Without the Rainbow Clinic my 2 babies would be stillborn like their older sister

Rebecca went through 5 miscarriages and a neonatal loss before being cared for by the Tommy’s Rainbow Clinic in her next 2 pregnancies.

I would like to take the time to express my sincere gratitude to Professor Alex Heazell and the rainbow team at St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester, in light of my personal experience over the past 3 years. Please bear with me as I give a somewhat detailed account of my experience.

I suffered 5 miscarriages and a neonatal loss before I met him.

Grace died at 22 days old

After going through 5 very painful early miscarriages, we were delighted to reach the end of a pregnancy. Throughout, the hospital assured me she was absolutely fine. We had several visits to the maternity assessment unit for CTG monitoring, which seemed to tell them she was fine but sadly, this turned out not to be the case.

Grace was born 19 December 2014. We had to make the heartbreaking decision to withdraw her care when she was 22 days old. She was unable to breathe for herself, caused by complications with her delivery and a possible antenatal issue.

I couldn't lose another baby

In July 2015, I found out I was expecting again.

A normal mum-to-be is excited but as a mum pregnant after so many losses, I was filled with fear and anxiety. I couldn’t lose another baby, physically or mentally. At around 12 weeks, I heard about the Rainbow Clinic and my midwife suggested I refer myself.

I managed to do this and I transferred my care to St. Mary’s and met with Alex for the first time at 16 weeks.

I knew I was in safe hands

At the initial meeting, after just five minutes, I relaxed. I knew that I was in safe hands. I would be looked after. He explained everything, he didn’t just pacify me.

He asked about Grace and about what had happened. More importantly, he (and his team) always referred to Grace by her first name and he assured me he would do everything he possibly could to ensure this baby was safe.

He arranged for me to see Dr Bullen in Fetal Medicine so we could have our baby’s spinal cord checked, as we were told Grace’s hadn’t developed properly. We met twice with Dr Bullen, who then referred me for an MRI. The staff were making sure my baby was safe and well.

Every time I stepped foot in the Rainbow Clinic for an appointment they understood how uneasy I was

Each scan, they pointed out baby’s heartbeat straight away and explained everything: all the measurements, blood flow and so on. They showed me the charts and tried to explain why everything was as it should be. All this took time but they didn’t mind.

The plan was to deliver at around 39 weeks, by c-section, due to my history with Grace.

They noticed a decrease in fluid at 37 weeks

At 37 weeks 5 days Alex noticed the fluid around my baby had decreased. He asked me to come back the day after for another scan. We did and it had dropped significantly enough that Alex decided I needed admitting for monitoring and possibly an earlier delivery.

Our second beautiful daughter, our rainbow baby, Thea, was born on 29 February 2016 -  healthy and weighing 6lbs 7oz.

I couldn't and wouldn't trust anyone but Alex and his team

In March this year, I surprisingly found out I was expecting again. This time it felt different. I knew I wouldn’t go anywhere else other than to see Alex and his team again; I couldn’t and wouldn’t trust anyone else.

I had my booking in with Louise, the Rainbow Clinic midwife, and met with Alex again. We discussed my care plan, which was effectively the same as last time.

The Rainbow Clinic had progressed so much

However, I was absolutely blown away by how much they had progressed in 2 years. Louise was now effectively my midwife throughout and could also scan me from 28 weeks.

Knowing I could contact Louise by phone or email and be able to see her relatively quickly just made me feel so safe again. It was also nice that all the team remembered us from the last time. I didn’t have to explain in detail the reasons for my anxiety, they simply took care of me.

This time I wanted to try and enjoy my pregnancy. I wanted a birth plan, I wanted to not be anxious and maybe be a 'normal mum-to-be'.

They allowed this, they were with us every step of the way. I was determined not to go to in for the slightest niggle. I completely trusted them and I knew, if I was worried at any point, I could contact them.

My baby's movements had reduced a lot

My baby’s movements, this time, had a pattern that I could predict every day. However, when I got to 36 weeks it changed. The movements had reduced a lot.

I explained this to the team and although my scan appeared normal, they requested I had regular monitoring.

We needed to make sure we had all the necessary information. At just over 37 weeks my fluid was reducing again but not enough to be overly concerned about; growth was still fine but with my history with both Grace and Thea, they wanted to keep an eye on me.

The fluid around my baby was disappearing

I went back 3 days later and Alex reviewed everything. This time, there was hardly any fluid around my baby and he knew it was not worth taking the risk. I was admitted and he arranged for an emergency c-section but said if movements reduced more then baby had to come out that same evening.

I spent an hour on the CTG machine and the midwives agreed that the safest option was for my baby to be born that evening. Things were not improving.

I was prepped and ready to go for 8pm but, due to other emergencies, I didn’t go to theatre until midnight. Our beautiful baby boy, our second and final Rainbow Baby, Connor, was born at 01:12am on November 2.

Ten minutes after he was born, it became apparent something was wrong and they called for the paediatrician.

I hadn’t seen Connor and my husband hadn’t held him and in that moment, all the memories surrounding Grace’s birth came flooding back. I was told he had some mucus and he was struggling to breathe and required assistance. At this point, fear took over since I was told this with Grace.

However, the surgeon who was looking after me could tell I was in distress and she calmly asked for someone to explain what was happening.

She actually said, “I have a very upset 'rainbow' lady on my table who needs to know what it is happening with her baby.”

She made me feel better, acknowledged. I have since learned that the Rainbow Clinic have been working with the theatre staff and you can tell.

Everyone involved was truly amazing.

It turned out that Connor had developed a pneumothorax and he had to stay in NICU for a few days.

The doctor treating him kept coming to see me, to keep me updated. She actually laughed and said he must have someone special looking after him - his chest drain and ventilator were both in by 2:00am but our son had ripped them out by 2:30am. That had Grace's spirit all over it!

I appreciate that this may seem long winded and there’s so so much more I want to say about my time with the Rainbow team but I would be writing a book!

However, to sum up, this team, this clinic, is very much needed.

In 3 years we have seen, first-hand, how much they have grown. Simply put, Thea and Connor would not be here, had it not been for their care, their research, their time and their efforts and for that we will be eternally grateful.

We often now think had this care been available when I was expecting Grace she may have made it. We cannot thank the Rainbow team enough, they are truly wonderful people and so suited to their positions and I have my beautiful Rainbows because of them.

I do hope they continue to receive the support they need to help other families, not only do they help to allow families to bring home their Rainbow babies they can sometimes also offer closure and for families like ours it truly means the world.

Rebecca Coles story submission