#misCOURAGE story by Harriette Thompson,
I am 28 and have had two miscarriages in six months. Yep. Lucky me. I spent a huge majority of 2017 pregnant, with nothing but slight saggy boobs and a broken heart to show for it.
My husband and I got married in August 2016, and decided to start trying for a baby in November that year. I had the Mirena IUD, so I was prepared for it to take a few months before my periods returned to normal, let alone conceiving.
By the March, I had become impatient, and one of the lovely GP’s at my local surgery suggested that I have bloods taken to double check my hormone levels, as I was already starting investigation into my rapid weight gain (2 stone in 2 months!!) despite eating healthily and exercising. That blood test showed that the results were “consistent with ovulation”; whatever that meant. I didn’t ask, and they didn’t tell me.
I must have fallen pregnant within a day or two of those bloods being taken.
I was over the moon, and so was my husband. We had planned on keeping our news a secret until we could provide our families with a scan photo, but a visit from my mother in law ruined that plan as she saw the several empty boxes of pregnancy tests in our bathroom bin! We quickly called a family gathering on Mother’s Day 2017, and announced our news. It turns out that my brother and sister in law had announced their news that morning – my mother in law went into shock at the prospect of having two grandchildren born a week apart.
My first pregnancy was not kind to me; I suffered with Hyperemesis Gravidarum from around 6 weeks pregnant, right up until the end, although I only asked for help at my 16 week Midwife appointment. I lived on a diet of toast and marmite, skittles, and Coca Cola. Not healthy in any way, shape or form, but they were the only things I could keep down. For the most part. Towards the end, I had cravings for sausages, and pineapple, so I did get a few variations in my diet.
Unbeknown to me, my family were incredibly worried about me. I was a permanent shade of grey, and pretty miserable with no energy to do anything. I, however, aside from physically feeling awful, felt over the moon. We had our first scan, at 9 weeks gestation, on my birthday, and got to see our little peanut wiggling around and waving it’s little limb buds. “It’s waving Happy Birthday Mummy”, said the sonographer, which made me cry with a huge rush of love for this little monkey-nut shaped blob growing inside me. From that second, I became a mum, I was obsessed with finding the cutest baby grows, planning exactly how I wanted the nursery, how I wanted to dress my bump, and imagining my future with my husband and our beautiful child.
We had a second scan at 12 weeks, along with all the tests that the NHS offer. Once again, I cried as I saw my baby and marvelled how, in just three weeks, it had developed real fingers and toes, and now looked like a proper baby.
Apart from the sickness, which gradually got worse between weeks 14 and 16, things were progressing perfectly. At my 16 week Midwife appointment, I was diagnosed with moderate dehydration due to my sickness, and prescribed anti-emetics. But I didn’t care, because for the first time, I got to hear my baby’s heartbeat. I would give anything to go back in time and record that beautiful noise, as it was just perfect.
The tablets helped no end, and for the first time in over four months, I was able to eat real food again. I had lost a total of almost two stone in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy, and apart from a very small bump, I was the slimmest I had been for ages. I was starting to feel great, and even started to feel sexy.
The nursery furniture had been purchased, the pram had been safely stored at my in-laws, and I had even stocked up on nappies and baby wipes in the sales. My poor dad and uncle had been enlisted to help paint our spare room so I could start setting up the nursery. Things could not have been more perfect.
From 18 weeks, I had started feeling little flutters and pops, and knew beyond all shadow of a doubt that my little Peanut had grown big enough for me to feel it’s kicks. While listening to the radio one evening, lying on the sofa reading my book, it went crazy when George Michael’s Faith came on; I was slightly perturbed but text my husband saying how hilarious it was. When he got home from work, he kissed my stomach and told our unborn child that there needed to be a serious chat about it’s taste in music. I fell more in love with my husband at that moment, and had an image flash in front of my eyes of our future, our perfect future, and just knew he would be the most incredible daddy to our baby.
On the Thursday 6th July 2017, my husband and I dutifully trundled down to the local hospital for our 20 week scan. I was feeling nervous, as I had convinced myself that I really wanted a girl and would be disappointed if we found out it was a boy. We sat in the waiting room, and I was more nervous than I had been ever before in my life. I have no idea why I was so nervous, but I had wound myself up into such a state, that I felt physically sick. The woman before us had a huge bump, and her and her partner looked excited at finding out the sex of their baby. They quickly got called in, and after 20 minutes emerged with pictures in hand, grinning from ear to ear exclaiming that they were having a boy. It was then our turn, and the minute we got in the room, I informed the sonographer that we were desperate to know the sex of the baby.
