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The Unexpected Leap.

They say that sometimes, some things are just meant to be… that the Universe sends us exactly what we are ready for, at the exact time we need it in our lives…

Writing this now, I cannot get over how unbelievably true that is.

We were in a situation where there were no more tests available to tell us what happened to Ivy and why. We were either waiting for a full genome test to become available (which could take an eternity) or I could get pregnant and just see what happened. However, when you’re told there is a 50/50 chance of it working out, it felt as if you were walking through the dark side of Las Vegas, betting your soul on all red or all black. The thought of losing another baby was suffocating and exhausting – how could you decide what to do? I would wake up one morning and just think ‘sod it, life’s too short lets go for it’ but then quite quickly, crushing fear would pull me back to reality and I’d realise that the leap of faith could end with me giving birth to another stillborn baby.

But it was as if the world decided now wasn’t the right time anyway and it was almost as if the decision to hold off trying for another baby was made for us, because life stopped and a global pandemic began. Our Genetic Counsellor had already suggested we pause the idea of having a family right now because they didn’t know how Coronavirus could impact a pregnancy or the care I’d receive from the NHS. And when we were told Genetics couldn’t do any more for us, were were awaiting a pre-conception appointment with our Consultant to understand what a future pregnancy could look like, but all these were cancelled and there was no timeline of when they’d be looking to reschedule.

I cannot tell you how frustrating it was hearing all over the news that everyone was predicting a ‘baby boom’ because no one had anything better to do in lockdown. I don’t think I ever actually read or heard any negative coverage which would try and deter people from getting pregnant… yet I was receiving letters from all our specialists telling us that it was highly recommended that ‘we use robust forms of contraception to prevent a pregnancy during this time’ because everything was so unknown about this virus. But why were we any different? Okay, I’d need a few more scans, but why was the future of our family any less important than anyone else? If you were under a specialist, had fertility issues or were undergoing IVF – everything stopped and you were just told to wait…

When the Clinical Director of a well-known maternity hospital writes to you to tell you not to try for a baby, it didn’t take much for that crushing fear to manifest itself, so we agreed that because of the situation, the advice given to us, the lack of genetic answers and to be honest, our emotional state… it made sense to hold off for now. I didn’t want to mess my body around by going back onto the pill to hopefully just come off it again in a few months, so we decided we’d just be careful and use other barriers instead if needs be.

Now it’s probably no massive surprise that with everything that happened and all that my body had been through, I wasn’t feeling the most intimate. Mine and James’ relationship was stronger than ever but of course the situation had taken its toll on our love life. Deep down we wanted to try for another baby so sex for me was about doing just that, but I was disconnected from my body and it felt broken, so it was really difficult to try and be romantic. We tried a couple of times, but it was so overwhelming and emotionally exhausting… and when you have to use a rubber barrier when you really don’t want to, it’s quite frankly a bit shit. So our marriage became a bit ‘sex-less’ for a while… but we both just accepted that it was probably going to take some time to recover.

Lockdown (number one) was such a strange and surreal time. I was working from home and James was off work whilst they put safety measures in place. The world shut down, flights were grounded, pubs closed, supermarkets had queues outside and children were homeschooled. Within the first few months, we’d lost two family members, Auntie Jane and Uncle Geoff, and it just felt like one blow after another and it was hard not to feel really low.

I became fed up quite quickly working from home. I never really minded the odd day here and there, but five days a week was exhausting. I would wake and do my first conference call at 8am before sitting at my dining room table for the remainder of the day. My job role relied on human interaction and that had been completely stripped away and attempting to give advice over the phone was painful. Not to mention, working in HR during a pandemic was non-stop… especially attempting to navigate the ever conflicting advice about self-isolation and furlough.

I often sat there on the phone or writing letters, envious of James playing with Stan in the garden – I just waited for the weekend to turn up and even then, those two days flew by far too quickly and before we knew it, it was Monday again.

Despite there being nowhere to go, I decided to book some annual leave to break up the weeks where I could. I wanted to enjoy the sunshine too, help in the garden and just close the laptop and spend time with James before he went back to work. Like many, we used the opportunity of being home to get stuck into the house renovations and tick as much as we could off the list before we no longer had the time.

I think all everyone did in the early days of lockdown was drink alcohol and eat plenty of food. Knowing I wasn’t in work the following day, we decided on a casual weeknight to crack open a bottle of red wine and watch a film. I was still in that phase where wine made me feel ‘warm and fuzzy’ and was about the only time I had a smile on my face, so it wasn’t long until we opened a second bottle whilst watching Aladdin – why not ey?

Now I have to be so open and share this with you… because it’s really important to the story…

That night we were both leathered and for the first time, I felt slightly more like myself again. One thing led to another and as we were getting into bed, the romance blossomed. James walked over to his drawer to grab the necessary barrier and my response was ‘ah fuck it’… he even double checked with ‘are you sure’ and I said it was fine – I was not prepared in that moment to have shit sex when the world was already on it’s arse.

The hangover the following morning was joyful but worth it.

During the days that followed, I just felt a little odd. I didn’t really feel odd at the time, but now when I look back and piece everything together, it all makes sense. We were digging up the garden in the sunshine and I kept burping up sick… I just thought I was doing too much (or drinking too much the night before). I had ridiculously itchy boobs for a few days… but I just thought that was a new pre-period symptom because basically after having a baby my body did whatever the piss it wanted these days and then when it was VE Day, we were all in the street (distanced, of course) and I was drinking a jug of pimms and it just wasn’t hitting the spot like it usually would have done.

It wasn’t until 12th May 2020, I was in our bedroom folding up some clothes and Stan wandered up to see me. He jumped onto the bed and had this look on his face… and it was a look that I recognised because I’d seen it just one time before.

I’m not really sure what triggers your brain to take a pregnancy test – you just seem to find yourself walking into the bathroom to find one. It was strange this time, because there wasn’t any nerves like there had been before. I was almost laughing to myself because you had to have sex to get pregnant and we hadn’t been doing that. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure why I was doing one. I peed on that stick and left it on the windowsill.

A couple of minutes later, I walked casually back into the bathroom and my heart stopped.

I wandered downstairs, opened the front door and walked down the driveway in my socks. James was outside the garage putting some rubbish in the bin and I just held the test up to his face and said ‘does that look like a line to you?’

He looked at me surprised and confused and just said ‘I don’t know, does it?’

We both went upstairs and I grabbed a digital test. James stood outside the bathroom door and a few minutes later there it was… pregnant.

How?

When you actively try for a baby, it can completely consume you. You literally have to time it perfectly so that sperm meets egg at exactly the right moment in that month… and even then, it has to be powerful enough to stick.

Well on 29th April 2020, a casual Wednesday night, it just so happened that after two bottles of red wine, a few glasses of baileys, Aladdin and an ‘ahh fuck it’ moment – we conceived our second baby. I know it happened on this date, because it was the one and only time we’d had sex that month.

They predict that a single act of intercourse between a younger couple has on average a 5% chance of pregnancy.

Somehow, we’d hit that 5%.

And all of a sudden, the decision whether or not to take that leap of faith and have another baby had been made for us.

After one time, one night in that one month – the next chapter of our lives began…

Katt x

Auntie Jane.

Never in a million years did I think that I’d be writing another post so soon about losing somebody close to me. You’d think that after experiencing so much in life, there would come a time when things would change, you’d eventually catch a break and better things would start happening instead. But here we are… back again.

You may recall me mentioning Jane in previous posts. This is because she has been such a huge part of our journey – the journey of us trying to have a family. Along with many others, she’s pretty much been with us, hand in hand, keeping us going whilst we navigate this really shitty path.

For those of you who don’t know – Jane is James’ Auntie.

I don’t think many people could sit here and say that their partners Aunt played such a significant role in their lives – but I can, as she did in mine. I’ve never connected so well with someone before, to the point where I felt like I’d known her my entire life. The fact she is no longer with us, completely breaks my heart.

Because Jane is so important to our story, I absolutely have to dedicate a chapter to her. After being such an influence on me over the years, there was no way I could continue writing this blog without mentioning the impact that she had.

I remember the first time I met Jane. I walked through the door at my in-laws house and she looked me up and down and said ‘well a baby would fall out of you’ – it quickly made sense when they told me she was a midwife and to be honest, it absolutely wasn’t the first time someone had said something similar due to my rather wide hips.

I knew from that moment, we’d get along just fine.

One of the best things about Jane was that her personality echoed around a room. She didn’t live locally to us, so I’d just look forward to the times when I knew she’d be visiting, as I knew those times would be ridiculously enjoyable. She was larger than life and her laugh was exactly the same. Whenever you were with her, there was never a dull moment. You’d spend hours and hours listening to story after story about things that had happened in her life and you were never bored. I used to sit there in complete awe of how full of life she was, genuinely perplexed that I’d never actually met anyone who could talk faster than me before. She was utterly mesmerising.

Jane was a proud scouser who loved a designer handbag and a weekend at the spa. We would spend ages admiring the Lulu Guinness bags she’d purchased and I’d be jealous that she had better taste than I did. I’m pretty sure she thought I was a little batshit crazy, because quite early on in our relationship, we were at a wedding and she witnessed me tucking my dress into my knickers ready to attempt the dirty dancing move with James… in front of everyone. I always say you can take me or leave me, and thankfully she seemed onboard with the madness.

She absolutely adored Stanley, to the point where she’d send him a Christmas card every single year and a few gifts would arrive in the post every now and again. She called him ‘her boy’ and he adored her too. She stayed with us once and he couldn’t wait to run into the spare bedroom in the morning and jump on her. She’d be smothered in kisses before she even had the chance to roll over in bed.

Jane spent her whole life in a caring profession and found her niche as a midwife. I always used to ask her how many newborns she’d delivered but she’d lost count. She knew absolutely anything you needed to know about babies or the inner workings of the female body so it was ridiculously easy to speak to her when I found out I was pregnant and started experiencing everything that I did. I was never shy around her, she always made it far too easy to be as open as you wanted to be, with absolutely no judgement.

I think if you’re reading this now, you know the story of us losing our baby so I’m not going to dwell on it in this post. But Jane played such a huge part in stabilising me when we lost our daughter. She managed the balance of care and compassion with the straight talking no bullshit approach which was everything that I needed to get through it all. She was always down the end of the phone, no matter what time, whenever I needed peeling off the ceiling. She was only ever a text away when I was worried about something and needed to put my mind at ease.

I cannot put into words how much I thought of this woman and how amazing she was. It devastates me that if we eventually have our family, she won’t be in the photographs. Our children will miss out on meeting this absolutely lovely person who would have been such a role model in their lives.

It’s a reoccurring thought in my mind that life is unfair. After so much sadness, I didn’t expect anything else to happen again so soon. We were pretty much just waiting for Jane to retire, hoping she might move closer to us and become an even bigger part of our lives than she already was.

However on the 29th March 2020, she passed away.

After everything, I never thought I’d sit here and say that we are living through a global pandemic that has locked the country down three times. But not only that, we are included in the unfortunate group of people who have lost much loved family members to the virus. Jane and Geoff are two very important people who won’t be joining us when we finally come out of the other side.

You read things about cherishing your loved ones whilst they are around, making the most of every single moment you’re alive and never putting off something – because you literally have no idea what tomorrow will bring.

I very much embrace every single moment now.

Katt x



Tests, Waiting & Shitty Odds.

It was around 8 months after losing Ivy when we received a letter to tell us that unfortunately there was nothing more anyone could do that would tell us what happened to our daughter and why. There were no more tests available and no more DNA left to use. The conclusion was that if we were to get pregnant again, we’d have around a 50/50 chance of having a healthy baby.

Attempting to process that information has been utterly exhausting. This means that if we decide to try again for baby number two, hopefully they’d be absolutely fine, however the information given to us suggested that the odds of having a successful pregnancy could be exactly the same as potentially going through the loss of a baby all over again. There also isn’t any medical intervention available to us that could prevent it from happening.

As I write this entry, I still can’t really get my head around the conversations that have taken place over the last few months. Every medical professional I speak to, talk to me as if it’s all relatively ‘normal’ but for me, it’s so far from that. I continuously ask myself how it’s even possible that we’ve found ourselves in this situation in the first place and how we’ve ended up stuck with this ridiculously difficult ultimatum of what to do next. You honestly couldn’t write it. We’ve entered a world that we never knew existed – a world that revolves around science, the whirlwind of genetic testing and what seems to be, potentially one of the biggest gambles we could possibly ever take.

So this is where I attempt to share with you the long and daunting (yet short lived) journey of us trying to find out why Ivy was so unwell. There’s so much complexity surrounding all the investigations that I cannot possibly write everything down word for word in as much detail as I’d probably like – you’d still be reading this in a fortnight… so I’ll just try and explain everything as best as I can, being as brief as possible. I cannot promise any of this will make sense, mainly because most days I sit here thinking about it and it doesn’t make much sense to me either. Nor do I think it ever will…

All I’ll say is that the process of attempting to find out what went wrong has been frustratingly draining and honestly, we are no further forward with a confirmed explanation. Yes, I’d love to say what you may be thinking – that if they haven’t found an explanation yet, maybe there isn’t one to find? I somehow wish it was that easy… but I’ve spoken to far too many experts in the field who keep telling me the same thing over and over – that unfortunately it could all just happen again.

Are they all wrong? Who knows…

Just please take note that the situation we find ourselves in is ridiculously rare. Never read this and think just because it happened to us means that it’ll happen to you. I don’t want anyone to ever read this and spend any pregnancy in panic mode because you read a story on the internet which didn’t quite work out. The chance of this happening to you is ridiculously low – we just seem to be in that very small shitty percentage of people who get the arse side of life handed to them sometimes.

