On 29th April 2015 my world fell apart. I was at my dating scan and was 12 weeks and 6 days pregnant, the sonographer had just said to me ‘I’m sorry, but there is no heartbeat’. This was then verified by another sonographer, I was then walked up to the ‘Emergency gynaecology assessment unit’ in the hospital where I was put in a room and given a sweet cup of tea by a lovely nurse who sat with me and held my hand. I phoned my mum who answered the phone so excited that I couldn’t bear to tell her what had happened, I just handed the phone to my husband who was left to break her heart. A lot of that day is a blur, I was handed some leaflets and a doctor explained what would happen next. I had the option to ‘let nature take its course’ or to have my baby surgically removed. I was guided towards having the surgery as with each passing day I was at an increasing risk of developing an infection because my baby had died nearly 3 weeks previously. Two days later I had the surgery to remove my gorgeous, very much loved and longed for baby. Before the surgery I went with my mum to buy sanitary towels, I must have looked very strange that day, I have never seen anybody cry while picking out towels before, but that’s what I was doing. On the day of my surgery I arrived at 7am and was led to a room where I was given a gown and DVT socks and changed into them while I waited for the doctor. When the doctor arrived I asked the most important question in my head that others had not been able to answer; what was going to happen to my baby? The hospital cremated my baby with other lost babies. Before the surgery I had to have some tablets that dissolved under my tongue that would soften my cervix, I don’t know if it was my own personal reaction or if they do it to everyone, but I had terrible cramps and was freezing cold and had the shivers. In the theatre I was so overcome with emotion that they had to hold me down to anaesthetise me. I was described as an anxious patient, I wasn’t anxious, I was distraught my baby had died and now they were taking him away from me. When I came around I woke up crying, a wonderful nurse held my hand and greeted me with the words ‘you’re a mum now, it’s just your baby went straight to heaven’, these words were of enormous comfort to me.
We planted an apple tree and buried his scan pictures and my hospital bands underneath.
When I was at home I was overcome with grief and guilt. My job had been to nurture the baby and keep him warm for 9 months and I had failed him. I couldn’t understand at this point how women could go through miscarriages over and over again and still carry on, I now know that you don’t have a choice. Your heart learns to expand and you learn to live with what has happened and to be grateful for what you do have. We planted an apple tree and buried his scan pictures and my hospital bands underneath, I promised we would have an apple crumble on his birthday every year to remember him. We named him Albert. My friend sent me a bear with a star which we named in his memory, I have found these things enormously comforting. I personally needed physical things to hold and to look at to remember my special little guy, but I know this wouldn’t work for everyone. I guess everyone has to find their own way.
I developed an infection which meant I had to make several more visits to the Emergency Gynaecology Assesment Unit which was torture and the lack of compassion was unbearable. The reference to the surgery I had had was heart-breaking; it was either referred to as ‘abortion’ or ‘evacuation of retained products of conception’. Products? That was my baby! I finally recovered from the surgery and returned to work, but it was hard. I was devastated and felt like such a failure. Friends told me it would be ok, others said to just enjoy my time with my husband and others told me if it was meant to be it will be. I found a lot of the comments heartless, but what hurt more was the people who just avoided me completely. I was lucky that I had lots of support though and even the people who said the wrong thing had my best intentions at heart. I attribute a lot of the support to the fact I had told people prior to my scan that I was pregnant, so people knew how much my baby meant to me. I went against the whole ‘wait until your 12 weeks’ to tell. My doctor had told me to tell people I would want to support me if I miscarried and if it was out of character for me not to drink then to not bother with the whole ‘ I’m on antibiotics’ line as people would know anyway. This advice was invaluable, my baby was so important to me and my family and we all enjoyed those weeks together and although it’s hard to look back on sometimes, I’m glad I have those memories. Some people said ‘that’s why you should wait 12 weeks’ but I completely disagree! I still had to go through the pain and I needed support, why should I not tell people? Because it makes them feel uncomfortable? Surely it’s more selfish to tell them afterwards and only make them go through the hardship and none of the prior joy?
In October 2015 I found out I was pregnant again, I was far from excited I was terrified. I contacted my doctor who made an appointment for me to have an early scan on 27th October to ‘reassure’ me. The chances of a second miscarriage were small and the chances of a second missed miscarriage were even smaller. However, at the scan the baby did not have a heart beat and only measured as being 5 weeks even though I knew I was 7 weeks. I had to wait 8 days for a second scan to confirm it was a miscarriage. Those 8 days were the longest of my life, I couldn’t get out of bed or stop crying. How could it have happened again? When we went for the scan the doctor confirmed what I already knew, my baby had died. I decided this time to try and let nature take its course, the doctor allowed me to leave it 5 days before I needed to concede defeat and have surgery. The surgery was carried out on the 9th November, the day after my first baby should have been born.
