We're determined to honour our daughter's memory

Claire, 33, and Cass, 32, are based in the northwest of England and have been together for 13 years. After their second round of IVF ended in a devastating loss at 24 weeks, they’ve decided to take on an enormous 170-mile running challenge in memory of their daughter, P. This is Claire and Cass’ story.
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Shortly after getting married 3 years ago, we began our journey to parenthood, which we were so excited about. As a same-sex couple, we knew we’d need some help getting pregnant but never thought there might be a medical reason for this.

We had some setbacks at the start of our journey

We always knew Claire would carry any children we have, but we had a setback when we first visited a fertility clinic back in 2019 for some initial tests and discovered that 1 of Claire’s fallopian tubes may be blocked. We were then referred back to the NHS for surgery to investigate, and that’s when we discovered both were blocked and she would need another operation. Due to the pandemic, there was a long wait for this, which meant we didn’t begin our IVF journey until the end of the following year.

Our first round of IVF was unsuccessful

Although we were devastated and shed lots of tears, we had already accepted that the chances of first-time success were low, so we were ready fairly quickly to embark on a second round. 

This time we were overjoyed to find out we were pregnant, but we still took each step as it came and tried not to get too excited until after our 7-week viability scan. This is where we saw our baby’s heart beating and were discharged back to the NHS. 

We were slightly disappointed at our 12-week scan

Because of our baby’s position, we couldn’t get all the measurements. We were told we were measuring 5 days behind, but the doctors didn’t seem overly worried at this point. They moved our due date by 5 days. This confused us, as it was an IVF pregnancy, and we knew exactly when fertilisation had taken place – but since they were health professionals, we didn’t really question it. 

At 16 weeks, the pregnancy took a more serious turn

We had some blood tests, and our local hospital thought there was a chance our baby had spina bifida. Our 20-week scan was moved forward to 18 weeks. We were then referred to the fetal medicine unit at St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester, as our baby was measuring very low on the growth chart, at less than 10%. 

When the consultant shared her concerns at our baby's size and her worries about spina bifida, we just cried. It felt like our world had stood still but everyone else was moving. We hardly took in any information and left the hospital with way more questions than we had entered with.

We started having weekly scans 

This is when we learnt we were expecting a girl, and that although the team didn’t think she had spina bifida, she was incredibly small, and it was likely the placenta was failing. The hospital was also worried about Claire’s blood pressure and thought she might be starting to develop pre-eclampsia, so they put her on medication to manage her blood pressure. 

We knew our chances of a happy ending were slim and were offered a termination, but we were determined to give our baby – who we had nicknamed P – the best possible chance. I remember saying to the consultant through the tears, “I am not giving up on my daughter”. So, our aim was to get to around 28 weeks.

A scan at just over 23 weeks was where our world came crashing down – the moment we were told: “I’m so sorry”. In truth, the consultant didn’t need to say anything. The black screen said it all.

P had lost her fight

We knew this was a possibility for us, but that didn’t make those words any less painful. We were taken to a private room whilst both of us howled with tears and the next steps were explained to us. We would be booked into another hospital and Claire would be induced. The thought of giving birth when we knew the outcome was heart-breaking.

We were told we could go into hospital the same day, but we realised we needed more time. We went home and told both sets of parents and spoke to our lovely bereavement midwife to organise coming back in. We went on a Saturday morning, and, with Claire’s high blood pressure, they wanted to keep us in until after the birth. We were placed in a specialist suite which gave us a private space and we were treated with such kindness by all staff.

Claire was induced on Sunday evening 

4 hours later, on 12 September 2021, our beautiful P was born, measuring 23cm and weighing just 300g. Perfectly formed, just so very small. Deep down, Cass was holding onto the hope we’d hear a cry, even though she knew it wasn’t going to happen. 

We knew before the birth we wanted to see and hold our daughter when she arrived – and when we first saw her, we felt nothing but love and pride.

In the 2 days we got to spend as a family, a charity called Remember My Baby took lots of photos of us and P, which we really treasure.

We’ve been through a roller coaster of emotions, but something that makes us angry and frustrated to this day is the fact the due date was pushed back when P was measuring small at 12 weeks – even though it was an IVF pregnancy, and we knew the dates. We now know this was because she was struggling, but according to the new date she was born at 23 weeks and 5 days, so our loss was recorded as a late miscarriage rather than a stillbirth

The midwives were amazing

We were overwhelmed by the amount of information given to us whilst in hospital, but the midwives were so patient and made sure we fully understood everything. 

They told us about cuddle cots, the amazing piece of kit that meant we could spend 2 days with our daughter after she was born.

They were the most precious 2 days, but also the most difficult, as we always knew we were going to have to say goodbye and leave her behind.

We can’t even explain the feelings and heartbreak of leaving the hospital without her.

We wanted to do something in our daughter’s memory 

We’re determined to help other families going through the same heartbreak – but choosing a charity was hard, as so many had made a difference to us.

Tommy’s was such a help from the moment we found out our pregnancy wasn’t going to plan; the resources on their website were invaluable.

At the meeting about our post-mortem results, we also found out that, if we were lucky enough to fall pregnant again, then our care would be under a Tommy’s Rainbow Clinic – so Tommy’s will hopefully be part of our future.

We decided to support 4Louis

In the months after P’s death, we started doing research into cuddle cots and were devastated to hear not all hospitals have access to these. That’s why we decided to raise funds for 4Louis. They gave us something nobody else ever could – time with our daughter – and we want to help 4Louis support other families in the same way, by providing more hospitals with cuddle cots.

The Way of the Roses Challenge

We’re both runners but have never done more than a half marathon before. We wanted a challenge worth sponsoring, so Cass came up with the idea of running The Way of the Roses cycle route, a 170-mile (274km) route across the country over 5 days, which is the same as 5 ultra-marathons back-to-back. A massive undertaking, but one that we will be so proud to complete for P – and we hope to raise £10,000 in doing so.

You can find out more Claire and Cass’ challenge by following them on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and sponsor them here.