Without Tommy’s care, Joe and I would have had a childless life and not by choice.

Suzi, 35, lost 2 babies after suffering pre-eclampsia. The specialist care team at Tommy’s Mavis Clinic in Manchester supported her through her pregnancy with her daughter. Suzi lives with husband Joe, 37, and baby Erin in Macclesfield.

We’d been trying for about 2 years then, when we were in New York for my 30th in January 2018, I noticed my trousers felt tight. Back home, I did a test and we were pregnant. It felt so exciting.

Our 12-week scan was fine but there were things they couldn’t quite see so they advised an amniocentesis at 16 weeks. A few days after blood tests at my next midwife appointment I got a call to say it showed a high risk for Edwards Patau and Down’s syndrome so we went for an amnio at the hospital the following day. Everything came back normal, I was just told to take it easy and see how we got on.

We ambled on to 20 weeks when the sonographer asked if I’d noticed losing fluid but I hadn’t. They took us to a side room where a consultant told us that, though baby was active, they were referring us to St Mary’s in Manchester to check fluid levels around baby.

In the end St Mary’s looked at the scans, said there was enough fluid and we didn’t see them but the local hospital monitored me every week after that.

Signs of pre-eclampsia

The May Bank Holiday, we were due at a family barbeque but I’d been feeling sick, suffering headaches and really swollen feet. In hindsight, all glaringly obvious signs of pre-eclampsia. After a few hours on the sofa I decided to drive to hospital where they found my blood pressure was really high. I was so scared as they took me to a labour ward to monitor me.

They did urgent tests on a urine sample and the results showed pre-eclampsia. They took me to St Mary’s by ambulance where they managed to get my blood pressure down.

The next day I met Professor Jenny Myers from Tommy’s Mavis Clinic who told me they aimed to get me to 28 weeks and that I’d be staying in hospital.

By that Saturday, at 23 weeks, my liver had started breaking down and my face became really swollen. Blood tests showed my platelets had dropped considerably and they’d have to induce right away.

I was numb, we knew the chances of baby being born alive were very slim.

Losing Katy

Katy arrived, stillborn, on Monday afternoon. We spent a couple of hours with her and then, the next day, I had some time with her alone to say my goodbyes.

The pre-eclampsia gone, I was discharged. After I really struggled with my mental health. I kept going for months but, around Christmas, had a bit of a breakdown. In the new year I changed jobs, which helped, but then my Dad passed away suddenly in March.

By summer we felt ready to try again and were more focused this time. After a few months I had tests at my GP which showed I was borderline for polycystic ovaries so we were referred for tests for IVF. They all came back fine and we were told there was no reason we couldn’t get pregnant naturally.

I focused on my health, lost some weight and, post-lockdown and back at work in the July, I mentioned how strong and healthy my nails were to a colleague. When she said I must be pregnant, I laughed, but a test revealed she was right.

I felt scared and nervous. We had regular checks and scans at St Mary’s but daren’t get our hopes up.

Starting with pre-eclampsia again and saying goodbye to William

As the weeks went on, I felt great, but from October my blood pressure started rising, not dangerously, but noticeably. The specialist midwife recommended tests which showed I was starting with pre-eclampsia again. I began taking blood pressure tablets and we began an incredibly stressful waiting game.

Reaching 23 weeks felt like a milestone as it was the most pregnant I’d ever been but then the same thing happened again. My blood pressure rocketed and I started to swell.

William was born on November 21st 2020 and, as they checked him, I remember saying to Joe, ‘We’ll be okay, we’ve done this before’. They confirmed there was no sign of life.

We did more memory making with William, spent more time with him because, I think, we were more mentally prepared this time.

I went back to work after 6 weeks to keep my mind occupied. Long walks and podcasts really helped.

We did decide that we wouldn’t have more children, I even looked into sterilisation but I was too young.

I’d just lost all hope, knew I could not get through that heartbreak again.

We decided 2022 was going to be our year – holidays, gigs, time together. We had a party for my birthday and got very drunk. We didn't know, but little Erin was the result.

Trying different treatment

When I found out I was pregnant I spoke to the consultant because I was so worried the same thing would happen again but treatment was different this time. Through the specialist care team at the Tommy's MAViS clinic in Manchester, which specialises in women at risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy, I was given blood thinning injections daily and aspirin.

I was scanned 3 times a week from 20 weeks and they checked blood flow from cord to baby. At 25 weeks we got an absent flow and Jenny said we should prepare for delivery the following week. By this point I’d also got pre-eclampsia again.

A few days later the flow was fine again so it became about seeing how far we could get. At nearly 28 weeks my blood pressure was creeping up. Then, at an appointment one Wednesday, baby’s heartbeat was undetectable. One consultant wanted to deliver baby that night but another, who I’d seen more regularly, said I needed steroids for baby’s lungs.

I was adamant she’d be here by the Friday and I was right. 

When her heartbeat was undetectable on the Thursday the decided on a C-section the next day and it was such a lovely, positive experience. We saw her before she went to NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and she was small, weighing less than a bag of sugar, but she was alive.

A stay in NICU

Erin, our baby girl, spent 101 days in NICU, 3 weeks at St Mary’s, the rest in Stockport, and I was with her morning to night. At 12 hours they found a bowel perforation so, at just 1-day-old, she had surgery but recovered really well. There was also a lung issue and there were a few times we thought we’d lose her but, on 14 November, she came home.

She’s still on oxygen for chronic lung disease but we’re hoping to trial her off it in the coming weeks. She’s going to be small compared to her peers but she’s feisty and doing amazingly well.

Without Tommy’s care, Joe and I would have had a childless life and not by choice. That specialist service, those dedicated people who work so bloody hard, meant we brought Erin home.

Baby loss is such a horrible experience and we’ve been through it twice but I hope our story gives others hope.

Tommy’s research and services mean more people are bringing babies home yet they don’t always get the funding they deserve. And they do deserve it. I’ll never be able to thank them for all they’ve done for us.