I want to give others hope through baby loss and IVF

Karen, 45, is a marketing manager and lives in Chichester. She has 2 children from her first marriage, Ellie and Joel. Karen is now married to Trevor, and the couple went through the heartbreak of a stillbirth at 37 weeks’ gestation, 4 miscarriages and 3 rounds of IVF before welcoming rainbow baby, Archie and then 1 last round of IVF before having their final addition to the family, Georgie. This is Karen’s story.

I was 38 when Trevor and I started trying for a baby – and 5 years on, we were still on our fertility journey. 

Time flies by when you are trying for a baby or having IVF, and there is a lot of waiting involved. If you’re near or into your 40s, there can be a sense of panic about how easy it will be to conceive. Unfortunately, there’s nothing anyone can do when it comes to nature’s timing.

With 2 children, I hadn’t originally considered having more

When I was 35 in the autumn of 2012, Ellie was 13, Joel was 11, and I had just separated from their father. I was shopping with my mum one day and she asked, “Why don’t you have more children?”

“Are you crazy, Mum?”, I said. “Not a chance! I couldn’t put my body through that again!”

A few years later, I’d met Trevor

However, I’ve learnt to never say never! After kissing a few frogs and finally finding my Prince, we excitedly made the decision to have a family of our own. We wanted to get started quickly, but our fertility journey was complicated from the beginning. 

The first step was to have my coil removed. Unfortunately, there were some complications which meant this took much longer than I’d expected. I had several appointments before doctors could finish the procedure – and at this point, I was starting to feel the urgency. The days, weeks and months flew past and I still wasn't pregnant as my 40th birthday loomed.

We thought this would be our only hurdle. Little did we know that it was just one tiny hill in front of the huge mountains ahead of us.

I fell pregnant soon after my coil was removed

But then the worst happened. At 8 weeks, I started bleeding on the way home from Italy with my mum.
I went for a scan to assess the situation. I was still bleeding. I started crying even before sitting in the chair – I think I knew what was coming.

“I’m so sorry,” said the nurse, “but you’ve had a miscarriage. There is no sign of an embryo here.”

There it was: our first miscarriage. We were devastated. As soon as we were out of the nurse’s room, we stood there holding each other in inconsolable tears. It had been a long time since I’d felt so incredibly sad.

It took over a year to fall pregnant again

After more than a year of having teary monthly periods, I finally fell pregnant again. This time, we got through the first 12 weeks, then through the next 12 weeks, then right through up to 37 weeks’ gestation. 

Everything was going smoothly – until the day we lost our precious baby, Bobby. 

That day will forever be burned in our memories

At 3:30am I woke Trevor. “Babe, I’m getting worried. I haven’t felt kicking and it’s starting to scare me.” We called the hospital and grabbed the bag I’d packed weeks ago, just in case. The nurse told us, “Try not to worry, but come in so we can see what’s happening.” 

I was sent for a scan and the nurse said the terrible words, “I’m having an issue finding the heartbeat.” My heart crashed and I felt like passing out. The nurse went to get help. 

We waited for what felt like an eternity but was probably only minutes. Another nurse entered the room and explained that he had come to perform a second scan. From the way he spoke, I suspected the worst. The silence was deafening as Trevor gripped my clammy hands. 

“I’m so, so sorry,” said the nurse. “There’s no heartbeat. Your baby has died.” I can’t remember much except our screams and sobbing. 

“I’m so sorry,” I remember saying to Trevor over and over, the guilt overwhelming me. I had lost our baby. 

Challenging the taboos around baby loss

I was compelled to write my book, Feathers & Rainbows, to share our journey, as there are still so many taboos when speaking about baby loss and fertility as an ‘older couple’. 

It's often still expected that couples, particularly women, grieve in silence and move on quickly. Unfortunately, the ‘out-of-sight-out-of-mind’ and ‘stiff-upper-lip’ approaches fail to recognise the profound loss experienced, including the loss of future hopes and dreams. It’s prevalent and toxic in our society, but the narrative is slowly shifting as women and couples speak more openly about their experiences.

Our rainbow babies

We were lucky and so grateful after several rounds of IVF in North Cyprus to have our happy ending with the birth of our rainbow baby, Archie, and then one final round welcoming baby Georgie. 

Their smiling faces have has made the journey worth it for us, but there are still fragments of our hearts that will never heal.

We wanted to do something to help others

Our wish for Feathers & Rainbows is that it will comfort those on a fertility journey, those grieving a loss, or even those forced to find a different ‘happy ending’. I sincerely hope that you will find comfort in reading my story and know you are not alone in the midst of the most stressful and, at times, heart-breaking life experiences. 

I also want to acknowledge that there are many happy endings possible even if there is no baby to show for it at the end. 

There needs to be more space for child-free narratives in our society. Everyone deserves to know there is gold waiting at the end of the rainbow, with or without a baby.

We decided that 10% of any profits from Feathers & Rainbows will be donated to Tommy’s to help others on similar journeys. As well as funding important research, Tommy’s is an excellent support resource for parents on every stage of the pregnancy journey, and we want to support their work.

If you’d like to read our story which covers miscarriage, stillbirth and IVF, you can find out about Feathers & Rainbows here. You can also follow us on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.