Story of #miscourage by Abbe,
After suffering two miscarriages before the birth of my first son Herbie, I became frustrated with the shrugs of ‘it just happens’ and no answers as to why. So when I experienced a third miscarriage when trying for another baby, and yet again received dismissive and thoughtless treatment, I felt like there must be something I could do to help find out why miscarriage happened, if not for me, then for others that came after me.
I’d kept an eye on the research being done by Tommy’s ever since a wonderful sonographer at my local hospital had mentioned the work of Professor Siobhan Quenby.
I checked the Tommy’s website and found they were recruiting for the SiM trial, investigating whether scratching the lining of the womb, which stimulates stem cell growth - linked to a healthier womb lining - could prevent miscarriage among women aged 18 to 42 and with two or more previous miscarriages.
I had to be able to travel to Coventry or Birmingham, and currently be trying for a baby but not yet pregnant. I ticked all the boxes so I rang and got a call back from a lovely midwife called Debbie, who worked in the Tommy's funded research unit at University Hospital in Coventry. It was so nice and sadly unusual to talk to someone who knew exactly how you were feeling and made you feel supported, even in just that one conversation. It made me realise the importance of that engagement during fearful times, not just when you are pregnant - that somebody lets you know that they understand and are there to listen.
I found out that I was eligible for the trial and decided I would like to take part. I then arranged to have some initial blood tests taken in Coventry including checks for immune disorders such as lupus, as well as Vitamin D deficiency, and it was discovered that I had a mildly deficient underactive thyroid, which can be linked to miscarriage if not treated. To give me the best chance, Professor Quenby put me on a low dose of thyroxine, and I was able to start the SiM trial.
It involved being put into a randomised group, one of which would have the ‘scratch’ procedure, one of which would have a dummy procedure. I knew that I could be put into the group that wouldn’t receive the treatment, but knowing that I would be helping either way to give more sense to things that didn’t yet have answers made me feel so much better.
Because I was at the right point in my cycle the week I received my blood test results to have the endometrial scratch (7-10 days post ovulation), I rushed up to Coventry on a Bank Holiday Friday.
I was randomised by a computer so I didn’t (and still don’t) know whether I was in the control group or the group that received the proper scratch. Then I was taken down to have the 'procedure', which was a bit like having a smear test, although more painful! I drove back afterwards feeling a bit bruised but elated that I was helping.
I waited for my next period as instructed, and then we started trying for a baby again. As the date for my next period after that approached, I took a pregnancy test a couple of days before I was due. I had no expectations but when the test said 'pregnant', I was happy, scared, anxious and surprised all at once.
I rang the research unit in Coventry to let them know and they asked me to come up for an early scan at about five and a half weeks. I'd had a bit of spotting around when my period was due, so was anxious, but had been reassured by the midwife that it was probably implantation bleeding.
Debbie came with us when we went into the scan room and the first thing we could see was a healthy pregnancy sac. Then the doctor paused for ages and my heart sank, but she span the screen round and showed me that she had even managed to see a heartbeat so we were really reassured.
We went back two weeks later and had another scan. I'd spotted a bit after the first internal scan, which seemed to settle down, but I was still worried. The scan showed everything had progressed nicely so again my mind was put at rest.
Fortnightly scans were routine from then on so we were due back in a couple of weeks. But the following week, I went to the toilet in the evening and had red bleeding. I'd never had a good outcome once red bleeding had started in the past and prepared for the worst. I couldn't ring the Tommy's research unit as it was out of hours but I contacted Debbie and she rang me as soon as she could that evening. She said that they should be able to fit me in for a scan the next day but would get the team to ring first thing in the morning.
I had a call at 7.30am and was told to come up as soon as I could. We got stuck in traffic so were later than expected but the team waited for us. I just couldn't envisage a good outcome; we’d driven four hours and it took a few seconds for the doctor to say 'it's fine'. I couldn't believe it and it took a while to sink in.
The next week I found very difficult as I was still spotting a bit and couldn't accept that something else wasn't going to happen. I felt like a spinning coin and I didn't know which side I would land on - constantly in limbo.
Every twinge and pain meant I thought the worst and I spent forever examining the tissue paper in the loo after I wiped. Every time I let myself imagine a positive outcome, my brain dragged me back into this perpetual state of negativity.
As the bleeding subsided, I relaxed a minuscule amount and tried to tell myself that I couldn't change the outcome so thinking positively would be the better option.
At my last scan in the first trimester, everything was well. We saw the heartbeat flickering away and the baby flipping itself over and over. 'You don't need us anymore,' the team then said, but I kept in touch as part of the trial and was always able to call them with any worries.
I went into the system locally, having the usual 12 and 20-week scans. We found out we were having another boy, and apart from another small bleed at around 31 weeks, which was checked and found to be nothing to worry about, all progressed smoothly.
On 10th June 2017, just over nine months after I first started the trial, baby Gus was born happy and healthy.
I cannot explain how important the compassionate care I received from the Tommy’s team was to me. They regularly rang to check on me and just that little bit of extra attention helped immensely. The support I received was amazing. I would have been even more of a mess without it, and they were patient and understanding the whole way through, never making me feel like I was being silly or wasting their time. Debbie was like a guardian angel - a very special person. I wish that this was an experience that more women were able to have throughout their pregnancy, and in the future, I hope with Tommy’s help, that they do