Category Archives: Stillbirth

Five Years

The 17th January comes to a close. For a lot of people across the UK, today has been significant because they were able to enjoy the first real snowfall of the winter.

For Adam and I, it will always be a significant day because carries with it an important anniversary. It is a day were we remember what happened to us back in 2011. Five years ago.

Our lives started down a very different path to the one we have been cruising happily along for some time. We had been eagerly anticipating the arrival of our firstborn. Instead, he was born sleeping. Five years ago.

Every year we aim to celebrate. It gives us a positive focus. It was a bit difficult the first year as we had a five day old Dylan to look after. My mum and dad babysat for an hour or so (making it the first time I had left him) whilst Adam and I went to visit Ewan’s grave. The second year, we both took the day off work and kept Dylan off nursery. We spent the day together and went out for a lovely meal.

The third year followed a similar path. Again we booked the day off to be together as a family. However something slightly bizarre happened. My friend sent me a message to ask if I had checked the results of the local weekly hospice lottery. I had a monthly Direct Debit going out and in about 5 years of taking part had probably won about £25. I didn’t make a habit of checking it regularly.

I looked. I had won the first prize! A random draw, I won the jackpot on Ewan’s third birthday. Surely that’s more than a coincidence? I don’t know why, it just felt as though Ewan was watching over us. And sent us a gift to make us smile on his special day. It felt appropriate to make a donation back to the Hospice and also to Sands.

Last year, I had just finished work the day before for my maternity leave. We had another dusting of snow and took Dylan to the cemetery with his new gardening kit. I took these wonderful photos. He helped us to clear the snow from the grave and arrange the flowers.

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IMG_8663Dylan and I went to the pantomime this afternoon with family. Afterwards Adam collected us with Jude (who was a bit too young for the theatre), and together we all went to visit Ewan. It was getting pretty cold but we wrapped up and picked our way through the snow. Dylan is starting to get quite inquisitive and I wondered if he would start to ask more searching questions. I haven’t yet worked out how we are going to talk to him about his older brother. I’m not sure he is old enough to understand quite yet. Anyway he was quite happy to make holes in the snow with his pick! Jude was just happy to be held.

We went for tea afterwards. Jude who has been fussy with food recently ate his body weight in mashed potato, veggies and turkey and they both enjoyed time together in the play area. I just loved watching them.

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Today hasn’t felt just quite as difficult as previous years. Is this time being a healer? Is it because I now have double trouble to run around after? Yes to both to a certain degree, but I also think that writing this blog for the past 6 months has helped by giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts and feelings about Ewan, about the difficult times, but also the joy that both he and his brothers have given us.

So all it remains for my to say now is Happy Birthday Ewan. We miss you incredibly and there is a part of us that will always be with you. You will always be loved and never forgotten.

A Kind Stranger

Today I went to work. And in some ways it was just like any other day. For the past three years, I’ve made sure I’ve been in work on the 14th January. For the simple reason that I want to keep my mind occupied. I don’t really want to dwell on the events of five years ago.

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2 day old Dylan

Four years ago today I was in hospital with Dylan who was then just two days old. I was on a ward with three other women (and babies). We had all arrived at different times and with intermittent crying babies and visitors, checkups from midwives and drawn curtains, we hadn’t really talked much.

Although I was struggling to feed my newborn, I was still ecstatically happy, But there was also a cloud hanging over me. At about 8 or 9 o’clock in the morning, I spoke to one of my best friends on the phone. We had exchanged texts since Dylan’s arrival but it was the first time we had spoken. I told her the gory details of my induced labour (painful but quick!) and gushed about how beautiful Dylan was. And then burst into tears. It was hormones mixed with grief. It was the first anniversary of the day I found out Ewan had died. We talked for a while and she comforted me. Eventually we ended the conversation and there I was, in my cubicle alone with my sleeping baby.

The curtain drew back and the lady in the opposite cubicle came in, sat down on my bed and gave me a huge hug. I clearly hadn’t stifled my sobs well enough and she came to see if I was ok. I can’t verbalise how grateful I was to her for that hug and just the kindness she showed me in that moment. It was just what I needed. I don’t know if she had any idea of how much I needed that hug. We talked a bit and after a while she went back to tend to her baby. She left later on that day and of course, never saw her again.

I caught my mind wandering today. As I walked into work I recalled what I had been doing on that morning and what I was wearing. I looked at my watch occasionally and couldn’t help but think back to what I would have been doing at the same time. And at 4pm I thought ‘by now I knew’. So whilst my brain can’t shut out the events of 14th January 2011, I try also to remember my positive memories of 2012 and of every year since.

Tip: If you are ever feeling a bit wobbly, don’t listen to ‘Bridge Over You’ by the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir. I had it plugged into my ears as I walked into work. I absolutely love it (and the fact that it kept Justin Bieber from getting number 1 at Christmas), but it’s a guaranteed tear jerker! And as I’ve written about before, I’m a huge fan of the NHS. I’m just hoping it was still dark enough so that anyone driving past didn’t notice me!

All the above aside, it has been a good day. I came home and had tea made for me and a wrestle and tickle with my rainbows before bathtime and bed. I tried to get a decent photo of them both to share my wonderful view with you all, but as usual failed to get them looking in the same direction.

