Guest blog by Sarah,
Where do I begin?
I would like to share the story of my journey to motherhood. Miscarriage and pregnancy loss can often be a taboo subject, but I think it is important to keep talking about it to create awareness.
Please bear with me, it’s been quite a journey, physically and emotionally, hence the length of this blog.
It has taken 5 years to finally realise my dream to have a baby and it has been such a difficult journey to get here. I really want to use this blog to give others hope that if you stick at it you can achieve some of the things in life that you dream for and I am not just talking about starting a family.
On the 17th June at 4:06am, our little baby girl Skylar Rose was born…….This is my story:
January 2014 I remember visiting the doctors with my husband, awaiting the appointment that most married women pre-children wouldn’t want to be having. We had been trying for a baby for a year and were having no joy. We were told I would just need a few blood tests to start with before doing anything drastic.
At this time, messages were starting to flood in from friends of 12 week scans sharing their excitement. James and I had been married a few years by then and I was starting to feel the pressure.
“I finally felt normal”
Then 2 months later whilst on a ski holiday, I couldn’t believe it when we had a positive pregnancy test. James and I kept it to ourselves until we got back but I just couldn’t wait to tell everyone, in particular family and close friends. It was weird but I finally felt “normal” as I could get pregnant.
I was about 5 weeks pregnant then and the next few weeks felt long as we waited for our 1st scan. I felt absolutely fine and was thinking how lucky I was not to get morning sickness. Then a few days before our 12 week scan, I started to bleed. Of course panic set in as we decided to head straight to a&e. It was a bank holiday weekend so we weren’t able to have a scan and were scheduled to have one a few days later but they said not to worry and everything should be fine and it is very normal. In the scan, the doctor did an external scan 1st and then she said she will need to do an internal scan. I hadn’t had one of these before so by now I was totally panicking. The doctor confirmed after the internal scan that there was no baby and I had a Blighted Ovum. I couldn’t believe it and never heard of such a thing. There was no foetus just an empty pregnancy sac. What????? How could this happen?
The next 2 weeks passed in a blur. My mind and body didn’t seem to connect and I needed an operation as a consequence. I now had to let all the people know, having told them that I was pregnant, including my friends who were also pregnant at the same time. I just felt so miserable.
“My friendships started to fall apart”
I spent that summer trying to live my life with as much fun as possible. James and I tried to embrace being child free and do whatever we liked, which was fun at times but still the miscarriage hung over us. Meanwhile my friends went on to have their babies and I just felt so gutted not to be joining them. This impacted me so much that I felt like I couldn’t talk to them and very quickly my friendships started to fall apart.
James and I continued to try again and each month a negative test made my heart sink. As much as I tried to think, ahhh it’s ok I can go on a big carefree holiday, it was still disappointing. I started to avoid one on one conversations with women who knew I’d had a miscarriage as I knew once the initial chit chat had happened, there would be this awkward silence and I felt like I had to say “oh we’re still trying”.
Then finally, New Year’s Eve 2014, weirdly on another ski holiday, I got another positive test. We had to tell the friends we were on holiday with as I decided not to snowboard anymore plus wouldn’t be drinking New Year’s Eve, and to be honest I thought the 1st miscarriage was just normal…..1 in 4 afterall and surely this one would be fine.
I couldn’t wait for the 12 week scan, so we booked a private scan at 8 weeks. Again I felt the same as last time, well, I felt nothing, no sickness, nothing. At the scan, I had so much hope, but was absolutely devastated as the sonographer said, “are you sure your dates are right?” as there was again an empty pregnancy sac on the screen.
After that scan we then went through the early pregnancy unit on the NHS. I had a scan with them and they said to wait a week just in case our dates weren’t accurate. What???? Wait a week? So I went back to work not telling anyone knowing I was carrying round this empty pregnancy sac. I remember not being able to concentrate at work and not being able to do the simplest of tasks, which was picked up by someone at work in a horrible way and I just wanted to scream at them.
A week passed, which felt like a lifetime and the next scan confirmed, no progress.
I had to send the all too familiar messages to the people we had told and again, my mind and body didn’t connect and I needed an operation. How could this happen to me twice?!
After the 2nd miscarriage, we spoke to the NHS about getting some help but we were told we needed to have had 3 before they would investigate.
“Everything was normal and just to keep trying”
I went to the GP and they referred me to a local gynaecologist at a local private hospital. The gynaecologist performed all the routine blood tests on what could cause miscarriage, including lupus and even Karotyping which all cost a fortune, only to be told that everything was normal and just to keep trying.
