Words can’t quite express how comforting and exciting it feels to be sat in my blogging spot again, ready to start a new chapter of sharing my experiences. It feels like only yesterday I was sat at my mum’s dining table five weeks after losing Avery penning my first blog, I couldn’t see the screen through the tears. Yet here I am, nearly 12 months on, 40 blog posts down and feeling stronger than ever, ready to turn the page to a brighter chapter of our story.
It’s been nearly three months since I last blogged, three months of torture not utilising my coping mechanism. But it’s been a necessary three months of me-time, because I’ve been cooking up a little secret which I’m now ready to share with the world – Avery is getting a little brother or sister!
Avery’s gift from above
I never thought the words would come from my mouth, after months of feeling lost like we would never pluck up the courage to try again, to the following months being full of disappointing and never-ending cycles every time we saw a negative test. It’s been whirlwind of emotions, but I’m glad we took those months to just be in our little unit of me Steven and our angel, we needed that necessary time to grieve and we’re so much stronger now for it. My body took the time it needed to feel physically ready for the journey ahead after the trauma of losing Avery, delivering her, surgery, and saying goodbye.
So, where did it all begin?
14 weeks ago, just on the verge of thinking that we couldn’t conceive (that’s what loss does to you, it makes you think the worst of every situation), my period didn’t arrive on its normal day – I’m usually like clockwork. So by chance, I asked Steven to pick up a digital test on his way home, we sat anxiously on the bath holding hands hovering over the test, repeating to ourselves ‘we’ve not conceived, this is just to put our hopes at rest’, oh how wrong we were. When those glorious words ‘pregnant 1-2 weeks’ appeared the elation couldn’t be contained. God knows what the neighbours thought; we cheered, jumped, cried and danced around like lunatics for a solid ten minutes. A moment I’ll always treasure.
I wanted to tell the world there and then, but of course after an hour of being in shock, reality set in that this was real and we needed to seriously think about what we were going to do next. We’d hoped and dreamed of this news, but never really planned what to do when we got it.
That night we went for a walk like we always do and discussed what to do next. First port of call was to ring the bereavement team at St Mary’s and take it from there, because frankly we had no idea what to do!
Vicky Holmes, my incredible bereavement midwife, was the first person I told. After always speaking to her over painful circumstances such as post-mortem, her counselling me through my episodes over the phone, funeral planning – this was a conversation I enjoyed every second of. As usual, she explained EVERYTHING, made me feel like I knew exactly what was next, what I needed to do and that everything was going to be ok as she had it in hand.
Over the past 14 weeks, Vicky has arranged everything for me, I’ve barely had to lift a finger. She’s a midwife at the Tommy’s rainbow clinic at St Mary’s, which I’m very honoured to be a part of for this pregnancy and this is the start of my story with them …
The Tommy’s Rainbow clinic
The Rainbow Clinic is a specialist service, part of the Tommy’s Stillbirth Research Centre at St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester. It provides specialist antenatal care for women and their families who have suffered a previous stillbirth or neonatal death.
Since January 2017, after Avery’s post mortem with Dr Alexander Heazell we’d hoped our future pregnancies would be in the rainbow clinic, as we knew we’d be well looked after – so we were delighted to find out for sure that this pregnancy would be under rainbow care. Dr Heazell is our consultant throughout this pregnancy; words can’t describe how reassuring that is. Alex knows our case, he took us through Avery’s post mortem and so knows what went wrong, and consequently he knew exactly what treatment plan to put me on from my first appointment with him at 7 weeks.
The past 14 weeks have been full of reassurance and specialist care; I’ve had four scans and numerous appointments with Alex and Vicky in a calm and non-inquisitive environment. To start it all with a booking appointment at the rainbow clinic with Vicky who treats me like a dear friend was everything – no awkward ‘is this your first pregnancy’ questions, which I’m sure so many loss mums dread. It’s the little things like this which makes pregnancy after loss that little bit more bearable.
At week seven, Dr Heazell talked us through our treatment plan to prevent clotting in the placenta again. As discussed in our post-mortem, this means daily heparin injections and aspirin – and I’ve been a human pin cushion since that day. It took me a few days to get into my stride but I’ve got the injections down to a fine art now – it may seem extreme but what’s a daily pin prick for a live baby at the end?!
Things will really start to gain momentum in three weeks when we have our first in-depth scan at the rainbow clinic at 17 weeks. This is Dr Heazells first opportunity to look at the placenta and blood flow in detail, seeing if the treatment plan is working well. I’m sure the next three weeks will be a slow-burner but every time I feel negative I like to remind myself that Dr Heazell and the clinic have 100% SUCCESS RATE!
It’s of course not all rainbows, but that’s ok
So, to summarise, the past 14 weeks have been a whirlwind, I could talk all day about the emotions and symptoms I’ve had! I’ve so far experienced it all: HG sickness, nausea, cramping, constant wretching, indigestion, constipation and doubt as to whether I’m even pregnant. And yes I constantly think I’ve done something to harm the baby, but that’s a doddle to the days I wake up to the realisation that this baby isn’t Avery, and how much I miss her – those days are tough. I was under no illusion from the beginning that pregnancy after loss was going to be hard, so whilst I’m prepared for the long journey ahead, I know there’ll be days when Avery will shadow me around and the hormones will take over me. But as always, I’ll get through it with Steven. I know Avery is looking over us and her brother/ sister and that’s all I need to know to keep going.
One day at a time .. XO Nicole (and our rainbow)
I’ve grown very close to Tommy’s over the past year, they’ve shown me and my family unconditional support, and it’s been reciprocated through all the charity work me and Steven are doing. I’m delighted and honoured to be sharing our full journey from start to baby at the rainbow clinic through a series of blogs in collaboration with them – I hope it helps the world to see how incredible this clinic and Tommy’s are.
To find out more about the Rainbow Clinic and the great work Tommys do, click here https://www.tommys.org/our-organisation/what-we-do/our-research/research-stillbirth/rainbow-clinic