Guest Post: I'm Not Just A Statistic

My name is Tonia, I’m 29, a wife and I also have 3 beautiful girls; Kayleigh who is 8, Peyton who is 5 and Erin who is 2.

And 3 and a half years ago I became “1 in 4”.

I am sure this month you have heard and seen lots of these messages across all your social media platforms, maybe from friends, relatives or maybe even co-workers, but I am here to talk to you about the often taboo subject of Miscarriage Awareness, and my first-hand experience with it.

Almost 4 years ago now me and my husband decided we’d like to try for another baby, I wont lie having two girls did make me want to try for a baby boy but ultimately I would be happy either way. I was very lucky and managed to conceive first time, just after Christmas 2014. The early days and weeks were very easy, unlike my first two pregnancies I had no morning sickness, although did start getting caffeine induced migraines but these were easily fixed by cutting out all caffeine. I did all the usual pregnancy things: signed up to my midwife and told our very close family that we were expecting.

Then came the day for my dating scan, at this point we were 13 weeks and 4 days according to my dates. The scan started off like any other scan, we saw our little baby and the little heart beating away. Instantly in love. They started by saying that baby was dating a day behind my dates, no big deal, all of my babies have measured small and I am only 5ft 0 so I never expect a huge baby. The sonographer then went quiet and we could see her trying to get the correct measurements that she needed so left her to it. Then she excused herself and went out to talk to a consultant, it was then that panic set in. I knew something wasn’t right. She came back in and told us that she was struggling to get the correct nuchal fold measurement and currently our baby’s measurement was too high. We were booked in for another scan in 4 days’ time with a consultant to double check this measurement and sent home with a picture of our little baby, and a lot of worry too.

I kept playing it over and over, what was happening to our baby and will things be ok? Those 4 days were some of the longest 4 days of my life, it should have been a happy time and we should be announcing our pregnancy instead of worrying about what could be wrong. I had my family tell me not to worry until there is something to worry about but that’s easier said than done.

Finally, the day came for our consultant appointment, I tried to go in with a positive mind even though deep down panic was lurking. However, this positivity was short lived, and the consultant confirmed what the sonographer had found a few days ago, there was indeed too much fluid behind our baby’s neck. We were lucky that our consultant was one of the top in his field and he knew just by looking at the scan that this fluid was due to one of two things. It was either Turners Syndrome (which only occurs in females and is a condition where they are partly or completely missing an X chromosome) or it was a heart condition.

At the same time as being given this information and trying to process it all we were offered to have a CVS (Chorionic Villus Sampling where they take a sample of cells from the tissue of the placenta) carried out there and then or we could wait until we were a bit further along, 14 weeks onwards, to have an Amniocentesis done (where they take a sample of cells from the amniotic fluid). I was struggling to process this information all being thrown at me. The consultant did leave the room to give me and my husband a minute to discuss everything, although he wasn’t much help and said it was all up to me. I had always said when it was mentioned that I would NEVER EVER have a needle inserted into my tummy as the risk of the miscarriage scared the life out of me. However, in the end we decided to go for it, it would never change my decision to keep the baby but I wanted to know what was wrong to be prepared for its arrival. The consultant did reassure me that he has a 0.001% miscarriage rate, not that it worked. He numbed my tummy and started the procedure, however because it could affect the baby he couldn’t numb the womb so I felt the pop of the needle pushing into the womb and a weird, sickening, shaking as he was removing some of the cells. After it was all done he rescanned me to reassure us and show us that out baby was still happy and healthy inside.

Then began the longest wait of all. We were sent home to wait 72 hours minimum for the test results. We tried to continue life as normal but its so difficult to do so when awaiting such important news. Finally, 2 days later, we were blessed with some early good news. The initial tests for Turner’s, Edwards, Down’s and Patau’s syndrome all came back clear. Now we had to wait for a heart scan at 16 weeks to check the baby’s heart function. We were so happy with the results, now to just pray and hope the heart would be ok. We then decided to announce our pregnancy that weekend as it fell on Mother’s Day, which we thought would be perfect. We announced to friends, family and our wider circle across Facebook that we were expecting our third child and were 15 weeks pregnant now.

Flash forward to just over a week and we were back meeting with the consultant for baby’s heart scan. As soon as we entered the room we had a warm greeting from the consultant asking if we’d decided to find out the baby’s sex, it was clear from his expression that he knew from the test results we’d had done previously. We got settled and ready for the scan. He put the probe on my tummy to start the scan, however instead of the lovely “Here’s your baby” that you are usually greeted with all we got was “Bollocks” which he must have repeated at least 4 times. Then he turned to tell us those hollowing words “There is no heartbeat”. I instantly felt empty. He told us that our baby had stopped growing about a week before the scan according to its size. I don’t know why but my first question was whether he knew the sex of the baby, I knew he did and was almost certain of the answer due to his previous reaction. He then confirmed that this was our baby boy, which almost made things even worse.

We were then led into a different consulting room away from all the happy expectant parents, but not before we were taken through the ultrasound waiting room and bumped into one of my husbands’ friends and his wife, awaiting their first scan. Probably not the way they were expecting to see someone exiting the ultrasound room, with tears streaming down their face.

