My husband Paul and I got married in 2011 after 7 fabulous years together. We’d seen friends struggle to conceive and knew the journey to parenthood would not necessarily be straightforward, so started trying for a baby straight away. We weren’t in a rush and took a relaxed approach to trying to conceive.
Frustrated and anxious
Two years later, we’d had no luck and both started to feel a little frustrated and anxious. My GP suggested some initial blood tests, but the results came back clear. I was then referred for a laparoscopy - a surgical procedure which involved a small camera being inserted via a small cut in my abdomen. Never having been under general anaesthetic, I felt anxious about the procedure but decided that we’d go ahead with it.
The doctors discovered that my fallopian tubes had some minor blockages but, fortunately, they were able to remove them during the procedure. We hoped that this would do the trick.
Planning for our new future
A few months later, we found out that we were pregnant and were absolutely delighted. It was such a lovely and exciting time for us. We’d waited such a long time for this news and immediately started planning for our future as a family. However, at about 8 weeks gestation, I had a light bleed. I booked in for an early ultrasound scan but felt reassured in the knowledge that light bleeding is common in early pregnancy.
As we were waiting for the scan, we felt a mixture of nerves and excitement. We couldn’t wait to see our baby for the first time, but we were terrified it might be bad news.
As soon as the scan started, it was clear to me that sometime wasn’t right. The sonographer told us that she didn’t think our baby was forming correctly. She said that this could mean we were at earlier gestation than we thought and things might continue to develop normally. However, I knew this wasn't the case as I’d been tracking my cycles so meticulously. Nevertheless, I clung onto the hope that everything might be okay. We were asked to return a week later to see if there had been any progress.
The hardest week of our lives
That was one of the hardest weeks of our lives. Even though we knew that the outcome was not likely to be positive, we couldn’t truly grieve as there was an element of uncertainty.
The follow up scan confirmed our worst fears: there was no heartbeat and no growth. Our pregnancy wasn’t going to progress any further. The midwives were incredibly kind during this difficult time and I was booked in for surgical management.
Paul and I were both devastated. We both know that miscarriage is very common but we did not expect it to happen to us. We found it difficult to grieve; we struggled to mourn the loss of someone we hadn't met. We felt a sense of helplessness.
Happiness after heartbreak
Six months after our miscarriage, we found out that we were pregnant again. Although we were excited, we felt incredibly nervous. We had a scare at 10 weeks as I had a substantial bleed, but fortunately, our baby continued to grow. My pregnancy progressed and, in December 2014, our beautiful baby girl Ava arrived. When she arrived, we were the happiest we had ever been.
We felt helpless
When Ava was 2, we knew we wanted a brother or sister for her. We fell pregnant after 6 months of trying to conceive and were relieved that the process of conception had been more straightforward that last time. Although I was feeling great, I was a little anxious as I wasn’t feeling the experiencing the sickness I’d felt during my pregnancy with Ava. We wanted to make sure everything was okay and requested an early scan at 10 weeks.
Sadly, we found out that we'd had a missed miscarriage; our baby had stopped growing at 5 weeks.
We felt absolutely gutted and totally helpless. We were aware that we were already very lucky to have a healthy daughter but still felt very sad to have lost another baby. We were lucky that we had a fantastic support network; our family and friends were there for us every step of the way.
Over the next couple of months, I became a bit obsessed with becoming pregnant. I felt like it was on my mind all the time and, every month, I would be utterly convinced I was pregnant. I started taking pregnancy tests during every cycle and would be very disappointed when they were negative each month. It was a very difficult time for me. As a couple, we avoided planning to far ahead as we hoped we'd be pregnant again soon. We stopped having things to look forward to, like holidays. It had a huge impact on both of our lives.
We did fall pregnant again only to miscarry at around 6 weeks gestation. This time they thought it could be an ectopic pregnancy due to the pain in my side but after some tests and scans they ruled that out, thankfully.
Searching for answers
Now I’d had 3 miscarriages, I knew that I was eligible for a referral for further testing. Unfortunately, the tests all came back clear and the advice was to just keep on trying. It was our recurrent miscarriage consultant who suggested we visit Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research in Coventry. This specialist clinic is an 8-hour drive from where we live but offers a test that identifies Natural Killer Cells.
We weren’t sure if it would be worth the long journey and felt rather hesitant. However, during this time, we had yet another miscarriage. We felt incredibly frustrated and desperate for answers but we also felt guilty as we were lucky enough to have one beautiful child. We decided enough was enough and it was time to make the long journey to Coventry.
We contacted the centre and were booked in for 2 appointments as we needed 2 different tests. The Tommy's doctors explained that, while we were waiting for our appointment, it was important not to become pregnant. We headed down for the first test and had a meeting with Professor Jan Brosens who listened to our history and was very positive and hopeful that he would able to help us. It was massively reassuring talking to him about miscarriage as he explained that it my miscarriages were not my fault.
With every miscarriage I think I always carried some guilt. I have a very physical job as an equestrian yard owner so I did sometimes wonder if I had taken things a bit easier would the outcome have been different.
Professor Brosens did the test which was a little uncomfortable but fine. We headed off back off to Scotland to await our results. When they came through, they were all clear. I felt quite deflated as it would have been good to know the cause as it could then be fixed. They explained that just because this month was clear. next months might not be - every month the cells in your womb can be different.
In fact, the following months test came back showing there were some killer cells present in my womb. These cells are there to protect a baby in the womb, but if there are too many, they stop heathy implantation and can cause miscarriage. I was prescribed a dose of progesterone to take each month and steroid tablets once I fell pregnant.
A few months later I did fall pregnant and, although the excitement of being pregnant had now turned into a feeling of constant anxiety, we followed our instructions from the clinic religiously. This time everything went according to plan resulting in the birth of our second beautiful daughter Ciara.
Our family is now complete, and we will never stop being grateful to Tommy’s for giving us hope we when we needed in most”
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Annabel is a writer and Bristolian living in South East London with her husband. They've been trying to start a family for 8 years having sadly lost their first baby, conceived through NHS IVF, at 12 weeks. 6 subsequent cycles, 5 miscarriages and 4 years later, Annabel finds herself in what she describes as 'maybehood' – not knowing if she will ever become a mother.
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