My ectopic pregnancies

Marianne Thomas family

In 2018 Marianne and Brad had the heartbreaking experience of two separate ectopic pregnancies. Each loss terrifying and life changing. Marianne shares her story here today to bring more awareness to early pregnancy loss and to let other parents know that they’re not alone.

On a September morning in 2018, I was at the airport with my husband and Harrison, my 18 month old son, waiting to board for a much needed holiday.

I was 6 weeks pregnant at the time and looking forward to some time away. Although I’d had a little bleeding at 4 weeks and some cramping 2 days earlier, these symptoms had stopped and I was given the all clear by my GP.

But after almost fainting in the airport and having abdominal pain all over, a paramedic having coffee nearby was called over to assess me - I have since sent my apologies for interrupting his break!

Despite insisting I would be fine, my pain wouldn’t go away and so I was transferred to the Royal Women’s Hospital with symptoms that didn’t quite add up.

Once in the Emergency Department, things changed quickly. I became hot and sweaty, I had severe abdominal pain and I almost fainted.

Being a nurse for over 15 years myself, I knew things weren’t great when the ED nurse said I looked awful.

Things escalated quickly as I was transferred to the Resuscitation Bay and surrounded by about 20 staff including doctors, nurses and radiographers.

As a nurse used to leading similar emergencies, I was familiar with the controlled chaos. The buzz in the room was familiar to me, except that this time I was on the wrong side of the bed.

I also knew that I was in trouble but that I had to remain calm. To this day I still don’t know how I did that, it was almost an out of body experience.

After being told that I was having an ectopic pregnancy and haemorrhaging quickly, I insisted on saying goodbye to my husband and son in case it was the last time I saw them.

The doctors and nurses were incredible, but in theatre I lost 70% of my blood volume and received countless bags of blood and blood products before being transferred to the Critical Care Unit to spend several days in hospital.

I have to admit… I am not a very good patient. I get restless, and I am fiercely independent, strong and very capable.

I was told that the chances of having another ectopic pregnancy were very low and we could try again for another baby in the near future.

I also had endometriosis but there was very little of it seen during my surgery. It is a risk factor for ectopic pregnancies which I didn’t realise previously.

When I eventually came home, healing did not come naturally to me. The realisation of what I had lost, as well as almost losing my own life, hit me hard.

It would have been very easy to crawl into a ball and hide from the world, but I had to heal for the sake of my son. I felt broken mentally and physically, my world shattered overnight.

Those early days are still a blur and I don’t remember much, but I do remember when Red Nose contacted me.

I remember the first call to assess the urgency of my counselling appointment, I was lost for words when I was asked how I was feeling. All I could come up with was “grateful”.

Fast forward to 3 months later, almost Christmas and slowly but surely, my boys and I were healing from our experience.

Little did I know, I was again pregnant and having another ectopic pregnancy.

One night I experienced excruciating back pain and while these symptoms were completely different, I knew something wasn’t right.

I insisted Brad stay home to feed Harrison breakfast as I was taken by ambulance once again, to the Royal Women’s Hospital.

Telling Brad over the phone was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I was given the option to save my remaining fallopian tube but I couldn’t take another chance on this happening again. I chose to remove it, knowing that my only hope for future pregnancies would be IVF.

My journey has been far from easy and it changed me completely and in a way I wasn’t prepared for.

My first pregnancy was uncomplicated despite constant morning sickness. We were lucky enough to fall pregnant easily and ectopic pregnancies were something I had no knowledge of prior.

But now, after experiencing two ectopic pregnancies, I no longer think of myself as strong and immovable with determination.

I have felt broken and fragile before realising that my strength is just different now.

The loss of my career was hard - after becoming a patient in such a dramatic way, I couldn’t bear the thought of being placed in emergency situations again, having to flashback to my own.

After leaving nursing I started my own business. For someone who didn’t like to take risks, this has been an incredible change.

My husband has been my greatest support, without him or his belief in me, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

I have so much to be grateful for. Firstly, that I am alive – something I never thought I would question at this age.

We also welcomed my rainbow baby Charlotte, who joined our family in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. She has helped healed my family just by being here with us.

I am also grateful for the Red Nose counselling I’ve had with Rachel, who has literally changed my life.

When I couldn’t see how I would put one foot in front of the other, her kindness, support and expertise helped myself and my family in a way that can’t be measured.

I never missed a session and no matter how many tears, sobs or complaints, she always listened softly and kindly.

I have been able to rebuild myself from this experience with the tools and knowledge Rachel has given me.

I am not the same person, yet I no longer feel fragile and broken. I am malleable, yet strong. This chapter in my life story isn’t where I planned on being, but I am grateful for where I am today.

Without Rachel, I don’t know where I would be today but I’m certain some people are angels in disguise.

The work that Red Nose does is immeasurable and every year I donate all proceeds from cookies I sell through my new business.

I definitely never imagined I would need their support, but when the unthinkable happens and you lose a child or pregnancy, you can’t see which way is up.

With so many little lives being lost every day, there are many more families who need their specialised services to help navigate their way through life in the aftermath of loss.

Seeing a counsellor made such an enormous difference at such an incredibly difficult time for me, and I want to ensure that every parent has access to the same support when they need it.

In remembrance of our angel babies, we have planted rose bushes in our front garden that our son Harrison chose.

When we bought them, he instantly chose 2 plants despite not being told about our two losses.

Christmas time is especially difficult as I always feel there are two people missing from the table. We have baubles on our tree for each of our angels reading “your wings were ready but my heart was not” and “feathers appear when angels are near”.

I also knit booties to donate to the Treasured Babies program, in thanks for the booties we received for each of our angel babies. These little keepsakes were such beautiful things to hold at such a difficult time.

If I could share one thing with other bereaved parents, it is that life is precious and that there is no “right way” to feel or to heal.

I was always a hardworking “do-er” getting things done efficiently. Healing took a very long time which surprised me. Gluing myself back together wasn’t easy and that’s ok.

You and your partner may also hurt in different ways. I encourage you to get support as individuals and as a couple, as a loss affects everyone differently.

Grieving is hard, heart breaking and confronting. But it is possible to heal and recover from loss and that healing doesn’t mean that your babies have been forgotten.

Last reviewed: 16/8/22