Faye and Ben Orton could hardly believe their eyes. After only one round of IVF - and with only one embryo viable for implantation – the couple found themselves staring at a tiny flicker of a heartbeat on a monitor.
"Ben saw it first and I could see the tears forming in his eyes," says Faye, 37, a primary school teacher. "The sonographer confirmed I was six weeks pregnant and the heartbeat was strong. We knew there were still risks but she said that our chance of miscarriage was less than six per cent and discharged us. On the way home, Ben and I kept saying to each other: ‘We can’t believe how lucky we are.’"
The couple, from York, who have been married for nearly a year, were delighted. Two weeks later however, they had another scan - this time, the news was bleak. "I’d had pregnancy symptoms such as being exhausted and having tender breasts since the first scan," says Faye. "But one morning, I woke up and they’d all gone. Ben and I were on a short break in Scotland and I said to him: ‘I can’t even explain what’s wrong, but it feels different.’ I started Googling: ‘Do your pregnancy symptoms disappear overnight?’ but as I’d suffered no bleeding or pain, Ben felt that everything was alright. But he suggested a private scan while we were in Scotland, just to reassure me.
"When the gel was put on my stomach, the probe went on and there was this awkward silence as we watched the screen together. After what seemed like a long time, the lady said: ‘I’m sorry, I can’t find a heartbeat’. I burst out crying and looked at Ben, wondering if he would cry too. But he kept it completely together, staying strong for me and holding my hand. As the nurse did the paperwork, the image from the screen was still there, on the monitor right next to us and I just wanted to run out of the room. Our world came crashing down and I couldn’t stop sobbing."
Sadly, Faye had become one of thousands of women who have a miscarriage every year. According to the charity The Miscarriage Association, more than one in five pregnancies ends this way, probably around a quarter of a million in the UK each year.
But Faye experienced no symptoms. Now, during Baby Loss Awareness Week (Oct 9-15) she wants to make more women aware of missed (or silent) miscarriage where the baby has died or not developed but has not been physically miscarried. In many cases, there has been no sign that anything was wrong, so the news comes as a complete shock.
"I had no idea that there was such a thing as missed miscarriage and expected that I’d feel at least some symptoms, but there was nothing apart from the fact that my pregnancy symptoms seemed to disappear," says Faye. "When we visited our fertility clinic for the miscarriage to be confirmed, they did actually find a very faint heartbeat but said the embryo had stopped developing and there was no chance it would survive. But it made me cling to hope. I felt like I was carrying something living inside me and I didn’t want to let go of it. Every time I went to the toilet I thought: Is there going to be blood?’ I just wasn’t ready for it to come out because I felt I needed to protect it."
At 10 weeks, the doctors confirmed there was no heartbeat yet still Faye didn’t miscarry naturally. She had to take medication, causing her to bleed. "By then, psychologically, I wanted to get it over with," she says. "Within three hours of taking the tablets, I was in pain and bleeding but by the Monday, I was back in the classroom teaching. Five days later however, I was bleeding again and this time the embryo came out. I even saved it up in toilet paper to show Ben. It sounds weird but seeing it gave us some kind of closure."
The couple say they hope to try again in the future but say that on an emotional level, the scars are still there. "I’d never liken it to a stillbirth or a miscarriage after several weeks because the pain of that must be unbearable but I also think that women who suffer early or missed miscarriages also grieve," she says. "Ben is struggling with the loss too. Even from the moment it was transferred into me, we dared to let ourselves hope and I felt like I had to protect it and that I failed. We will try again but for now I just hope our story can help other couples feel not as alone."
Watch: Myleene Klass on miscarriage