Hi, my name is Sarina and this is our fertility journey.
The story of our 2 losses, our Baby Dinosaur and our Baby Butterfly. My Angels above, my brightest stars in the sky. The ones that changed my world, the ones who made me a Mum.
I met my husband in 2015, and we have been married since 2017. We always planned to travel before starting a family so we didn’t start trying until 2020. I feel like you are taught that when you want children, it will just happen and that’s how you are brought up because fertility struggles, miscarriage and baby loss is just not talked about in both the Punjabi community and when learning about having babies. A difficult fertility journey is hidden, locked away in this cupboard of shame and judgement.
The first time we fell pregnant, it took us around 7 months to conceive. Excitement set in, my body now carried life & our lives were set to change. Another test the following morning confirmed this & we finally saw the word we had been waiting for. I was pregnant and we were going to become 3. Those first few weeks were amazing, we were extra careful but slowly the worry started to set in with some early bleeding and at 5 and a half weeks, I was told it was a bit of delayed implantation bleeding and the worry started to settle. It was then I got to see a tiny human with a flutter of a heartbeat, that would change my life. My world now revolved around this tiny heart inside me, and I knew I needed to protect him or her. My husband Vik couldn’t be with me because of COVID, but knowing we were okay was enough.
Soon after, on the 28th December 2020, our world came crashing down around us. 10 weeks and 5 days had passed since we saw those 2 lines we had waited almost a year for. We sat in the waiting room, excited, looking at those heartbeat teddies & promised ourselves that once we heard that beautiful heart beating, we would get one to show our baby what their heart sounded like at 10 weeks old. After waiting for what felt like a lifetime, it was our turn. We walked into that room, ready to hear our future but it wasn’t meant to be. After scanning me, silence filled the room, the nurse asked if she could do an internal scan and my heart sank. From that moment I knew something was wrong. She asked me how far along I was and I replied. I asked if something was wrong & the heartbreaking news came. “I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat.”
Silence, darkness and broken hearts filled the room & I felt as if my world had been pulled from under me; the silent tears began. I never knew that 6 words could punch you in the heart so fiercely. People often talk about loss and say that when they lose someone they love, they can literally feel their heart breaking. I never believed this until this moment. Looking across at Vik, I felt like a failure and my heart broke again. Today was meant to be perfect for him, but I couldn’t carry this life for longer than 7 weeks, my body just stopped. With no explanation as to why. I apologised to him because guilt set in & questions of doubt overwhelmed me. I never understood why I immediately felt this way but on reflection, I think it was a feeling of expectation. Particularly in the Punjabi community, I feel that expectations are constant in a Punjabi woman’s life. The expectation to be a good daughter, a good wife, the expectation to be a good daughter in law, and the expectation to create a family. But I failed at this, and that’s why my immediate reaction was to apologise.
Back in the ultrasound room, my brain began to run 100mph. Was it something I did? Maybe we shouldn’t have gone Christmas shopping? I was running around making sure all the gifts were bought. Maybe I got too stressed about work? Questions filled my head and I just went blank. I silently got dressed while the tears continued and I sat in Vik’s arms, tears filling my soul, I sobbed uncontrollably. He was my complete strength in that very moment, a moment only we shared, a moment I will never forget. Without him, I don’t know how I would have managed to walk through that clinic surrounded by other pregnant women. That moment bought us incredibly closer, the loss of a piece of us both pulled our hearts together and as if they weren’t already aligned, they definitely were now.
To the women and men that have to hear those heart crushing 6 words, I feel your pain. To hear the words “I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat” makes you feel like your entire future has been taken from you in mere seconds. You feel your heart break like you’ve never felt before because a body that once held life now holds death.
The rest of that week, I felt numb. Vik, being incredibly strong, broke the news to our family and the small number of friends we told. Mom, being the strong, courageous woman she is replayed her own experience, physically and mentally helping me through this torture. Between them, they dealt with the calls, texts and everything that goes along with it. I knew that our families and friends were trying their hardest to be there for us, but it was all so very new for them too. I cried, for what felt like weeks. Nothing prepares you for loss that you didn’t expect, and somehow, it’s different to losing someone you’ve known in your life, in human form. Because this loss raises the what ifs & the never-ending wonder of what our baby would have been like. No explanation, no reason our baby left us except that there must have been an ‘incompatibility with life’. What does that mean? At that moment, it’s just not enough. Grief and anger take over your being, until you are left with no choice but to accept that it’s God’s will.
As if the mental pain wasn’t enough already, the physical side of this miscarriage was just beginning. I thought I was mentally prepared but in reality, I had no idea what I was about to face. My body finally recognised the truth and accepted it, but for some reason, my body still held on to a life that once lived inside of me. It refused to let go. After getting to the hospital, I was shown to my room and told to make myself comfortable. Next came the most invasive and painful 2 days of my life. It was lonely, mentally and physically traumatic & when I needed my strength the most, he couldn’t be there due to COVID. Endless FaceTime calls and phone calls with tears would just have to suffice.
