I used to question whether it was normal to be grieving this much over babies I’d never held

Emma experienced 5 losses before her rainbow baby, Theodora, was born in December 2018.

When I was younger, before I met my fiancé Alex, I had two miscarriages. I put them down to bad luck and it not being the right time, I assumed that I would just never get to be a mother in the traditional sense. 

When Alex and I fell pregnant in February 2017, we were absolutely delighted. I had terrible morning sickness, which I was told was a good sign, and we began to fall in love with our little unborn baby. At seven weeks, I had the feeling that something wasn’t right and went for a scan. They told me that everything was fine and even saw a heartbeat. Several weeks later, I experienced more bleeding. 

Things changed very quickly 

I was 13 weeks pregnant when I found out that our baby had died at eight weeks. I went back to the hospital and they booked me in for surgery. I couldn’t believe how quickly everything changed. I had entered the hospital as a pregnant woman with a baby and, suddenly, they were referring to him as ‘retained products of conception'. I felt as if my baby had just disappeared. 

“I found myself searching for a reason why. I was told by a nurse that it was probably just ‘bad luck’. In the absence of real answers, my mind started creating them. I was filled with anger which in hindsight, was just grief mixed with jealously.”

As this was my third miscarriage, I was referred to a specialist consultant. We agreed to have the baby tested after the surgery and were booked in for an appointment to talk through the results. I wish someone had prepared us for what was to come. As we were handed a piece of paper, we saw that our baby was a boy. My heart broke all over again. We found out that the miscarriage had happened due to chromosomal abnormalities and were sent away without any answers and to just try again. 

We named our baby Maxie. He was with me for 13 weeks and I had gotten to know him and love him. It felt like a cruel joke; everything in my life had fallen into place but not this.  

Searching for answers

I fell pregnant again soon after and we lost another baby at seven weeks. At this point I started to get very anxious. I found myself searching for answers. So much was racing through my mind: don’t go on holiday, don’t eat that, don’t take on too much at work. It was a miserable way to live. Many of the people around me didn’t know how to respond. They either looked at me with pity and moved on without saying anything or said something clumsy and clichéd. 

“Someone once said to me ‘I did see you lift a heavy box when you were moving’. I do believe that, quite often, a woman is blamed by society when she loses her baby. Another person casually said to me ‘well, at least you weren’t too far along’. As if my grief meant less.”

I felt like I needed a second opinion on my situation and booked in to see another consultant. When Maxie’s results were viewed again, the consultant spotted that the pregnancy had been a partial molar pregnancy. A molar pregnancy happens when something goes wrong in the early stages of fertilisation. It means that the baby and placenta don’t develop properly. This can be very dangerous if left undetected and I was sent for hormone testing. Fortunately, my hormone levels were very low which showed that no remaining abnormal cells were present, and I was eventually told I could start trying again. 

Seeking support 

I fell pregnant again in April 2018. I didn’t allow myself to get too excited. I knew I could get pregnant; it was staying pregnant that was the problem. The support I got from my consultant was incredible. He was a real advocate for me. We discussed my treatment, and he suggested we try everything possible that wouldn’t harm myself or my baby. He put me on aspirin which can help with blood clotting. We also discussed progesterone as an option. He explained that, for those who have experience of bleeding in early pregnancy and recurrent miscarriage, progesterone can significantly reduce the risk of miscarriage. This breakthrough came from the PRISM trial which was led by Professor Arri Coomarasamy, Director of the Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research.

My consultant wrote a letter to my GP requesting a progesterone prescription. As this research is new, some doctors are not aware of it yet and I am so grateful I had access to it. I know it’s not the same for everyone. 

As my pregnancy continued, my consultant-led care stopped, and I was handed over to my local midwifes. This was challenging at times as I found myself explaining my situation over and over again. Most of my appointments began with a painful question: “is this your first baby?”. I had a rainbow sticker on my folder which was supposed to inform medical staff of what I’d been through, but it didn’t seem to make much of a difference. 

Overwhelming anxiety 

At the same time, I was feeling very anxious. I pretended I wasn’t pregnant up until I could no longer avoid telling people. I’d blatantly lie to people’s faces if they asked about my growing bump just because I didn’t want to have to explain if it all went wrong again. 

“During every scan, I’d find myself asking if my baby’s heartbeat was okay. I was so familiar with the words: “I’m sorry there is no heartbeat” that I always prepared myself for the worst.”

As I entered the end of my third trimester, I experienced four periods of reduced fetal movements and was closely monitored throughout the final months of my pregnancy. On the 17 December 2018, my beautiful daughter Theodora was born by c-section at 37 weeks. Up until the moment I heard her cry, I was pretty certain that they were going to tell me it was all over. When I was finally left alone with my new baby, I felt completely shocked. I loved her deeply, but I also felt guilty for loving her, as if I was replacing one baby with another. People would say, “when you have a baby, the heartache of your losses won’t matter”. I sat waiting for the wave of relief they had promised, but it never came. 

Theo is now 8 months old and an absolute delight. I reached out to Tommy’s when I heard about the Tell Me Why campaign because I want to help break the silence around pregnancy loss. When I reflect on my pregnancy with Theo, I remember feeling so miserable. I was ready to give it all up if this one went wrong. My mindset has now shifted. It’s only after having her, I know I would endure the pain all over again. 

When I was pregnant, I remember avidly reading stories on the Tommy’s page. They are what kept me alive at two-o-clock in the morning. 

“I used to question whether it was normal to be grieving this much over babies I’d never held. Reading about others helped me to realise that my feelings were valid and more importantly I wasn’t alone.”

My first meeting with Tommy’s about the campaign ended up being scheduled on the day of Maxie’s due date. I want something good to come out of all the negativity. It’s vital that women stop blaming themselves for baby loss. It wasn’t because you picked up that box. It wasn’t because you drank that glass of wine. It wasn’t because you took on that project at work. People deserve answers and Tommy’s helps to find them.

1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss – and most parents never find out why due to a shocking lack of research. It doesn't have to be this way – and Tommy’s research is finding the answers. But research into pregnancy loss is currently seriously underfunded compared to other medical conditions. 

We believe that every parent deserves answers. Let us know if you agree. 

Take me back to the #TellMeWhy campaign hub