TEAM ZOELLA MARCH 31, 2021

Interviewing An Expert On Korean Skincare

We sat down with Skin Library founder Abiola Renée to geek out over all things skincare and get the inside scoop on the products and trends we need on our radar in 2021.

Have you ever wished someone would do all your skincare homework for you and curate it into a fully shopable library of lotions and potions. Well, today’s your lucky day because Skin Library has done just that.

The online beauty platform specialises in South Korean beauty, stocking everything from sheet masks to essences and fermented cleansing balms. What the beauty bookworms over at Skin Library don’t know about K-Beauty simply isn’t worth knowing. Everyone’s skin is different and the expert team of librarians at SL HQ embrace and celebrate our individuality, curating products that work for all skincare types and concerns.

Education is a huge part of the Skincare Library DNA and alongside all the best formulas, emerging products and Korean skincare staples, the beauty platform also creates Library Edits to demystify ingredients and arm you with the knowledge you need to make conscious and informed choices about your skincare. From baffling labels (non-comedogenic who what now?) to PPM and retinoids, it’s your one stop shop for learning and replenishing your beauty shelfie right.

We sat down with SL founder Abiola Renée to geek out over all things skincare and get the inside scoop on the products and trends we need on our radar in 2021.

First of all we love the name! How did you come up with it and what’s the inspiration behind Skin Library?

Haha, Thank you so much! I actually came up with the name based on our aims within the beauty space. We chose the word Library as a library is commonly known as a safe space regardless of age, gender, class, race. It is a communal environment that welcomes anyone irrespective of background hoping to seek knowledge. That is what our aim for Skin Library within the beauty space, by demystifying beauty and educating the consumer simultaneously we hope that our growing community will feel empowered when it comes to making their own beauty related decisions.

At Skin Library, you have a very cool team of Librarians testing the products to see if they make the cut, can you tell us a bit about the team and their credentials and what criteria the products have to meet to earn the #LibrarianApproved status?

Our Librarians aka our team are a small group of amazing individuals from around the world who help make Skin Library what it is.

Comprised of a full-time team and amazing freelancers; My Co-founder Yuri was a fashion and beauty marketer in Korea for many years before we founded Skin Library, she goes on ground and scouts upcoming and innovative brands coming out of Seoul that have really great quality products and an inspiring philosophy behind them.

Our contributing writer Claudia Christin (FunSkincare) is an amazing dermatologist who contributes to our curation decisions and she creates scientifically accurate infographics, articles and breakdowns for our community so that they’re staying informed in their skincare, which is really important to us. I am a Cosmetic Scientist so I am always looking at the science and formulation behind a product. You can always tell when a brand has taken time with their formulations and thought about their consumers and it is always exciting to see test out exciting new products that work very well or even discovering an underrated indie brand. Overall, all of our team contributes as they all have their own unique skin journeys and can provide informative insight as they are too a consumer from Juliana, who heads all of projects to Jacinta, a talented make-up artist who handles our social media. They provide us with honest feedback into the testing stage of a product. Our growing online community also sends us regular recommendations and feedback, so they are heavily involved in the curation process as they give us a more diverse outlook and have helped us cater more to their needs when curating new products.

To launch on the website, we normally follow these guidelines when introducing new brands onto our platform:

— STEP 01 —

Discover

We are constantly updated on trends, innovations and developments of its growing beauty industry. By regularly tuning into the needs of our consumers, we uncover what kind of products that they would want and what their peers are recommending. We also combine that with the voice of beauty experts in the industry, this includes make-up artists, dermatologists, aestheticians, editors, cosmetic scientists etc. We pay close attention to their opinions and industry reports. With this valuable insight, we embark on our journey to scout for the best products and innovations coming straight out of South Korea.

— STEP 02 —

Review

Before stocking a product or partnering with a brand, we take the time to dig deeper. We learn more about every brands ethos. This is done to ensure that every brand is aligned with the quality and efficacy standards Skin Library upholds. We speak with the brand over a period of time to understand the team and ethos behind the brand. This usually done in person but due to COVID it is being done through zoom calls and emails. This allows us to get to know a brand beyond the product. 

— STEP 03 —

Bookmark & Approve

When a product reaches this stage of curation, it is ‘bookmarked’. It will then be tested amongst our team for roughly a month. We take all feedback into consideration and if approve we then schedule it for launch!

How many of the brands you stock are natural, cruelty-free and vegan?

All the products we stock are cruelty free due to EU and UK cosmetic regulation, however a few brands have taken the extra step to obtain cruelty free certification such as BlitheCOSRXKlairsAxis-Y and Glosome.

We have a wide selection of vegan products that you can discover here: VEGAN BEAUTY | SKIN LIBRARY

Some of my favourites from the selection include:

For any of our readers who are new to Korean skincare, where do they start, what products would you recommend adding into their routine?

The approach to Korean skincare is a preventative one, they focus on gentle ways to replenish and strengthen the skin in result building healthy, glowing skin. Western skincare has a more reactive problem-solving approach. To incorporate the K-Beauty style method into your regular routine focus on soothing ingredients and products that work to strengthen your skin barrier. Add some of the steps that are unique to K-Beauty such as an oil based cleanser, an essence and a weekly sheet mask. The Korean beauty industry are big on SPFs so adding that to your routine is a must!

Can you talk us through the 10-step Korean skincare routine and the benefits?

The 10-step routine can sound daunting at first, but it’s not really a routine that should be used all in one go every day. It’s more of a guideline to show you all the possible steps, the placement of them in a skincare routine. If you choose 3,5 7 or all 10 it’s completely your choice and you should tailor it to you skin.

Step 1 –  Oil-Based Cleanser 

At the beginning of the standard K-Beauty routine is an oil-based cleanser. Its purpose is to break down all the make-up, SPF, excess sebum, environmental pollutants and other oil-based impurities that may leave pores clogged and congested. It can be used day or night and usually can come in a liquid cleansing oil form or sometimes a sherbet-like balm that when gently massaged into the skin melts the day away. Doubled up with your commonly known facial cleanser (water-based cleanser) to perform a double cleanse in your routine. 

Step 2 – Water-Based Cleanser 

A step you will find in nearly everyone’s routine is your standard facial cleanser. Its main purpose is to cleanse the skin of impurities like bacteria and sweat leaving your skin with a clean base (but not squeaky clean) to allow the rest of your routine to penetrate better. This step is a must.

Step 3 – Exfoliation 

Our skin regeneration slows down as we age, so this will can leave dead skin on the surface of our skin for longer which can result in dull, textured and dry skin. This is where an exfoliating product comes in. They are a great way to promote skin cell turnover and help clear clogged pores and trapped sebum as well as buff away any dead skin cells to reveal brighter, smoother skin. AHAs, BHAs, PHAs or fruit enzymes are some of the active ingredients that are considered exfoliators. They are usually added in this step but they can be placed anywhere in your routine after cleansing and before sun protection as sometimes exfoliating products come in different forms like moisturisers and sheet masks.

Step 4 – Toner 

Toners though not entirely necessary is a simple yet effective step in your standard K-Beauty routine. Toners work at removing any cleanser impurities leftover, balancing the pH of your skin after exfoliation and giving your skin that first dose of hydration that will come to follow. 

Step 5 – Essence

At the heart of every K-Beauty routine you will find an essence. A star and essentially secret sauce! Packed with hydrating and soothing ingredients they are the water-based preparation products that facilitate the penetration of the products to follow.

Step 6 – Serums + Ampoules 

Serums and Ampoules are essentially the same in that they are treatment steps, ampoules tend to be heavier in concentration than serums for specific skin concerns. Their purpose is to target any skin concerns that you may have such as dull dry skin, irritated acne prone skin, and/or textured hyper pigmented skin. They are usually a cocktail of actives working together to singularly tackle those skin problems.

Step 7 – Masking (Sleeping masks and Sheet masks)  

Sleeping masks are your night time heroes. Usually a thicker texture the focus is to apply before you go to sleep to allow for the active ingredients to do the work overnight whilst you are asleep. You usually find yourself with ultra smooth glowing skin in the morning!

Sheet Masks have gone viral on social media, looking fashionable in a selfie and glamorous in a dressing gown they actually serve a great skincare purpose. Sheet Masks are essentially these incredible face shaped sheets soaked in 30ml of serum so as you place on your face and mould to your face it will allow for a long contact time and essentially allows for the ingredients better in the skin.

Step 8 – Eye Cream 

The skin around the eyes being the thinnest skin on your face is prone to discolouration, puffiness and a hollow look. This is a result of many different factors. Mostly genetic factors, however they can appear due to tiredness, stress or even environmental factors. In that case an eye-cream may be able to relieve some of those problems. A regular eye cream is formulated with gentle ingredients that will help prevent dark circles from forming and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. 

Step 9 – Moisturiser

Moisturisers tie in closely with water-based cleansers as the most common products found in a universal skincare routine. They are an essential staple and can be the difference in your skin’s health. They are essentially packed with humectants (water-retaining ingredients) and occlusives (moisturising agents that work by acting as protective layer and sealing all the hydration in the skin) to keep your skin healthy with long lasting hydration.

Step 10 – SPF

If you haven’t got a sunscreen in your daily routine, this is a sign to end that today. All year round you need an SPF in your routine. SPF is the last and most essential step in your skincare routine. Its purpose is to protect your skin from potentially UV damage that can cause PIH (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation), premature ageing and even skin cancer. It is important that it is worn daily.

Beauty tools are really having a moment, what are the benefits of using massage tools such as a gua sha in your skincare routine?

Beauty tools are such a great addition to the skincare routine, especially during a pandemic where things can appear repetitive and boring. It can turn what can feel like a regular routine into an at home spa massage giving you great results over time.

Gua Sha itself is defined as “Gua” which means “scraping” and “Sha” means sand or sharkskin. In short, it is a technique to scrape a part of the body to improve one’s health. This technique originated in China and has been used as a healing technique all over Asia for years. In history, it is known for people to use the Gua Sha to alleviate several conditions from flu, bronchitis to even musculoskeletal problems. Today people use it in beauty as it has many benefits such as aiding lymphatic drainage, improving microcirculation in your skin and relieving muscle tension. I use the Glosome 100% Rose Quartz Gua Sha in the mornings where my face feels puffy and I want to reduce it and feel more awake and I use the Glosome Gua Sha at night to revive the angles in my cheekbone and jawline. I follow a very talented Chinese acupuncturist and herbalist Sandra Lanshin Chiu who has uploaded a really helpful tutorial on how to use a Gua Sha effectively.    

With so many products and self-proclaimed TikTok experts out there on the internet, choosing the right skincare can be overwhelming. Could you suggest a curated Skin Library routine for the different skin types – we’d love to see which products you recommend trying for different skincare needs / concerns (dry, oily, sensitive, combination, acne-prone etc)

A tailored starter kit will be launching soon on our website with discounts and a step-by-step guide

Oily – The focus is on products that help with excess oil and sebum production whilst still providing your skin with the hydration it needs.

BEAUTY OF JOSEON Radiance Cleansing Balm

ACWELL Bubble Free pH Balancing Cleanser

ISOI Acni Dr. 1st Control Tonic

SOME BY MI AHA-BHA-PHA 30Days Miracle Serum

DR. ORACLE 21 Stay A-Thera Emulsion

Combination – Is catering to the multi skin types that your skin may have whilst maintaining a good balance and healthy skin.

AXIS-Y Quinoa One Step Balanced Gel Cleanser

ACWELL Licorice pH Balancing Cleansing Toner

ISOI CICAGO Cica Double Effect Ampoule

AXIS-Y Cera-Heart My Type Duo Cream

Dry – The focus is on replenishing moisture at a deeper level with hydrating and nourishing ingredients.  

ATRUE Sweet Song Black Tea Cleansing Gel

ACWELL Betaglution Ultra Moisture Toner

Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop

ACWELL Betaglution Ultra Moisture Milk Oil

BE PLAIN Hyaluronic Aqua Gel

Sensitive – for calming and soothing the skin of any irritation whilst providing them with the needed hydration and barrier strengthening ingredients they will need.

AXIS-Y Sunday Morning Refreshing Cleansing Foam

KEEP COOL Soothe Bamboo Toner

COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence or vegan option COSRX Hyaluronic Acid Hydra Power Essence

BLITHE Crystal Iceplant Pressed Serum (which is a serum moisturizer hybrid)

BENTON Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel

As we move into spring, what are some of the skincare swaps we should be making?

Spring is a great time to switch up your skincare routine so you feel renewed and refreshed. I pack away my heavy moisturisers and serums and swap them for some skin barrier strengthening ingredients, soothing and healing products and mild exfoliators to buff away dead ‘winter’ skin and increase skin cell turnover.

My favourite skin barrier ingredients include Ceramides, Niacinamide, Fatty Acids, Hyaluronic Acid and Glycerin. My favourite soothing ingredients include Aloe Vera, Mugwort, Cica aka Centella Asiatica and Bamboo Water. Some of my favourite products that include the mentioned ingredients are the:

  • AXIS-Y Artichoke Intensive Skin Barrier Ampoule a light weight serum that delivers rich antioxidants, nutrients, and hydration to heal damaged, irritated skin barriers. Phytonutrients defend against bacteria and pollutants to prevent future breakouts and irritation. 
  • ACWELL Licorice pH Balancing Cleansing Toner – This superstar toner has a pH of 5.5 (similar to the skins optimal pH range) that deeply cleanses, hydrates and tones the skin all at the same time. This toner will help you remove remaining dirt/debris from your skin which helps your next skincare products so they absorb and work even better. It also happens to be our best seller!
  • KEEP COOL Soothe Fixence Mist – A refreshing and cooling mist during the warmer spring days packed with soothing and hydrating ingredients that helps makes your makeup last longer while calming the skin of any irritations that the environment can trigger.

