Tommy's guest blog, 05/09/2017, by Collette
Dedicated to my Beautiful Rainbow Baby; Mitzi Dolly
In August 2015 my world was my oyster, I was the happiest 29 year old and on the 15th August married the man of my dreams, life didn’t seems like it could get any better. How wrong I was!
I always knew I wanted children from a young age, I would dream of it, in fact I once went to the doctors at 18 years of age as I was convinced my ovaries weren’t working correctly and the thought of not having children was such a fear the doctor referred me for an ultra sound where they found nothing wrong. I was so relieved and didn’t think I had any reason to not be able to become a parent when I was ready. Ironically I spent most of my life trying to avoid getting pregnant, taking my pill religiously, how naively I thought that you just had unprotected sex once and that was it; I had no idea of the traumatic experience that my life’s journey had in store! I am a traditionalist and wanted everything to be perfect before I embarked on my journey as mother. I wanted the education, to ensure I could have a job that would provide me with enough money to support a child, I saved every penny to buy a house in order to be able to provide a roof over my baby’s head and finally a marriage to ensure we all shared the same name and the cohesion and stability a family unit could bring my family.
So after the 15th August, life got even better when my husband and I decided to embark on the journey to become parents, I finished my last pill exactly on the 15th August (to me this was like a sign rather than a coincidence) and then on Saturday October 10th I found out I was pregnant!
Lee and I were ecstatic, we couldn’t believe how blessed we were. “How easy was that” we both thought and our journey towards becoming parents had begun!
We told our parents and a few close friends. I was a healthy 29 year old, who exercised regularly, ate healthily, the correct weight, didn’t smoke, never taken drugs and researched what you could and couldn’t do/eat when pregnant so didn’t even consider miscarriage being a possibility. A lot of Lee’s friends had or were pregnant and none of them has miscarried so it wasn’t even a thought in our minds, it wouldn’t happen to us… but how wrong we were to be.
As the pregnancy went on, I started to think things weren’t right, I had this underlying feeling things weren’t how they were meant to be; but lots of people dismissed me and just said “you’re a natural worrier everything will be fine”, “think positive and positive things will come” and “I had lots of niggling pains when I was pregnant, its normal”; so when on Sunday evening of 1st Nov I found some blood I was absolutely petrified and distraught! I went into an absolute melt down, googling and looking at every pregnancy forum possible but nothing would ease my worry.
Again, family and close friends told me “spotting can be normal, don’t worry, and just keep going”. So on the Monday morning, I took their advice and carried on, however throughout the day the bleeding got worse and worse. I decided to phone the local Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU) and they arranged for a scan the next morning.
I will never forget that day, I was so scared and the wait for my scan seemed like days. I hadn’t slept the night before as I had been worrying so much but still didn’t want to believe this could be happening to me.
We finally had our scan and saw our beautiful angel with a heartbeat! Words cannot describe that moment and how relieved we were, everything was going to be ok surely! But no, it wasn’t; my bleeding continued accompanied by lots of pain and then on Friday 6th November at approximately 23:00, at 8 weeks and 2 days we lost our beautiful baby. I will never forget the feeling I felt when I finally passed my angel, it is a memory and feeling that will stay with me forever.
My world ended at that movement and a part of me had died that day also. I was a broken lady.
Not knowing what to do, my parents rushed my husband and I back to the hospital and we went to the EPU; we thought there might be someone there to help us. I was in pain with blood dripping from me; but there was nothing, no one. Our only option was A&E. I can’t really remember much about that night as I think I went into shock but just remember sitting in the waiting room and then being taken to a room with a bed which I lay on for what seemed like an eternity. I had bouts of uncontrollable tears followed by nothing, just staring at the white wall. I asked my husband if it was over, he replied yes with tears in his eyes, but I refused to believe him, I needed to hear it from a member of the medical staff.
Finally at 2am, a nurse came into the room and confirmed the fact I had miscarried and they were sorry but there was nothing they could do. I remember them saying “please try not to worry, your chances of having a successful pregnancy next time is very high”! As if this was to appease the pain, hurt and angry I was feeling; like this was to help me just forget the baby I had just lost; like this commonality was meant to make me feel any better, because it was OK, I was just like one in four women, I am not alone!!!
Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. It was like a nightmare that never stopped. I would wake up every day and for a spilt second think I was still pregnant and then realise no, this wasn’t a nightmare, this was real life, this was happening to me. I had to try and get on with life whilst trying to grieve for my angel and everyday was an uphill struggle.
As time went on I was getting more and more depressed. I had no desire to do anything and anything I did do was coupled by constant thoughts of my baby and getting pregnant again.
