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“Having children has felt like a miracle for my husband & I.” – Baby Loss Awareness Week

For our real-life story series for Baby Loss Awareness Week 2021, Catherine Hickey shares her story of a devastating ectopic pregnancy and then the joy of her rainbow baby just a year later.

“Having children has felt like a miracle for my Husband, Paul and me. I had suffered from endometriosis and adenomyosis for many years, and we were told it was unlikely we would achieve a naturally conceived pregnancy. I had complex abdominal surgery to remove scar tissue from my ovaries and fallopian tubes, and due to the excellent skill of Dr David Polson, I was able to become pregnant naturally with Matilda, who was born in the winter of 2015.

So when in 2017 we decided it was time to start thinking about having our second child, we were thrilled to discover I was expecting again. At first, everything felt just like before. I was dizzy and sick, tired, all the usual things. But then at about 8 weeks pregnant I began to feel different. I couldn’t explain it, I just didn’t feel quite right.

A few days later I noticed a small amount of bleeding. I rang the midwife who said occasional bleeding is quite normal in early pregnancy and not to worry unless it became very heavy, very red or very painful. The following day I began to get some unusual pain in the right side of my lower stomach, and I felt strange and dizzy.

I rang the early pregnancy unit and they agreed to see me. I explained my concerns and they took some blood and sent me for an ultrasound. I was expecting the sonographer to tell me she couldn’t see a heartbeat, but what she said was even more of a shock. She couldn’t see a baby at all.

I was so confused and upset. I’d gone to the hospital by myself because Paul was at work. A lovely midwife called Erica explained that this was known as “PUO” or Pregnancy of Unknown Origin. My bloods showed that my pregnancy hormone levels were continuing to rise, despite no evidence of a baby in my uterus and no evidence of obstructions in my fallopian tubes.

I was sent home, to return the next day for more bloods and investigation. Overnight, the right sided pain became much, much worse and I felt quite unwell. Paul came to the hospital with me in the morning, and again the blood tests showed my pregnancy hormone levels were still rising. I was in terrible pain and feeling quite unwell by this point, so the decision was made to take me to theatre and investigate. I woke up a few hours later to the devastating news that I had lost my baby and my right fallopian tube to an ectopic pregnancy.

Our baby had been growing inside my fallopian tube, where it had pushed against the tube wall, causing it to rupture. I was bleeding internally. Obviously I was heartbroken. I was alone on the ward when the surgeon came to deliver the news. To make matters worse, he was incredibly heartless and without asking, he showed me a photograph of my ruptured tube and baby. It’s an image I still struggle to get out of my mind.

Because Salford Royal no longer has any maternity wards I was sent to a general surgical ward, and discharged the following day with no follow up or support. I had no idea about recovery time and I was terrified it meant I’d never be able to conceive again. I was in pain, lonely and scared but felt very lucky to be alive. The next few weeks were difficult. I was in physical pain, struggling yo deal with the emotions of what had happened, and trying to care for an inquisitive toddler. I was lucky to have the support of my husband, family and friends, but there was no support from a healthcare professional at all.

At the beginning of October I didn’t feel well. I was tired and just felt awful, and something wasn’t quite right about the wound in my belly button from the keyhole surgery. The area gradually became very hot, red and hard. My GP sent me to A&E, where I was immediately admitted and treated for sepsis. The wound had become infected and created a 6 inch “track” inside my belly button which had to be cleaned and packed each day until it eventually closed. Recovery was slow and I hated being away from my family for so long, but eventually I was well enough to continue my recovery at home.

Catherine Hickey and her family

After a period of rest and recovery, in February of 2018 we were over the moon and a bit terrified to discover I was pregnant again. On our first month of trying, and with only 1 tube! We were amazed, very grateful but also incredibly nervous after our previous trauma. We booked a private scan to put our minds at ease and we were so happy to see a healthy, wriggly baby growing in the right place. Milo was born 3 weeks early on the 27th of August 2018, exactly one year to the day I’d had surgery for my ectopic pregnancy.

We will never forget the baby we lost, or the traumatic time, but we are so grateful for our two beautiful children.

If you need any advice or information about Ectopic Pregnancy, please contact the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust website.