Having had my 30th birthday celebrations and hen do all in the same week, back in February 2018, I would say that things were going well. I met my husband Ian through mutual friends 10 years before and we’d done all the usual things you imagine young couples do before settling down: going on holidays, getting a dog (well, 2, actually) and buying our forever home.
Growing our family
Living in East Manchester, where the rain is a regular occurrence, we took a hot sunny holiday in Greece that summer – and that’s where we decided we were ready to start trying for a baby. By some miracle, a month later, I was staring in disbelief and amazement at those two little lines confirming I was pregnant.
At this point in time, I was naïve to baby loss of any kind, and thought that if I made it to 12 weeks then I’d be fine. Throughout my pregnancy, I trundled along without a worry, as I was told at each appointment that I was low-risk and everything was going well so that was enough to put my mind at ease. I couldn’t wait for the end of April when our daughter, Rosie, was due.
At 39 weeks and 4 days pregnant, I felt reduced baby movements, so went to hospital to get checked out but they weren’t concerned and sent me home. 2 weeks later, I went back on a gloriously sunny Sunday morning ready for a planned induction, feeling anxious but excited to finally meet our girl.
What comes next is a narrative I will never forget, and not in a good way.
A scan with no heartbeat
The midwife greeted us with a smile and got to work immediately, settling me on a bed in a bay, asking all the usual questions and explaining how induction works. She got the monitor to check on Rosie’s welfare, before giving me any medication to get things moving – but after a minute of placing the monitor around different parts of my tummy, she couldn’t get a heartbeat.
For the first time in 9 months, I thought something might be wrong.
Smiling, the midwife said she thought the monitor may be faulty, so she’d go and find a scanning machine. We sat in complete silence, my stomach tight with anxiety. She took us down to another private room to use the scanner in there, where two doctors stood waiting; that was the moment I knew my beautiful girl was gone.
I got on the bed for the scan and braced myself for the words. After what felt like an eternity, they came: “I’m sorry, there is no heartbeat.” We’d arrived at hospital with a million hopes and dreams for Rosie, and for our life with her, only to be told she had died the night before.
Grieving our baby
In the days, weeks and months that followed, I tormented myself with questions about how and why Rosie had died. I blamed myself for not knowing something was wrong, and the physical emptiness I had left me desperate for another baby. Friends and family supported us the best way they could, but I found it hard to feel like I fitted in anywhere.
That woman beaming with joy on our wedding photos didn’t exist anymore; the old me had gone.
We later found out the right procedure wasn’t followed when I came to hospital with reduced fetal movement, and the investigators said that if we’d been properly informed at the time Rosie would probably be here with us today. Despite current UK guidance, my symptoms weren’t investigated, so the problem with my placenta wasn’t treated and Rosie was starved of oxygen.
Nothing prepares you for the death of your child, but I needed something to focus on, so we decided to raise awareness and educate ourselves on stillbirth the best we could. We volunteered to be part of some research and met Professor Alex Heazell for the first time. When I saw him, it was like I had met Beyoncé! I read all of the wonderful work he was doing with Tommy’s, and I knew that if we were to get pregnant again I wanted to be under his care at the Rainbow Clinic, I just had to.
Pregnancy after loss
In November 2019, I found myself staring at those infamous two lines confirming I was indeed pregnant again, but amazement was the last thing I felt. This time around I felt sick with fear, immediately worried that this baby would die too.
Trying to articulate how you feel, to those lucky enough to have never experienced the harrowing reality of leaving hospital without your baby, is really challenging.
Every visit to Tommy’s Rainbow Clinic was my safe space, where I could say how I was really feeling and get the support I needed. The rest of the time, if people asked me how I felt and I tried to express my worries, they’d just say “you’ll be fine” – which I found so frustrating and hard to manage that I’d just lie and say I was okay.
Truthfully though, I’d convinced myself that this baby - another little girl, who we’d named Lottie - had died. It’s hard to admit, as you don’t hear many women say they hated their pregnancy, but I found pregnancy after loss to be one of the most stressful and difficult times of my life.
Having our rainbow baby
Professor Heazell and the whole team at the Rainbow Clinic were incredible, and after an extra stressful (thanks Covid!) but healthy pregnancy, I gave birth to Lottie alive and well in July 2020.
I struggle to talk about Tommy’s without getting emotional, because without their support I’m not sure I would have mentally got through those nine long months. The understanding and patience of the care and support team is invaluable, as well as the research and knowledge available from the Tommy’s website and experts like Professor Heazell.
Tommy’s is the reason why babies like Lottie are here today.
As we prepare to mark Rosie’s 2nd birthday, I’m currently training hard for the London Landmarks Half Marathon in August, when Lottie will have just turned 1. I’ll be running to raise money for Tommy’s and give a little something back; I think it’s the least I can do.