We were offered scan photos after losing our baby, a small gesture that meant so much

Deb and her husband lost 5 babies before being referred to the Tommy’s clinic in Birmingham, where they went on to have their son, Teddy. Having been through her sixth loss this year, she reflects on how the care she received at the clinic made a difference during a devastating time.

We have been pregnant 7 times and have 1 son, our rainbow Teddy.  

My partner and I met in 2016 and were married in July 2017. We had similar goals and similar hopes and dreams for our family, and given we were both in our thirties we thought we’d start trying right away. I came at it with my eyes open in terms of possible risks. My mum had recurrent miscarriages so there’s always been awareness of it in my family – there's a 12-year gap between me and my sister, so I knew it had been a difficult process.  

Even when I’d talk about the possibility of risk, my husband just didn’t think it would happen to us – until I got pregnant in 2018 and we had an early miscarriage. It completely floored my husband; we were both so sad but he was really shaken by it.  

Recurrent losses

We picked ourselves back up and kept trying, finding out we were pregnant again in early 2019. At first I thought I was having my period because I had some bleeding, but it stopped and I realised I was pregnant. I started bleeding again at 8 weeks and visited my local EPU which was a difficult place to be during a time like that, sat amongst happy mums as well as other sad mums.

We found out it was an ectopic pregnancy which was a really scary experience to go through. Because of my HCG levels, medical staff kept tell us everything was OK and reassuring us that it would all be fine – until, suddenly, we were told it’s not fine and that i needed to be admitted.  

I also found having my fallopian tube removed really traumatic to deal with. It wasn’t just the loss of a baby but the loss of a part of my fertility function, and a loss of trust in my body.

After my ectopic pregnancy, having a period never felt the same. I couldn’t trust that I wasn’t pregnant and going through that experience again, because of my bleeding the last time. I was taking pregnancy tests every month and felt a lot of anxiety.

I had a pregnancy of unknown location in September 2019, followed by a miscarriage just 2 months later. The week after I saw a consultant at the Birmingham Women’s Hospital and once I’d shared my story she immediately asked me why I hadn’t been referred to Tommy’s. Straight away she got us a handful of forms to fill out: “You’re in now!”

Referral to Tommy’s

It made such a difference to be taken seriously when we said we were worried and wanted more testing. Even after so many losses, people kept telling us ‘Just keep trying, it’s going to happen eventually.’ But you can’t! 

Why would we keep putting ourselves through that same trauma? We needed answers, not to just blindly keep trying.

The Tommy’s clinic said the next time I got pregnant I would be put on progesterone. This was reassuring as I’d previously begged my healthcare team for it. My GP wouldn’t prescribe it and the consultant said they’d only give it to us after a scan at 6 weeks. When I heard that I remember crying out “But we won’t get to 6 weeks if you won’t give us the progesterone!”

By this point I was 37 so it was suggested we get referred for IVF. In June 2021 we found out we were pregnant but sadly, even with the progesterone, that resulted in a miscarriage.

Just when we thought we were going to give up

When another round of IVF failed in November that year, we’d reached a point where we thought we were ready to give up. Mentally, emotionally and financially we were at the end of our tether and didn’t think we could cope with any more. Then, just a few days later, we found out we had conceived naturally and I was pregnant again! It was a miracle.  

We contacted Tommy’s who gave us progesterone straight away, meaning I could take it from pretty much day 1. This support was invaluable.

The team at the Tommy’s clinic were wonderful. Every time we came to the clinic we were made to feel at ease; they knew that of course we’d be terrified, of course we’d be anxious. Oonagh and the rest of the team knew how to speak, how to go through everything that needs to happen.  

When you’ve had recurrent losses and you’ve had that many ultrasounds you know what the difficult pauses mean. Oonagh was able to manage our anxiety so well, knowing that scans for us had only meant loss until that point.  

It was lovely to have that reassurance and we felt so cared for at the Tommy’s clinic. After 16 weeks on progesterone, we were discharged from the clinic and moved to care under our local hospital. In the end, due to very high blood pressure that wouldn’t budge, Teddy was born via emergency c-section at 33+6 weeks. After a short stay in hospital we brought him home. He’s our miracle boy.

Trying again after Teddy

When you’re parents who have experienced recurrent loss your mind quite quickly turns to whether you want them to have a sibling – how long will it take us to get there? Can we cope with more losses? Our fertility clinic said there was no reason why we shouldn’t try, and we found out while on holiday in June this year that we were pregnant again. Straight away we contacted Tommy’s and they showed us the same care and attention – there was no question that they’d look after us through this pregnancy as they had before.

We went for our first scan at 7 weeks and it was lovely to see a familiar face when we were met by Oonagh. My pregnancy with Teddy had given me a bit more confidence, but she still understood all our anxieties and showed us a really high level of care.  

Oonagh understood that with Teddy at home, we knew all the more what the potential of this pregnancy was, and what we had to lose or gain. She knew we were once waiting for a scan like this with the little boy who is sleeping upstairs as I write this.

At the scan we were told the pregnancy was measuring a bit behind but Oonagh was very reassuring. The heartbeat was strong so there was no reason to worry just then, but we were booked in for another scan for 2 weeks later.

Another devastating loss

For that second scan, we couldn’t find anyone to look after Teddy so had to bring him. We were told he couldn’t be there which I understood perfectly – I knew that the last thing many of the women in that waiting area wanted to see at a time like that was a baby. My husband took him to the café and I waited on my own, but as soon as I walked into the scan on my own Oonagh straight away offered to go and find him for me.  

It was during that scan that we found out our baby’s heartbeat had stopped. Thinking about going through that on my own or having to tell my husband what happened – it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Having that level of care meant the world. It also meant my husband got to see our baby one last time in the scan. I’ll always be so thankful for that.

We were so upset, but the Tommy’s team were wonderful. They knew what to say and how to say it. Oonagh spoke to us so kindly, she didn’t put us under any pressure to make decisions on how to manage it. She told us to take some time to come to terms with the news and she’d ring us in a few days.

As we were leaving, Oonagh gave us some scan photos. She said “You may not want these but I’ve printed them for you in case you do.”

That small gesture meant so much. We’d never had that before – to have someone recognise that it’s your baby, and to place that value on them even after they’d died… We’re so grateful for that and will always treasure our memento of our much-wanted baby.