For the first time, the screen was turned towards me. I could see my baby's heart frantically pounding

by Elizabeth Martin

Only when she read my history did the sonographer realise the significance of this scan, and why I was so emotional.

Heartbreaking stories. Devastating stories. The miscarriage story needs to change. That's why we've created Tommy's book of #misCOURAGE. Read this story now and help spread the word that miscarriage can no longer be ignored. Help us change the story to save babies' lives.

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May 2016

I have been pregnant 4 times and I have lost 3 babies. I don't remember dates. I struggle to remember the years in which they happened. I do however remember the pain, the grief, the agony and heartbreak that I felt. I remember the lack of compassion I felt from healthcare professionals. I remember the things people said to me. I remember feeling alone. I remember feeling like a failure.

In 2010 my (now) husband and I decided to try for a baby. We'd only been together a few months but we knew this was the right step for us. I was 21, he was 23 and we weren't trying for long before we found out that we were expecting. We were overjoyed and were already discussing what sex we'd love the baby to be, the names we would choose etc. 

Then 6 weeks arrived and I was bleeding. We called our local midwifery team who just told me to monitor the bleeding. We knew something wasn't right so we went to our GP who sent us to the hospital for blood tests and scans and they confirmed that I was miscarrying naturally.

I remember a terribly shaky male doctor having to break this news to a sobbing 21 year old girl whose dreams had just been shattered. I remember a few words that he said - 'sorry', 'unfortunate', 'we can't say why'. And with that, we went home. No answers, no ongoing support. 

Family and friends said the usual 'it wasn't meant to be', 'at 6 weeks it's not really a baby', 'these things happen for a reason', 'it'll happen when the time is right' 

It was a baby, it was our baby. 1 week, 6 weeks or 40 weeks, that was our baby and the time was right or we wouldn't have started to try for a baby!

I was hurt and angered by these comments but I just carried on. I didn't have the mental or emotional strength to defend myself and my baby. I didn't have the knowledge and maturity that I do now. 

After grieving and trying to come to terms with what had happened, we decided we would try again. Being pregnant was constantly in my thoughts. I would take ovulation tests and was devastated each month that I had a negative pregnancy test. It felt like there were pregnant women everywhere I turned. I was obsessed. 

This time it was 2013, we'd married in December 2012 and found out we were pregnant just a few weeks after our wedding. Our honeymoon was booked for early February to Egypt so we went to our doctor to ask if I would be safe to travel as we were so scared of miscarriage again. He advised us that everything would be fine, that it's the best time for a holiday as I'd need the rest. We excitedly packed for our first 'family' holiday. Husband, wife and baby in my tummy. 

While we were away, 6 weeks arrived and I was bleeding. Just like my previous pregnancy. 

I knew instantly that we had lost this baby too. I was in Egypt with no doctor, no family for support. Just me and my scared husband.
My sister was my lifeline. I managed to get some wifi and message her daily explaining my symptoms and, even though I knew it was a miscarriage, she helped me through the rest of the holiday with some hope that it might not be. 
The flight home was horrific. I was tired, emotionally drained, bleeding and in pain. I had cramps the entire time. I was so glad my honeymoon was over. So glad to be home where I could know if this baby was safe or not. That is not how my honeymoon should have been. It was over before it began.

As soon as we landed, we called the out of hours doctors and were directed straight to hospital. The same again, blood tests, scans. 
This time I was sent home but with an appointment to return for more bloods to see if my hormone levels were decreasing sufficiently enough for me to require no medical intervention. 

I remember calling my mum and we both just cried down the phone. I was so scared of a second miscarriage that I hadn't even told her I was pregnant again. 

I returned to hospital for my tests and I was examined and had my bloods taken. I was directed to a long, cold corridor with hard, uncomfortable chairs where I had to wait alone. 2 hours passed and I was still there. Nurses walked by and said nothing. Ladies came in for appointments and left again. This continued for 8 long, lonely hours. The nurses eventually realised they hadn't even sent my bloods down to be checked. No apology, no offer of a drink or food. Nothing.  that day had finally shown me some compassion. A complete stranger could see I needed help more than a medical professional. One kind man and lady who had arrived for an appointment asked me if I was okay, how long had I been waiting and when I said over 8 hours, they spoke to a nurse for me to say that this was unacceptable. I broke down into tears. Someone that day had finally shown me some compassion. A complete stranger could see I needed help more than a medical professional. 

