A fertility journey can be long, exhausting and unfortunately, sometimes, tragic. This is an experience Lianne Alizadeh is all too familiar with. However, after suffering a still birth in July 2021, she is creating the UK’s first individually weighted bereavement bears to comfort families on their fertility journey.
Lianne Alizadeh, a 30-year-old medical student from South London, has been on a 10 year fertility journey with her husband. Lianne has undergone 12 surgeries, 2 rounds of fresh IVF and 3 frozen embryo transfers, however, on this journey they have suffered 7 miscarriages.
In January 2021, two embryos were transferred and to their shock and delight both embryos implanted and they were expecting twins - they finally had their rainbow pregnancy.
In utter shock and disbelief, my husband and I started coming to terms with the fact we’d be having two babies instead of one. We finally knew that all the struggles had been worth the wait. Fast forward to seven weeks gestation. I woke up bleeding and we thought it was all over. It turns out we had a sub chorionic hematoma next to Twin Two, but were assured both babies were doing fine. The bleeds continued up until 11 weeks.
By our 12-week scan, the bleeding had stopped and we were finally feeling more relaxed because we’d gotten to the second trimester.
We finally started the ultrasound and immediately, everything went silent. My heart sunk. I just knew something wasn’t right when the sonographer said: “I am just going to call someone more senior in.” The senior sonographer came and spent ages checking on our twins.
Finally I heard the dreaded words: “I’m so sorry, but Twin Two has passed away, based on measurements, this happened at 10+5 weeks. I know it’s such a sad time, but Twin One is very healthy and doing well due to there being separate sacs with their own placentas. Twin Two passing should not affect Twin One, although we will need to do more regular checks as sometimes the other Twin does not reabsorb and this poses a high risk of infection.” So, that takes the total to 8 miscarriages. We were so sad we had lost another baby, but so happy that one baby was doing so well. It’s a feeling you can’t really describe.
We were then referred to the high risk fetal medicine consultant for monthly scans in case Twin Two didn’t reabsorb or any other complications arose. Twin Two didn’t start reabsorbing until 16 weeks and they were concerned this may cause infection so kept monitoring me, and made me aware that after 24 weeks gestation every extra day we stayed pregnant was a blessing and they would be ready to get Twin One out any day after 24 weeks if complications arose.
All went smoothly and uncomplicated until 24+4, when I experienced my first set of reduced movements. I went into triage and was checked by a Doppler for one minute. I had an internal examination and was sent home to keep an eye on the movements.
Luckily they picked back up and we continued uneventfully until 26+1, when I went back to triage with my second set of reduced movements. I had another Doppler for one minute and another internal examination. This time a urine sample and swab were done and I was sent home to keep an eye on the movements.
The next day was a Sunday and I still didn’t feel our baby girl moving as much as she normally would but, she was moving. By Monday, July 5, 2021, I was 26+3 and I wasn’t happy with her movements. Yet again I went into triage. When I got to triage, I was checked again with the Doppler. This time it showed fetal tachycardia with a heart rate of 173bpm. The midwife said to increase fluids and she would recheck in 20 minutes.
After what felt like the longest 20 minutes of my life, the midwife rechecked and our baby was still tachycardic at 168bpm. I was then placed on a CTG machine. After an hour on the machine without meeting criteria, the doctor wanted to do a scan, but her consultant disagreed and told her to admit me for further observation. After an overnight stay and another three sets of CTG monitoring, none of which met criteria, I was sent home and told to keep an eye on the movements.
The morning after turned out to be the worst day of our lives. I woke up and hadn’t felt my baby move at all. She would normally wake me up by kicking so much. I took myself to triage again and they couldn’t detect her heartbeat. They brought in a portable scanner and again I heard the dreaded words: “I’m so sorry, as you can see, your baby’s heart has stopped.”
On July 10, 2021, at 4:30 p.m, I gave birth to our beautiful sleeping baby girl, Aaliyah.
Although pain can be unbearable, Lianne has found comfort in keeping her daughter’s memory close to her. “I had the idea for bereavement bears when looking through the memory box that I was given at the hospital a few weeks after birth,” she explained. “As much as I cherished the photos that they had taken and Aaliyah’s handprints and footprints it never replaced feeling her birth weight in my arms and it used to pain me that I was forgetting how she felt to hold.”
She researched memory bears but found the UK bears were not weighted to the exact birth weight of each still born baby so, she decided to make a more personal one.
In December 2021 Lianne made her first memory bear for Aaliyah. “On the days I am feeling low I hold it and it brings me comfort feeling her birth weight again in my arms,” she said.
Lianne has now handmade 11 individually weighted bears and connected with parents and families who have experienced a similar tragic loss on their fertility journey. “As much as every bear breaks our heart knowing there is another family like ours it also brings us comfort knowing that the bear will help them in their grieving journey and provide comfort,” said Lianne.
All the proceeds of the bears go to Lianne’s charity, Aaliyah’s Angel Army. Through the charity Lianne is working to support women who experience the same reduced fetal movement as she did. She hopes to offer private scans for concerned mums-to-be and help save as many babies as possible.
Sometimes, a fertility journey forces you to endure loss and it can be difficult to know how to continue with life when suffering that pain. But, Lianne is giving parents and siblings a way to honour a baby lost in the family. Lianne’s story of loss and heartbreak has turned into one of hope and support for others.
Lianne’s charity and memory bears: https://www.aaliyahsangelarmy.org.uk