Tag Archives: angel

Another Place

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I don’t need Facebook or Timehop to tell me what I was doing 5 years ago today. Adam and I went to Crosby Beach in Liverpool for the day. I’m not 100% sure what prompted us to go as it was the first time we had visited it together. It was a beautiful (but cold) sunny day and we wanted to get out and blow away the cobwebs. Get some fresh air and feel the sun on our faces.

In the car on the way, I received a text message from one of my close friends. She told me of the arrival of their third baby, William. I couldn’t help but well up. I was so happy for her, but it just brought back those memories of what could have been. It was hard, probably because it was our first experience of someone we knew welcoming a baby into the world, after our baby was no longer with us. Because it is William’s 5th birthday today, that is how I remember.

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Anyone who has been to Crosby will know that there is a permanent art installation by Anthony Gormley called Another Place. There are 100 cast iron figures embedded into the sand, looking out to sea. It really is an impressive sight, made even better on a crisp, clear day January with the low afternoon sun.

I wanted to share our day out, partly because it is a day where I have some good memories. I love to look back on the photographs. During a difficult time it feels like the day represented the first shoots of recovery. A day where we decided that we needed to participate in the world rather than existing in our own little bubble. It did us the world of good to get out there. I wonder now if we chose Crosby knowing the likelihood of seeing someone we knew would be very slim (it is over 50 miles from where we live). We could attempt to start socialising again, but with a bit of added protection too in that we probably wouldn’t have to talk about our loss.

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We returned a couple of years later with Dylan. He hadn’t long been walking and absolutely loved running up and down the sands (paying very little attention to the statues). Just writing this now makes me want to go again, this time with Jude. Maybe we’ll go in half term if (fingers crossed) we get a nice day. I won’t ever be able to go without thinking about our first visit. But we can continue to create some good memories there with our rainbows, all the time our angel watching over us.

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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.

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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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

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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

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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.

Running for Ewan

gnr-largeI am making a bold statement. Now. In print.

Next year I am going to do the Great North Run.

There, I said it. I’ll have to do it now. Who’s going to join me?

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In 2005 with my buddy Ruth

I’ve run it before, but not for a long time. The first time was in 2003. I ran with a friend. We both ran to mend our respective broken hearts at the time! We chose the British Red Cross as our charity.

In 2005 I ran with another couple of friends (no broken hearts this time) for Colitis and Crohn’s UK. In 2007, I ran again with a different friend and Adam as well, although he was miles ahead of us. Instead we plodded along and talked about her impending relationship break up and new fella (it kept us going for a good 6 miles). That time we ran for Asthma UK, a condition Adam has had since he was very young.

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2007 – beaten by a Stormtrooper!

 

So it will be 9 years since last taking the journey up to Newcastle. I’ve been inspired by a friend who ran on Sunday. She had a baby in January, just a few weeks before me. I was super impressed that she managed to get fit enough in 7 months to run a half marathon (I have so far managed a 5k Parkrun!).

You might remember I wrote a post about it. She chose to run for Sands (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society) having read my blog and it made me so happy that the time I spent writing had a little bit of effect on someone.

So I’m going to run for Sands, a cause very close to my heart. Adam and I have done a lot of fundraising over the past 5 years and I want to carry it on.

I’m going to run for my angel, Ewan.

Get yourself signed up. If you go to the Great North Run website you can sign up for their reminder service so you will get an email when the ballot opens. My first aim is to get a place through the ballot. If I am unsuccessful, then hopefully I will get a place through Sands. Whatever happens, I am running.

So, does anyone out there want to join me? Join #TeamSands for #TeamEwan!

Come on, you know you want to.

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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……

The Words No-one Ever Should Hear – My Stillbirth Story

I’ve decided that I would like to share Ewan’s story. Most of our friends know that he was stillborn at 32 weeks. Not everyone knows exactly how it happened and how in just one day our lives changed forever. Although stillbirth isn’t a quite a taboo subject, it’s not something that is written about a lot in great detail. Information is there if you look for it, for example through the SANDS website (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society) as I have written about previously. I don’t know if it is standard human nature to feel uncomfortable talking about death, and in particular the death of a baby. Is it the British in us? Anyway one of the reasons I set up my blog was to write about Ewan. The story is long so I will do it in stages. This is the story of our pregnancy.

