14. Baby 5

We tried again the following cycle. Commencing progesterone again on day 21 and waiting until day 28 to test. It was a Sunday morning (4th August 2013). We got up. Matt went downstairs. I peed in a cup. I dipped the test. I put it down and went away for the three minutes it took. I came back…and there were two lines. Pregnant! Again! Five times this had happened. I went down to Matt and collapsed in to his arms in tears. This was our chance. We grasped it with both hands.

The next day I rang the Early Pregnancy Unit to book my six week scan. We were unlucky as it was the summer holidays and our consultant was off. After a little wrangling, we were booked in for our first scan at exactly 6 weeks. Luckily it was a late afternoon appointment, so we didn’t have to make any arrangements for annual leave. Time passed slowly. I was definitely feeling pregnant, but it was hard to trust it was the pregnancy and not just side effects from the progesterone treatment.

August 19th 2013 arrived and I struggled to focus on anything all day. Like so so many times before, we sat nervously in the EPU waiting room. As ever, Matt was right there next to me, supporting me every step of the way, telling me everything was going to be ok, whatever the outcome. Our time came and I could barely breathe. I was prepared that I could need an internal scan given how early we were, but she started with an abdominal scan and we couldn’t believe it when the sonographer turned the screen to us and showed us our miniature baby!! It measured 4mm long and we could see its heart beating! To this day, this blows my mind. Our baby was there measuring 4mm and it had a teeny, tiny beating heart. It was too early for us to be able to hear it, but she was able to show us the beats on the screen. It was strong and fast. I was in tears, again. Our 4mm little miracle was there.

After the scan, we were taken to an examination room to be shown how to administer the heparin. I *knew* that this was what needed to happen, but I couldn’t pretend not to be terrified – a blood test or vaccination is a big thing for me (I can’t even watch when Maisie, our pup, has her boosters!) and here I was having to learn how to give myself daily injections. The nurse helped me administer the first one and from then on it would be up to me to inject myself in my stomach every day for the next 6 weeks (all being well). We were packed off with boxes of syringes and a sharps bin.

We’d been promised weekly first trimester scans, but in a twist of fate it was us that couldn’t come the following week as we’d booked a holiday. We were booked in again for two weeks time.

Two days later and I went to the toilet at work and I was spotting. Only a tiny amount and, if you weren’t some over-paranoid person, you probably wouldn’t even have seen it. But I am/was that over-paranoid person and it sucked away the delicate veil of confidence the scan had brought us just days ago. I rang the EPU and luckily our consultant was back. She told me how normal it is and how likely it was that it was just implantation bleeding. I worried the heparin would make any bleeding worse, but she told me to continue. It was so early that a repeat scan at that point would likely yield nothing, so we just had to hold tight until the next scan.

Looking back now I can’t believe we went away on holiday. But we packed up Maisie, the car, our now trusty sharps bin and set off. I had a bit more spotting, but we both felt strangely calm. Maybe it was the trust in the treatment protocol, or maybe we just trusted in our little baby to keep on growing, but we managed to have a nice week away, although we were very eager to get back for our next scan.

I somehow managed ok with the heparin. I did have to sit and build up to doing each one, but Matt always sat patiently with me, whilst I brought the syringe close to doing it… and then wimped out and had to build myself up again. But I always managed it, and that’s what matters.

Thankfully the spotting stopped and we went to the next scan on 2nd September 2013. I was 8 weeks pregnant and was so nervous. I still felt very pregnant and had been sick a few times and was exhausted beyond belief. We made a pact not to look at the screen or try and read our consultant’s face. But almost as soon as she’d started scanning, she turned the screen to us and showed us our growing baby. It was now big enough that we got to listen to the heartbeat. I could have laid there and listened to that all day – the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. Baby was measuring exactly perfect for dates. It was going well. We remained cautious – our experience from our early scans with baby 2 had taught us that even when things looked positive, it could still very easily go wrong. We had still not told anyone that we were expecting again, and just carried this beautiful little secret with us for a little while longer.

8. Second time lucky?

So. We were ‘expecting’ again and oh how nervous we were. The chance of an initial molar pregnancy is around 1 in 750-1000. Once you’ve had one, the chance of a second increases to 1 in 75-100. Once you’ve been a 1 in 1000, then staring a 1 in 100 chance in the face looks huge. Add to that the 1 in 4 chance of a miscarriage, and we weren’t really feeling all too confident.