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Our first Rainbow

January brings with it a mixture of emotions in our household. It is a significant month for two reasons. We celebrate the birthday of our second son but mourn the death of our first.

I want to write a bit about my pregnancy with Dylan and his birth, and how Ewan’s death affected us during this time. Essentially this is the story of my first rainbow pregnancy.

It was a strange feeling when Ewan died. I knew that in essence I was a mother, but it didn’t feel like it. I felt cheated because I didn’t have a baby in my arms. So, although I was grieving, I knew very quickly that I wanted to try for another baby. It was an awful feeling. I remember the first time I mentioned it to Adam. I felt as though I was cheating on Ewan. That I was being disloyal. That in some ways I was saying that he didn’t mean a lot to us if we were willing to try again so soon. I knew deep down that wasn’t the case, but I still had conflicting voices in my head trying to convince me otherwise.

Adam was on the same wavelength as me. But he was also sensible enough to say how important it was for me to be physically and mentally well.

About eight weeks after Ewan died we had an appointment with a consultant. We were told that they couldn’t find any reason for the stillbirth. We hadn’t opted for a post-mortem (more about that another day) but still had blood tests and other results. Essentially this meant that there was nothing to stop us from going ahead and trying for another baby. The consultant echoed Adam’s thoughts about being ready. I didn’t want to wait any longer. I thought I was ready, and looking back, I still think I was.

Luckily we didn’t have to wait too long. Taking the pregnancy test was a completely different experience to when I found out I was pregnant first time around. The excitement just wasn’t quite there. Even though I was happy and it was what I wanted, the carefree joy wasn’t forthcoming. I remember coming downstairs to show Adam. We hugged and asked each other if we were ok, but the smiles were muted. We had lost our innocence and knew that the next nine months potentially could be anything but plain sailing.

We kind of carried on with normal life and especially in the early weeks didn’t really talk about our situation. We were kind to ourselves and in between working had a break in Germany and then a bit later on, a holiday in Scotland. We didn’t want to get too excited or think about what could be. We were still in the mindset of thinking about what should have been.

Our GP referred us to a consultant at the local hospital. We were able to see her quite early on, at about 8 weeks I think. She explained how I would be cared for and would have additional monitoring to be on the safe side.

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8 week Dylan – so tiny you can barely see him!

I was to go every four weeks for a scan and check up, partly to check on the baby, but also for our own reassurance. At the first check up we unexpectedly had a scan and got to see a tiny embryo with little more than tiny stubs for arms and legs. It was amazing to see, but I found it hard to get too excited.

 

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12 week Dylan. The little buds are his hands and feet.

 

At my 12 week scan, I went through the normal procedure e.g. seeing the sonographer, before I then had see the consultant. Adam and I sat in the waiting area and I had a flashback to sitting in the same spot waiting for the scan which would tell me Ewan had died. Up to that point, I felt as though I had kept it together, but broke down when that memory pinged in my brain. By the time I saw the sonographer, I was an absolute gibbering wreck leaving Adam to explain why. She was absolutely lovely and reassuring, and probably spent more time with us than necessary just to make sure I felt better.

We were very reluctant to tell people and kept the news to ourselves other than telling close family and friends. Usually most people will make an announcement after 12 weeks, but we just told people on a need-to-know basis. And the Facebook statement was a definite no-no. Why? My skewed logic told me that the more people knew, the greater the likelihood something would go wrong. So by keeping it quiet, it would increase the chances of everything going well. Bizarre I know, but that’s what my brain told me at the time.

Still trying to cover up! In Scotland at about 16 weeks

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I don’t think I made it public knowledge at work until I was about 18 weeks. I remember my manager asking me when I was going to say something (she knew very early on) because people were already starting to wonder and ask questions. A few nights later, I became very upset. I (irrationally) thought that now more people knew, the more likely it was that something would go wrong.

It wasn’t long after this that I spoke to a work colleague, who had been through a similar experience and then gone on to have twin daughters. I asked her how she had coped during the second pregnancy. She told me that she came to the conclusion that there was no point in worrying. It wouldn’t make her feel any better, nor would it affect the outcome. This struck a chord – she was right. Spending my time and negative energy thinking about something which may never happen was pointless. When I talked it through with Adam later, he was a bit frustrated as he had been trying to tell me the same thing all along! I think I maybe just needed to hear it from someone who had been in the same dark place but had a positive outcome.

From this point on, my mood definitely lightened. I wouldn’t say I fully relaxed and had the carefree abandon of the first time pregnant me, but mentally I was in a much better place.

We continued to get excellent care from our consultant, Mrs Martindale. I was also assigned a caseload midwife which meant I saw the same midwife every time rather than seeing a different one each time in clinic (thus saved from having to explain our situation time and time again). Around the time I was scanned at 28 weeks, Dylan was measuring on a small side. Although Mrs Martindale didn’t have huge concerns, she still sent me for regularly heartbeat monitoring over a few days, just to double check. I was surprisingly calm throughout this time. The hardest part was going onto the antenatal ward and being taken into one particular room. I recognised straight away that it was the same room I went into when I had my first scan to find Ewan’s heartbeat.