Although I had a good network of friends and family I've never felt so alone, no one truly understood what I was going through. I felt like every day I was trying just to get through each day, not living just surviving. My Doctor referred me for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and although this helped my anxiety slightly, nothing seemed to be able to shift the grief and sadness I had.
I had friends and family giving me advice that I wanted to scream at (and a few times I did). Advice from people who a) hadn’t even tried for a baby yet, or b) hadn’t ever had a miscarriage. I even paid to see a private counsellor and although that helped me for that moment in time as soon as I came out of the room I was back to having to try and face life, face each day. I had friends telling me to “be more positive”. One friend told me “You need to get yourself out of this otherwise you will end up in a mental home, you need to let go”, another proceeded to tell me “as much as you would love a child that might have disability, this is for the best” many said “Just relax and it will happen again” and “It just wasn’t meant to be” or “it could be worse!” – For me this was the worst, it couldn’t get any worse, as if any of this advice was going to help me; it wasn’t going to bring back our baby!
I was at breaking point I was filled with so many questions; why me, will I get pregnant again, will I ever be a parent but also feelings of worry, anxiety, emptiness, angry, envy, and bitter sadness.
I couldn’t be around babies or pregnant women; and although I was told by my GP and counsellor this is very common and it’s not just me that experience this problem; it didn’t help, I felt like I was going mental. I was so envious of every lady who was pregnant and every person with a child. I felt like a failure as they could have a successful pregnancy but I couldn’t. I had my husband’s friends announcing the birth of their babies publically on Facebook and WhatsApp. I had people asking me now that I am newly married will I be starting a family soon. I wanted to punch them, if only they knew what journey I was on and how much I wanted a family. I was surrounded and couldn’t get away from it. A lot of people told me I was being selfish and that I just needed to put my thoughts aside and running away from situation where pregnant people or babies were wasn’t normal; but I couldn’t cope, it just felt like a kick in the teeth, a reminder of my loss and a reminder of what I know longer had.
My relationship with everyone was under strain. I argued with my Parents, fell out with my brother and his wife, I couldn’t bear to speak to my family-in-laws and more devastatingly my relationship with my husband Lee was being tested to the limited. A newlywed couple on the verge of divorce. We were dealing with this so differently we couldn’t help each other, we had no strength to help one and other.
My only hope and the thing that kept me going was my desire to be a mum, I knew that the only thing that could help me with my pain and sadness was to get pregnant again. This experience was also horrific; it was stressful, caused arguments, and was more like a business transaction than anything out of love. However I couldn’t stop until I was pregnant again. It took over my life, every thought became about conception, pregnancy and babies. I spent money on books, vitamins, devices… anything that might help me conceive again. I have no idea how I got through life and held a job down, let alone a relationship. It was the worst time of my life; I wouldn’t wish miscarriage on my worst enemy.
I finally got pregnant again and on the 27th March took a pregnancy test.
My emotions where mixed; ecstatic as I finally thought this nightmare was over, but so scared that a miscarriage could happen again. I booked an appointment with my Doctor on the 8th April to tell her I was pregnant again, she suggested measuring my HCG levels which should double within a 48 hour period. I was booked in for blood to be taken on the 12th April and then again on the 15th April. I also booked a private scan for 19th April as I knew there was no way I could wait until the 12 week scan on the NHS. The days between each blood test and waiting to get my results on the 18th April (not helped by the fact that I had to wait longer due to the 16th and 17th being over a weekend) seemed like a lifetime. I literally couldn’t sleep all weekend and was desperate for 8am to come along on Monday 18th so I could phone the doctor for my results. 8am came and I was straight on the phone to the doctor, but the results were not as we had hoped for. My HCG levels had increased but not by enough. The doctor told me not to panic and wait for the scan tomorrow; but I just knew, the sense of doom returned. I didn’t sleep at all that night and on the way to the private scan felt physically sick. Deep down I knew what the outcome would be but a small part of me wanted to hold onto the hope that this time it would be ok!
Then the words that no person wants or deserves to hear “I am so sorry but we can’t find a heartbeat”…… The light at the end of this truly dark and lonely tunnel didn’t come, the nightmare just continued.