I found out I was pregnant at the beginning of July 2010. Adam and I were delighted. It was our first pregnancy and we’d only been trying for a couple of months. We considered ourselves lucky that it hadn’t taken us very long. I had an enviable pregnancy. I was one of those really annoying people who could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times they suffered from morning sickness. We told a handful of close family and friends our news, and instead kept quiet until after our first scan at 13 weeks. At this point once we had seen baby floating and kicking around on the screen, we thought we were out of the woods and safee. October saw our 20 week scan and another opportunity for a photograph. Bubba he was then known (we chose not to find out the sex), gave us the thumbs up on the ultrasound. Christmas came and went. We were secretly happy to have an excuse not to go out on New Year’s Eve and instead stopped in with a takeaway and boxset of 24.

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Ewan at our first scan

From the moment he planted his first kick, Ewan was very active baby. I would love sitting in meetings at work and feeling him turning somersaults. He was most active at night when I was reading and relaxing in bed.

Fast forward to Friday 14th January 2011. I remember certain events of that day so incredibly vividly and others are a bit of a blur. I remember waking up that morning, laying in bed hearing the birds sing thinking it was the first time I had heard them for a while. On the way to work I stopped off for some petrol. I remember being at the pump when the thought occurred to me that it was 8 weeks exactly until my due date. I distinctly recall thinking ‘My baby could be in here in 8 weeks. Actually in 10 weeks it will definitely be here.’ Obviously this gave me an extra spring in my step, or a spring in my waddle.

About 6 months pregnant

About 6 months pregnant

It was a busy day at work. I work in a Further Education College and at the time there was a campaign being set up to challenge the removal of the Education Maintenance Allowance, which the then new coalition government had announced. I was trying to organise the student body to sign an online petition and arrange for PC’s to be set up around college. Around lunchtime I managed to snatch some quiet time in my office. As I sat at my desk, after a couple of minutes my thoughts turned to my bump. It all felt quite still. I couldn’t recall the last time I had felt it move. My brain went into a mini overdrive. I tried to think back to the night before. Was Bubba performing its usual circus routine? I just couldn’t remember.

What I haven’t mentioned is that morning I also had a pain, which was unusual. I hadn’t felt anything like it before. I had read that baby’s sometimes started to engage from 32 weeks and wondered if that was the reason why. Not knowing when baby last moved, coupled with the pain prompted me to pick up the phone and ring the hospital. It took me a while to find the right department, but eventually I spoke to someone on the antenatal ward. I’m not sure why but when I started to explain why I was ringing, I only mentioned the pain. The midwife asked me to describe it and suggested I had a bath. I then told her that I couldn’t remember when I had last felt baby move; straight away she told me to come down for a scan, just to get checked out and make sure everything was ok. ­

I locked up my office and set off, calling into see my boss on the way out to tell her where I was going. I remember trying to make light of it and just said that I was a little bit worried so wanted to double check there wasn’t anything serious. In the car, I rang Adam. His phone went to voicemail so I left what I hoped was a slightly cheery, reassuring message saying I was sure everything was ok (I probably didn’t do a very good job!) and told him where I was going. I quickly nipped home to get my notes and then headed to the Lancashire Women and Newborn Centre at Burnley General Hospital. I live about 4 miles from college and 1 mile from the hospital so thankfully it wasn’t too long a journey. I don’t remember much about driving there, other than still trying to reassure myself, and also willing Bubba to move.

I finally found my way to the antenatal ward. Now I do vividly remember the walk upstairs. At this point I started to think the worse. On the ward I gave them a quick explanation and the loveliest midwife (I was to meet a lot of these) took me into a private room. I lay on the bed and she used a Doppler to try and find a heartbeat. Whilst it made a lot of noise (something to do with the ultrasound waves), the regular sound of a heartbeat couldn’t be found. She gave me a reassuring smile and said it was probably a problem with the instrument. She left to get a portable scanner, and seconds later reappeared with a doctor. Unbeknown to me they were waiting outside the room – I am guessing someone buzzed them when I arrived. On went the gel again and the doctor started to scan. I could see the monitor at this point but wasn’t really sure what to look for. Then, there was the most telling sign. Marie (the midwife) who was stood at the end of the bed put her hand on my feet. That was the point when I knew. I knew that she knew. No one had said anything, but they all knew. I burst into tears.

They wanted me to go for a proper scan, with the ultrasound technician, as they said sometimes the portable scanners didn’t pick up faint heartbeats. But they still knew. It just needed to be confirmed.