Early on, it was suggested that I would be induced early in an attempt to reduce the risk of another stillbirth and also allay our worries and fears. Mrs Martindale recommended going to 37 or 38 weeks. I was quite comforted knowing that I wasn’t going to go overdue and could plan ahead. Because of this I decided to finish work quite early (34 weeks). This coincided with time off over Christmas and the wedding of one of my best friends in Northern Ireland. This was quite exciting actually. I wasn’t able to fly so we had to take a mammoth trip driving to Scotland to get the ferry. Still, it was worth it to catch up with old university friends and get the cobwebs blown away by the wind blowing off the Irish Sea!

One regret is that I didn’t get many photographs of my pregnancy with Dylan once I started showing. (Stupidly now) I was reluctant to capture pictures of my bump. As if it was going to affect anything! Thankfully I did manage to relax in time for the wedding.

Finally some bump photos!

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The hospital were so careful in their attempts to avoid any clash with dates associated with Ewan (14th and 17th January). So I eventually went into hospital to be induced on the 10th January 2012 and our beautiful rainbow bounced into the world two days later. I will share his entrance into the world, but that is for another day.

Tomorrow we will celebrate his 4th birthday. His new scooter is set up in the living room with balloons attached and I think I am more excited than he is. In those darker months it didn’t feel as though we would get to this day. Only a few weeks after losing Ewan, my mum and I went to visit his grave. She told me with confidence that I would be a mum one day. I didn’t dare believe her then. But as we all know, mum’s are always right!

Happy Birthday to our beautiful Rainbow!

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The Star on our Tree

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A lot people have Christmas decorations that are dear to them. Those which have picked up in foreign countries. Some which have been given as gifts. And of course ones which have been made with tender love and care by children or grandchildren.

Our most precious decoration doesn’t fit into any of those categories. Like most bereaved parents, we have a reminder on our tree of the baby, child or children we have lost. Some will get personalised baubles with their son or daughter’s name engraved. We have a simple white star. Not very original I guess. But it represents our memories of Ewan.

When I look at the star I think of many things. Mainly the last 5 Christmases since Ewan has been a part of our lives.

Christmas 2010 – I was about 29 weeks pregnant with Ewan at the time. We lived in our old terraced house and it was the last bitterly cold winter I can remember. Our street was frozen with snow for weeks and a couple of times when I couldn’t drive up the hill, Adam came to escort me on foot. He didn’t want me to take a tumble in my increasingly Weeble-like state. Of course it was a dry Christmas, but on the plus side I used it as an excuse to eat as much as I wanted. I probably signed off all our Christmas cards ‘Rachel, Adam and bump!’ and friends liked to point out how we should enjoy our last relaxing Christmas for the next 20 years! We were full of hope and excitement with what 2011 was going to bring. Our first baby. Three weeks after that Christmas Day, our lives changed inexplicably.

IMG_7998Christmas 2011 – We were in our new house and treated ourselves to a new Christmas tree. This Christmas we were full of hope again, but also some sadness, worry and fear. We didn’t have the baby we thought we were going to have. Instead we had spent the year grieving. But in the very same year, we were lucky to conceive again. By the time Christmas arrived I was about 36 weeks pregnant and had finished work for my maternity leave. Thankfully our pregnancy had progressed well and I knew I was going to be induced in early January, to reduce the risk of another stillbirth. My brother, his wife and our 18 month old nephew stopped with us on Christmas Eve, so we had the joy of seeing him open his presents in the morning. And although this didn’t replace Ewan, it helped a lot. I kept it together for most of the season, but remember watching the comedy film Nativity on my own one night. From seemingly nowhere a huge wave of grief rolled over me as I watched the performance at the end. I couldn’t stop thinking how Ewan wouldn’t get the chance to take part in a nativity, or in any aspect of Christmas.

Christmas 2012/2013/2014 – Now life really had changed for good. As everyone had initially predicted, the days of relaxing Christmases were over. Our Rainbow, Dylan came crashing into the world in January 2012 and from then on in, Christmas was all about him. And although we no longer had the pain of spending Christmas without Ewan, we still remembered him and knew he was watching over us from the top of the tree.

Last year I was heavily pregnant (again) and so it will be Jude’s first Christmas this year. My main concern has been whether he would attack the tree and pull all the decorations off. He is far too inquisitive for his own good. I’ve tried to keep as many baubles off the lower branches as possible. So far it seems to be working.

Ewan’s star is still at the top and to be honest I can’t ever see it being replaced. It is particularly special to us because the star was attached to his funeral wreath. Our lovely florist also sells various decorations and ornaments and she suggested we put it on. It was a wonderful idea and I am so glad she made it. I have to nip into the shop tomorrow, so I might tell her (if she’s not too busy!). I bet she doesn’t have a clue what her thoughtful gesture has allowed us to do.

In Christmases to come, Dylan and Jude will hopefully help me to dress the tree. I don’t know at what point I will explain the meaning of the star. When they will be old enough to understand I guess. But it will help to ensure that Ewan will always be remembered at Christmas, and never forgotten.

