Conversations with Chloe O’Brien (Subject: Miscarriage and Endometriosis)

1 in 4 women will have a miscarriage at some point in their life. Whilst this statistic is scary enough, the thing that terrifies me the most is that many of those women will go through it alone because miscarriage is something that we simply do not talk enough about.

Thankfully, people like Chloe O’Brien are changing that.

Chloe is genuinely one of the best people on social media. Not only are her Instagram stories about life with her husband Gaz and their two pugs hilarious, she also goes on the most amazing travels (you should see her Bali wedding photos!) and has a passion for creativity that shines through in her content. On top of this, she also details in searing honesty her fertility experiences, offering support for anyone struggling to conceive and educating others on the realities of starting a family.

Chloe has experienced four miscarriages, one of which was an ectopic pregnancy that resulted in the removal of one of her Fallopian tubes. After this surgery she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Endometriosis and told that she would need IVF to conceive due to the risk of another ectopic pregnancy.

Chloe is exactly the kind of person you would want to talk to if you were struggling to conceive. Warm, funny and bubbly, but also someone who wouldn’t tell you to ‘just try again’. She’s honest about the highs and lows, she spells out the facts and she does it with a hand extended to support you every step of the way.

How would you describe your fertility experiences?  

A huge emotional roller coaster! It’s crazy thinking back to the first conversation we ever had where we decided to try for a baby – we had absolutely no idea what was in store for us and were so naive. I remember thinking “Wow, I could literally fall pregnant any time. This is exciting!”

That feeling soon diminished. We’ve been up and down like a couple of yo-yos and it’s tested us in ways we never could have imagined.

Sadly you have experienced four miscarriages. Can you describe what baby loss feels like?

I feel like baby loss is complex because you’re grieving for different things. I felt I was grieving for my pregnancy symptoms and all of the ‘would have beens’. This person never made it to earth, you never got to see what they would have looked like or who they would have grown up to be.

It’s a strange feeling really – you almost question at first whether it’s normal to be this upset over a person that you never got to meet. I quickly learned that it is totally normal – but it’s all so taboo that when it happens you do second guess yourself and your feelings.

All control is ripped away from you during miscarriage. The second I found out I was pregnant, all I thought about was my baby and how much I wanted to keep them safe. When your body takes over and you can’t, that’s probably one of the most awful feelings in the world.

Throughout each of your losses, your husband Gaz has been by your side. How have the miscarriages impacted your marriage?

I won’t lie, there have been times that it has been very, very tough. To the point where I wondered if we would make it – simply because men and women process things and heal differently. It’s easy to become selfish, resentful and angry after miscarriage. Not on purpose, but you just want the people closest to you to understand, especially your partner.

In the end, these experiences have absolutely strengthened our relationship and marriage. There have been a lot of tears, deep conversations and work put in to ensure we understand each other and are giving the support that the other person needs.

You have been diagnosed with endometriosis. Is this something you suspected you had before? What symptoms do you display?

It’s a funny one because I don’t have any symptoms as such. I’ve always known something wasn’t right, but I never suspected I had endometriosis.

I started my periods aged 9 and they were terrible. Looking back, I had classic endometriosis symptoms – they were heavy, so painful, extremely irregular. I couldn’t leave the house during my time of the month at all. It was never investigated – the doctors just told me I would ‘grow out of it’ and put me onto the birth control pill at aged 13. I had no idea that the hormones in the pill can actually ease the symptoms of endometriosis, which is what happened for me.

Even now I know I have endometriosis, I don’t really get symptoms, which is surprising as my endometriosis is stage 4. I guess my only symptom was not being able to fall pregnant for a long time!

You are open about your difficult miscarriage experiences, but you share your story in such a strong, inspiring way. As someone with PCOS, when I read about what you’ve gone through and your outlook it helps me feel stronger about my own fertility issues. Why is it important for you to share your experiences online and to do it in such a positive way?

