real life

'My marriage vows said, "in sickness and in health". I had no idea how true that would be.'

The following deals with pregnancy loss, which may be distressing for some readers. If you have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth, support is available through SANDS Australia. Call 1300 072 637.

In 2010, I married the man of my dreams. My true soulmate. We were so happy to start the rest of our lives together but I didn’t realise how much I would test ‘In sickness and in health.’

We both knew we wanted to start our family straight away. We were both healthy and didn’t think it would take long to fall pregnant. It didn’t and we were delighted to find out we were pregnant within the first month of our marriage. Everything was perfect.

When 12 weeks came along, we rented a bigger home as our unit was tiny. At the 16-week mark, I felt something wasn’t quite right so I went to the hospital for a check-up. They couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat with the doppler but told me not to panic because the bub was probably hiding.

We were ushered into a dark room for our scan and the sonographer went from cheerful to silent as she kept taking pictures and said nothing. My heart dropped. I knew my baby was gone. The sonographer said, “I’m so sorry but there’s no heartbeat, your baby has passed away.”

We followed up with the obstetrician and were told nothing was abnormal, it was just ‘one of those things’ and to try again. We did and to my surprise, I fell pregnant quickly again.

Image: Supplied.

This time I was nervous. Everyone was reassuring me but I was being cautious, eating all the right foods and doing everything you are supposed to when you’re pregnant. Around the same 16-week mark, I starting bleeding and was told the same words, 'your baby has passed away'. Once again the results came back with nothing and I was told it was a coincidence and to try again.

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We fell pregnant again and whilst we were having a weekend away I started bleeding. This time it really hurt. As if fate intervened, I was turned away from two hospitals and ended up in a hospital much farther away. My baby had passed away again, but the sonographer grabbed the doctor and spoke to him outside.

I had some tests and it turns out I had a completely separated uterus, which means it was divided into two. The new obstetrician couldn't believe this was not picked up earlier by the previous one. He explained there was not enough room for my babies to grow and told me I would never have children.

My world just came crashing down. All I ever wanted to be was a mother. I love children so much. I gave my husband permission to walk away. He told me that he married me and not my uterus and to never say that again. I felt like such a failure.

I had my post-operative appointment and my obstetrician said there may be a professor in Brisbane that could help us. We made an appointment and were greeted by a warm and very enthusiastic surgeon. He devised a plan to resect my uterus, creating a nice open space.

The tricky part was keeping the uterus wall up and if a mistake were to happen I would need an immediate hysterectomy at the age of 28. I didn't feel it was a choice! I couldn't have kids anyway so we put all our trust and faith in this man.

Theatre day came and the room was packed with doctors watching, as my case was extremely rare. I wanted to bring awareness to this as the first loss was unavoidable but not the other two.

I awoke very sleepy from theatre and saw a blurry clock on the wall. I had been in theatre for a very long time. I saw a big thumbs up and then I went back to sleep. I was going to become a mum!

This time I had some difficulty falling pregnant, but with some medical intervention, I did.

I was sick with worry the whole pregnancy but I'm happy to say that Audrey Snow was born perfectly healthy at 37 weeks. I didn't know how much a heart could grow but it felt like mine was going to burst. She was everything I could have asked for.

audrey
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In January 2013, my husband called an ambulance as I was on the bathroom floor unable to get up. I had been suffering back pain for years due to many falls on my coccyx when I figure skated. I hadn’t realised the damage it had done to my back and with Audrey by my side in hospital I had my first spinal operation with a fusion of L5-S1.

Unfortunately, my surgeon botched mine and many others and was faced with disciplinary action and I was left in limbo. I spent months in hospital in agony. In hindsight, I should have sought legal advice but I was just focusing on caring for my daughter.

surgery 1
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Still in pain, but wanting to grow our family, in 2014 we welcomed Yvonne into the world. She was a little miracle as we were told the surgery I had to my uterus may only be good for one pregnancy. She gave us many scares including labour at 28 weeks.

With strict bed rest, steroids and interventions to calm my contractions, she held in there until 35 weeks and we welcomed Yvonne Snow into the world. Our family felt complete.

Shortly after celebrating Yvonne's first birthday, our world came crashing down. We were told Audrey had an aggressive cancer and we need to remove her right eye immediately. Audrey endured many operations and chemotherapy and there were many months where my husband was unable to work.

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In July 2015, Audrey was still in the middle of chemo and my back finally gave in. My fusion had failed. I had surgery to remove everything from the previous surgery and had my L5-S1 refused, L4-L5 fused and a disc replacement at L3.

My poor husband was nursing Yvonne whilst juggling Audrey’s chemotherapy and still finding time to be at my bedside. When I woke up from surgery I couldn’t feel my right leg. It felt like someone was holding a hot iron to it and I couldn’t stop screaming.

I just wanted to be at home with my girls, so I gathered all my strength and kept going. I’d come home from school drop-off and lay in bed all day in pain and then with pure willpower get up for the school pickup. That was all I could manage.

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The only saving grace was Audrey had conquered her cancer.

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About a month ago things escalated. I started having involuntary convulsions from the burning pain in my leg and was taken away in an ambulance. Because of my previous botched surgery, no surgeon wanted to touch me - but luckily the same surgeon who had come to my rescue before agreed to help me.

I’ve just had my third major spinal surgery and feel like they’ve got it right. I can’t walk yet and I’m still in pain, but not the searing pain I have endured for so long. I have a long road to recovery and we are drowning in debt.

My husband has had to take unpaid leave off work to take care of our family and we’ve exhausted my super paying for my surgeries. My wonderful friends have started a GoFund Me page to help ease the burden.

I’m trying not to think about that though. My focus is on our 10th wedding anniversary on May 28. My husband wants to renew our vows, and I’m determined to get out of the wheelchair and walk down the aisle to him.

If this has raised any issues for you regarding pregnancy loss, please contact the SANDS Australia 24-hour support line on 1300 072 637. 

You can download Never Forgotten: Stories of love, loss and healing after miscarriage, stillbirth, and neonatal death for free here.

Feature image: Supplied.

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