In April 1970, a doctor had confirmed I was pregnant with our fourth child. We were a Forces family living in Married Quarters at RAF Old Sarum in Wiltshire.
I was around three months pregnant and the evening before my youngest son’s 4th birthday I felt some abdominal pain. I still went ahead and met with my military wife friends for our planned evening out, however on meeting them I realised the pain was getting too severe and went home to lie down. As the evening went on the pain got gradually worse. My husband, Brian called the Medical Officer. When he arrived, an ambulance was called, and I was blue lighted to the hospital. I was taken straight into theatre for an emergency operation. My pregnancy was ectopic. My left ovary and Fallopian tube were removed. I lost a lot of blood so had a blood transfusion. Brian was told the next day that I was lucky to be alive.
52 years on, I can still remember seeing a ‘light at the end of a tunnel’ and hearing someone say, ‘She is too young to die’. I was in hospital for around 10 days and felt very lucky to be alive.
In those days, no one spoke about pregnancy loss. I don’t recall speaking to my family or friends about it. I just came home from hospital and got on with life as a busy wife and mother. We were getting ready for Brian’s next posting in Cyprus so there was little time to really process what had happened. I had fallen pregnant despite having a coil fitted so my husband decided to have a vasectomy as the trauma of nearly losing me was so frightening. We felt so blessed to have our three children.
As time went on, I have often wondered if our baby was a boy or a girl and what they would be like. My daughter always wondered if she would have had a little sister. My youngest son has shared that he can’t imagine what their lives would have been like if I had died at that time. I know we were all so incredibly lucky.
Ectopic Pregnancy Awareness Day is important to me because it will let others know that there is support for families experiencing an ectopic pregnancy and not left to ‘just get on with life’.
It wasn’t until the loss of my baby grandson James, nearly 40 years later, that I spoke about my feelings and the experience I’d been through. Seeing my son and daughter in law speak about their loss has helped me share my story. I regularly tell others about Aching Arms and the need for support after the loss of a baby, especially to mums who are longer ago bereaved, like me.
Thank you to Aching Arms for sharing Valerie’s story with us.