'I had nine miscarriages and two stillbirths but never the right support'

Neil Russell, 51 and Tanya Russell, 50 are hopeful that their efforts will mean there is more awareness of miscarriage. 

Neil Russell, 51 and Tanya Russell, 50 are hopeful that their efforts will mean there is more awareness of the grieving process caused by miscarriage. - Credit: Neil Russell

A family which has suffered unbearable heartbreak has said more must be done to supports parents who lose children.

Neil and Tanya Russell met 22 years ago and always dreamt of having children. 

However the pair, who both work at County Hall, suffered nine miscarriages and two stillbirths in that time. 

Neil Russell, 51, and Tanya Russell, 50, experienced nine miscarriages and two stillbirths. 

Neil Russell, 51, and Tanya Russell, 50, experienced nine miscarriages and two stillbirths. - Credit: Neil Russell

One in six pregnancies end in miscarriage with up to 75pc of miscarriages occurring in the first trimester. 

And with so many people impacted by the traumatic statistic, the pair have rolled up their sleeves to make a difference. 

Tanya, 50, explained: "Being such a maternal I knew that I couldn’t give up on trying to have a child. Having a miscarriage is heartbreaking and traumatic to go through even once."

She added: "There wasn't the support then that there is now. You’d only get to see your child very briefly before they were taken away.

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"You just can’t describe what you go through as a mother when you lose a child, it’s horrific.” 

Now her project manager husband Neil, 51, has cycled 200 miles around Norfolk with friend Gavin Sobkowiak to raise money for a bereavement room at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH). 

Tanya said: “When I lost my first still born, I needed counselling and I needed it immediately.  

“When I was finally offered it, I was in a good place I’d begun working through it but I needed something much earlier.  

“It’s still hard for me to talk about, even all these years on. I hope the money will help to put more things in place straight away.” 

Thankfully the reablement support worker and her husband have had two sons in that time - George, 17 and Oliver, 14.

The Russells are parents to George and Oliver

The Russells are parents to George and Oliver - Credit: The Russells

Neil, 51, said:  "Having been through what we have and to end up with two healthy children is something words can't describe. It's something money cannot buy."

Tanya, who lives in Norton Subcourse, added: "People need to be educated and made aware that quite often this is a fully-formed baby.

"The worst thing people can say is: 'Don't worry, you can try again.'

"It isn't easy to just try again."

What did the cycle entail?

Neil and Gavin decided they would take on a challenge of cycling 200 miles around the outskirts of Norfolk to raise money for the bereavement room at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.  

The pair set off in the early hours of Sunday, May 1 and were out all day.  

Neil and Gavin carried out their 200 mile ride on Sunday, May 1

Neil and Gavin carried out their 200 mile ride on Sunday, May 1 - Credit: Neil Russell

Neil said: “We did train for it, but it did hurt. I think it’s sheer willpower and determination that got us through it. 

"A friend Julian Holloway drove a support vehicle all day so that he could get to us if we needed it, and Gavin's wife Amy, who works on the maternity ward at NNUH also joined us for 40 miles."

Neil Russell and Gavin Sobkowiak completed 200 miles to raise money for the bereavement room

Neil Russell and Gavin Sobkowiak completed 200 miles to raise money for the bereavement room at Norfolk and Norwich hospital, Amy Sobkowiak joined them for 40 miles. - Credit: Neil Russell

Neil added: “When the pain got almost too much, I would think about our losses and how much good the money could do to focus my brain on completing the challenge.  

“I think we did really well to finish it.” 

People can donate to the fundraiser here.  

Neil Russell said it was the thought of his and his wife's losses that kept him going throughout the challenge. 

Neil Russell said it was the thought of his and his wife's losses that kept him going throughout the challenge. - Credit: Neil Russell