 

SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society) are running a Christmas appeal and alongside it, the Star on Our Tree campaign. It acknowledges the fact that festive times can be particularly difficult for bereaved parents. They are inviting people to send photographs of their stars and decorations. Last year Ewan’s star featured on their Facebook page. You can also make a small donation of £5 by texting STAR31 £5 to 70070.

 

In in a bid to make sure you aren’t too down after reading this post, here is a photograph of my two beautiful Rainbows in their Christmas jumpers! Not quite looking in the same direction but not a bad effort (by daddy)

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Why I couldn’t love my post-pregnancy body

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After losing Ewan, I really struggled with the post-pregnancy weight. I’ll share something that could have been hilarious, if it wasn’t so tragic. Only 2 or 3 days after giving birth, I went to the wardrobe and pulled out some of my pre-pregnancy trousers and tried to put them on. Needless to say I failed…. miserably. Looking back it kind of makes me smile, that I thought all the weight would disappear once my baby had been born. I clearly blocked out the doughnuts, pizzas and general crap that I had eaten (unnecessarily!) over the past 6 months.

Those first few weeks were really tough. I was carrying around all this extra weight with a huge flabby belly. All I could think was that if I had a baby in my arms, I wouldn’t give two hoots! There would be a reason for my chubbiness. And quite frankly I know I wouldn’t care. I used to get quite angry. It wasn’t fair. I had lost my baby and to top it all off, I thought I looked a complete mess!

Adam and I didn’t eat awfully well initially. It was much easier to order Chinese, pizza or grab rubbish from the freezer that didn’t require any thought or effort. Ok that isn’t strictly true. We did have some lovely hearty food from kind family, friends and neighbours. But on the other days we ate crap! And we also drank a lot of wine! As is the case with alcohol, it dulls the senses. It wasn’t really ideal. But for a short chunk of time, it did help. Although it didn’t help with the weight.

Less than five weeks after Ewan was born, my brother got married. Before Christmas, anticipating that I would be 37 weeks pregnant by that point, I ordered a beautiful maternity outfit from JoJo Maman Bebe. I was so excited to wear it. But instead I ended up having to drag myself out in public to go shopping. My mum took me to a local department store. I half-heartedly picked a few things out and we went into the changing rooms. None of them fit properly and I just looked awful. I remember bursting into tears and mum giving me a huge hug. I just wasn’t in the mood.

A few days later, Adam and I went to the Trafford Centre. I can’t remember if it was a conscious decision to go late at night. I think I was still avoiding crowds as much as possible. We wandered around and finally after much looking, I finally found something I was comfortable with. It was actually quite a cheap dress from H&M, but it was the only thing that made me feel anything other than fat.

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On the days itself, I actually felt quite good. I bought a few nice accessories to jazz it all up. But when I look back at the photographs, the first thought I have is how big I look. Which annoys me! Because I actually loved the outfit, loved the accessories, loved my hair. It was a wonderful day, but also a tough day. I still couldn’t forget that I should have been pregnant. I saw some family and friends for the first time, which was emotional for us all. There was a pregnant guest (who I didn’t know). Watching her (or trying not to) was really hard. One of the most beautiful parts of the day, other than the ceremony, was during my brother’s speech. He talked about the people who couldn’t be at the wedding, Ewan being one of them. I was so incredibly touched.

You might think my moaning about my post-pregnancy weight is pretty irrelevant and a bit shallow. Why the hell was I worrying about how I looked given everything that had happened? It’s hard to describe. My best effort is this – I was in a tough place. To say I was low is a bit of an understatement. And under normal circumstances, how I look wouldn’t bother me too much especially if everything else was going well. But because of my mental state, being overweight as well felt like a bridge too far.

I did manage to lose some weight eventually, although within a few months I got pregnant with Dylan. How I lost my other pregnancy weights? That was a different journey and a different story, for another day.

Meeting Ewan – My Stillbirth Story

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As it is Baby Loss Awareness week, now feels the right time to share the next part of Ewan’s story. I have already written how we found out about losing our baby, and the weekend we spent at home before coming back into hospital to give birth.

Adam and I were checked into a normal delivery room. We sat on the sofa, waiting to be seen by Elaine, our allocated midwife who we had met on the Friday. I remember what I was wearing – I put on one of my nicest white maternity smocks. I felt like I needed to make an effort and look good. I also wore a necklace that one of my best friends bought me some time ago. I had been wearing it on Friday and I don’t know why, but it felt appropriate to wear it again.

At this point I just need to explain that one thing that got us through the next 12 hours (actually the next week, month and years) was a little bit of humour. It may sound absolutely bizarre in the context of what I am talking about. But when you are in such a terrible situation, humour keeps you sane. It reminds you that you are still alive. That the ability to smile and even (shock horror) laugh just stops you from spiralling down a gloomy black hole never to return.

So we whilst we were waiting in the delivery room, Adam started to fool around. To break the tension of why we were sitting and waiting. And mainly to try and make me smile and feel better! There was a yoga mat so he pretended to do some school-style gymnastics for me. I am smiling now just thinking about it. I commented that anyone looking in at that moment in time would think we were absolutely crackers. As the evening went on we sat talking about our favourite comedy programmes and quoting lines and jokes.

