Rainbow babies after ectopic pregnancy and recurrent miscarriages

Jennifer, 33, and husband Peter, 64, endured 5 gruelling rounds of IVF and 3 devastating losses before rainbow babies Henry and Lily arrived in 2019. Having travelled all the way from West Yorkshire to Warwick to attend our National Centre for Miscarriage Research, they are passionate about supporting research to prevent baby loss.

In 2016, Peter and I decided we wanted to start a family; he’s older than me and had children already so had a vasectomy a long time before we met. Surgery to try and reverse it was unsuccessful – but during the operation, the surgeon managed to take his sperm to freeze, giving us the option of IVF.
Of course, we hoped and prayed it would work first time. We were doing everything in our power to keep healthy and give us the best chance of a successful pregnancy, but unfortunately it was out of our control. After a positive pregnancy test, we excitedly went for our first scan, only to be told there was nothing in my womb. Tests found the pregnancy was ectopic. We were heartbroken.

Ectopic pregnancy and missed miscarriage 

We decided to continue the IVF, but when the next round didn’t work either, we began to wonder if we’d ever have a child together. We kept trying and were delighted to be rewarded with a positive pregnancy test – but then a few days later I started to bleed, and we miscarried again.

Each round became more and more difficult, but still we persisted. 

On round 4 they decided to implant 2 embryos, and at our 6-week scan we saw that 1 had implanted. Bringing home the picture of our tiny baby, we were so excited, and got carried away wondering what we would call them and if they were a boy or girl. After 2 weeks looking forward to meeting our new arrival, at our next scan we were given the devastating news that our baby had stopped growing.

We decided to let the miscarriage happen naturally, as hospital treatment would’ve meant missing my brother’s wedding in Italy, but during the week away it was awful knowing our baby was still inside me. The day we were due to fly home, I experienced an agonising miscarriage in the airport toilets – so it was particularly devastating that Peter wasn’t by my side when I lost our baby, and we never got the chance to say goodbye properly.

Emotional support and our relationship

It was hard at this point to even contemplate going through any more pain, so we decided to take a break before trying again. Peter was my rock and kept reassuring me that it was nothing we had done. Although he was heartbroken too, he gave me comfort, and managed to stay positive and hopeful that eventually we would be parents.

I’d ask myself, what have we done to deserve this? Will we ever have a child? 

Seeing babies was always difficult, and I struggled when friends announced their pregnancies and shared their scan pictures; even though I was always so happy for them, I would still think: why is it happening so easily for them and not for us? It felt so unfair – especially if they were having their second when we couldn't even have one, or they hadn’t even been trying when we wanted it so desperately.

Searching for answers and trying again

Having lost 3 babies, we got a referral to Tommy’s Recurrent Miscarriage Clinic in Warwick, where we had specialist tests to try and answer our questions about why this tragedy kept happening to us. We also signed up to be part of their research projects, and joined a trial studying the stem cells in my womb; I had a procedure similar to a smear test so they could take a sample, which was rather painful but worth it to be told everything seemed normal – and it’s amazing to know I was involved in the work that helped Tommy’s develop pioneering treatments like the endometrial scratch and repurposing the diabetes drug sitagliptin.

After years of painful injections and operations, I doubted I had the strength to go through it again. 

As we were still desperate to be parents, we built the strength for another round of IVF, but it was very difficult to be hopeful. During my egg retrieval, the doctors hit a nerve which left me in a lot of physical pain, adding to how hard it was mentally. They put 2 embryos back in, so we were nervous as we’d been told about all the risks of having more than 1. We tested positive again and my HCG levels were high, but we didn’t dare to hope until our 6-week scan showed 2 heartbeats: we were having twins.

We were over the moon! We got the scan printed as quickly as possible so that we could show my Nanna, who was very poorly in another hospital. She had been such a rock throughout the whole process and was desperate for us to have a child. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the hospital to share our news, we were told she had died; this was a bittersweet time for us, but we knew she wouldn’t want us to be upset.  

Pregnancy and parenting after loss

The pregnancy was very nerve-wracking – not only due to our previous miscarriages but also because doctors said I might not be able to carry twins, as an operation years ago to remove pre-cancerous cells from my cervix meant the risk of premature birth was high. I had to rest as much as possible with check-ups every 2 weeks. Although regular scans showed the babies were doing well, we were both nervous and anxious throughout.
In October 2019, at 36 weeks, our twins came into the world. I kept telling myself that once they were here, if they were healthy, I’d be able to relax – but I haven't stopped worrying about them, and am having therapy to help me overcome the fear that something awful will happen and our beautiful rainbow babies will be taken from us. They’re the happiest babies and we love them more than anything in the world, they brighten our lives and complete our family.

We will be forever thankful to all the hard work and research that made it possible for us to become parents – but we still think about the 3 we lost and who they would be now. 

People can be confused that parents who have other children still grieve for the babies that did not make it, and those who haven't been through anything like it struggle to understand, often saying unhelpful things like “at least you can get pregnant” or “it wasn't meant to be”. Baby loss is a topic many find hard to talk about, even those going through it, so we hope that sharing our journey will help others to understand.