Inclusive loss support

My wife and I had chatted extensively about creating our family. We were both going to do reciprocal IVF. What that means is that one of my eggs would be removed from my body, fertilised and put into my wife’s uterus and vice versa. We had done lots of research and we knew that it would cost a pretty penny. Our wedding was low-key so we had money there and our family and friends had donated to our IVF fund over the course of 3 years of birthdays and Christmases.

We both work pretty high stress jobs so we decided that we would each take some time off before and during our pregnancies to give ourselves the best chance.

We went through the egg harvesting process together. Getting shot full of hormones whilst holding hands was surreal and I’m glad we did that part together. My wife went through pregnancy first. She had three rounds of IVF before it worked. We felt so blessed as we know many couples try many many times before pregnancy occurs. Her pregnancy was pretty uneventful and according to our doula, that’s the best kind of pregnancy. When our daughter turned one, we spoke about things and decided we were ready for my turn. I was nervous and excited.

Things didn’t go so smoothly for me.

Things didn’t go so smoothly for me. The first year of trying didn’t result in pregnancy. Then I had to be subjected to a barrage of invasive and expensive tests. We were prepared for things to take a while but with the ease of my wife’s first pregnancy, we naively thought mine would happen in a similar timeframe. All tests came back inconclusive. There appeared to be no medical reason why I couldn’t get pregnant. We took a break for a few months and tried again. After 4 more rounds, Those two lines showed up on a pregnancy test and I wept with joy. Our baby girl would finally have a sibling.

The first trimester of my pregnancy was uneventful. I didn’t gain any weight, my body was largely the same. I had some minor twinges but nothing more. At 15 weeks, we decided to announce our pregnancy and our family shared in our joy.

 Just five short weeks later, I went to the bathroom and noticed blood in the toilet. In a panic, I called my doula and she recommended I speak with my midwife. The midwife reassured me that bleeding does happen sometimes and that I shouldn’t panic. However, I continued to bleed for the next 24 hours with seemingly no reduction in the blood loss so I decided to go to A&E. 

I had to sit in the waiting room for what felt like hours. My wife was at home with our daughter so I was sitting alone, cradling my almost nonexistent bump, willing our baby to live. When I was eventually called in, I was given an ultrasound and had bloods taken. The ultrasound technician’s face was entirely unreadable. She left the cubicle and came back with someone else who looked at the screen with her. They whispered to each other and gestured at the screen. Then the second doctor said that he would fit me with a foetal heart monitor for a couple of hours. I texted my wife to let her know what was happening, all the while, sending my breath down to my baby.

Our baby’s heart had stopped.

As I lay looking at the ceiling, I pictured our baby, wrapped in a swaddling blanket, ten fingers and toes, all pink and plump – just like their sister. I must have dozed off as next thing I knew, a third doctor was shaking me awake. The look on his face said it all. Our baby’s heart had stopped. 

It was 10pm and I was entirely alone as my whole world came crashing down around me. I didn’t know what to do and so I sat up and sobbed, clinging to my stomach. I think the hospital must have called my wife as the next thing I know, she was by my side, holding my hand. Our daughter was with her mother. I felt myself separate from my body and float above the bed. The doctors spoke to my wife as I stared at the wall. Incompetent cervix, abnormalities, nothing we could do… Nothing they were saying registered with me. I must have fallen asleep again as when I woke up, I was in a side room, my was wife curled up in the visitors chair and sunlight was streaming through the barely together curtains.

A nurse came in, she explained that I’d had a miscarriage. They had placed our baby in a cold cot and if we wanted to spend some time with them, we could. I didn’t want to. I couldn’t face it. My wife bathed and dressed our baby in an angel gown that had been donated to the hospital. She read to them. Sang songs to them. Took pictures. Then it was time to say goodbye.

I decided to reach out to some miscarriage support charities…The information we were given did not have us in mind. 

I left the hospital in a daze. I’d been given information about miscarriage support but I didn’t feel able to engage with it. For 6 weeks, I was on autopilot. Hardly acknowledging what had happened. Going through the motions of everyday life. Existing but nothing more. We planned our baby’s funeral when we should have been nesting. Friends and family sent condolences instead of congratulations. Life felt impossibly heavy.

Around about my due date, I decided to reach out to some miscarriage support charities. My wife and I attended a session together. We were the only lesbian couple. The information we were given did not have us in mind. There were tips for mum after a miscarriage and things dad could do to help. Nothing about losing an IVF baby. Nothing about lesbian couples. I felt like an alien. As if no one had any idea what was happening to me, to us, to our family. We left the session early and I just wanted to go home to bed. I slept for an indeterminate amount of time, only waking to eat and use the bathroom. I didn’t shower. I didn’t get dressed. I didn’t engage with our daughter.

Things had really started to take their toll on my wife. She didn’t deserve this. She was hurting too. She had lost a baby too. Our daughter had lost a sibling. She didn’t understand what was happening but she knew that mama was sick and she wasn’t going to have that brother or sister we’d talked about.

I tried again, I reached out to another charity about miscarriage. I emailed back and forth explaining our situation and was reassured that parents like us had used the service before and that we would be more than welcome. Our daughter too. We attended an in-person session as a family but yet again, we were the only people like us. There were no other lesbian couples. No other IVF losses. When my wife spoke about how expensive our pregnancy was, someone made a disgusted face. Disgusted that it had cost so much or disgusted that the money compounded our loss? We didn’t know. We stuck around until the end of the session and spoke directly to the facilitator. We explained that we needed to be around people with the same experiences as us but it was clear she didn’t get it.

Our doula recommended The Queer Doula

Soon after, the entire country went into lockdown for the first time and life moved online. I started to feel a bit better. Not having to see people meant no one spoke about the pregnancy. No one asked any awkward questions or clucked their pity. However, I still needed support. In the Summer of 2020 I reached out to our doula and she recommended The Queer Doula. A name we had become vaguely familiar with but didn’t really know too well. My wife and I spoke at length with Kim about our experiences and our loss. Kim had started a pregnancy and infant loss training course in order to support families like ours. We suddenly felt seen. Valued. Loved.
 
After 8 weeks of weekly chats with Kim, I suddenly felt ready to look at the pictures of our baby. My wife had kept everything in a box. We sat together with our daughter one evening and looked through the box. There were pictures of our tiny angel baby in a beautiful white lace gown, laid on a silk pillow. There was a card with their tiny little hand and foot prints and a poem. There were stories that my wife had read to them. We cried, we laughed, we sang songs. We then chose a picture of our little angel to place in a frame next to a poem.

In January of 2021 we tried a few more rounds of IVF.

In January of 2021 we tried a few more rounds of IVF. We had Kim on speed dial and had a lot of close monitoring. In December, we welcomed our pink, plump rainbow baby boy with 10 perfect fingers and 10 perfect toes. I wept tears of sadness and joy at his arrival.

We are sharing this story on the eve of our darling son’s first birthday. Please, if you provide any kind of fertility, pregnancy, birth, miscarriage services, please make it clear whether you actually support LGBTQ+ parents. Saying you are inclusive is not enough. We need to see ourselves in the work that you do.

We are sharing this story on the eve of our darling son’s first birthday. Please, if you provide any kind of fertility, pregnancy, birth, miscarriage services, please make it clear whether you actually support LGBTQ+ parents. Saying you are inclusive is not enough. We need to see ourselves in the work that you do.

Thank you Kim for holding us and for sharing our story.

 

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The Queer Parenting Partnership was launched in 2020, in response to the shocking lack of birth and parenting support services for LGBTQ+ people in the UK.

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