I read my green notes [pregnancy notes] from cover to cover a number of times during my first pregnancy.
How naïve I was.
We were so excited about having a baby that we couldn’t wait until our 20 week scan for a gender reveal so we had an early one at 16 weeks – we found out we were having a boy!
My work threw me a baby shower when I reached 36 weeks pregnancy
We started attending NCT classes at about 30 weeks pregnant and when I finished work at 36 weeks they threw me a baby shower.
My pregnancy continued in an uneventful fashion and at 37 weeks (and 1 day) a scan confirmed our baby boy was head down and I was given the sign off for the homebirth I really wanted. We were all organised – we even had the birthing pool ready to go in our kitchen!
On 12 August we got the keys to our (very run down!) dream house. We were so happy and excited for the next few weeks and our impending arrival. Life was good.
Then, on 18th August, at 37 weeks and 2 days I became that 1 in 200.
At 37 weeks and 2 days I started bleeding
After a very heavy bleed and a rush to hospital in an ambulance we were told that our baby didn’t have a heartbeat.
The midwife induced labour, and Archie was stillborn after an 8 hour labour.
In such an awful situation the staff at Macclesfield hospital were completely fabulous. They were compassionate, kind and knowledgeable. The tears in the midwives eyes showed us how hard it was for them too and how much they cared. I will never find a way to truly thank them for their treatment of us.
Horrendous months followed my stillbirth
Several horrendous months followed but I was desperate to have another baby as soon as I could. Not to replace Archie in any way but to have the family we had got so close to having.
I was very fortunate to get pregnant 12 weeks later.
I was elated. And petrified. We got so close last time, what if the same happened again?
What if something different went wrong again?
She asked if we had heard of Professor Heazell
Then my mum received a Christmas card from a friend who is an acupuncturist with a special interest in fertility. She asked if we had heard of Professor Heazell and his work with Tommy’s. We hadn’t but by later that day I knew who he was and about his work, and I knew I would do everything in my power to see him.
I couldn’t believe our luck. Professor Heazell and his team were based in Manchester. I would have travelled anywhere in the country to attend.
Scans terrified me
The Rainbow Clinic, has been set up to look after parents pregnant after a stillbirth and is quite different to any other clinics I have attended. During my pregnancy with Archie scans always felt really exciting, second time round they terrified me! We waited in a very quiet, calm waiting room with very few (if any) other patients in there.
At the Rainbow Clinic there is a large TV at the foot of the bed so that we could see what the scan was showing but we were always given the opportunity to have this turned off.
I always asked Professor Heazell to find a heartbeat before I could bear to look.
Archie’s post mortem and a review by Macclesfield told us what in our hearts we already knew. That nothing could have been done differently that would have saved him. Although we were grateful for that at the time as it meant we didn’t have any anger or upset towards anyone it was hard knowing that they wouldn’t be able to do much more in future pregnancies.
This time we had detailed and thorough scans
We trusted them to do everything in their power to help us have a healthy baby but knowing they were only able to perform the same scans that had been unable to recognise a problem the first time round made us feel very anxious.
The best thing about the Rainbow Clinic (apart from the fabulous staff) were the scans they were able to perform.
The scans are incredibly detailed and thorough. Measurements of Ella’s placenta at 24 weeks were the same as Archie’s had been at 37 weeks.
Facts like that really helped us feel that if things were to start going wrong this time it would be picked up. Mainstream growth scans would have been unlikely to pick that up.
Although my placenta with Archie turned out to be very small we were unaware of this during my pregnancy because he grew well and when he was born at 37 weeks he weighed 7lb 4oz.
It reduced our anxiety so much
When I asked my partner James why he thought attending the rainbow clinic was worthwhile he said ‘to reduce our anxiety’ and that in a nutshell is why it is so helpful. Nothing or no one will eliminate that anxiety completely but having an expert in stillbirth and placenta problems saying everything looked OK is the best anyone could ask for!
Then, on 1 August 2017, all of our dreams came true and our baby girl Ella was brought safely into the world.
We were fortunate to live reasonably close to St Mary’s hospital, the home of the Rainbow Clinic, and in the car it is not a long or arduous journey. Others may not be this lucky or able to attend so easily.
This kind of care needs to be available to more people
There could be so many barriers that mean this just isn’t a possibility for some families. A quick google told me that if I had had to use public transport it would have taken over an hour and a half, each way via a combination of walking (not easy when heavily pregnant), buses and trains.
I’m not sure that I would have felt up to that. Other factors such as poor mental health or lack of finance may also prevent some people being able to access the service.
At mainstream clinics you quite often see a different member of staff and it is hard to explain your story over and over. The very nature of the Rainbow Clinic we made us not people who needed sympathy for losing a baby’, we were just another couple on our journey to becoming a family.
We are so thankful to Tommy's
There are no words to express our gratitude to every single person involved in Ella’s safe arrival and we believe everyone who needs it should have access to that same level of care – no matter where they live. That’s why fundraising for Tommy’s means so much to our family.
The money raised by the Water Babies Splashathon could help fund a new Tommy’s research centre dedicated to ensuring that the quality of care offered by the Manchester Rainbow Clinic is available for every baby, everywhere.
At 24 weeks pregnant, Beth found out that her baby had fetal growth restriction. She was referred to the Placenta Clinic at the Tommy’s Manchester Research Centre at St Mary’s Hospital. After close monitoring and specialist care, baby Isla was born at 31 weeks weighing 2lb 5oz.
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
Anne and Eddie had 3 losses, including one late term termination for medical reasons, before they were referred to the Rainbow Clinic at St Mary’s in Manchester. Their son, Albert, is now 8 months old.
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.
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.
The Lupus in Pregnancy (LIPS) Clinic is part of the Tommy's Research Centre at St Mary's Hospital. This specialist antenatal clinic is for pregnant women with Lupus Spectrum disorders and connective tissue disorders.
The Manchester VELOCITY Clinic is part of the Tommy's Research Centre at St Mary's Hospital. The clinic provides multidisciplinary care for women who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
The Manchester Antenatal Vascular Service (MAViS) is part of the Tommy's Research Centre at St Mary's Hospital. The clinic supports women who have a high risk of hypertension in pregnancy, by monitoring women closely, giving them extra scans and specialist support.
The Rainbow Clinic is part of the Tommy's Research Centre at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester. It provides specialist care for women who have suffered a previous stillbirth or neonatal death.