Today (15th October) is National Baby Loss Awareness Day in the UK, and it is a subject that is very close to my heart that I wanted to discuss. I don’t very often write about personal stuff, but for this day I will make an exception.
Most of you know that I am a mum to Rebecca and William. What most of you won’t know is that Rebecca wasn’t my first child, and William will be my last. But before I start, you need a little bit of background information: in early 2003 I was told that I have cysts on my ovaries and twisted fallopian tubes which would make it difficult to conceive naturally. My hormones were all over the place, and I was producing two eggs each month so was put on the pill to settle my hormone levels down.
13 years ago I met my husband, and for the first year we were blissfully innocent and happy. Then, in late 2004, we made that decision – we were going to get married and start trying for a baby. We were in our early 20s, living together, and so… well… I’m sure you know how much fun we had trying to make a mini-Howard. In 2006, still no baby. We got married and moved to the Channel Islands.
There are a lot of differences between the Channel Islands and mainland England. Healthcare is one of those differences. In the UK, we have the NHS – The National Health Service – which provides free treatment and cheap prescriptions (well… supposedly cheap…), including, I believe, one round of IVF. In the Channel Islands, we had to pay for medical treatments. Just a ten minute consultation with the GP was £35. In one of those consultations, we explained that it had been 2 years since we’d started trying. With my history, we were told that IVF would be our best bet. But we couldn’t afford the treatment right there and then, so decided to save up for a year, and if I hadn’t conceived naturally by my 25th birthday, then we would start the process.
I spent the next two months researching our options. IVF would mean injecting every day and having to undergo ‘egg-harvesting’. Sounds delightful. Other options – adoption, fostering, and surrogacy. I spent a lot of time crying, and not talking. We didn’t even tell our closest friends or family members – not even our mums – what we were going through. Why? Because if I actually said those words out loud then it would make it real.
Then, in September 2006, a miracle happened. My period was late. Four days later, and I was peeing on sticks! A positive result. We immediately announced our news, and I went to the GP to get it confirmed. For two days, we were going to be a family. Two days. Two, amazingly, happy days. Two glorious days before I started bleeding. I went to the hospital, and their tests came back negative. No baby.
It’s not really possible to describe how I felt. I hadn’t just lost my baby. I had lost the chance to be a mum.
Head hanging, heart broken, I went back to my GP. I was in pain. The bleeding was spotty… I was sent for a scan, and there we saw two sacs. One was empty, and called a ‘possible bloodclot’. One had a healthy heartbeat. My baby had survived.
I had to go back for regular scans though – to ensure that it was growing, and to see if this ‘bloodclot’ passed. It didn’t, and I was told it was probably an empty sac that was reabsorbed into the placenta. But Pipkin was growing! Then at 7 weeks, the heartbeat had halved. For a week I walked around telling myself that Pipkin would survive, and that we were fighters. But deep down, I knew that I was just waiting for the inevitable. My baby was going to die.
I had to have a procedure called an ERPC – Evacuation of Retained Products of Conception. How harsh does that sound?
I was a statistic. We were a statistic. 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. We’d just lost one, possibly two, babies.
The next February, Valentines Day, I had another positive test. I wasn’t so sure about announcing this one. What if the same happened? But at 12 weeks, we had a good scan, with a little face, and a strong heartbeat. Rebecca’s pregnancy was no easy ride, and at 16 weeks, a bleed meant another scan and there we saw an empty sac without a heartbeat. Had she been a twin, or was this yet another ‘possible bloodclot’? We will never know. But after 32 horrendous weeks, Becca-Boo was born by emergency c-section.
March appeared. Rebecca was 6 months old, and home. And I was pregnant again.
We went to the GP – I was in so much pain in my side, they were convinced it was ectopic. So I went for a scan, and there were two very healthy heartbeats on the screen. TWINS!! HEALTHY TWINS!! They were blobs of jelly, just blinking white dots in the darkness. Tiny lights in the depths of my belly.
Sadly, a week later after a lot of pain and bleeding, we went for another scan and one light had been extinguished.
William was born, on his own, at 39 weeks.
There were complications though. They discovered fibroids and endometriosis within my womb. My cervix was ulcerated and damaged. And they suspected cervical cancer. In 2012, I had a hysterectomy, leaving only my cystic ovaries.
Today is National Baby Loss Awareness Day. I’ve not only lost 2, possibly 4, babies, but the chance to have any more. But do not feel sorry for me, because I am lucky. I am alive, and have two gorgeous children who are thriving well, living life to the full, and being spoiled rotten.
Some are not so lucky. I know women and men (it affects them as well) who have lost children at full-term. I know couples who cannot conceive at all. Today I ask that you do not think of me, but you think of them and pray to whoever it is that you believe in, that they get at least an ounce of the luck we’ve had so that they may enjoy their families one day too.