Loss, trauma and joy - our heart-breaking journey to becoming a family

Amy and Louise went through nine rounds of IVF before they welcomed their rainbow baby boy, Atlas. The couple from Leeds had a difficult 4-year journey, experiencing 3 miscarriages. Hearing that they weren’t alone in their struggles to conceive gave them hope when they were ready to give up.

Deciding to get pregnant

We met at work as we’re both children’s nurses. The beginning of our relationship was so exciting – we were travelling a lot and constantly surprising each other. As incredibly happy and bubbly people, our relationship was full of love and silliness.

The start of our relationship was joyous and carefree - we were (and still are) so in love.

We had always discussed children as part of our future. By 2018, we’d been together for three years, and were engaged. It was the obvious next step for us. Being a same-sex couple, we knew we’d have to use some form of assisted conception and self-referred to a fertility clinic. Amy’s sister used IVF and got pregnant first time with no issues, so it sounded fairly easy to us.

We were advised that our best chance of success was IVF so we opted for this route despite it being the most costly, but we really wanted a baby and we wanted to be equally involved. Reciprocal IVF seemed a perfect route. Amy’s egg and Louise’s womb just made sense to us - as Louise was desperate to carry a baby and Amy was not.

Our experience of baby loss

We had very limited awareness of baby loss which embarrasses us now. No one we knew had been open about any form of baby loss, so we were incredibly naive towards it. 

We’ve now experienced three miscarriages and five failed IVF rounds which have always felt like a form of loss as well. Each miscarriage became more traumatic, both physically and mentally.

The first time we just thought we were one of the unlucky 1 in 4. As horrific as it was, we tried to pick ourselves back up quickly. We were heartbroken, it was an early miscarriage but to us it still felt like we’d lost everything. As soon as you find out you’re pregnant you start imagining life with that baby, your whole future changes.

The third loss was particularly difficult, we had seen the baby and their heartbeat twice, and our last scan was unfortunately named a ‘reassurance’ scan by the clinic, as we were both so anxious. This was the scan where we found that our baby’s heartbeat had significantly reduced. Unfortunately, we didn’t feel supported on leaving the clinic, and felt like we only had each other to comfort. We were not at any point signposted in the direction of bereavement support and felt like we were drowning with no chance of surfacing.

During the 7 cycles of IVF we had with Louise, the consultant had carried out numerous different tests and procedures to rule out what might be causing the miscarriages. Initially he put the miscarriages down to issues with the embryos, and so we had another egg collection and sent 10 embryos off for testing. 6 embryos came back as genetically normal which was amazing! Once Louise had a miscarriage with a genetically normal embryo, we then knew it was Louise’s body that was causing the miscarriage. 

After more test and blood work, the consultant had tried everything. There was nothing left to try, and we had to come to the realisation that Louise would never carry a baby.

A beacon of light on the darkest of days

Our hope was dwindling with every failed round and the only thing that really kept us going was the hope of being a family with our precious baby at the end. It felt harder to get out of bed and put on a brave face. Infertility had taken over everything and we were so consumed by it.

Our consultant at the clinic was incredibly supportive and he felt like our beacon of light on the darkest of days. He was also very matter of fact, which is what we needed to hear at the end of round seven, when he told us there was nothing more he could do. Even though he was giving us the worst possible news, his sensitivity and empathy never wavered. Some health professionals weren’t as supportive, and we often felt extremely vulnerable and lonely. When Louise was getting her third baby surgically removed, the doctor performing the procedure didn’t once ask if she was ok.

Getting pregnant again after 3 miscarriages

We realised that IVF and infertility had completely changed our lives and taken control. We were over it and wanted to take that control back.

On the eighth round of IVF, we had two embryos left and decided that Amy should carry the next embryo. We had 2 more tries, and if by round ten it still hadn’t worked, we would look at other options. Round nine ended up being our precious son, Atlas.

We were extremely anxious to find out we were pregnant again. We cried with happiness but also fear. We assumed we would lose this baby too as that’s all we had ever experienced. We didn’t tell our family till much later and didn’t tell friends until we were 30 weeks pregnant.

We felt baby loss had taken away all the excitement of a ‘normal’ pregnancy.

We didn’t want to discuss baby names, as we assumed we would never use one and every scan started with nervous tears assuming we were about to see our baby without a heartbeat. The only time we tried to go baby shopping ended in us both having a huge breakdown as it was all just so overwhelming. We never allowed ourselves to believe it would result in a baby, our brains and trauma wouldn’t let it.

Our rainbow baby boy

Our son Atlas was born in April, and he is everything we could have ever dreamed of and more. We feel our journey has led us to him, and we are so incredibly proud to be his mums. 

Our hearts had been broken for the last four years, our sparks had dimmed, but since his arrival, we’re starting to heal and beginning to see glimpses of our old happy selves returning.

Every baby is so loved but we can’t help but think he’s extra special considering the pain we experienced before him and we’re more over-protective of him as a result. 

We still have those moments where we’re just sitting on the sofa watching telly as a family and we can’t believe we’ve had a baby and he’s here. It feels really surreal.

Our relationship as a couple is now built on the strongest of foundations. We have cried together, grieved together, and smiled together. We couldn’t have survived without each other.

BLAW - Baby Loss Awareness Week

Every year, we purchase a new candle with a donation to Tommy’s and this year, we will light each one, not only for our babies, but for all those others in the world who’ve had the misfortunate of experiencing baby loss.

We've decided to make an Instagram account documenting our journey and tried to break the stigma attached with baby loss and miscarriage. This has given us hope, as we're apart of a huge world of other women, just like us. These girls and their stories have kept us going on our darkest of days.

How Tommy’s helped us

Tommy’s has been an unbelievable support to us and we’ve also signposted people to Tommy’s. We’ve taken so much information from the website and the most invaluable thing we found were other people’s stories that we’d read at our lowest points. It made us feel like we weren’t alone in this torturous world, but also gave us that bit of hope that we’d grip on to very tightly. 

We’ve used a lot of Tommy’s research papers and their website a lot! That’s where we learnt about the use of progesterone injections – so we then took that information back to the clinic and suggested this method. The information has been astoundingly helpful.

If you're struggling during your pregnancy or after your rainbow baby has been born, you can join thousands of other parents on Tommy's | Pregnancy And Parenting After Loss Support Group.