Tommy’s clinic helped us through pregnancy after loss

After losing their first baby Florence at 41 weeks due to placenta problems, Dan and Laura were supported through pregnancy with rainbow baby Olive Hope Patterson by our specialist Manchester team.
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In March 2020, at the start of the pandemic, my wife Laura and I found out she was pregnant – the first time for both of us. What a day that was! We did 2 pregnancy tests, just to be sure, which I remember holding in my hands in amazement.

Pregnancy in a pandemic

As the weeks passed, keeping a secret from our friends and family was hard, but we wanted to wait until the 12-week scan. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 restrictions, I couldn’t go into hospital with Laura for scans, so I sat anxiously in the car with our little dog Belle waiting for updates and pictures.
 
The midwife at our 20-week scan couldn’t tell the sex of the baby, so we went back the next day, and learned we were having a little girl! The perfect addition to our family. We already had our name, Florence Willow Patterson. 

She was always Florence Willow and will now forever be Florence Willow.

Everything we did all year was in preparation for the arrival of our little girl. I got a bigger “family” car, I got a promotion at work, we got a bigger house with more space for Florence to play. Even though the world was going through a rough time, Laura and I were having an amazing 2020, and it seemed everything was falling into place. 

Laura had a simple, low-risk pregnancy and she made it look so easy! Right up until she went into labour, she was out walking Belle for hours every day. A week past her due date, Laura woke early in the morning and thought she just needed a poo (her words not mine!) but eventually had to wake me up to say she thinks she’s having contractions.

I jumped out of bed and into “organised panic mode”: we rang the hospital, showered, quickly walked Belle, then headed to hospital. We thought we’d be sent back home to wait, but no, little Florence had other plans – Laura was already 6cm gone! Amazing woman! Doing this with little to no stress was just amazing to me.

Complications with labour and birth

In the hospital, everything was going to plan. Laura was on gas and air, breezing through labour with barely a complaint. The midwife in charge did a cervical check at 2pm to confirm Laura was fully dilated. The next 40 minutes were the worst of my life.

Our midwife was checking Florence’s heartbeat every 15 minutes, and at 2:15pm she couldn’t find it. She wasn’t panicked and said maybe Florence had just moved down further than she thought, but got the lead midwife to check, and again found no response. The doctor came to check, and I still remember him saying “hit the button, we are down to 10%”.

I didn’t know what was happening. Laura lay with her eyes closed but I watched everything and listened to everything. Next thing I know there’s about 20 people in our room and the doctor said he had to get our baby out of Laura right now. He used forceps and within 2 minutes Florence was out, but I could see she wasn’t right. There was no sound. No crying. She was limp. What happened? 

The doctors tried to get Florence’s heart going for 19 minutes, they tried 3 sets of adrenaline, but it didn’t work. I heard every word they were saying, even though they were on the opposite side of the room, so I didn’t need the doctor to come and tell me what was going on. I knew: She was gone.

I still don’t fully understand what happened - we were doing great, until 2:15pm on 12 November 2020, and then our lives got flipped upside down.

Grieving our baby

In the months to come, it didn’t get any easier. Having to tell people. People asking what happened when we didn’t know ourselves! People trying to give us advice but not knowing what we were going through. 

We had 12 weeks of counselling through Teddy’s Wish, to help us talk about and understand the feelings and thoughts that we were having. For anyone who hasn’t done counselling, it really saved us and made us much stronger.
 
About 3 months later, we found out the placenta had failed – but even that didn’t give us any comfort, it just brought more questions. I’ve since run Tommy's London Landmarks Half Marathon for Florence, to honour her memory, and all the other families who get support from Tommy’s to help cope with the loss of someone so precious. 

Pregnancy after loss

The amazing thing is, March 2021, we found out Laura is pregnant again; March seems to be our month. Florence is going to be a big sister

Although it’s great, I feel like I betrayed Florence by being excited for this new baby, but I know she’s here watching over us and her little brother or sister.

We’ve been under the care of Tommy’s Rainbow Clinic at St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester, which has been amazing. From the moment we found out, it was all systems go, with early scans and check-ups every other week to reassure us. This time I could go too, which I missed out on with Florence, so that was really special.

As we lost Florence right at the very end, we didn’t have a ‘safe’ stage to get to, so there was a lot of anxiety throughout the pregnancy which grew worse as time passed... Laura went into hospital for reflexology every week, to help her destress and try to switch off for an hour. We also continued the counselling sessions, and our bereavement midwife was a great support.

As if pregnancy after loss wasn’t scary enough, at 20 weeks Laura got a new battle to deal with! Professor Alex Heazell picked up our report on Florence and, with his expertise, spotted something our local hospital missed: a very rare placenta disorder called Chronic histiocytic Intervillositis (CHI). It has no symptoms so can only be diagnosed by examining the placenta after pregnancy, but if you had it before you’re very likely to get it again, so Laura was quickly put on a series of medication to try and stop the CHI coming back.

Bringing our rainbow baby home

It was hard to stay positive with so much uncertainty, so it was almost a relief when Olive decided to come 5 weeks early! We had a c-section booked for 38 weeks but didn’t make it as Laura went into labour at 35. 

Olive arrived weighing 6lb1 and hearing her cry was the best feeling in the world. After 8 days on the neonatal unit, where the care team were fantastic, bringing Olive home at last was overwhelming.

Florence still has her place in our home and our hearts, and always will – but we hung onto hope, and now are so grateful to have Olive in our arms.

We celebrated Florence’s 1st birthday a couple of weeks ago and went walking with Olive and Belle to our favourite place to release some rose petals. It has been such a difficult time since losing Florence but one day Olive will know all about her big sister.