Baby Loss Awareness Week: 'I hadn’t ever imagined anything other than my baby coming home'
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When a baby dies before, during or after birth, it’s difficult. Agonising torment. Indescribable.
I have four living children and three children ‘in Heaven’. I don’t know if I believe in Heaven - but there is comfort, for some, in that ideation. I have known no pain like it.
To mark Baby Loss Awareness Week (October 9-15), we spoke to three mums who shared some of their stories.
Kirsty, 33, of Welwyn Garden City, realised her unborn baby had stopped moving, 38 weeks and five days to term. She said: “They put me on a monitor but couldn’t find a heartbeat. A scanner confirmed my worst nightmare. The rest of the evening seemed a complete blur. The midwives were so nice, made sure I was okay and took me into another room.”
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Kirsty, who had been due to deliver her baby by C-section went to theatre the next day.
She said: “It was such a weird feeling knowing I wasn’t going to hear her first cry. It was silent. I was allowed to spend the day with her. Family came to see her. It was comforting that I could go to the hospital and undertakers to see her.
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“As time goes on, it gets easier. I never thought it would. At my children’s school plays, Christmas and birthdays, I wonder what life would be like if she was here …”
Vanessa, 59, from Welwyn Hatfield, lost her son to a rare chromosomal disorder in pregnancy. Two decades on, the pain remains.
She was told at his 20-week scan he would probably not survive and when he was born with a hair lip and cleft palette, midwives took a hair clipping, handprints and footprints and gave her a teddy bear. She made a memory box.
Vanessa said: “When it happens, you don’t want to go on. I bought a Polaroid camera for QEII because I love the photos that were taken. My relationship didn’t survive because we grieved differently. I was told they rarely do, after a baby died.”
Helen, 32, of Hatfield, has support but as a healthcare professional is a strong self-advocate. She feels help should be available to all. Not just those who ask. She said: “I fought for it. We lost Edward in my first pregnancy, born at 20 weeks and three days. I was on a course, without my notes and made my way to the nearest maternity unit.
“I hadn’t ever imagined anything other than my baby coming home. I feel there’s an assumption after you see the heartbeat, everything will go as planned. It was such a shock. More people should talk about it.
“My son lived 25 minutes. Usually, babies born before 22 weeks aren’t medically or clinically supported and it brings into question a lot of ethics. You are told to just cuddle them.
“Those are treasured memories. We had a funeral. My husband has his footprints tattooed on his legs, so is always ‘walking with him’. But we left hospital with just a memory box, past the others leaving with babies. I have a necklace with ashes in.”
Helen felt well supported by her consultant in her next pregnancy with healthy baby girl, Isabel, who arrived early. She said: “When she was born, I went blank. She was taken to neonatal care and I wasn’t able to cuddle her for longer than a minute. She’s perfect and doing well. She’s full of the joys of spring.”
Helen has coped by working in Edward’s memory; helping campaign, change policy and raise awareness, involved in an NHS discussion group for service users. She is awaiting trauma help and had talking therapy.
“The more I do, the better I feel. It’s still raw but I like talking about him,” she added.
Charities Petals UK, Incompetent Cervix UK, Sands, Bliss, Tommy’s and Miscarriage Association are available online. If you have been affected by this article, you can call Samaritans on 116 123.