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After we were told about Ivy being so unwell, we met with a Genetic Counsellor. When you lose a baby due to a medical reason, especially so late on and so severely, you are offered a full post mortem which will more than likely include some elements of genetic testing – depending on what they think may have happened and the suspected condition. It is entirely up to you if you want to pursue this, you don’t have to, but we did because we wanted to know what happened, why it happened and whether it could ever happen again.

On the face of it, there was no obvious reason as to why we lost our baby. Nothing happened during my pregnancy that would have caused a concern and neither of us had any health problems. I’d been lucky enough that I’d never experienced fertility issues before so it all seemed really bizarre. Because of all this, it seemed obvious to professionals that there must have been something underlying that went seriously wrong.

If you ask me whether Ivy has been diagnosed with a specific illness, my answer would quite simply be ‘no not yet’.

This is the medical stuff we know so far…

Ivy’s stillborn certificate details her cause of death as Fetal Akinesia Sequence which isn’t a specific diagnosis… it’s a condition characterised by decreased movement. At some point during my pregnancy, a condition developed for whatever reason that stopped her from moving. This meant she developed severe joint contractures giving her a life limiting prognosis. They refer to these multiple joint contractures as arthrogryposis.

Arthrogryposis is an umbrella term for development issues with bones and joints and research shows there are several reasons why this can develop. If you suffer from this condition, it can vary massively. You might have club foot, overlapping toes or been born with hip dysplasia – all of which you can rectify quite easily if you needed to. But in more severe cases, it could limit your ability to walk or use your arms correctly… or like Ivy, it can become life threatening. Sometimes you might need medical intervention to help you but other times you could have something that doesn’t cause any issues and would never impact your day to day life. In fact, it seems you could have a variation of this condition and never actually know about it.

They say there are three main reasons as to why a baby may develop a type of arthrogryposis…

1) Something happened during pregnancy that impacted the development of baby but these things are classed as ‘one offs’ and have no specific underlying reason. An example of this could be hip dysplasia – if a baby has been in breech for a long time during pregnancy, it could just happen. There is absolutely no genetic reason why, it just does.

2) There could have been a genetic change which happened when sperm met egg. There is also no specific explanation as to why this faulty gene developed – this is when they would refer to the situation as a ‘fluke’.

But the final reason…

3) Baby could inherit a genetic condition from one or both parents. You may have heard of this before, especially with conditions such as Cystic Fibrosis, where the child is unwell due to both parents being carriers of a faulty gene despite it never actually impacting them personally. To be honest, it seems that sometimes people can be carriers of something and you’d never actually know about it until you experience issues when starting a family together. And thankfully, as I mentioned before, these situations are uncommon.

When me and James made the decision to start trying for a baby, the thought of genetics never even entered our minds because we’re both fine. Like many other families, there has been unexplained baby loss somewhere along the extended family tree but there was never a reason to suspect this was anything other than a ridiculously sad and unfortunate circumstance – and to this day, these things are unlikely to link to us.

The first Genetic Counsellor we met pretty much suspected Ivy’s condition was genetic straight away mainly because of how severe she was. Apparently in such cases, there is usually more of an underlying reason why something like that happened. It was very unlikely to be environmental as my pregnancy was pretty average. I remember the first question we were asked was ‘are you and James related at all?’ and I awkwardly laughed because I genuinely thought they were joking. This was actually a really serious question – and no, to my knowledge, we are not. We were asked to provide details of our family tree and draw them out, going into detail about anything that could potentially provide a link to this condition that would give the medical professionals some kind of starting point to investigate.

Let’s be honest, I think most people have their own quirks in some way. Who can actually say they are perfectly formed with no lumps, bumps or problems they’ve had to deal with growing up? Like everyone else, me and James both have our own weird and wonderful things. James has slightly shorter tendons in his hands and I’ve always been classed as hyper mobile because I can bend, crack and fold. Neither of these things ever impacted us growing up or limited us in any way, which is why we never even thought twice about them. To us, these quirks were no different to the fact I can roll my tongue in a funny way and James can eat like a pig and never put on weight. However, our Genetic Counsellor clung onto the potential theory that actually, both of these things COULD be classed as very very mild cases of arthrogryposis and thus explain why Ivy had something similar. Apparently there are cases where parents can have something ridiculously mild but pass it on severely. Apparently this situation was far too rare to just be a fluke – there had to be an underlying explanation.

To keep things simple – if both parents carry the same faulty gene they summarise that you have a 25% chance of passing this on to your baby – the remaining 75% is split between a 50% chance that your baby becomes a carrier like the parents or a 25% chance baby doesn’t inherit anything at all and is absolutely fine. If only one parent carries the faulty gene, it becomes 50/50. So the priority was attempting to find out what gene may have caused the problem and where it may have come from.

If you can identify the gene, there are more options available to you. You can have a special type of IVF which tests everything first so you only ever implant healthy embryos… or you can try naturally and they can test baby during your pregnancy at around 12-14 weeks to see whether they’ve inherited it or not. But to complicate our situation even further… this is a potential condition that varies a massive amount. Ivy seemed to be the extremely severe end of the scale but other babies could inherit something and be absolutely fine. This meant that in our circumstance, even if you could test for the gene early on to see if baby had it, it didn’t make that much of a difference and you may only understand the severity as you get into the second or even third trimester. The only perk of being able to test for the gene would mean you’d either be able to continue with your pregnancy knowing nothing is going to develop, or you’d know they are impacted but be constantly on the lookout for something to catch it as early as possible.

My first question was always, okay so if we potentially carry something, wouldn’t it have been passed down by our parents? Why would our siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins all be fine? But to add even more complexity, there are occasions that you could be the first ‘genetic fluke’ and then start passing things down to your children. Crackin’.

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So this is where all the testing began…

To be clear, I am being pretty negative about the testing process – mainly because I wanted answers straight away and I wasn’t getting any. This wasn’t their fault. They were doing everything they could to help us within the realms of what they had the ability to do. This is just my point of view as a patient about how frustrating the whole situation was.

I was ready to be a Mum. I was a Mum, I just didn’t have our baby at home. All I could think about was that I wanted my house to be filled with the love of a newborn. I was ready to take that break from work and focus on my family life. I was so unbelievably ready for that next chapter and I wanted it so badly. However, when you’re immediately told there is potentially a 50/50 chance of the same thing happening again, not only did it terrify me, but it felt like my whole life had been completely ripped apart. Everything was so unknown and losing Ivy was so raw. In reality, of course we were not ready to dive back in and try again for another baby, but we both wanted to know that one day we could. The decision to hold off on the idea of a family was a ridiculously difficult one, but at the same time an easy one to make. We wanted to know what our future potentially looked like and have as much information and support as possible.

Using Ivy’s DNA, the first test was to screen for common trisomies via a chromosome microarray. This looks at the quantity of genetic material to make sure the right amount had been transferred. It was frustrating because our Genetic Counsellor told us that this test is unlikely to provide a diagnosis but it was standard practice to complete first. It would take around 8-12 weeks and no further tests could be done in the meantime. We just had to wait.

I remember sitting there reading the letters they sent me and thinking, if a test is unlikely to give answers, why bother? What an unnecessary waste of time. I wanted to know as much as I could as soon as possible and 8-12 weeks felt like a lifetime. I was glued to my phone every hour of every day waiting for a call. It completely consumed me.

It was around 8 weeks later when I received the letter to tell me that as expected, the results were normal so they’d need to send off for further tests. They now wanted to look directly at several genes that were linked to the inherited type of arthrogryposis. However it also said that they could only look at the genes they actually knew about and apparently there are genes out there that can cause this condition but scientists don’t know enough about them to include them. Great.

I’m not really sure how long I thought these things would take, but you can probably imagine the lump in my throat when I read that this test takes around 4-5 months.

Now if you want a snippet of how confusing, frustrated and exhausted I became, this is what the letter said…

‘There are three possible results of this test. Firstly, the test may find a genetic change that provides an explanation. Secondly, the test may find a genetic change for which the laboratory is unsure of the significance. This happens as sometimes we can struggle to tell the difference between normal genetic variation and a genetic fault. Thirdly, the test may be negative but this result would not exclude an underlying genetic condition.’

What?

So basically, it might tell us what’s wrong, it might tell us what’s wrong but we can’t trust that it’s actually telling us what’s wrong or it could say nothing is wrong but something actually is wrong? Fantastic.

Very long story short, this test didn’t flag up anything and I received the call to tell me that despite not providing any answers, it was still suspected that Ivy had an underlying genetic condition – they just needed to keep going until they found out what it was.

Onto test number 3…

This is when we started to get into the more serious stuff – a test that could look at around 6,000 different genes to see if anything flagged as a concern. The scary part of this test was that due to the amount of genes they were looking at, there have been occasions they’ve found something they weren’t looking for but could still impact you. An example being they could find a cancer gene you knew nothing about which could mean you become ill in the future. If they found something, they’d be obliged to tell you about it. I suppose when you start peeling back the layers, you enter unknown territory and in reality, have absolutely no idea what you may find.

This test needed approval by a Departmental Committee and would take 6 MONTHS to see any results.

At this point, life felt very stale. 8 weeks here, 4 months there and now potentially another half year to wait. I lost count of how many times I just kept saying ‘maybe there just isn’t anything to find’ but no matter who I spoke to or how many times I spoke to them, they couldn’t agree with me. An answer was there waiting for us, we just had to find it…

Just over a month later, I hadn’t heard anything. I didn’t know whether the test had been approved or whether that process had even started. Not only that, but the word ‘Coronavirus’ had made an appearance and everyone was getting really unsettled. I started to worry that the strain on the NHS would place everything we were waiting for on hold so I phoned… again and again with no answer until finally someone picked up…

‘Let me just check your file. Ah yes, it was approved but it says they weren’t able to do the test because there isn’t enough DNA left. You’re on my list to write to but we can’t do anything else now. Your Genetic Counsellor is on maternity leave but they’ve added a note to request your file be looked at again mid to late 2020 to see if anything else has changed in the testing world that could mean we test you and your husband instead.’

Are you fucking kidding me?

I’ve spent lots of time with the NHS over the years and they’ve always been amazing. However, on this occasion I’d never felt so let down and disappointed. It might not have been their fault we were in this situation, but that phone conversation was nothing shy of shocking. I was basically just going to receive a letter saying ‘soz, game over’.

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I couldn’t just sit back and think, well that’s that. There was no explanation for our little girl. We’d waited months and months but achieved absolutely nothing. We felt completely abandoned. What did this even mean? I spent so many days sat there thinking this may have just been the Universe telling us to stop looking but I couldn’t shake the niggling feeling that kept telling me Ivy couldn’t just be a ‘fluke’ because no one had ever suggested that was an option. Nothing made sense so I took it upon myself to start reading online, researching tests and contacting private genetic testing companies abroad to see what they could do. I never really understood how you couldn’t test me and James because surly our DNA would flag something up if it was there? In other countries these tests were so readily available but not here in the UK. I didn’t even care about spending thousands, having a healthy baby would be priceless.

The reality was that there were no private avenues we could follow in the UK and to attempt to ship our bloods off to another country was a far too complex task. Our situation was so rare that I didn’t even know how to explain it properly to people. I could have spent a lot of money and been no further forward. I just didn’t understand this scientific world enough to know what needed to be done. I was defeated.

I did manage to find the contact details of a specialist within the NHS at the other end of the country who could complete a type of rapid testing on pregnant women who may have an unknown genetic condition, so I sent her a begging email. I asked for a second opinion, asked what my options were and despite not actually being pregnant, whether I could pay to have this test done instead. She responded, was sympathetic to our situation and spoke to somebody she had a connection with back in Manchester. Within days, another Genetic Counsellor gave me a call.

He was internationally recognised in the genetic field and suggested that from what he’d read in my file and experienced throughout his career, he agreed that he thought Ivy had a genetic condition due to the severity. But whether this would be a fluke or inherited, we were yet to find out. He questioned both of our quirks and said they could link and it would make sense if they did, but very rarely he has seen conditions in a parent and child that could be similar, but actually have no impact on each other whatsoever.

He gave us the following options:

1) As there was very little DNA left of Ivy, in-house tests couldn’t be completed. However, the NHS had been waiting sign-off for full genome testing which had been in the pipeline for the last 12-18 months and should have been authorised to go live for use a year ago but had been delayed for various reason. He said this test becoming available was likely our best option in ever finding out answers because it could look at pretty much everything. He suggested that we keep hold of Ivy’s remaining DNA for when we could use it. The downside was that this test had already been delayed, we were now in lockdown and NHS priorities were elsewhere and it was likely to be delayed a good while longer. It could be well over a year until this option is available to us.

2) If I became pregnant naturally, they would send mine, James’ and Ivy’s DNA across the country to his colleague to complete a whole exome sequencing test. It would map the three of us together to see if any changes flagged up. Unfortunately the option of paying for this test wasn’t there so I would have to be pregnant, but it was rapid response and would only take around 2-3 weeks for results. He did say that he thought it would be very unlikely that this test would give us any answers because it would look at the associated genes we’d already tested. However, it wouldn’t matter if we used up Ivy’s remaining DNA because the sad reality was that if I did become pregnant again and it didn’t work out, not only would we then know it’s highly likely to be genetic, but we’d have another baby’s DNA to use to find out more information.

Absolutely terrifying.

His recommendation was to wait until more testing became available but couldn’t tell us when that would be. He did say if I found myself pregnant again I could take some reassurance that I’d be under very strict monitoring and hopefully any concerns would be found much earlier than 28 weeks – when we lost Ivy. His suggestion however was that as we were now in a global pandemic, maybe it wouldn’t be the right time to take that leap of faith anyway. They didn’t know much about this new virus or how it could impact a pregnancy – let alone know whether the NHS would be available to support me as much as I’d need them, so he said maybe it was worth waiting anyway to see how things evolved. He said he’d request my file again in 6 months and see where we were up to and whether there was any development with this genome test. I knew deep down he wasn’t wrong and did I really want to jump into a pregnancy knowing it could all end again and that the support might not be there to help me? No, probably not.

