Katie Burton - How the TWGGE courses have helped me.

Read Time
April 28, 2022

I’ve always prided myself on my motivation and ambition, and I was very much your typical ‘career woman’. My husband, Ash, and I have been together since our mid-late teens and put off having children until we were financially stable and owned our own home. We bought our first home in 2016, and then moved to a larger home in 2017, just before we got married in 2018. Everything had fallen into place for us to finally expand our family, but as we all well know; it wasn’t as easy as we were led to believe in secondary school sex education. 

Finally, on the 19th March 2021, we got our big fat positive. Totally out of the blue. We’d come to expect it would never happen ‘naturally’ for us. We’d just been referred to a fertility clinic, having been TTC for almost 3 years since our wedding. I was awaiting next steps when we found out we were expecting. Sod’s law. Three years of trying, two of tracking cycles, and here we are, the one and only month where I had given myself a ‘break’ before we had our initial consultation, and pregnant. If I’m honest it pissed me off – I felt like a walking advert for those people who tell you to ‘just relax!’. I was almost ashamed of it, and mostly kept this info to myself as I thought it would just encourage them even more… Due to my long cycles (I was officially diagnosed with PCOS in Feb 2021) we weren’t sure how far along, but based on the few notes I had jotted down about my cervical mucus, we figured we were around 7-8 weeks. A week or so after we found out, I was hit with a wave of ‘usual’ pregnancy symptoms and was convinced that things were ticking along nicely as I had severe nausea and food aversions – we all know the old wives’ tale about how a sick pregnancy is a healthy one. How very wrong they were. 

We attended our 12-week scan at the end of April only to find no heartbeat could be detected.

Measuring 8 weeks and 1 day, I had been carrying our poorly baby for weeks already. Our whole world shattered around us. Everything we knew and everything we had planned for meant nothing, and I went home with a handful of un-feeling NHS leaflets on the options of how to remove our dead baby from my body. 

I couldn’t make a decision. I pleaded with the nurses and midwives to tell me what to do, but they of course couldn’t do this. So, I waited… And waited. Mostly at home, staring at the same walls, day in, day out.  COVID restrictions limited my support circle as no-one was allowed to stay over at that point, and we live 2+ hours from our closest family. Two painful weeks we waited, and hoped, that my body would finally recognise the pregnancy was not viable, to avoid having to choose any of the options that felt so cruel to my body and that of our tiny baby inside it. But that day never came, and so I eventually chose to take the route of medical management. Based on our measurements at the scan, by the time I had made this decision, our desperately wanted and loved baby had been dead, inside me, for 6 weeks, yet the pregnancy hormones ravaged on. 

On the 7th May 2021, after inserting the pessaries, I miscarried at home in our en suite. I left the hospital at around 3pm. Thankfully my miscarriage was quick in comparison with other stories I’ve heard and read, though by no means was it easy.

The pain was unlike anything I expected – “just like a heavy period” they told me.

I’d say I’m pretty good with heavy periods. PCOS has ravaged my cycles since I was a teen. A heavy period was of no concern to me. But it wasn’t like that at all. I vomited for hours, and couldn’t keep the pain medication I was prescribed down, meaning I miscarried in pain and woefully unprepared. Afterwards it was like nothing had even happened. By 8pm I was in bed with a hot water bottle eating takeaway margherita pizza (one of the few foods I could still stomach with all the pregnancy hormones). I had no baby to show for the pain I had endured, no bump to remind me of what once was.

The world continued to spin around us, whilst ours had stopped turning. 

In the time after my miscarriage, I found Bex and Laura and became increasingly attached to their podcasts. That feeling of being in a tribe and knowing that I and my husband were not alone in what we were going through was everything I needed at that time. After following them for a short period, I saw that they were launching a series of courses, and I just knew I needed to jump on board HMS TWGGE. 