This leads me on to pregnancy announcements; obviously people can’t be expected to put their own plans on hold and wait until you have had your turn, you have to accept that people will get pregnant and it may be ok for them. You can’t however be hard on yourself if you find it very difficult to be happy for them. A lot of how you feel will depend on how they announce it and when. For me, scan pictures are the worst way to announce a pregnancy, I have found them a stark reminder of my experience and my heartbreak. Scans haunt me and seeing them brings back awful memories. Why do you want people to see your innards anyway? Scan pictures without preamble are heartless, at least give me some warning. I hate scrolling through Facebook and seeing scan picture after scan picture, I used to spend my time crying and then unfollowing people as I couldn’t bear to see more of their pictures. I have liked seeing creative announcements and bumpies though, I really just can’t handle scans. I don’t even look at my own! The time of day should be considered too, is it necessary to announce it in the middle of the day when people are likely to be in the middle of their working day? Perhaps leave that person until later and let them hear your wonderful news at home, so they can be happy for you over the phone but have their cry in private when they hang up. I have cried after every one of my friends announcements, not because they handled it badly, but because I am sad for me and think about what might have been. When I say people handle it badly, it’s not their fault, they are lucky enough not to know how it feels and it’s a very difficult situation. If someone has just experienced a loss, can your announcement wait? Obviously not forever, but gauge how they are doing. You can tell others and explain that you are deliberately missing people out because of their experience, I would have been touched if my family member had done this for me. It is so, so hard to separate sadness for yourself and happiness for others. It is hard to deal with jealousy, you’re always told being jealous and resentful is wrong but it’s only natural. I still find it hard to be around the baby of my family member as I know that my baby would only be a couple of weeks younger and I can’t help but imagine what she would have been like and how we might have been as parents or imagine how the two babies may be interacting with each other.
In January 2016 I went to my fertility clinic appointment. The fertility clinic was run alongside an antenatal clinic so I had to sit in a waiting room full of heavily pregnant women and listen to their excited talk about their babies. I complained and the hospital is looking into how this can be carried out more sensitively. I really hope they have changed things so other women do not have to experience what I did. The doctor I saw was very poor, she could not answer any of my questions and displayed little empathy. She even added ‘and go with the flow’. I made a vow that if I experienced another loss that I would not return to this clinic for help.
Sadly, not long after I did experience another loss. I had been to 2 early scans at 6 and 8 weeks where my baby had a heartbeat and was developing well, but something happened between my second and third scan (at 10 weeks) and my baby died. I had surgery that day because it was going to be mother’s day over the weekend and I couldn’t bear the thought of being pregnant on mother’s day. The sonographer who had the sad job of telling me my baby had died told me about Professor Regan at St. Mary’s hospital. When I got home I researched her and contacted her PA to make an appointment. When Mother’s day arrived I was in a mess, but my husband said we needed to focus on us and do nice things. He suggested a skydive! That’s where our challenges were born, by the end of the day we had set ourselves 9 challenges and had set up our JustGiving page. That day we raised £300! Our challenges have helped David and I get through the tough times and start talking again, they have also helped friends and family show us their support.
I never take this off, I love having my angels with me wherever I go.
Professor Lesley Regan
On 29th March I went to see Professor Regan, it was like a whirlwind! She was so efficient and ordered loads of tests which we had that day. We left with our heads spinning, but comforted in the knowledge things were moving forward. I was also booked in at my local hospital for a laparoscopy and hysteroscopy to investigate pain I had been experiencing since my first pregnancy loss and to see if there was anything physical causing my losses. This surgery left me in a lot of pain and I found I needed more time to recover than I had expected. I had had my Gall bladder out years before and had not been in much pain afterwards and was able to return to work in a few days, I imagined this procedure would be less invasive and have a shorter recovery time. I was wrong, I was in a great deal of pain and I was incredibly bruised, this was not helped by the fact I developed a post-operative infection. I had umbilicitis, something that new born babies get, a cruel taunt. In May, I had my second appointment with professor Regan which involved an ultrasound scan and a discussion of all of my results, including the results of my surgery. I was told that my losses were ‘unexplained’ as all my results had come back as normal. Professor Regan advised that if we decided to go ahead with another pregnancy, I should return for a repeat TEG test (thromboelastogram) as soon as possible after a positive pregnancy test as many women only developed abnormalities when pregnant. On 6th July 2016 I found out I was pregnant for the fourth time, I returned to Professor Regan that day and had my TEG test repeated. The next day I was informed that I had a raised clot amplitude (this had previously been normal) and I got my prescription, one pill a day until 32 weeks pregnant. I am now 20 weeks pregnant and everything is progressing well, I have even been discharged from Professor Regan’s clinic.
We have continued with our challenges, since we started in May we have abseiled down the Spinnaker Tower, Skydived 12000ft, canoed 9 ½ miles down the river Medway, walked a ½ marathon, camped out in a woods (we don’t like camping), cycled 18 miles, had a day of silence and are currently not eating chocolate for the whole of November! Next month will be our last challenge where we will swim non-stop for an hour (although I will be 6 months pregnant so it may not be possible, but I will do what I can). In February we will be having a bingo night to try and raise our remaining funds. So far we have raised £2755, but want to raise at least £4000. We want to carry on raising money for this amazing charity as we feel we have benefited directly from research into this underfunded branch of medicine. We hope very much that our story gives others hope and I welcome anyone who wishes to ask questions about our journey to contact me on my Facebook page ‘dealing with the loss of an unborn child’.
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