I’m a nurse and have worked on neonatal units with families who have been on all sorts of difficult journeys, so always knew at the back of my mind that fertility and pregnancy doesn’t always go as smoothly as people hope. When I found out I was pregnant myself, I was even nervous enough to book in a private scan for some extra reassurance before we flew out for our honeymoon. However, at our scan, when our baby was around 8 weeks, everything looked fine and we even saw their heartbeat.
Losing our first baby
We spent 3 weeks in Canada for our honeymoon and it was amazing. The whole time we were there I was experience all the usual pregnancy signs too. When we got back I still didn’t have a date for our 12-week scan. I had to do lots of chasing and ringing the hospital until eventually I was able to go in at 13 +5 in January 2022.
During this scan they said things weren’t looking how they’d expect, and by their calculations our baby had died at 8 weeks old. This must’ve happened just after our first scan, which is so awful to think about.
Having a missed miscarriage really shook me. There were no signs, no bleeding, nothing that makes you think ‘something might be wrong’ before finding out what happened to your baby. It was such a shock and I felt like my body hadn’t done what it was supposed to do, with the pregnancy and with the miscarriage. In the end I had counselling which I think was really important.
We talked about it and decided that we wanted to start trying again straight away. Everyone is different, but this felt like the best way for us to try to deal with our grief. I’d had medical management for the miscarriage and it ended up taking a few months for my cycle to go back to normal for me, but we found out in early May that I was pregnant again.
Discovering an ectopic pregnancy
For the first few days things were OK, but then I started bleeding. Straight away I thought I must be having a miscarriage, but with it being at such an early stage in my pregnancy my GP told me I’d have to wait a week and take another test to see if I was still pregnant.
In the end, I took myself to A&E due to a pain in my side that wasn’t going away. I sat in A&E for most of the night – they told me that they couldn’t do much to help until the Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU) opened in the morning. When I was finally seen they said it was too early to scan and my HCG levels were normal – suggesting I was still pregnant, which was I relief – so I was to come back in 48 hours. At this next appointment my HCG levels had risen which again they said was a positive sign, but still booked me in for a scan the following week to be sure.
At this scan they could see something in my right tube – it was an ectopic pregnancy. I needed surgery to remove my baby and the right fallopian tube.
This was also my first time going under general anaesthetic, making a traumatic time even more overwhelming.
Discovering I was pregnant again
A month later I had what I thought was a period – heavy bleeding which is normal for me – and decided after that finished to do an ovulation test so we could start fertility tracking again. The result of this test was really strong, far stronger than I’d had before or would expect right after my period. Because I’m a nurse, I knew that one of the things that can cause a strong reading on an ovulation test is being pregnant so I took a pregnancy test and... it was positive!
It was a surprise as we hadn’t been trying but we were pleased. Around 6 weeks I experienced some more bleeding but just thought this was the norm for me now. Then one night a few days later we were out with some friends and I started feeling really unwell. I took myself outside and was struck with agonising pain down my left side, so strong all I could do was focus on my breathing and getting through the moment.
The pain went away about 5 minutes later, and while it had been excruciating, I assumed it was a bad case of indigestion because it had just stopped. When I had more bleeding later that week, however, I rang my EPU. They said there wasn’t much to be worried about yet but they’d book me in for a scan in 2 weeks.
Something just didn’t feel right and I didn’t want to be worrying about it for all that time, so I rang up again and managed to get an appointment at 6am.
A second ectopic pregnancy
At this scan they diagnosed a ruptured ectopic pregnancy on the left side, which resulted in me being taken in for surgery immediately. Here they took out my left fallopian tube and a lot of blood. In hindsight, the blinding pain I felt that night was most likely the rupture and I’d been bleeding internally for a week which is really scary.
Realising I'd been bleeding internally showed how important it is to trust your instincts when it comes to your own body. I knew something wasn't right.
Those 2 losses were just 8 weeks apart and now I’m infertile without the help of IVF, which is a whole new journey of unknowns to be going on.
When I was being taken for surgery, medical professionals kept saying to me ‘2 ectopic pregnancies is really unusual’ - as though that’s supposed to make me feel any better! I felt even worse, like I was even more of an anomaly at a time when I’m already questioning my body.
Having worked on NICU, I had come across families who had experienced loss, those who had been through second and third trimester losses before and those who were now going through neonatal death. But even with this professional understanding, I had no idea how common and how devastating baby loss is until I went through it myself.
Opening up about baby loss
The more I talk to people, the more I realise it is a really big deal and it’s something to speak about. I think it’s so important to be open about things and I talk about it whenever I can because I know not everyone feels able to.
You might be dealing with someone on a regular basis who has been through loss and you’ve got no idea. Always be kind.
I’m a massive advocate for Baby Loss Awareness Week. We used to light a candle at work for Wave of Light – and even when I wasn’t in on the 15 October, I would light one at home to honour lots of the families we work with. Last year was obviously a very different experience for us, much more personal, and this year will be too.
As an awareness week, it’s so important. It’s such an isolating thing losing a baby at any point, more people should know that it’s happening to people all the time. It is a big deal, it’s utterly heartbreaking, but you’re not alone.