It was another miscarriage.

Family and friends said the same things as before, only this time there was the added 'third time lucky' and 'it'll happen when the time is right'. But for us, the time was right. We wanted that baby. And the first one too. Instead we just had loss and and empty places in our hearts. We struggled through, somehow. I remember sobbing daily, thinking 'why me?' The second miscarriage was harder than the first as there were more tests, my body wasn't miscarrying as 'efficiently' as it should have been so it was a more drawn out process, but I required no intervention. My overriding thought was that my body was really quite good at expelling pregnancies. At least it was good at something. 

Looking back, I remember how inconsiderate all of the waiting rooms for the tests and scans were. I had to sit in a waiting room with other parents going in for their 12 week or 20 week scans, leaving the room with huge smiles on their faces. I had to fight back the tears as I watched ladies with beautiful bumps walking by, families looking at the first glimpse of their new baby. I was never offered a side room or a different ward. Never offered privacy or solace. 

I had the coil fitted after the second miscarriage. I was angry. I didn't want the risk of any more 'failed' pregnancies. I still had no answers, I was still grieving my first baby. I gave up on the idea of having a family. I gave up on my dream. 

That same year, my sister had her first born. It had taken her quite a few months to fall pregnant but she had a successful pregnancy first time round. Seeing her body growing this baby gave me a plethora of emotions. I was overjoyed and elated that she was having a baby, my nephew. She looked amazing. I was also jealous, envious, angry. That should have been me. Why wasn't it me? Why could she have a baby so easily when I had failed twice? I struggled to feel sympathy when she had morning sickness or aches and pains. All I could think was 'be grateful your baby is alive'. I forgot she was entitled to this pregnancy, she was entitled to feel poorly or to tell me she had pains. I was just too overwhelmed with my own grief to be as supportive as I should have been. 

I was with her for the birth of my nephew and was so so happy when he was safely delivered, however in the minutes after she had given birth, all I could feel was resentment. Why wasn't it me having a baby? Why was I having to support someone else through pregnancy and labour when I should be sat there with 2 babies of my own by now? 

I remember my dad walking in to meet his first grandchild and feeling like I was meant to be the one to give him his first grandchild. I'd been pregnant twice already and failed to provide him with something that my sister had now managed to do. I saw the love in his eyes and it broke me. I had nothing to show him. No baby. No new life. Nothing. He saw the emotions on my face and hugged me tight and simply said 'your turn next'. That gave me more hope and I started to come round to the idea of trying again. 

We decided we would try again and I fell in pregnant easily once more! This time we were terrified. I was having some pains but no bleeding so I thought maybe this was it. Maybe we would finally have our long awaited family. We went through the motions, knowing that the dreaded 6 week date was looming. 

Our wonderful GP managed to get us an early scan. Would this be it? Would my dads comments come true? I prayed for good news 

During this time, my sister discovered that she was also pregnant again, with her second baby. I remember when she told me, she messaged me so that I didn't have to react in front of her. She knew I'd be emotional about the fact that I had no living babies but that she had one already and another on the way. She was thoughtful and considerate of my feelings. I was rude in return. 

My initial reaction was overwhelming joy however this very quickly turned into negative thoughts. I was annoyed that we would be pregnant at the same time, that our babies would be so close in age. I hated that we'd always be compared to one another. I hated that I couldn't have something that was my own. I wanted to be pregnant on my own. I deserved that didn't I? 

Given my history, I shouldn't have felt that way. I should have been grateful that I was pregnant at all. I should have been excited that I had someone to share this incredible experience with but I was still grieving and still angry about my previous losses. My mind was blurred and I couldn't control my emotions and thoughts. I was being selfish. 

The time came for my 6 week scan arrived. Dad was wrong. 

My pregnancy was not in the right place. I was told 'it would be a viable pregnancy if it were in the right place'. My baby was growing in my Fallopian tube. That is why I was having pains. My baby was growing, was alive, only I couldn't keep it. Couldn't birth it, couldn't hold it. My pregnancy was ectopic. A Laparoscopy was my only option. They would monitor my pain and remove either the pregnancy or the entire Fallopian tube, which would lower my chances of conceiving naturally to 60-70%. How much more pain would I have to endure?