Over the next few months, there were weddings and christenings we were invited to and I just couldn’t bring myself to go. I felt ashamed that I couldn’t carry a baby as in my mind I thought it was supposed to be so natural for women. I felt like my body had let me down and therefore I felt a failure and I couldn’t bear to face people. I remember literally breaking down in our kitchen on james as I realised how isolated and lonely I felt.
I joined The miscarriage association forum as I was desperate to find out if my feelings were normal, particularly relating to my friendships. This was one of the hardest things I found, trying to hold onto friendships as I just couldn’t help feeling “why me?”.
September 2015 came round and I was staring at another positive pregnancy test. I came downstairs to show James, and my reaction was completely lifeless as the excitement that most women would feel was just non-existent. We didn’t tell anyone this time, not even my parents who came down to stay for a family meal as my brother was over from the States.
“Take its toll on my mental well-being”
A week later, I started to bleed. We went straight to the early pregnancy unit but by then my bleeding got progressively worse and I knew there would be nothing on the scan and I was right. Yes….miscarriage number 3. This miscarriage was easier to deal with physically as finally my mind and body connected and I didn’t need any surgery, but mentally it was starting to really take its toll on my mental well-being. I was really starting to become more and more insular. My Dad even said I had “lost my spirit”.
A month later I got another positive pregnancy test. I couldn’t believe it was so quick for us this time after the months and months of negative tests we had. As I had 3 miscarriages I went straight to the early pregnancy unit and was put under their care.
Our 1st scan showed a tiny foetal pole but it didn’t tie in with our dates, so we were told to come back in another week. This really was brutal to have to go back to work and pretend everything is fine. I remember just saying to people I didn’t feel well and just kept my head down.
I built up a bit of hope that this time they detected something in the pregnancy sac. The 2nd scan came around and nothing had changed in a week. Wowwwww, how could this be happening? We were ushered into a very familiar bereavement room and had the familiar chat. Again I needed the surgery!!
I really needed someone to help us.
I was so worried that these losses were going to define me in the years to come and my worst fear was that I would be labelled as “poor Sarah, she couldn’t carry a baby”.
We were finally referred to St Mary’s Hospital in London which specialises in recurrent miscarriage. My relentless googling made me feel very reassured as it seemed to have very good reviews. James and I completely stopped trying now and said we wouldn’t start again until someone told us what the issue was as I just couldn’t go through it again.
Another Christmas came which was very hard. My siblings all had young children and I just dreaded Christmas. In fact, Christmas 2015 I remember we spent on our own. It was our choice. I just wanted to be with James and no one else. It was this time that we also got a dog which we called Noodle. This was the best thing that had happened to us in a long time as she filled our lives with so much fun.
“What a brutal time it was”
January came round and we were due to have our 1st appointment at St Mary’s, however there was a doctors and nurses strike and our appointment was cancelled and moved by 2 months. At this time it was also confirmed that my dad had stage 2 Multiple myeloma and his prognosis was very short. This was one of the lowest points of my life. I had such an ache in my heart and my whole body filled with sadness. What a brutal time it was.
I needed something else to focus on, so we booked a trip to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in October 2016. It had always been a dream of mine to climb it.
Even if we didn’t do it because of my dad or anything else, I still wanted something to work towards.
St Mary’s repeated all the same tests that the private gynaecologist did previously plus some extras. They also said I needed a hysteroscopy so they could look at my womb to check whether it was an odd shape.
By the end of April 2016, James and I were heading into London to have a chat with the consultant about the results. I was thinking that surely they would have found something. I remember we saw Dr Quinn. I was so disappointed when the words came out of his mouth: “we haven’t found anything abnormal and just keep trying and come back to us when you are pregnant”. So gutted.
I asked for a laparoscopy as I was certain I had endometriosis which was causing us to struggle to get pregnant. They were very reluctant to give it to me, but I really pressed for it. It was 5 months since the last miscarriage and we were no further forward but I planned to have the laparoscopy after Kilimanjaro and hoped that it would show something.
Around the end of the summer I went to a party with work. I was having a one on one chat with one of the girls, and of course, the subject of children came up. I told her my history and she was very matter of fact and said, “why don’t you get a second opinion?”. My first thoughts were, oh no more tests but maybe I could search around.
In October 2016 we achieved our dream and reached the top of Kilimanjaro. We raised £4000 for Parkinson’s disease which my dad was also suffering from, and Cancer Research.
“Second opinion was niggling away at me”
Doing Kilimanjaro was the toughest physical challenge I have ever done and made me realise that if you put your mind to something you can achieve your dreams. So this second opinion was niggling away at me. I had the laparoscopy in November 2016 which was a much bigger operation than I realised and recovery was harder than I thought. They detected some old endometriosis and removed some adhesions but they said that generally nothing looked odd.