Any game-changing skincare heroes we should shop right now?

A few must haves would be:

COSRX Pimple Patches – You have probably seen pimple patches throughout Instagram as of late. There are different variation such as stars and hello kitty patches. COSRX are one of the first companies to release pimple patches. They are a thin clear hydrocolloid patch that sticks firmly onto the skin to protect pimples from secondary infections and also absorbs oil and sebum from the pimples. It also soothes the inflamed area and reduces redness. They also have a thin version that can be worn under make-up, and a wider size range for those with acne-prone skin.

The Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin E Mask and Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop duo – The Vitamin Drop is a hypoallergenic vitamin serum that is formulated with stabilized 5% pure vitamin c (ascorbic acid). It helps to improve dull skin, uneven skin tone and fade acne scars. It pairs fantastically with the Vitamin E Mask, a pudding-like mask rich in vitamin E as an antioxidant that will help improve skin moisture, wrinkles and fights signs of premature ageing, for optimum brightening and hydration.

Blithe Vital Treatment 9 Essential Seeds Essence is a hydrating essence used as a treatment to get your skin back to its original state. The watery liquid is easily absorbed into the skin as the oils used were fermented for 120 hours to improve absorption ability. This essence is enriched with 79% seed extracts (Baobab seed extract, Green Tea Seed, Fennel Seed, Evening Primrose, Chia Seed, Lotus Seed, Quinoa, Grape Seed, Rose Hip Seed) to hydrate, improve skin elasticity and brighten skin. With the help of Vitamin E, it will brighten skin to reveal a radiant glow from within.

We have a mini shop on Skin Library with miniature sized versions of most of our stocked products, this is to give people the opportunity to sample products before committing to the full size. I am loving the Beauty Of Joseon Triple Hanbang Solution  (mini) a trio of serums with a focus to target various skincare issues using the power of traditional Korean medicine ‘Hanbang’. Depending on how your skin is feeling on the day, change up the serum you use. Skin looking a little dull and seeing early signs of ageing? Try the Repair Serum. Got some acne breakouts and fighting against enlarged pores? The Glow Serum is the way to go. Sensitive and irritated skin? Keep calm and use the calming serum.

Describe your ideal Sunday self-care session!

I love this question! I believe that we should all schedule in a self-care session for ourselves whether it is 5 minutes or 1 hour, if possible. I use this as an opportunity to utilise various skincare steps that I was unable to fit in during the working week. During lockdown, this has been extremely important to me as it contributes to my no-screen time. My ideal Sunday self-care session includes my phone off, laptop away and a great relaxing music playlist, I love the “Songs to put a ‘Spring’ in your step” Playlist Team Zoella put up in the first lockdown last year. I firstly do a double cleanse, this includes an oil based cleanser and a standard water based cleanser. My favourites are the BEAUTY OF JOSEON Radiance Cleansing Balm and AXIS-Y Sunday Morning Refreshing Cleansing Foam. This provides me a deep cleanse without stripping the skin and leaving it dry. I then multi mask with the AXIS-Y Mugwort Pore Clarifying Wash-Off Mask to help reduce and calm my current maskne breakouts and theAXIS-Y New Skin Revolution Mask to strengthen my skin barrier. I follow up with the Keep Cool and Soothe Bamboo Toner for hydration and then COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence to help with my hyperpigmentation. I then do my weekly sheet mask and perform my Gua Sha massage whilst the sheet mask is applied. My favourite go to’s are the GLOSOME All Day Glow Sheet Mask and ABIB Mild Acidic pH Heartleaf Sheet Mask. I finally seal all of the goodness in with a light moisturiser, my current favourite is the Be Plain Hyaluronic Aqua Gel

Name a skincare crime you think we should all stop making…

A popular trend I am seeing across social media is individuals putting beauty droppers directly on their skin. This is an easy way transfer bacteria on the surface of your skin to your skincare product. This could further breakouts and potentially cause chemical changes to the serums efficacy. The best way to minimise risk of contamination of your skincare product is to disperse the product from the dropper onto clean hands, without the dropper touching the hand and then apply to your face. 

The best skincare advice you’ve received / a tip you’ve learned along the way that we need to know?

The best skincare tip I have received is to treat your skin like a journey not a destination. Enjoy the experience and understand every day is different. There is no such thing as perfect skin. Skin without filters comes with texture, visible pores and unique traits. Celebrate your skin, celebrate yourself.

Essences are a big beauty buzzword right now but what’s the difference between an essence and a toner?

There are quite a few similarities in the formulation of toners and essences however, they have slightly different purposes.

A toners main purpose is to balance the skins pH after cleansing, hydrate the skin and in some cases gently exfoliate the skin. Western toners usually contain astringents that are known to strip and dry the skin. However, Korean toners take a more regenerative and replenishing approach, they do not contain harsh ingredients like denatured alcohol.

Essences are native to the Korean beauty routine. Their base formulations are similar to that of a toner, however they contain no cleansing agents or astringents. They introduce actives and hydrating ingredients that act as a preparation and progression step for the rest of your routine to follow. They’re light weight water-based products that are formulated for fast absorption and penetration to help the efficacy of the more concentrated products to follow.

Other than sheet masks, BB creams and 10-step skincare routines, is there any other K-Beauty tricks we’re missing?

There are so many amazing tips and tricks that have transformed our community’s skincare routines:

Double cleansing – It is two-step cleansing routine that involves an oil-based cleanser first and a water-based cleanser that follows. This is done to when a deep cleanse is desired without the stripping feeling. It ensure all impurities, whether water-based or oil-based, are broken down and washed away.

7 Layer Method – A method that went viral in Korea first and then made its way transatlantic. The idea is to replicate the level of treatment product you would get when receiving a facial by applying three-to-seven layers of toner, essence or ampoule on top of one another to allow your skin to deeply absorb into the skin for a deeply hydrating experience. You would apply a thin layer, let it absorb and then follow up leaving your skin with that post-spa-glow!

What do you think is going to be the hero skincare ingredient or skincare trend of 2021?

Mugwort – it’s a powerhouse ingredient that has been used in Korean traditional medicine for a long time. An incredible plant with healing properties, its antibacterial and anti-fungal attributes has made it a a key ingredient Korean spas, medicine and food to help detox the body. It has helped soothe the skin for those with acne, eczema, atopic dermatitis and many more. I am loving it currently, it’s the star ingredient in the AXIS-Y Mugwort Pore Clarifying Wash-Off Mask

Fermented Ingredients are another star focus of 2021. They are ingredients that have undergone a metabolic process where a microorganism’s natural enzyme breaks down molecules, such as sugar, to other new substances. This can improve the absorption of the product into the skin as they are smaller molecules, the by-products of fermented ingredients introduces new skin-benefitting ingredients such as amino acids, AHA’s and antioxidants. It is also great at reducing irritation.

The ATRUE Real Black Tea True Active Essence  uses the power of fermented black tea (78.8%) to nourish the skin whilst combating skin ageing concerns by boosting skin elasticity and brightening the skin.

TEAM ZOELLA MARCH 30, 2021

13 Questions with Johanna Basford

Johanna Basford is an illustrator and author of 9 incredible colouring books (we bet you own one!) that have sold an incredible 21 million copies worldwide. Her latest release Worlds of Wonder takes people on an imaginative journey through wondrous realms of floating islands, treetop castles and underwater cities.

First off, how are you and how is your 2021 going?

Grateful and optimistic! 2020 challenged us all, but I remember reading a quote that said ‘adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it’ and that really spurred me on! I became a single mum to my 2 little girls last year and I feel a huge reasonability to show them that however tough things can feel, we have to work hard, be kind and keep smiling!

You have such a unique career; can you sum up to our audience what you create?

I’m an illustrator. I create black and white, hand-drawn artwork usually for Adult Colouring Books, but also sometimes for freelance commercial clients.

Can you tell us more about your books and how you started them?

It all began with Secret Garden. I had been working as a freelance illustrator creating black and white artwork for lots of big brands like Absolut, Starbucks, Nike and H&M. I was approached by a publisher to make a children’s colouring book, but I pitched the idea for an adult colouring book that would feature beautiful, elegant and intricate artwork like the stuff I was doing for champagne bottles and perfume packaging! The idea was a book of art that adults could colour without feeling silly! That was back in 2011. Fast forward 10 years and I’ve made 9 books, we’ve sold 21 million of them worldwide, adult colouring has become a key part of many people’s self-care and creativity practises and we have a flourishing online community of the most wonderful people!

What is the end-to-end process like for creating one of your colouring books?

I get an idea for the theme of a book, then spend a few weeks writing notes to myself, making little sketches on post-its, the back of receipts, the margins of invoices…!

Then I sit in my studio and just start drawing everything I have imagined! I draw in pencil first, then lay a fresh sheet of paper over the top and redraw in ink. Finally, I scan the artwork into Photoshop and tidy it up a little – I rotate things, put things into repeat, remove chocolatey fingerprints (happens a lot) and erase notes I’ve scribbled to myself (mainly shopping lists!). The computer is an editing and polishing tool for me, rather than something I create on.

Why do you think adult colouring has gotten so much bigger more recently?

I think we all just NEED an outlet for our creativity and a distraction from those screens! Colouring is a wonderful way to pause and reset. It’s analogue and no screens means no doom scrolling, no alerts to interrupt your flow and no opportunity to get distracted. It’s one of the few times you give your permission to sink into deep concentration and find yourself in flow, that gorgeous feeling when the world just melts away and you are absorbed in the task at hand. It’s incredibly soothing, like a spa break for your brain!

Other than colouring, what do you like to do in your spare time to be mindful?

Walking outdoors in nature (with no ear pods! I like to hear the birdsong!)

Baking – without my children. It’s a totally different experience to the carnage that is baking WITH them. Both fun, only 1 is relaxing though.

Reading, Journaling and pottering about in my garden.

Can you tell us about your Guinness World Record and how it came about?

I want to inspire as many people to be as creative as possible. Lots of people told me that the thing stopping them from drawing, was fear of the blank sheet of paper. So, in solidarity,  I thought I’d tackle the world’s BIGGEST sheet of paper! If I could accomplish that, then everyone else could for sure take on a post-it! The finished drawing was over 501 sq m and created in 12 straight hours (I couldn’t get a babysitter so despite there being no time limit, I had to draw the entire thing in 12 hours!)

What are you currently working on?

This week my new colouring book, Worlds of Wonder is released. It was due to be launched in October, but I brought the launch forward 6 months when we saw the Pandemic was going to last longer than we’d all anticipated – I thought people might need a little blast of joy sooner rather than later! It was created almost entirely in lockdown and takes people on an imaginative journey through wondrous realms of floating islands, treetop castles and underwater cities. In a year when we couldn’t go anywhere, I wanted this book to allow people to leave their troubles behind and escape on a journey that would inspire and delight them!

Who are some of your favourite illustrators online?

I tend to be drawn to work that is unlike my own for example Jenna Rainey’s watercolours. I’m currently in love with Denise Gasser’s gorgeous potion pictures, big bold, colourful paintings inspired by jars of water and petals that her kids make in the garden!

What does your perfect weekend look like?

Sunny and warm, mainly outdoors, with my kids and some friends. Lots of picnics!

What do you always carry with you?

A staedter pigment liner – I’ve used these pens since art school and create every single illustration with them and Burt’s Bees lip balm.

What would your last ever meal be?

As long as it wasn’t cauliflower cheese, I think I’d be ok…!

What is one positive piece of advice you could give to our audience?

Practice makes PROGRESS, not perfection! Keep going, don’t aim at some imaginary goal (for perfection is a moving target and you’ll never pin it down!) instead, focus on consistently getting better. Make each piece of work, better than the last. Sometimes I achieve this, sometimes I don’t, but it’s the single underlying aim in everything I do. From parenting to baking, to drawing. Just make each endeavour better than the previous one and you are onto a winner!

TEAM ZOELLA MARCH 29, 2021

Spotlight on HIV & AIDS

If there’s one thing we learned from the landmark series, It’s A Sin, it’s that there’s always room for further education and understanding and it’s always a good time to counter ignorance with knowledge.

Getting a HIV diagnosis may be a far cry from the death sentence of the 80s but misinformation, unfair stigma, fear, ignorance and homophobia are still prevalent today.

In the UK, four in ten people living with the virus are diagnosed late which suggests learning the facts and raising awareness is still as relevant and necessary now as it was 40 years ago.

If there’s one thing we learned from the landmark series, It’s A Sin, it’s that there’s always room for further education and understanding and it’s always a good time to counter ignorance with knowledge.

Image Credit: @thtorguk

What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and is the name of a virus that attacks cells that help the body fight infection. It is transmitted through contact with blood, semen, vaginal fluid, anal mucus and breast milk.

It cannot be passed on through skin-to-skin contact, kissing, hugging, shaking hands, coughing or sharing household items such as cups and plates.

Testing, Diagnosis & Symptoms

During the acute infection stage (the first few weeks after contracting HIV), cold-like symptoms can occur including fever, chills, headache, nausea, enlarged lymph nodes, skin rashes and sore throat. However, some people are asymptomatic and may have the virus without knowing, which is why getting tested early is essential and potentially life-saving.