I feel like this is important because it is just so, so lonely. I found that people just aren’t educated on this kind of thing – and that’s no fault of their own! I hated some of the comments that people made like “at least you weren’t further along” or “at least you can get pregnant, you can just try again” or my all time pet hate “you’re young, you’ve got plenty of time”. I remember being infuriated and thinking to myself “I can help other couples struggling with miscarriage and educate these people at the same time.” If I get those sorts of comments, other women will too and not everybody can just brush them off because they’re so hurtful!

So, when I get a message from somebody who is dealing with miscarriage or infertility asking for advice or just coming to me for support, it means the world to me. I know that I can be a friend to that person, whether they are a stranger or not. I can be the friend that I needed so desperately myself when it happened to me.

What do you think is the impact of talking openly about miscarriage? Where would you like to see these discussions go next?

Talking openly about miscarriage has had a huge positive impact, which is that people see the reality and not a lifestyle that looks perfect. I think it’s important to be authentic and honest on social media. This has allowed me to show my vulnerability which people really tend to appreciate when they land on my page.

The only negative impact that has come from sharing this is that some people think that miscarriage and infertility is too personal to share online. It’s worth mentioning, though, that every single person who has ever said that to me has never experienced a miscarriage or difficulty to conceive. So, whilst that’s their opinion, they don’t understand and have never walked that path.

Frankly I don’t share my experiences for those people. I share them for the women who need positivity, hope and support through their darkest days.

Your account is definitely a place for support, hope and positivity! When someone experiences baby loss, most people want to reach out and help them, but they sometimes struggle with knowing what to say. What words or actions helped you?

I completely get this, and sadly it’s so damn easy to say the ‘wrong’ thing. What has helped me the most is when people acknowledge how difficult it must be to go through this and highlight that my feelings are valid, but also when they acknowledge that I am still a Mother! One of my friends sadly lost her baby at 20 weeks shortly after my second miscarriage. She said to me once “the second you conceived, you became a Mother and nobody can ever take that away”. It stuck with me so much.

Saying things like “I am so sorry for your loss, I can’t even imagine what you are going through” is so much kinder and softer than “at least you can try again”.

Dealing with fertility struggles and miscarriage can be incredibly draining both mentally and physically, never mind doing this whilst offering a platform of support for many women who are also struggling. What do you do to take care of yourself?

I love this question because it’s so important! I’ve done a lot of work on bettering myself and understanding what can trigger me and how I can pull myself out of a rut when I feel low or stuck. It’s a lot of trial and error but talking is probably the thing that has helped me the most. I searched for other women like me online and read their stories. It was a comfort to know I’m not alone in feeling this way or that I’m not the only person who struggles with this.

Exercise, eating healthy and keeping a good skincare routine helps with my mindset too. I’m 100mph all the time and full of ideas for the house, which I think is my way of keeping my mind occupied to avoid any overthinking.

You are about to start IVF. How are you feeling about this process?

We’re nervous that’s for sure – more so in case it ends in more heartbreak or doesn’t work. But it’s funny how quickly you learn to adapt, accept your situation and trust the process. If somebody had told me 3 years ago that we would need IVF to have a child, I’d have been beside myself with fear. Now, I understand that it is simply the cards we’ve been dealt and that being afraid of it won’t serve any purpose!

Taking each day at a time definitely helps, and really understanding the treatment, so we’re doing plenty of research to educate ourselves and prepare!

When you look to your future, what do you see?

I know that we will have a family one day. We would love 2-3 children! But at this moment in time, it’s hard to imagine what the future will look like. Our journey is nowhere near over yet. I spent the last 3 years planning things around ‘when we have children’ so, at the moment, we’re enjoying having a break from that thought pattern!

The future is definitely bright, though. We’re going to keep working on ourselves, my business, our home and travel as much as we can. Enjoying life comes first.

What’s meant to be will be. I have faith that children will come just at the right time.

If you could sum up your outlook on life in one statement, what would it be?

Life is too short to be sad, and the world doesn’t owe you a favour. I believe that you have a choice, which is either to let your experiences define you as a person or learn from them and use them as motivation to become a better version of yourself.

To follow Chloe on Instagram and find out more about her life and fertility journey, head to @chloetiffanyrose

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