The next couple of hours just involved settling in and trying to get comfortable. Labour wasn’t really progressing very quickly and I only had a few pains. Elaine kept bobbing in and out. She had a lot of blood to take, from both Adam as well as me. This was mainly for genetic tests I think, to see if there was any reason they could find which would explain the death of our baby.

Elaine was just what we needed at that point. Adam and I smile when we talk about Elaine now because she had some bizarre topics of conversation, our favourite being her dog which had ADHD! She was chatty and upbeat and again kept us from slipping into the hole I talked about earlier. She was very experienced and explained what we would expect during and after the birth. At 8pm there was a shift changeover and Elaine left us. We met our new allocated midwife Paula as she came to introduce herself.

I’m a bit fuzzy as to the right order as to the next events. I was probably given a pessary and then went on a drip to try and kick start the induction. It worked. At about 9pm the pain suddenly hit me like a train. I remember getting out of bed to walk around and my waters broke. The contractions came thick and fast. With it came the feeling that I didn’t know whether I could actually get through this. Every woman will tell you that labour is tough, really tough. But for the vast majority of women, it is just about bearable because a) it doesn’t last forever and b) there will be a healthy baby at the end of it. That wouldn’t be the case for me.

I suddenly turned into an uncontrollable raging crazy lady. A brief conversation about pain relief (me asking for as much as I could get) resulted in Paula paging the anaesthetist to give me an epidural. I’m not sure under normal circumstances I would have got one so quickly. But this wasn’t a ‘normal’ situation. Adam was doing his ultimate best to keep me calm and help wherever he could. I don’t think I was very appreciative or accepting of any assistance. It felt like a lifetime before the anaesthetist arrived, but in reality it was probably only 15-20 minutes. My mum and dad had arrived at this point. I hate that they saw me in so much pain, but it was good to have them there.

The epidural was a bizarre experience. The anaesthetist was a gruff, Eastern European man. He had few words and was quite surly. Maybe he knew our situation and didn’t really know what to say. I was petrified when he gave me the instruction not to move, otherwise I could be paralysed. In such pain I didn’t know whether I could do anything but writhe around in pain. It went in successfully though and by the time he finished, my mum had managed to win him round with her light-hearted chit chat. He had softened to the point that he smiled as he left. Another clear memory.

Once the epidural kicked in, things calmed down to the point where I could lay on the bed and even managed to doze for a bit. I was aware of mum, dad and Adam sat round the bed talking. Paula popped in occasionally to check on us. At about midnight, I woke up a bit more and realised that the sensations I was feeling had changed and so we buzzed Paula. After a quick inspection she told me I was fully dilated and that it was time to start pushing.

It’s important to paint the scene a little bit more so that you can understand the emotions I am going to describe. Because it was midnight, obviously it was dark outside. We had really soft lighting; it felt like we only had a small lamp on and the other parts of the room were dark. It was quiet and peaceful. The word I really want to use is ‘serene’. Thanks to the epidural, I wasn’t in any physical pain for which I am so incredibly grateful. And it probably sounds bizarre when you read this, but I can’t imagine we could have had a better birthing experience given our circumstances.

Now you will remember that I said Elaine was great for the early stages and kept us upbeat. As labour progressed, it became clear that Paula was the perfect midwife to guide us through delivery and the hours that followed. When I think about Paula now, I have an unbelievable sense of calm. And feelings of absolute gratitude. To me she was like an angel sent to guide us through our ordeal. She was controlled and calm, kind and understanding. I know that this description might seem odd when I talk about Ewan as our angel, but I really can’t think of another word to use. And I am frustrated with myself that I can’t think of better adjectives to describe the impact she had on us. She was born to be a midwife. She was born to comfort grieving parents. I get incredibly overwhelmed when I think about her.

You may imagine that the physical act of giving birth to a baby who isn’t breathing is a horrendous experience. For many women it is. Especially for those why the baby dies during or at the start of labour. But we had some time to get used to our situation. We knew our baby wouldn’t be alive. I had an epidural so I wasn’t in pain. And it was the middle of the night. It was calm. It was dark. It was winter. It was peaceful and it felt like there was no-one else in the world at that time but me, Adam, Paula and the baby we were about to meet.

Our son was born at 12.44am on Monday 17th January 2011. It was calm and peaceful. No cry, no screams. There was silence. Paula told us it was a boy. I remember saying sorry to Adam. Why? I guess I thought he would be more upset because we had lost a son rather than a daughter (yes, stupid I know). Paula handed him to me to hold. Paula asked Adam if he wanted to cut the cord, which he did. I cradled my baby. Adam cradled us both. And we cried.

We called him Ewan Mark. Ewan (you may remember) was our favourite boys name, and Mark after Adam’s dad.

Time slowed for the next few hours. We sat with Ewan in the delivery room. We held him and kissed him. I asked Paula if we could bathe him. She said it would probably be a better idea not to, because his skin was so fragile. So we didn’t. Instead we dressed him together and wrapped him in a blanket. We took photographs and created memories. My mum and dad came into spend some time with their grandson. Paula moved in and out, staying in the background, and was there if and when we needed her.