The main tests for HIV are typically performed on blood or oral fluid. These include:

• Combination HIV antibody and HIV antigen test – available only as a blood test and can detect infection usually between 2-6 weeks after exposure to the virus

• HIV antibody test – this test looks for antibodies in your blood or saliva (window period 3-12 weeks after exposure)

• Point of care testing (POCT) – a rapid screening test whereby blood is taken from a finger prick and results are received straight away

You can get an HIV test from a GP, sexual health clinic, by post or a HIV testing clinic.

You can also order a self-sampling test to send off to a laboratory or self-testing kit to do at home (look out for the CE marking). If you think you’ve been exposed in the last three months, test in person instead as the self-test is not guaranteed to pick up an infection.

If you get a negative HIV test after potential exposure to the virus, get tested again after the ‘window period’ as signs of infection can take up to 12 weeks to show in the body.

If your most recent potential exposure to HIV was in the previous 72 hours speak to your care provider about Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP).

Image Credit: @thtorguk

The stage of HIV infection and treatment can be determined by:

• A CD4 cell count which measures the number of CD4 white blood cells specifically attacked by the virus. By measuring the CD4 levels, you can see how HIV has affected the immune system and how far the virus has progressed.

• Drug resistance to look for changes that may prevent anti-retroviral drugs from working. If drug resistance is found, a new treatment may be chosen.

• Viral load – to measure the amount of virus in your blood.

Treatment

While there’s no cure for HIV, there are extremely effective treatments available to manage the virus, prevent complications and enable those living with HIV to enjoy a long and healthy life. It’s worth reiterating that people on effective HIV treatment cannot pass it on.

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) involves taking an HIV medication regimen every day to prevent the virus from multiplying, which reduces the amount of virus in the body (viral load) and allows the immune system to repair itself.

By reducing the viral load, HIV medicines also reduce the risk of transmission to others. The vast majority of people with the virus usually take up to four HIV medicines, sometimes combined into one pill, because the virus can quickly adapt and become resistant.

Once ART treatment is started it should be continued on a long-term basis to help maintain low viral load and a healthy CD4 count.

Undetectable viral load explained

Viral load is the term used to describe the amount of HIV in the blood. A viral load test can measure the number of copies of HIV in the body per millilitre of blood. HIV treatment works by reducing the amount of virus in an infected person’s blood to undetectable levels.

Once your viral load becomes ‘undetectable’ (usually within 6 months of starting treatment) it means that the level of HIV in your blood is so low that it can’t be detected by the test and you cannot pass on the virus through sexual contact. In the UK below 20 copies/ml is usually classed as undetectable.

Image Credit: @thtorguk

How to reduce the risk of HIV

• Getting regularly tested for HIV if you’re sexually active

• Taking PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) or PEP – these tablets can only be taken by HIV-negative people to reduce the risk of becoming infected with HIV through sex if taken either daily or around the time of exposure

• Using condoms

• Never sharing needles or other injecting equipment

• Taking your medication consistently if you’re living with HIV

Progression to AIDS / late-stage HIV

AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the name given to the final and most advanced stage of HIV infection. Left untreated, HIV can progress to AIDS after approximately 10-15 years but with an early diagnosis and effective antiretroviral treatment, most people with access to health care will not develop AIDS.

At this point, your immune system has been severely damaged by the virus and you’re more susceptible to opportunistic infections and cancers known as AIDS-defining illnesses.

Helpful resources:

Free Testing

Test Finder

Terrence Higgins Trust – Can’t pass it on

Terrence Higgins Trust – Living well with HIV

Terrence Higgins Trust – Being diagnosed with HIV

Aidsmap

UK Gov Guidance

Mind

TEAM ZOELLA MARCH 28, 2021

Weekly Wants: New In Items We Are Loving From ASOS

This week's team picks come in a variety of shapes, colours, fits and styles as per usual, as we prepare for the imminently warmer weather (we're sure we were getting a tan this time last year?) and get ready for the 'what shall I wear today?' moments we have been craving for SO. LONG.

IRL shopping is still off the cards (who would have thunk it over a year later!) but thankfully our one and only true love ASOS has our back and has us sorted for the 12th April – nobody panic! There really is very little that the ‘New In’ section of ASOS can’t fix, and we wholeheartedly stand by the fact that a scroll of this bookmarked (and twice daily visited page) has seen us through it all. Anxious? Have a scroll on ASOS. In a queue? Have a scroll on ASOS. Waiting for your bagel to toast? Have a scroll on ASOS. Those who say retail therapy isn’t a thing clearly haven’t lived the joys of ASOS Premier Delivery is all we have to say on the matter.

This week’s team picks come in a variety of shapes, colours, fits and styles as per usual, as we prepare for the imminently warmer weather (we’re sure we were getting a tan this time last year?) and get ready for the ‘what shall I wear today?’ moments we have been craving for SO. LONG. To summarise: it’s a hello to chunky sandals, bare legs, tie-dye and even a smidge of swimwear (heatwave we’re ready for ya). Happy shopping!

Shop the post

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TEAM ZOELLA MARCH 27, 2021

Crack on with Luxury Chocolate this Easter with 10% off Hotel Chocolat Treats!

If you’re on the hunt for something cracking to dig into this Easter, leave it to Hotel Chocolat to level up your bank holiday blow-out and deliver an Easter feast straight to your door.

AD | This is a paid-for advertorial with Hotel Chocolat

Use code ZOELLA10 for 10% off and shop the whole Easter collection here!

Spring has arrived, the end of lockdown is just around the corner (huzzah!) and we are ready to celebrate the four-day weekend right. We can’t wait to live our best horizontal lives in a haze of egg-shaped chocolate mirth with absolutely no idea when we’ll socialise with our top button again. Good riddance.

There’s something to suit every kind of chocolate lover

If you’re on the hunt for something cracking to dig into this Easter, leave it to Hotel Chocolat to level up your bank holiday blow-out and deliver an Easter feast straight to your door.

From artistic creations almost too pretty to eat to classic luxury Easter eggs, chock-a-block Easter hampers, melt in the middle bitesize treats and vegan Easter eggs, there’s something to suit every kind of chocolate lover.

Case in point, their White Chocolate Easter Egg – a stand-out creation based on your favourite soft-boiled brekky. Crack open the creamy chocolate egg, nibble on the edges and, willpower permitting, save the fun-loving yolk for last. Confession: we caved early doors.

If you’re after an Easter treat to send to your loved ones in lockdown, you might want to add the Extra Thick Rare & Vintage Easter Egg to your basket. Two halves of heavenly dark choc crammed with irresistible fruit and nuts, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. A snack within a snack – now there’s one Easter egg delivery that won’t disappoint.

Then there’s the season’s incomparable Brownie Chocolate Easter Egg hybrid, which is all the evidence you should need that genies do exist, and they take granting the kind of wishes we can eat very seriously indeed.

The Brownie Chocolate Easter Egg hybrid is all the evidence you should need that genies do exist

Easter egg hunts are fun and everything, but have you ever tried a horizontal Easter egg hunt? Enter the Vanilla Egg Selector, complete with an outrageously creamy Madagascan vanilla ganache nestled inside. No garden, no problem. No cardio, no crime.

For the plant-based palate, there’s the impeccably fash-bunable (sorry) Big City Bunny. He may put our loungewear habits to shame but with a flavour profile like his, he’s entirely forgiven for showing us up in our own homes. If you’re after a vegan Easter egg with zero compromise on taste, he’s your bun, hun.

If you’re a grazer who likes to stretch out their snacks, the small and perfectly formed moreish Milk Chocolate Speckled Eggs are perfect for gobbling on the go or pecking at regular intervals.

However, you like your eggs and whatever big chocolate dreams you’re manifesting this year, Hotel Chocolat are here to make this Easter’s hatch your best yet. So, indulge your sweet tooth and treat yourself to luxury this year, you deserve it!

Use code ZOELLA10 for 10% off and shop the whole Easter collection here!

AD | This is a paid-for advertorial with Hotel Chocolat

TEAM ZOELLA MARCH 26, 2021

55 Springtime Manicures to get you Pumped for your First Trip Back to the Salon

With beauty salons gearing up to reopen, we can finally get excited about leaving our questionable DIY manicures firmly in the past where they belong. From clouds and rainbows to sorbet shades and checkerboard prints, there’s a manicure for every spring mood.

April 12th – get it in your diaries, it’s your nails’ birthday and it’s gonna be big.

With beauty salons gearing up to reopen, we can finally get excited about leaving our questionable DIY manicures firmly in the past where they belong. From clouds and rainbows to sorbet shades and checkerboard prints, there’s a manicure for every spring mood.

Ready to make Harry Styles proud? Get scrolling and saving!

TEAM ZOELLA MARCH 25, 2021

Denim: Completed it. An Extensive Run Down of the Best, Essential Pairs of Jeans In Every Cut

Whether you're about the flared, ripped, mom, skinny, straight leg or relaxed cut, finding the brand and fit of jeans that make you feel 10/10 in front of the mirror is always worth your time...

Now we know what you’re thinking: shopping for denim is up there with buying activewear or bin bags- part of an entirely non-enjoyable shopping experience but a sadly necessary one. But it’s worth pausing to remember that if there’s one small comfort that can be found from lockdown (along with lunch time showers and pyjama bottom Zoom calls) it’s being able to curate, order, try on and decide on your difficult-to-find clothing items from the comfort of your cosy bedroom. Hello post pandemic dinner looks- finding the perfect ‘jeans and a nice top’ bottoms just got a wholeee lot easier.

Denim shopping is the pinnacle of long-term wardrobe gratification that’s worth the initial struggle.

With that being said, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the extensive mom, dad, boyfriend, girlfriend (aunt and uncle jeans anyone?) debacle, you’ve come to the right place! Not only are there endless styles to choose from, but the choice of where to spend your money can be a confusing one too. At one end of the spectrum we have the likes of Gap, Topshop, Mango and Zara- the locations you might want to frequent for your trend led denim picks like flares or super relaxed, wide leg jeans you know only work for certain looks and moods. But combine these picks with your ride or die, ‘can’t live without’ jeans from Levi’s, Frame, & Other Stories and Abercrombie and boom, jean wardrobe: completed it. Narrowing down and checking out the contenders for your perfect fit jeans might not be as easy as your Friday night takeaway ordering (stuffed crust x2 please), but denim shopping is the pinnacle of long-term wardrobe gratification that’s worth the initial struggle. 

Whether you’re about the flared, ripped, mom, skinny, straight leg or relaxed cut, finding the brand and fit of jeans that make you feel 10/10 in front of the mirror is always worth your time…

Mom

Skinny

Straight

Dad

Flared

High Waisted

Ripped

White

Relaxed

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TEAM ZOELLA MARCH 24, 2021

The Team’s “TikTok Made Me Buy It” List

From the best of TikTok beauty to the trending recipes we couldn’t sleep on, here’s hard evidence of all the times TikTok made us buy it.

NB: This article may feature instant regret.

There’s a lot of interesting products out there and almost all of them live on TikTok.

Alongside dance routines and Gemma Collins lip syncs, the platform has now cemented itself as the ultimate destination for cult beauty, skincare saviours, easy-to-master recipes, makeup hacks and lifestyle must-haves.

A quick scroll through the social media’s “For You” page and you’ll come across eyelash combs, butt-lifting leggings and a whole host of viral gadgets and gizmos you never knew you needed. It is the ultimate influencer, but how much of the sh*t it makes us buy is actually worth the #hype?

Whilst we won’t be curling our hair with a radiator or evening out our gnashers with a nail file anytime soon / never, TikTok has definitely led us down a slippery slope of random impulse purchases on more than one occasion. Rollerskates, we’re looking at you.

From the best of TikTok beauty to the trending recipes we couldn’t sleep on, here’s hard evidence of all the times TikTok made us buy it.

Lareese

Elf Poreless Putty Primer

I’ve got a massive set of pores on me, particularly across my cheeks, so this product had me at hello. Famed for its pore-blurring, skin-perfecting abilities and its TikTok famous vanishing effect, it’s no wonder it broke the internet. Apparently, you’re meant to take a pea size amount and warm it between your fingers but I was today year’s old when I found that out so let that be a lesson to me: always read instructions.

I was surprised by the smooth dewy texture – I was expecting it to be a lot thicker and tackier in consistency, but it actually feels super lightweight and glides on effortlessly. Once I’d applied my foundation, I could still see the texture of my skin underneath, if anything it made my makeup look heavier than usual. As budget-friendly primers go, it does the job. It holds your makeup in place and it feels nice on the skin but pore wizardry, it is not. Sorry TikTokers, it’s a no from me. If we’re going to talk about blurring primers then YSL is where it’s at.

L’Oreal Telescopic Mascara

My lashes are trash and I’m not even being self-deprecating I’m just relaying the truth. Peppa Pig has better lashes than me as you can see from my receipts. They’re short, straight, fine and pointless so I very rarely even bother with mascara because what’s the point in trying to polish a turd? It’s nice to have the option to actually see my lashes sometimes though and this one reeled me in with its lengthening formula.

The brush is more like a comb with supple bristles perfect for separating and stretching the lashes right from the root to the tip. I’m a fan – big brushes do absolutely nada for my itsy-bitsy baldies so this flexi wand is a big plus. The verdict? Not quite the false lash effect TikTok would have you believe but a good affordable mascara all the same. Would buy again.

Darcey

Those Amazon Leggings

So I saw the infamous butt lifting leggings on my fyp constantly and ended up caving in and giving them a whirl! I must admit I didn’t have very high expectations at first because 1) all the people I saw wearing them had great bums already and 2) because they were only £26 I was sure they would be see-through, or definitely not squat proof.

