TRIGGER WARNING: This story mentions miscarriage and stillbirth. It also contains images that some may find confronting.
Melbourne woman Samantha Rowe has been pregnant 11 times. She’s carried three sons – Cooper, Hudson and Noah, twin girls – Zoe and Emma, and six other babies.
Every pregnancy has resulted in multiple miscarriages or stillbirths, often around the 21-week mark.
Samantha and her partner, Paul Lyons, have spent six years in the same cycle – a positive pregnancy test, a strong heartbeat on the ultrasound, those first flutters and kicks, a growing belly, only for it all to end in early labour pain, a trip to the hospital and the devastating news that the baby was born still and too soon.
It’s hard to contemplate. Now, imagine it happening over and over again.
Samantha, now 40, and Paul have bravely spoken about their losses to 7News, sharing their story in the hopes that other couples in the same situation will understand that they are not alone. Pregnancy and infant loss is something that affects every family differently. It’s okay to grieve quietly, but it’s also okay to speak up, to break the stigma and to share your experience with others.
Baby Cooper, born at 21 weeks
Samantha and Paul first discovered they were going to be parents in February 2014. Although a bit shocked at first, the couple were over the moon.
“For me, my desire to be a mum has been around since I was a young girl. I’ve always wanted to get married and have babies,” Samantha tells 7News.
However, at 21 weeks pregnant, Samantha began to feel a lot of pain. She went to doctors twice, only to be sent home both times. At home, she passed a blood clot and went to the hospital. Once at the hospital, her waters broke and her son’s tiny foot started to come out.
I could just feel something between my legs and I screamed and the lady in the room on the opposite side of the curtain obviously pressed her emergency button. People came running in from everywhere and I was crying.
I put my hand down, I could feel something.”
Baby Cooper was born still. Samantha admits that she was too scared (and most likely in shock) to put him on her chest, something she regrets to this day.
He’d just been born and he was dead. I was scared about what he would look like and I really, really regret that.”
Baby Hudson, born 19 weeks and 6 days
Samantha and Paul fell pregnant again. Another little boy. However, early labour prevented Hudson from coming home. He was born just one day shy of 20 weeks and thus, according to authorities in Australia, classified as a miscarriage rather than a stillbirth.
Samantha and Paul named him Hudson.
Twins, Emma and Zoe, lost at 15 weeks
After two devastating losses, Samantha and Paul received some extra special news – they were pregnant again, with twin girls. It was a high-risk pregnancy to start with because the twins were monoamniotic-monochorionic twins, meaning they shared an amniotic sac and had the same placenta, but each had their own umbilical cords.
“The hospital actually recommended terminating because they’re quite complex,” Samantha said.
Despite the odds, Samantha and Paul went ahead with the pregnancy but, once again, their hearts were shattered when Emma and Zoe passed away at 15 weeks from their cords getting tangled in utero.
14 months, multiple miscarriages
Two boys, two girls, none of which made it home. However, Samantha admits that she couldn’t give up on her dream of becoming a mum.
It’s absolutely heartbreaking but each time we lose a baby, for me, it just makes that desire to pick yourself up and try again even stronger.”
So keep trying they did. The couple fell pregnant four more times between October 2016 and December 2017. Every single one ended in miscarriage.
Baby Noah, born at 21 weeks, 6 days
Something needed to change. So Samantha and Paul tried IVF and Samantha began to take medication for the procedure. Once again, Samantha discovered she was pregnant. This time, another little boy.
“We were overjoyed and we definitely thought that this baby was going to be the one to make it. We were sure he was our miracle baby.”
Considering what she’d been through, the doctor told Samantha that their goal was to make it to the 23-week mark. Then the baby would be at a healthy enough weight to survive in NICU.
23 weeks and Samantha would finally have her little boy in her arms.
But, at 21 weeks and six days, Samantha felt the familiar pain. She spent hours in the emergency before being told her baby was fine and not in distress so she went home to sleep.
At 6.30am the next day, she woke up and was in labour. Baby Noah didn’t make the magic 23-week mark. He was born 8 days before 23 weeks and stillborn.
Another year, two more miscarriages
Once again, Samantha and Paul left the hospital with empty arms, felt their hearts breaking and the dream to be parents shatter.
“It doesn’t sound like it’s a big ask… you want to have one child that’s alive, just one,” Samantha said through tears.
After Noah’s death, Samantha and Paul continued to try. They fell pregnant twice more. Both ended in miscarriage.
Memories of an Angel
As Samantha and Paul said goodbye to another child they never got a chance to know, they also started Memories of an Angel, an organisation providing ribbons, pins and bracelets in memory of lost babies.
The organisation is focused on bringing couples together and ending the stigma associated with pregnancy and infant loss.
It’s still incredibly taboo and that’s really not helpful to the parents that are in this situation and experiencing the loss. I can’t take away your pain. I can’t change the outcome and I can’t bring your baby back.
But I can give you a listening ear. There will be a day in the future, and everybody’s timing is different when you will smile again and you will enjoy life again.”
Samantha and Paul are preparing to try again with the help of donor eggs and are praying that baby number 12 will be their miracle baby.
One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, 2,200 pregnancies end in stillbirth every year
For the families that experience this, not a day passes that they don’t think about this loss. Every year, on 15 October, Australia commemorates Pregnancy and Infant Loss, to remember those babies that were born too soon and to send our strength to those families who are missing them daily.