Thinking back to when we saw that second pink line on our First Response test, I still feel butterflies. We just could not believe it and were just so over the moon. The evening before we tested, we had taken our beloved dog, Teddy, for a walk and I spotted a shooting star in the sky. It felt like that shooting star was a sign to us and when the test was positive we truly believed our miracle was making its way to us.
My pregnancy was straightforward but because I had been part of the IVF/TTC community for so long, and because I am a natural-worrier; I was still anxious and knew that we couldn’t take anything for granted. On top of the regular scans through the NHS, we also had additional scans at the Early Pregnancy Unit and paid privately for some too. Thinking back, don’t think we ever went longer than a week without a scan just to ease my mind, I am so glad now that we saw Dylan as much as we did.. I recall that at a 12 week scan one of the nurses, who was also pregnant herself, told me I could stop worrying now as I was in the ‘safe zone’.
At around 13 weeks, I started to get pains in my pelvic region and lower back. I spoke to friends who had had babies and they all assured me it was normal. I went to the doctors and they diagnosed me with SPD and referred me for physio. Nobody else seemed worried, so I tried not to be.
Just before we reached 15 weeks, we went with friends to see a Michael McIntyre at the o2 in London. We walked around lots and I was in so much pain that we cancelled our hotel that evening and drove home, I lay down the whole way home.
Looking back, I think I tried not to complain about any symptoms of pregnancy, because I was so grateful to be having them. A few days later I woke up and went to the toilet and noticed that there was blood. I recall screaming for Ryan to come to the bathroom and we quickly went to the A&E at the local hospital.
The next few days were a blur, A&E originally sent me home but within a few hours the bleeding had intensified and I was back. I was admitted into hospital and the doctor concluded that the neck of my womb was now open and I was at a risk of miscarriage. I recall not knowing how that could be possible as surely we were in the ‘safe zone’?. In the hospital I was put in a small ward within the maternity wing and I would be taken for scans down sitting in the waiting room alongside other pregnant women. It was dreadful to sit amongst all of these happy carefree women, but also it must have been hard for them to see me.
The doctors were unable to explain what was happening but did say that my cervix was measuring at 2.6cm and should have been at around 5cm. They said that this was possibly because I had had some cervical cells removed a few months prior. I pointed out that this was at the same hospital, in the same department so why wasn’t this checked? I was informed that they don’t check a woman’s cervix as standard during pregnancy even if research shows that such treatment can result in short or weakened cervix.
I was placed on bed rest and after 3 days I was taken to surgery to have a cervical stitch in an attempt to keep our baby safe, I was put to sleep and when I came round I knew something was wrong. The nurses in the theatre would not give me answers and kept insisting I had to wait to speak to a doctor. I was terrified and enraged all at the same time, convinced something had gone wrong in the surgery. After what seemed like hours, I was eventually taken back up to the ward where Ryan was waiting. I told him I didn’t know what had happened but something didn’t feel right. To our surprise, when the Doctor returned to brief us she said that the baby was still okay, but that the surgery did not take place as I was bleeding too much internally. On one hand we felt huge relief that our baby was okay, but knew that the fact the surgery had not happened meant we were at risk.
The doctor suggested that we go home and I rest as being in hospital would not make any difference because even if the baby was born, it couldn’t be saved. This was so hard to hear. But we went home, I felt like home would be a safe space for us.
The following day, I returned to the hospital as I had started to bleed heavily again. The same doctor scanned me and confirmed that the baby was still okay and we were able to see his heart beating. I asked the doctor what she thought could happen next and whether I would lose our baby. She was very matter of fact and said it could go either way. She said we should “go home, hope for the best, and prepare for tragedy”. I’ll never forget those words. That night as I went to bed I was in a huge amount of pain down my back and took some paracetamol to ease the pain.