When they arrived I must admit I didn’t love the honeycomb effect of them, but on they actually looked pretty cute! Now for the butt-lifting capabilities, I must admit I was pretty wowed by them. I like my bum, always have been happy with its appearance, but these definitely gave me a more peachy and lifted behind! These leggings just seem to hug you in all the right places. They also aren’t see-through at ALL, most definitely squat proof too, so 9/10 to be honest!

Boursin Tomato Pasta

This has been circulating Tik Tok alongside the old feta and tomato pasta for a few months now and I had to give it a whirl! The prep time is very, very easy, literally bang the Boursin and some tomatoes in a baking tray with some olive oil and seasoning.

I popped mine in the oven for 25 mins at 200C, although the Boursin began to crisp a bit on the edges, so I’d say 20 mins is best! Gave it a good mix to combine everything and mixed in my pasta, it was super easy to make. The taste was actually phenomenal too, I really didn’t expect it to taste THAT good. It’s super creamy and herby from the Boursin, it’s divine to be honest. Would absolutely recommend giving it a go!

Danielle

Dr Jart Cicapair colour correcting cream

So I’m usually pretty good at deciphering the hype when it comes to skincare products everyone is raving about, I tend to do my research and read reviews but for some reason this product GOT ME. I think because it tackles my number one insecurity – redness – I wanted to believe the exaggerated reactions of everyone trying it for the first time and loving it. Within 5 minutes of me clicking on the # for the product, I was buying it, and I didn’t even buy the smaller pot I went full whack!

The product itself is like a light green cream you can use on lighter makeup days “that adapts to skin’s natural colour to neutralise”. In reality, it left a bit of a white cast, barely covers any of my redness and is also very drying after application. I think it’s so easy to get caught up with skincare heroes but the whole point is that everyone skin is so different so tons of people claiming something is a miracle product is probably either untrue or won’t necessarily work for me.

Revlon Pro Collection Salon One-Step Hair Dryer and Volumiser

I’ve been raving about this bad boy for a straight year! I’m always drawn to anything that will cut out steps from my hair routine so the fact this takes you from wet to styled was right up my street. Before buying this I used to let my hair dry naturally then straighten it with some old terrible straighteners so my hair was pretty dry and lacklustre.

This product is kind of like a round hairdryer and aims to give you that bouncy blow-dry look with ease and let me tell you it does exactly what it says on the tin. I could never achieve the look by using a round brush and hairdryer, I don’t have the cognitive skills nor the upper arm strength to achieve it. I rave about this hair tool to anyone who’ll listen, I’ve got both my mother and sister on to it. Top marks, all the praise, you get the gist!

Charlotte

L’Oreal Dream Lengths 8 Second Wonder Water

I am in absolutely desperate need of a hair cut (I know we’re all in the same boat here) so any hair product doing the rounds online instantly has my attention- especially one that claims it can work in 8 seconds! Being hailed as the next Olaplex but for a slither of the price, I had high hopes for the L’Oreal Dream Lengths 8 Second Wonder Water.

The water is designed to be applied after shampooing onto wet hair, and I left it on for probably longer than 8 seconds and more so the time I’d normally leave conditioner to sink in. It smells wonderful and the transformation in my hair was SO surprising! My hair is naturally very straight and flat and I wouldn’t necessarily categories it as frizzy (although oddly that before photo says otherwise) but I still found it made a really radical difference to my hair’s overall feel and appearance and I was generally very impressed. It was a little difficult to apply in the steamy shower as the water is clear and it’s not the easiest to know where you’re distributing the product, but that is the only criticism I can find!

Holly

The Iconic Tomato & Feta Pasta

I’ve been wanting to try out the Tik Tok Feta Pasta for ages. I am not a very good cook and this looked so easy, but alas, don’t underestimate how bad I actually am. I had high hopes from the off. Literally, just chuck some tomatoes and a block of feta drizzled with oil in the oven for 30 minutes. I added in some optional extra’s of onions, spinach and garlic to add a bit of flavour (that was my first mistake). Cooked the pasta while the feta was in the oven. Once the feta and tomatoes had browned, literally just mix it all in, couldn’t be simpler. So why did mine come out spicy?

I actually put less pasta in than recommended, just because I love a really saucy pasta but I still found that there wasn’t enough cheesy tomatoes to coat it all. And seriously, why was it spicy? Maybe the mixture of onions and garlic, I’ve never encountered this before. It wasn’t horrible, but I wouldn’t say it was particularly nice either. I would try it again, but probably with even less pasta and more tomatoes. And I wouldn’t try and add the extra’s because it’s only taken 27 years to realise, I am not a chef.

TEAM ZOELLA MARCH 23, 2021

13 Questions with Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme

We caught up with Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme, the Founder & Medical Director of the award-winning Adonia Medical Clinic to talk about all things skincare.

First off, how are you and how is your 2021 going?

I am really well. The year has started off very busy. Adonia Medical Clinic moved online to virtual consultations last year, and it enables me to see people not just in London but around the country.

It’s amazing how much you can do with skin virtually, be it acne management, hyperpigmentation or just getting a good routine. It has been lovely to be able to help so many people.

The pace of life is different in lockdown which has given me time to create fun skin videos on Instagram which I have really enjoy.

Can you tell us about your career as a Doctor and how it has evolved?

I studied medicine at Bristol Medical school and returned to London for postgraduate training. In London, I loved the anatomy of the nose and started surgical training which took me to Columbia University in New York to do a head and neck fellowship. There I discovered my passion for aesthetics and so completed an internal medicine residency and came back to the UK to study a master’s in Aesthetic medicine. I am now a Senior Lecturer in Aesthetic medicine at Queen Mary’s University, a medical consultant at a teaching hospital in London and the Founder of Adonia Medical Clinic. I am passionate about skin and really love the mix of things I do.

When did you start the Adonia Medical Clinic and what kind of procedures do you offer?

I started Adonia Medical Clinic in February 2017. I wanted to create a space which was had evidence-based treatments, so you know they actually work but I wanted it in a luxurious and inviting environment. I wanted technologies to be able to effectively treat every skin shade and Adonia Medical Clinic was born.

We do all things skin from facials, chemical peels, laser, body contouring, hair loss treatments and injectables and even helping people get into a good skincare routine. Our aim is to create healthy skin and helping our patient feel most comfortable in their own skin. We were thrilled to win best aesthetic skin clinic in London at the aesthetic awards last year. I started the clinic when my eldest daughter was 1 so I think of the clinic as my 4th child.

What inspired you to start your social media journey?

Honestly, I remember I was at a conference in 2016, a friend of mine asked if I was on Instagram, we took a photo and posted it. After that I initially used it as a photo journal of my plan to start a clinic, discussing the highs and lows of being an entrepreneur and later engaging with my own patient. I used it as a way to educate and shed light on areas of skincare and fell in love with the process.

We love that you provide information for skin of all ages, what are your top tips for keeping skin looking as youthful as possible?

The biggest tip I can give you is sunscreen. It is the most important step in your routine and will do more to preserve your skin than anything else. Go with factor 50 every day; that is what I do. To boost the protection you get from your sunscreen add in vitamin C or Vitamin E under your sunscreen.

After this it’s about getting a routine you can be consistent with:

Cleanse: Twice a day with a non-stripping cleanser

Moisturise with a hard-working moisturiser with antioxidants

And protect with Sunscreen.

Outside this focus any additional steps to tackles any core issues you have with the skin. For example, if you have redness you may want to add in azaelic acid, if you have dry skin ceramides and hyaluronic acid (Try the new CeraVe Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum – a lightweight serum that provides all-day hydration and moisture to the skin plus is formulated with 3 Essential Ceramides to protect the natural skin barrier, and the highest concentration of Hyaluronic Acid to retain moisture on the skin), if you have dark spots arbutin may be helpful and if fine lines concern you then retinoids at night.

What would your advice be for someone looking to start skincare treatment?

Skin treatments are overall split into those that solve a key concern such as chemical peels for hyperpigmentation or to maintain a result such as a facial. So first decide what your main goals are.

Always pick the least invasive treatment to get to your goal.

Finally ensure you go to a reputable provider, review their credentials and before and afters. Never be afraid to ask questions till you feel confident and if you are ever unsure don’t do the treatment.

What procedures do you recommend people to have if they’re looking to get a refreshed post-lockdown glow?

One of my favourite glow up treatment is the Adonia Cleopatra Facial with dermaplaning. This blends a facial, with dermaplaning to remove peach fuzz, followed by a mini peel and LED light. It’s one of those facials if you need to look great that day you get the immediate glow which lasts for weeks. Other great treatments for glowing skin are superficial chemical peels and microneedling.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a new website and e-commerce platform for Adonia Medical clinic which will enable people to access the best products and skin devices on the market hand-selected by me and my team. I am currently filming and reviewing pages which has been an amazing process.

I am working with some incredible brands such as CeraVe being a medical expert voice. I use the product myself and recommend it to my patients so it’s lovely to work with them to educate people about skin.

I am also creating a lot of content for my audience on Instagram, I love making educational videos and am embarking on TikTok for the first time where I will be creating a skincare library helping to demystify ingredients you know and some you don’t.

What skincare steps should you never skip?

Cleansing and Sunscreen. These two are crucial. Cleansing removes dirt and debris and ensures you get the greatest benefit from the rest of your routine. Sunscreen is the protective step that will keep you looking lovely for decades.

What does your perfect weekend look like?

Great question; Sitting in the garden, sun shining, music playing, the girls running around, hubby cooking a BBQ, sipping on something bubbly….bliss!

What do you always carry with you?

Wet wipes and some red lipstick. I’m lost without these. As a mum wet wipes are used for everything and I am not fully dressed without my red lipstick. I could be dressed in scrubs but still love a little red lipstick.

What would your last ever meal be?

Jollof rice, it’s a spicy rice from West Africa. Rice will never be the same again once you try Jollof rice.

What is one positive piece of advice you could give to our audience?

There is only one you in the entire universe. The things that make you different are your assets it is all a matter of perspective. Celebrate it and others will celebrate it with you.

Follow Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme on Instagram here!

TEAM ZOELLA MARCH 22, 2021

We Spoke to 9 People About Miscarriages

Here, 8 people share their stories and open up the dialogue around pregnancy loss. We hope connecting with these women and their experiences will help you in your personal healing and spread awareness of just how important it is that we listen and hold space for those living with loss.

One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage but despite the devastating commonality, we still aren’t talking about it.

Why must women continue to be sworn into this unmentionable non-disclosure agreement and forced to grieve in silence? Losing a baby is earth-shattering and a visceral kind of pain that is exacerbated by the unwarranted stigma and lack of open discussion. It’s an unspoken part of the pregnancy journey, yet it affects around a quarter of a million women in the UK.

Losing your baby should never be something you have to mourn wordlessly or go through alone. Your loss is valid, your miscarriage (awful word) counts and there are thousands of other mothers who walk the same path you do every day.

Here, 9 people share their stories and open up the dialogue around pregnancy loss. We hope connecting with these women and their experiences will help you in your personal healing and spread awareness of just how important it is that we listen and hold space for those living with loss.

Laura Bradshaw

First of all, how are you – how is your grief today?

 I am good thank you! I try not to think about my grief day-to-day but instead try to remember the quote “grief is love with no place to go”, which I think is the perfect way to describe it.

 How did losing a baby impact your mental health?

Women who miscarry are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, and this is something that definitely rings true for me. Losing a baby has a huge impact not only on your mental health but also how you feel about yourself – it’s a huge emotional toll, it takes time to digest but also time to heal. I have definitely been through times of depression, but there are good days too. I have had four miscarriages, so I’ve definitely struggled with the repetition of experiencing so many losses.

However, I’ve always tried to remind myself that none of this is my fault because it’s very easy to fall into a place of guilt. It’s also okay to feel sad and vulnerable. My advice to anyone struggling after loss is to give yourself time to heal not only physically, but mentally too.

 The ‘12-week-rule’ and can leave a lot of women struggling with baby loss on their own. Having gone through that experience first-hand, do you think you would have had better support and awareness right from the beginning of your pregnancy if you didn’t feel this huge secrecy around those first few months?

 My miscarriages have all been before the 12-week mark and it’s really awkward to tell someone “I was pregnant, but now I’m not”, when they had no clue you were pregnant in the first place. I think this is why speaking about miscarriage is seen as such a taboo – in those early weeks we’re sworn to secrecy in case ‘something goes wrong, but that doesn’t make sense to me because if you do happen to experience issues in early pregnancy, you can need people to talk to even more.

1 in 4 women have experienced a miscarriage but despite the commonality of this loss, there’s still a lot of unwarranted shame and unnecessary stigma around discussing it and that be such a lonely place to be. Have you found speaking openly about your baby loss and sharing your story to help with your healing?

 It makes me really sad that there are still be feelings of shame surrounding miscarriage, especially when it’s so common – it happens to 1 in 4 women! I can honestly say that before my first miscarriage I had never had a conversation about miscarriage with anyone. So when I went through it myself, I had no idea what to expect and that makes it very isolating. Because of this, I’ve always maintained that I would try to raise awareness using my online platform, when I felt ready to do so.

Three years later I made a YouTube video about my miscarriages. I never imagined to hear from so many people going through loss too. To this day, my inbox is full of Women and Men sharing their stories with me – some of them haven’t even told their families or friends and that means so much to me. It makes them feel less alone, but in turn, it makes me feel less alone too.

 I decided I wanted to do more to open up the conversation, so I created a miscarriage and infertility website, justbadluck.co.uk, I also record a podcast too. It allows me to write about my feelings but I also include guest posts written by those that want to share their own experiences with baby loss & infertility. Writing and having a place to speak openly about your experience can help so much, but it’s also a hub for anyone going through loss to feel less alone. I like to think of Just Bad Luck as a safe space for people who need it the most and I really hope that anyone who visits feels less alone when they leave.

