The darker the storm, the brighter the rainbow

Helen and Rick had a long and difficult journey to parenthood, with several rounds of fertility treatment and a heart-breaking late miscarriage before their rainbow baby Parker arrived at Tommy’s Birmingham clinic.

When you are little and you talk about having a family, you talk about wanting a boy and a girl, you just assume it will happen. Everyone has kids, right? It’s only as you get older, hearing stories of miracle babies on the news or your mom’s friend that had IVF, you start to realise it’s not straightforward for everyone.

Trying to conceive

I knew quite early on that we would need help conceiving. I had cancerous cells removed from my cervix when I was 25, which led to my cervix sealing shut with scar tissue. After multiple operations to address this, plus procedures to help with my endometriosis, I had no cervix by the time we entered our third round of IVF.

In summer 2017, we found out it had worked and we had our Little Pig (everyone has a name for their unborn child, don’t they?). Obviously we were very cautious, but you dare to dream and all those thoughts start to race through your mind. What will they look like? How about names? Is it a boy or girl?

This time felt different, we were more positive than ever - but we also knew there would be more hurdles to overcome than the normal milestones.

My lack of cervix meant I would need help to carry a baby full term, so at 13 weeks pregnant I had a transabdominal stitch, involving a complicated operation under general anaesthetic. It was a success, I had a scan the next day and there was Little Pig sucking their thumb. I couldn’t wait to tell everyone, we had done it, we had got through another massive hurdle!

Love and loss

But 3 days later, I was sat on the sofa watching a film and started to feel a dull ache in my abdomen. This fast became intense pain and within the hour it was like I had a fever. An ambulance rushed me to hospital where they monitored me, gave me pain relief, and by the end of the day I started to stabilise – so we had hope that everything was going to be okay.

Suddenly I found myself with a doctor, hearing her say those words: ‘I am so sorry’. The amount of drugs they had given me didn’t take away that pain but did leave me numb. I just lay there. I could hear Rick talking but it was almost like I was watching this scene from a distance.

Everything we had been through to get to this point, all the hope we had, and just like that it was over.

I can replay that day like it was yesterday. What we hadn’t anticipated was the complications that would follow. In that moment of such extreme grief, it’s about supporting each other and helping each other through, making calls to parents, trying to find the words. What we were unaware of was that I was seriously ill with sepsis; that was the reason for losing our baby. I spent the next 3 months in and out of hospital, my body fighting an infection and my mind trying to fight the thoughts that I had let everyone down.

Coping with grief

A midwife from the Tommy’s Birmingham clinic team came to see me on the ward, and she did for me what no one else could: she listened. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of people to share my grief with – but they were all emotionally attached. The Tommy’s midwife wasn’t Little Pig’s would-be Nanna, Auntie or Dad. She was someone who understood everything, and that chat I had with her was my chance to say all the things I couldn’t and didn’t think I could burden others with.

After that chat with the Tommy's midwife, the heart-breaking feeling of failure that weighed heavy on my mind seemed a little lighter.

I started to read books and blogs to help me process what had happened, and found support in others who had stories to tell. Everyone’s story is different, yet every single one resonates with you in some way; you relate to their struggles, feel their pain, and share their happiness when their dreams come true.

Rainbow after the storm

Nothing can prepare you for a life changing event like this and it takes such long time to recover, especially mentally. My confidence was knocked for six and I found it hard to even have hope. But eventually we felt ready to try again and our dreams came true with our little miracle rainbow, Parker, who arrived on February 19th 2019 – thanks to a frozen embryo transfer and a little help from my stitch!

As much as we are lucky to have our rainbow baby now, we will never forget Little Pig, and they will always be part of our family.

When we get married later this year, we’re asking for donations to Tommy’s instead of gifts, as our family’s way of saying thank you for the care and support along this rocky road to parenthood.