He wrote to me a few days later summarising his conversation and reminded me that medical professionals still thought this was a genetic condition that has potentially been inherited somehow. Therefore it remained suspected that there was up to a 50% reoccurrence rate in any future pregnancy.

And that was pretty much that.

Katt x

Empty Arms.

When I read about other peoples experiences of baby loss, their stories seemed to end after they’d given birth and said goodbye. It almost felt as though that was the final chapter, the hardest part was now over and somehow you were just expected to head straight back into reality and carry on. However for me, and probably many others, this couldn’t have been further from the truth.

I found that I ran on complete adrenaline between being told Ivy wouldn’t survive, up until the point I was induced and gave birth. There was a timeline to follow, things I knew had to be done and so many people around attempting to support you through the entire process. What you don’t realise however, is that once the birth part is over, you are pretty much just left to survive on your own. You go home to the quietness of an empty house, with nothing left to do.

Before leaving hospital, we’d told them that we did not want a funeral. Ivy was born at 28 weeks and was therefore entitled to her own private ceremony, just like the death of any other person. But, because this situation felt so unbelievably personal to us, only me and James would have attended and it’s probably no massive surprise that I’m not overly religious. I respect anyone who is and to be honest most of my family believe in something, yet although I was brought up to believe there was a God, it isn’t something that followed me into my adulthood.

There was one occasion when some absolute fuckwit messaged me on Facebook. I didn’t know this person. I always say everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but can you believe that some people join private support groups online just to seek you out and call you a murderer? I am unbelievably grateful that I do not live in certain parts of America, because speaking to fellow mothers over there and listening to what they have to deal with is beyond ridiculous. This person messaged me to ask me how I could ever face God and explain myself… I merely replied saying that if I ever came face to face with God, he’d have more explaining to do than me.

After losing Ivy, there was no way that me or James could sit together in a church whilst somebody attempted to make sense of why our baby had been taken away from us – so we didn’t try. I kindly asked the hospital to cremate Ivy after the post-mortem and then do whatever they felt appropriate with her ashes.

However, after I left the hospital and my hormonal brain almost started to think rationally again, it dawned on me that in no world did I ever want anyone else to decide where my daughters final resting place would be. I quickly made a phone call and asked that she be brought home. As I write this now, I’ll never forget the knock at the door when the funeral director, dressed in all black, handed me the box containing her ashes. It’s been just over a year since losing her and she’s still at home with us now. We will eventually find that final resting place for her, but for now I take comfort in the fact that she isn’t too far away.

Now the worst thing about losing a baby, is losing a baby.
The second worst thing about losing a baby, is almost losing yourself.

Not only do you battle with the general aftermath of childbirth just like everyone else (you know, your body attempting to get back to normal, more blood that anyone should ever experience and hormones, hormones and more hormones) but I battled with the most difficult part – my own thought process.

I’d experienced pregnancy, labour and childbirth but my house didn’t contain the cries of a newborn baby… instead it was eerily quiet. I sat down on the couch in complete silence and somehow attempted to come to terms with the reality of what we’d just experienced over the last four weeks. It was the worlds most horrific comedown. I no longer had any adrenaline in my body and I had nothing left to sort. I’d walked out of those hospital doors and away from the people I’d been in constant contact with over the last few weeks. We felt completely alone.

My attitude towards life had always been the same no matter what I’d been through. People say that I’m pretty strong and take everything in my stride. After most things, I’d just pick myself back up and carry on, somehow attempting to be the rock for everyone else. After Dad died, I knew I needed to be there for my Mum and Sister, and then the same again when my Mum was diagnosed with cancer. Sometimes I was too busy worrying about everyone else that I never really sat down to think about how I was really feeling about it all. I’d always cared so much about the people around me and making sure they were okay, but after losing Ivy, that seemed to completely change and to be honest, I didn’t care very much about anyone or anything. I was far from strong and I almost became unrecognisable to myself.

After going through such devastation, it’s almost as if you suffer from a type of PTSD – that’s probably the best way to describe it. When I look back at my life, over the last few years I’d watched my Dad die, my Mum battle cancer, my house had been broken into whilst I was sat home alone, my Grandad had died whilst I was pregnant and now we’d lost our baby. I very much felt like bad things would just keep happening to me and there was no limit as to what could go wrong next. I felt cursed. I absolutely hated James getting in the car and travelling anywhere, because I’d worry that something would happen to him and he wouldn’t make it home. If my Mum didn’t message me back straight away, I’d panic that she was in trouble. I spent most nights lying awake with my hand on Stan’s belly feeling for his heartbeat because I had this awful feeling he’d just die. Writing this now, it almost feels completely crazy that I ever felt this way, but I spent every single minute of every single day asking myself what more shit could possibly go wrong?

It was probably the scariest time of my life, feeling that disconnected from myself. I deleted all social media because I didn’t know who that person was anymore. I closed that book, genuinely thinking I’d never be the same ever again. I’d been completely obsessed with my career and had spent years working so hard to get where I was, but I debated just quitting and never going back – what was the point anymore? I didn’t eat well, I didn’t go outside very much because I hated the idea of seeing another human-being and I drank bottle after bottle of red wine, because the only time I could escape the darkness I was living in, was when I felt drunk enough to momentarily forget about it.

I carried on like this for quite some time. I cancelled Christmas and didn’t decorate the house – how could I even begin to feel the joy of the festive period when our little girl should have been at home with us? I was completely lost within this very deep and dark depression and because I’d never experienced such a low point before, I had no idea how to get out.

For some reason people never seem to admit this part, but I absolutely hated pregnancy announcements, I hated seeing gender reveals and I hated seeing other women with their babies. I am absolutely not oblivious to the fact that I had no idea what struggles someone may have been through to get where they were now, so they were of course more than entitled to embrace their excitement… but I still hated them. I didn’t want to hate them, but I did. I remember going to a family meal and watching someone with their baby and it frustrated the life out of me, especially because they weren’t even really paying attention to her. I was so irritated that I went to the toilet, not to pee, but to silently scream and hit the wall. Ivy should have been there with us… it was so unfair.

The weeks passed by and I remember walking Stanley down the road and I just kept picturing myself walking into oncoming traffic. I almost felt tempted, but was pulled back due to the fact I knew Stan would have followed me. I imagined his confusion and sadness if I never came home one day and it reduced me to tears. I just felt so numb and emotionless that it scared me. I remember thinking ‘maybe I just shouldn’t be here anymore’ – I didn’t smile, I didn’t see a life after all this and I couldn’t even begin to picture a future for us now. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt genuinely happy and almost questioned whether I ever had.

Feeling like that, day after day, was absolutely exhausting. It wasn’t until one morning I woke up and realised that if I didn’t do something about the way I was feeling soon, I was unsure I’d ever recover. I kept thinking about what my Dad would have said to me if he knew how I was feeling… I almost felt guilty because he was so unbelievably strong when he was dying. He was never scared, he never wallowed, he used all his strength to do whatever he could to make sure we survived after he’d gone – and I felt like I was insulting his legacy. I don’t actually think I’ve ever opened up to anyone to explain how low I was really feeling, and how dark some of those thoughts were, but I was almost embarrassed about it because it seemed so out of character for me. I was supposed to be the person who supported others and I didn’t want anyone to think I was weak.

When I look back now, I’m absolutely not ashamed of how I felt. I don’t think hiding how low I felt from you gains anything. I think it’s completely normal to hit rock bottom when you experience utter shit in your life. However the most important thing is that no matter how fucking shite you do feel, you just have to find that small bit of energy to somehow start pulling yourself back up – and I do believe now that it’s always possible.

Thankfully, I acknowledged the way I was feeling and I spoke to my GP about counselling and therapies. I’d been to one counselling session after my Dad died but I realised it didn’t really do very much for me and I didn’t need it. Yet this situation was completely different and I knew I had to try again. I didn’t want medicating. The option was there and offered to me, but I didn’t want to stick a plaster over what was going on in my brain and just numb it. I wanted to completely rip it apart, get right under the skin and attempt to heal it. I never wanted to feel this low ever again.

I know you might be wondering why I’m opening up so much and sharing this all with you, because let’s be honest these feelings are so utterly personal. I just realised that it really annoys me that we only ever share positive emotions. We don’t think twice about sharing happiness, joy or excitement… so why does it feel like we can’t openly talk about grief, sadness and depression? Why it is such a taboo subject that people feel awkward around and hide away from? I just want anyone reading this to know that feeling shit is a natural emotion and we should be able to talk about it, just like anything else.

My GP offered NHS support but said it might be short-lived because you find yourself sat on a waiting list and you only get so many sessions. I knew because of the way I’d been feeling that I needed it soon and I did not need a structured 6-week plan. I didn’t know what was coming next, I didn’t know the results of the post-mortem and I didn’t even know if I’d ever be able to have anymore children, so I knew if this type of support was going to work, I might need it for much longer.

I did a basic Google search for counsellors in my area. I filtered by subject experience and selected bereavement, baby loss, pregnancy loss, traumatic stress, fertility issues, depression and negative thoughts. I had to complete a consent form that said if I ever spoke about suicide or self-harm, I understood that the counsellor would escalate this to the necessary people. It’s a scary thought really, but this was the reality of it all.

When finding someone privately, yes you do have to pay for the sessions yourself, but at the end of the day if it works and you start to feel better, for me that would be completely priceless. I remember walking down the driveway to meet them for the first time, not really knowing what to expect. The door opened and I strangely recognised the person on the other side. It turns out that this person was somebody my Dad had seen previously too. I knew at this point that he had been watching over me and he’d sent me exactly who I needed, at exactly the time I needed them.

It took a while, but these sessions somehow managed to bring me back to life, help me cope and allowed me to attempt to process everything I’d been through. And yes, I still see them every now and again, even a year on.

After losing a baby, I found that people reacted to me in different ways. You had people who would message you every single day to check in and even send you things in the post to remind you that they were thinking of you. You also had people who offered their support but put the ball in your court as to whether you wanted it or not. However, you also had people who couldn’t even look at you, wouldn’t speak to you, never acknowledged what you’d just been through and even somehow amazingly managed to make everything all about themselves instead. I completely understand that sometimes people just don’t know what to say, but I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to punch someone in the face because they were being an utter dick.

‘It’s okay, you’ll be a Mum one day’ – seriously, fuck off.

Anyway… thankfully after a while, normality did kick back in after I returned to some kind of routine. I didn’t hate people anymore and pregnancy announcements didn’t phase me as much. I went back to work which gave me a reason to get up in the morning and my confidence slowly picked back up. I remember receiving my first call where a manager was telling me that a member of the team had suffered a miscarriage and needed help. I cannot tell you how relieved I was that they didn’t hide this from me thinking I wouldn’t be able to handle it. It was the first time I was able to use my personal experiences to connect with someone else and attempt to offer them whatever support I could.

I felt stronger as time went on, but there were still occasions when someone would say or do something that would kick you right back down. I was sat in work when a woman from the office turned up with her brand-spanking new baby, which of course by this point didn’t overly bother me. I’d lost a baby but that didn’t mean nobody else was allowed to have one. Someone ran into my office to let me know so it didn’t catch me off guard. It was a lovely thought and I completely understood why they thought to tell me… but then they proceeded to ask me if I wanted to pack up my things and go home… in the middle of the day. Why would I want to go home and run away? I kindly declined the offer, said I was fine and hoped that would be enough to remove them from my office… yet instead of leaving it there, they asked me if I wanted to turn all the lights off so no one would think to come in because the office would look empty. Fantastic. I’ll just sit here in the fucking dark and continue to work shall I?

Ignoring eye-roll moments like that, time moved forward and I almost started to see small snippets of my old self come slowly back to life. They always say that time is a healer but no amount of time would ever take away the heartbreak of losing your child, but I do think that time gives you some breathing space so that with every day that passes, that raw pain hurts that little bit less. It’s taken me quite a while but I survived.

After losing Ivy, my life has completely changed and my outlook is very different to what it was before. The reality is that I’m not the same person I used to be, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I miss some aspects of the old me, but now I embrace a slightly chipped version instead. After all, if I hadn’t, thenorthernwife would never exist.

Now I wish I could tell you that this is the final chapter of the story and it was now time to start writing a whole new book… but unfortunately that is not the case.

From what I’d read and researched, there were lots of people who’d experienced a similar situation to us and for the majority who had opted for a post-mortem, they were told that unfortunately there was no real explanation as to why it happened. The refer to this type of thing as a ‘fluke’ – that something just happened when sperm met egg and it didn’t quite work out. I don’t think referring to your baby as a fluke ever makes it any easier, because you’d spend your whole life asking why did it happen to your baby and why were you that one in a million? But I think when you know there isn’t a specific reason why you lost your baby, there is that ridiculously small silver lining (if you can even call it that) that tells you that if you ever choose to have another, the chance of the same thing happening again is pretty much zero.

But after an extremely long and agonising wait, the phone call I received was very different.

Ivy was never classed as a fluke.

In fact, I was told that there was a very high chance that the same thing that happened to Ivy, could happen again during any future pregnancy I may have. They told us that we could go through exactly the same thing if we ever wanted to try again for another baby.

And explaining that to you… is a whole other blog entry.

So I suppose at this point, all I can say is – to be continued.

Katt x

Our Daughter, Ivy.

