Our first baby, a beautiful, healthy little girl, was born in 2009. She'd taken us by surprise but was everything I'd ever wanted and the best thing that could have happened to me.
Growing up, I'd always dreamt of being a mum – and I knew I wanted to give her a sibling. When my husband agreed to try for another baby I was a step closer to that reality, and couldn't wait for what life would bring as a mum of two.
I had my contraceptive implant removed, we waited for my monthly cycle to start and began trying immediately. I was overjoyed to fall pregnant in our first month. The moment the line on that pregnancy test showed, that baby became a member of our family. I dreamt of my children growing up together, playing together, looking out for each other. I was ecstatically happy.
I'm a born worrier, I always have been. I thought I knew everything that could possibly go wrong and what to look out for, so when I had some light spotting one morning I panicked. My rational mind told me I'd been through this before with my daughter, and she was fine. The spotting was light, minimal and stopped quickly – so chances are it was nothing to worry about. However, I am rhesus negative, so booked a doctors appointment anyway in case I needed an anti-d injection. The doctor was reassuring and positive, but booked in a scan to check me over.
I went into that ultrasound feeling fine. By that point a couple of days had passed with no worrying symptoms, and the nausea I'd had all day certainly made me feel very much pregnant! The scan started. They couldn't find a baby. They couldn't find anything very conclusive, in fact. Ectopic pregnancy was mentioned. My world crumbled.
Unable to confirm anything either way, I had bloods taken to check hCG and was asked to come back after 48 hours for a repeat blood test. Following the repeat I was called back immediately – hCG should double in that time, mine had barely risen by half. Ectopic was looking probable.
But again, no answers. My womb was full of random little sacs – tubes looked clear, but nothing was conclusive. It was at this stage that the term 'molar pregnancy' was first used. I thought I knew it all, every eventuality, but I'd never heard of this. I was sent into a little side room – the 'quiet room' I'd dreaded – the place you were sent to deal with bad news. This was not a viable pregnancy, this baby was not going to be, an ERPC was booked in.
Of course I went home and googled. I'd been given little information and one word leapt out at me – cancer. A few days ago I'd been carrying our baby, my daughter's little brother or sister, and now I was facing cancer.
It was not a quick process. No one seemed sure of anything and from that scan until actually going in to hospital for the operation which would officially end my pregnancy took 2 weeks. I've never been good at waiting, especially for answers, and continuing with the pregnancy I knew couldn't continue broke me. There was still that doubt in my mind –- maybe they're wrong, maybe this is all ok, maybe I have my dates wrong, maybe my baby is ok in there. Right up until the end I was having blood tests taken, scans carried out. I wanted answers. I needed answers.
When I came around after the ERPC a nurse asked how I was feeling. My answer was just one word – empty.
The haematology report took 2 long, long weeks to come back. During this time my body still seemed to think it was pregnant. All my symptoms continued – it was like a cruel joke. I was calling my surgeon daily, crying for answers. She finally confirmed what I already knew – I'd had a partial molar pregnancy.
I was referred to Charing Cross Hospital for monitoring and joined online support forums for women who'd been through a molar pregnancy. Everything I read continued to point towards cancer, but thanks to the forum I soon learned that this was rarely the case. As it happened, I was 'lucky' – my hCG levels returned to normal in 2 months and, going against medical advice to wait 6 months, I threw myself back into trying to conceive. I needed to be pregnant again, and, once again, it happened quickly.
This time I knew very early on that something wasn't right. I was having hCG monitored to ensure my levels were rising correctly, but even before I had the call from the doctor to let me know that they were falling, the bleeding started. I was a mess. I'd lost another baby. I was totally devastated. Once again, the hopes, dreams and love I had for this baby were real from the moment I'd taken the positive pregnancy test, and now it was over. But I was also relieved to be having a 'normal' miscarriage this time – I had answers straight away, there was no waiting, wondering – there was no hope, it was over – but I also felt immensely guilty for feeling this way.
My husband suggested waiting a while before trying again but I just couldn't. I was falling apart and in my mind, had to at least be trying to complete our family. I didn't want to have time, I couldn't face the grief and couldn't bear the empty feeling I carried with me.
We became pregnant straight away, this time there was no break at all. This time I was extra cautious, didn't want to let myself feel excited. Blood tests started immediately and initially everything looked to be as it should, but this was short lived. A week or so later the hCG stopped doubling – not even close. At once stage it raised by just 20% in just 48 hours. I'd done my research and knew this wasn't a good sign – in fact, the rise was almost identical to that of my partial molar pregnancy.
A sonographer, upon seeing my notes, remarked that this pregnancy was almost certainly 'non viable', but the scan itself was inconclusive. There was no baby, but for my gestation (5 weeks and 3 days), this wasn't too concerning. Rather than the strange masses that had filled my womb with my PMP, there was a neat sac, but it looked empty. They booked me back in for a repeat scan in 2 weeks time.
I knew I couldn't wait that long, the thought of going through that again was unbearable, so we booked a private scan for 4 days later. I had to know. Again, the sonographer we saw wasn't optimistic upon hearing our history and poor hcg results, but against the odds there was our tiny baby with a strong heartbeat and no sign of molar tissue. Our miracle.
Our baby, a second beautiful, healthy daughter, arrived in 2012 and completed our family in the most wonderful way. Our eldest, totally besotted, made the most doting big sister and my heart was full of love and pride. I knew how incredibly lucky I was.
However, despite having everything I'd ever dreamt of in my two amazing children, I suffered terribly with post natal depression. I'd focused so intently on becoming pregnant that I hadn't allowed myself a chance to grieve for the babies I'd lost, and it hit me hard. I'd gone through both pregnancy losses almost silently, building a wall around me and a feigned smile and appearing 'fine', even around my husband, and the act caught up with me in a big way.
Tommys #miscourage campaign is so important in supporting women who have been through pregnancy loss. I'd never felt so alone in my life following my miscarriages. It was only once I started talking and opening up to people about our loss that I realised not only how many women have gone through it too, but how much they wanted, needed, to talk about their experience. Miscarriage should not be a taboo subject. However early on in the pregnancy, these babies existed – not only physically, but in our hearts, our future. They were, and are, part of our lives, will always be remembered, and should be acknowledged.