When we were in the other room we were given 3 options with how to proceed. Option 1 let the baby miscarry naturally, I instantly ruled this one out as I could imagine it starting on the school run which would be awful. Option 2 was to have a D&C, which basically means that they put you under anaesthetic and scrape away what’s left of your baby. Option 3 was to be induced and delivery our baby. I went with Option 3, I didn’t like the idea of just “throwing away” my baby, although I seem to be in a minority here as many of my friends deemed me as brave for choosing option 3. I was given a little tablet to take there and then to help loosen the placenta and make the whole process easier. I was given the hospital wards direct number to call in two days’ time, unless anything started before this time. Then we were escorted out the side door, so we didn’t have to walk past any more happy expectant parents.

We then had the awful job of telling all our family, friends and our Facebook community. I wont lie, I cried myself to sleep that night, holding my belly where my sleeping angel still lay. My husband was my rock and despite him breaking down inside he tried to remain strong for both of us.

The next day we were given condolences from our friends on the school run, one friend even bought me flowers, and one who works for the other maternity unit offered to call the main hospital to get us in early on the day we needed to go in.

That day came round quickly, and my friend stuck to her word as we were asked to go in for 9am. We sorted out our childcare and made our way to the hospital. Initially having to wait in the triage waiting room was very difficult, watching some in early labour whilst in a slight haze knowing I’d be leaving here without my little boy. Luckily the midwives were very quick about taking us to our suite. We were taken down the back route, so we didn’t have to pass any more labouring women. We were lucky to have the best suite in the hospital, called the Snowdrop suite so now even snowdrops remind me of that awful day. The suite was nice though, had our own little kitchenette (complete with biscuits and squash), a sofa and Freeview TV in there too and then the obvious delivery room with all the medical necessities and an en suite bathroom. We were “briefed” about what would happen and what we’d like to happen to our baby afterwards, although they weren’t too happy about the fact that we wanted to have our son buried separately (apparently, they usually go into the mass cremation, how impersonal).

Eventually after three pessaries attempting to start my labour it finally started around 2pm, my body clearly not wanting to let go. I was determined to keep active and not have any drugs during, I mean I’d laboured and birthed two babies previously with no medication so surely this should be easier. It wasn’t. I don’t know if it’s because I knew this baby wouldn’t be coming home or any other reason, but it was so much harder than my other labours. I focused on my breathing constantly and I was commended for the fact that I stayed calm and relaxed throughout. Finally, at 17:00 my waters went and shortly after at 17:09 our boy arrived, delivered gracefully on the toilet into a bedpan. Unfortunately, the tablet taken a couple of days before had stopped the placenta working so the cord snapped as he was delivered. Then the midwives tried to help me deliver the placenta, but nothing was working. Almost an hour had passed, and I was given a 10-minute warning to get the placenta out before I had to go to surgery to have it removed. I was determined that this wasn’t going to happen, no way am I having surgery on top of everything else. Finally managed to deliver the placenta with just over a minute spare.

After I was over the labour and cleaned up, the midwife told us that she had set up our son, whom we decided to name Samuel James, in a little basket in the spare room, which was basically a cupboard room. It took me over an hour before I was able to go in and see him. As I examined our lifeless son, who even at just 15-16 weeks gestation was perfectly formed and about the size of my hand, I noticed how much he looked like my husband. He had the exact same facial structure. My one regret looking back is not picking him up and holding him, but I was so worried I’d break him. We also had the chaplain come to visit us and he blessed Samuel. This was the first time I broke down all day, I had remained strong up until this point, but listening to the chaplain say how he was an angel and not meant for this earth just destroyed me. We were also given a little box with a fake birth certificate that our midwife signed for us, and came two little teddies, one to go with him and one for us to keep hold of. The box was from 4Louis who are a charity that support bereaved parents and this box was a great help to us and is nice to look back on when I’m feeling down.

We were told we could stay there as long as we wanted and must have stayed there until about 10pm before I made the awful decision to leave our son behind in that tiny little basket all alone. We were escorted out of the back door to keep us away from the newborn babies. However, as we waited for the lift to go downstairs out came a midwife with a new baby.

The next morning, we made our arrangements with the funeral directors to have a little funeral for Samuel to properly say goodbye, and we had decided to have him cremated and buried inside my husbands’ mums grave, so that Samuels final resting place could be with his Nanny. The funeral was so sad but short, after all what can be said about someone we never got a chance to meet. One part that always haunts me is when the vicar said, “Although we never knew Samuel or got to properly meet him, take a minute to imagine the boy and man he could have become and the memories we could have made”. I even have tears in my eyes just thinking back now.

It is nice though to have a place to go and see him if we wanted to, and for his sisters to see him when they want to. My younger two girls are still a bit young to understand it all, but my oldest daughter was almost 6 when we lost him, so she was aware we were expecting him and that we lost him. We always talk about him and are honest with our daughters when they ask, although this hasn’t always been easy as I’ve since suffered with mental health issues from this and it’s also hard on my poor husband too. It seems most people forget the dads when miscarriage, stillborns or infant loss happens. A dad hurts too.

I also make a point to talk about him whenever I can to help to try to remove the taboo about talking about miscarriage, still-borns and infant loss and to help raise awareness. It happens more often than we think, and we need to talk about it and support the mums and dads going through it now.

I was fortunate enough to go on and conceive my Rainbow baby a few months later and it was a rollercoaster of emotions to say the least but that’s a story for another day. If you’ve got to the end of this post then well done, I’m not very good at keeping the story short so thank you for reading.


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