Then things went wrong. As she was scanning, I could tell instantly that something was wrong. There was no flicker on the monitor, no excited “there’s your baby”, just silence while she moved the probe across my stomach desperately searching for a sign of life. After what seemed like hours, she turned the screen off, turned to us, and said the words I will never erase from my memory as long as I live: “I’m afraid I’m going to have to end the scan. I’m so sorry, but there is no heartbeat”. I was one day short of 21 weeks pregnant, over the halfway mark.
In that second, my world ended. My hands covered my face and I sobbed. My husband put his head on my shoulder and we cried our hearts out, for how long I couldn’t tell you, it was like time stood still. What happened after this, I’m not entirely sure, I drifted around in a shocked daze, but next thing I know I’m in the car to the main maternity unit in the county, where I had to walk past dozens of women all waiting eagerly for their scans before being ushered in to a private room off the ward.
A very lovely consultant came to see us, and confirmed with another scan that our baby had died, and we would have to artificially induce labour. I was given a tablet to cut the hormone supply off to the placenta, and prepare my body to accept the induction drugs 36 hours later. We were then sent home and told to return two days later.
That evening, my parents and my in-laws gathered together and we joined them for a barbecue and it was nice to be able to act like things were normal, just for a few hours. The Friday, however, was torturous. Sitting on the sofa, staring in to thin air, convincing myself that I could still feel kicks and it was all just a huge mistake.
On the Saturday, after getting zero sleep, we packed an overnight bag, and made the nerve-wracking journey to the hospital, where my private room, specially designed for women like me, was waiting. I was given drugs to induce labour, and at 11.45pm, I delivered my sleeping baby. My husband and I had agreed that we didn’t want to see the baby and that we didn’t want to know what sex it was. The midwife seemed a bit concerned by this, as the majority of women want to hold and dress their babies, and lie with them in the specially designed cold-crib. I wasn’t strong enough for that, and didn’t want to have the image of the baby I would never see grow up imprinted in my mind forever. It was hard enough to come to terms with it all, without seeing how beautiful my child was.
I finally left hospital two days later, after severe blood loss that almost warranted a transfusion, and with the exception of a visit by my community midwife and a courtesy call from the GP to confirm that he was signing me off work for as long as I needed, I was left to my own devices, with only the internet to answer any questions that popped into my head.
I became obsessed with trying to conceive again. My period returned exactly 21 days after my post-partum bleeding subsided and from that second I used Ovulation Predictor tests to see when I was ovulating again, so my husband and I could get to work. When my second period didn’t make an appearance, I took a pregnancy test and was devastated when it came back negative. After I missed two, I arranged a private Gynaecology appointment, as the NHS wouldn’t continue the investigations I was having before I fell pregnant. Within seconds of my appointment, the consultant had looked at my previous blood tests and confirmed that I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), referred me for an ultrasound and prescribed me Metformin to help increase my insulin sensitivity, which should in theory, help me to ovulate.
I fell pregnant within 3 weeks of starting on Metformin, and while this may entirely be coincidence, I felt confident that THIS was the baby I would get to hold in my arms, my rainbow baby. My positive pregnancy test came on the 13th October 2017, just over 3 months after losing my Peanut.
I contacted the community midwife, and it was agreed that I would be seen at 6 weeks, and have an early scan at 7 weeks. Waiting for that scan was incredibly nerve wracking, and I burst into tears the second I walked in to the room. Luckily the sonographer, Sarah, was the kindest woman I think I’ve ever met and explained everything to me in complete laymen’s terms. I had an internal scan, and within seconds she had pointed out the heartbeat of the small jellybean shape that was floating around on screen. My baby had a heartbeat! Even though I tried desperately hard, I sobbed and sobbed, and I’m still not sure whether it was with joy, or relief - probably both.
I had a second scan at 9 weeks, which also went perfectly, and the little limb buds were waving around and starting to look a bit more alien-like than just a blob. Never the less, it was my alien, my Bean, and I started to let myself feel hopeful.
I was concerned from the outset that I had next to no symptoms this time round, especially given the severity of my morning sickness the first time, but I was assured that all pregnancies were different and symptoms were not a reliable indication of a healthy pregnancy.
My husband and I treated ourselves to a long weekend to Rome at the beginning of December when I was just over 10 weeks pregnant, and although I couldn’t drink the wine or eat the cured meats, we had an amazing time, until we got home and I developed the flu. I took the whole week off work and put my feet up and rested. I finally started feeling better on the Friday, and hubby and I decided to hit the late night shopping. I nipped up to the loo before we headed out, and it was then that my worst nightmare was realised… I was bleeding, bright red blood staring me in the face. I screamed for my husband and through hysterical tears I managed to ring the midwife who advised us to go straight to the gynae unit at the hospital.