The following morning, Ryan stayed at home and my Mum came round to help me wash my hair as I knew I had to take things easy. After my bath, I snuggled up on the sofa as my Mum and Ryan made some tea and tidied up the house around me. Out of nowhere, I felt an intense urge to push, I was terrified and screamed for Ryan. It all happened very quickly but within moments Dylan was in my hands, I could feel him warm and moving around for a few moments and then he stopped. He was still connected to me by the umbilical cord and I was scared to look down and just stood there in shock whilst Mum and Ryan ran around looking for towels and called an ambulance.
I was stood in the kitchen and looked out of the window and saw the postwoman doing her rounds. It struck me in that moment that she was just having an ordinary morning whilst my life had fallen apart feet away from where she walked, I wanted to scream but I couldn’t speak.
The paramedics arrived and were brilliant, they cut the cord and I was too frightened to see Dylan so they put him in a box. They could see I had not delivered the placenta so needed to call a bigger ambulance to take me to hospital.
Everything from that moment seems like a blur, but there are parts I remember vividly. I remember how kind the other paramedics were. I remember that as they wheeled me into the lift of the hospital a pregnant lady came into the lift and spotted the box in one of the paramedics hands and she looked horrified. I remember being wheeled through the maternity wing to the ward that I had been on a few days prior and the nurses and paramedics disagreeding about where I should go. Eventually I was put into a temporary room where I stayed for the next few hours. A lovely lady called Lucy came to see us, she was the same nurse who I had seen a few weeks ago who was pregnant herself. She tearfully apologised for telling me to relax and I assured her it wasn’t her fault. For hours she stayed with me helping me to try and push the placenta out to avoid surgery and so I could go home. Unfortuantely it was not possible and it was agreed I’d need a D&C. I just wanted it over and done with and to go home but we were told that the surgeons were tired so it would have to wait until the morning, I couldn’t go home due to the risk of infection so I was kept on the ward. It felt like a nightmare.
Lucy gently persuaded us to see Dylan and she wrapped him up in a blanket for us. We didn’t know at that point whether he was a boy or a girl so she told us as she brought him over to us. We all cried as Ryan held him for the first time and eventually I felt strong enough to hold him too. We read him a book called ‘Guess how much I love you’ and we eventually put him in his box along with a little teddy bear and said our goodbyes.
The following day I was taken to theatre and put to sleep to have the placenta removed. Once back on the ward we were quickly discharged and sent home with nothing but a leaflet from the Miscarriage association.
I felt then, and I still do that the physical process of a second trimester loss is greatly misunderstood. Most people don’t realise that beyond 12 weeks you will go through a labour or have to have a D&C if the baby dies. Or that the baby will be formed, albeit very small. I have even had one medical professional ask me “so it was actually a real baby then?”
I am not for one second implying that any loss in pregnancy hurts less or more but physically after losing Dylan I had many of the same symptoms that any other woman would post-labour. My milk came in and I would wake up convinced I could hear a baby crying. I wasn’t prepared for any of that and had no contact from the doctors or my midwife apart from a text reminding me to go for a scan, another painful reminder and something I know happens to lots of bereaved parents. I wish the NHS would just sort that.
One year on and we have had two failed IVF cycles, one ending in chemical pregnancy. We have one frozen embryo at the clinic and have also started to look into adoption. We speak about Dylan every day and not a moment passes where he isn’t in our thoughts. I know that for many it may seem self-sabotaging and possibly pointless to keep talking about Dylan but we don’t know how else to navigate through his loss. We have no memories of him in this world, we don’t have a special place or an item of his clothing to feel him near. All we have are the scans, remembering how he looked on the day he arrived and thoughts about just how much of a gap he has left in our lives.
We don’t know if I will be lucky enough to fall pregnant again, or if I will ever carry a baby to term. What we do know is that we want there to be changes in the way pregnant womens’ concerns are dealt with, we want for every woman to have their cervix checked early on in pregnancy and we want there to be a greater aftercare for all bereaved parents regardless of the stage at which they lose their baby, included in this we want the NHS systems to be updated following a loss to ensure that people do not receive painful reminders for scan appointments.
If this is achieved, then in a very small way, Dylans life will not have been entirely in vain.
You can follow Lisa on Instagram @heartaches_and_cupcakes