really tough and it was really important that my manager came from a place of genuine care.”
When I went back, he made sure that we had time to check in. But retrospectively, I think I went back too soon because a month later I was really struggling. Hormonally, it takes a long time to get over pregnancy; your body takes a long time to readjust. But emotionally it caught up with me and there was a lot of processing to do. After a while I really lost it. I think I just felt broken and physically exhausted.
I got pregnant again later the same year, and I told my manager very soon into the pregnancy. By this point, I was really scared because I’d had two miscarriages now. Again, he was very understanding and asked what I needed.
At nine weeks, I found out at a scan that we’d lost the baby. I think I felt less dread telling my manager this time, because he’d checked in regularly—it felt more part of an ongoing conversation rather than a sudden delivery of news. This time I took three weeks off, and we did it on a rolling basis. It was a much better process than the first one, and by the time I was back at work, I was in a much better place, mentally and physically.
I got pregnant again about 10 months later. It was over the summer holiday and school was out, so by the time I got back to work in September, we knew everything was OK. Even so, my manager had checked in with me over the summer and was very supportive.
Miscarriages are really tough, and for me, it was really important that my manager came from a place of genuine care. What it felt like the whole time was that he had a real ability to put himself in my shoes, in our shoes—mine and my partner's. There was empathy. And he kept what were very real pressures on him away from me, and said, you need to make sure that you're OK. He treated me like a human being, like a fellow person.