Rachael P’s Story

Tom and I married in May 2022 at our parish church with a stunning reception. We ventured off on our honeymoon and on our return made the decision to start trying for our first baby. I fell pregnant immediately which was a huge shock but we were incredibly excited.

At 6 weeks pregnant I had some mild abdominal pain, nothing major, but right in the location described for an ectopic pregnancy. We got checked and though it was too early to see a heartbeat I was measuring on track and baby was in the right location, a huge relief!

We went for a private scan at 9 weeks. They couldn’t see a heartbeat which worried us. They weren’t concerned as I’d had no signs of miscarriage and said I must be earlier than I thought. I explained about the first scan and they agreed to scan me a week later. We returned to be told changes had occurred in the yolk sac which meant the pregnancy had to be progressing, even though we still couldn’t see a heartbeat.

I think deep down I knew something wasn’t right. But I hadn’t bled (at this point I’d never even heard of a missed miscarriage) and when the professionals tell you something you believe them, especially if it’s what you want to hear.

5 days later, 11 weeks pregnant, in October 2022 I had a tiny bleed. Triage thought it could be implantation bleeding and weren’t concerned. I monitored it for a few days and it was such small amounts but eventually I rang for an appointment. They weren’t worried but I was.

We went up and all the initial checks showed no concerns; no fresh blood, cervix closed etc. They weren’t going to do a scan but when I explained my worries over the last few weeks they agreed to.

There was still no heartbeat, and this time they said there never would be. There had been no progression from the images of my first scan with the NHS. I’d likely lost the baby at 6 weeks and I suspect the mild pain was my only sign. We found out the private scans we had were incorrect, that changes in the yolk scan don’t indicate a progressing pregnancy. I’d experienced a missed miscarriage and it should have been detected earlier.

I opted for a surgical procedure called a D&C as my body was holding so tightly on to my baby that would never be.

We started trying again immediately. I wanted a baby so badly. And so began tracking and ovulation tests, counting life in periods, ovulation and two week waits. It was draining and emotionally exhausting after the loss.

Because we got pregnant without trying I was convinced it would be quick. It wasn’t and I grew concerned my surgery had caused issues. Eventually in June 2023 I fell pregnant with my second, 2 days before my 30th birthday.

Pregnancy after a miscarriage is very different. Seeing those lines didn’t mean I was having a baby, it meant I was currently pregnant. We were very excited to be pregnant and told ourselves there was no reason our previous experience should repeat itself. All the same I did a test every other day until the lines were as dark as they could possibly be.

At 7 weeks we went for a reassurance scan with the NHS, there wasn’t a chance I would have gone private after my last experience. On the way in I had what can only be described as a panic attack, but seeing that flickering heart beat on the screen was amazing, we had already made it further.

But still I didn’t relax, 7 weeks was still 5 weeks away from ‘safety’ but we made it there too! They detected a ‘uterine shelf’ which wasn’t causing any concerns to baby at present but I was put under a consultant to keep an eye on it. I started to feel our baby move as early as 15 weeks which was lovely, a little way of knowing they were still ok. I was admitted to hospital at 18 weeks for hyperemesis gravidarum (severe sickness) but otherwise everything was going smoothly. When we got the all clear at our anomaly scan and reached viability I finally breathed. Our baby was perfect and coming home.

We had scans every 4 weeks to check the shelf still wasn’t causing a concern. It wasn’t and our baby was growing well. We had one at 32+3 weeks and all was fine.

On 27th December 2023 l, just 5 days after our last scan, I got home from work and I couldn’t feel our baby moving. I’d been in for reduced movement before at 24 weeks but this time I was really worried, call it a mother’s instinct. My husband was away so my Mum took me up to triage.

A doppler to hear silence, followed by more silence. Another midwife to try to find the heartbeat. A doctor with the ultrasound machine.

This time I only heard ‘I’m sorry’ I didn’t hear the rest of the sentence. Our apparently healthy baby had died. Life changed in the blink of an eye.

It’s weird what you remember from times like that. I remember the doctor very deliberately laying the sheet of tissue over my bump before she told me. It was like she wanted to make it easier by hiding my bump from view. I remember asking (or maybe screaming) why, a question for which they had no answers.

I rang my husband who came straight away. I knew I would have to deliver our baby and I was terrified. I wasn’t scared of labour before but I was now. I just wanted it over. But I had to take a medication to increase the chances of a successful induction. It took 48 hours to work so we came home, still carrying our baby. That 48 hours will forever be the worst of my life.

I was absolutely terrified. I feel really guilty admitting that I was scared to see our baby. What does a dead baby look like? I wish someone had been around to tell me that I wouldn’t see death. I’d see my beautiful, perfect baby sleeping.

In addition to that were other thoughts. Babies don’t just die, only on tv. So all the other things that only happen on tv suddenly seemed more likely too. In all honesty when we returned to the hospital 48 hours later I had convinced myself that I would die in childbirth and my husband would be on his own.

I was induced at 11pm and immediately felt calmer. My labour was an absolute dream come true, aside from the obvious. My birth plan was cast aside and I just did what I felt was right, which turned out not too different from what I’d hoped, minimal intervention and calm. I have honestly never felt so empowered, strong and proud as I did delivering our son.

Yes, he was a boy! A total shock as from the day I’d taken the test I was so sure he was a girl!  Henry Andrew was born at 12:30pm on 30th December 2023. He weighed 5lbs. He was absolutely perfect.