When we were on our own, the three of us, Adam played some music. The one song that sticks with me is Beautiful Boy by John Lennon. Seeing Adam talking to Ewan about John Lennon and the Beatles just broke my heart.

At some point in the early hours mum and dad went home and we moved from our birthing room to the Serenity Suite taking Ewan with us in a crib. There was a double bed in the suite and after a shower, we tried to get some well needed rest. We were exhausted and drained, both mentally and physically. We probably only slept in 20-30 minute bursts. When we were awake we would kiss and hold Ewan, talking to him and each other. Paula kept popping in and I remember being in a half awake/half asleep state as she took my blood pressure.

As it started to get light, Paula offered us some toast. Isn’t it funny how I can still remember the taste of that toast now! It was dripping with butter and tasted amazing. I was so hungry.

At the 8am shift change, Paula came to say goodbye. I tried, but probably failed miserably, to thank her for all her help and support. I knew that she would go home emotionally drained too, and wanted her to be aware of what an amazing job she had done. We gave each other a huge hug.

It wasn’t much later when we asked to be discharged. It felt like it was time to go home. Although staff said that we could stop as long as we needed to, we wanted to be back in our familiar and comforting surroundings. Earlier, Adam and I had a discussion about whether we should bring Ewan home with us, or to leave him at the hospital. In the end, we decided not to bring him home. One of the midwives came in and asked us how we wanted to leave. Did we want someone to come and take Ewan away first, or for us to leave him in the room? It moved me that they asked such a question. I didn’t really want either, but we needed to make a decision. We opted to say our goodbyes on our own and leave when we were ready.

Walking out of that room was one of the hardest parts of the whole weekend. It absolutely broke my heart and I cried harder than before. We held onto each other and somehow guided ourselves out of the Birth Suite and out of hospital.

Our arms were empty, but we took Ewan home in our hearts.

Always loved and never forgotten.

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Loss is loss, whenever it happens

Angel

When Ewan, our angel, died, a lot of people shared their own experiences of loss with us. Either their own, or that of friends and/or family. A lot of people, particularly those who had experienced a miscarriage, said that they thought that a stillbirth in late pregnancy must have been much harder.

About 18 months after losing Ewan, I met another local couple who had recently lost their baby. At the time we were both interested in setting up a local Sands support group. We shared our personal stories. Their baby had been born with various physical complications and died at about 3-4 days old. When I told them about Ewan’s stillbirth, the girl commented that our experience must have been much worse. Her reasoning was that at least they were able to spend a few days with their child.

I remember disagreeing with her. She had gone full-term and left work to go on maternity leave. They had the nursery ready and when she went into labour, were fully expecting to bring a healthy baby back to the house a few days later. I had only gone to 32 weeks and hadn’t finished work. We hadn’t decorated a nursery (partly because we were moving house). We also knew that when we went into hospital, we wouldn’t be bringing our baby home.

There is obviously something within us, or most of us, where we look at our own situation and maybe think how it could have been worse. Kind of looking on the bright side in a way. I know that I did that a lot. And still do. Ok, losing a baby so late on was bloody awful. One of the most horrendous things that could ever happen. But I am incredibly thankful for those 32 wonderful weeks. Adam and I were full of excitement and anticipation. We were nervous, as most first time parents are. I can remember the scans. I remember his first kick and the many more that followed. Talking about names. Booking NCT classes.

I have never experienced an early miscarriage but I have some friends who have. I have heard people say the words ‘it’s only a miscarriage’ or ‘she was only 8 weeks’. Seriously? There is no only about the loss of any baby. Whenever it occurs. I really do feel for those who have experienced miscarriage, because it is so often kept under wraps and not discussed. With early miscarriages, a lot of people wouldn’t have announced the pregnancy in the first place. So they often suffer in silence. An ex-work colleague of mine who has also started blogging, recently wrote a thought provoking post about it. It was only after her eldest boy was born, and through similar groups we joined on Facebook that I was aware of her losses.

What I am trying to say, in a roundabout and not very eloquent way, is that grief and loss is not a competition. No one person can hold the monopoly. Any loss is agonising. Just because someone loses a baby at 8 weeks, shouldn’t mean that it can be any less painful that losing a baby in the second or third trimester. I imagine it is a different type of pain and grief, but at the end of it all, there is still ache and longing. Loss is loss.

Did you know that 9th – 15th October is Baby Loss Awareness Week in the UK? A number of different charities work together to promote awareness and give parents, families and friends the opportunity to commemorate their babies lives. It is also an opportunity to talk more openly about baby loss. If you are interested in more information, visit the dedicated website. Ribbon pins are available from the Sands online shop. The week finishes each year on October 15th with the global ‘Wave of Light’. People all over the world will be lighting candles in memory of their babies. If you will be taking part, I would love to know.

Written in memory of all the angels who were taken too soon.

#babyloss #breakthesilence

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I’m sorry for lying

2 Rainbows, dreamy

How many children do you have?

A simple question. Or is it?

It’s a question I dread because most of the time I lie. I say that I have two children.

I don’t. I have three.

So why do I lie?