I think it’s only appropriate to put a trigger warning at the beginning of this post, because it includes full details of terminating a very much wanted pregnancy for medical reasons during the third trimester and giving birth to a stillborn baby. I’ve spent quite a while wondering whether I should go into so much detail and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rewritten parts, deleted bits and almost given up altogether! And whilst this might be difficult for people to read, it’s been especially difficult to write because you relive every moment with every word that you type.

However, when I was going through this, I wanted the detail. I wanted to know exactly what was about to happen, no matter how upsetting it was to hear. And since experiencing the loss of our daughter, I’m now a member of groups that women join because they may be going through something similar. They openly ask for the detail to prepare themselves, but understandably not everyone is comfortable sharing their own experience. But I am.

So I appreciate not everyone may want to read this chapter, so it is entirely up to you if you’d like to continue.

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Sleep on the Sunday night was pretty much non-existant. The thought kept going round and round in my head that come Monday, we’d be putting our very much wanted baby to sleep and even though I’d almost come to terms with it being ‘over’ – the reality hit that there would be no going back and that would be it. The dream of our baby coming home and us living happily ever after would be gone. I still couldn’t really believe it.

The drive into Manchester was silent and I could feel my heartbeat thumping through my chest. As soon as we arrived, we were taken back to the room in fetal medicine where we were originally given the devastating news. I was so nervous and felt so unbelievably sick with fear. A midwife came in to see us and went through some paperwork – they were asking for my signature to complete the procedure that was about to end our baby’s life. The midwife asked me if I wanted some diazepam to help settle me and calm me down a little bit, and whilst I’m not big on medication, I accepted on the basis that I wanted to do anything possible that would help me relax through what horrendous situation I was about to experience next.

We’d agreed beforehand that James would stay in the waiting room. They told us that the procedure wouldn’t take too long and I absolutely did not want him to see anything that would remain stuck with him for the rest of his life. There are some things you cannot unsee or ever forget. It was bad enough that I’d have to go through this so I really didn’t want him to experience it too. I knew I just had to get in there, do whatever was needed and leave as soon as we possibly could. I also knew that if James could have traded places with me that day, he would have.

I lay on the same bed they had scanned me on days earlier. I told the consultant that I’d brought some headphones and that I was going to listen to some music. I didn’t want to hear what they were saying. I told her I was going to close my eyes tight and ask that she nudge me when it was all over. The diazepam was slowly working because my brain felt a little numb. They dimmed the lights in the attempt to make the environment as comfortable as possible and they started scanning my belly so they could position me exactly how they needed me.

With my eyes firmly shut, I felt quite a sharp sting as the first needle went in. This was the anaesthetic to prevent me feeling the next needle which they’d said wouldn’t hurt as much, and it didn’t. I lay there, knowing something was going on in my belly but it was more uncomfortable than painful.

They began injecting me with foeticide. Foeticide – this is the absolutely horrendous name for the medication they use to put babies to sleep during late pregnancy. Even now, the name makes me feel so uncomfortable because it’s like saying your baby was a pest. Why couldn’t someone have called it ‘dream serum’ – it could literally have been called absolutely anything else!

The procedure lasted about ten minutes, and it may have been the diazepam, but I had some kind of surreal out of body experience – nothing like I’d ever had before. I still remember it clearly now. I drifted somewhere far away and disappeared into a really vivid dream. I’d partially fallen into a woozy sleep and found myself walking through this white door to find my Dad sitting upright in a hospital bed. We were in A&E after he was taken in by the ambulance. The surroundings were exactly like they were 3 years ago. I was back in the same moment when I thought I was having the ‘final conversation’ with my Dad because we thought he was going to die soon. But, rather than saying what we actually did, he just held my hand and this time said ‘it’s going to be okay’. That’s all he said and he just kept repeating it.

Moments later the consultant gently nudged me to wake me up and tell me it was over. I remember opening my eyes and feeling completely lost. Lost because being with my Dad felt so unbelievably real, but also lost because I knew that was it, that amazing dream of sitting in our living room – me, James, Stan and our baby – was gone.

I asked the consultant whether everything went okay and asked whether our baby had experienced any pain and she said no. Our baby would not have known any different and would have drifted peacefully to sleep.

They brought James into the room who sat next to me and another consultant joined us. Apparently after this procedure, you need to be rescanned and both consultants need to confirm a heartbeat is no longer present. They moved all screens away from us so we couldn’t see anything and then they updated my notes…

‘Fetal heartbeats before procedure – 1. Fetal heartbeats after procedure – 0.’

The midwife gave me a tablet and some water and I took it straight away without a second thought. This tablet was to stop all my pregnancy hormones and when I think back, I can’t believe that I didn’t even hesitate, but I had absolutely no emotion left at this point.

I attempted to stand up but my tummy was slightly bruised and crampy. Everything just felt really tender, like I’d taken a punch to the belly. There was nothing more Manchester could do for me now because I’d decided to give birth at my local hospital. They’d offered me to stay there but I wanted to be closer to home.

We now had to wait 48 hours for me to be induced, not through any choice, but this was how long it took for the tablet to take effect. Originally, I had asked to go straight from hospital to hospital because I was too scared to go home. I was so worried that my waters would break and there’d be no one around to help. The biggest fear for me was giving birth to a stillborn baby at home and not knowing what to do. However after further discussion with the consultant, she said it is pretty rare for your waters to break naturally, especially to a point where I wouldn’t make it to hospital, so I changed my mind and decided to go home and wait it out. Once I got into my own bed, I realised there was no place I’d rather be.

Over the course of a few hours, my tummy flattened. Every part of me felt deflated. I couldn’t quite grasp the concept that I had a baby inside of me that I knew was no longer alive – it was a feeling no person should ever experience. But if I’m to be perfectly honest with you (as I promised I always would be) there was the smallest part of me which was utterly relieved that the first bit of this was now over. I’d spent well over a week completely petrified that I’d go into an early labour, give birth and our poor baby would be exposed to a circus of lights and sounds and panic before passing away. I kept telling myself that instead, our baby had fallen asleep in the place it had always felt safe and secure.

I cannot remember what happened during those 48 hours whilst I was at home, but I can tell you I wasn’t in any pain and I didn’t experience any bleeding and my waters did not break. I always say this is the part I relate to with my Dad. I told you in a previous chapter that he would sit and absolutely dread going in for his chemo sessions and almost refuse to go. Well I think I experienced that utter dread. I sat there and absolutely did not want to go into hospital and give birth. I’ve never not wanted to do something so much in my entire life… but I had no choice.

On the Wednesday morning, I rang the local hospital to tell them who I was and that I’d arrive by 11am. They were already expecting me which was reassuring as the last thing I wanted to do was arrive and explain what I was there for. I was so scared knowing that at some point over the next few hours I was going to experience labour for the first time. It really did not matter how you felt at this point though, there was no other option available, you either got on with it or you got on with it.

If my pregnancy had gone as planned and I was full term going into labour, it would only be James by my side, but because this situation was so unbelievably different, I’d asked my Mum to stay with us and help me through the birth. Part of me wanted James to have some support but at the same time, sometimes you just need someone else with you who has been through labour before to explain what on earth was happening. Sometimes, you just need your Mum.

As we arrived we were taken to a private room which was away from the usual delivery suites. This room served a special purpose, because it was there for women who either knew they’d be giving birth to a sleeping baby, or used as a bereavement suite in the extremely sad circumstance your baby is unexpectedly stillborn. This room allowed you the privacy to spend as much time as you needed with your little one, away from the noise of others. The fact this room exists is so utterly heartbreaking – but the fact we had access to it made this whole process that tiny bit easier.

The room was quite big with its own private bathroom, a shower, a small kitchen and a sofa area with a television. There was another door that was locked, which I assumed was storage. There was a wardrobe full of hand knitted baby clothes, some so unbelievably small. They were all hung up by weeks, with the smallest being around 16 weeks. These little outfits had been made with so much love.

When it comes to be induced under this circumstance, no one can tell you how long the process is going to take. I’d spoken to a few women online and like any labour, no one can really predict the timescale. You could be in labour for four hours, twenty hours or some women even said they were there for a few days. This room catered for that because you could be there as long as you needed. Although you were in the maternity unit, you couldn’t hear a thing.

The plan was that you’d stay in this room whilst going through the motions of labour, but then you’d need to be wheeled to one of the delivery suites to give birth – this was just incase anything went wrong and they needed the equipment that was over there.

The bereavement midwife was the first person to come in and see us. It was more of a support chat than anything but by this point I just wanted to get the process started as soon as possible, because all I wanted to do was get home, to my own bed and back to the snuggles of Stan.

I explained our wishes to the midwife. We told her that we did not want to find out the gender, we didn’t want to name our baby and I asked that as soon as it was born, could it please be taken away. I had absolutely no idea how I’d cope with labour and the last thing I wanted was to be so overwhelmed with hormones and emotion that I ask for the baby to be given to me thinking everything was okay when it wasn’t. I said no matter what I say, please take our baby away.

The only thing I asked for, was that someone take photographs and store them in our file. You can ask the hospital to do this for you. If you decide not to see your baby, but at a later date ever regret that decision, you can request the photographs be sent to you.

However at this point, the plan we had made so clearly in our minds, wasn’t going to work. Because I was over 24 weeks, our baby is classed as a person. It would have a stillborn certificate. This means that in future generations, if anyone wanted to look up our family tree, this baby would show as our first born. At first I felt uncomfortable with this, because it’s not what I’d made clear in my head, but now, I realise that we would want nothing else.

Because we’d get a stillborn certificate, it would detail the gender of the baby. The midwife told us there is a possibility they can request it isn’t on there, but there would be some legal hoops to jump through and it gets complicated. Our original request seemed almost ridiculous now. The more I thought about it, the more I realised I didn’t want the documentation just to say ‘Baby Kerr’ because what if we ever had another? So right there and then, we agreed we’d find out the gender and because of that, we immediately picked out two of our names… one for a girl and one for a boy.

Another midwife arrived with the first round of medication. They place a tablet up inside you (which is a little uncomfortable) to kick start contractions. The plan is that they insert a tablet every four hours and see how you get on. For the first few hours, I felt absolutely nothing, not even a twinge, but as time went on and I had more tablets, the pains became stronger.

The pains of labour, I believe, were exactly like the pain any other woman would experience. It starts off like a dull period pain before it gets worse, more frequent and then really starts to fucking hurt. I like to think I have a pretty high pain threshold but shit me, this was something else.

Due to the situation, I was allowed whatever medication I wanted. I originally said I didn’t want anything because I wanted a drug-free labour but as time went on I caved for some painkillers before puffing on gas and air like my life depended on it. They were allowed to give you whatever you wanted, because nothing could be transmitted to baby. I realised there was no need to pretend to be strong here, so in the end I was having diamorphine injected into my backside whenever I was allowed it. I was as high as a kite!

The labour seemed to last forever, but most of it became a blur because I was off my face on medication. I genuinely hope anyone reading this is only reading it because they know me or are just curious. If you are unfortunately reading this because you might have to go through something similar, all I will say is… take the drugs. Don’t put on a brave face. You are a hero enough that you have to experience this in the first place, so I’d say do it as pain-free as possible.

Now although I was in constant pain, very little was happening and we all watched the clock as it hit midnight.

I managed to sleep for very brief periods of time, usually after I’d just had a new dose of meds. There was a point when I thought I’d be in labour forever because we were clocking around 15 hours. I called the midwife back in to check me over but I was 1cm dilated and I needed to be 10cm. I was already exhausted.

But not long later, in the very early hours of the morning, I stood up and felt this little pop. I immediately called the midwife back in who was extremely sympathetic of my exhaustion but said I still probably had a way to go yet… but I was convinced something was happening. She said she’d take a look and much to her surprise, baby was on its way. There was no time to wheel me to the delivery suite, I had to push there and then in that room.

I pushed for all of 20 minutes. If you’ve ever given birth, you’ll know the placenta shortly follows which you usually have to push out too, but someone took pity on me that day and it thankfully just came out intact with baby. They followed my wishes and immediately took our baby away. The pain stopped. 17 hours of labour, but now it was all over.

No part of me comprehended that I’d just given birth to a baby, but heard no cries. That my body had just endured labour but no baby was snuggling on my chest. I just lay there for a moment, so completely overwhelmed that I pretty much just threw up all over myself. Hardly surprising after the cocktail of medication I’d been taking, the sheer anxiety and probably part relief it was now all over.

The midwife came back in to see us and asked us if we were ready…

‘You had a little girl.’

I took one look at James and I just said…

Ivy.

Everyone became emotional hearing this and it completely hit home that we’d just had our baby. Mum eventually left the two of us alone to spend some time together and just recover. I’m so grateful she was there as I don’t know how I’d have coped without her. My Mum was by one side, James by the other. We both fell asleep for a little while because we were exhausted. No one was rushing us to leave and we had to stay for around 6 hours anyway to make sure I didn’t experience any post-labour complications.

I asked the midwife what Ivy looked like and she said she looked like a perfect little baby girl. She said we could see her if we wanted to but I was hesitant. I didn’t know what to expect. It almost feels guilty writing this but when you’re told your baby isn’t well, you wonder whether they’ll look okay. Would she look normal? How would I feel seeing her? It’s such an awful thing to think but that’s the reality of it.

It didn’t take too long until we both changed our minds. I mean, I totally understand why we had the plan at first, it was a coping mechanism to get us through this whole thing but we’d done it now. She was here. How could we leave without seeing her? So we asked the midwife if we could. The midwife pointed to the door that I thought was just storage and told us that she was just in there. We walked in and there she was, in a little dress and tiny pink knitted hat, lying in a little cot with a teddy bear by her side. She looked so unbelievably peaceful.