I had to wait a week for a rescan to confirm there was definitely no heartbeat. I remember in this time feeling such a mix of emotions. Most of me knew the baby had died but then I had people like my mum and husband telling me to hold onto the hope. I wanted to start grieving but couldn’t as a tiny part of me wanted to believe in a week’s time a heartbeat would be found! – But it wasn’t and on 26th April 2016 it was confirmed that I had had a missed miscarriage. The nightmare began again. This time, although I knew what journey I was going to have to embark on I didn’t know how I was going to get through it a second time round; again being left with nothing. I just didn’t understand why this is happening to me again and why I couldn’t be like most women and just have a child. As I didn’t bleed this time or have any signs of passing naturally on the 28th April, I had to undergo medical intervention to remove my second angel baby. Another day I will never forget.
Shortly after my second miscarriage, my Godmother rang me to say she has seen some information during a breakfast morning TV show about the research Tommy’s charity was doing around miscarriages.
I felt that the fact the information about Tommy’s has come to me at this time of need must have been a sign! - My quest to be referred and seen by the Tommy’s Research Team began!
As well as referring me for another round of high intensity CBT, my Doctor also referred me to Professor Quenby at the Tommys research centre at the University Hospital of Coventry, I couldn’t believe how quickly I received a letter inviting me to an appointment to be seen by Professor Quenby. I remember the days leading up to my appointment feeling such a sense of excitement but also extreme anxiety; excitement that I was finally seeing someone who could potentially make my dreams come true or at least tell me what was wrong with me or that is was going to be OK; but extreme anxiousness that she might tell me I was never going to be able to have children, a fear that in my head was such a vivid possibility.
Professor Quenby is a truly wonderful person, so knowledgeable, upbeat, friendly and positive! In fact, her extrovert nature had such a calming effect on me; for the first time I walked away from an appointment believing I would have a child soon!
I was so excited, I felt so positive. I just knew her and her team were going to be there for me every step of the way. She had no doubt in her mind that I wouldn’t get a child and categorically told me “you will get a baby and I won’t let you leave my care until you do”. I was also introduced to Natalie, Debbie and Lindsey the midwives in Professor Quenby’s Team. They were also such amazing ladies.
They took the time to listen to my fears, worries and thoughts and explained to me they were all normal for someone that had experienced what I had been through. I felt understood, really understood and that everything I was feeling and thinking was perfectly OK.
These three ladies quickly became an imperative support network for me, a group of people that understood my grief and I could contact at any time and talk things through.
I was told about the two trials that I could participate in; one being Alife2 which was a trial to do with having a certain blood type, which I didn’t qualify for as my blood results came back normal and the other study, being the SiM trial, which I did end up being part of. The trial involved recruiting women into a pilot randomised control trial, to find out whether endometrial scratch prevents miscarriages.
On September 18th 2016, my 30th Birthday, the second month after the scratch procedure I decided to take a pregnancy test which came back positive! I again had mixed emotions, pure delight but also fear, however this time there was a small part of me that felt positive about this one. It was like because I had the help and support of professor Quenby and her team, I felt positive that this would be my time; three times lucky!
I can’t fault the care I had through this pregnancy from both the team at Tommy’s and also my GP. Without them I don’t think I would have coped.
The bi-weekly visits and scans that I was able to have from the Tommy’s centre in the first trimester were invaluable for my sanity. I couldn’t believe I had made the 12 week mark and everything was looking good. At 12 weeks I was transferred over to my local hospital, The Rosie at Addenbrookes Cambridge and again, the care I had there through an obstetrician and mental health midwife was also imperative in helping me get through the pregnancy.
Then early this year, on the morning of on Tuesday 16th May 2017 I gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl. We chose the name Mitzi Dolly as Mitzi means “wished-for child” and Dolly being “gift of God”; the name just seemed perfect for us.
I am forever grateful for everything the Tommy’s team have done for me and the organisation and people will always hold a special place in my heart – Thank You just doesn’t seem enough! To me these ladies living angels. Without the amazing work and research they conduct and dedicate their time to, little Mitzi might not have made it into this world.
I’ve always know how lucky we are to have an NHS, but through this experience I am in awe of the health care professionals we have within this public sector organisation. Every single person my husband and I encountered along this final journey has gone above and beyond what we expected. We are truly grateful for everything they have done for us. Mitzi was defiantly worth the wait! She is the most perfect little baby girl we could ever have wanted or hoped for and I am so happy to be able to turn the page on the last 18 months of our lives and begin a new, exciting chapter as a family.
Lewis writes about his journey and why he chooses to run for #TeamTommys.
There are times when it all feels like too much, but at those times I think of my daughter, who was such a fighter, and suddenly everything seems more manageable again.
"I truly feel without the support of the EPU and the peace of mind given to us through the Tommy's study we would not be where we are today."
Little Anderson was born under the care of the Tommy's Early Miscarriage Research Centre at London Imperial.