I think I refused a wheelchair and walked back down the stairs holding onto Marie. I sat and waited for the ultrasound. The technician came out of her room and Marie went up to her. I could see the technician wasn’t happy. I think she had a backlog of patients already. Marie whispered to her, and instantly the technician’s face changed. I was beckoned to go in and Marie came with me. The technician told me that she wouldn’t talk to me until she had finished scanning which could take a couple of minutes. She said that it was important for her to concentrate. I could have looked at the monitor but instead I covered my eyes with my arm. I didn’t want to see and instead just hoped against hope that the news would be good.

Then came the words no parent-to-be ever wants to hear. ‘I’m sorry, but there is no heartbeat’.

I remember just giving a loud groan and started to cry again. I can hear the sound now. It came from the bottom of my belly. Marie held me. I don’t know for how long. Somehow I got back onto the ward and into a room. The word stillbirth was being used. Still Birth.

This part is a bit of a blur. What I do remember is asking how this could happen. I think I even uttered the words ‘but this only happened in Victorian times!’ But that is what I was thinking. Only Victorian babies were stillborn, weren’t they?

Then my phone started to ring. It was Adam. I think I answered it (if not it was Marie). I just told him to get to hospital. I don’t even think I told him where to go. I definitely didn’t tell him what had happened because he was either driving or about to drive. It seemed like an age before he came. But then I can’t remember what happened between him ringing and arriving. So it probably wasn’t that long. I just blurted out ‘I’m sorry, I’ve lost the baby’. I can see his face now and can feel how his arms gathered me up and give me the biggest and warmest hug I probably have ever had.

After some time, during which Adam rang my parents for me because I just couldn’t face breaking the news to them, we were moved from the antenatal ward to the Birth Suite. Now this was hard. Really hard. We had to walk through a door where there were beautiful canvasses of newborn babies on the walls of the corridor. Fresh tears. We were taken to the Serenity Suite. This is a room especially designed for parents like us, who wouldn’t give birth to a living baby. Who knew these rooms existed in hospitals? It had a kitchen area, shower room, double bed and television amongst other things. It was a place we would be able to move to after the birth, recuperate a little and spend some time with our baby.

A doctor and another midwife, Elaine, came to speak to us and talked us through what would happen next. Although they were lovely, nothing could prepare us for the next bombshell. We would have to give birth naturally by being induced. I had just expected a caesarean section. We would have to go through labour. Now it makes perfect sense as to why, but back then we were just dumbstruck.

I was given something which would start the induction process (no idea what, a pill I think?). We were told we could stop in the Serenity Suite for the weekend, but instead we chose to go home. We wanted to be surrounded by familiar things, surroundings, our cats and be in our home. We had to return back to the Birth Suite in 48 hours for the next stage of the induction process, provided nothing happened before then. Elaine reassured us that she would be on duty and so would look after us when we came back.

We left the hospital about 5 or 6pm I think. Being January it was already dark. Which suited our mood. Adam drove us back home to what would be a very long weekend. To tell family and friends. To continue with our lives together. Down a very different path to the one we were happily walking along that morning.

 

 

A Lasting Lullaby

Last night (or should I say the early hours of this morning), Baby Rainbow aka Jude wouldn’t settle. He’s started with a cold I think and was pretty grizzly. This is not a usual occurrence as despite not yet being 6 months, he is an excellent sleeper. Sorry! I am one of those annoying mothers who has a baby that has slept through from an early age.

Anyway I ended up bringing him downstairs, trying my best to soothe him to sleep. I paced up and down (clocking up 1500 steps on my FitBit in the process!) and after all else failed, I started singing. It’s not that I never sing, I just don’t sing to him a lot. The one song that pops into my head when I do sing to calm my rainbows is a lullaby that my grandma used to sing to me. As I started, I had the most vivid recollection of her. I always do whenever I sing or hear this lullaby, as I associate the song with her. I could picture being in her spare room, dark but with the light coming through the door. I think (but this could be my mind playing tricks) that there is a pink eiderdown and grandma is sat on the top of the bed, singing to me:

Moon stars“Go to sleep my baby,  Close those pretty eyes, God is up above you, looking at the beauty of the skies.

Great big moon is shining, Stars begin to peep, It’s time that little Rachel Smith was going to sleep. “

 

My memory is at least 30 years old, yet it is so clear it could be from last week.

It’s not the most popular lullaby I don’t think but it is simple and beautiful. I have also since heard the phrase ‘Angels up above you” and so I now sing this as it makes me think of Ewan and my grandma, together looking down on us.

2 Rainbows, dreamyIt worked a treat, well after about 50 repetitions and Jude finally dropped off. Before heading back upstairs, I just took some time to stare at his beautiful face and count my blessings.