As a young girl I’d been a huge fan of the show ‘Sister, Sister’, deciding that when I had children of my own, I’d definitely have twins. Fast forward many years, including a diagnosis of PCOS in my early twenties, and I’m lying on a bed in the EPU with my husband of 18 months, Tom, being told we’re expecting twins – high five to me for manifesting that childhood goal! But it wasn’t meant to be… I was 9 weeks along and there due to a peachy coloured discharge I came to know all too well. I was told to rest and signed off work.
At my next scan 10 days later one of the twins was struggling. Asked to return in a further ten days, it was confirmed that one hadn’t survived. The other looked to be struggling too. Another ten agonising days passed as I sat at home with my two babies inside me, one fighting to survive, one already gone. The next scan confirmed the worst. We were devastated.
Nature wasn’t taking its course, so we were booked in for a D&C a week later. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over the psychological impact of that time, carrying my lifeless babies, whilst suffering with a full complement of pregnancy symptoms. I cried all the way to theatre on the day of the procedure, I’m not sure whether it was sadness or relief at the torture being over. Probably both. Tom was amazing in supporting me but in doing so suppressed his own sadness. And whilst I was offered lots of options in terms of support, he was not – a continuing disparity that must be addressed.
Another miscarriage followed a few months later. We tried again. I’d become almost robotic – absolutely determined to get and stay pregnant. After a scan confirming we’d suffered our third miscarriage, we drove straight to Tom’s rugby club – we were organising the end of season dinner that evening and had to help set up. We spent the evening at the celebrations, like nothing had happened. I drove to a friend’s babies christening the next morning, announcing to close friends that I’d had another miscarriage in the church pew as if I was talking about someone else. Now, it feels insane to me that we just cracked on when we were so sad, but I guess it was our way of coping.
Three miscarriages equal further tests, and we were lucky to be placed under the care of the incredible Professor Quenby. I remember crying in the waiting room, overwhelmed at needing to be there, at seeing other couples who were struggling and feeling less alone, full of hope that there was an answer and fear that there wasn’t.
The good news was we could absolutely get pregnant, and very easily. I was diagnosed as hyper fertile which, it turned out, wasn’t as great as it sounded! Routine tests complete, I was prescribed the delight that is Cyclogest pessaries and referred for a hysteroscopy. Professor Quenby also requested an impromptu womb scraping. That was quite the experience. I’ll never forget the look of horror on Tom’s face, or how incredibly tense I (and specifically my pelvic floor) was, as the doctor counted down from 10 whilst scraping, with another three doctors watching on. It’s fair to say that cervical screenings have been quite stressful since!
The hysteroscopy showed Endometriosis and a large build-up of scar tissue – known as Ashermans Syndrome. I needed a surgical hysteroscopy to clear the scar tissue, and we were fortunate that we could go privately to speed things along. The procedure was seemingly successful – they even found a uterine septum and removed that. Another possible cause of miscarriage.
A few months later, I fell pregnant again… this time there was hope. We saw a heartbeat, we let ourselves get excited. Sadly, it wasn’t to be, and another D&C followed. The post-mortem showed she was a perfectly healthy girl. This loss hit us hard, but we tried to look ahead. Professor Quenby wanted to try one more thing – regular scans had raised concerns around the thickness of my womb lining. It was suspected that this could be one of the potential causes of our losses. I was prescribed a medication to help thicken my womb lining – it wasn’t commonly used so success was far from guaranteed, but it was very clear this was our last hope. A few months later, I fell pregnant. We tried to remain calm and pragmatic, but really believed this was it. Sadly, I miscarried again. That was the end of the line. I simply couldn’t carry.
We let the dust settle on the worst news we could have imagined before briefly considering surrogacy, with my amazing sister offering to carry for us. Ultimately, after meeting with a specialist we decided that wasn’t the right route for us. But instinct told us adoption was.
After some time, we started the process with our amazing social worker, and completed several training days involving a lot of tears and tough discussions. Ten months passed and we were approved to adopt. Less than a month later I got a call “There’s a little girl. We think you should hear more about her”. I was at work, I just dropped everything and left. I rang Tom and told him. We were both in shock – we were expecting to wait a long time for a match. Was this it?!
They sent her report over and I sat and read everything about who she was and what led her to be in care, waiting for Tom to come home from work. We’d asked not to see photographs – we didn’t want to be swayed by a cute face if the facts on paper suggested she wasn’t the right fit. Tom knew she was our child immediately, it took me a week, and a phone call with her foster carer, to be certain. I needed time to process it all. On a break in Edinburgh, I said let’s make the call – “yes please!!!”. They emailed photographs – we just couldn’t stop staring at her. We were so happy – we told our parents and a friend each, but nobody else. We hadn’t been to panel yet, but we were told it was safe to start preparing so started decorating her nursery – an absolute dream! It was such a special and exciting time.
Around six weeks passed before we attended panel. We sat in a room of lovely people who asked us a range of questions, some quite challenging. But we did it – we got resounding yes! Our daughters foster carer came to see us outside the court and we gave her a few photographs and a doll for our little girl. We celebrated by shopping for her pushchair, car seats, clothes… We FaceTimed our families holding up a photo of our newest member – “meet your new niece/cousin/great-granddaughter”. It was the best feeling. Everyone was overjoyed for us.
We met our daughter for the first time four days later. We knocked on the door of her foster home and a little girl in a blue cord pinafore dress, pink stripy top, white tights and shiny blue shoes toddled up to us and changed our lives in that second. 19 days later she came home forever. It’s been almost 3 years since that day… it’s not been the easiest road, and it fair to say we’ve struggled with a lot of delayed grief, but we’re working through it.
We’re very open with our daughter about the fact she’s adopted and keep a photo album of her time in foster care in her room. She looks at it often and we try answer her questions as honestly as we can. She still sleeps with a blanket given to her by her “tummy-mummy”. It breaks my heart when I think about the things that led her to us and us to her, but we’re also incredibly lucky that we found each other. We can’t imagine life without her – she’s full of energy, laughter, and love despite the horrible things she’s been through. She’s taught us so much, not least true strength, and how to love unconditionally. There’ll be more bumps on the road as we help her face the complex emotions that come with being an adopted child, and as we navigate the waves of sadness that still hit us – I still struggle with pregnancy announcements/baby showers and feel immense guilt at the fact my body caused us so much pain. But we’ll work through it all together, as a family. As long as we continue to support each other and talk openly about our feelings we can navigate anything. And I’m beyond thankful for that.
“Little souls find their way to you, whether they’re from your womb or someone else’s” Sheryl Crow