The joy, the excitement we felt the first time we saw that positive test was muted. The pregnancy books we’d so eagerly bought last time, stayed firmly on their shelf. The excited visits we’d made to our families to share the news remained undone. Once bitten, twice shy.

During the follow-up from the molar pregnancy, our consultant explained that we would need additional early scans in any subsequent pregnancies to look for signs of another (at 7 weeks to rule out a complete molar pregnancy, and 10 weeks to rule out a partial molar pregnancy). So once we got the positive test, I rang the Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU) to book the 7 week scan. We had just over 3 anxious weeks to wait, with absolutely nothing we could do to change the outcome.

Crawl forward to 5 weeks and 2 days pregnant. It was a Monday morning at work (30th January 2012) and I went to the toilet. I was spotting again. It wasn’t bright red blood (usually a good sign – fresh blood is bad), but it was the same as last time and I now knew this brown, watery blood to be one of the signs of a molar pregnancy. I was in tears and terrified. I rang Matt sobbing and then the EPU to ask what I should do. I lucked out with a lovely nurse – she explained it was too early to scan, but she booked me a scan for the Friday when I would be 5+6 (ordinarily they wouldn’t scan before 6 weeks, but she agreed to squeeze me in a day early). I was under orders to get back in touch if the bleeding got any heavier and in the mean time… we waited. Those 4 days passed unbelievably slowly. We had convinced ourselves that it would be bad news again and we were trying to prepare ourselves (if one ever can prepare themselves for news like this).

When Friday finally dawned, we were nervous wrecks. Again. Matt bolstered me, as ever, and told me that we could deal with whatever news the day brought us. I held my breath as the gel was applied. We couldn’t believe it when we were told that everything looked correct for dates – we were pointed to a small sac and yolk sac. It was a bit too early for her to make out the fetal pole, but she was happy all looked fine! Good news! She could see no reason for the spotting and it was attributed to implantation bleeding. We had just under 2 weeks now to wait for the next scan with our consultant. More waiting. More nerves.

I continued to spot on and off, but also got some nausea and ‘felt’ pregnant. Our next scan date loomed heavy on 16th February 2012 (I would be 7+3). The scan would be with our consultant and, all being well, she would be having a thorough look for signs of molar tissue. Again, I held my breath….then she turned the screen and showed us our teeny tiny baby and its precious little heart beating away. We had never seen anything so beautiful. The tears flowed and we stared in absolute awe at the little life we’d created. This meant a complete molar pregnancy was ruled out. Our little one was measuring perfectly for dates and our consultant was happy that everything was developing exactly as it should and she re-booked us for 3 weeks time (8th March 2012), when I’d be 10+5. We left the appointment with the weight a little lifted from our shoulders and a lighter step. We’d seen our beautiful little miracle.

The relief at a good scan didn’t last long and we were now facing 21 days of unknown! We decided to book a private scan to see us through. This was booked for 25th February 2012. I’d be 9 weeks.

Again, we had a good scan! Our tummy person now looked baby shaped, was having a bit of a wiggle around and we got to hear the galloping little beating of the teeny weeny heart – I genuinely could have listened to that precious melody all day long. Another exhale, another sigh of relief. Slowly the pregnancy books crept off their shelves. After a heartbeat is seen at 9 weeks, the risk of miscarriage falls to its lowest point.

The wait to the next scan was a little easier, as we kept reminding ourselves of the three good scans we’d had to date and had our ultrasound pics to look [read: stare!] at and I kept making Matt re-enact the strumming little heartbeat we heard. For once, we sat in the EPU waiting room feeling, whilst not exactly ‘confident’, not rigid with fear. We were kept waiting a while, as the ultrasound machine had gone astray, but we finally saw it being wheeled back through and knew we’d be called through. I remember smiling as I lay down, awaiting seeing our baby again. We therefore waited and watched in horror as our consultant’s face turned from one of smiles, to one of concern and concentration. Eventually she turned to us with the words ‘I’m afraid it’s not good news’. Our baby had died. Our baby, the one we’d seen moving around not 12 days ago, had not developed any further. My memory of that moment was a noise from Matt like he’d been kicked in the stomach. We couldn’t believe this was happening to us again. Just when we thought it was our time, our happily ever after was being denied.

