We got married in September 2019 and started trying for a baby the following Autumn. We were really lucky. My brother and I are both IVF babies so I didn't expect to fall pregnant quickly. But the first month we tried we had a positive pregnancy test. My mum had experienced baby loss so I couldn’t help wonder if it would all pan out.
At 6 weeks I had some spotting so I went to the Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU) without my partner Seb because of Covid, which felt really daunting. But seeing the embryo in physical form was amazing and also hearing the heart beating. The nurse actually said we had a gorgeous, healthy baby so, from that point, I didn’t worry too much. I didn't expect what was going to happen to us.
Our 12 week scan
We had our 12 week scan at King’s College Hospital. I had my blood pressure taken in a room full of other pregnant women and it was a nice sense of togetherness.
We were taken to a separate room for the scan and the sound of baby’s heartbeat booming was really comforting. We were all smiles as we watched our baby on the screen kicking away. The head looked a little strange to me but the sonographer said baby was measuring small so I wasn’t alarmed at that point.
But as she went over the same area again and again, I felt something wasn’t right. After about 20 minutes, she said there was something wrong and needed a consultant’s opinion.
I started to cry, then Seb did. I think in that moment we were actually thinking the same thing without communicating it. After some time, the consultant came and said, ‘I hear you’ve had bad news’. Seb was so upset as at that point, we hadn't actually had any news.
I was scanned again and the consultant said he agreed with his colleague’s diagnosis of Acrania which meant the baby’s neural tube hadn’t closed properly. The brain had been exposed to amniotic fluid which was gradually eating it away. He explained that our baby would die in the womb or hours after birth. At that point, he recommended a termination for medical reasons (TFMR). On the screen all I could see was our baby alive, moving.
As we went to another room to discuss our options a couple walked by, arm-in-arm, looking at their scan photo. That had been us, now it was not.
Seb was inconsolable but I was in this weird state of information gathering. It was my way of coping. I felt defensive because I know that neural tube defects can be avoidable if you take the recommended amount of folic acid. I had taken it and was worried about it being my fault.
Termination was never put to me as if I had a choice. It was clear cut so there was no massive deliberation. They could do the procedure 2 days later. I just wanted it to happen as soon as possible. I couldn’t look at my bump or even at myself. In that moment, I didn’t want to connect further with the baby inside me.
Making decisions about the termination
The night before the termination I had a change of heart thinking that, in the future, I might feel differently so I made myself write a letter to our baby and took some photos of my bump in the mirror. I’m so glad now that I did.
In hospital, I was very emotional while other girls around me weren’t. I felt that the nurses didn’t really acknowledge that. It felt like it was just another termination to them. I took a tablet to open my cervix and started cramping which I found really distressing. I felt like the baby would know what I was doing.
The anaesthetist however was lovely. She really helped settle me, but I woke up and burst into inconsolable tears saying, ‘Please don’t judge me, it’s not my fault’. She just told me to calm down. Physically it was painful, I bled a lot and needed maternity pads, but I just wanted to start ovulating so I could try again.
Supporting others through more heartbreak
Emotionally, I involved myself in the baby loss community and began to understand I’d been treated quite badly.
I wanted to change that for others so, back at work, the first thing I did was introduce a pregnancy loss policy. I put all my energy into making changes for others, joining a panel of other law firm partners at an event to discuss what we could do to smash the taboo of baby loss.
I started taking folic acid for 3 months before trying again and fell pregnant the first time we tried, but sadly had a complete miscarriage at around 6 weeks. It didn't just feel like a heavy period. I was bed bound, in extraordinary pain.
Being pregnant after loss
In June 2021 I was pregnant again and the anxiety of this pregnancy has been a complete thief of joy. I've found it hard to look into the future and don’t like being congratulated as our baby isn’t here yet. I find seeing people post about their pregnancies on social media very hard.
Sometimes pregnancy after loss feels more difficult than the loss itself, like you’re in a room full of friends and family who are waiting for you to get excited so they can jump up and down. It feels like a lot of pressure. It’s important people are aware about the emotions around pregnancy after loss.
My 12 and 20 week scans were no comfort. At 24 weeks a baby can survive outside the womb so at that point, I felt I might have a chance.
I’m 39 weeks now though and my experience makes me feel like I’ve still only got a 50/50 chance of having a baby.
Mother's Day is a time to reflect
Mother’s Day is difficult. I’m so affected by what I see on social media. I do think people need to stop and think about the effect of our news and photos. If 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in loss, that’s 25 out of your 100 of your social media following that could be affected by seeing a post.
For me, it’s a day to reflect. I still count myself as a mother. It’s important to remember all those who have had to make decisions and live as mothers without their children earth-side.