The vast majority of people who ask the question have only just met me. They have seen me with one of my children and politely enquire whether there is another. It could be a work contact who knows I have been on maternity leave. They may have known me a while, but maybe not personally. Most people who ask probably didn’t know me before January 2011. Because that is when my firstborn was stillborn.

I lie because lying is easier than telling the truth. If I tell people I have two children, two boys, it is a safe answer. They nod, smile, maybe ask their names, enquire if they are good or not. It may spark a conversation in which we might swap stories, compare notes. It is easy.

But every time I lie, I feel a pang of guilt. I feel as though I am cheating. That I am denying Ewan’s existence. Deep down I know that I am not. I do talk about him to friends and family. I write about him in this blog. But somehow I can’t help thinking I am taking the easy way out.

What would happen if I told the truth? I have a fair idea. I would tell them I have three children, three boys. ‘Oh really’, they would say and possibly follow it with a ‘that must be a handful’. They would most likely enquire of their ages. And that is when it would get awkward. Well one is 3 ½, one is 7 months. And one was stillborn.

Under most circumstances that would be a real conversation stopper. Come on, be honest. What would you say?

So rather than deal with the likely discomfort and embarrassment, I lie.

Occasionally I tell the truth. Not often, but occasionally. And I think I do this because I believe the person I am talking to will understand. I believe that they won’t fidget or look at the floor. That they will respond in a way that won’t make me feel the need to apologise or hurriedly gloss over it. I don’t mean to criticise those I don’t initially tell. It’s just the best way I have of explaining it.

Reading other forums and social networks on the topic of stillbirth and baby loss, I know there are other parents out there who don’t take the easy route. They tell it how it is. And to those, I raise my hat.

I know my reasons for doing it. I’m kind of ok with it. I think. I guess. But I still feel pain. And I still feel guilt.

So to Ewan, this is my apology. I am sorry. I don’t mean to act as though you never existed. I hope you understand.

Blogging – is it worth it?

Yesterday I received a message from a friend. She is running the Great North Run in a couple of weeks and she had just set up a Justgiving page to raise money for Sands (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society). Friends and regular readers will know that this is a cause very close to my heart. I was really touched, because she told me that reading my blog had moved her to choose Sands. Claire and I don’t see each other very often, I bet it is a good 4-5 years since we last met. We have a mutual close friend who we were both bridesmaids together for and so we get updates on each other through Olivia. We also both have boys of very similar ages and obviously get to see them growing up through Facebook.

Receiving Claire’s message made me so incredibly happy. Sometimes as I am tapping away late at night on the laptop (when really I should be getting as much sleep as I can with two rainbows to run around after), I wonder how many people are reading my posts. Before getting into the blogging business, I was aware of a few parenting blogs, but I had absolutely no idea how many! There are easily hundreds, likely to be thousands. Maybe more. Some have tens of thousands of Facebook and Twitter followers. Some of them blog as a full-time job. How can I compete against that!

To date I only have 134 Twitter followers, 106 Facebook Likes and 10 people subscribed to my blog, yet lots of these wonderful people have taken time to send me some lovely messages of support. In the beginning it was only friends and family reading, but I know now there are ‘strangers’ out there. People I’ve never met. That in itself is incredibly exciting.

So I just need to remember that it’s not about competing. I didn’t start writing to be Britain’s Most Popular Blogger. I started writing for the all the reasons I put in my very first post. I am writing for me. And inspiring someone to run 13.1 miles for a cause that I have written about……. Sometimes there are no words for that.

If you want to sponsor Claire, please visit her Justgiving page. I need to give her extra kudos because she had a baby in January, just a few weeks before me. I can just about manage a 5k Parkrun on a Saturday morning. Getting fit enough to completing a half marathon is no mean feat, so my hat is definitely off to her!

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Anyone can raise money for Sands. Visit their website for ideas. Let me know if you do.

 

Oh and if you like what you read and  want to share my blog on Twitter, Facebook or wherever, please do!

The Longest Weekend – My Stillbirth Story

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Writing the beginning of our stillbirth story was quite emotionally draining, but also quite cathartic. It feels good to see it in black and white and published for anyone to read, because it is important not to brush stories such as these under the carpet. I received so many wonderful comments, either through Facebook, Twitter, on the blog or personal messages. I am sorry that it made you most of you cry, but I can’t guarantee any further posts won’t. Apologies for that.

So anyway I am ready with the next chapter; the weekend we spent at home before going back into hospital. Again some parts of that weekend are crystal clear, others a bit more blurry.

Adam and I arrived home from the hospital around tea time. I spent the next 48 hours barricaded in the house. I couldn’t bear to leave. I didn’t want anyone to see my pregnant tummy, whether I knew them or not. Strangers have a habit of talking to pregnant women (absolutely nothing wrong with that and quite understandable), but I couldn’t cope with the thought of anyone approaching me and asking questions.