We were shown through to the same consultation room as last time and again sobbed in each other’s arms. Our consultant came through to discuss what would happen now. Whereas last time we had options (waiting, medication, surgery), this time we were told that I would need to have surgery again, so they could test for molar tissue. I was booked in for 5 days time (13th March 2012).

It would be my second surgery in 8 months. Our second lost baby in 8 months. We didn’t deserve this. Last time was hard, this time after having had three scans and having seen our baby moving and hearing its little heart beating was almost unbearable. Yet again, we had to un-tell our families. Yet again, we had to continue to get up, eat, live.

You might think that having been through surgery once before so recently, it might be easier. It wasn’t. It was harder. I knew what to expect. I knew the discomfort, pain, and longing that awaited me.

At discharge, we were told again to wait (ever waiting) before trying again, and that we would be informed of the histology results as soon as they were available. Two weeks later and I was still bleeding from the surgery, we returned for another ultrasound to check that there was no tissue remaining and it was here we learnt that the histology was back and it hadn’t been a molar pregnancy, but there was no reason for our loss, just horribly bad luck.

At discharge from the molar follow-up we were told that I would need to do repeat tests following each pregnancy from then on (successful, or not). I contacted the wonderful nurses at Western Park and shared the news of our loss. After a few weeks a familiar test tube arrived in the post, and a few days later it was confirmed that my levels had returned to normal – my body catching on to the news it was over far quicker than either of us could get our heads around the news that our baby was gone.

7. Waiting

My surgery was on 1st July 2011, making my all-clear date 1st January 2012. This would be 18 months from when we first set out on our journey to conceive. 18 months! Some people make 2 babies in this time, and we would be no closer to making one.

Following the first hCG reading, I was referred to Sheffield Trophoblastic Disease Centre and I was then required to provide them with a urine sample on a fortnightly basis for testing. Every two weeks the testing package arrived – a teeny test tube and some paperwork to fill and send back in the return post. I would then have a couple of anxious days to wait before I could ring up for the result. Luckily (I guess ‘lucky’ is really relative in this story), my results remained ‘normal’. The waiting was hard though. All that I said earlier, about wanting to conceive again to help us heal? That was being kept from us. There was no way, of course, to know whether we’d conceive any quicker this time, but at least before we were trying to move forward, now we were in a no man’s land, where there was nothing we could do but wait for time to pass and the all clear to reach us.

Trying (and failing) to conceive is hard [understatement!] at any time. Trying (and failing) and being prevented from conceiving in what was one of the largest baby booms to hit England in 40 years was extra-specially hard. Friends / colleagues who started trying after us, were now nursing their precious babes. Not a week seemed to go by without another baby announcement, another ‘you’re leaving to have a baby’ collection to dig deep for, another card to write in, another smile to fix to our faces, another “oh, congratulations, how wonderful” to deliver. Did I wish these people weren’t having babies? Not at all, I only wished that we too could join them.

Time passed slowly. I was absolutely desperate to start trying again, the limbo we were living in was making me extremely sad. I researched molar pregnancies to death. I emailed the wonderful nurses at Sheffield for advice. Matt and I discussed it at length and eventually decided that we would start trying again a month early. This is a really individual decision to make, but we felt it was the right one for us. The 6 month period seems relatively arbitrary and once a ‘normal’ result is received, hCG very rarely rises again. We felt safe to start trying to move forward.

Around the time we were making the decision to start trying again, I joined an online molar pregnancy forum. I feel so lucky that I did. Unlike a ‘regular’ miscarriage, there is so much other rubbish that comes with having had a molar pregnancy. Plus such little information around – in all the pregnancy books we had, I think only one mentioned molar pregnancy as a possible complication of pregnancy, and only then in passing (like “oh spotting might be a sign of a molar pregnancy, but yeah, it won’t be that as they’re so uncommon”). It’s easy to feel like a freak. To be able to speak to other ladies going through the same and coming out the other side was such a relief. This group of ladies are some of the most courageous, brave, compassionate women I have ever come across. Some had been through such long and scary journeys (including months of chemotherapy treatment and extended periods of follow-up, in some cases lifetime), but still had time to offer support, encouragement and non-judgmental listening.

So, we started trying again in November. The first month passed and we were unsuccessful. My new cycle began on Christmas Eve 2011. We were disappointed to be facing another Christmas without a baby or one on the way, but we were determined to make 2012 our fresh start.

On 21st January 2012, we got a positive test. Our fresh new start was here. Pregnant again.