The doctor at the hospital was less than helpful, and after 5 hours of waiting, we were sent home with a “wait and see” approach. No reassurance and a flat-out refusal of a scan to put our minds at ease, or confirm the worst. Either was preferable to being left in limbo until my next scheduled scan the following Tuesday.
We had a horrendously anxious weekend, completely bed bound in case that could prevent the inevitable from happening… It didn’t.
5.30am Tuesday morning, I was woken up by contractions, the exact same feeling to the ones I had not 5 months previously. My darling husband had concern etched all over his face, and tried to help but in reality, there were just nothing he could do. At around 9.00am I had the overwhelming urge that I needed to sit on the toilet, and as soon as I had sat down, I felt my baby pass and splash into the toilet bowl. The pain almost instantly stopped, and without looking down, I flushed my baby away. That thought still haunts me and I don’t think I will ever stop regretting that decision.
I jumped straight into the shower as there was blood all down my legs, and when I got out of the shower, I left a trail of blood on our cream carpet as I walked to the bedroom to get a clean pair of underwear.
I got my husband to help me dress, and we headed off to the hospital for what was meant to be my 12 week scan. The poor sonographer looked so confused when I told her that there would be no baby to see on the scan, but if she could just check to make sure that there were no retained products I would be grateful.
Despite everything, a tiny part of me still hoped that she would tell me that my baby was there kicking around healthily and it was just all a big mistake. Nope, my uterus was completely empty, and aside from a thickened uterine wall and it being slightly stretched, there was no sign that I had been pregnant.
I was sent home, with just the instructions to take a pregnancy test in 2 weeks to check whether my hormone levels had gone down, and an ultrasound appointment 2 days after Christmas to double check the state of my uterus.
Christmas was torturous – both of my sisters-in-law were pregnant; one due in the March, and one due the day before I was meant to be. Both pregnant with their second child, and both discussing excitedly baby names, and what they needed to buy and how sore their feet were and so on. All the time I was sat there, rushing to the bathroom every half an hour to check that I hadn’t bled through another pad, while my heart was entirely broken and I felt like I’d never be happy again.
Fast forward to mid-February, and I’m slowly feeling more like myself. I have been referred to the Recurrent Miscarriage Clinic, and my first appointment is next week. I have been going to counselling, and have been prescribed anti-depressants for the short term; both of which are helping me get my head in the right space to start trying again. My husband has been a rock throughout all of this, but it has become quickly apparent that people just don’t know how to talk to people who have suffered a miscarriage (or several). But one thing I’ve learnt is that it is OK to not be OK.
One day, we will get our rainbow baby, whether we have to go through IVF, or surrogacy, or even adoption. We will have a child to love and care for; it might just take some time.
Please note that the opinions expressed by users in Tommy’s Book of #misCOURAGE are solely those of the user, who is unlikely to have had medical training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of Tommy’s and are not advice from Tommy's. Reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from a qualified health care provider. We strongly advise readers not to take drugs that are not prescribed by your qualified healthcare provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, midwife or hospital immediately. Read full disclaimer
By Kristen Ballentine (not verified) on 27 Feb 2020 - 21:05
You have been through a remarkable journey of loss. I have been through one two miscarriages and they were both awful. How hard it must have been for you to be around your pregnant sisters at Christmas. I feel your pain. Thank you for sharing your story. I wish there was more that we could learn about why miscarriages happen. They never make any sense to me, even when my doctor says “chromosomal abnormalities,” my heart still tries to understand why we have to go through this pain physically and emotionally. I hope you will have success in the future.
By Ailish (not verified) on 22 Nov 2018 - 19:32
Im so sorry for your losses and i hope and pray you will get your rainbow baby, in fact i know you will. Take care of yourself xx
By Becky Bryant (not verified) on 22 Nov 2018 - 19:27
Hi Harriette. I’ve read your story and had to send you a message which I pray will give you some hope for your rainbow baby.
We had our first healthy baby boy in 2015. I fell pregnant 11 months later and we lost our little girl when I was 27 weeks pregnant and she was stillborn.. the worst day of my life. I then had a miscarriage a few months later when I was 6 weeks pregnant. I then lost a little boy at 17 weeks and had to give birth to him too. I then suffered another miscarriage at 10 weeks in August last year I went to see professor Regan in London at the reaccurant miscarriage clinic and was told I had a septum in my uterus. Nobody can say this is what could have caused me issues because I had Ethan but I had an op to remove the septum in decienber last year and we welcomed our rainbow baby, another little boy, 9
Weeks ago. I just wanted to say don’t give up hope and I know it’s so incredibly hard and I honestly do understand. All the best.