And do you know what? You could see what was highlighted on the ultrasound scans, but otherwise she was so utterly perfect and had the same squished nose I was born with 28 years before. The rush of emotion was overwhelming. A rush that I can only imagine is what it feels like to look at your baby and instantly feel like a Mum.

Time stood still whilst we were in that little room together. And I wish we could have stayed by her side forever.

We were told the registrar was actually on site so we could see them now rather than arrange to sort it at a later date. We made our way downstairs. I’d given birth to our daughter less than 3 hours ago and now we were registering the fact she had died. We were given a stillbirth certificate, information on funeral arrangements and a card from the hospital telling us how sorry they were for our loss.

There was nothing more left to do today. They took our little Ivy away and that day was the first and last time we would ever see her.

You always see on social media, the happy couples who take photographs walking out of hospital, usually the Dad carrying their new bundle in a car seat, ready to go home to start the next chapter of their lives. We walked out of the hospital that day with a box. A box containing a little teddy bear (the same bear she was lying next to), some bereavement information and a card with our daughters handprints and footprints inside.

I felt utterly broken that the next chapter of our lives was going to be so different to what I’d ever imagined it would be.

We have a daughter. Her name is Ivy. She was born on 5th September 2019. On my 28th birthday.

Katt x

The Shit Bit in the Middle.

I’d read that sugary drinks sometimes give babies a bit of a buzz, so I starting gulping down full fat coca-cola whilst we sat in the waiting room of fetal medicine – I wanted to do everything and anything possible that would make this baby move during the scan so we could all go home and move on from this whole fiasco.

Whilst waiting there, I didn’t really know what to think. Everyone says ‘try and be positive’ but I can’t tell you a time where I went into hospital and was given good news, so I couldn’t trick myself into thinking it’d all be okay. Things just didn’t feel quite right.

We were called into one of the scan rooms and were greeted by a consultant, a midwife and a trainee from genetics. I didn’t really question why someone from genetics was there too, I just assumed as it was a teaching hospital that they were there to learn. The consultant asked me if I wanted to pull the television screen around to see our baby as she scanned me but I politely declined. We still didn’t want to know the gender so didn’t want to risk seeing something we shouldn’t, and I couldn’t bare watching that baby not knowing what it was they were looking for.

She scanned me for just over half an hour and did not say a word the entire time. The room felt extremely tense. I just kept looking at James sat beside me and I attempted to make conversation to distract us from the quietness. When she finally finished, she wheeled the scanning equipment away, looked at us and said ‘unfortunately I do have a concern because your baby hasn’t moved very much’. We were then asked to move to a more private room and wait for her whilst she finished typing up all her notes.

The room was plain with floral pictures hanging on the wall. There was a table, some chairs and a box a tissues. This was when I realised people did not come into this room to be given good news. James remained optimistic and said I shouldn’t worry because we don’t know what she’s going to say. Maybe they’d be able to fix whatever was wrong?

But as soon as they walked through that door and sat down, I immediately knew…

I can’t remember word for word what the consultant said to us because my brain froze. She told us she had a serious concern and that our baby wasn’t moving because all four limbs were stuck. She kept placing her arms over the back of her head in the attempt to show us what she meant. Right there and then, I could have faded away. Her face became a blur and I just looked through her. I just sat staring at the walls, watching the bricks from that room tumble down and crash onto the floor.

‘So what happens now?’

The consultant explained that most couples in our situation would choose to end the pregnancy. That was the only answer she gave and she said it so calmly. I asked her what she meant by this (because apparently that wasn’t clear enough for me) and she said something about putting our baby to sleep.

At that very moment, on those very words, everything shattered.

We both burst into tears and I was struggling to breathe. They left the room to give us some time to process what we’d just been told and I did not know what to do. I couldn’t look at James. I ran away. When I think back now, I feel awful because I quite literally ran away leaving James sat there to process this information alone. I ran through the building, past all the other pregnant women sat in the ultrasound department and out of the front door. I collapsed to the floor, not giving a shit what anyone around me thought. The only thing I could do was ring my Mum to tell her that it was all over – we weren’t going to have a baby at the end of November. I couldn’t even believe I was saying these words.

When I finally made it back into that room, me and James hugged. We couldn’t say anything to each other because there were just no words. I knew at this point I needed to attempt to be the Katt that could shut down her emotions and deal with what was coming next. I felt unbelievably numb but I knew if I didn’t pull myself together, I would break.

Apparently at some point during the pregnancy, our baby had stopped moving. I would never have known this because I had never felt anything anyway due to my anterior placenta. Whilst everything was measuring perfectly, its arms and legs were stuck in position which had impacted the development of its chest cavity. The consultant told us she believed there was a small possibility that our baby could be born breathing, but how long that could last was unknown. This was when I first heard the phrase ‘incompatible with life’. The consultant continued to say that there was a chance that should we continue with the pregnancy, its heart could stop and I would then go into an early labour and deliver a stillborn baby.

At this point she reiterated that most couples in our situation would make the difficult decision and choose to terminate the pregnancy. That word shivered through my body… choice?

Obviously no medical professional can ever tell you exactly what you should do, but you could tell from the way she was talking and her confidence, that for her there was no other option.

‘But what happens if I continue with this pregnancy?’

The consultant explained that because our baby was stuck in a breech position, as it wouldn’t be able to move, whenever I went into labour it would not engage and I’d probably be unable to deliver it naturally – this meant I could have an emergency c-section. Because they’d have no idea when this could happen, depending on how far along I was and how thick the uterus lining could be, she told me I could lose quite a lot of blood and that unfortunately in a few cases, she has had to perform an emergency hysterectomy.

Listening to her, that word ‘choice’ seemed to fade away. What choice did we possibly have?

I asked her whether they’d just put me to sleep and take the baby out, but because of how far along I was, she told me I’d need to be induced and give birth. After hearing that, a huge wave of fear flooded over me. I’d never been in labour before, I’d never given birth before, and now this was going to be my first experience of it? I felt sick.

They explained that they could book the termination to take place in a couple of days but we politely declined. We both felt so uneasy about this and I was so angry and upset. How had the fate of our baby been decided from one 30-minute scan after we’d spent 27 weeks with this little thing growing inside my belly?! How sure were they that they’d made the right diagnosis? We asked if we could leave it another week to see if anything changes, just to be sure and they agreed because it really didn’t matter – the procedure of ending a pregnancy is exactly the same at 27 weeks then it would be at 28, so we had time.

Something about me disappeared that day – I left it behind as we walked out and drove away. I can never speak for James in this blog because his thoughts are his own, but he kept saying that whatever happened he just wanted me to be okay. He wanted his wife safe at home but I wanted nothing more than to give him the child he’d wanted for so long.

When we arrived home I walked straight upstairs and started cramming every baby item we had into black bin liners, stuffing everything into this grey and white toy box I’d purchased for the nursery. I sobbed uncontrollably as I folded up tiny little outfits and hid our scan photographs under a pile of baby blankets. We threw everything into the loft and shut the door to the front bedroom. I couldn’t bare to look at any of it.

We sat together and reread the notes over and over again, trying to make some sense of it all. If you’d told me that I might encounter some problems along the way, but that baby would be absolutely fine, I wouldn’t even need to think twice about carrying on… but we’d been given no scenario that ended with our baby coming home. We could risk everything and end up with what? How does anyone know what the right choice is?

Option one – we continue with the pregnancy but risk going into an early labour and deliver a stillborn baby.
Option two – we continue with the pregnancy, make it all the way but have a baby that dies shortly after birth.
And then with either one of these options, I could end up in surgery, lose the baby, lose our ability to have another baby naturally and then there’s that tiny risk I may not even come home.

The final option? Option three – we end the pregnancy.

I’m not sure whether it was the shock, the pregnancy hormones or even the fear of what was going to happen next, but I experienced what only could have been described as a full on panic attack that evening. I felt like a ticking time bomb and I kept telling James that I thought I was going to die. I’m pretty sure he nearly called me an ambulance that night not really knowing what to do, but instead he called his Auntie Jane, who sat on the phone past midnight to talk me down and remind me that women unfortunately experience this every day and whatever happens, we’d get through it.

That 7 day wait was just awful. The weather was nice so I sat in the garden whilst James dug out some trees. I refused to leave the house because I had a very noticeable bump and I did not want anyone to see me or speak to me without knowing what was going on. I felt almost ashamed and every morning I woke up, I had to remind myself what was happening because I’d think it was all just some horrific nightmare.

After the initial shock calmed down, I decided to ring the midwife we’d met at our appointment. I asked her to talk me through exactly what would happen next, should we make the terrible decision to end our pregnancy. I didn’t want to sit back in hospital and be so overwhelmed with emotion that I didn’t ask the right questions or that I’d merely shut off again and forget. I asked her to tell me on the phone exactly what it meant to end a pregnancy so late on. I told her to spare no detail or sugarcoat anything, and whilst it was one of the most upsetting things to hear, I needed to prepare myself.

Despite not actually knowing what would happen in a weeks time, me and James discussed what this meant for us as a family. When I look back now, I can’t actually believe the conversation that took place between us because it’s so different to what actually happened. We decided in that moment, that we would write off this entire pregnancy and try and forget about it all. We said we’d just try again for another baby when we could. It’s clear to me now whilst writing this, that it was merely a coping mechanism for us both and it was just a way for us to get through what was coming next. We agreed that we would not see the baby, we wouldn’t find out the gender and it would never have a name. This baby would forever just be the ‘little bean’ that Stanley had refused to leave alone.


As we walked back through those hospital doors a week later, we stopped at the coffee shop and I purchased a double espresso. This was the one last chance I had to make sure this baby definitely did not move.

As soon as she started scanning me, she confirmed our baby was still in exactly the same position it was a week earlier. Deep down we both knew this would be the case, but it still felt right to have waited to check. As we already knew what was wrong, the consultant agreed to wheel the screen round and show me and James exactly what she could see. The scanning equipment was so advanced that you could see every fine detail of our baby, and after seeing what was wrong, we understood.

At this point there was no longer a choice to make – this pregnancy was going to end.

We headed up to the 6th floor to meet a genetic councillor. At this stage no one could tell us why this had happened and both me and James are generally fit and healthy with no family history so I just assumed they saw any patients going through what we were. They asked whether we’d consent to a full post-mortem after delivery and we agreed. Of course we wanted to know why this happened and whether it could ever happen again.

It was a Friday afternoon and after such a long day, we were defeated. I felt battered. That feeling when you’ve been riding rollercoasters all day, spinning around and you just feel sick and tired. When we arrived home we rang the consultant to confirm our decision to proceed with the termination of our much wanted baby and she booked us in for the Monday morning.

I didn’t move far from the couch all weekend. The only trip we made was to the supermarket to purchase supplies. Do you know when you’re pregnant and you start getting your bags ready knowing it could happen at any point? You go and buy snacks for during labour, comfortable pjs, maternity pads and whatever else to prepare for your miniature arrival? Yes, we had to do exactly the same shop knowing full well that we’d never bring our baby home.

I spent that entire weekend with my hands on my bump, apologising for not being able to protect it. The first step of becoming a Mum was to be able to look after your baby and I wasn’t even able to do that. The one and only thing that continued to get me through was that no matter what happened next, our baby was safe inside the only home it had ever known and somehow, that gave me peace.

Katt x

My First Pregnancy.

I didn’t sleep well the first night after finding out I was pregnant because I was super anxious and I had no idea what to expect now. Was I supposed to feel sick straight away? When would a bump appear? I’d never been pregnant before so I had no idea what happened when, and only really knew what I’d seen on films! I told my Mum and Sister straight away because we were far too close and there was absolutely no chance that I’d be able to hide it from them for 3 months. But other than that, the secret remained ours.

It’s strange really because no one actually confirms you are pregnant until your first scan at 12 weeks. I couldn’t quite believe it so I think in the end I’d collected 9 positive pregnancy tests in the first two weeks, just to make sure it hadn’t disappeared overnight. I took a digital test each Sunday to make sure the week numbers increased as this little thing developed inside of me. Eventually, I believed it enough to stop testing but to be honest, I felt completely normal and it was actually quite easy to forget that I was even pregnant.

I had a belly that would come and go – turns out the majority of the time it was just bloat or due to the fact I’d eaten too much! I’ve never really been someone who suffers from anxiety, nor have I ever been much of an over-thinker but being pregnant completely changed me and I hated that I just couldn’t relax! I would stand in the mirror and suck my belly in and ask James where it was? I’d be shopping and feel a sharp pain in my tummy and then find myself sat in the car wiping myself with a tissue checking for blood. I read about what you could and couldn’t eat, would worry if I’d nibbled something I probably shouldn’t have and referred to Dr. Google an extremely unhealthy amount – oh the joys of a first pregnancy!

I bought and read the book ‘what to expect when you’re expecting’ that actually gave me bugger all detail on what to expect at all. The book would tell me that I’d start feeling tired, and I didn’t. It said morning sickness was about to start, but it never did. In fact, there was not a single part of that book that matched what I was going through. To be honest, with the exception of some questionable morning burps, the majority of my pregnancy was an absolute breeze.

The first 12 weeks felt like forever, despite being preoccupied with house renovations and decorating. Finally, we were sat in the hospital waiting for our first scan and I remember the butterflies in my tummy. What if I wasn’t pregnant after all? What if something was wrong? What if it had somehow disappeared? But within seconds of that machine probe touching the gel on my belly, little bean appeared on the screen wriggling away. Its arms were up in the air and it was kicking its legs around. It was so strange to see, because I felt absolutely nothing inside.

During the scan, the sonographer told me that I had an anterior placenta – this meant that my placenta was covering the whole front of my belly so it might take me a little longer to feel those kicks. We took our scan photographs home and decided to call around and tell the rest of the family. There was something about this that made me feel really uncomfortable. I could quite happily have kept it a secret forever because as soon as everyone knew, I just felt this massive amount of pressure and it was unnerving.