Adam took me upstairs and got me into bed. I couldn’t think of doing anything else. I can’t remember how long we’d been home before my mum and dad arrived. They’d been over at my brother’s house in Stockport and driven back as soon as Adam rang them. Understandably they were inconsolable. We had to explain what had happened (the first of many explanations) and what was going to happen. They were both so upset and mum couldn’t stop crying. It was then that I realised that it wouldn’t just be our own grief we had to deal with, but that of our parents, family and friends. Not only would our parents grieve for their lost grandchild, but also cope with feelings of helplessness for the pain and suffering that their children were going through. I remember a feeling of mild panic. Hang on. I can’t handle anyone else’s grief. I need to focus on mine and Adam’s.

I can’t remember how long they stayed. An hour. Two? My dad drove Adam back to the hospital to collect his car, which he’d had to leave there. After that, Adam barricaded himself too and hibernated with me, at least I don’t remember him leaving. At some point he rang his mum and dad to break the terrible news. They live in New Zealand so he had to wait until a reasonable hour to ring, which wasn’t in the middle of the night for them. I started a process of ringing my friends. This was a quick learning curve. I rang two of my closest friends. When they answered, I burst into tears and blurted out ‘I’ve lost the baby’. There was stunned silence on the other end. Understandably so. Eventually they managed to speak, I started my explanations, they began to console me. I had to wait until late in the evening to ring one of my other best friends in Australia. I think she had an inkling something was wrong with the urgent sounding texts I sent. After those phone calls, I decided to start sending texts instead to break the news. I felt that it would be more helpful for people to deal with the shock first, without me waiting for a response on the other end of the phone. The news was shocking and being able to digest it without having to think of comforting words and ‘saying the right thing’ would be easier.

At some point both my brothers rang, one in Stockport, the other in America. My Stockport brother wanted to come and visit the following day. He said that they would leave their 8 month old son with his other grandparents, in case seeing him upset us. This was another important milestone. Seeing another baby. I spoke to Adam and we agreed that we should see our nephew. Although it would be hard, we knew we wouldn’t be able to avoid seeing babies when we emerged into the ‘real world’, so it would only be a positive to see him. I am so glad we made that decision. I can still see my nephew now when I saw him for the first time, sat on our sofa, smiling with the pure innocence that only a baby has. It made me so happy to see him and I didn’t feel any regret.

Sleep wasn’t really our friend that weekend. It happened in fits and starts. We went to bed with the light on. On Friday night I remember going to bed but then getting up and spending a lot of the night downstairs. This was the time I used to absorb the Sands website and read story after story written by countless parents in similar situations. I cried a lot. At one point I cried so loudly that it woke Adam up and he came down to comfort me.

We had a lot of cuddles from our cats that weekend. Call me odd, but I am sure they knew that something was wrong. I’m sure they could sense our unhappiness and sadness. They were more loving and attentive than usual. Pets definitely have a sixth sense.

Although we didn’t want to see tonnes of people, we let down our barriers to allow other close friends and family visit. It stopped us going stir crazy. At this point I was starting to feel a lot more pain and was less mobile than before. I don’t think I moved much from the sofa and definitely didn’t even consider getting dressed. I have one vivid recollection of my mum’s cousin turning up on the Saturday night. I opened the door and she was stood in the dark, in the wind and rain and she just simply said ‘I had to come’. She didn’t need to say anything else.

Adam and I made the pact that I have written about before. That we would talk about anything and everything, no matter how silly or embarrassing we thought it might be. He was such an incredible source of comfort to me that weekend (and every day since). Some men are not good at expressing their thoughts or feelings, or dealing with emotions. Adam is not like that. Many people have said how strong I have been and how well I coped. That may seem true, but I couldn’t have done it without Adam. He was my rock then, and every day since.

On the Sunday, we started to make preparations to go back into hospital. We’d been advised to go in for about 6pm (unless labour started sooner), so the day really dragged. We had to pack our bags. There was no excited and careful planning of what to pack, which is usually what happens with a maternity hospital bag. Just a case of throwing in the necessities.

We had, however been advised to bring a couple of specific items. I can’t remember if it was the midwife we had seen on Friday, or through the Sands website.

  • A camera to take photos of our baby. I was unsure about whether it was appropriate to pack it at the time. Now I am so glad that we did.
  • An outfit to dress him in. Because I was only 32 weeks, we didn’t have lots and lots of clothes at that point. Just a few bits and pieces that I had started to pick up. We sat together going through the tiny clothes. We both cried knowing our baby would never wear them. In the end we chose a Very Hungry Caterpillar vest.
  • A small toy. Adam’s boss had bought a beautiful little elephant, for Christmas I think, to give to our baby when it arrived. We packed this too.

In the late afternoon, I had a bath. I had started to get very weak contractions at this point, but wanted to feel as fresh as possible before going in. I remember looking at my tummy sticking out of the bath and willing it to move. So it could all have been a big mistake.

It wasn’t.

Time to leave and make the short journey back to the Lancashire Women and Newborn Centre at Burnley General Hospital. We parked up and realised that we had no change for the parking meter. Thanks to the lovely staff at the hospital we were let off under the circumstances.

The walk to the birth suite seemed to go on for ever. Then we had to open those doors, and see those beautiful baby canvasses again. We went to the desk and asked for Elaine, our midwife from Friday. I think we both broke when giving a brief explanation of why we were there. Quickly we were ushered into a delivery room. And onto the next chapter of our lives……