Film producer Charlotte Carroll on the emotional story behind her new film, The Topic
Of course, the first time in my life I take a pregnancy test, it would have to be in a hospital. That is how my cookie crumbles, apparently. In the midst of a heatwave on the Friday of August bank holiday 2019, I was admitted to A&E.
My name is Charlotte Carroll – I’m a film producer, actor and screenwriter living in London. And I suffered an ectopic pregnancy ‘surprise’ with a miscarriage and wrote a film about it, called The Topic. Through this film, I hope to help others detect and avoid what I had to endure
Before diagnosis of endometriosis five years prior in my early 20s, I had never even heard of the word or the condition. But I’ve since learned it’s sadly a reality for 1 in 10 women in the UK. All I knew was that I was suffering from unbearable period pains each month, and like many others thought this was ‘normal’. But now sat in a sterile hospital room, I discover I’m actually pregnant. Complete silence fell when they told me – my first thought was, ‘Wow I am fertile after all then’, as, like many other women, I’d secretly wondered how I’d fare in nature’s Lotto.
I was thrilled and my fiancé was equally as happy. But then came the dark cloud of reality. I am lying in a hospital bed in pain, I have experienced bleeding and I am pregnant. After doing the mental maths, it began to dawn on me that what was happening may not look quite as positive. Suddenly, I knew I was going to lose something I didn’t know I had, until recently. From there, I started to create something from the loss that I was about to endure. It might sound crazy, but I grabbed my iPhone and started rolling.
During my career, I have been fortunate to make Oscar and BAFTA-qualifying films with the very best quality cameras in the industry, but never with an iPhone. But I knew doing so was incredibly important – to show either my future self or others. I wanted to get the knowledge out there for women to avoid my situation altogether, if possible. For women who were going through this, I wanted them to know they were not alone.
Laying in the hospital bed on morphine, I was told to try not to move too much as that could ‘cause the fallopian tube to burst which would then be fatal’. In tears, I asked, ‘What will happen next?’. The nurse responded, ‘After here, we’ll take you for a scan, then we will operate and take out your embryo and one of your? fallopian tubes’. Then, I got to the ‘How will I have…’, the flood gates opening before I could say ‘children’. Did this mean I would become 50% less fertile? How could this be happening? I had just gone out for brunch in Notting Hill, and the next thing I’m told is I might not be able to have children?
My heart sank as it dawned on me that I hadn’t seen what the signs were pointing to. My previous periods were on time, although now I realise they were not not ‘normal’. I had never technically missed one, but I did experience back pain in my lower back for six weeks and experienced spotting – neither of which seemed outrageous (I put them both down to my frequent travel, for work). However, I’ve since learned that having these symptoms simultaneously could mean something very different to ‘normal’. This is why I made The Topic – to raise awareness around some of these ‘simple’ symptoms that women often sweep under the carpet or attribute to normal, everyday anxieties or stress.
As you can probably imagine, The Topic is incredibly special to me and I hope it proves special for others too. It’s a raw and honest film that carries a strong message of resilience and survival. It’s also a call for more information on endometriosis and ectopic pregnancy to be readily available, and not just left in the hands of a chance biology lesson.
I hope people read this and that it helps someone to know that you don’t have to suffer in silence. You will get through this if it happens to you. It is scary and dangerous, but let’s help people read the signs so you can negate the scary part and prevent the danger. My film is the direct effect of not being forewarned and therefore I was not forearmed – and that is key. Choose to be informed. I really hope you get something from it.
To watch The Topic, visit TheTopic.co.uk.