"No woman should feel isolated and alone during pregnancy"

In this blog, Lucy from Worthing reflects on her experience of stillbirth during a very difficult time in her life, as new Tommy's research shines a light on how social stresses can raise risks.

Lucy with baby Hope

I had a very stressful pregnancy right from the beginning. At the time, I had the Copper IUD and was in a new relationship, so it was a huge surprise when my period was late and I found out that I was pregnant!

Fear, uncertainty and stress

I booked an appointment at my local early pregnancy to have my coil removed. During the procedure, I found out that I had a pregnancy in an unknown location; because I’d had the IUD in before, they weren't sure if it was ectopic. I had to wait 48 hours for blood test results and another scan to confirm that the pregnancy was in the right place.

My boyfriend at the time reacted very badly to the pregnancy and did not want me to go through with it. He didn't come to any of the early hospital scans with me, and let me down last minute before a scan I had at 7 weeks to see if there was a heartbeat. He then broke up with me around that time, so I was also struggling to come to terms with the fact that I was going to be a single mum. 

After we broke up, he constantly would tell me that I was ruining his life and threatened to 'take the baby away as soon as you've finished breastfeeding' - then, seemingly randomly, would have a change of heart and decide he wanted to be supportive and involved. He made comments about the fact that my bump was very small and said that I wasn't looking after myself, when I was actually really stressed and lost my appetite.

This made me feel very unsettled during my pregnancy. I was living in London and still in my probationary period at work, so had to keep the pregnancy a secret from all my colleagues, which was difficult when I felt very sick in the early stages.

Something didn’t feel right

When I was 25 weeks pregnant, I had the best week of my pregnancy as I’d cut him off and stopped contacting him, but then one day I woke up feeling like I wasn’t pregnant anymore. I felt really energetic and it seemed like my bump had shrunk so I left work to go to hospital.

They found a heartbeat quickly but asked me to go back the following day for a growth scan. At the growth scan, which I went to by myself, they found that there was no amniotic fluid and the baby wasn’t moving around. They booked me into another appointment the following day with a consultant, and I brought my mum with me.

After a really detailed scan, they took me and mum into the quiet room to say they’d found that the baby hadn’t really grown since my 20-week scan and was barely moving due to no amniotic fluid. They told me it was very likely my baby would die over the weekend, so offered me a termination for medical reasons - which I turned down; I said that I wanted the baby to make up her mind.

I went back home to Worthing with my mum and contacted the hospital to let them know I might be in over the weekend to deliver a stillborn baby. Then for the next 2 weeks I was in and out of hospital having progress scans to check on the baby to see whether she was alive. It was such a difficult time.

No heartbeat

On 4 July, I had my final growth scan. I had grown quite big and thought I was feeling more movement, which made me hopeful, but couldn’t stop being sick because I was so nervous. As soon as the doctor scanned me, I knew something was wrong because there was no movement on the screen where the heartbeat should be.

I asked if my baby had died, and the doctor solemnly confirmed that she had. It was the most shocking moment of my life. 

The next day I went to the antenatal clinic to have the pill to stop symptoms of pregnancy, then had to wait for 2 days before labour was induced. On 7 July 2018 I gave birth to Hope, with my mum by my side, and my dad came in to see her after. It was the most awful sad moment of my life.

The day after we had a naming ceremony at the hospital with my sister, dad and mum, and then Hope was taken to Chestnut Tree House, a children hospice where we could spend time together and make some memories. We invited the baby’s dad to her funeral, so that I could have closure, and he told me that if I had just had an abortion this wouldn’t have happened; I gave him a few home truths and told him never to contact me ever again.

Searching for answers

In September 2018 we met with a consultant who told us that the stillbirth had happened due to blood clotting in the placenta, and that it shouldn’t happen again. It has taken me a really long time to come to terms with what happened. I still feel so sad that it even happened, particularly because it has made my relationships with friends who are pregnant or who’ve had a baby quite strained at times.

But I have met someone new, someone I’ve known since we were 12 years old and we are just about to celebrate a year together. I am have also qualified as a secondary school French and Spanish teacher and I’m really enjoying my new job. In many ways everything has started to work itself out.

I look forward to the time that I am actually able to hold my baby, alive and healthy. I currently just can’t see that happening and won’t believe it until it does.

I’m sharing my story because I don’t want anyone who is going through what I went through to feel alone. It’s really sad to think that there is a link between stressful situations and stillbirth. I’m so grateful to Tommy’s for funding more research into this area – it really is vital.  

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