We all have defining moments in life, those things that shape us and make us what we are. Mine was losing our first two children to miscarriage. The first one was a heartbreaking, early discovery at eight weeks. The second was far worse.
Despite my nerves, everything seemed fine. I could feel my baby moving, I was relieved and happy. Then at my 20 week scan the sonographer spent longer than felt 'right' moving the probe over my stomach, and I started to quietly panic. My husband said it was fine. But she didn't speak to reassure me. Then she switched off the machine and told me things weren't right but she didn't understand enough to explain how and why, and we'd need to go to a specialised centre for another scan. I didn't even cry immediately, I was so shocked everything just seemed to stop.
A day later, at the RVI in Newcastle, our fears were confirmed. Back at our local hospital I gave birth to our tiny motionless child, and we spent some precious time together as a family. I don't think people realise from quite an early stage you have to go through the trauma of a birth. The hospital were incredibly supportive though, they had a special delivery room away from all the others, with a back entrance that meant I never needed to go into the main ward and see anyone experiencing happier times than us. We had a small funeral, just my husband and I, and the hospital chaplain officiating. There were many, many tears.
Because we'd had a second trimester loss we were given various tests, and these turned up my problem, a genetic abnormality called a 'balanced translocation'. In essence, you never know about it until you start trying to have a family. A couple of tiny fragments of your chromosomes are in the wrong place - still present - but not where they should be. It means every pregnancy roughly has just a 50% chance of success. I'd never heard of it before, and even now you struggle to find a great deal about it online. So many pregnancy issues seem to be like that, something we know nothing about before it hits us unprepared. Each time I got pregnant again, at 14 weeks we had to go for a CVS test, an invasive needle into the placenta that carries a small chance of miscarriage. Then they compared my unborn baby's chromosome map with mine to see whether things would work, or not. Two days later I'd wait to get a phone call with the results. It was excruciating.
Luckily, after our two losses my next two pregnancies were successful and we've got a beautiful boy, Ben, who's three, and a two-year-old girl, Jessica. It feels like infertility and problems in pregnancy and birth are affecting huge numbers of people, but we aren't really talking openly about it. When I do speak about my experiences, I'm stunned by how many times people tell me they've been through the same thing. The stories couples shared with me during the making of 5 life resonated so strongly with my own. Often it was the small details that brought back feelings I'd managed to forget about.
I always planned to make a programme about the dark times, but I don't think I realised it'd take me five years to feel strong enough to do it. Now, after so many supportive and heartfelt messages, I'm glad I did.
On 5 Life with Anna Foster, BBC Radio 5 live, Sunday 31 July at 7pm, BBC Radio 5 Live presenter Anna Foster takes an in-depth look at the challenges of pregnancy and the difficulties many people face when trying to start a family.
In this two-part series, 5 Life looks at the issues that face many would-be parents, shining a light on the kind of complications that many people are living through but few talk openly about, and bringing together real-life stories with the latest scientific research.
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