In total I had 6 pessaries and was told this was to dilate my cervix, but I was so confused. Our baby wasn’t ready to be born so why was I being treated as if I was in labour? Knowing you have to go through labour but without having a child to bring home is the most heartbreaking process your body has to go through. And no matter how early your loss is, your body feels all the same processes. After a full day of nothing happening, the next thing that I remember was feeling a pop down below and the strangest sensation. I can only imagine this is how it feels when your waters break and you know your child is ready to come into this world. But ours wasn’t and so the bleeding began. And surprisingly it was painful but manageable. I thought then that I could do this and although uncomfortable, I could get through it. Soon after I had the most excruciating lower abdominal pain so I pulled the cord and nurses rushed in. I think I had passed our baby but everything felt like a blur and I got back to my bed when a nurse rushed in and told me the doctor was coming because of how much blood I had lost. I called Vik, it must have been 2am by now and I was terrified, anxious with a million questions running through my head. My body couldn’t take any more. The night was spent in agony, the doctor telling me he had to get out as much tissue as he could and there was a possibility I needed to go to theatre. I just remember feeling someone tugging at my insides below. Fear, loss, grief, anxiety, and overwhelming emotions controlled my mind and body.
The next day I was so thankful I could just get out of this hospital. My body however was exhausted, traumatised from losing that amount of blood and giving birth to an angel baby that we could not keep. I birthed our Baby Dinosaur with love & hoped that the Angels would keep them safe in their arms until we could be together again. The one solace in giving our Baby Dinosaur to the angels, was knowing there was an abundance of love up there for me & Vik, in the form of our grandparents, great grandparents & uncles, so our beautiful angel would never go without that love & safety we had the pleasure of feeling. We somehow knew our little Dinosaur was safe in their arms.
Seeing Vik the day it was all over gave me the strength to leave that hospital without our baby. I remember him waiting outside of the door to the ward because of COVID and once I saw him, I just wanted to collapse in his arms. He held me in his arms and kept me safe just like I needed at that very moment. He brought me home and washed away the trauma, helping to bring me back to life in those moments. Grief and pain brought us closer together but the healing is a new journey that we are both on. The journey of navigating life after loss is a different one, and going through loss really does change you.
Our second loss came much sooner than expected. I found out I was pregnant again in May, but both our reactions were different from the first time. We were incredibly anxious and surrounded by fear. We only knew about our Baby Butterfly for 3 days before our baby left us, and in a sense, the second miscarriage was more traumatic than the first. Bleeding began, and I just cried my heart out. it just got heavier, and I was rushed into hospital to be told what I already knew. We were losing our second baby. Losing so much blood made me feel weak, and the pain was so much more intense this time around. I remember being told I would have to stay in and was given a mixture of gas and air, paracetamol and eventually a tramadol injection to help the pain. I just needed Vik. This time I was fortunate enough that the nurses allowed him to stay with me, and I think this is truly when he began to understand the trauma my body was facing. The bleeding and pain would not stop, so I was told by the consultant that the best course of action would be an MVA. It was painful, intrusive and simply scary.
We named our second baby our Baby Butterfly, the one who left too soon, before we had a chance to admire their beauty. But our Baby Butterfly was the one who reminded us that transformations are born through patience, struggles and loss. The one who showed us that we must have patience and resilience to ride the storm while rebuilding ourselves.
So where are we now?
Our fertility journey has taken us on one huge rollercoaster, full of a few incredible highs and some tremendous lows. It’s been a crazy ride but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Last September, we decided to start treatment for IVF privately, and low and behold, the journey wasn’t simple. The doctors found that I had an extremely low egg count, along with Vik also having a low sperm count and from that moment we knew it would be difficult for us to conceive naturally. We were then advised to go for additional genetic testing with our clinic, which we agreed to as there was a chance that Vik could have an additional chromosome, which was affecting his sperm count. Thankfully, and probably the simplest part of the journey was finding out this wasn’t the case. However, one thing we did find out was that I had high NK cells, along with TH1 and TH2 which means that whenever I got pregnant, my body thought it was a foreign object and the cells attacked the pregnancy. We also found out that my left ovary sits behind my uterus meaning that during treatment we will need my right ovary to respond to treatment for the best possible chance. So we have now opted for mild and natural IVF.
In Feb 2022, I was approached by the team at Taraki to host a Women’s session in February to talk about my experience of loss. I wasn’t sure I was ready but I was not going to pass up the opportunity to share our story, in the hope that it would help other women heal themselves. Himmat Collective was born in 2022 and regularly holds safe and supportive sessions to help women, men, couples and their families heal from the heartbreak of baby loss, miscarriage and fertility struggles. We aim to refresh the approach to loss in the Punjabi community and hope that we can break the stigma of miscarriage, the idea of shame that currently surrounds this topic. In the future, we want to educate our younger generations about potential fertility issues, while letting them know it is okay to talk about their experiences and create a safe environment for them to do this.
The journey is far from over but myself and Vik are so incredibly grateful to our family and friends that have been there through our fertility journey and helped us through our losses, you all know who you are and we couldn’t have got through it without you. Thank you for not letting our babies be forgotten in this world. To the amazing people we have met through our loss journey and have been lucky to work with and become friends with, you are all SO incredibly special. Your strength and love in this world are inspiring.
To our darling Baby Dinosaur, keep shining your light in the sky because we will forever celebrate your short life with us. You were loved more than our love combined & held for 10 weeks that changed our lives. You will forever be our star in the sky, you will forever be the light of our lives. Because in your short life, you made us parents for the first time. And nothing can take that away from us.To all the couples that are scared & have to go through this, remember you are not alone. Our door will always be open to you for advice, love & healing. We got through this and so can you.
Follow the Himmat Collective on Instagram on @himmatco