Andrew was a name both my husband and I wanted long before we met each other. It’s my husband middle name and his Dad’s first name. My mum had a brother called Andrew who sadly drowned when he was 12. My mum had two girls and so never got the chance to honour him. I always knew I would but never imagined it in this circumstance.

Our midwife was a truly remarkable lady, a true angel sent. She was actually the first midwife I saw the night we learnt he had died, so she really was with us every step of the way. She made prints of his hands and feet, talking to him the whole time. I’ll never ever forget the care she showed us and Henry that day. It was a priceless gift.

Henry was the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen. I know I’m biased as his Mum but he was simply adorable. He looked exactly like me, especially his nose, but he did have his Daddy’s chin dimples. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to see them crease when he giggled, something we can only imagine.

We spent the most precious twelve hours with him, facilitated by the hospital providing a ‘cuddle cot’ to keep him cool. My parents, sister and Mother in law came to meet and hold him. We had a photographer from a truly amazing charity called Remember My Baby come to take precious photographs for us. Our priest came to bless Henry and spent time with us.

We wrote and read him a letter, dressed him, sang him a nursery rhyme and read him a bedtime story. The story was called ‘Life’s a Rainbow’ I’d bought it because he was our rainbow, but I imagined reading it under very different circumstances. Holding him I can honestly say I felt at peace. I’d got my beautiful baby boy in my arms.

The only problem was I couldn’t keep him. Eventually we had done everything we wanted to, or rather everything we could do in the circumstances. The only reason to stay was because we didn’t want to leave him, and that would never change. The experience of handing over your baby is simply devastating. It’s not something that can be described. The staff made it as easy as possible; I simply placed him in a pram and they took him away.

The only way to understand is to live it. I’m truly sorry if you have, and if you haven’t I hope you never do. Instead of leaving with our baby we left with a memory box.

We planned his funeral, again with our priest and closest family and friends. It was a beautiful service and the best way to honour and say goodbye to our little boy.

Both my losses were very different, but after both I felt the need to raise awareness. 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage and yet it’s not spoken about. In order to do this I fundraised for Tommy’s and ran London Marathon. I’m so proud of what I accomplished, both fundraising wise and in speaking about our miscarriage so publicly.

1 in 250 pregnancies end in stillbirth. After losing Henry I was (or have been so far!) persuaded to not put my body through anything too physical but speaking openly about our loss hasn’t changed. I want Henry’s name to be known and parents to feel more supported and less alone after events of pregnancy loss at any stage. I’ve set up an Instagram account and associated blog in his memory in order to do this.

I also wanted to join the ladies who have wore this skirt before me. These photos have such significance to me. They were taken exactly 2 months after Henry died. The smile isn’t quite reaching my eyes yet, but it will. They are taken in the same ground that our wedding was held. We never for even a second thought we would return under these circumstances. The photo I’m holding is Henry with my marathon medal, both my babies in one photo, and my tattoo is for our first baby.

Rachael sits on the ground wearing the rainbow skirt. She holds a framed photo in her hands of her stillborn son holding her London Marathon medal.
Rachael sits on the ground wearing the rainbow skirt. She holds a framed photo in her hands of her stillborn son holding her London Marathon medal.
Rachael sits on the ground wearing the rainbow skirt. She holds a framed photo in her hands of her stillborn son holding her London Marathon medal.

So what now?

We very much hope to bring our double rainbow home soon. We aren’t placing pressure on when and are allowing ourselves time to grieve our son and cherish one another. We are choosing to trust it will happen when the time is right. We know another pregnancy will be even more nerve wracking than Henry’s was, that scans will offer no reassurance, but it’s something we will face together.

I wanted to tell our story at this stage for several reasons. Firstly I want to highlight that not all rainbow babies get to stay, they are sometimes fleeting also. But they still shine just as brightly.

Secondly a rainbow isn’t ever guaranteed. It’s my hope that sharing when life hasn’t delivered what we so desperately want, people will read this and feel less alone. It might happen, it might not and that’s something I’m trying to find peace with. We aren’t done trying yet, far from it. But it’s important we live, for us and for Henry, in the meantime. Rainbows may come in many forms, one of which may be acceptance.

I’m very proud of both my babies, my husband and I. I’m proud of our story, it’s sad but it’s also incredibly beautiful. I hope and pray with everything I’ve got that baby number three is sent to us soon, and that this time they get to stay.

Rachael wears a black dress and the rainbow skirt. The skirt flows out around her.

Rachael wears a black dress and the rainbow skirt. She holds the skirt out on both sides with her hands.

Rachael wears a black dress and the rainbow skirt. She leans with her back against a large tree.

Rachael wears a black dress and the rainbow skirt. She sits on the ground with the skirt spread out around her.

Rachael wears a black dress and the rainbow skirt. She faces towards a large gate in the background.

Rachael wears a black dress and the rainbow skirt. She faces towards a large gate in the background.

Rachael wears a black dress and the rainbow skirt. She fstands in front of a large gate.

Rachael wears a black dress and the rainbow skirt. She fstands in front of a large gate.

Rachael wears a black dress and the rainbow skirt. She fstands in front of a large gate.

Photos taken by Alicia Eden Photography.

Follow Rachael on Instagram @honouring_henry

Find out more about Project Finding Your Rainbow.

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