Tommy's support got me through pregnancy after loss in the pandemic

Dr Anita Raja, 35, lives in Birmingham with husband Nadir and their sons 7-year-old Nirvan and 6-month-old Rumi. The couple lost a baby before having Nirvan and experienced 2 more devastating miscarriages before their youngest son was born. Anita struggled with her mental health following the losses but found care and support from Tommy’s.

I’m a gynaecological nightmare. When I was 15, I had fibroids, so they performed surgery on my uterus to remove them. 2 years later, I had endometriosis, which they believed was a result of the first surgery. They opened my abdomen again to get it out but, after 2 surgeries on my uterus so young, scarring meant my journey to motherhood may not be easy.

But I was young and carefree. And I’m south Asian so - in my culture - you do your degree, get married and then have a family.

Miscarriage and trying again

I actually got pregnant soon after my marriage but didn’t know. I must have been around 7 weeks when I miscarried, but I didn’t know what was happening to me; there was bleeding and excruciating pain. My husband suggested a pregnancy test and it came back positive. We were upset, but we hadn’t been planning for a child so we got on with our lives.

We decided to start trying at the end of 2012 and I got lucky, falling pregnant in February 2013. In my head, I knew it could be high risk because of my history, but I had consultant-led care - and after a smooth pregnancy and planned c-section, Nirvan was here.

Depression, guilt and feelings of failure

I really struggled with depression afterwards, we’d moved to the UK and I was very lonely. I had no idea what was wrong until my GP told me I was depressed. I took medication for 2 years and I’m open about my depression because, as a doctor, I want people to understand that it’s okay to ask for help - and, with the right treatment, you will get better.

I’m a doctor and it’s astounding to me that, being in the medical profession, I didn’t realise how unwell I was.

My second miscarriage, in 2015 at around 10 weeks, affected me a lot. I blamed myself because I’d gained a lot of weight with Nirvan and wondered if that was the reason it happened.

It was 2017 and I was a GP registrar by the time I got pregnant again. At the 12-week scan, our baby was absolutely fine. I never imagined what lay ahead; I thought we’d reached that mark so everything was safe.

Late pregnancy loss

With Nirvan, I didn’t really know anyone so I didn’t have a baby shower, but this time I had a good circle of friends so I told everyone. I was so happy - I was pregnant again, I wasn’t failing anyone. 

I honestly believe we need to change the terminology around baby loss because the word ‘miscarriage’ itself implies failure, blame, the sense of not being fit for purpose.

At 20 weeks, I went for a private gender scan and I will never get that day out of my head. The lady put a probe on my tummy and was quiet for maybe 10 seconds - a long time to find a healthy heartbeat. When she asked if I’d had a 12-week scan, alarm bells started ringing and I knew there was no heartbeat

She kept trying but I just knew. She said she was sorry and confirmed my baby had died. It was the longest drive home, carrying a dead baby, feeling completely alone. Later they gave me medication to deliver my baby and it was awful.

Finding care and support

This loss affected my relationship with my husband, with everyone. I think that part of the problem was that, in my culture, when people die we say it was ‘God’s will’ - but that didn’t satisfy my grieving soul. I didn’t get the empathy I needed; it was like everyone thought I was being ridiculous. This was one of the worst times of my life and I will never get over it.

I felt ashamed and completely alone as I grieved this loss.

But that third miscarriage introduced me to one of the most important people in my life: Dr Jay Ghosh. He came to see me, told me he was sorry for my loss, and explained he worked with Tommy’s. They saw me for blood tests and scans and genetically tested my baby, which showed it had been absolutely healthy. 

When the tests were done, he told me that I had scarring of the uterus because of the surgery in my teens. They discharged me in January 2019, and Jay gave me a card and told me to get in touch when I fell pregnant again. In my heart, I never thought that would happen - but I kept the card, I still have it.

Pregnancy after loss

I qualified as a GP, lost some weight and, in December 2019, fell pregnant just a month before we were due to start IVF. I found out while on holiday and emailed Tommy’s straight away. Their fantastic midwife Oonagh came back to say she had booked me in for a 6-week scan. It was an anxious wait, I cried and cried... but, on that day, Oonagh found a heartbeat.

The support from Tommy’s was unbelievable. I remember emailing Oonagh in the middle of the night with questions and she always came back to me. I was never left in limbo, I had all the physical and psychological support I needed. I can never thank them enough.

6 months ago I had Rumi, my lockdown baby. I hadn’t told anybody that I was pregnant because I just didn’t have the confidence, I was so scared of losing this baby. I felt afraid I was going to let my son and husband down again. I remember worrying about my unborn baby’s safety every single day.

The whole process became so traumatic, physically and psychologically, I don’t know how I didn’t have a breakdown.

Without Tommy's, I’m not sure how bereaved mothers like myself would be able to face yet another pregnancy full of tribulations and distress. The uncertainty really was scary - and the pandemic, the lack of loved ones around you - I was lonely. I couldn’t have imagined surviving those painful months without knowing I was under the care of the best clinicians.