I’d seen so many people reveal their pregnancies on social media, but that just wasn’t for me. For some reason I didn’t want to bring any more attention to this pregnancy than what was needed. After everything in my life, I sometimes find it difficult to be excited, because unfortunately I know things can be taken away from you so quickly. I ignored people who constantly text me about baby showers and baby names and had to ask others to appreciate that I didn’t want a fuss. I almost felt sorry for myself that I wasn’t enjoying this like others had, but I wanted that baby safe in my arms first. There wasn’t a single reason why there could be a problem, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up for it all to come crashing down on me.

Because of my lack of bump, I felt like such a fraud shopping for anything baby related. We’d made the decision that we wouldn’t buy much until after the 20 week scan because we felt like we were jinxing it buying anything before. I suppose I’m really cynical but it doesn’t half piss me off when people refer to this as the ‘gender scan’. It is not a gender scan, it is a scan that checks everything is okay with your baby. Working in HR, I have unfortunately come across several women who attended this scan to find out something was wrong, so naturally this was a huge milestone for us.

The 20 week scan finally arrived and the sonographer conducted in-depth checks on baby. We didn’t want to find out the gender as we wanted a surprise, so we didn’t watch the screen much in the event we saw something we shouldn’t. Everything was perfect but because of the position, she couldn’t see all four chambers of the heart. She was moving the probe around my belly, prodding and poking with still no luck. I began to panic a little as the look on her face changed.

She told us that she was happy with everything else, but she couldn’t say she was comfortable with the formation of baby’s heart because it was at a funny angle. I thought she might send me out of the room for a bit of a jump around but instead they asked me to come back and see one of the consultants. At this point I felt nauseous. Why can’t I just wait around for a bit? I’ll drink something sugary and see if I can get baby to move?

Thankfully, there was a slot with a consultant a few hours later so we drove home, I took a nap to help pass the time and we ventured back to the hospital. Within minutes of him scanning me, he was more than comfortable he could see everything he needed to and he sent us on our merry way. I had worried for absolutely nothing and felt like such a div. I mentioned to him that I hadn’t yet felt any kicks but he said not to worry, because of my placenta I probably will do soon – baby would just need to be a bit bigger first.

I lost count of how many times I rolled around on the floor, lay in a nice warm bath or ate some chocolate waiting for this little thing inside me to start kicking away but it never happened. It didn’t help that I had absolutely no idea what I was looking out for or how it was supposed to feel, but I remember joking to friends hoping baby would be this lazy when it was born.

James’ Auntie Jane became my best friend. She was a midwife and had spent 30 years knowing the ins and outs of the female body and absolutely everything you needed to know about babies. The fact I could call her at any hour, text her whenever my mind wandered somewhere it shouldn’t and that she was exactly like me, straight talking and no bullshit, was an absolute life-saver.

Someone had mentioned to me that you can join Facebook groups full of women who are all due the same time as you, so I found one and became part of the ‘due in November 2019’ gang. This was such a strange platform, full of women sharing best buys, previous experience and updates on their pregnancies. By 21 weeks, almost every member of this group had shared a video of their babies kicking away, it looked so weird but I hadn’t experienced anything like it.

Because of my placenta, I’d agreed with the local midwife that I’d see her every Thursday and she would use her doppler to listen in to help reassure me that everything was okay. The heartbeat was always there and it was always strong.

It was a Monday morning and I was around 22 weeks, James was working abroad and I was working from home. I was scrolling through the Facebook group on my phone to more and more videos of babies kicking away, even the other anterior placenta Mums were now sharing theirs. I couldn’t shake the feeling of worry so I decided to make a phone call. The local midwives only worked in the morning and I’d missed them by 10 minutes, but the niggling feeling continued so I rang the hospital triage using the number from my green book. I spoke to a lovely lady and I explained the situation to her. She was extremely reassuring and told me it was only natural to worry and if I wanted to, I could come in and have a listen to the heartbeat to put my mind at ease. So to settle my nerves, I drove into hospital.

When I arrived, she immediately lay me down and placed the doppler on my belly. The heartbeat was really loud and then there was this ‘swishing’ noise. She said that sounded like the baby had just moved and asked me if I could feel it, but I felt absolutely nothing at all. But at that point, I felt totally reassured and realised how silly I was probably being.

Now what I didn’t realise, was that if you go into hospital to the maternity triage unit, they only recommend you leave once a consultant has reviewed your notes and confirmed they are happy with everything. I waited around, for almost 2 hours until someone was available – I was absolutely starving! When the consultant finally arrived, I told her how far along I was and that I hadn’t yet felt any movement which is why I’d decided to get checked out. She looked perplexed and told me that I should have felt something by now and she wanted to scan me to see what was going on.

They wheeled in what looked like the oldest machine in the hospital and she ran the probe across my belly for a couple of minutes. No movement. You could see the heartbeat popping away but baby didn’t move at all. I kinda brushed her off and said it was probably because I hadn’t eaten in about 3 hours and I hadn’t walked around for a while, but nevertheless she wanted to refer me to a consultant to take a closer look at the end of the week.

I left the hospital, drove home and as soon as I stepped through my front door, burst into hysterical tears. I rang James who told me not to worry and that it was probably because they couldn’t tick a box and then I rang my Mum to cry to her down the phone too. A few hours ago everything was fine, but now there could be something wrong? I was completely overwhelmed and felt really alone.

The week passed us by and James was still away so my Mum accompanied me to see the consultant. As soon as he started scanning me, he said ‘oh a little wave, that’s a good sign’ and then proceeded to scan every single part of our little baby. I immediately relaxed and thought, this is just like the 20 week scan, thinking there was a problem when there actually wasn’t. My Mum was in absolute awe because she’d never seen a baby on a screen before and this was the first time she heard that little heartbeat too. He read out all these numbers, kept saying perfect, that things were measuring exactly as they should be. He mentioned my amniotic fluid was a little low, but not enough to worry about. He spent 30 minutes inspecting that little baby inside of my belly until he pushed the machine to one side and said ‘everything looks absolutely fine but I have been scanning you for over half an hour and baby hasn’t moved position’. He said that they generally have these sleep cycles so should be awake and moving by now, but it wasn’t.

He asked the midwife for some kind of zapper, apparently it’s a device that you put on your belly and it sends a loud noise into your womb waking up your baby (cruel right?) The hospital didn’t have one, so he told me to get something up on my phone. I searched ‘really loud alarm’ on Youtube and pressed it against my tummy (in a bit of a fluster, and therefore managed to cover it in belly gel!). I played the noise. Nothing. I did it again. Nothing. He looked at me and said ‘if I have a concern, it’s a low one, but I need to refer you to fetal medicine in Manchester.’ Why was this situation getting worse?

I sat with my Mum in this small side room whilst the midwives made a few phone calls. They gave me some information about fetal medicine, how to get there, where to park and what to expect. I just kept looking at my Mum, confused and worried but the midwives were being awfully nice and spoke to me so calmly. I’m not sure what I was thinking by this point. Half of me thought, well that follows tradition, sit in front of a doctor and be given bad news, but the other half just kept telling myself it was a tick box exercise and they cannot release you from their system if they can’t prove everything is okay.

Fetal medicine contacted me later that afternoon and booked an appointment for me in two weeks time. They explained that they wanted something to compare to, so by waiting they could review any growth changes from the scan I’d just had. James flew home and I tried to preoccupy myself with work. Because of the comment about low fluids, I’d read that this could potentially reduce the amount a baby can move, so I spent the full two weeks drinking as much water as possible to rule out this problem. I also reluctantly danced around my kitchen to The Greatest Showman, in the hope that this encouraged the little bean to move around a bit.

So many people told me not to worry and that they also had lazy babies too. One friend said that their baby never moved on scans and was just always asleep, but now their little boy was an extremely mischievous 3 year old. I found myself wading through the darkness of the internet, trying to find success stories or someone who had been through this as well. I kept having to remind myself that when things went okay, people didn’t share stories online. People generally only share things online when its bad news. You never really read the story about the woman who had the lump in her boob checked and it turned out to be fine. Every symptom you search diagnoses you with cancer. I was stuck in this spiral, reading website after website – the problem being you just keep going until you find the answer that you WANT to read, something that might not even be true.

The date of the appointment finally arrived and we drove into Manchester. Whilst it was a quiet drive, we were both full of hope, hope that this was all just a silly misunderstanding. That we just had a lazy little baby and that as soon as we got there we would see that little thing, racing around the screen being all pleased with itself that it had caused this much anxiety so early on in it’s life.

Never in a million years, would I have imagined what was coming next.

Katt x

Baby Dust.

To be honest, I’d never really thought that much about babies before.

So many people around me have chosen different paths through life. Some have always wanted children so from the moment they could, they did. Some decided to get married and have their first few years baby-free and enjoy money that little while longer. Some got ‘caught out’ and ended up with a family earlier than planned but I also have friends who if you ask if they’ll ever have kids, look at you with this glare of disgust as if you’d just pissed on their face.

I suppose I always thought I’d be a Mum at some point. Growing up, my parents had always talked about being promoted to grandparents so it just felt like the norm. However, all that aside, it’s absolutely no secret that I wasn’t first in line when someone was handing out maternal instinct. If you pass a baby to me, I will hold it uncomfortably at arms length until you take it back.

We’d had the conversation about children before getting married so I knew James wanted to be a Dad. We thought it was best we get our preferences out in the open to avoid a discussion one day where our answers to ‘do you want kids?’ could potentially differ to each other. So we’d agreed we’d have a family at some point, but ‘when’ never really came up in conversation.

After our honeymoon, I did some reading on preparing to have a baby – more out of curiosity than anything else. I’d read one article that said it could take a year for the contraceptive pill to leave your system if you’ve been using it for a while, so we decided I wouldn’t renew my prescription and we’d just be careful instead until we felt ready.

Now I definitely feel like I should add an important disclaimer here – there is absolutely no scientific proof that it takes a long time for the pill to leave your system. I’ve known people who have actively tried for children for 18 months and are still going strong, some others it’s taken years but I also have friends who quit their pill one day and fell pregnant literally a week later. The article I read was utter bollocks.

Life just carried on as normal for us and it wasn’t until a dinner party with friends when that all changed.

We’ve developed this tradition where we take turns to host and we eat, drink and watch a really really shit film. It started off as a bit of a joke after I’d told them I’d never watched Team America, but it had somehow caught on and continued ever since and although the company was fab, films like Sharknado, were not.

The only difference on this occasion, was that they now had a little baby boy.

After dinner we sat on the couch ready to watch a terrible movie, and they plonked their little boy on James’ knee. He kinda just wobbled about for a little while, babbling away and sucking on his finger. I could tell James was enjoying it because he put his beer on the side and had this glowing smile on his face. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel an ovary twitch, but I continued drinking my red wine knowing exactly what conversation would be taking place later that evening.

A few hours later, we started our walk home. I knew what James was going to say before he even said it and I’m not sure whether it was the wine talking, but after ten whole minutes, we’d somehow agreed to start trying for a family..

I’d gone from sitting quite happily with my bottle of red, to my legs up in the air asking gravity to do us both a favour – all within the space of about 45 minutes. Slight hangover in the morning but surprisingly, I did not regret the decision the next day…

So that was it – Katt and James were now officially trying for a baby.

Anyone who knows me pretty well, will know how ridiculously impatient I can be. I am absolutely one of those who says ‘if you want it, go and get it.’ If I’ve decided on something, I hate waiting around for it to happen because life is far too short. If I’m ready to go out, I will get pissed off if you are still faffing (James!) and if I decide to paint a wall blue, within minutes I’ll be on the way to B&Q for supplies.

Because of this, you can imagine my disappointment when after one month of trying, the pregnancy test was negative. However, in reality I don’t actually think it matters whether you are a patient individual or not, if you want a baby, you want a baby now. Peeing on that stick properly for the first time was such a surreal feeling. I’d spent a few occasions during my teenage years waiting for my next period and hoping to Thor I was not pregnant (university will do that to you…), but now everything had changed and I was really hoping that I was!

Some of my friends had struggled to get pregnant for various reasons, but once they’d seen their GP they managed to sort whatever the problem was and they were now expecting. So even though we’d only been trying for a few months, I thought it would be a good idea to book a check-up. My rationale being that if something was wrong, it would be better to find out earlier so hopefully, in the end, it doesn’t take too long.

I booked an appointment and my GP asked me how long we’d been trying. I told her it had been nearly a year. I know, I am a terrible human but I felt like such a bellend saying ‘well, only about two months’ – it’s just one of those small white lies and don’t tell me you wouldn’t do the same! She referred me for two blood tests that had to be done on certain days of my cycle. They looked for specific hormones that would highlight everything was doing what it should be. Seemed easy enough.

As we entered month four, I noticed that James was avoiding me more and more. I always tell everyone (and no one has disagreed with me yet!) that when trying for a baby, Monday to Friday becomes merely transactional. If I’ve had a drink on the weekend, you might get something slightly more exotic, but you shouldn’t automatically expect it… Poor lad was exhausted.

Isn’t it funny… when you first start a relationship, your partner spends every waking hour waiting for that invitation for sex, but when you decide to start trying for a baby, they sit on the driveway after a full days work, refusing to leave the car because they spot their wife peering out the window tapping the wristwatch and pointing upstairs. For many, the whole process consumes you and everything becomes about ovulation kits, temperatures and chart mapping – it’s like a military operation.

As we were both under 30 with no known health conditions, I didn’t expect any issues but you can imagine my sheer panic when I was sat in work and I receive a text from my GP surgery telling me there was a problem identified during my blood test and I needed to book in to see them.

