We were heartbroken and desperate for answers. The support we got from Tommy's changed our lives

Sarah and Adam had their first son Brodie in 2015. They had four heart-breaking losses before being referred to the Tommy’s research centre at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. With the support of Professor Andy Shennan, Sarah gave birth to baby Ari.

Our beautiful son Brodie was born in June 2015. I had an uncomplicated pregnancy, but a stressful birth which resulted in him arriving via emergency c-section because the cord was wrapped around his neck four times.

Soon after we got married, we decided to try for another baby. I fell pregnancy quickly but, sadly, it ended in a missed miscarriage at nine weeks. We were not told why this happened and were completely devastated. You have one healthy child and you just think you’ll have another. I’ll never forget hearing the words ‘sorry, there’s no heartbeat’.

“That first miscarriage will stay with me forever. I felt so alone.”

More heartbreak

After that I felt as if I needed to become pregnant again as soon as possible. It completely took over my life. When I got my next positive pregnancy test, I felt anxious all the time. I started bleeding at nine weeks, and I was in and out of hospital all the time. The doctors said there was nothing they could do, hopefully it would stop.

However, the bleeding did not stop. This was terrifying, but, at that point, I never expected I’d lose our baby. As I reached 15 weeks we started to prepare, dared to get excited. I was so naïve.

Everything happened so quickly

At 18 weeks, my waters broke. My baby was delivered at home. It all happened so quickly the ambulance didn’t arrive in time. My husband was distraught, I remember lying on the bathroom floor, my mum by my side, hearing him sobbing.

“Our baby was tiny, but alive, her heart was beating. It was so different to my miscarriage. It was utterly heart-breaking.”

I had to stay at my mum’s for six weeks because I couldn’t be where it had happened. I’ve since suffered with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Because our daughter was born alive, my loss was classed as neonatal death. This meant a coroner got involved. A week after losing our child I had a call from the coroner to say they were waiting for a post-mortem to decide if it was a suspicious death. It was horrendous.

Once it had been ruled a non-suspicious death, we had a funeral. The post-mortem showed that she was absolutely fine, but I suffered placenta abruption. Placental abruption is a serious condition in which the placenta starts to come away from the inside of the womb wall before the baby has been delivered.

Trying to remain hopeful

I tried to look on the positive side, there was no reason it should happen again. In fact, our consultant told us there was just a 1% chance of it happening again.

I fell pregnant again in May 2017 and everything up until 14 weeks was absolutely fine. Then the bleeding started again so, because of my history, I was in hospital every day for two weeks. I was petrified it would happen again at home so spent more time in triage than there.

By September, I began to experience light contractions and I knew I’d deliver a baby early again. We’d been sent home by triage that morning, but my husband rang to say we were on our way back and wouldn’t be leaving.

It wasn’t until my waters went that they realised it was serious. I only just got to the delivery ward before our baby was born. Again, at 18 weeks. Again, a little girl.

“When we saw the consultant, he had no answers. I was young, I had plenty of time, I had one child already.”

Feeling numb

It was my GP who referred me to Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research at St Mary’s Hospital in London. They did their own tests and scans and could find no reason for our repeated losses.

In February 2018 I suffered another missed miscarriage at 10 weeks. I was so numb I kind of didn’t even cry. By then I’d prepared myself for Brodie to be our only child. I lost all hope.

I did a fundraiser for Tommy’s because of their research, I wanted to help make sure someone else didn’t go through what we’d been through. I also read the stories on Tommy’s website which comforted me enormously, made me feel less alone. But I still daren’t hope.

In June 2018 I had a follow up with St Mary’s and the consultant referred me to Tommy’s Preterm Surveillance Clinic at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital. This clinic has been providing specialist care to women at risk of preterm birth for over 10 years.

‘You will be a mum again’

I fell pregnant in June and saw Professor Andrew Shennan when I was 11 weeks pregnant. He was incredibly kind and asked me to talk him through my history. When I told him we’d never been given a reason for our losses, he told us that he had found a link between late emergency c-sections and premature labour. He suggested inserting a cervical stitch. A cervical stitch aims to keep the cervix closed during pregnancy and evidence suggests they are very effective in cases such as mine.

Three days later, it was time for procedure. On the day of the operation I was very anxious. I was very upset, but Professor Shennan sat with me and told me ‘You will be a mum again’.

There were no complications, no bleeding, no contractions and, at 28 weeks, I was discharged.

“I felt really emotional saying goodbye to Professor Shennan, we owe so much to that man.”

Love at first sight

Ari arrived at 36.6 weeks. My waters went, we arrived at hospital and my consultant said he’d deliver our baby in his lunch break. After a calm, positive birth by c-section, they handed our son to me as ‘A Million Dreams’ from The Greatest Showman was playing on the radio. It was love at first sight.

Adam and I were both crying, we were completely overwhelmed. It had been such a long journey and we couldn’t believe he was finally here.

It still doesn’t feel real. If it wasn’t for Tommy’s, I don’t believe I’d ever have had another baby.

We owe so much to Professor Shennan and his team at Tommy’s Preterm Surveillance Clinic. Without their research and their care, my story would be so different.

I don’t think they truly understand just how much they mean to so many families. There just aren’t enough words to say thank you.

“Tommy’s means the world to me; it’s been the difference between sadness and happiness.”

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. 

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