Breaking the taboo on miscarriage


Adele McLay believes that sharing her story of multiple miscarriages can help others who have had similar experiences to feel less alone and to open up so they can reclaim their lives.

She has contributed her story to a Powwownow campaign, called I-Conquered, which looks into what people have conquered in their lives to be where they are today in business.

Adele fell pregnant 12 times between 1999 and 2005. Eleven of those pregnancies resulted in a miscarriage, one of them of triplets.

At the time none of her friends, work colleagues or family except her husband knew about the extent of her loss. “We kept it very private,” she says, adding that all the babies were lost before anyone knew she was pregnant.

The couple moved from New Zealand to the UK in 2006 and were still aiming to have the family of six that they wanted. They had a daughter, who was born after the first two miscarriages and is now 15, and Adele’s husband had a son by a previous relationship. They looked at adopting, but found the regulations in the UK too restrictive.

By 2012/13 they had started to concede to themselves, with much sadness, that they would have to move on.

Last year Adele met a woman thought leader from the US and opened up to her. She advised Adele to talk about her story in her work as a business growth strategist and motivational speaker.

Adele wasn’t sure, but after a while she started testing the idea out on a one to one basis with some of the businessmen she coached on Skype and gradually built up her confidence. One to one became one to 40, then one to 200 and two weeks ago she addressed a group of 500 people. The response has been tremendous, she says, with people crying and telling her of their own sadnesses as well as looking to comfort her.

“I have come to realise that I have a voice and that so many people struggle and have failures, sadness and grief for many reasons that they do not work through and which hold them back in their lives,” she says. “In standing in my vulnerability I have become braver and I have had the opportunity to have an incredible impact on others.”

She admits that she felt she was “a massive failure” because of the miscarriages.  “I felt failure, loss and shame,” she says.

Reclaiming herself

In addition to talking about her experiences as part of her work, she has also pitched a talk on her experience to TEDx later in the year. “I hope it will help people move on and not live their lives full of regret,” she says. “We put on a pretence of strength, but most of us have stuff within us that we suppress and which eventually stops our joy. I feel that by doing this I have walked further from the pain of what happened and have been able to create space in my head to think about the things that are really important to me.”

She adds: “I had forgotten about some of them as my mind was so cluttered with pain, residual hope, fear of failure and shame. I still feel sad, but I have been able to put it to one side and find peace with it.”

That has enabled her to concentrate on living life to the fullest. “I had forgotten my zest for life, my desire to have an extraordinary life. There are so many other things I want to do and achieve,” says Adele.

When she was younger she wanted to train to be a white collar boxer so she did the training last year. When she met her husband she was preparing to enter a body building competition and she plans to enter a natural body building competition soon. She ran a highly successful business in New Zealand which she closed down after her daughter was born because she felt she needed a change and she didn’t want to put her daughter in childcare. She replaced that work with  consultancy projects, including charity work, and eventually took up motivational speaking. “I was underperforming in terms of my potential because I kept thinking that maybe I would get pregnant,” she says. “I am an achievement junkie and I started losing my soul. I am a professional person and I needed to get back to that. I had wanted a global business before, but I had forgotten that.”

She has recently started work on a start-up.

Adele thinks her experiences bring up the wider issue of mental health in the workplace. She says more and more businesses are waking up to the need to consider their employees’ mental health. She adds that companies need to create caring cultures and that that will result in happier, more productive employees. While everyone deals with their own situations differently, Adele says it would be helpful if organisations had resources available, such as mental health networks, if people needed them. “The more we talk publicly about these taboo topics,” she says, “the more it will be okay for people to admit that they are struggling with them.”


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