The care and support that helped me through pregnancy after loss

After losing their firstborn son, Altair, Shema and her husband Ian now have 2 rainbow babies thanks to specialist care from the Tommy’s team in Manchester. In this blog, Shema discusses the unique challenges and importance of support with pregnancy after loss.

If you walked past us, you’d think we were an average family of 4. You wouldn’t know that we are missing our eldest son. You wouldn’t know how much it has taken for us to enjoy the everyday happiness of a busy, noisy house full of children. 

Love and loss

Our first son Altair was a much longed for baby, conceived after 4 rounds of fertility treatment. Things started going wrong soon into our pregnancy – he wasn’t growing properly. At 21 weeks my waters broke, and I gave birth to Altair soon after.

He never opened his eyes, or took a breath, but was and continues to be loved beyond measure.

Grieving Altair whilst moving forward with IVF will always be one of the hardest things I’ve done. Nearly a year later, after our sixth round of IVF, we found ourselves pregnant again.

Searching for answers

By this time I’d been diagnosed with the rare placenta condition Chronic Histiocytic Intervillositis. We’d been told by a few doctors that it wasn’t treatable and that we should consider surrogacy, but we were determined to find an answer. 

Luckily we were put in touch with the Tommy’s Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre in Manchester, where Professor Alex Heazell immediately gave us hope. His research had allowed him to develop a treatment that seemed to work for some women like me.

Pregnancy after loss

Under his care and guidance, we welcomed our rainbow, Faris, safe and sound in December 2018. When they handed him to me it was overwhelming, an incredible miracle. I’ve written more about that before, which you can read here.

But life had another twist in store for us. Last summer, we found out I was pregnant again – miraculous really as I had been told I’d never get pregnant naturally. We were terrified. Our son was only 7 months old; I was exhausted by IVF, grief, pregnancy and parenting a baby.

I wasn’t sure I could cope physically or emotionally with another high-risk pregnancy. Off we trekked to Manchester to see Alex again. The Rainbow Clinic is such a safe and nurturing space; the team really understands the complex emotions that come with pregnancy after loss.

For me, pregnancy feels like I’m made of the very thinnest of glass that could crack or break at any moment. 

Expert care and support

But this pregnancy (my third in 3 years) felt joyful and straightforward. Having managed to carry Faris to term, and with the support of Alex and his team, I finally had the confidence that my body could do this.

Lyra Joy, our second rainbow, was born on 1 April 2020 at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. She is perfect. All 3 of our babies are. We really are the luckiest family of 5 and we can never thank Tommy’s enough.

“Grief is tidal. In time, it can recede and leave us with feelings of peace and advancement, only for it to wash back in with all its crushing hopelessness and sorrow. Back and forth it goes, but with each retreating drift of despair, we are left a little stronger, more resilient, more essential and better at our new life.” Nick Cave, The Red Hand Files #23