The Pathway To Recovery (PTR) course was everything I needed at the time. Companionship and a fabulous group to whom I could share my darkest thoughts and feelings at a time where it felt very much as if I no longer fitted in the world that I had built for myself. Plus, a life raft of resources from an amazing group of specialists allowing me to focus on the here and now, how to cope with my loss, and equipping me just enough for the future and potential for TTC again without being daunting.

Looking back, the tools they gave me helped me survive and provided a helping hand to pull me out of my depression and allow me to return to being a functioning human being – at home, socially and at work. 

After completing the PTR, I saw that a Trying To Conceive (TTC) course was also being launched alongside one for Pregnancy After Loss (PAL). I held out attending the TTC one, in the hopes that I would be able to attend the PAL course in the not-too-distant future, but one year on from our only positive test we’d had no success, and so I signed up to the TTC after loss course. I needed to re-focus on trying to conceive and was searching for help on what to ask of the health professionals supporting me to ensure that no stone was left unturned. I’d been diagnosed with PCOS but given little help or advice on that diagnosis except the standard NHS response to lose weight. 

I’m completing this course with one of my fellow PTR ‘Pioneers’ gang from the first ever course, and by now I know Bex and Laura quite well, working with them since early 2022 as an Admin for their TWGGE Facebook support groups.  

This course, like all the TWGGE courses, lends itself to really open learning, with each expert open to questions and further discussion. The option to discuss with your fellow attendees at the weekly drop-in session on zoom really helps, and if there aren’t any questions from the course the zoom sessions provide time to chat through whatever burning subjects are on peoples minds that week – we’ve covered everything from feeling unsupported by your healthcare professional(s) to dealing with difficult family members.

If you’ve listened to the podcasts, I’m sure you’ll know that there really is no topic off limits! 

I’ve really got into journaling this time around – something I found very difficult during PTR, mainly just as I wasn’t quite in the right headspace at that time. I have really allowed myself to be vulnerable and poured myself onto the pages of my notebook, which has really helped. Even writing this has showed me how far I’ve come, being able to freely capture my experience for others to see is not something I would have been able to do in the past. I’ve always talked about it, but writing seemed more difficult somehow. 

The experts on the TTC course are wonderful human beings, sharing their stories and learnings to help those in the loss community is no mean feat, but most understand our pain as they have experienced loss themselves. This is what I find helps me connect with them, and really take what they are saying on board. 

From nutrition (Alison Hall) to menstrual cycles (Hannah Pearn) as well as positivity and mindset (Laura Gallagher/Nicola Headley). As I mentioned, I’m currently working through week three of the course, so barely even 50% of the way through, and I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned. As a seasoned TTC pro, I thought I knew everything I needed to, yet TWGGE consistently provide amazing resources to further my knowledge and understanding around trying to conceive and building my confidence and focus in doing so – particularly around what testing/investigations can be done to rule out underlying issues (Rachel Sheriff). I’ve not had the greatest experience with my assigned health professionals in terms of explaining what tests have/haven’t been done, and what the results mean rather than just being told they are in a ‘normal’ range. Rachel really helps break this down and along with the other experts really focuses on what to look out for. 

Finally, it’s so easy to lose ourselves among this minefield of information and research, and this is where Louisa Macinnes comes in. She guides you through the relationship side of things and the impact that infertility and loss can have on your relationship, and how to take back that control. I thought my husband and I were communication gurus, but the suggested exercises and ways of re-connecting from Louisa have brought us closer together than ever. 

I’m going into my next cycle with renewed knowledge, enthusiasm and filled with confidence to move my fertility story forward.

If you are considering joining one of the courses my advice would be to go for it. Worst case scenario you already know everything (unlikely!!!) and you end up with a wonderful like-minded bunch of new friends to go boogie with at the next TWGGE catch up. Best case, you set yourself up for success and prioritise yourself to move forward (not on) after loss.  

Flowers still bloom, and the sun still shines, and you can find joy and happiness again – just perhaps a bit sooner with the sunshine that is TWGGE.  

Katie x

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