It was always my dream to be a mum, so my husband Neil and I started trying straight after we got married in 2014. It didn’t take long. By Christmas I was 7 weeks pregnant. We were with our parents celebrating, so we told them our news, there was much excitement.
A missed miscarriage
In the January I noticed some bleeding so went to the GP, then on to the hospital. I had an internal scan which showed that, although I was technically pregnant, there was no fetus and no heartbeat.
They said to come back in two weeks, that it may have been too early
The bleeding carried on and I miscarried within the week, it was the most pain I’ve ever experienced, and the emotional agony was horrendous.
This time we passed the 12 week scan
We started trying again and I fell pregnant at the end of February.
After our loss, we tried to think of baby as a dot of cells doing its best.
At my booking appointment, I was referred to a consultant for high BMI and a psychiatrist for my mental health. The midwife feared I wasn’t engaging with the pregnancy, not understanding that I was so scarred from the miscarriage I daren’t hope too much.
At our 12 week scan we saw movement, arms and legs.
It was a great pregnancy and Theodore arrived in the November. We were elated.
I started bleeding 2 weeks after my test and had another miscarriage
We wanted our children close in age, so we started trying again in April 2017. I fell pregnant quickly but started bleeding two weeks after a positive test. I went to the early pregnancy unit (EPU) at the hospital straight away and they picked up a heartbeat. I was 7 weeks pregnant and our baby was alive. I clung to hope.
However, I miscarried later that week, it was less painful physically but, emotionally, harder because I’d seen that heartbeat. There had been life but then it was gone.
I was devastated, but Theodore kept me going.
The next pregnancy was so hard. I felt nauseous and ill
We had decided to relocate from London to Greater Manchester and, in the middle of our move, I found out I was pregnant. This pregnancy was so hard, I felt nauseous and ill. The bleeding started at 10 weeks but a scan showed the baby was okay.
At the 20 week scan I had a feeling that something wasn’t right. I asked the sonographer about some black holes I could see on the screen, he couldn’t say what they were but suggested a specialist scan because he was also concerned about the low levels of amniotic fluid and our baby’s bladder and kidneys looked enlarged.
We were sent to the Fetal Medicine Unit at St Mary’s in Manchester and were seen within the week. As I was scanned, I could see the kidneys looked even bigger.
They took us to a side room and explained there was probably a blockage preventing our baby passing urine, the wall of his bladder was thickened, his kidneys were damaged and he had very little chance of developing lung function because there was also very little amniotic fluid left.
They gently explained our choices, which varied from nothing to ending the pregnancy. The consultant said she believed our baby’s chances were less than 1%. They explained that, should we get to 21.5 weeks, they would have to inject our baby’s heart to end his life.
It was the hardest decision but, both Neil and I agreed quite quickly what we had to do. At our 20 week scan I’d seen our little one yawn, I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was suffering.
It would never feel right to leave my baby behind
I took medication to stop the pregnancy hormones in the evening. By 10.20pm on Valentine’s Day 2018, our son had arrived. We named him Vaughn, which means ‘small’ in Welsh, with Lionel as a second name, which means ‘little lion’.
I was a wreck. He looked just like Theodore. We spent 36 hours with him in hospital before we left, it would never feel right to leave him but the longer we stayed, the harder it would be.
I was utterly heartbroken, crying, numb. We held his funeral on March 15. I felt so empty, physically, mentally. My arms, everything was empty.
Searching for answers
I have no words to explain what that meeting meant to us, he instantly put us at ease, put our minds at rest about so many things.
He explained that Vaughn’s anomaly was a 1 in 8000 occurrence, there was no reason it would happen again. He said that, when I fell pregnant, we could come to the Rainbow Clinic, for parents pregnant again after a stillbirth.
Amazingly, I fell pregnant the next week. We had a scan at six weeks where we saw a heartbeat, then our first appointment with Professor Heazell at 11 weeks. Professor Heazell had suggested daily aspirin and prescribed progesterone pessaries up until 12 weeks.
We also had extra scans and went to the Rainbow Clinic regularly.
I was a complete mess. That kind of support is so needed
I booked to deliver the baby at St Mary’s because it had become familiar, comforting. I was so nervous, a complete mess and my mind raced with anxiety. Professor Heazell, the bereavement midwives, everyone at the clinic were amazing, just an essential support in helping me get through such a difficult time.
Just before Christmas I had a wobble and booked an induction for 38 weeks. The Tommy’s team totally understood how I was feeling. I lost some water at 35 weeks, was admitted but everything was okay. Then at 37 weeks I had a sweep. Another sweep a few days later and my waters broke at 1.45am.
Albert was born at St Mary’s at 3.56am. He’s now 8 months old and we still can’t believe he’s here.I couldn’t have got through my pregnancy without the Rainbow Clinic.
We feel so lucky that we’ve had that support, that reassurance. I can’t believe every family who has been through loss doesn’t get that support because, my word, it’s so needed.
Sharon and her husband Andrew from Manchester lost their son, James, at 29 weeks to stillbirth. Sharon was referred to the Tommy’s Rainbow Clinic with her second pregnancy
Shema and her husband Ian lost their firstborn son, Altair, at 21 weeks. After discovering she had a rare condition, she was supported to full term in her next pregnancy by Professor Alex Heazell and the Tommy’s team at St Mary’s in Manchester.
After Archie was stillborn, little Ella was born thanks to the care of the Tommy’s Rainbow Clinic in Manchester.
Rebecca suffered a neonatal death and 5 miscarriages and before being cared by the Tommy's Rainbow Clinic in her 2 next pregnancies
Clare and Rob suffered the heartbreak of having 5 stillborn babies. Then they had Lyla thanks to the care of the Tommy's Manchester centre Rainbow Clinic.
The Powsney's were in the care of Professor Alex Heazell at the Tommy's Rainbow Clinic after their baby Joshua was stillborn in 2014.
Louise Stephens cares for women who are pregnant after a loss in the Tommy's stillbirth research centre clinics.
Dena and Will's son Leo was born under the care of the Tommy’s Placenta Clinic at St Mary’s Hospital, Manchester.
After Sarah Dobson had a stillborn son, Hamish, she was cared for in her following pregnancy in the Tommy's Rainbow clinic.
Simon and Dawn were devastated to discover their first child Tegan had died of unknown causes when she was 36 weeks pregnant.
Professor Alex Heazell is the Clinical Director of the Tommy's stillbirth research centre in St Mary's Hospital, Manchester.
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