Thinking the worst, like I always do these days, I thought great… probably infertile… can’t have kids. Ace.

They told me that I seemed to be missing the hormone that showed I had ovulated and the levels were far too low to ever be able to conceive. I’d have to go back for more tests next month.

Of course… Why couldn’t the test have come back and just said, yeah all is okay, crack on!

I told James who didn’t seem overly bothered. He was being quite reasonable and didn’t think waiting a few more months would cause any issues and he was right. We’d just started the renovations on our home and half of the house was out of use as we were missing internal walls. We currently had no kitchen or dining area and we were living off a microwave in our living room. So yeah, I guess it probably wasn’t the best timing anyway.

A couple of days later I was driving home from work and I was in a foul ass mood. I’d had one of those days where you get completely fed up and miffed off at everything and everyone. I was due on so I felt like a puffafish and I was agitated because we were living in a constant pile of shit.

Now whenever I feel crappy, one of the best things ever, is Stan.

For those of you who don’t know, Stan is my wonderful 4 year old fox red Labrador. I had begged James for a dog when we moved out and he means the absolute world to me. Whenever I get home from work, he is always ridiculously giddy and runs around with a massive smile on his face. He usually grabs a shoe and runs away, making me chase him around. Any shitty day is always made better seeing his little face.

Imagine my disappointment when I opened the front door after this rubbish day, and he just stood there looking at me. No playing. No running. No shoe thieving. Just stood there.

I quickly checked around the house to make sure he’d not made a mess on the floor. The only time Stan makes a mess inside is when he isn’t well and being quiet was usually a symptom… but nothing was there. He just stepped up next to me on the couch and lay straight down, his head on my lap and fell fast asleep.

I have no idea why, but his behaviour triggered me enough to take a pregnancy test. I had all the cramps ready for Mother Nature to make an appearance, but there wasn’t anything going on yet, so why not. I wandered upstairs and found one of those cheap tests (you get a pack of two for 99p in B&M) and I sat on the loo watching the dye run across the little screen.

Negative…

Safe to say my mood got slightly worse. I went in a complete hissy fit, snapped the pregnancy test in half, called it a wanker and chucked it across the bathroom windowsill. I was beyond fed up by this point and probably should have just called it a night and gone to bed.

But moments later, I somehow found myself back upstairs.

I picked the pregnancy test up from the windowsill in its two pieces and my eyes saw the faintest line. I mean, a line so faint you had to inspect the test from different angles to actually see anything. My heart started pounding.

I felt like all of a sudden, I was getting my hopes up far too much. This test couldn’t exactly be considered accurate because it was no longer in one piece. I ran downstairs, necked a glass of vimto and jumped up and down in the attempt to push it all to my bladder. I found a more reliable digital test and watched that hour glass flash away for what felt like an eternity… I tapped my feet up and down whilst reading the shampoo bottle in the attempt to distract myself and I tried to hush Stan out of the bathroom but he refused to leave and just sat there. After five minutes, there it was…

Pregnant. 1-2 weeks.

I immediately felt sick and started shaking. What do I do now? I wanted this, but like many first timers, felt completely overwhelmed with fear. I was sat alone in the house with only the dog to talk to!

I rang James. Well, I pranked James because after three rings I hung up and realised I probably shouldn’t share this news with him over the phone whilst he was at work. He did call me back, but I made up some bullshit about my day and told him not to be late. How anyone keeps this secret from their partner in the attempt to do a proper surprise reveal is utter bollocks… Not a chance!

I couldn’t eat anything. I made some food but only nibbled at the lettuce (still can’t stomach a Caesar salad to this day). The anxiety in my tummy was horrendous. It was about three hours until James would return home from work and time wouldn’t pass by any quicker. I must have walked Stan around the estate four times that night.

When James finally walked through the door, I didn’t even know what to say. I just blurted out ‘don’t ovulate my arseeeeeee’ whilst holding the pregnancy test up in the air.

In my GPs defence, she wasn’t technically wrong. The ovulation hormone didn’t show up on my blood test because it had already been and gone that month… turns out I didn’t know my cycles that well after all!

James was absolutely made up. His face glowed.

That night we sat on the couch, in our building site of a house, knowing there was a little baby bean onboard.

We were so ridiculously happy.

Katt x

The American Dream.

I married James on 7th October 2017, just over a year after losing my Dad. It was a pretty wonderful occasion despite the fact it absolutely peed it down all day and I fell flat on my arse in front of everybody during the ceremony! The day itself was amazing, as was my Mum. She walked me down the aisle and happily gave me away – she even did the traditional, what would have been, father of the bride speech. I’ve always thought this woman was pretty ace and this just confirmed it. There were great people, good food, plenty of wine (obviously) and a band that allowed my sister to grab the microphone and sing an absolutely terrible drunken version of ‘teenage dirtbag’ – it was a great start to married life.

We honeymooned the following May and went on this ‘once in a lifetime’ trip. Although after recent events, I’ve very much debated just dropping everything and booking something similar again. I quite often debate running away from ordinary life and venturing out into the big wild world.

The first hurdle was dropping Stanley off at the kennels, for three weeks. For someone who isn’t much of a crier, I completely bawled my eyes out the whole way there and all the way home. James thought I was batshit. I immediately started to miss him and we hadn’t even got to the airport yet.

We started with a flight to San Francisco. Truth be told I’m not a keen flyer. I’m not scared of flying, I just get ridiculously restless so an 11-hour flight wasn’t exactly my idea of a good time. Thankfully, they had a wide range of movies and I watched The Greatest Showman for the first time. By the end of the flight, I knew the words to every song and I’ve remained a huge fan ever since.

James surprised me and had already booked a car to pick us up from the airport, he wanted something a little more special than your average taxi. After what was quite a questionable journey (why do people text and drive??), we made it in one piece to Hotel Zoe, our accommodation for the next 4 days.

We made ourselves familiar with our surroundings as soon as we arrived and wandered around Fishermans Wharf for the rest of the afternoon. We treated ourselves to an In-N-Out Burger and some Krispy Kreme doughnuts (yum!) and forced ourselves to stay awake until it was appropriate to go to bed. Thankfully by doing this, we woke up the following day without any jet lag – winner!

I was a big fan of San Francisco and if it wasn’t for the fact you felt like you were hiking up the worlds tallest mountain whenever you tackled the steep streets, I’d happily live there. We cycled over the Golden Gate Bridge, spent too much money in Macy’s, rode the famous cable cars and even took a trip out to Alcatraz. The vibe of the place was great.

A few days later, we picked up our rental car and started the journey to Yosemite National Park. It was about a four hour drive and the closer we got, the more lost we were. The rental company had given us a sat nav, but she was literally no use whatsoever when we kept losing signal! I ended up sat in the passenger seat with the biggest map of California on my lap, looking around thinking… shit.

We stopped in the middle of nowhere at a gas station to purchase a survival kit incase we became stranded. We bought gatorade and milk duds. I thought about having a wee but there was a glory hole in the toilet wall so I gave it a swift miss!

After some bickering, one or two door slams and some questionable wrong turns, we finally made it to Yosemite View Lodge in El Portal. It was really close to one entrance of the park so we thought we’d take a drive whilst we had some time. As we paid for our pass, we were given a map of the park along with some useful information. One section said ‘mountain lions live here, if you see them do not run, instead shout, wave and throw stones. Pick up small children so they look bigger and if they fight, fight back’ – great.

We took a few photographs as the sun began to set, it was so peaceful. As we were driving up a long winding road, the weather took a turn and it started to rain. It was becoming harder to see and the higher we drove the more mist surrounded the car so rather than find ourselves stranded with mountain lions, we decided to head back to the lodge.

Like most of the accommodations around Yosemite, it was self catering and there was only one shop which you had to drive to. We made some shitty pasta dish with some questionable meat to survive the night and stocked up on the only red wine they sold. All the bins had chains and locks attached to them because apparently bears liked to wander around looking for leftovers. I felt like we were in some American summer-camp film. It was so weird.

We only had one full day in Yosemite so we woke up really early and parked up before sunrise. There was far too much to see so we’d decided to stay around Glacier Point. The views were absolutely incredible and when the sun eventually beamed up in the sky, it was boiling, nothing like the day before. We went on a short hike into the wilderness and I was ridiculously gutted we hadn’t packed our walking boots. I kept thinking ‘Stan would love this’ but it’s a bloody long flight to go on a dog walk!

As we were walking through the forest, keeping as best we could to the path, we felt like we were the only people on earth. When we finally made it back to where we’d parked the car, we started to see more and more people and each main road was filled with mile long queues of cars. It was so busy! We’d forgotten that it was Memorial Day weekend and it would appear everyone spends the holiday picnicking in Yosemite.

Now one thing permanently scarred in my memory when I think of Yosemite is the toilets. Think about it, you are in the middle of nowhere and they haven’t exactly built pipes, plumbing and waste disposal. What does exist, is a little hut with a hole in the ground. Honestly, I’ve never smelt anything so fucking rancid in my entire life! I found myself balancing over this hole trying not to piss down my leg whilst holding my nose to stop myself gagging. I sit here now writing this and I shiver at the thought.

But not wanting to leave Yosemite on a disgusting note – the views and everything about the place was spectacular.

Another early start and five and a half hours later, we landed in Santa Barbara. Famous for it’s soft sand beaches and chilled out night life, I can see why it’s a top holiday destination for that summer getaway. You ain’t buying a property here for less than $1m. I can safely say it lived up to its reputation and we enjoyed the time out to just sit and relax.

Did you know that happy hour in Santa Barbara actually lasts around six hours? No one put a warning on this to say it didn’t mean you needed to drink constantly for that whole time but hey-ho! It started with one, two or eight sangrias around the pool followed by a few mojitos at a local bar. Before we knew it, we were drinking red wine in a small side alley Italian restaurant. I only remember this restaurant because we stunk of garlic the following morning. There was no massive surprise that I woke up hugging the toilet.

The most painful part was nursing a hangover from hell whilst we had to pack up, get in the car and make our way to Santa Monica. Thankfully, James had booked lunch for us at Paradise Cove Beach Cafe in Malibu as a pitstop on the way. We almost made it there quite effortlessly until we had to pull over and source some bottled water and ready salted crisps in the attempt to revive me before the sangria made a second appearance.

The cafe was lovely and was obviously quite famous for it’s food. The walls were covered in photographs of celebrity visitors, they served pasta straws with your drinks and you couldn’t help but stare at other people when their food arrived, in complete envy that you hadn’t ordered that dish yourself.

We made it to Santa Monica and spent the afternoon at the pier. We watched street artists do things with their bodies that did not look possible and enjoyed some chips whilst attempting to avoid a rather large seagull that also wanted a few. We finally decided to call it a day and attempt to catch up on the sleep we’d lost the night before.

Again, we only had one full day here in Los Angeles and there was so much we wanted to see. This included The Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood Sign and the walk of fame. This can all be done in one day right?

As we drove up to The Griffith Observatory, we could see the Hollywood Sign… miles away in the distance. It was too far away and we wanted to get closer. Apparently you couldn’t park anywhere near it anymore, so the only way to get close was by foot. We googled how long it would take from where we were and it said a round trip would take about four hours… four hours we didn’t have. So being the clever couple that we are, we read a few forums where people had debated the quickest way to do it. We found someone who said you could park in a nearby cul-de-sac and then you’ll be able to walk up there in 45 minutes. Perfect.

Let me be very clear – this was a stupid idea.

The ‘hike’ was not an official route and there was no path, it was around 100 degrees and there were signs everywhere telling you to be careful of rattle snakes and rock slides. We were climbing what felt like sand dunes in the desert. Under foot was slippery and there were no railings to stop you just sliding off the edge. My husband, the saviour, kindly positioned himself so every time I fell flat on my arse, I just fell into him and not down the side of a cliff. He was my wonderful human barrier. I regretted not packing walking boots once again as gym trainers with zero grip was an extremely poor choice.

Buckets of sweat later and around 55 minutes of pure pain and dehydration, we made it. We stood behind those huge letters and allowed muscles we hadn’t used in years, recover. Champions of the world.

If anyone ever tells you that going down is easier than going up, they are lying. The only reason we made it back down to the bottom quicker was because we basically just rolled downhill. I pretty much made my way back to the car on my backside. But we did make it, alive… and there’s a visitor book that one of the houses had put on their porch with our names signed in it. ‘We survived Hollywood bootcamp’.

Growing up as a huge movie fan, I dreamt about Hollywood. What I would give to stand on those stars and feel like an actress. How I’d love to bump into the rich and famous on Broadway. Yeah. Surprise surprise, it’s nothing at all like I imagined, in fact it’s actually a bit of a shit hole. It was not at all as glamorous as I had hoped. I think movies make it out to be something it isn’t and once we’d seen a few stars on the sidewalk, we were done. We spent the rest of the afternoon driving up and down the avenues, just taking it all in. We even made it to the playboy mansion gates, but that’s as far as we got.

San Diego.

If you were to ask me now which was my favourite place during the whole honeymoon, Yosemite aside, it would be San Diego. There was no rushing by this point as we had four wonderful days here. I absolutely loved it. We’d booked tickets to watch the San Diego Padres at Petco Park – this was our first ever baseball game. I loved sitting there, attempting to understand the rules whilst nibbling away at the worlds largest pretzel.

We spent half a day exploring the USS Midway – James absolutely loves this type of stuff. We made the mistake of not eating before we went and after about four hours into it, I found myself getting really hangry. We finally found a bar and decided to share the loaded nachos starter. Honestly, you’d never have seen anything like it, the plate was absolutely piled high! We didn’t eat for the rest of the day afterwards. How was that a starter for one?

