Elle Wright: ‘I was tortured by the question: “What if my next baby dies too?”’

When Elle Wright’s three-day-old son passed away, she wondered if she’d ever find the strength to brave another pregnancy. Here she relives fighting through a rollercoaster of hope, dread and terror in her quest for joy

When my husband Nico and I began trying for a baby in 2014, at the age of 29, I truly envisaged that I would blink and be pregnant. It took ten months – a time-frame that broke me with each month of waiting. It’s only now I realise that perhaps that little stretch was a training exercise for the three and a half years we were set to endure after Teddy’s death.

Teddy was born in May 2016 and lived for just three days. The night after he was born, I was woken by a midwife who said he had stopped breathing – no one knew for how long. He died on 19 May from a rare metabolic condition that meant that everything was poisonous to him – even the air he was breathing as soon as he was born.

The journey to have a little brother or sister for Teddy felt endless. Years of questions, tests, drugs, procedures, tears, IVF, loss, all bound together by our shared belief that one day it would happen again, somehow.


In January 2017, just half a year after we lost Teddy, I found myself back in the same hospital to deliver a baby whose tiny heart had stopped beating at 15 weeks. It was the moment it dawned on me that this journey to the motherhood I craved was not going to be straightforward.

I put all my metaphorical eggs in one basket, obsessing over it as the one thing I needed to achieve, and pushed my body to its limits. We tried hormone therapy, followed by metformin (a diabetes drug that can kick-start your ovaries) and Clomid (a fertility drug), alongside acupuncture and Chinese medicine. We were sucked so far into the fertility vortex that the months, the years even, whizzed past in a haze.

Eventually, in August 2018, we started IVF. But despite the daily injections and doing everything I possibly could to ready my body for pregnancy, I only had one decent-sized follicle – not enough to harvest mature eggs for fertilisation.

On to round two which, in February 2019, resulted in a positive pregnancy test. I remember taking a cheesy selfie, proudly holding up my test result. But the bubble rapidly burst when I started bleeding. At first, we were told it was an ectopic pregnancy; then it was diagnosed as a missed miscarriage. But when I went to hospital for the surgical management of a miscarriage, the doctors didn’t go ahead with the procedure as they saw two sacs, which might just contain babies, in my uterus.

‘This is the third time in two weeks we’ve been told we’ve lost a baby,’ said my husband. ‘Your second operation. And now I’ve just been told it might be twins?!’

But at a scan five days later, our consultant almost looked as though she might cry, too, at the sight of the two empty little sacs. I never would have expected twins, but seeing them there on the screen made what we had just lost all the more real. All of the waiting over those weeks, all of the hope, seemed to come crashing down.

Shortly after it was Teddy’s third birthday we went to Cornwall – our special place – to mark it. I had pictured us by now bringing Teddy’s little brother or sister with us. I had thought after his first birthday that each year would get easier, but this felt very different.
A three-year-old was missing, not a baby.

I couldn’t shake that feeling of emptiness, from losing Teddy to the recent months of confusion and loss. I remember sitting on the kitchen floor and sobbing. I think it was that day, possibly the first day in those three years, that I started to lose sight of hope.


And then, later that year, a miracle. At 6.30am on a crisp early December morning,
I sat staring at an impossible result on the stick that lay in my hands. I had conceived naturally. It felt like an impossible dream, achieved at a moment when we hadn’t even been looking for it. I tested each day and every test still stared back at me with a glaring positive. At the first scan, tears streamed down both our faces as the doctor said, ‘The baby is fine’, and the sound of a little heartbeat pumped loudly through the monitor. But I had spent so long wishing I was pregnant again that I hadn’t given a thought to what it might be like to finally get there. What it might feel like to make it through each day, another week, another appointment. I hadn’t contemplated the crippling anxiety or fear. I began to be tortured by the question, ‘Will my baby die?’

Everyone, of course, loves a happy ending, but to me this seemed so far away from that yet. There’s never a happy ending after you lose a child; the arrival of another, or even ten more children, does not simply erase the one that came before. I could see happiness, a different kind of happiness, on the horizon. But it wouldn’t be an ending, just the beginning of a new chapter.

As the pregnancy progressed, I repeated a mantra to myself on a loop: ‘I am still pregnant, the baby is still doing well and things will be different this time.’ But Teddy had died after a normal pregnancy, we had then lost three more babies over two consecutive pregnancies. In my mind, this could also end in disaster and no amount of positive thinking would help me to see a way past that. The only thing that would change my pattern of thinking would be to complete a healthy pregnancy and leave the hospital with a living, breathing baby.

At one of my last scans with our consultant, I sat crying again after we had seen a perfectly healthy baby, growing well, on the screen. The 4D scan had allowed us to see the baby sucking its fingers and wrapping its other hand around the top of its face. Finally, our consultant got a perfect picture of the baby’s face. The little squashed nose and rosebud lips, a hand cupped around its chin. The magical moment was suddenly burst with the onset of panic. This little person in there was so precious, the unsurmountable fear that I might lose them was too much to contemplate.

I was scheduled for a caesarean – but I couldn’t face the prospect of delivering this baby on a Monday, which was the day that had been discussed. Teddy was born on a Monday and died on a Thursday. Those days in between had been utter torment – I never wanted to relive them. I needed everything to be different. It was as if taking control of these things would somehow give me more control of the outcome.

Forty-eight hours before the baby was due to be delivered, all of the best-laid plans were blown out of the water. I suddenly felt a sharp pain, coupled with a gush. I looked to the floor and saw a pool of blood. I went to scream and no sound came out.

As I lay there, shaking on the floor, tears rolling down my cheeks and my husband squeezing my hand, I couldn’t feel the baby moving. I closed my eyes, willing to feel movement. I didn’t say a word for the entirety of the ambulance journey. I lay on my side, still clutching my tummy. I was repeating to myself, ‘Please, not again. Please be OK. Please.’ When we got to the hospital, the midwife checked the baby immediately and there was relief on everyone’s faces as a heartbeat came pumping out around the room. Our consultant arrived to deliver the baby. I don’t know how I had expected to feel. Truth be told, I had never allowed myself to think ahead to this moment. But it felt almost as though the excitement was beginning to outweigh the fear: finally, after months of torment and agonising anxiety, I felt excited to hold our baby in my arms.

It was the most bizarre sensation as they pulled and pushed the baby down. Then, a moment of silence and I held my breath. It felt as though everyone else held their breath, too. Not for long, as within seconds the room was filled with loud and wonderful screams from a tiny human on the other side of the curtain. As it lowered, I saw my consultant’s face as she cradled and gestured this tiny person towards us. Even with her mask on I could see from her eyes that she was smiling.

‘You have a little girl.’

In light of our history, a team of paediatricians was waiting to check her. I’ll never forget the words of one of the other doctors, ‘Your baby is perfectly well.’

Perfectly well. A screaming baby. Two things I had dreamed of for so long. As they pulled my gown back and placed her at the top of my chest, her skin to mine, I watched as her eyes, already open, gazed up at my face. She sucked my cheek as my tears rolled down it. ‘A healthy little girl,’ I repeated over and over to Nico as he put his face next to mine and we both stared at her in wonderment. In that moment, it was as if everything that had come before melted away, because we were here, with her, and that was all that mattered.

This is an edited extract from Elle’s book A Bump in the Road: A Story of Fertility, Hope and Trying Again, to be published by Lagom on 29 April, price £14.99. To pre-order a copy for £13.19 until 9 May, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193. Free UK delivery on orders over £20. 

For more information on baby loss support, visit tommys.org and teddyswish.org