On Sunday 8 September, Rachel will be running 13.2 miles at the Great North Run for Tommy’s after she suffered multiple miscarriages before finally having her daughter Emelia. This is her story and #ReasonforRunning.
My husband Anthony and I had been together for around six years (and married for 3) when we decided we would like to start a family. Having children had never really been on the agenda for us up until then. However, while we were both volunteering in Cambodia we started talking about the possibility of having children. We decided to start trying while we were still travelling and by November of that year we were pregnant, only a month after returning to the UK.
"Horrendous is the only word I can use to describe what happened to us."
At 6-8 weeks we suffered a miscarriage. It completely knocked us off our feet. You just don’t consider these things will really happen to you and then they do and it’s horrendous.
We decided to try again. This time it took a whole year to get pregnant. Somewhere between 8-10 weeks we had to go to the early pregnancy unit because of bleeding. Here we took a pregnancy test and found out that we were no longer pregnant, which was just heart-breaking.
Following the second miscarriage and because of my age (then 36), we were then referred from our GP to a specialist to check there was nothing wrong. We were fast-tracked through to a fertility hospital in Leeds. There we went through several tests and discovered that my FS8 hormone was very low which means the quality of my eggs would never be enough to carry a child. This explained why it had taken so long to get pregnant and why each pregnancy had ended in loss.
The only option open to us was IVF. We didn’t start it straight away, we needed some time to think it over and regain our strength. You only get one cycle through the NHS in Leeds and we wanted to make the most of it and be as ready for it as we could. We started IVF treatment some six months later and amazingly it worked first time!
We managed to conceive twins from two embryos. But at our 12 week scan we devastatingly found out that we had lost one of the babies’. During the scan the nurse said suddenly, “I need to get a doctor,” we were escorted to a waiting room and waited for the doctor who came in and told us that we had lost one of the babies. We had come to terms with the twin pregnancy by this point and were really excited and had been looking at cots, potential changes to the house and we’d nearly bought a double buggy that week. Sometimes I feel like it would have been better if I had never known about the 2nd baby but this is where the IVF process is so tough – we saw two heart-beats from six weeks. Once you’ve seen that (once and then again and again due to the regular scans), you can’t forget it. But it could have been a lot worse. We could have lost both.
But we didn’t. Emelia was born on 31 Aug 2014 and is a wonderful little girl, happy and living life to the full. It took us some 4 years to have a child but at long last we had been gifted our baby. The fact that the IVF had worked first time was a real surprise to everyone, including us. IVF is amazing but brutal at the same time, the whole process is so cut and dry. I still have two scan images showing the two embryos, they are the most precious things to me.
About a year after I had Emelia, I really started to struggle mentally. All the losses seemed to suddenly overwhelm me, and I started to find it hard to cope. I called the clinic and asked if there was anyone I could speak to about what I was going through, not once did anyone mention Tommy’s to me. I don’t believe the hospital really understood what I was saying to them – because after all, from their perspective, I was one of their success stories.
"I am really disappointed that when I was really struggling no one pointed me towards Tommy’s. They have a huge amount of fantastic support materials like their website, helpline, Facebook support group that would have really helped me deal with what I was going through."
That’s partly why I want to take on the Great North Run and fundraise for Tommy’s. These clinics need to know that Tommy’s exist, so people like me can get the support they need!
I only came across Tommy’s through the Great North Run. Anthony and I entered the ballot together but only Anthony got a place. I was still adamant I wanted to do it so started looking at charity places. When I came across Tommy’s and started to read about their mission I knew immediately I had to run for them. Everything they stand for resonates with me and my husband and what we had been through. I applied for a place straight away and was welcomed into the team.
Running the Great North Run for Tommy’s means so much to me after what my husband and I went through. But it’s so much more than that. When I started fundraising and said I was running for Tommy’s, I started to get friends telling me about their experiences of baby loss, people who had miscarriages, people who had suffered stillbirths and couples who had also experienced many, many years of pain and loss whilst trying for a family. After hearing all these stories, I realised that I will be running not just for myself and my family but for all those who have suffered the tragedy of baby loss.
Tommy’s is doing ground-breaking research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth and offer a fantastic support network that I wish I had known about when I was struggling. I am privileged to be part of that. I know the money I raise will go towards helping others avoid what I have been through and that will make every mile I run worth it.
Our beautiful baby girl was so perfect, I looked at her little face and waited for her to cry to prove that they were wrong, but she couldn’t.
'No one expects this to happen to them and no one can tell you how you’re meant to act. My pregnancy and birthing plan had disappeared over night and I had two sick babies who I was unable to care for. I felt totally alone with my own feelings and felt I had nowhere to turn.'
1 in every 225 births ends in a stillbirth in the UK. That's 9 babies every day.
A preterm birth is one that happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Globally, more than 1 in 10 pregnancies will end in preterm birth.
Statistics about early miscarriage, late miscarriage, recurrent miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy.