Baby Loss # 1 – November 2018
When I was 23, I gave birth to my first son, Jenson, on 8 December 2006. On December 23, 2017, when I was 34, I gave birth by emergency C-section to my second son, Elliott.
I always knew I wanted another baby and I wanted it to be quite close to the birth of my second son. The 11 years between the other two were amazing, in case you were wondering, but I certainly wasn’t prepared to wait another 11 years for the next one. Bam – I was pregnant before Elliott turned one. I could not believe it, but I was so confident.
I went to my eight-week booking appointment so sure of myself, confident at how easily it had happened.
That morning, I had a bit of a tummy ache, not cramps as such, just an uncomfortable feeling. The midwife suggested that if it got any worse, I should go to accident and emergency, but I brushed it off as trapped wind or indigestion and carried on with my day.
By 9pm, I was curled up on the floor in the kitchen with my back against a burning radiator, trying to take the pain away from my belly, but it just kept getting worse.
We had to call my mother-in-law to come and sit in the house since both boys were in bed. She had no idea I was pregnant until that point. I felt awful for letting her come to our house, seeing me in such a state, and finding out our news right there with no time to process it.
We arrived at Accident and Emergency and by 11:30 pm, I was admitted to the ward and given morphine to ease the pain of an ectopic pregnancy.
“What the heck is an ectopic pregnancy?” I thought.
The more they told me, the more ridiculous I thought it sounded.
An egg had been fertilised but got stuck and couldn’t make it down to my uterus – great.
I was asked about symptoms, but I didn’t have any apart from the pain. There was no bleeding or shoulder tip pain, just this stabbing pain in my right side. I was hunched over and kept feeling hot, as if I was going to vomit or pass out.
The morphine eventually kicked in. I was given a bed and monitored over the next five days (expectant management) until the ectopic pregnancy resolved itself and my hormone levels began to drop.
It was confirmed that the pregnancy was in my right Fallopian tube. Perhaps both of my other children had been from eggs that travel along my Fallopian tube on the left side and this was just one of those things.
As I understand, the pregnancy had already ended, which is why doctors advised expectant management. It did not pose an immediate threat to me at the time. After being diagnosed, each Tuesday for about four weeks, I returned to the early pregnancy unit (EPAU) for blood tests to make sure my hormone levels were dropping and were low enough to be formally discharged.
That was a drama in itself. Once you have left hospital after diagnosis, you must keep returning, weekly in my case, to have blood tests to check that hormone levels are showing that you are no longer pregnant before being officially discharged. The ordeal doesn’t end when you first walk out of the hospital door! I began my recovery from my very first baby loss.
Baby Loss # 2 – 8 April 2021
I physically recovered very quickly from my first ectopic pregnancy. I now realise that mentally, I will never recover, but we were in a good place at the time to think about trying again – and it didn’t take long.
I used an app and some ovulation tests and boom – Pregnant! Yes!
As excited as I was to see those little blue lines, I was very anxious. I couldn’t concentrate, and was in a whirl of panic. I booked a private early scan. It was scheduled for the Easter weekend, so we could relax with family over the public holidays and be in our wonderful little baby bubble. I felt good! I had a date for a scan, and I didn’t have to wait a lifetime for it.
Nope – I was wrong and shouldn’t have been excited.
The sonographer on that day may as well have slapped me in the face and taken my money at the same time! They questioned if I was sure I had had a positive test. I was sure; I had been doing them almost daily, and yet they concluded it was a pregnancy of unknown location. Unknown – how could they not know where it was? It’s not a black hole in there. There were not many places for it to be unless it was not in my uterus.
Six days later, I was admitted to the early pregnancy unit with pain in my right side. I had been in a meeting, attempting to get a project live for two hours, and at every opportunity I could, I was muting the mic and rolling around on the living room floor in agony.
This time, I was bleeding – no shoulder tip pain though! That had kept me hopeful. I assumed I had miscarried, but who knew.
I told my family I was off for a check up, which would take an hour or so and I’d be straight back. I thought that they would do a scan, say I had miscarried, and that would be that, sending me home for some rest. Little did I know.
When I was seen at 2pm, there was a look of fear in the sonographer’s face, and I received the immediate attention of a consultant. I was going to be admitted, staying on my own in a room with no windows and, at the time, it also felt like no air.
Covid meant no one was allowed to wait with me. I called my partner to let him know that I needed to hang around for a bit, but I didn’t really understand how bad it was. My guess was that it would be something like last time and I’d need to ride it out.
The nurses held back from dropping me all the information at once and the severity of what was going on because I was already scared and alone.
They were so careful with the words they used. They were empathetic and kept it simple to help me understand.
By 7pm, I was being visited by doctors, nurses, and having my vital observations checked more and more frequently. By 8 p.m., the tone had changed, and I was rushed down to theatre.
The next day, I found out the embryo had continued to grow and ruptured my right Fallopian tube – again the right side! My abdomen was filling with blood, and I was in a bad way.
As the Fallopian tube had ruptured, they removed what remained and sent what they could to the lab to be checked. The ectopic pregnancy was confirmed, but the tissue was too badly damaged to know any more. The good news was that I still had my left Fallopian tube and both ovaries. This loss was scary, but I got checked just in time. Had I waited any longer to go in for a check up, who knows where I’d be. Cheers again to recovery – a mental recovery for two losses and a physical one for surgery.
Baby Loss # 3 – October 2021
The previous month, we had become engaged and I was on cloud nine. I literally didn’t think it was possible to be so happy. Then, we got a positive pregnancy test, and bad thoughts consumed me.
Due to the previous pregnancy losses, the early pregnancy unit advised that if or when I got pregnant in the future, I was to contact them straight away. I did, and I was given an early scan at six weeks to make sure everything was where it should be.
Success – the scan showed a sac in my uterus, not another ectopic pregnancy! We were over the moon.
I was asked to return in two weeks so they could monitor me.
Although the sac was there, they thought my dates could be slightly off. At that point, they couldn’t see much more.
We returned when I was around 8 weeks pregnant (possibly 7 if the dates were off). They could see a baby now, but there was no heartbeat. My heart broke. I think the nurse even heard it; you could see it in her face.
I went from optimistic to devastated in one blow. They could be wrong still, but I knew they weren’t. I had to wait 10 days before they would scan me again and give me a definitive answer.
If you could see my Google search history over those 10 days!
It was awful. I was sad. My face was sad. My thoughts were sad. I didn’t tell anyone. I was really, really sad.
Ten days later, it was confirmed – a missed miscarriage. Why had I not ever heard of these things until they were happening to me? And why were they happening to me?
My body was so certain we were having a baby that even my uterus didn’t want to admit it had failed.
We were given three options: natural management (just waiting to see if my body decided to resolve the pregnancy), tablets, or surgical (dilation and curettage).
I was instantly put off by the tablets; they sounded horrible. I would be in pain. It would be forceful and I would have to deal with it at home, myself.
The surgical option put the fear of God in me. I didn’t want any more surgery down there. Surely, the lower part of my body had been through enough.
The doctor sensed my nervousness and gave me the week to come to terms with everything and make my decision.
You’d think that having to wait another week on top of the ten days I had already waited was a terrible idea, but I had already been walking around for those 10 days with a pregnancy that had ended inside of me. Having the next seven to decide how to treat my miscarriage was the least of my problems.
I didn’t wait the whole seven days. They told me that, if I made my decision sooner, I would just have to let them know.
For the first time in a very long time, it felt like I was in control of something again. Being a control freak and having no control over anything that was happening to me was unbearable, so it was a little piece of something that meant a lot to me at the time.
On Friday, 3 December, I spoke to the nurse. I still felt relatively pregnant; my breasts were so sore and yet my body just felt still and empty. I know it doesn’t make much sense! We spoke about the tablets and, if they didn’t work, I would need to have surgery anyway. Apparently, my body just didn’t want to give the pregnancy up, so natural management was not an option.
The surgery was only carried out on Fridays at a local hospital. Friday the 17th was already fully booked and Friday the 24th was Christmas Eve. I had no more time left. They only allow the pregnancy to stay inside for a certain period of time before there’s a risk of infection.
So, Friday the 10th, it was. I had two weeks to recover before Christmas.
I had to be there at 7:30 in the morning; there was a queue. I was given a bed and gown, and then just had to wait.
Again, due to Covid, I was not allowed to have anyone with me. I can’t tell you how many panic attacks I’ve had and how many tears I’ve cried in hospital beds alone.
The surgery was done very respectfully, recovery was an hour or so long, and by 3 pm., I was allowed to go home. The nurse walked me to the exit and carried my bag. She was sad for me.
I was sad for me too, but it was done. In an instant, I felt empty. Everything had just gone. My body was still, empty, drained, exhausted.
There we were, the Christmas of 2021. We had planned for a super happy Christmas Day pregnancy announcement, but instead, we stayed at home. It was just the four of us, and no blue lines. Another recovery followed, this time without the addition of any more surgical holes.
Baby Loss # 4 – 11 July 2022
I was almost certain that after three baby losses that I didn’t want to go through it again. I had accepted defeat and succumbed to the fact that I wasn’t ever going to try to get pregnant ever again. Did I believe that though? Nope – I was still desperate for another baby.
I wanted just one more. All the bad things that had happened just made me more determined. I was absolutely going to prove to my body that it was wrong and that I could have another baby, whether it liked it or not.
It did not like it.
In fact, it almost killed me for trying.
I was months away from my 40th birthday. Since having Jenson, I had been sure that I wouldn’t have any more children after 40. He would be 16, Elliott would be 5, and it would just be too much to start all over again. Plus, we want to be able to retire at some point.
But I pushed for it, Andy agreed, and there we were, two or three tries later, back in the game – pregnant again!
I couldn’t believe it; surely this had to be the one.
But those two little lines didn’t fill me with the same kind of warm, fuzzy feelings, accompanied by a pang of nausea, that I had felt previously. This time, it was fear. I cried a lot and sobbed hard.
Nothing was taking that anxious, scared, bottom-of-my-stomach feeling away. No matter how hard I tried to ignore it, it consumed me. I had thoughts that instantly overwhelmed me: all the bad things that happened before were going to come back to get me and finish me off.
I was so sure it was going to end badly that every day I was just waiting. I was going to the toilet, holding my breath while wiping, waiting for that pink tinge on the tissue. The cramps, the sickness, surely it was all just a matter of time.
Everyone was reassuring me that it would be fine, that there was no way it was going to happen again. We’d had our bad luck, but the bad Fallopian tube was gone and couldn’t cause any more problems. Even looking at the statistics – one in 80, one in four – I’ve had more than my fair share. It must be okay this time – I started to have a little faith and trust in what I was being told.
But we know how this ends, and it really does end. I have a body I no longer like, live in a world I no longer understand, and feel utterly betrayed by my own self.
I called the hospital, and they wanted me in as soon as I was six weeks pregnant. I wanted to wait a little bit longer. My own personal experience had made me think that they would say it’s too early to really see much and then I’d have to go back anyway.
Plus, Andy was in Italy and I didn’t want to go alone again.
I was desperate for his support and for him to be there when we were dealt the final blow. I really needed him, more than ever.
I was so sure that it was never going to be good news. I could just feel it.
My appointment was booked for Monday when I would be seven weeks and four days.
Andy was due home on Sunday night. We could take the boys to school and go straight to the hospital – what could go wrong?
On that Saturday, we were celebrating my sister-in-law’s 50th birthday. I needed the bathroom.
It was innocent. I was having a really good time with everyone, and, for the first time, I wasn’t even thinking about what might come out on the tissue.
I was full of beans, pregnant, hiding my secret from my family, and looking forward to Andy coming home the following day.
Then it happened. I wiped.
I looked. I gasped. My eyes filled up. I couldn’t breathe. I watched all the colour drain out of my face in the mirror on the cloakroom wall opposite – blood.
I composed myself, left the bathroom, made my excuses, and left to go home. Dropping my mum off on the way back. I was praying that I wouldn’t go from 0 to 100 in the car, letting her see something like that.
By the time I was home, it hadn’t gotten any worse, and I talked myself into believing that it was just implantation bleeding.
My thought process that evening and search history on my phone would blow your mind: the questions, the scouring for similar pictures and symptoms. I was going insane with it all.
On Sunday morning, I woke up to the most horrific cramps and ran straight to the bathroom to throw up. Nothing came out, but I was heaving, sweating, and almost fainted.
I took my position (one that I usually take when I have had too much to drink) and lay down on the bathroom floor with my head close to the toilet on a towel.
After the shivers and sweats were over, I messaged Andy: Should I go to the hospital?
It was like a period cramp, but not like the others. This wasn’t just on one side of my body. It was dull and swept the full width of my pelvis.
It had become a dull ache after 30 minutes. The wave of sickness stopped, and, as quickly as it had come on, it went away.
So strange! I told myself it was morning sickness and got on with my day.
If it came back, I would go to hospital, but if not, I had an appointment 24 hours later, so it would be fine to wait until then anyway.
Andy’s flight wasn’t just delayed that Sunday, it was cancelled, and the next available flight wasn’t until Monday morning.
He was going to make it back by the skin of his teeth, perhaps, but more realistically, he was going to miss it. I had the number for the early pregnancy unit on my phone, ready to call and reschedule my appointment, but I didn’t. I was still lightly bleeding and a bit unsure about how I felt, so I kept it, and faced the fact that I was going back alone – again.
The same car journey, the same car park, the same ward, the same smell, the same ultrasound machine, the same waiting room, the same doors, floors, chairs – I couldn’t believe it.
I took a bag with my lip balm, my blanket and a phone charger – always a phone charger; the hospital has a way of sucking the life out of phones at a ridiculous rate. I did the drive, the same route I have done too many times. I parked in the car park, the same car park I parked in every time.
I arrived for my appointment and was seen pretty much straight away. When
I walked into the room, it was clear the sonographer had read my notes or recognised my name. She had that look – friendly, compassionate, and almost dreading the outcome of the scan as much as I was. I felt like I was about to ruin her day and that she’d never forget it. I took one look at her and just cried. She knew what this meant for me. All I said to her before I lay on the bed was, “Just tell me what you see. I need facts. I need to know exactly what’s going on” and she agreed.
It didn’t take long, the deep inhale before she spun the screen in my direction and said, “So here you can see your uterus. There is no pregnancy anywhere to be seen. There is, however, something here, in your left Fallopian tube. I’m sorry; it’s another ectopic pregnancy.”
In that moment, all my breath left my body.
She went off to get a second opinion, and I just sat there. I knew it. Maybe not the extent of it, but I just knew my body had failed me. I didn’t have any real feelings or words or thoughts. It was just deep breaths. I was finding it so hard to breathe; my lungs just weren’t filling up properly. There was silence. I couldn’t hear anything, my vision was blurry, and I was trapped.
I was stuck in a hospital where I had been many times before, and I knew from her face that I wasn’t going to be able to leave. I wanted to be sick, but I had nothing left to give.
When the second opinion confirmed what we already knew, I got dressed and asked if I could go out to the corridor and call Andy. The nurse didn’t seem happy for me to leave.
I went out to the corridor and called Andy. I don’t really remember what I said. I think it was just a version of what the nurse had told me, but a really basic ill-communicated version. They were not my words. It was just a script. I just added that if he could make his way to the hospital as soon as possible and bring my work laptop, I’d really appreciate it. Then I hung up.
At that point, I think I considered leaving, just walking out, getting in my car and going.
I’m glad I didn’t follow that flight feeling though. I took some deep breaths, went back into the waiting room and, by the time I sat down, I started to feel very warm very quickly.
I was getting hotter and hotter and finding it hard to swallow my own saliva. My head was fuzzy, and my eyes couldn’t focus.
I took a sip of water, raised my hand in the air, and when the nurse looked at me, I could barely mouth “I’m going to pass out” before she caught me falling off my chair.
I was soon in a wheelchair, being taken into a private room. When I looked up, I caught the eye of another lady in the waiting room. God knows how I made her feel or what was going through her mind as they closed the door behind me.
The pain was agony. My insides felt like they had exploded. I was shaking uncontrollably.
I kept passing out and, at one point, I was lying on my side with a room full of doctors and nurses. They had put me on oxygen, were hooking me up to a drip, giving me morphine, and frantically reading through my notes. I was having surgical stockings put on my feet and someone was telling me I needed to get undressed and put a gown on as we were off to theatre.
I’m not sure how long I was in and out of consciousness for, but suddenly, the morphine kicked in. Andy walked into the room and I sat up. He couldn’t believe his eyes at the state of me. He helped me get undressed and then I was straight back in a wheelchair, being taken down to theatre. I remember giggling as they asked me to sign all this paperwork, my signature barely a line on a page. I was out of it, completely away with the fairies!
Andy walked down with me, holding my hand the whole way. Neither of us really knew what was going on at that point, but he was left at the door while I was wheeled in, crying my heart out. Within minutes, I was laid on that dreaded table. At 12:20pm, I was put under anaesthetic. I watched the clock until I was out. That time stuck in my head.
The time was half past five when I first took note of the clock in the room – what had happened? When I woke up, I had about five nurses rush over. I could hear them, but I don’t remember their words. They looked worried. Then I was out again.
When I woke up the next time, I waved for the nurse to come over and she gave me a sip of water and some more drugs. I was hooked up to a lot of beeping machines. It felt like a nightmare. She said my blood pressure was too low. I didn’t know what that meant. They were worried, and I was out of it.
I remember feeling warm down one side of my body, and I said that I thought I had wet myself. It turned out that the drain they had in my abdomen was leaking. Two things happened quickly then: one nurse pushed my knees to my chest and inserted a catheter while I was conscious and another two nurses rolled me on my side to change my bedding as the warm feeling was blood leaking out of a hole in my tummy!
Between feeling sick and screaming out in pain as they packed the wound before putting more plaster over the top to prevent another leak, I must have passed out again. I could hear, but I wasn’t present; they worried I was going to have a cardiac arrest. I had lost too much blood and needed a blood transfusion
My surgeon paid me a visit. She was happy to see me with my eyes open. She couldn’t believe what had happened and how I had survived. She didn’t give me any more detail but was relieved that the surgery was successful, and I was okay. She should have finished her shift hours before this. I don’t remember her name, but I’ll never forget her face – I even recall the headscarf she wore.
I was taken up to the ward. It was dark and I was lonely, scared, sad, and had no real idea what had happened to me. I couldn’t move and everything hurt: My stomach, the drain hole, my throat, my veins.
I cried to the duty nurse. She just sat, held my hand, gave me a tissue, and let me have my moment behind the closed curtains.
The days passed, and I don’t really remember much. I think I blocked out that final hospital stay. The trauma was just one step too far.
Our consultant knew we needed time. Rather than try to explain to us what happened in that moment, she booked us in for a surgical debrief four weeks later so we had some time to process our emotions and think of any questions.
I went home. I don’t have any idea what I did when I got there. I couldn’t go to work. I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t do the school run. I couldn’t cook or clean or feed the cats. I was just there. Andy was taking me back and forth to the hospital for checkups and blood work and to get my stitches looked at. I was just a mute mind in a broken body.
Not all words were difficult, but answers to the most common questions, “How are you?” or “You okay?” were really a struggle. I didn’t have an answer. I either just said “I feel sad” or cried. No other words would come out. It’s like I had too many thoughts to express just one, and, when I opened my mouth, there was nothing there. It was extremely frustrating. Aside from the tears; I cried so many tears.
Four weeks went by and we geared ourselves up for the debrief. Our consultant was lovely. She gave us her undivided attention and showed us my file. We saw pictures (which I thought were gross) and it was explained to me that, during my scan, the sonographer identified an active ectopic pregnancy in my left Fallopian tube with blood in my abdomen. The Fallopian tube had ruptured and caused my abdomen to fill with blood.
They attempted to salvage some of the tissue to go to the lab. An ectopic pregnancy was identified, but everything else was too badly damaged to try to identify a cause. It was just one of those things.
Our consultant confirmed that I could no longer naturally get pregnant.
I will not need to use contraception.
I will still get periods. It will not bring on early menopause because hormones come from your ovaries, and I still have those.
And just like that, it was over.
Our pregnancy journey came to an end.
When I look at myself now, I know I am not the same. I must live with a different version of myself – one with some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder, a belly full of scars, and a body that terrifies me.
In the thick of it all, I had imagined driving my car into a wall just to transfer my heart ache into a physical pain that people could see and relate to and comfort me through. So, the saying goes, “It’s easier to feel sorrow when you see a broken bone, but kind ears don’t fall on broken hearts by many.”
I had some therapy, but I’m not sure it was the right time. I said all the things I thought I should to make it seem like I was getting better. It made everyone around me feel like I was taking the right steps and dealing with everyone else’s emotions is easier than processing my own. I could pacify other people’s concerns simply by saying, “I’m okay”. They believed it, and then moved on. Life continues and people move on.
I was absent from work for quite a while. I just couldn’t concentrate. My manager at the time was incredible. She cared. She was supportive, and she gave me all the time I needed. It still frustrates me now that I gave up on her, but all I had control of at the time was quitting my job and finding something new, so I did exactly that.
I took the only bit of power I had and left.
It’s not all doom and gloom.
I have friends whom I love with my whole heart. I have my future husband and two incredible sons who I could not live without and whom I love fiercely.
I continue to talk about my experiences with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. I have cried my way through typing this and will continue to shed tears for many years.
I have been told I am strong, but I am not. I didn’t have a choice.
My happy days are so happy, and my sad days are less frequent. Grief will come and go. It changes shape and intensity, and we just must go with it.
I tried and tried until I almost died – but I didn’t.
Thank you to Gemma for sharing her story. If you would like to share your experience of ectopic pregnancy, please visit our guide for more information. Please remember our support services are available at any time. The Samaritans offers a 24-hour service in the UK, if you are distressed and need to speak with someone immediately.
Please visit our webpage for information about counselling and talking therapies.