My world stopped right there. I would never have a baby. I signed the forms that would end this pregnancy. I signed away my family 

They operated and had to remove my tube, it was badly scarred - most likely from the previous miscarriages. I stayed in hospital for a few days and returned home. I was in agony and could barely sit up let alone walk. Again, I was given no answers. I was told my losses would not be investigated because they weren't 3 miscarriages in a row. They were 2 miscarriages and 1 successful pregnancy that was, in the words of the unsympathetic midwife, 'just in the wrong place'. If I'd have had 3 successive miscarriages, they'd have looked into things further. To me, the terminology was irrelevant. I had lost 3 babies regardless of how the consultant and midwife worded it. 

After my operation was the first time I felt true compassion from people. None of this 'it wasn't meant to be' nonsense. I think that people seeing me physically in pain made them realise I needed them. You can't see a persons pain with miscarriage. You just get told 'I miscarried'. 

My sister was incredible. She understood that I was not in a good mental state. She didn't discuss her pregnancy much with me, didn't make me feel uncomfortable at any stage. I have a lot of regrets about that stage in our relationship as sisters. I did not support her as I could have done. I didn't offer her a baby shower, I struggled to be near her even. Again I felt like a failure. I'd failed myself, my husband, my family. My emotions had failed to let me support my sister. 

Along came January 2015 and my sister gave birth to another beautiful boy. My emotions had settled somewhat by now. I'd given up all together on thinking of having a baby. I was convinced I'd never fall pregnant with only one Fallopian tube and so I focused on becoming healthier and happier. My relationships were bring repaired. Life was getting better. Then something about me felt 'off'. I couldn't put my finger on it. I hadn't realised that my period was late by 2 days.

I thought I might as well do a test, it'll be negative but it'll rule it out

I took the test and watched the words 'pregnant 2-3 weeks' appear before my eyes. I couldn't believe it. I broke down into tears and couldn't wait for my husband to come home. I felt less fearful this time and more calm for some reason. I can't say why, but perhaps I subconsciously knew that this was it. This pregnancy would be successful. 

Throughout our 6 year fight for a family, my husband has dealt with an extremely emotional woman. He has held me through the tears, stood by me through the scans and the operation. Discussed adoption and fostering. Accepted when I gave up trying for a baby. Anything to help me. He has supported me all while trying to deal with these same fears as I have. I could always see his hurt and pain. 

I gave my husband the good news when he got home and we cried together before heading to my sisters house to tell her, where we all cried some more!

I wanted to book us in for an early scan but the dreaded 6 weeks mark was on the day of the holiday in Cyprus! We knew there was nothing we could do other than hope that I had no pains or bleeding whilst out there. I had a continuous undertone of fear and sadness that at any minute, I could start to bleed and lose my fourth baby. 

As soon as we arrived home, my GP got us a scan. We were 8 weeks by now and I was shaking as we walked into the room where our fate would be revealed. For the first time, the screen was turned towards me and I could see my baby's heart frantically pounding.

I hadn't seen any of my other scans. I hadn't seen any of my other babies. I sobbed and for the first time in a long time I was happy and felt whole again

Only when she read my history did the sonographer realise the significance of this scan and why I was so emotional. She booked us for our 12 week scan and baby was still thriving. We had another at 20 weeks and we could see her blowing bubbles, yawning, moving about. We did a balloon gender reveal 2 days after the 20 week scan to discover we were having a girl! My dreams were finally becoming reality. 

I didn't (and still don't) know if I will be mentally or emotionally strong enough to try for another baby, so I fulfilled my dream of having a home birth and, at 40+4 weeks, we welcomed Matilda into our lives in January of this year. I had a wonderful labour. Quick and powerful. I only had gas and air. I feel like I didn't fail. Finally I didn't fail. 

We looked up the meaning of Matilda's name after we had chosen it - strength in battle. I feel like this is so fitting. Through my battle to have a family, she was the strong one who survived, who completed our family. She rolled over for the first time half way through writing this story and I look at her happy little face and know that I will give this precious little baby my everything. She will be loved beyond belief and she will know of her brothers and sisters before her. She will know how hard we fought to have her in our lives and she will know how she healed me. She made me and my husband whole again. 

I will never have an answer as to why my previous 3 pregnancies turned to losses and I think about them regularly and still cry, but I can take comfort in knowing I now have my wonderful rainbow baby to hold in my arms.

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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

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