As well as feeling emotionally silenced, the physical experience of miscarriage is seldom talked about and can vary wildly. In your own words and only if you feel comfortable telling us, what did your body physically endure when you lost your baby/babies?

I think what people don’t realise is when you have a miscarriage you still have to give birth to your baby. There is a huge misconception that it’s like a ‘heavy period’, but that’s not true. Whilst it can be different for everyone and every pregnancy – you can still get contractions, you still have to give birth and your hormones take time to settle afterwards too. The only difference is that at the end you have to say goodbye, which is hard.

 Did you take time off work following your loss?

 I have always tried to give myself time to heal and recover after my miscarriages, but most of the time I would still be working in some way or another. When going through my miscarriages I hadn’t spoken openly about it online yet, so there was definitely a pressure to create content and “keep things going” as much as I could. Luckily I work for myself and from home most of the time, so the only real pressure to get back to work was from myself.

 I know the freedom of being self-employed isn’t the case for everyone and I hope that one day more companies will allow couples to have time off after miscarriages, without pressure or judgement. There is a huge difference in being able to recover at home, to having to recover in an office or public environment.

A lot of people worry about what to say or do, how can you be a good friend, colleague or family member for someone who is grieving for their baby?

 My advice would be to simply listen.

Going through a miscarriage can be isolating and lonely but you can also feel excluded. I think it’s important not to treat someone differently because they have had a miscarriage – they are still the same person. I have always respected those that have given me their time to talk about my situation or have just checked in every now and then with a simple “how are you doing?” It means a lot to know someone is thinking about you and having someone to talk to can make so much difference.

 What’s a comment or question people ask that you find unhelpful and insensitive, even if it’s well-meaning?

 “When are you going to have children?” always hits deep. It’s only asked by those who don’t know what we’ve been through and perhaps those who haven’t been through it themselves, but I wish it was a question people didn’t ask. As soon as we were married we were asked this question constantly and it was tough when I’d had a miscarriage recently – it was all too raw. It catches you off guard and really can ruin your day. Whilst I am now able to speak more honestly and explain our situation, there are times when I don’t want to discuss it or it’s just too painful to explain.

What health care support/aftercare did you receive – were you asked if you were you ok?

 In terms of professional aftercare I haven’t received any and I have never been asked if I’m okay – not once. In fact, one time when I cried in an appointment with my GP she told me I should give up. I think there is a LONG way to go in terms of support after miscarriage.

Unfortunately, support isn’t always offered until a couple goes through three miscarriages in a row either. Tommy’s baby charity are currently trying to raise enough signatures to take a petition against this to the government. I really hope these rules change for future generations and couples are offered support after one miscarriage, as it will make such a positive impact.

 How do you cope with others sharing their baby news?

 I won’t lie, it can be tough. I always liken it to how it might feel when you have a breakup and everyone around you seems to be in love. Before my miscarriages, I felt so happy for anyone sharing their pregnancy news, but this does change when you’ve been through loss or infertility. It’s like waiting on a platform with your friends and every week a train will come to pick one of them up. It’s isolating, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be happy for someone whilst still feeling sad about your own situation – it doesn’t make you a bad person!

 I would say that the way in which someone tells you makes a huge difference – understanding and compassion goes a long way and makes it much easier to digest.

 Social media can of course heighten those negative feelings – we see everyone’s beautiful pregnancy reveals and it can seem like a constant stream of baby news (which is why I found it so important to share my experience) Because of this, I now try to have more time offline – stepping away from social media for a while or muting some accounts is fine. It’s important to protect yourself and your feelings.

 I also try to remember that everyone has a different journey. Not everyone shares their struggles and as an outsider looking in, everything can seem perfect… but it’s not always the case. I could walk past a heavily pregnant person in a supermarket and feel sad… but she may have had multiple miscarriages, I would never know.

 What’s helped you cope and lean into your grief?

 I try to remind myself that life is still worth living, with or without children and that my miscarriages don’t define who I am as a person. My Husband is a great reminder of this and is constantly dancing in the kitchen with me, just to make me smile! Miscarriage and infertility can be so consuming and there have definitely been stretches of time when it’s taken over my mind far too much. When I’m having a bad day I try to focus on something I enjoy, whether that’s walking my dog or something as simple as baking a cake. I am constantly trying to put less pressure on the situation, but it’s definitely a work in progress.

What do you think we can all do to normalise conversations around baby loss and help spread awareness?

 If you have a friend or family member that has gone through a miscarriage… listen and learn from them. Miscarriage is not something we are ever taught about and I feel like it can be such a mystery to those who haven’t experienced it. By listening and learning from those around you, you will know how to approach the situation if it happens to other people in your life, but also if it ever happens to you too. 

Do you have any resources you’ve found particularly comforting and validating?

 Tommy’s baby charity are great at raising awareness but also for support – They also run NHS clinics to help with miscarriage investigations and they have been great personally.

 The miscarriage association are also a great charity and have loads of helpful PDF’s online.

 What does motherhood mean to you?

 Bravery, love, loss, care, understanding, selflessness, strength and most of all, patience. 

Courtney

First of all, how are you – how is your grief today?

I still feel grief and there are definitely wobbly days (usually occur during pregnancy announcements from friends etc) but overall I’m ok at this time after seeking the counselling I needed. 

How did losing a baby impact your mental health?

I wasn’t good. I suffered severe depression after the very first miscarriage which just escalated with each one after. I finally started counselling in January which has helped a lot. 

The ‘12-week-rule’ and can leave a lot of women struggling with baby loss on their own. Having gone through that experience first-hand, do you think you would have had better support and awareness right from the beginning of your pregnancy if you didn’t feel this huge secrecy around those first few months?

Personally, since my 3rd as soon as I get that second line I tell my mum. She’s been through the journeys with me from the start since. I do think that when I did keep it secret and didn’t tell her I suffered a lot more as I felt I couldn’t go to anyone to talk about it because they didn’t even know. 

Lots of women can feel isolated from conversations around motherhood, despite the fact that you are already a mother from the second you see that second line pop up on the test. Do you think there needs to be a wider conversation around how we discuss miscarriage and the emotional long-term implications and vicarious trauma that comes with being a mother without a baby?

That first line about already being a mother when getting that second line really hit me as a lot of people don’t see that with miscarriage.

I definitely think there needs to be a change to the way it’s discussed I often feel so alienated when friends and family are talking about being mumsCourtney

I definitely think there needs to be a change to the way it’s discussed I often feel so alienated when friends and family are talking about being mums and they often say “don’t worry when you are a mum you will understand” which hurts because in a lot of ways I feel like a mum already. I think it really contributes to the trauma experienced post miscarriage. 

1 in 4 women have experienced miscarriage but despite the commonality of this loss, there’s still a lot of unwarranted shame and unnecessary stigma around discussing it and that be such a lonely place to be. Have you found speaking openly about your baby loss and sharing your story to help with your healing?

I feel being able to share it with others really helped me, I didn’t feel so alone and felt there were others out there who had the same or similar experiences as me. I feel when you bring it up the whole room goes quiet and no one knows what to say and I think that needs to change. It’s so common that it needs to normalised that it’s ok to discuss it and you don’t have to hide it. 

As well as feeling emotionally silenced, the physical experience of miscarriage is seldom talked about and can vary wildly. In your own words and only if you feel comfortable telling us, what did your body physically endure when you lost your baby/babies?

Physically, it’s draining, I never get far in my pregnancies like some other ladies, the furthest I’ve gotten is 8-10weeks. The physical cramping is so intense, personally, it’s 1000% worse than having a period. Then I’ve even experienced what I could only describe as contractions and feeling my stomach harden and the pain from that is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. Going through a miscarriage is the most tired I’ve ever felt as the hormones just drop suddenly and I genuinely feel the emotional pain only intensifies the physical experience. 

Did you take time off work following your loss?

With all my losses bar my last one I took at least a week off to recover. I’m never fully recovered when I return but mentally I need to keep busy so always end up returning to work. The 6th miscarriage I was in denial about another one occurring so continued to work despite the pain in order to keep my mind off the experience and I wish I hadn’t. 

A lot of people worry about what to say or do, how can you be a good friend, colleague or family member for someone who is grieving for their baby?

I think just being there. Listening to them about their feelings, being supportive of the emotions and allowing them that safe space to speak and encouraging them to speak. Holding them sometimes just a hug can help it gives you that assurance they are there and they care. I definitely would advise against sayings like “it will happen when it happens” or at least you weren’t that far along, essentially minimising the experience would be a no no!  

What’s a comment or question people ask that you find unhelpful and insensitive, even if it’s well-meaning?

“It will happen when it happens” “it just wasn’t meant to be”. I’ve even had a friend ask are you sure it wasn’t just a period and once had a friend who was pregnant a the same time as me, I lost the baby but she did not.

I’ve even had a friend ask are you sure it wasn’t just a periodCourtney

The day after my miscarriage she wanted to meet up (pre-COVID) and spent the entire time gushing about her pregnancy. So I think some sensitivity and  Definitely not using the sayings above would be a great start. It minimises the experience which I think adds to that stigma and that feeling that you cannot talk about it and is definitely not helpful at that time. 

What health care support / aftercare did you receive – were you asked if you were you ok?

The first few miscarriages I really didn’t receive much aftercare other than take some painkillers and rest. By the 4th they referred to gynaecologists for ultrasounds and blood tests but when all came back normal I was dismissed. It wasn’t until after my 6th ( the miscarriage and pregnancy itself was a joke in regards to medical assistance) and I reached out that I was offered mental health assistance for it. I’d say it wasn’t the best experience medically so far. 

How do you cope with others sharing their baby news?

One word. Horribly. I struggle immensely with the desire to be happy for them but the despair and grief of my loss. This recently happened to me and I spent days in bed just crying despite desperately wanting to be happy for them. 

What’s helped you cope and lean into your grief?

Honestly, counselling. I started person centred therapy in January and having that safe space to talk about all my feelings regarding my miscarriage has really helped. I get to talk to some one without burdening my family and friends. Also being able to share my story with others and having the feeling of possibly helping them feel less alone or educating others on miscarriage. 

What do you think we can all do to normalise conversations around baby loss and help spread awareness?

I think honestly using a platform like social media and allowing people to share their stories to normalise the conversation is huge. Letting others know that 1) you aren’t alone in that loss and 2) it’s ok to talk about it is HUGE! I really appreciate this chance and will wholeheartedly discuss my entire story if it helps someone else. 

Do you have any resources you’ve found particularly comforting and validating?

Mainly just the counselling service I use Miscarriage Scotland. It’s a charity run counselling service and it’s helped a lot.  Other than that I haven’t heard of many more resources to help. There is the conversation section of my tracking app glow but it’s so full of pregnancy announcements I’ve been avoiding it. 

What does motherhood mean to you?

Motherhood means everything to me. Sometimes I feel like I was only born to be a mum. To  bring a child into this world and raise them would make my life complete. I’m genuinely desperate to be a mum even if it doesn’t happen through traditional means like pregnancy. My mum has gushed about how great a mum I’d be and how I was made to be one when it happens and I think that speaks volumes about how much I want it to happen. 

Laura

First of all, how are you – how is your grief today? 

It’s OK, I think made easier by now having a daughter of my own 

How did losing a baby impact your mental health? 

Understandably it impacted it hugely, particularly the last miscarriage which I lost after 9 weeks but had what I now understand to be ‘labour’ at home alone, looking back I had some PTSD with it, luckily I’ve always had therapy on and off so as soon as I realised I got help straight away

The ‘12-week-rule’ can leave a lot of women struggling with baby loss on their own. Having gone through that experience first-hand, do you think you would have had better support and awareness right from the beginning of your pregnancy if you didn’t feel this huge secrecy around those first few months? 

Ah this is a tricky one, I wish there was more awareness, I was incredibly naive looking back, especially as there was no history of miscarriage in my family. I told less and less people during each miscarriage as I struggled with telling people when I did miscarry.

I remember calling the early pregnancy unit when I was having contractions and 9 weeks, they just told me to stay homeLaura

In the end not telling people became a form of self-preservation, although I appreciate some people need that support. I wish I also knew what it entailed and how hard it could be, I remember calling the early pregnancy unit when I was having contractions and 9 weeks, they just told me to stay home. There was no follow up. Also worth mentioning ‘3’ is the magic number for further investigation on the NHS.

Lots of women can feel isolated from conversations around motherhood, despite the fact that you are already a mother from the second you see that second line pop up on the test. Do you think there needs to be a wider conversation around how we discuss miscarriage and the emotional long-term implications and vicarious trauma that comes with being a mother without a baby? 

I don’t feel I can answer this as out of self-preservation after the first I deliberately never looked at due dates or believed myself to be a mother without a baby. I think had the miscarriages been later I would have felt different. 

1 in 4 women have experienced a miscarriage but despite the commonality of this loss, there’s still a lot of unwarranted shame and unnecessary stigma around discussing it and that be such a lonely place to be. Have you found speaking openly about your baby loss and sharing your story to help with your healing? 

For me personally no, I may sound hard and I’m happy to share my experiences now, at the time I wanted it to be private.  

As well as feeling emotionally silenced, the physical experience of miscarriage is seldom talked about and can vary wildly. In your own words and only if you feel comfortable telling us, what did your body physically endure when you lost your baby/babies? 

