Helen's Brighton Marathon

After we lost Eleanor and I made the decision that I could not try again, I felt a strange mixture of relief but also guilt. My extremely inquisitive gynaecologist finally found I have a hereditary condition called Protein S Deficiency, which can cause recurrent miscarriages. This gave me a fitness focus to start healing body and mind. As well as running and exercise, I also found tattoos were incredibly healing, and I now have one for all my babies
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By Helen, 

I first fell pregnant when I was 26 and my husband was 35. We are both Civil Servants and met at work in London, using our early years together making the most of London-life and travels with work, before moving out to Surrey. Our first pregnancy came out of nowhere, and no sooner had I discovered I was pregnant, I found myself sat in a doctor’s room being told I had mostly likely had a miscarriage. In all honesty, it was a huge shock. Growing up I had heard the very occasional, hushed mention of women who had experienced loss, but coming from what felt like particularly fertile stock, I never for one moment expected anything like that to happen to us. 

It was difficult but we tried to move on and talked about trying again. We couldn’t think about that though, as a few weeks after the miscarriage, I collapsed at home and was taken to hospital by paramedics to have emergency surgery; despite several visits to A&E for severe pain, it had been missed that I’d had an ectopic pregnancy. I started having panic-attacks a few days out of hospital, later being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With long-term counselling and a love of running, I learned to manage these, but realised that it would be a lengthy process to both come to terms with the grief I was feeling and deal with the fact that I nearly died. 

My surgeon had warned us it might take up to 2 years to get pregnant again, and so we made the decision to try again only 4 months after I was out of hospital. Unbelievably I fell pregnant straightaway, and after a few challenges, our beautiful rainbow daughter arrived via an emergency C-section several months later.

A few years later, we decided to start trying again. Throughout everything we have been incredibly lucky to be able to conceive in a matter of months, but just couldn’t make them last. I fell pregnant when our daughter was four, passing the 12-week mark and thinking all was well, however at 16 weeks I lost our little boy, Henry. We moved overseas a month after scattering his ashes, and two years of further pain followed with three early miscarriages, and then finally a pregnancy that looked like it might stick after I endured a cervical stitch. At the crucial check-up the week after this at 14 weeks, my doctor couldn’t find the heartbeat and we found out our daughter Eleanor had died. I knew then that this was over for us as I could never endure this pain again.

All throughout our years of trying, the worst part was not knowing why this was happening. No doctor, midwife or anyone could tell me why this was happening. Unsurprisingly I blamed myself: maybe I had walked too fast or ate too much cheese. Our family and friends were hugely supportive, but when our daughter was 9 months we were posted elsewhere in the UK and then overseas, so our support was dispersed. Luckily, we found great support when posted though, which helped get us through. With both Henry and Eleanor, we had made the decision to tell our daughter we were expecting, which made our losses much harder as she really took them badly and blamed me. Counselling through work was able to help us through this. 

After we lost Eleanor and I made the decision that I could not try again, I felt a strange mixture of relief but also guilt. This was eased somewhat when, still overseas, my extremely inquisitive gynaecologist finally found I have a hereditary condition called Protein S Deficiency, which can cause recurrent miscarriages. I realised that our losses were not my fault, which was a huge moment for me. He also found I was pre-diabetic, which gave me a fitness focus to start healing body and mind. As well as running and exercise, I also found tattoos were incredibly healing, and I now have one for all my babies.

For me, Tommy’s has always been the constant at every obstacle, worry, and loss. I was able to use the extensive information on the website to satisfy my need to understand what was happening, and being able to read other people’s stories helped me understand that it wasn’t just us. I also know how important it has been to my close friends too. 

Having run on/off for many years, I had never ticked off a full marathon. I was delighted to get a place with Tommy’s at Brighton, and with the amazing generosity of family and friends, raised an amazing £1,275. It was a huge step sharing my experiences, but I was privileged to then have so many of my family and friends send me messages about their own stories. As expected, Brighton was amazing. The crowds came out for us, and the Tommy’s team and fellow runners were the best cheerleaders and supporters, and as I crossed the finish line, I was crying with a million emotions. After tea, sandwiches, and a much-needed pep boost in the Tommy’s Tent, I was finally reunited with my amazing support party. Brighton Marathon was so much more than a run for me. It was a way to help me come to terms with my grief; understand the sheer gratitude I feel for having my beautiful daughter; and to be able to help give something back to Tommy’s for the support they have given me over the years.