Content Warning: This story speaks in detail about recurrent pregnancy loss, and pregnancy after loss.
It took Jenn Tong six months to get pregnant the first time.
The then 22-year-old newlywed who worked in insurance was overjoyed. Having been diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and told it would be hard to conceive, she felt like she truly beat the odds. It felt “miraculous”. She was finally looking forward to starting the family life she wanted.
But Jenn couldn’t have predicted how hard it would be for her to stay pregnant.
“I found out my baby no longer had a heartbeat late in the first trimester,” Jenn says. “I had to get an abortion because of that, but out in Surrey where my doctor was, I was told that if I wanted a suction abortion, instead of a dilation and curettage, that I had to go to BC Women’s.”
Jenn went to the Early Pregnancy Assessment Clinic at BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre to get the procedure.
“It was a difficult experience for me there, as most patients I spoke with didn’t want to be pregnant at all,” she explained. “I felt isolated. But then, the staff at the program, they were very understanding and compassionate. I vividly remember how kind they were to me.”
Later, Jenn experienced a second miscarriage. It was then one of the nurses mentioned the Recurrent Pregnancy Loss Clinic (RPL Clinic).
A specialized clinic for recurrent pregnancy loss
The RPL Clinic offers compassionate and comprehensive care in the evaluation, treatment and support of people experiencing recurrent pregnancy loss. The team is composed of a wide range of specialists, including obstetric internal medicine specialists, perinatal pathologists, nurses, and a clinical counsellor for short-term counselling and bereavement support to people experiencing perinatal loss and grief in their reproductive journey.
But before Jenn could get in for her first appointment, she experienced a third miscarriage. She was feeling increasingly isolated in her journey and was starting to lose hope she would be able to carry to term.
However, when she stepped through the doors of the RPL Clinic, she felt inspired—hopeful—once more.
“I had genetic testing done, connected me with an in-house counsellor for my mental wellbeing, and provided me with resources through support groups and literature,” Jenn says. “It was a remarkable, touching experience. And soon, I got pregnant again.”
Pregnant, and supported
This pregnancy felt different. Jenn had the RPL Clinic team at her disposal; nurses to call and speak with any time and ultrasounds every two weeks to ensure everything was OK with the growing fetus, alongside the counselling services and supports from the experts.
“The ultrasounds, in particular, were so impactful for me,” Jenn says. “Just knowing every two weeks exactly how the baby was doing made me feel like I could breathe.”
Thirty-nine weeks later, Jenn finally got her wish.
“I had my beautiful son, Reid. He was a healthy, happy boy,” Jenn says.
However, this wouldn’t be the end of Jenn’s journey. A year and a half later she tried having a second child. She miscarried again, and so was immediately referred back to the RPL Clinic.
Once again, under the guidance and care of the team, she was able to carry her next pregnancy to term, and gave birth to her second son, Jameson.
“After having these experiences and having these children, I realized I didn’t want to keep working in insurance. I realized I wanted to help other people, like how these people helped me,” Jenn says.
A life-changing experience
When her second son turned five months old, Jenn made a life-changing decision. She knew she could no longer return to her job where she felt she wasn’t helping people or her community. She needed more. And what better way, she figured, than paying forward all the support the RPL Clinic staff gave her by shifting her career entirely.
And so, directly inspired by the remarkable healthcare team she met at the clinic, Jenn made a choice: she decided to become a nurse.
“After going through that, it just had such a big impact on me, and I knew I wanted to make a difference to other people,” Jenn says. “Even though it was really hard as a mature student with children and a mortgage and all these things to worry about. I didn’t want to spend 35 years of my career doing something that didn’t bring me joy. I wanted to do something that’s going to make a positive impact.”
Determined to become a nurse, and despite having two young children including a newborn who was still nursing, Jenn started school again.
“I was pumping between classes, pumping driving to school,” Jenn says. “I was just determined to become a nurse and help other people like me.”
Finally, in 2022, Jenn graduated with honours and was valedictorian of her class. After graduation, Jenn joined the postpartum care team at BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre.
“I’m supporting other moms who have gone through similar experiences that I have been through,” Jenn says. “I can offer them my first-hand experience, and help them heal in every way I know how.”
“I just love the babies, too,” Jenn adds. “I love supporting the moms, and babies just bring me joy. When I’m helping someone out or teaching them to care for their baby… just working with the tiny humans, it makes me smile. It’s something I want in my life.”
Recurrent Pregnancy Loss Clinic at BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre
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