The first 2 were very early and I would describe them as heavy periods. The last one I started spotting & bleeding at 9 weeks, and I suddenly had contractions, I didn’t recognise them at the time for that, however, I was on my own (husband at work, family live quite far away) and terrified, the contractions increased in frequency and I felt the need to push, which I did and it fell out into the toilet. I didn’t think my body would need to contract to get rid of it, I wish there was more awareness of that.

Did you take time off work following your loss? 

No, I run my own event catering business (pizza) and I had a job on the Saturday working on a wedding (it happened on the wednesday). I took maybe a day but then I was back at my desk before travelling across the UK to make pizza at a wedding. Looking back this was a mistake 

A lot of people worry about what to say or do, how can you be a good friend, colleague or family member for someone who is grieving for their baby? 

Let them know you are there. Ask them what they need, I didn’t want to talk about it but I know others that needed to during their healing. Let them guide you

What’s a comment or question people ask that you find unhelpful and insensitive, even if it’s well-meaning? 

When are you having children? It wasn’t meant to be. You are only young it will happen for you

What health care support/aftercare did you receive – were you asked if you were you ok? 

I only had a scan for my last one but I paid privately before the NHS one as they couldn’t get me in for 5 days (before I knew I’d lost it). That was it. Once I had 3, I was referred to a miscarriage clinic and got tested a lot, since then they have been fantastic through my final ‘successful’ pregnancy.

How do you cope with others sharing their baby news? 

I struggled, I stopped following people on social media who shared they were pregnant. I changed what I was seeing to protect myself. I also at times didn’t see pregnant friends and explained why,

What’s helped you cope and lean into your grief? 

Therapy!

What do you think we can all do to normalise conversations around baby loss and help spread awareness? 

Keep talking about it, I wish I was aware when we started trying.

Do you have any resources you’ve found particularly comforting and validating? 

Tommys was fantastic

What does motherhood mean to you? 

A sense of completeness, and the ultimate gift

Rosie

First of all, how are you – how is your grief today?

As of now, I’m ok, my 2 and 8 year olds keep me very busy.

How did losing a baby impact your mental health?

I found it really really hard, both my miscarriages were quite early on in the pregnancy and so the attitude I received was like it wasn’t very important because it wasn’t a ‘real baby’ I struggled a lot and didn’t want to get out of bed after the 1st one. 

The ‘12-week-rule’ and can leave a lot of women struggling with baby loss on their own. Having gone through that experience first-hand, do you think you would have had better support and awareness right from the beginning of your pregnancy if you didn’t feel this huge secrecy around those first few months?

I ignored it the second time, the first time I felt so alone it was only my husband and my parents who knew, I just felt I had no one to talk to about it, when I got pregnant again I told friends and more family straight away and it did help me as when I miscarried again I told people and it turns out some of my friends and even just acquaintances would stop me in the street and tell me they knew what I was going through and they would share their story’s with me, I felt I had more support that time.

Lots of women can feel isolated from conversations around motherhood, despite the fact that you are already a mother from the second you see that second line pop up on the test. Do you think there needs to be a wider conversation around how we discuss miscarriage and the emotional long-term implications and vicarious trauma that comes with being a mother without a baby?

ABSOLUTELY! Yes we do, I so wish people would be more open and honest! 

1 in 4 women have experienced miscarriage but despite the commonality of this loss, there’s still a lot of unwarranted shame and unnecessary stigma around discussing it and that be such a lonely place to be. Have you found speaking openly about your baby loss and sharing your story to help with your healing?

Yes definitely, as I mentioned before my first miscarriage hardly anyone knew and it was horrible but the second one I had more people knew and I just felt supported, don’t get me wrong I was still terrible heartbroken, but it did ease the sting a little bit.

As well as feeling emotionally silenced, the physical experience of miscarriage is seldom talked about and can vary wildly. In your own words and only if you feel comfortable telling us, what did your body physically endure when you lost your baby/babies?

Physically it was like a really really bad period, I was changing pads every hour and just with really bad stomach pain. I tried my best to sleep most of the time.

Did you take time off work following your loss?

No, I’m a stay at home mum but whilst my daughter was at school I went back to bed until it was time to pick her back up, half for the pain physically and half to just hide from it all I suppose.

A lot of people worry about what to say or do, how can you be a good friend, colleague or family member for someone who is grieving for their baby?

Just be there whenever they need you that’s literally all you can do, don’t offer any advice, I didn’t find it helpful.

What’s a comment or question people ask that you find unhelpful and insensitive, even if it’s well-meaning?

For me as I had my daughter already I would get ‘at least you have one already’ ‘your young you can try again’ ‘sometimes it’s just not meant to be’ these broke my heart numerous times.

What health care support / aftercare did you receive – were you asked if you were you ok?

I wasn’t offered anything, I was told I would have to miscarry 3 times before any help or tests would be offered to me.

How do you cope with others sharing their baby news?

Now I’m ok but then honestly I hated it, I would never say anything but inside I was jealous and hurt and bitter. 

What’s helped you cope and lean into your grief?

Listening to other people’s story’s and just knowing you’re not alone.

What do you think we can all do to normalise conversations around baby loss and help spread awareness?

Banish the 12-week rule and just be honest and open and keep sharing! Keep talking.

Do you have any resources you’ve found particularly comforting and validating?

No, unfortunately, just my friends telling me their story’s and just taking each day as it came.

What does motherhood mean to you?

To me it makes life worth living, it’s hard and scary and stressful but it’s beautiful and filled with love and laughter. It just means everything! 

Rabia

First of all, how are you – how is your grief today?

 I am well, the grief is a funny thing as even though my miscarriage was in November 2019, some days I remember it more than others and unbeknown it impacts my thoughts more than I realise.

How did losing a baby impact your mental health?

At first, I didn’t realise the impact it had on my mental health, it was one day when I was talking to my friend about what had happened and this was a few weeks later, that I finally realised the anxiety that I had been feeling had all impacted my mental health. Even now after having a baby, I am so very cautious with my baby girl, losing a baby makes you value things a whole lot more.

The ‘12-week-rule’ and can leave a lot of women struggling with baby loss on their own. Having gone through that experience first-hand, do you think you would have had better support and awareness right from the beginning of your pregnancy if you didn’t feel this huge secrecy around those first few months?

Definitely, of course, I understand that the first 12 weeks of pregnancy are very crucial and anything can happen. But after suffering from a miscarriage, you look back and think ‘did I do something wrong?’ ‘Was it that yoga class that I took?’ You just tirelessly question everything you did in those weeks and sometimes end up blaming yourself.

Lots of women can feel isolated from conversations around motherhood, despite the fact that you are already a mother from the second you see that second line pop up on the test. Do you think there needs to be a wider conversation around how we discuss miscarriage and the emotional long-term implications and vicarious trauma that comes with being a mother without a baby?

100%, coming from a south Asian culture, miscarriage is very rarely spoken about in our households or in wider families. I have only known about my auntie who suffered a miscarriage 13 years ago and she was the person I went to, when I had mine, as I just felt I couldn’t speak to anyone else. The emotional implications I feel are very much always there, even if an advertisement comes up on the TV, or if you’re watching a movie and it’s in there or a TV show, it always triggers something and makes you think back.

1 in 4 women have experienced miscarriage but despite the commonality of this loss, there’s still a lot of unwarranted shame and unnecessary stigma around discussing it and that be such a lonely place to be. Have you found speaking openly about your baby loss and sharing your story to help with your healing?

For me personally, yes. I know some women who want to deal with it alone and not talk about it or tell anyone, which of course is absolutely fine. But for me, speaking openly and sharing my story helped me internally to heal and also opened my eyes to how many women around me had had miscarriages and I had never known, as it is a topic that is not really spoken about.

As well as feeling emotionally silenced, the physical experience of miscarriage is seldom talked about and can vary wildly. In your own words and only if you feel comfortable telling us, what did your body physically endure when you lost your baby/babies?

A women’s body is just truly magnificent when coping with a loss or making a baby. I personally chose to let the ‘foetus’ pass naturally, so once I was discharged from the hospital, I went home and spent the following days in bed.

Nobody tells you or warns you about the physical pain your body goes through or what you should do about it. It is a very lonely place.Rabia

The doctor had said that until the foetus has passed, you will be in pain. But the pain was excruciating, I was taking painkillers every 4 hours around the clock as and when I could, until one morning I was on the toilet and felt something was coming out, I wiped and there was the baby that wasn’t meant to be. I remember just crying and not knowing what to do with it. Nobody tells you or warns you about the physical pain your body goes through or what you should do about it. It is a very lonely place.

Did you take time off work following your loss?

 I took 3 weeks off sick from work, my manager and colleagues were so very understanding.

A lot of people worry about what to say or do, how can you be a good friend, colleague or family member for someone who is grieving for their baby?

Just be there. Check-in with them regularly, pop round, take them some home-cooked food, tell them that you are always there to talk, whenever or whatever the time maybe and once they are ready to open up to you, they will do.

What’s a comment or question people ask that you find unhelpful and insensitive, even if it’s well-meaning?

I had heard ‘well at least you can get pregnant,’ and although well-meaning as it may be, it is so insensitive and dismissive almost of my baby that I have just lost.

What health care support/aftercare did you receive – were you asked if you were you ok?

 I had a follow up with my GP who asked how I was doing. I also found the miscarriage association on Instagram and reading about other women’s stories made me feel less alone.

How do you cope with others sharing their baby news?

Initially, I remember we had 2 very close friends who shared their baby news with us. One was over the phone and my husband took the call, I could hear the conversation and them telling my husband that they were pregnant. My husband ended the call and all I said was “I don’t want to know.” At that moment in time, it was so difficult to be happy for anyone else when I was going through so much pain.

I remember just feeling something drop in my stomach and knew I couldn’t be there.Rabia

The other time was only a week after my miscarriage, my husband’s cousins came round to tell us they were expecting, I remember just feeling something drop in my stomach and knew I couldn’t be there. I hugged and congratulated them and ran upstairs, locked myself in the bathroom and just cried. I cried for hours. I had such mixed emotions, I was angry, upset, guilty for feeling this way, it’s such a difficult time.

What’s helped you cope and lean into your grief?

For me, we started trying again for a baby only 2 months afterwards but I remember saying to my husband, that no pressure, no tracking ovulation, if it’s meant to be it will be. In February of 2020, I was pregnant again and had my baby girl in October. Throughout the pregnancy, every time I went to the toilet and wiped, you’re always fearful of there being and blood. I was so anxious all of the time until the day she was born and I am so thankful that she’s here as she has helped me so much with coping and just made me so immensely happy.

What do you think we can all do to normalise conversations around baby loss and help spread awareness?

Just to have the conversations more openly, I wish there were more platforms where people could share their stories and just wish in my culture, it wasn’t seen as such a taboo subject or that it’s something so very wrong that shouldn’t be spoken about. But I know that will only change with time as I know once my daughter grows up, I will tell her about my experience and what her mummy and daddy went through so she can be prepared.

Do you have any resources you’ve found particularly comforting and validating?

As I mentioned previously, the miscarriage association and other pages on Instagram and most helpful. Even just reading other people’s stories and what they went through, it helps you to feel that you are not alone.

What does motherhood mean to you?

It is everything to me. Having my baby girl after suffering a loss is just honestly the best feeling ever. It had made me appreciate her 100 times more and to appreciate my body and everything it has gone through.

Jesse

First of all, how are you – how is your grief today? 

I’m doing well, it’s been almost 4 months since my most recent loss. It’s still hard to think about, but I try to stay in the present. 

 How did losing a baby impact your mental health? 

 My first loss broke me, it was an ectopic and at the time I didn’t know anyone who had gone through the same thing. I was so lonely despite all of the support I had I didn’t feel like barely anyone knew what I was going through 

 The ‘12-week-rule’ and can leave a lot of women struggling with baby loss on their own. Having gone through that experience first-hand, do you think you would have had better support and awareness right from the beginning of your pregnancy if you didn’t feel this huge secrecy around those first few months? 

 I think the 12-week rule is good for the public but I didn’t use this for close friends and family as I knew I’d need a support system if anything were to happen. I’m very thankful for that. 

 Lots of women can feel isolated from conversations around motherhood, despite the fact that you are already a mother from the second you see that second line pop up on the test. Do you think there needs to be a wider conversation around how we discuss miscarriage and the emotional long-term implications and vicarious trauma that comes with being a mother without a baby?

 I think that this needs to be talked about a lot more than it is. It’s a shame that most women suffer through this in silence and feel like they’re so alone despite how common this is. 

 1 in 4 women have experienced miscarriage but despite the commonality of this loss, there’s still a lot of unwarranted shame and unnecessary stigma around discussing it and that be such a lonely place to be. Have you found speaking openly about your baby loss and sharing your story to help with your healing?

When I experienced my two losses last year I was vocal and wanted to raise awareness and make sure that if I had any friends who suffered in silence that they knew I was there.

If people were more aware of how common it is and the science behind it I believe we could talk about it more and not blame ourselves when it does happen. Jesse

I had a lot of people reach out to me and share their experiences and it was so refreshing to have those conversations. It can be very difficult that is for sure, but going into my first pregnancy I definitely had a mindset of “that won’t happen to me” despite the statistics and I think people should be taught about these things. If people were more aware of how common it is and the science behind it I believe we could talk about it more and not blame ourselves when it does happen. 

 As well as feeling emotionally silenced, the physical experience of miscarriage is seldom talked about and can vary wildly. In your own words and only if you feel comfortable telling us, what did your body physically endure when you lost your baby/babies?

