Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Helping heal the pain of miscarriage

EDITH Carrick's daughter Ruth talks excitedly about the arrival of her baby brother or sister in just a few months' time.

Looking at them, it is hard to imagine that anything is wrong in this happy family scene.

But a cloud hangs over them. Having gone through four miscarriages and a stillbirth, Mrs Carrick knows about the things that can go wrong when having a baby. At the same time she is optimistic about her pregnancy, and the prospects for other women as researchers look for answers into why some have to go through the pain of miscarriage and stillbirth.

Tommy's, the baby charity, is opening a new research centre in Edinburgh later this year and is hoping to play a major part in finding some of these much-needed answers.

Mrs Carrick, 42, from Strathkinness, near St Andrews, had her first miscarriage in 1999.

In 2003 she gave birth to her daughter Ruth, now a healthy, bubbly four-year-old, proving that women who have had serious problems in previous pregnancies can go on to have a family.

Mrs Carrick and her husband, John, desperately wanted a brother or sister for Ruth and in 2005 they were eagerly awaiting their arrival when the news came that no parent wants to hear.

"The first I knew about it was when I went to my GP who said he could not find a heart beat. I was sent to Forth Park maternity and they did a scan.

"The consultant just stopped the scan and turned to me and said 'I'm so sorry.'

"It was just an unreal experience. Finding out was the worst moment of my life."

Carrying a baby who had died in the womb, Mrs Carrick still had to give birth. Aidan was stillborn at 35 weeks.

"Watching me give birth was worse for my husband John," Mrs Carrick said. He found it very, very hard. I don't think he believed it until then. The reality did not kick in until the birth. John held Aidan and what happens is that the baby just goes cold in your arms.

"The hospital had a camera and we took pictures for us to keep, and we also had footprints and handprints and a bit of hair to keep, like you would have with other babies."

After he was born, doctors discovered that Aidan suffered from the chromosome abnormality Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards syndrome.

Mrs Carrick said that after leaving hospital, she did not know how to react. "I had four weeks off and then went back to work as a teacher, which was a bit insane," she said. "It is hard going back when everyone was expecting you to have a baby and then there is just nothing there. Some people just do not know how to react. They are just like 'la la la', and trying to ignore it."

Later Mrs Carrick decided to go part-time and has now left work completely to have a career break and spend more time with her daughter.

After Aidan, she also suffered three more miscarriages before becoming pregnant again. Her new baby is due later this year.

Mrs Carrick said going for scans was a very stressful experience now.

"One of the first things I say is 'Is there a heartbeat?' It may seem fatalistic but it is just such a relief when there is.

"But the hospital staff have been wonderfully supportive and have helped us cope with everything that has happened and that we are very grateful to them all."

She does not know why she suffered so many miscarriages.

"It could be my age, it could be because I have a bone-marrow disease, it could be any number of reasons, but nobody knows for sure. That is why we need more research into these kind of things so that other women do not have to go through what I have gone through. I would not wish it on my worst enemy."

Mrs Carrick said she lives in fear of having to tell her daughter that she has lost another brother or sister.

"Ruth still talks about her little brother. He is part of our lives. She has quite a sense of loss. We had to come home and tell her that her brother would not be coming home. She used to sit and kiss my bump and talk to him. I would dread having to tell her she had lost another baby brother or sister."

It is experiences like this that Tommy's researchers hope will become less frequent with work to be carried out in Edinburgh.

Andrew Calder, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Edinburgh University who will head the new Tommy's centre, said they would be looking at the things that happen to babies before they are born which can lead to tragedy.

"It is going to be a long process and it would be wrong to expect instant solutions," he said. "But we hope we will make steady progress. It is a really exciting prospect. We have prominent scientists and clinicians wanting to come to Edinburgh to join us in this work."

If you want to help Tommy's new research centre in their efforts to help more mothers and babies, this is how you can donate:

Website: www.tommys.org/edinburgh-centre.htm
E-mail: Tom Custance at Tommy's – tcustance@tommys.org
Phone: Tommy's on 08707 70 70 70, quoting "Scotsman appeal".

Full article: http://news.scotsman.com/latestnews/Helping-heal--the-pain.3648281.jp

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