I always wanted children – when I was very young, I said I’d have ten! I often look at our wedding photo now and feel sad for the young couple in it who had no idea of what lay ahead. I suffer from endometriosis, and always thought that might the largest barrier to pregnancy for me. So when I fell pregnant in January 2012, I thought we’d cleared that hurdle. Although for some strange reason, the word ‘miscarriage’ lurked in the back of my mind, I never really thought that it would happen to me, never mind that we would become a statistic of the 1% of couples who would suffer recurrent miscarriage. I started spotting early in the pregnancy, and got at scan at 7 weeks. There was a baby, with a heartbeat, and I was reassured. We went excitedly to my booking scan several weeks later, only to find out that our baby had died shortly after the first scan. We were heartbroken. A similar story was to play out for us again, and again, and again. I lost 5 babies between 5-8 weeks. We saw the heartbeats of three of those babies. The NHS was brilliant, and tested me for everything available. I had my GP refer me to every miscarriage consultant Greater Belfast had. I was lucky to be treated with compassion, which I know isn’t everyone’s experience.
I had several treatments, none of which worked. After my fifth loss, I went to Coventry to see Prof Siobhan Quenby for a test for my levels of natural killer cells. It came back negative, but I have always believed that the procedure treated an underlying issue which was preventing my pregnancies from really getting off the ground. I very quickly fell pregnant for a sixth time. This time, the early scans told good news. My baby was growing, and had a heartbeat each week. I had my booking in scan, and baby was so active that it was hard for the midwife to accurately measure him! I knew in my gut long before it was confirmed by testing that I was expecting a boy. But I had had a bleed around 10 weeks, and was still spotting, so the midwife agreed to bring me back at 14 weeks for another scan. That’s when it all started to go wrong.
My son had consistently measured 4 days behind my dates, and I knew my dates were accurate. At this scan, he was 9 days behind. I knew something wasn’t right. The midwife tried to reassure me, but arranged for another scan in two weeks because I was so upset. At that scan, my son was even farther behind; his gestation didn’t even match up with the ‘new’ dates I had been given at the 14 week scan. Again, my insistence that something was wrong was ignored – ‘it’s hard to measure’, ‘a tiny measurement can make a big difference’ etc etc. We heard his heartbeat, and that was it until my 20 week scan. ‘IUGR’ (intrauterine growth restriction ie baby not growing properly) started whispering at the back of my mind. I don’t know if I’d been listened to if it would have made a difference, if anything could have been done. I think probably not, that it was too late by then, but I’ll never know. This was the only time during our painful journey that the care I received wasn’t as good as I feel it might have been, because no-one listened to me.
Because my dates were changed, my 20 week scan had been put back. However, I was taking part in a study also and due to that, I had to have a scan which was earlier than my anatomy scan. I can only say thank God, because that was the last time we saw my son alive. He barely moved. His heartbeat was still normal, but he was tiny. If I’d had to wait until my ’20 week’ scan, I wouldn’t have known for sure that he hadn’t passed away weeks earlier, because of his small size. At my follow up scan around a week later, there was no heartbeat. I’d had an amniocentesis the previous week, so we know that our baby had no genetic disorders. He died due to severe early onset IUGR caused by placental insufficiency. That means he wasn’t growing because my placenta wasn’t working properly to give him what he needed. We were devastated. We named our son Adam. The next several days were a blur, as we waited for the day for me to go in and give birth to our lifeless child. The staff in the Royal were amazing. So kind. My midwife Jackie really made an unendurable situation as smooth and ‘easy’ as she could.
I was referred after Adam’s loss to a consultant in England, Doctor Alex Heazell. We had to wait for 6 months, and that was excruciating. He was amazing. He told us that I had a blood clotting disorder, and prescribed treatment for me for my next pregnancy. I fell pregnant again very quickly, and started on my treatment regime, which included daily injections into my tummy. I was always extremely nervous of needles but the years of blood tests to try to find out what was wrong had inured me somewhat! The treatment worked.
Despite several scary moments, with lack of movement, hospital stays, and a blip in growth, our precious rainbow girl, Róise, arrived safely on 3 June 2016. She delights our hearts, and we are some of the lucky ones, because in the end, we have a child in our arms as well as all those in our hearts.
I am so grateful and thankful every day for my beautiful rainbow, but I will never forget her older siblings, my lost babies. I remember all their due dates, and I carry them all in my heart. I know I will see them again one day, and I look forward to meeting them and holding them in my arms at last.
**If you have been affected by Gail’s story or any of the issues raised in it, get in touch with SANDS who can offer support – find out about them by clicking here. **