My first loss was an ectopic pregnancy meaning that the embryo implanted in my fallopian tube before it could make it to my uterus and my baby began to grow and damage my tube. I experience severe pain and went to the hospital and had to have my tube removed. In my second loss, I experienced a similar pain and a bit of bleeding and went to the hospital and they weren’t able to tell me anything for sure. The following day I had extremely horrific cramps and a large amount of blood and clots consistently for hours and then it tapered off to a normal period like bleeding for the next 2 days. 

 Did you take time off work following your loss?

The first time I took 2 weeks, I was recovering from surgery and moving house. The second time I was training for a promotion and could only take 2 days without affecting my job. 

 A lot of people worry about what to say or do, how can you be a good friend, colleague or family member for someone who is grieving for their baby? 

 I believe the best thing to do is just check in, come by with food, or just casual hang out if they’re up for it. It’s nice not to be alone. Other than that just making them aware that you’re there for them even if it’s to sit in silence and watch TV. I had people bring me or send me flowers which was lovely, my best friend came over with food and did my dishes and tidied my kitchen. Just small things really. 

 What’s a comment or question people ask that you find unhelpful and insensitive, even if it’s well-meaning?

Nothing specific comes to mind. But when people know and they dance around the subject trying to be sensitive but they bring it up more than if they were just acting normal if that makes sense. 

 What health care support/aftercare did you receive – were you asked if you were you ok?

I had follow-ups with my surgeons, GPs and OBGYN, my GP called me several times to check in and see how I was coping etc. 

 How do you cope with others sharing their baby news?

In the very beginning, it was really hard but after a few weeks I was just happy for them and wanted nothing but the best. I know my time would come. 

 What’s helped you cope and lean into your grief?

Talking about it openly with friends and family. Some Instagram accounts of other’s stories helped to feel less alone. 

 What do you think we can all do to normalise conversations around baby loss and help spread awareness?

Talk about our experiences when we are ready and encourage others to do the same. 

 Do you have any resources you’ve found particularly comforting and validating?

These accounts on Instagram really helped:

@letstalkpregnancyloss

@ectopicawareness

What does motherhood mean to you?

Honestly, it means the world. It’s the one thing I feel born to do and would give up anything do to just that. I’m a mom to 2 angels and expecting my rainbow baby in early October. It’s already the greatest thing I’ve ever done and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Kellie

First of all, how are you – how is your grief today? 

I’m feeling good today. Mainly because it was my little boys 2nd birthday Friday so it’s all exciting for him and been a nice weekend despite the pandemic but generally today is a good day for me anyway.

How did losing a baby impact your mental health?

I feel I was really lucky in that when I did miscarry I was in a good place mentally. It broke me and I had a couple of days where I didn’t want to face getting up and I didn’t on a couple of days but I was in a lot of physical pain too. I still have down days and days where I really struggle to keep focused but I’m blessed to have a son who takes up a lot of my time and he helps me in more ways than he can ever realise. My partner is also really good and lets me have my time but will also then bring me back into a good headspace.

The ‘12-week-rule’ and can leave a lot of women struggling with baby loss on their own. Having gone through that experience first-hand, do you think you would have had better support and awareness right from the beginning of your pregnancy if you didn’t feel this huge secrecy around those first few months?

I found out I was expecting on Xmas eve 2020 and because of the year, we have had we thought it would be a lovely Xmas present to family and close friends so told them. But I didn’t announce it via social media for not so close friends. I did put up a post about our loss because I thought it would help others.

I feel like the 12-week rule causes a lot of fear of ‘jinxing’ it but I had a lot of embarrassment because I self blamed a lot.Kellie

I feel like the 12-week rule causes a lot of fear of ‘jinxing’ it but I had a lot of embarrassment because I self blamed a lot. I felt like I could have done something or not done something to prevent it, and for that I felt embarrassed and almost unworthy of another child when I couldn’t even protect it while I was the one carrying him/her. Now time has moved on I now realise that isn’t the case but it hasn’t stopped me feeling guilty, it’s just a motherly feeling that I will deal with for the rest of my life.

Lots of women can feel isolated from conversations around motherhood, despite the fact that you are already a mother from the second you see that second line pop up on the test. Do you think there needs to be a wider conversation around how we discuss miscarriage and the emotional long-term implications and vicarious trauma that comes with being a mother without a baby?

There absolutely does. A friend I went to school with had an ectopic and she feels that speaking out and sharing our journey will raise awareness and remove some of the stigma and awkwardness toward mothers of angel babies.

1 in 4 women have experienced miscarriage but despite the commonality of this loss, there’s still a lot of unwarranted shame and unnecessary stigma around discussing it and that be such a lonely place to be. Have you found speaking openly about your baby loss and sharing your story to help with your healing?

In some ways yes and some ways no. No, because I haven’t fully healed from the loss and speaking out just takes me back there. Yes because speaking out will raise awareness, hopefully, make other women realise they’re not alone and they may have someone out there they can have an open conversation with due to the common ground and someone fully understanding their thoughts and feelings which may help one or both. Also for me, speaking about my loss reminds me that I did have another baby, who may not be here with us but he or she was still apart of our family and always will be. With time for me speaking out will become easier but it’s such a good thing to do if and when people are ready to do so.

As well as feeling emotionally silenced, the physical experience of miscarriage is seldom talked about and can vary wildly. In your own words and only if you feel comfortable telling us, what did your body physically endure when you lost your baby/babies?

This was something I did not quite expect, even being a nurse myself. The physical pain was similar to a period but more severe and I felt quite nauseous from time to time. The bleeding was very heavy and having to give urine samples for testing and pregnancy testing in the hospital, excuse the TMI but it was just bloody water.

I just found it traumatic because I knew what was happening and what it was. Kellie

It was so heavy at times I was changing pads every couple of hours. Again I’m sorry for the TMI but the clots you pass are quite shocking. I myself not as much because I’m a nurse, I just found it traumatic because I knew what was happening and what it was. 

Did you take time off work following your loss?

Yes, I had to because I was not in a fit state to be around anyone but my son and fiancé. Also, the physical pain was too much to be able to remain professional. Due to the pandemic and the nature of my job I had to inform my manager of my pregnancy, something I didn’t want to do until I was at least 12/13 weeks but miscarried at around 6/7 weeks. Unfortunately somehow word got out I was pregnant and suddenly the whole ward knew so I just didn’t want to have to tell them I WAS pregnant and what had happened. However, the ward/unit that deals with miscarriages is my new job. I had been wanting a job on that ward/speciality for years and I finally got it in early December 2020. My dream job is now a reminder of what could have been for my family. The team on there are great and I want to now use this experience to help other mums.

A lot of people worry about what to say or do, how can you be a good friend, colleague or family member for someone who is grieving for their baby?

I never like to hear oh I’m sorry because 1. It’s so textbook but 2. They haven’t done anything to cause that so there’s no blame or fault on anyone’s side. But I do understand people just don’t know what to say and they are being kind. The best thing a family member/friend can say is that they are saddened to hear the news and that they are there for them if they ever need someone. Colleagues I feel are different because they may not know you on such a personal level as family and friends but the same. Just that if they need someone then they will be there for them. It’s just common human decency and kindness. No matter what their relation to you is if they have experienced it themselves then definitely chatting to each other but maybe one reached out to some charities, professionals or advice line that helped they should recommend and give them all necessary info. 

What’s a comment or question people ask that you find unhelpful and insensitive, even if it’s well-meaning?

“Oh, I’m sorry”. It’s kind to say but so textbook and it doesn’t open up much for a conversation. What could you say to that? Thank you? I, unfortunately, found a TikToker who made a video that said if she was to get pregnant now she would abort and don’t regret saying it because her body and she don’t want kids yet. I am in no way a snowflake but I did get a little hurt by this. I agree with her 100% it is her body but being such a sensitive subject maybe she didn’t need to voice such an opinion for clout (felt like she did it for a reaction, which she got!) but also angered me that if she doesn’t want kids now then do whatever it takes to avoid them because there are so many men and women who want kids that either can’t or have lost babies they so desperately wanted while she is so blasé about getting rid. It was very distasteful and insensitive. Another one is “oh your still young you can have another baby” I feel people are trying to keep it positive but it’s like well yes but we wanted that baby, we had a baby on the way and now we don’t. But you don’t know that the person can have another child, they may have some issues with falling pregnant, repeated miscarriages, last IVF or the male has issues and that may be their last shot. It is very hard to know what the right thing to say is.

What health care support/aftercare did you receive – were you asked if you were you ok?

I was provided with leaflets and discharged. To some, this may feel a bit disregarded but for me I was allowed to go home (in my safe/comfortable place) be with the people that mean the most to me and let the process of grieving begin. The physical care was to ensure I wasn’t retaining any pregnancy because if I did it can be dangerous, also blood tests. Luckily I was ok but they were very thorough in ensuring my safety/health. They gave me verbal advice and any worrying signs to look out for and where to go/who to call if such things happened.

How do you cope with others sharing their baby news?

I have my days where it just breaks me, especially when their due at the same time because I feel that was me and now it’s not. I could have been sharing the milestones at the same time and that hurts but I’m happy for them deep down. The days I feel more upset about it I stay off social media (Insta and SC are the places that people tend to go) but it’s because you can follow celebs and other people whereas Facebook I don’t have strangers on there so when they share baby news I’m excited for them as a friend.

I could have been sharing the milestones at the same time and that hurts but I’m happy for them deep down. Kellie

So there is less baby news sharing on my Facebook. Still hurts me too but that friend may have been trying for years or had multiple losses so I know how much they want it and how happy they feel to finally be getting what they have wanted. Other days I’m so thrilled they get to experience pregnancy and having a child and it doesn’t hurt so much. It will always hurt me and I will always remember certain dates such as finding out the gender, due date and such but time will help us heal.

What’s helped you cope and lean into your grief?

Time and speaking about it. My baby was real, I did have a child and time is always a healer. Also, the fact that at present there isn’t anything saying I couldn’t have more kids in the future so looking forward to adding more to the family. My son too! My son keeps me busy and he is such a joy to watch grow. Again my partner is always fab in helping me through situations and he just knows me inside and out so he lets me do what I need to and then gives me a real boost to get positive again but does whatever he can to get me there.

What do you think we can all do to normalise conversations around baby loss and help spread awareness?

Just continue the chats. The more something is done the easier it gets and the more negativity is removed and then it hopefully becomes the norm.

Do you have any resources you’ve found particularly comforting and validating?

Just some websites that provide statistics on miscarriage. It is common but you wouldn’t think it is because no one talks about it so in reality you probably know a woman or women who have miscarried. You’re not alone in the journey. They also mention that a very high % go on to have healthy pregnancies/babies.

What does motherhood mean to you?

It’s the reason I was put on earth. I have always wanted to be a mother and raise kids- apart from my career it was always my dream to have children. I never thought it would happen because in October 2017 I lost a tube and ovary to an 8kg ovarian cyst and had to have major surgery for that. I stopped my contraception in March 2018 after I had fully recovered because it increases the chance of more cysts and I didn’t want to risk losing the other side. Then I found out I was pregnant in July 2018 so feel very lucky to have fallen pregnant so quickly because we weren’t even trying. He was a very happy surprise and I would not change it at all.

Rachel

First of all, how are you – how is your grief today?

I am doing ok. It’s been almost 5 years since my last miscarriage-I have been unfortunate enough to suffer 2, my last one being in April 2016, so the grief isn’t as raw, however, it never completely goes away.

How did losing a baby impact your mental health?

I genuinely believe that my first loss back in 2012 is what triggered my depression and anxiety which I now struggle with massively every single day. With both of my losses, I spent a few days after doing nothing but lying in bed crying, wondering if it was something I’d done wrong or what I’d done to deserve something so cruel to happen to me.

I would convince myself something was wrong and that I was going to lose my baby again.Rachel

When I was lucky enough to finally get my rainbow baby in 2017, I spent the whole pregnancy being massively anxious and worrying over every little pain or niggle, panicking it would happen again. I was always backwards and forwards to the hospital to be checked over because I would convince myself something was wrong and that I was going to lose my baby again. And I believe that now my rainbow baby is with me, the experiences I’ve been through have made me very overprotective of her, even more so than I usually would have been, because I’m still so terrified of losing her.

The ‘12-week-rule’ and can leave a lot of women struggling with baby loss on their own. Having gone through that experience first-hand, do you think you would have had better support and awareness right from the beginning of your pregnancy if you didn’t feel this huge secrecy around those first few months?

I was super excited and impatient when I found out I was pregnant and I could never wait for the 12-week mark. I announced mine as soon as I knew really and then lost both at 6 weeks. Looking back now I’m glad I didn’t wait as I struggled enough to cope even with the support from people who had known, I don’t know how I would have got through it if I hadn’t told anyone and had to go through the losses alone.

Lots of women can feel isolated from conversations around motherhood, despite the fact that you are already a mother from the second you see that second line pop up on the test. Do you think there needs to be a wider conversation around how we discuss miscarriage and the emotional long-term implications and vicarious trauma that comes with being a mother without a baby?

Definitely! I think a lot of people still don’t really realise how common it is- I didn’t until it happened to me and I started looking into it more. Even if it hasn’t happened to you personally, it will have almost definitely happened to someone you know, so I think people need to be more open to discussing the topic and understanding more about it and the impact it can have on someone.

1 in 4 women have experienced miscarriage but despite the commonality of this loss, there’s still a lot of unwarranted shame and unnecessary stigma around discussing it and that be such a lonely place to be. Have you found speaking openly about your baby loss and sharing your story to help with your healing?

