Despite the hundreds of thousands of articles, tweets, Facebook posts and Instagram posts about pregnancy, there are surprisingly few that reference individual accounts of complication and loss. The journey towards this pregnancy was certainly along bumpy, pothole-filled road.
My partner and I celebrated Christmas 2015 with the decision that what we would both really love would be to have a child together - a mini McCoyle baby. As the New Year rang in and the start of a bright and exciting new chapter in our life together loomed, we let nature take its course and by March I had fallen pregnant.
I should add at this point that we didn't discover I was pregnant until day two of our Singapore-Vietnam holiday in April - after day one was spent expertly making our way through the extensive cocktail list at the Marina Bay Sands infinity pool...
When we landed back in the UK, we made the decision to tell immediate family the good news, despite it still being early in the pregnancy (around six weeks). My mother was suffering from terminal cancer and we felt very strongly that knowledge of her first grandchild would be serve as a sort of buoyancy aid for her. Time wasn't on our side but with a due date of Christmas 2016, there was a chance she and the baby would actually get introduced.
Sadly, whilst I was in the middle of relaying our good news to my father I started experiencing sharp, crippling pain in my lower left abdomen. The timing couldn't have been worse - I had literally just delivered the line 'I'm pregnant', when I bent double in pain; fear and confusion coursing through my head.
After a long few hours being assessed by doctors in A&E, I was sent home with the reassurance that 'it definitely didn't seem to be an ectopic'. Words which, in hindsight, seemed flippant and ill-considered in the issuing, given that I was admitted to hospital the following day after a specialist consultant confirmed that it was indeed an ectopic pregnancy.
Putting aside the feelings of physical pain and loss, my overriding feeling was one of guilt. Guilt because I had failed to sustain the life that was mine alone to sustain. Guilt that I had deprived my partner of meeting his child. Guilt that I had possibly ended the one chance my mother might have to meet a grandchild. Most of all though, I felt guilty because the thing that was upsetting me most was failure.
Failure (perceived or otherwise) was not something that I was used to dealing with. I've spent a lifetime achieving what I want to achieve, learning from mistakes to turn situations around, and building strong networks of people - both socially and professionally - with whom I have extremely supportive relationships. Yet, all of a sudden, I felt alone in my failure and had no control whatsoever over the course of events.
This was my first real lesson in being forced to relinquish control.
Ectopic pregnancies occur in approximately one in 90 pregnancies in the UK. There is nothing that can be done to save the embryo and every effort is focused on ensuring the health and safety of the mother. For someone who is fiercely solutions-orientated, being told there is nothing that can be done by you to alter or reverse the situation is at best galling, and at worst debilitating.
Of course, with the benefit of a bit of time and hindsight I came to realise that seeing the experience as failure was both incorrect and unhelpful. There must have been a good reason that that little embryo decided to burrow into my fallopian tube rather than continuing on its merry way to my womb. The embryo may well have had such serious chromosomal defects that it wouldn't have been viable; my fallopian tube may have been blocked; perhaps the little fella was just a bit disorientated...we will never know. Interestingly though, the guilt never really lifted. I still feel a sense of guilt around not bringing that little life to fruition.
Our pregnancy journey continued onwards post-ectopic and we discovered in June that I was pregnant once again. A little more trepidatious this time, we told no one at the start and quietly waited to see what would come of our second foray into the world of growing little humans.
Something I never knew before 2016 was that once you have had one ectopic, your chances of having another rise from one in 90, to one in 10. That's a huge shortening of odds to try and get your head around. It doesn't make for a relaxing first few weeks of pregnancy, either. The only positive to be taken from having an ectopic in the first place is that for any future pregnancies you will be scanned at between five and six weeks, to ensure the embryo has made its way to the right place to start growing. So, at the very least, I wouldn't have to wait 12 weeks to know the viability of future pregnancies.
This time it was bleeding, rather than pain, that alerted me to something being wrong. At around the five-week mark (before I had attended my early scan) I discovered I was losing more blood than could ever be considered normal in early pregnancy and was told very matter-of-factly by my GP that I was most likely miscarrying. I hadn't realised until this point just how common miscarriages are - one in five pregnancies miscarry before 12 weeks. This seemed like a huge percentage to me. It still does, if I'm honest. Looking at it statistically though, the odds are, at least, in favour of healthy, viable pregnancies (always remember, your chance of a healthy pregnancy is 80%). Somehow though, yet again, I had 'beaten' the odds and failed to sustain life in this twisted battle of the wills between my body and the universe.
Happily for us, I fell pregnant for a third time just one month after my miscarriage - which was far sooner than we thought possible. I spent long hours trying to prepare myself for another loss, another failure to maintain a viable pregnancy, telling myself that it didn't matter if we had to start again. I failed, of course, because I never really believed any of the words I said to myself. Of course it mattered. Of course it would be awful to lose a third. Of course it was possible (and more likely for me, after the first ectopic).
Thankfully, my third pregnancy 'stuck' and during my early scan (five weeks) and my second early scan (eight weeks - this one was optional because we were nervous) the little guy showed every sign that he was a normal, healthy embryo turning into a fine looking foetus.
We had finally got there. Six months, three pregnancies, tears, hope and fears later, we were on our way to becoming parents...