17 weeks – our first Rainbow Clinic scan

Last week was our first scan at the Rainbow Clinic at St Mary’s and I want to give an in depth insight into the appointment to show everyone how incredible they are; as since the appointment we’ve been on cloud nine!

As you’ll know from my other blog posts, I’m very lucky to be a part of the Tommy’s funded Rainbow Clinic with Avery’s midwives and consultant as my team.

So far I’ve had my booking appointment at the Rainbow clinic, which was the perfect opportunity for me to feel comfortable in a safe and ‘understanding’ environment with a midwife who didn’t need to ask those awkward questions because she already knew me and Avery. I’ve also has a few check-ups with my wonderful consultant Dr Alexander Heazell at the antenatal clinic; but this was our first BIG scan at the rainbow clinic. Seventeen weeks is usually the first scan you have at Rainbow as anything before that is too early.

We had a very slow four week countdown to our appointment. I won’t lie I managed to get two scans to listen to the heartbeat in that time due to my anxiety and refusing to believe things were going well (the joys of pregnancy after loss). When I last saw Dr Heazell, he told me this appointment would be to look into my placenta and see how it’s developing. I remember he told me: “If everything looks good at your 17 week scan, it’s a good sign for the rest of your pregnancy” those words, whilst promising, instilled us both with a looming fear for four weeks because the reality of the scan’s importance hit home!

Eventually the day came and I was a nervous wreck. In the days leading up to the appointment I must have heard: “Are you ok, you seem quiet” a million times, but I just had bigger things on my brain than day to day life!

The St Mary’s Rainbow Clinic

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The clinic is hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the antenatal clinic and maternity wards – which for a loss mum is heaven! It can be hard sitting in an antenatal clinic with running screaming kids sometimes, so the peaceful calming environment of Rainbow is just a blessing in disguise.

The waiting room posters are tailored to parents who have experienced loss, there are sofas instead of stools, any other patients in there are rainbow patients, the receptionists are a delight, the décor is calming – you just can’t really ask for more as a parent who’s been through a trauma in a previous pregnancy; those little details which they clearly pay attention to mean the world.

Another great part of the clinic is you’re never left waiting more than five-ten minutes; now I love the NHS but even I know that’s a rarity nowadays!

The appointment

I was greeted by Dr Heazell and delighted that one of the Rainbow midwife Louise was in the room. I’ve never met Louise (she’s solely based in Rainbow) but she lived up to her reputation as she was absolutely lovely.

They did the usual quick checks of blood pressure and urine, checked I was keeping up to date with my heparin/ aspirin and folic acid, and then I was straight onto the bed for the scan. The machine was different to the usual ultrasound – it was much more high tech with a few different viewing options. It was clear that it was made for checking blood flow as there was a ‘rainbow’ of colours of the screen.

Alex started by letting me know that he won’t be fully inspecting baby today, as that’s what my 20 week scan is for and today was all about looking at the placenta and where the issues arose last time.

One gesture I’ve noticed that all sonographers/ consultants now do when they’re scanning me is to tell me there is a heartbeat the instant they see it – ah the relief this brings! I always look away for that initial moment when the scan comes up on the screen, as I have a terrible fear of seeing what I did when they scanned Avery – a lifeless body on the screen, an image that haunts me every night when I close my eyes.

I was so thoroughly impressed by everything Dr Heazell was looking into. Don’t get me wrong, he spoke in clinical gibberish to the midwife but he always relayed it back to us in plain English. As my issue last time was thickening of the blood in the placenta he took us through every artery and checked the flow of blood – confirming every time that what he could see spot on and as it should be; with every positive review, came another sigh of relief.

They checked over my right and left uterine arteries and the umbilical artery, as well as doing a fetal wellbeing scan for us (confirming the sex of the baby too upon our request – but that’s a secret for now!)

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After the scan was over we sat down and Alex told us what we’d been waiting to hear from the moment we found out we were pregnant: “In 75% of cases at the clinic where something has gone slightly wrong later on (none of which have ever been a stillbirth), we’ve pre-empted it at this scan. So, a positive scan like this at this stage is promising – keep doing what you’re doing.”

Steven and I must have asked: “are you sure – so everything’s looking good” about ten times each just to confirm.

The happy feels

We walked out of the scan on cloud nine; I don’t think we’ve come down to be honest. We can honestly say that this scan has been the one that’s changed everything for us. So far, the normal antenatal clinic scans haven’t helped me with our fears/ negativity nor have they allowed me to separate the two pregnancies. Our first Rainbow scan has confirmed to us that THIS IS REAL NOW, it’s going to happen for us and this isn’t Avery – it’s her brother/sister! In turn, this has now allowed us to start bonding.

I’ve noticed a huge change in my anxiety, with not one set of tears in the last week – if that doesn’t showcase the comfort that the Rainbow Clinic brings to loss parents then I don’t know what could.

Our next rainbow scan will be at week 23, and then they’ll be every 3 weeks – with extra close monitoring around the time things went wrong with Avery. I genuinely have hope for this pregnancy and for mine and Stevens’ happy ending.

I can’t thank the Rainbow Clinic enough for the happiness they’ve rejuvenated into us – it’s refreshing!

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One day at a time… Nicole XO

To find out more about the rainbow clinic, click here: https://www.tommys.org/our-organisation/our-research/research-cause/stillbirth-research/rainbow-clinic

 

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