We’d heard great things about San Diego Zoo so we dedicated a whole day to visit. I’ve never been a huge zoo fan (animal confinement and all that jazz) but I really enjoyed it and the weather remained kind to us. I wish we could have stayed in San Diego longer, not because we had other events planned, but just to enjoy the vibe for another few days. We quite enjoyed just sitting at a bar with a beer watching whatever game was on the TV.

Now it was time for our first internal flight.

The first thing that hit me when we arrived in Las Vegas was the heat. I’d never felt anything like it before. Sometimes you felt like you couldn’t breathe and even the taxi drivers were dishing out bottles of frozen water. I found as soon as I stepped out of the air-conditioned hotels, I instantly turned to sweat.

I’d had this great idea about all the fun stuff we could do whilst here, but none of it really materialised. James had lost his wedding ring a week after we were married (don’t get me started) so I thought it would be fun just getting married again with his new one – but it’s not actually as easy as that. I think unless you know what you are doing in Vegas, you don’t end up in any situations like ‘The Hangover’.

Truth be told, we aren’t massive party animals. Give us an old mans pub over a nightclub any day. We also don’t gamble, but we did have a go. I won $27 and was ridiculously happy with this, despite the people in the queue next to me cashing in thousands. Yes, I’ll just take my $27 thank you…

We pre-booked a helicopter to fly us over the Grand Canyon. We knew you could drive but it seemed to take a ridiculously long time and quite frankly we couldn’t be bothered sitting in a car again. So the best way to see it all, was from the sky. It wasn’t cheap, but it was worth every penny. I also pride myself on the fact although there were the odd occasions of heavy breathing, I did not throw up.

The last leg of our trip was New York. We’d visited previously back in 2014 but we’d always said if we were passing again, we may as well stop by. It was actually a great ending to the entire trip as we didn’t need to do much because we’d done all the attractions before. We didn’t need to wake up ridiculously early and we just did whatever we wanted. We sat on a bench outside Central Park every morning with a Starbucks coffee and did some last minute shopping – mainly consisting of lego!

We made one new discovery during this trip – Little Italy Pizza. This is a small pizza shop that sold the BEST pizza I have ever eaten in my life. Want to know a funny story? James left the camera, containing all our honeymoon photographs, on the back of the chair and only realised when we were about 5 blocks away! My face dropped and I ran straight back, sliding across car bonnets to thankfully find it still there. My husband, the saviour sometimes, a complete pain in my arse others.

During our last NYC visit, we’d stayed at some classy hotel with the worlds biggest bed. This time round we’d decided to stay somewhere a little less high profile. We’d booked in at The Empire Hotel which appeared heavily on Gossip Girl. A lovely little place with a nice little roof top bar. It was a shame that it’d gone slightly downhill since its Gossip Girl days, even the P in the sign had given up.

We ended our trip drinking overpriced gin looking out over the NYC skyline.

During the whole flight home, I was so excited to see Stan. As soon as we made it back, we dumped the suitcases and went to go and get him. I’d pretty much worried the whole last week of the trip, it made me feel sick wondering if he thought we’d left him for good. It’s safe to say he was absolutely fine although extremely excited to see us. He waltzed through the door, wagged his tail for about five minutes and then curled up in a ball and went to sleep. He woke up three days later.

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Now it wouldn’t be a true nothernwife blog entry without some sadness right?

Jet lag hit me like a ton of bricks, but I thought I best ring my Mum to let her know we were safe at home. We spoke about a couple of our adventures but nothing in detail because I’d probably see her really soon. I asked her how she was. There was a short pause and she told me she was sat with my sister and they’d been to an appointment that very day and had some news.

She had breast cancer.

The first thing to cross my mind? My Mum is now going to die, just like my Dad did. I think when you’ve already lost someone to cancer before, you automatically think that is the only outcome.

Now I’m not that mean to leave this chapter there. I’m not going to leave you hanging on what happens next.

My Mum is okay.

Don’t get me wrong, life became a whirlwind of emotion again after finding out. We attended every single appointment with her and every visit was full of anxiety and worry that we’d be given bad news. This was just our default position now – that every time you sat in front of a doctor, you’ll be given bad news. But whilst the news wasn’t great for a while, after some radiotherapy, two operations and many appointments, she was given the all clear because they’d caught it early.

Thank fuck for that.

Do you remember when I told you my life was pretty ordinary for a while? Well after both parents had cancer, one terminal, I thought that was enough shit. If there was an almighty power attempting to challenge me, I felt like I’d been challenged enough.

But it would appear the world had a different plan for me. A plan to really push me to the brink of survival.

Katt x

My Dad.

I could spend hours and hours telling you stories about how awesome my Dad was, just so you could get to know him that little bit more, but instead I’ll just give you a really quick overview…

Son, brother, husband, father, friend, crime fighter, holiday organiser, nominated driver, part-time dancer, chief dog walker, driving instructor, peace keeper, laptop fixer, red wine drinker, family photographer, period expert, essay writer, shit sorter, managing director at ‘bank of Dad’, and someone who always answered his phone to a pissed daughter at 3am.

He was everything to our family, as well as being kind, caring and without doubt, the most courageous person ever.

To give some background, my Dad had testicular cancer in 1997 but eventually he was fine, he survived and he went into remission, fab. But fast-forward 18 years and he was diagnosed with cancer again, but this time in his back.

To be honest, I don’t remember feeling very much when he was diagnosed. I didn’t live at home anymore so I didn’t see first hand what he was going through. He’d always survived everything thrown his way before so I just assumed he’d survive this too. I don’t think I ever thought that anything bad would happen. Bad things didn’t generally happen to us.

He had chemotherapy and he fucking hated it. Don’t get me wrong no one enjoys having chemo, but my Dad used to sit there absolutely dreading going in for his sessions. He slowly started to lose his hair, everywhere, his head, face, even his signature goatee disappeared.

One of the many things I loved about my Dad was that he would always find humour, in anything, even if there was little humour to be found – we share that in common. I remember during his treatment he went for acupuncture and sent us pictures of needles stuck in his toes with the caption ‘I’ll be pissing my brew out of my feet later.’

After he finished his chemo sessions, it was recommended that he should have an operation on his back. They would remove the tumour and fit a titanium vertebrae. This was quite an invasive surgery but like everything, he took it in his stride. He endured the worst but he came out the other side. The next minute, he was home and he was recovering.

It wasn’t until one morning he woke up and just didn’t feel well. The surgery was supposed to make him better but instead he just felt worse. He made a trip to hospital.

I received the phone call from my parents whilst I was at work. I don’t even remember who rang me but they told me to pick James up and come round. I still don’t remember worrying about anything, I think I just expected him to tell us that he will be having more chemotherapy or another surgery.

We walked through their front door and into the living room, catching a glance of my sister and her partner upset in the kitchen. That wasn’t a great sign. We sat down and I looked at my Dad, sat in the chair he always sat in and he told us that the cancer had spread to his liver. There was nothing more they could do.

‘So how long have you got?’
‘Weeks not months.’

So where are we going then?
This was my response, because apparently I thought I was living in a terrible movie by this point and the answer was to run away somewhere exotic. He laughed at me, ridiculously upset and we hugged, for what felt like hours. We just stood there, hugging.

It was my 25th birthday a few days later and we all had dinner together. We laughed, we cried and my Dad played with his selfie stick taking photographs of us all. We all knew what was going on behind those smiling faces, but we just enjoyed being together. You would never have thought that these photographs would be the last ones ever taken of the six of us.

The whole situation really hit me when I was driving into work (yes, my Dad tells me he has days to live and I go back to work!?). My Mum rang me to say he’d taken a turn and they’ve had to call an ambulance. I did a 360, rang my boss to tell him I wouldn’t be around for a while and I rushed to my parents house.

When I finally got there, there was no ambulance. One had turned up but had to leave to attend to a more critical case. A more critical case? More important than my Dad who was about to die? But actually when you think about it, you can understand. No matter what the paramedics could or would have done, they couldn’t save my Dad. If someone else had been hurt and had the chance of survival, of course they would go there instead.

Finally another ambulance arrived but by this point Dad wasn’t great, going in and out of consciousness and they needed to take him to hospital.

‘Does your Dad have a DNR?’

A DNR? I’d literally only ever heard these mentioned when watching medical dramas on TV. I knew he didn’t want resuscitating as he’d already told us that, but the thought of him leaving us hurt too much. They told us that because nothing was signed yet, should the worst happen on the way to hospital, they would attempt to save his life.

They wheeled him out of the house and I caught a glimpse of their next door neighbour (who had been like an Uncle to us) stood in his doorway with tears in his eyes. They pushed him into the ambulance, my Mum sat beside him and he just looked directly at me and my sister and waved. He had this look on his face, white as a ghost and almost lifeless, and he just waved at us.

Alex, drive.

That couldn’t be the last time we’d see him alive. We weren’t ready yet. We needed to make it to the hospital. The ambulance stuck on the blues and off they went whilst we scrambled into the car. We sped. Indicators did not exist, speed limits weren’t necessary, we recklessly didn’t care. Who gives a shit about a speeding ticket right now? We finally made it to the hospital and threw the car whenever it would go and ran inside. He was there and he was still alive.

We were waiting around for a while, trying to find out what was going to happen next. We thought after all this, the end was imminent so we took turns to sit with him and have what we thought was the final goodbye.

I thought about keeping this private from my blog, a special moment between just me and him, but if I’m being completely honest we just sat there quietly, holding each others hand. I said ‘you know how I feel’ and he said ‘I know.’ That was us and that was all we needed.

They gave him some steroids that really seemed to perk him up and they finally found him a space at a local hospice. Dad had made it clear that he wanted to die at home, but if he couldn’t be at home for whatever reason, this was the next best thing.

The hospice was a weirdly wonderful little place. The reality is that it provides end of life care so you’d expect it to be quite a sad place but it really wasn’t. It was bright, home-like and everyone was so lovely. I’ve never met people so kind and caring who would do anything for you. If Dad wanted something, they’d get it. There were no rules. One nurse even told him she could sneak in a tipple if he wanted it. Dominos pizza? Cake? Poached eggs? No problem at all – they did whatever they could.

One night, Dad wanted KFC so we ventured out, bought six meals and all sat around his bed eating fried chicken. It was such a ridiculously sad situation but whenever we were all together, we laughed and we smiled.

I lost count of how many times Dad told us he wanted a ‘TV death’. You know, whenever you watch a soap they never lie around for days until they take their last breath. He wanted an ‘ahh I see the light, gone’ kind of moment. He talked about his funeral, said he wasn’t really bothered about anything in particular and that we should do whatever made us happy. The only thing he did say was that ‘it’d be nice if I could fill the church’ – spoiler, he did, and more!

Dad had perked up quite a lot on his steroids so was very much acting like his normal self. He spent most of his days lying in bed writing in a notepad and making phone calls. I remember wondering what he was doing and he told me he was making a list of things that Mum would need to sort after he’d gone – of course he was!

‘Ring Sky on this number and ask to speak to Karen. She knows to cancel the sports channels. You’ll save a few quid.’

My Dad had always liked his cars so it was ridiculous listening to him ring funeral directors. The first question he asked them was ‘what fleet of cars do you have?’ and when one guy said Ford, he put the phone down. He rings another and the lady on the phone tells him ‘Mercedes’ so he said ‘great, my wife will be in touch with you in a week or so.’ I sat watching him in complete disbelief.

Dad cared more about making sure the three of ‘his girls’ would be ok when he was no longer around. He remained chief of our house and did everything he could to make life easier for us – something he had always done. He even recorded himself talking about his life and highlighted key dates so we knew exactly what to put in his eulogy. Even when writing this now, I remain completely in awe.

We visited him in the hospice every single day. We sat there as family and friends came to say their final goodbyes. It was so unbelievably heartbreaking, watching family drive away knowing they’d probably never see him again. How do you walk away from someone for the final time?

When we went home in an evening, I spent every single night with one eye on my phone. Checking whether it was on loud. Checking the house phone was working. Could I be contacted if something happened whilst I was asleep? Every minute I wasn’t with him, I waited for the call to tell me he was gone.

The steroids were continuing to work and Dad was still full of life. It was strange really. He looked unwell but because of how he was, you’d never have thought he was going anywhere anytime soon. You almost questioned whether or not his prognosis was wrong and I remember walking around the gardens with Mum asking her whether they were sure there was nothing they could do? It just didn’t seem real. He ate, watched TV and Skyped relatives. A Doctor came to see us and told us that he could go home for a few hours if he wanted to. And after much debate, he did.

I watched him as he sat back in his chair, playing on his iPad just like he always used to. Every now and again he completely zonked out and you’d have to wake him up. He wouldn’t even remember falling asleep but he thought it was hilarious.

He ate all his dinner and even had dessert. Stan slept soundly under his chair. It was a magical evening and so lovely to be home. Mum drove him back to the hospice afterwards and he messaged us.

14th September 2016, 9:46pm. ‘Night girls. You’re the light of my tunnel and spur me on. Cu tomorrow. X’

The following day, he died.

The three of us were there when it happened. We watched him peacefully drift away.

That night when we got home, I got into bed and I turned my phone on silent. I slept soundly for the first time because I wasn’t expecting a phone call.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of and miss my Dad. I remember different parts of this story every now and again, depending on what I see or hear. I can’t watch an ambulance race past me without remembering.

It’s such a sad story. I lost my Dad quite suddenly, but I had the chance to say goodbye.

I decided to share this story with you because he is one of the reasons that I survive, and continue to survive, one of the worst times of my entire life. His complete care for us, his strength and his ability to continue on in the darkest of times is why I am able to do the same after losing my daughter. He taught me to have hope.

Katt x