Annmarie, 31, and Joe, 36, from London, suffered a miscarriage at eight weeks. Annmarie credits the Tommy’s team at St Thomas’ Hospital research centre with saving her life, and that of her daughter, after she was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia at 31 weeks. Abrielle was born six weeks prematurely, she is now nine months old.
Joe and I are both from large families so when I found out I was pregnant in May 2017 I was so excited. It was unexpected but a very happy surprise.
I noticed a little bleeding just before our first booking appointment at around eight weeks. The midwife said if the bleeding wasn’t heavy, I should be okay but suggested a scan at the Early Pregnancy Unit if I was still worried. We went that same day just to be reassured.
I was very anxious, fearing the worst but praying everything would be fine. They did an internal scan but said they couldn’t see an embryo in the sac so I should come back a few weeks later for a development scan. The next day I started to miscarry.
The pain was awful, and the bleeding lasted just over two weeks as I elected to miscarry naturally rather than have an operation. We went back and forth to the hospital as at some points the pain became too much, but I endured it. I guess I slowly wanted to say goodbye to my baby. I’d found out at six weeks that I was pregnant and then, just two weeks later, we lost our baby.
“The physical, mental and psychological pain was unbearable. I started to worry that I’d done something wrong and I started to worry about future pregnancies.”
My biggest question was, ‘would I conceive again?’. I became obsessed with trying to get pregnant. Every month I had a period, I felt so disappointed.
In September 2017 we celebrated our wedding anniversary with a trip to Croatia and I began to relax and come to terms with the fact that I would conceive again when the time was right. When I missed my period in October, I didn’t want to get excited, so I didn’t take a test. I missed it again in November, but it wasn’t until Christmas that my husband insisted I take a test and we found out that I was pregnant.
I called the Doctor the Monday before Christmas, had a midwife assigned on Wednesday and had my first scan on Thursday. It was amazing. I was 12 weeks pregnant and seeing our baby really gave us hope. We were ecstatic as it felt like a second chance.
“I self-referred to the Tommy’s clinic at St Thomas’ Hospital because I wanted the best care and, straight away, I felt safer, more secure.”
It was at my 28-week midwife appointment that a little protein was found in my urine, but my midwife said it was nothing to worry about. Three weeks later at my 31-week appointment we found that my blood pressure had skyrocketed, I now had high levels of protein in my urine and had swollen hands and feet, all signs of pre-eclampsia.
She referred me straight to St Thomas’ and I was crying when I got there, fearing the worst. They admitted me and did a whole set of tests which confirmed I had severe pre-eclampsia. They explained I needed to be admitted for the rest of my pregnancy, as it wouldn’t be safe for me to go home. I just broke down; it was such a shock and I was a nervous wreck from that point onwards.
I spent almost four weeks on bed rest and the hospital became my home. They explained that I was so unwell that I could’ve had a heart attack, a stroke or a seizure. It was terrifying.
So many questions ran through my head, what about my baby shower? What about work? The midwives however brought me back to reality advising me that my life and the life of my baby were the most important thing. Nothing else mattered.
“I was so glad I was being looked after by Tommy’s as the care I received was brilliant. It was a relief knowing I was in the best possible place.”
I was being monitored every three hours, given regular blood pressure medication, daily blood tests and seen by a consultant every day who kept me constantly updated. The plan was to get me as close to 37 weeks as possible and have a natural birth if possible, which I really wanted.
I also had regular growth scans but by mid-May I was told that our baby had stopped growing and that I’d need to give birth within the following week. However, just two days later I was told I’d developed a life-threatening pregnancy complication called HELLP syndrome. My liver and kidneys were deteriorating, my red blood cells were breaking down and I had a low platelet count, so my blood was no longer clotting. They said my baby had to be delivered straight away and natural birth was no longer an option.
“I thank God for the Tommy’s staff who were very clear in explaining to me that if they waited any longer, they could lose me, the baby or both of us. Hearing those words, that it was life or death, was surreal. I was wheeled straight from antenatal to the birth centre for an emergency C-section and, within a couple of hours, my baby was born.”
When I woke up after the operation, I was on the high dependency ward and our daughter was in the special care baby unit. I remember when my husband first wheeled me down to see her, I immediately forgot about any pain I was in and totally focused on her, overwhelmed with love.
She was in hospital for just under four weeks but bringing her home was the best feeling ever. Abrielle is nine months now and is doing brilliantly.
Her birth was traumatic, but I felt confident throughout that every decision being made was the right decision for both of us. The team outlined all the pros and cons, they were professional but very understanding and it gave me the reassurance I needed.
Had I been anywhere but the Tommy’s clinic I don’t think I would have felt that level of confidence. I now hold my baby knowing that, thanks to the Tommy’s staff, I am a mother.
“More women should have access to this type of facility and this level of care. These clinics are vital. They saved our daughter’s life, and mine too.”
After 9 miscarriages and a termination for medical reasons, Ellie decided to take part in a medical research trial. Soon after, her first rainbow baby, Aidan, was born. Two years later, Ellie and her husband Mike decided that it was time to try again. They sadly lost two more babies to miscarriage. Ellie tried again and fell pregnant for the 14th time. She gave birth to her second rainbow baby, Sam, in 2019.
“When people ask if I have any children, I say yes. Because I do. Just because they’re not with me, doesn’t mean I’m not a mother.”
"While I have very limited control over something that matters so much to me, I am determined to control my outlook on life. I want to see what life throws at me and to live it to the fullest. If that means carrying on my amazing life without my own children, then I’ll take it."
When I called the Tommy’s helpline, the midwife was so caring and supportive. In that time of complete numbness and confusion, I needed both kindness and direction. I am so thankful I had access to that.
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