Parenting a rainbow is different, but the joy is something I thought would never happen for me

Jo lives with husband, Leighton and daughter Eloise, 2, in Manchester. She had 2 miscarriages then lost sons Alfie at 17 weeks, and Henry at 28 weeks. She says Tommy’s care gave them the hope to try again.

I always wanted children and never thought it would be an issue. I got a positive test 4 months before my wedding in 2013 and was so happy.

At 10 weeks I had a bleed so went for a scan. They suspected a blighted ovum but I had 2 more scans that week before our loss was confirmed.

I remember sitting in the waiting room with happy pregnant women before they sent me home with a leaflet. The miscarriage was so painful, not the ‘heavy period’ I’d been told to expect.

My second miscarriage in February 2014 was just 4 months after my mum died so I blamed myself because I’d been stressed. 

At a private scan at 8 weeks they said there was no heartbeat. 

It’s all a blur, I was still grieving for mum, but I remember the anger. Why was this happening again?

The third loss was different

We’d got beyond 12 weeks and felt so safe we booked a holiday abroad after my GP said I was okay to fly. I didn’t realise my waters had broken when we were running for the plane, people reassured me your bladder is weaker when you’re pregnant.

2 days later I went to the room feeling unwell. When my husband checked on me, I was feverish and hearing voices. I started to be sick and Leighton called an ambulance but by the time they arrived I’d already given birth and was haemorrhaging on the bed. They started fluids there and then, I was so scared but the language barrier meant we didn’t really understand what was happening.

At hospital I went into surgery as I’d suffered septic shock, multi organ dysfunction and pneumonia on my lung. I was in intensive care for a week and was told I’m lucky to be alive.

I was too poorly to register our loss. Leighton was desperately trying to find our baby, nobody seemed to know where he’d been taken.

They discovered I’d had E. coli but post mortem results showed the baby had been fine which was devastating. We’ll never really know if he died before I got the infection or if the infection caused his death. Again, I blamed myself.

Alfie was flown home and buried opposite my mum. For months, years, we both suffered flashbacks and PTSD. I just couldn’t piece together what had happened. It took a long time, but with counselling, I learned to manage those feelings, to put words to them.

Getting a referral for support

I asked my GP to refer me to Tommy’s recurrent miscarriage clinic but he was reluctant as our last loss hadn’t been ‘typical’. Eventually we were referred in early 2018. I was pregnant with Henry before my first consultant appointment.

We had early scans but you don’t feel safe, it’s all about getting through each appointment. At 20 weeks the sonographer at our local hospital said we needed a referral but didn’t explain why. 

It was like she was trying to side-step bad news. I felt traumatised, terrified, not knowing is always worse.

It was a week before a diagnostic scan at St Mary’s revealed our baby was small and, most likely, wouldn’t survive. We were devastated but we were given all the information we needed and the team answered all of our questions.

In-depth scans showed my placenta had formed wrong and restricted baby’s growth, I felt like I’d failed him. 

We were offered a termination for medical reasons (TFMR) but I couldn’t, even though we knew he would most likely be stillborn. 

Henry's journey

They scanned me twice a week and Henry just kept fighting. Sometimes I’d cry because I was so proud of him. Other times I cry because it was so painful, so emotionally draining that I felt I couldn’t take it anymore. 

Then I’d hate myself because wanting the pain to end meant wanting his heart to stop beating but Tommy’s midwife, Suzanne, helped me see that it was the traumatic situation I wanted to stop. I wasn’t wishing our baby away.  

I had pre-eclampsia, my blood pressure was rising, still Henry fought. At 28 weeks he’d reached 1lb and we talked about a C-section, then Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). I don’t think our doctor will ever know how much it meant to us that he left no stone unturned.

A full team worked on him when he arrived but he’d suffered brain trauma in surgery and then 2 brain haemorrhages. He was so small and so poorly.

After I came round from the general anaesthetic they brought him to me.

He snuggled on my chest and it was time to let our little fighter go, we didn’t want him to suffer. He died in my arms, so tiny, yet so perfect.

A bereavement midwife said to me, ‘So beautiful and such a little fighter. You must be so proud.’ And we were.

They brought a cold cot and we spent 4 days with him, 4 days to hold him, to spend time as a family which was really important. 

Although this loss was massive, spending that time meant I healed much quicker than I had with Alfie.

A NICU nurse who’d tirelessly cared for him and a bereavement midwife who’d supported us were both at his funeral. Then he was laid to rest with his brother.

Getting support with trying again

We decided to try one last time. I had prenatal counselling with Prof Myers and was so nervous at the thought of going through it all again but she’d read our history which made such a difference.

I contacted the MAVIS clinic as soon as I found out I was pregnant and took progesterone from early on, then blood pressure meds and then blood thinners and aspirin.

I had a scan every 2 weeks but could ring anytime if I felt nervous. We lived appointment to appointment, almost out of hope but knew, if it was going to be different this time, Tommy’s was the place it would happen.

At 34 weeks, growth began to slow so the team discussed early delivery and we were there, feeling completely included. They decided to deliver the following week but I still don’t think I quite believed she’d be coming home.

3 midwives and our NICU nurse made that walk to theatre with us which was nervous, but very emotional. The surgeon told me, ‘We will look after you and everyone upstairs is thinking of you.’ That meant so much.

The second we heard her cry we also heard the cheers and whoops from the NICU staff who were waiting next door and I just cried my eyes out, I can’t describe the emotion.

She was only 3lb 4 but she was alive and looked so like Henry. It was heartbreaking but amazing. She went to NICU but they said she just needed to feed and grow and 2 weeks later we took her home.

I still stare at her, not quite believing she’s here. Parenting a rainbow is different, the pain never goes and the anxious nights checking on her but the joy is something I thought would never happen for me.

Tommy’s staff changed our lives and we’ll never be able to thank them. There are just no words to describe such life-changing people.

They were there when we’d lost all hope, then with us every step of the way to our daughter.