After another tough Christmas, I started to Google like mad on recurrent miscarriage. I found lots of forums discussing it and one name kept popping up….Dr Shehata. I found his website and noticed he had a Clinic in Epsom which wasn’t too far away from us.
I arranged for an initial consultation with Dr Shehata. I instantly felt better after the appointment. We took all our results along and he looked over everything and said he wouldn’t repeat any tests, he would just close the loop on anything I hadn’t had, but he said he would also test for Natural killer cells (NKC).
“Everything seemed normal with the exception of the NKC”
In April 2017, we went back for our results and he said everything seemed normal with the exception of the NKC. He explained that in a pregnancy environment my NKC was very high which could cause a failure in implantation. Dr Shehata recommended to start taking steroids as soon as I have ovulated and stop them if my period starts. If I got a positive test I was to continue taking the steroids plus have an intralipid as well as start taking a hormone pessary.
This process all seemed quite simple, but I thought the actual getting pregnant part might take us a long time.
I had just started a new job. I left my old company as I felt a bit like “damaged goods” there and I needed a fresh start. I also had in my mind that I wasn’t ever going to have children and was offered the job before I found Dr Shehata and before I found out about the NKC.
So I decided to wait a few months while I settled into my new job as the thought of being pregnant again in a completely new company made me feel quite anxious.
“Pregnant again for a 5th time”
A few months passed and we decided to give it a try again after 2 whole years of not trying. After just the 2nd month, we were pregnant again for a 5th time. I really was quite shocked to have conceived so quickly.
What followed after this was an unbelievable time.
We knew we were due to have a 6 week scan with Dr Shehata. Those 2 weeks from a positive test were so so so so tough.
I went to work thinking that I could just cope, but in fact the opposite happened. I had a full on melt down or what I could only describe as a panic attack. I can’t even explain it. I felt so trapped, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I called in sick and James was so worried he took me to the doctors who gave me a 2 week sicknote.
I decided not to take the sicknote, but to go into work and tell my boss everything, all about my history and my current pregnancy. I thought that history was going to repeat itself. He was so so so understanding and I can’t believe how well looked after I felt considering I had only been there 3 months.
We went to Stoke to try help out with my dad as he was in a really bad way that weekend. I felt like I couldn’t cope with the stress so I had to tell my mum I was pregnant even though I didn’t want to. I felt so terrible as my dad was very poorly and we just had to leave my mum to it half way through the weekend. I felt guilty but I just needed to be at home with as little stress as possible, to try and give this baby all the chance in the world of surviving.
The day of the 6 week scan arrived. I took the day off work and a couple of days after, just in case. I felt terrible on the journey down to Epsom. I was convinced it was going to be the same old story, as I had no morning sickness and didn’t feel pregnant at all.
“I just broke into tears”
We arrived in Dr Shehata’s room and he said let’s take a look straight away. No questions asked. He did an internal exam and to my absolute shock there was a heartbeat. I just couldn’t believe it. James and I just broke into tears. The 1st heartbeat we had heard in 4 years of trying.
We continued the treatment as normal and We had 2 weekly scans with Dr Shehata up until 12 weeks. I became so consumed by the scans, that I remember trying to wear the same clothes to each scan as I thought it would continue the success. I was so desperate.
I remember at the 10 week scan when things were still progressing Dr Shehata said, “tell your friends and family and go and celebrate, I don’t lose babies after 10 weeks” I couldn’t believe my ears and the confidence he had.
Of course we didn’t tell anyone. In fact I didn’t tell a soul until after the 20 week scan, and then only told a couple of people. There were people we just didn’t tell at all unless they saw us.
In January 2018, I was 16 weeks pregnant. My dad very sadly passed away. He was actually quite well in the weeks before he died and he was so delighted that we had reached the 12 week scan. My mum showed him the scan which I sent over on my phone and my mum said he cried.
My Dad said he had a target of June this year to keep going, as I was due then, but he didn’t make it. I was so so gutted in the week he died that he wasn’t going to meet our baby but I am thrilled he knew I was pregnant.
We were discharged from the private clinic at 16 weeks and went onto NHS care.
“Start of a new journey”
We got to 39 weeks and Skylar Rose was born on the 17th June, which was Father’s Day. A day that I was dreading but turned out to be the end of a very tough journey and the start of a new journey…a very special journey.
2018 has marked the loss of someone very special to me, but I have also gained someone very special. This really is the true meaning of the Circle of Life.
One day I would like to tell Skylar that there were 4 babies before she arrived as my motherhood really started the moment I knew I was pregnant first time.
Although the last 5 years have been incredibly tough, I have met some amazing people that have helped me through, I have also learnt so much. Stayed tuned for my next blog to find out more.
You can follow Sarah's journey on her blog at The Joys of Now.