Without Tommy's, my son wouldn't be here

Navpreet, 38, lives in Sunderland with husband Aidan, 4-year-old daughter Ayda and son Asher, who was born at the end of 2021. She says the support she received from Tommy’s clinic in Birmingham after going through recurrent miscarriage was ‘phenomenal’. This is Navpreet’s story.

Aidan and I met at work and travelled the world together before getting married in August 2015, which is when we began talking about starting a family. I fell pregnant in June 2016 and, though shocked it happened so quickly, we were over-the-moon. Unfortunately, I miscarried at home at around 3 or 4 weeks, and I’ve never experienced pain like it. I nearly passed out.

I had a difficult pregnancy with our daughter

After a couple of weeks off work, I wanted to get back to normal. We were going to a wedding in Hawaii in October so decided to put our plans to try for a baby on hold – but, in November, I found out I was pregnant, and that brought us our daughter Ayda.

It was a stressful pregnancy because we were told there was a high risk of Down’s syndrome and, because of my history of miscarriage, we were also worried about the risks of amniocentesis. In the end we had a private blood test, which came back low-risk, but it was a constant worry. I couldn’t really enjoy the pregnancy and it was a huge relief when she arrived. We were besotted and so grateful.

We wanted to add to our family

We’d always wanted a sibling for Ayda so were delighted when I fell pregnant around her first birthday. I was 10 weeks before I realised so the happiness was short-lived. At our 12-week scan the sonographer asked if I could have my dates wrong as she could see a sac but no fetus. I was in shock, I didn’t understand. A consultant explained it didn’t look a viable pregnancy and suggested we return 2 weeks later to confirm. There was no pain, no bleeding, but that miscarriage hit us the most, mentally. I tried to stay hopeful but the wait was horrendous.

2 weeks later, a trans-vaginal examination confirmed there was no fetus. They said we could take medication or let things happen naturally, and I decided to go home and wait.

I felt angry and emotional when I decided to drive to my mum’s house in Gloucester with Ayda. Looking back, I should have stayed at home, because a few days later, I collapsed in the bathroom in pain and started haemorrhaging. An ambulance took me to hospital, where they kept me until the bleeding stopped and discharged me the next day. With no EPU, they couldn’t scan me, but recommended I call my local hospital when I got home. I was scanned at Sunderland and they found there was still some tissue. Since there was a risk of infection, my only option was a D&C (or surgical management). I remember breaking down in the waiting room. It was heart-breaking, and there wasn’t much warmth or sympathy from the medical professionals who, though not rude, didn't really offer any compassion or reassurance.

This miscarriage really affected me mentally

This one hit me much harder, emotionally and mentally, and I took a lot of time off work. I hear so many stories of workplaces not supporting women through baby loss – but I can’t thank my employer, RSA Insurance Group, enough, as they provided a mental health first aider and counselling.

I didn’t recognise myself anymore. I couldn’t understand why I felt so angry when I saw or heard about people having babies, but I just desperately wished it could be me. It impacted on our marriage, too; we didn’t talk about it, and just focused on trying again rather than grieving properly.

Going through more heartbreak

I had 2 miscarriages in 2019. The first, I was at work when the cramps and bleeding started.

I went to my car and broke down, crying for an hour before I composed myself and went back to the office as if nothing had happened. I think I was embarrassed, ashamed that it was happening again. 

I went to the EPU, where they said it was too early to see anything. 2 weeks later, they said there was nothing they could do. After medication, our baby came naturally 2 days later at home. Again, this was really painful, but knowing I could contact the maternity ward, at least, made me feel more supported.

The second, I had spotting, so was scanned at 8 weeks. The doctors told me I was miscarrying again. This one was heart-breaking as they wanted to do genetic testing so I had to gather up my baby and place them in a pot until my hospital appointment a few days later. It was torture, but I also knew we needed answers.

The results showed a genetic disorder which helped me grieve. As it had happened twice so close together, the consultant suggested I take progesterone the next time I fell pregnant. She was really empathetic and has been on the journey with us from that point. 

I spoke to my consultant and started to do my own research. I found out there were additional tests we could have, but blood tests at the recurrent miscarriage clinic in Sunderland came back fine, so I was still in limbo.

I asked for a referral to Tommy's

That’s when I read about Tommy’s and their work and asked if I could be referred to one of the clinics at their National Centre for Miscarriage Research. This led to a telephone appointment, because of Covid, where they asked about mine and my husband’s history.

The consultant was amazing, the most lovely and sympathetic doctor, and it felt like the first time someone really listened. 

We then went to Birmingham Women’s Hospital twice in 2020 for bloods, a hysteroscopy (a procedure to examine the inside of the womb) and scan, which resulted in them recommending a higher dose of progesterone.

Sadly, I did have another miscarriage in December 2020 before falling pregnant again in February last year. I started taking 400mg progesterone immediately, rather than the 200mg I’d taken last time, and had early scans at 7 and 9 weeks.

I had some bleeding and rang the EPU. When a scan found a heartbeat, my husband and I just wept with relief. I had fortnightly scans after that, but I couldn’t relax for a fear of something going wrong. 

I took 3 months off work as my Tommy’s consultant had suggested I keep things as stress-free as possible. Then, in the September, I caught COVID-19, 4 weeks after having the vaccination. I was convinced our baby would die as I struggled with breathing and there was reduced fetal movement. I was in-and-out of hospital for monitoring and I felt very anxious – but Asher arrived, 9 days early, in the October.

The support of Tommy's really helped me through my losses

I found the Tommy’s midwife helpline very supportive as they really listened, and it’s helpful to talk to someone who doesn’t judge you. You feel like you can be completely honest about how you feel.

I didn’t tell those closest to me about some of my miscarriages because I was so ashamed and embarrassed, but miscarriage isn’t ‘just one of those things’ and needs to be more openly discussed. Too often, people tell you ‘it wasn’t meant to be’ or ‘things happen for a reason’, but it’s important for people to understand that’s not helpful. Miscarriage is grief; it’s loss.

Tommy’s emotional support has been phenomenal and, even when they discharged me, they made it clear they were still there for us. If not for Tommy’s, Asher wouldn’t be here. They gave us the hope and strength to keep going when we felt we could not and I can’t thank them enough.

And to anyone who is still on their fertility or pregnancy journey, I just want to reach out and remind you that, whatever path you choose, there is help and support out there. You are not alone.

We wanted to do something to raise funds for Tommy's

When we were going through our losses, it really affected Aidan's mental health as well as mine – but partners can often feel forgotten about. To raise funds for Tommy's research and raise awareness of partners' experiences of baby loss, Aidan has set himself the challenge of climbing Ben Nevis on Saturday 2 July 2022. He's doing this with 2 members of our family, Steven and Hannah, and it means a lot to us that they'll be there to support him through the trek.

To find out more about the challenge and sponsor Aidan and the team, visit his JustGiving page.