Tommy’s research gave us our miracle premature baby

After being heartbroken by recurrent miscarriage, Caroline and Mark had specialist care from our Coventry clinic to bring rainbow baby Teddy into the world.

Our pregnancy and baby loss journey began in 2017, when I was just about to turn 30 years of age. My partner and I had talked about wanting children, but we hadn’t planned for it to happen so quickly in our relationship. To our surprise and delight, I became pregnant that February. 

We were fortunate to conceive easily and quickly - something I now know can be extremely difficult for many. Almost immediately, we started planning: names, dates, furniture! I went for an early scan around 8 weeks because I had some light spotting.

For the first time, we heard those awful words: I’m sorry but there’s no heartbeat.

I didn’t want to have medication or surgery, but 3 weeks after that scan, I was still waiting for the miscarriage to start. Eventually I had an operation just because I couldn’t bear to walk around at work anymore waiting.

Trying again after miscarriage

We desperately tried to give ourselves time after our first loss - but looking back now, I can see that our whole lives changed. Every decision we made was completely dependent on whether we were trying again, or might be trying again, or could possibly be pregnant again. We put off holidays and career changes in hopes of a successful pregnancy.

It’s incredible how something we’d only talked about wanting soon became our whole life.

By November 2017, we were pregnant for the second time - but again, at around 8 weeks, the scan found no heartbeat. This time, the miscarriage started pretty much immediately, which I strangely felt grateful for. That said, we were distraught, full of questions

I knew that miscarriage was common, 1 in 4 pregnancies, but to have 2 back-to-back..? Surely I should know someone else this happened to, but I hadn’t even heard of missed miscarriage or recurrent loss. I felt so naïve and alone.

Support after multiple miscarriages

The night of my second miscarriage, I called the Early Pregnancy Unit at my local hospital, Heartlands in Sutton Coldfield. Fortunately for us, they have a specialist unit for early miscarriage and agreed to investigate. We were referred by the GP for a series of NHS tests, feeling anxious but grateful.

I was diagnosed with antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), also known as ‘sticky blood’, and prescribed heparin (a blood thinner) injections daily throughout my next pregnancy. While this was daunting, it gave us so much hope, and I started injecting as soon as we found out I was pregnant again in July 2018.

Due to our previous losses, we had another early scan at 8 weeks. We were stunned when yet again those brutal words were delivered: ‘I’m sorry there’s no heartbeat.’ We felt utterly broken, like there was nowhere to go and no-one to turn to.

I lost all my confidence and felt like I’d never be the person that I was ever again.

I’m a teacher and needed some time off work, but when I returned, I couldn’t cope with normal everyday conversations. Friends and family were supportive but we both felt that nobody truly understood. I recall various evenings with friends, listening to conversations about their children, just feeling that I had nothing to contribute. 

Specialist care for recurrent miscarriage

A few months later, when the specialist at Heartlands told us that she couldn’t do any further tests on the NHS, she pointed us in the direction of Tommy’s recurrent miscarriage clinic. We self-referred to Professor Quenby’s clinic in Coventry, not really knowing what they might be able to do but just desperate for someone to do something.

Here we met Dr Brosens, who taught us everything we needed to know about natural killer (NK) cells and their impact on pregnancy. He tested my womb lining to measure the NK cells at different points in my reproductive cycle, and found I had high levels of NK cells, which could mean that my body ended up fighting against pregnancy.

I remember feeling so disappointed that my own body was working against me and killing my unborn babies – but I also felt relieved to have an answer, which meant there was treatment.

When we became pregnant in October 2019, Dr Brosens gave me a daily steroid and progesterone treatment for the first 12 weeks, as well as my sticky blood medication every day throughout. The cliché of the blissful enjoyable pregnancy was definitely long gone!

Pregnancy after loss

At the first scan, to our amazement, there was a heartbeat! We were overjoyed! We made it to 12 weeks, then 16 weeks, 20… Despite our baby looking healthy, pregnancy was the most anxious time.

From our first loss, we really struggled to believe that our baby was going to survive.

Work became unbearable, particularly with the added stress of the Covid-19 pandemic. I constantly worried about giving my body and this baby the best possible chance of survival. Still, we thought the hardest part of our journey was behind us and were looking forward to meeting our baby. 

Premature birth and parenting after loss

This meeting came sooner than planned, at 27 weeks pregnant, when our baby boy Teddy was born on 28 March 2020. He weighed a tiny 2lbs3 and was instantly taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for ventilation. The next 10 weeks were the hardest of our lives.

Giving birth in the first week of lockdown, hospital restrictions made things even more horrific; only one parent could visit the NICU each day, so my husband and I couldn’t even be in the same room with our baby for months.

Teddy’s journey in the NICU is a story in itself - full of ups and serious downs - but his resilience and strength were astounding.

Now Teddy is 18 months old, doing incredibly well, and our time in the NICU feels like a distant memory. We still live with the trauma from our experiences, but we’re incredibly grateful to Tommy’s and Dr Quenby’s research for our miracle baby.