Honestly, this is probably the first time I’ve spoken in-depth about it. I’ve never made it a secret, people know I’ve had losses. But I’ve never gone into depth with anyone about how it’s made me feel or what I felt at the time etc. I think partly because I was worried about bringing it up and getting upset and then making people feel uncomfortable, and partly because other people feel uncomfortable bringing it up in case they upset me I suppose. 

As well as feeling emotionally silenced, the physical experience of miscarriage is seldom talked about and can vary wildly. In your own words and only if you feel comfortable telling us, what did your body physically endure when you lost your baby/babies?

My losses were both quite different. With my first, I had been suffering from really bad stomach cramps all day. I got in the bath in the evening to try and ease them, and when I got out and went to dry myself I saw the blood. I knew I needed to get to the hospital, but the stomach cramps were now so bad I couldn’t move. I sat on the toilet and I felt something slip out while I was there.

I still feel so much guilt to this day for just flushing it away without even looking at itRachel

I didn’t even realise at the time because I was so scared and in so much pain, but I know now that that was the moment I lost my baby, and I still feel so much guilt to this day for just flushing it away without even looking at it, even though there was nothing really else that I could have done, and as I said at the time, I didn’t realise what it was then. I got to the hospital, by which time I couldn’t even stand up, I was in agony and it was like a tap of blood gushing every time I stood up. I was rushed through and kept in A&E for around 4 hours-just being given painkillers and left until the pain and bleeding had subsided enough to go home. I bled for around a week afterwards and then physically I was ok again.

With my second loss, the bleeding and pain weren’t as intense at all. I noticed a little spotting when I went to the toilet one day, but the midwife assured me it was normal. However over the course of the week, it got worse and was showing no signs of stopping, so I was checked out and given a scan. They told me they couldn’t see anything but said this may have been because I was so early on in the pregnancy, and booked me in for a follow-up scan the week after. The bleeding carried on all that week and I just knew in my heart what was happening. I went for the scan the week after and they confirmed I was miscarrying again.

Did you take time off work following your loss?

I was working as a nursery nurse at the time of my second loss and I couldn’t face going into work and looking after lots of babies and having to put on a brave face, so I took some time off. They were very understanding, however, I found it so difficult to contemplate going back to that kind of environment and I ended up not going back at all.

A lot of people worry about what to say or do, how can you be a good friend, colleague or family member for someone who is grieving for their baby?

I think just letting the person know you are there as and when they want to talk is the best thing you can do. Some people are worried about bringing the baby up in conversation, but I think for a lot of grieving mums it helps to make us feel not quite as alone, because it shows us that our baby existed to others and not just to us if that makes sense. By speaking about them, you’re acknowledging that they did exist, they were a real live little person, even though they never quite got to meet us. If the grieving mother isn’t ready to talk about things just yet, then just a friendly face popping in for a brew and a biscuit and a gossip can make the world of difference.

What’s a comment or question people ask that you find unhelpful and insensitive, even if it’s well-meaning?

One that I got a lot that I hated was “You can always try again”. I just always kind of felt my baby was being brushed aside and people were a bit like “Oh never mind just have another one to replace it”. I’m sure that’s not how they meant it to come across at all, but when you have just been told your baby has died, the last thing on your mind is trying again for another one, and no matter how long you wait, the baby you lost can never ever be replaced.

What health care support/aftercare did you receive – were you asked if you were you ok?

I didn’t really receive much aftercare at all. Once they sent me home from A&E after my first loss, I didn’t hear anything at all from them.

I was just given a card with a phone number on for counselling and left to go homeRachel

With my second, I had a lady from the aftercare team come into the family room where I’d been left, and start telling me how “It wasn’t meant to be” and how “God plans these things and right now wasn’t my time”, which really upset me and made me angry as I was still in the middle of my miscarriage at this point and I’m not really religious so they just weren’t things I needed to hear at all. But other than that I was just given a card with a phone number on for counselling and left to go home

How do you cope with others sharing their baby news?

I am fine now, but at the time I found myself getting so upset and jealous and I just found it so hard to be happy for them. I caught myself thinking things like “Why are they getting their baby but I lost mine, what did I do?” Right after my first loss, my sister found out she was pregnant and the family kept it a secret from me for as long as possible because they were worried about how I’d take the news. Of course, I pretended to be happy for her when she did finally tell me, but it hurt me so much and in secret, I really struggled to be happy for her. I was insanely jealous and hurt, and felt like she’d done it to upset me, which of course she hadn’t, but my head was just all over the place.

What’s helped you cope and lean into your grief?

My friends and family have been my absolute rock. Without them, I definitely would never have coped. After my first loss, I also threw myself into organising a big charity event with my best friend and bandmate at the time, to raise money for Tommy’s the Baby Charity to fund research into miscarriage. I also make sure I do something every year on the anniversary of my losses to remember the babies I lost, and I have a memorial tattoo with my loss dates on which I designed myself.

What do you think we can all do to normalise conversations around baby loss and help spread awareness?

I think it’s important that if it has happened to you and you feel able to, that you speak up and talk about your experiences. It isn’t something to be ashamed of, it happens to women every single day, and we need to start supporting each other through something that is one of the toughest things a woman can ever go through. I definitely think the rules need changing when it comes to getting support and help, as currently it’s only offered if you have 3 or more losses which is just not good enough.

Do you have any resources you’ve found particularly comforting and validating?

There’s a charity called Saying Goodbye that offers lots of support, and they also run remembrance services all over the country where you can go along and light a candle and say goodbye to your baby properly if you weren’t able to have a funeral or something for whatever reason.

What does motherhood mean to you?

Being a mum is my absolute favourite thing in the world. I’m so lucky to have my little rainbow finally- she has most definitely saved my life. I genuinely believe that if I didn’t have her I would not still be here. She brightens up every single day and after losing 2 babies before her I know how incredibly blessed I am to have her. I will make sure as she grows up that she knows all about her 2 older brothers/sisters, and I’ll make sure that even though they may not be here, we’ll always remember them in our own special ways. They’ll still always be a part of our family 

Madeleine

 First of all, how are you – how is your grief today?

Today I am well. There are good days and there are bad days, like with any loss. The pain doesn’t lessen but you learn to live with the pain. Today is one of the days I feel strong enough to look through my memory box.

How did losing a baby impact your mental health?

Losing a baby impacted my mental health permanently, but especially in those first few weeks. I became obsessed with pretending as if it hadn’t happened, I bought gift bags to put scan photos in and give to family, I took two pregnancy tests every day. I became anxious to leave the house because seeing pregnant women or women with babies and young children was something I couldn’t cope with. I feared going to the shops. Now, it’s like a cloud that follows me around. Some days that cloud is just there and I wish it wasn’t, and some days the cloud is raining down on me and I am unable to go about my day.

The ‘12-week-rule’ and can leave a lot of women struggling with baby loss on their own. Having gone through that experience first-hand, do you think you would have had better support and awareness right from the beginning of your pregnancy if you didn’t feel this huge secrecy around those first few months?

The 12-week rule is definitely something I now disagree with. For one, I wish we had the chance to share good news and not just bad news. Unfortunately, miscarriage and stillbirth are something you have to deal with the risk of in all stages of pregnancy and until there is a healthy baby in your arms you are never quite “out of the woods.” I do believe that if I had told friends and family earlier it would have been a lot easier for me to break the news and I would have had the support I needed at even the first warning signs.

Lots of women can feel isolated from conversations around motherhood, despite the fact that you are already a mother from the second you see that second line pop up on the test. Do you think there needs to be a wider conversation around how we discuss miscarriage and the emotional long-term implications and vicarious trauma that comes with being a mother without a baby?

There was a movement, not long after my miscarriage, for pregnancy/miscarriage charities to refer to pregnant people as the “birthing parent.” Whilst I completely stand in solidarity with those who wish to have more gender-inclusive language surrounding pregnancy, it was hard for me as I wasn’t a birthing parent. I never got to give birth. It made me feel like less of a mother.

As many people in the baby loss community will tell you, you’re a mother from the first time you see a positive pregnancy test. I hope this becomes a common belief.Madeleine

Luckily, online in miscarriage communities the language used refers to anyone who carried a baby as a mother, but I wish this was more common in the real world. Often well-meaning people have told me “one day you’ll be a mother” when I already feel like I am. I carried my twins, loved them unconditionally and dreamed of a future for us. As many people in the baby loss community will tell you, you’re a mother from the first time you see a positive pregnancy test. I hope this becomes a common belief.

1 in 4 women have experienced miscarriage but despite the commonality of this loss, there’s still a lot of unwarranted shame and unnecessary stigma around discussing it and that be such a lonely place to be. Have you found speaking openly about your baby loss and sharing your story to help with your healing?

I have found that sharing my story helps me legitimise the babies. Without them physically being here, all I have is memories of the time we did have together. So if people know about them, if people think about them, if people are aware they exist then it all helps to keep the memory alive. It was hard at first, but I am glad I did. A lot more people have experienced this than I had first realised, everyone knows the 1 in 4 statistic but for the most part, ignorance is bliss. It’s something that happens to other people. Until it happens to you or someone you know.

As well as feeling emotionally silenced, the physical experience of miscarriage is seldom talked about and can vary wildly. In your own words and only if you feel comfortable telling us, what did your body physically endure when you lost your baby/babies?

When I found out I had a miscarriage I opted for a pill that would help to clear the last of the pregnancy out. It was the most painful thing I had ever experienced. It was messy, no pain killer took away the pain. I laid in bed all day, bleeding. I was so tired from getting in and out of bed to go to the bathroom and the constant cramping.

The bump didn’t go away for about 6 months. I still have the stretch marks, which at first I hated but now I find comfort in, a reminder only I can see that the babies were there.Madeleine

Another thing is that the physical signs of a pregnancy stick around for so much longer than I knew. I went up quite a bit in bra sizes and that hasn’t got back down yet. I remember throwing out all my old bras that no longer fit was like looking into my life before I was someone who had a miscarriage. That was hard. The bump didn’t go away for about 6 months. I still have the stretch marks, which at first I hated but now I find comfort in, a reminder only I can see that the babies were there.

Did you take time off work following your loss?

I was at University at the time and it was all online so I still went to classes. I wasn’t present mentally though, I went to get my name registered and had my camera and microphone off. It was a way of passing the time. I fell off the wagon and am only now slowly getting back on.

A lot of people worry about what to say or do, how can you be a good friend, colleague or family member for someone who is grieving for their baby?

Listening and acknowledging that this person is a mother. Humans often want to fix problems, there is no fixing this. There is no ‘at least’. And when people acknowledged that I was not just a person who had a miscarriage, but I was a mother, really helped. Those are the conversations I value the most. It’s comforting to hear people talk about your baby in the present tense, they might not be in your arms but they will always be there with you.

What’s a comment or question people ask that you find unhelpful and insensitive, even if it’s well-meaning?

Anything that begins with “at least.” There is nothing worse than hearing that. For us, there is no upside. There is no possible benefit to what has happened. The only thing we want in the whole world is for our babies to be brought into the world healthy and alive. When that doesn’t happen, there is nothing to be thankful for. It is the most common thing I have heard from my friends and family and I know they mean well but it hurts a lot and sometimes seems like they can see a positive in your miscarriage.

What health care support/aftercare did you receive – were you asked if you were you ok?

Unfortunately, in the UK you have to have three miscarriages before you can access mental health support. This is incredibly harmful. I had to pay for my own which was very expensive and stressful to organise. You wouldn’t say someone has to break their arm three times to get a cast, so why is it any different with this?

How do you cope with others sharing their baby news?

Baby news often brings out an ugly feeling in me. Especially when it’s people who have just got together, or weren’t even trying or who complain about pregnancy symptoms. They haven’t done anything wrong of course, and I do feel like a horrible person for feeling that way, but it is so hard for those who have lost a baby to see others have what you can’t. Why her? Is another one I feel a lot. I send cards, but I feel as if everyone knows I’m jealous and finds me disingenuous.

What’s helped you cope and lean into your grief?

I now have a routine almost for reflecting on my babies. I have a small bag filled with lots of their things. I like to look at them when I feel strong enough, it makes me feel connected to them. It is also very painful to hold an empty baby grow or an untouched bear. But it helps me to process that despite the fact they are not here now, they were here and I will always have their memory to keep alive.

What do you think we can all do to normalise conversations around baby loss and help spread awareness?

I think that if more people took the time to learn about baby loss, and listened to the stories of those experiencing it that it would help people feel more comfortable sharing that experience. I also think that if we were all more open about our pregnancies earlier on it would remove the stigma around talking about miscarriage.

There are so many women and families all around you that have stories to tell. It is so much closer to home than most people think.Madeleine

It’s as if you’re not supposed to announce it before 12 weeks in case of a miscarriage which is something that then you shouldn’t talk about? 1 in 4 pregnancies in the U.K. will end in a miscarriage, there are so many women and families all around you that have stories to tell. It is so much closer to home than most people think.

Do you have any resources you’ve found particularly comforting and validating?

There is a podcast called “The Worst Girl Gang Ever” (they also have an amazing Instagram page and Facebook support group) and the content they put out has been the biggest help to me above anything else. They talk so candidly about baby loss, the ugly feelings you can get when you see others pregnancy announcements, life after loss- just everything. It’s presented in an honest, chatty and normal way. I love it.

What does motherhood mean to you?

Motherhood to me is the journey you are on from the second you see that positive test. Whether it’s a shock or welcome news, as mothers do you start planning for your future. Motherhood is unconditional love and care, the want to do everything you can to protect this life and give them the best life possible- and that doesn’t only begin when you hold that baby or those babies in your arms.

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