Tag Archives: Loss

#15babiesaday Campaign

If you asked me any time before January 2011, how many babies were stillborn everyday, I imagine I would have said 3 or 4. To be honest I just wouldn’t have had a clue, but not knowing anyone or really hearing anything about stillbirth, I know the answer would have been low. At the time we lost Ewan, 17 babies a day did not survive in the UK. More specifically this means babies born from 24 weeks gestation onwards who were either stillborn, or died within 4 weeks of birth. SANDS had a campaign at the time called Why 17? Why on earth, in such a prosperous country, were 17 babies dying each day?

On the positive side, this rate has started to go in the right direction, however in mine (and a lot of other people’s opinion), it hasn’t reduced enough. In 2015, the UK was rated 24th out of 49 high income countries. Poland, Croatia and the Czech Republic all had lower rates of stillbirth than in the UK. I’m not an expert but shouldn’t we be leading the way rather than lagging behind Portugal, Slovakia and Estonia?

Today, June 15th, Sands have launched a new campaign based on the fact that STILL 15 babies die every day. Now to all you lovely blog readers, that statistic isn’t new. Since the beginning of the year, it is something I have mentioned almost every time I’ve written. I’m over a third of the way through my 15 races for 15 babies challenge. A typical topic of conversation now is ‘how many runs have you got to go’. Most people think I’ve done more than I actually have (is that a sign people are getting bored? I hope not!).

The charity has a number of different social media initiatives for the campaign including the obligatory selfie shot! Click here if you are interested in any 15 themed fundraising. Of course I am pretty chuffed with myself to already be on the bandwagon with my 15 themed challenge …. hmmm I wonder if they saw it and realised what a cracking idea it was! One particularly effective initiative has been a tweet they have sent every 96 minutes, highlighting that approximately every hour and a half a baby dies.

          

I hope that in 2 or 3 years time we there will be campaigns of ‘Why 13’ or ‘Why 11’ or ‘Why 9’. And then a few years later we will be celebrating having the number 1 rating, with acceptably low to non-existent numbers. Just how amazing would that be.

Although I say time and time again how blessed we are with our beautiful, amazing rainbows, there will always be a small part of us with Ewan. When I see Dylan and Jude playing together, laughing and wrestling (!) with innocent, wide eyed smiles, occasionally I wonder what Ewan’s smile would have looked like and how his laugh would have sounded.

And although I went onto give birth without complications and have two healthy boys, nothing will ever take away the pain that I felt, that even now when writing about I can still feel in my stomach and chest, when I was told Ewan’s heart had stopped. When he was born into silence. When we went home alone.

All the joy and happiness we have experienced as a family over the last 5 years, and hopefully will do in the many years to come will never erase our memories of Ewan.

If by sharing this post, a selfie or a Sands tweet or by making a donation or getting involved in any other kind of fundraising, we can continue to reduce the number of stillbirths, then Ewan’s life will have truly had a purpose.

http://www.justgiving.com/15races15babies

#15babiesaday

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#15races15babies

#TeamSands

Baby Loss Awareness Week

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Being a mum can be hard sometimes. Really hard. But not being a mum, when you really want to be. That’s a whole different ball game.

Tomorrow is the start of Baby Loss Awareness Week. If you asked me 6 years ago whether I’d heard there of such a week, my answer would have been no. If you asked me whether I would be sat up on a Saturday night writing about losing a baby, I would have thought you were mad.

But here I am. A bereaved mother. Unfortunately not alone, but one of many.

It is estimated that one in four women experience pregnancy loss. A quarter. 25%. Before our own loss, I knew of very few people who have been affected. In the few days following Ewan’s death, the number doubled if not tripled. People shared their own experiences or those of friends or relatives. Some were recent, others dated back 40 years. All too quickly, baby loss became far more common that I ever realised. Just less than 3 weeks after losing Ewan, one of my best friends received devastating news about her own pregnancy. The only slither of a silver lining being that I felt I was able to help her because of my own experience.

Talking about the loss of a baby is often taboo. I’ve often thought about why that is. I think generally as a society we don’t like to talk about death. We find it uncomfortable. People don’t know what to say to one another. Most likely for fear of saying the wrong thing. For some reason that is heightened when it is the death of a baby. Whether it is an early miscarriage or a full term pregnancy.

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Ewan at 12 weeks

As part of Baby Loss Awareness Week I am here to talk about it. Break the Silence. That has always been an aim of my blog, I just unfortunately don’t have the time to write often. But I’ll be honest, I do sometimes worry that people don’t want to read what I have to say about our experiences. I think I should write about jollier things. Silly really. If you don’t want to read, no-one is stopping you.

So unashamedly throughout this week I’ve decided to either write a new blog or share an old one every day. To commemorate but also to embrace. I’ll apologise in advance if they are upsetting (there is always a get out clause – you don’t have to read them). Hopefully for those of you who have ready my posts before, you will know that I try to look for the positives. You know that I consider us to be so incredibly blessed to have two amazing, beautiful, energetic and fun-loving boys, who have helped us to heal in so many ways. But know that we will never ever fully heal. Any bereaved parent will tell you the same.

Please take some time out of your busy lives to find out more about Baby Loss Awareness Week.  About the 24 amazing charities who are involved, who tirelessly raise awareness throughout the year and campaign for change.

http://babyloss-awareness.org/

If you know someone who has lost a baby, take time this week to acknowledge their loss. Whether it was last month, last year or 40 years ago. I am sure they will appreciate a hug or a few words so that they know you have been thinking of them.

Finally, if you can, join the Global Wave of Light on October 15th at 7pm. October 15th is International Pregancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Families all over the world will be remembering their babies who were taken too soon. Light a candle at 7pm and leave it burning for at least an hour. Post your photo to Facebook or Twitter to join the digital Wave of Light using #waveoflight

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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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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!

Giants Causeway Me and Jen Ruth and co Ruth wedding

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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Enchanting Stars

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I discovered after starting my own blog, that there are thousands of blogs out in cyber space. Probably tens to hundreds of thousands. Far too many to read and keep up with. There are however, a small number of blogs that I do subscribe to. These are the ones that, in particular, I love to read. Either the content or style of writing, or both.

There is one I really want to share with you – ‘Same Person, Different Me’. You may already be aware of the author/blogger, Joanne Thompson. She is the co-founder (along with her husband Dan) of the charity Millie’s Trust. Joanne and Dan set up the charity after the tragic death of their baby daughter Millie in a choking incident in 2012. The charity offers first aid training at extremely low costs (and in some cases free) as they believe everyone should have access to gaining life-saving skills, regardless of circumstances. In addition they are petitioning for all staff in nurseries to be Paediatric First Aid trained.

Our children are similar ages. Dylan and Millie were both born in January 2012. Jude and their second baby, Leo were both born in February 2015. I wonder if that is one of the many reasons why I am drawn to reading Joanne’s blog. We have also both experienced losing a child, although admittedly in very different circumstances.

It is clear that the family went through an incredibly heart-breaking and devastating experience. And still are. And whilst some people would be completely broken (not to say that they weren’t), they channelled their energies to create something positive and worthwhile. A lasting memory of their baby girl, Millie’s charity. They are the epitome of an inspirational couple.

Same Person, Different Me is a very emotional blog. Joanne writes very candidly about her memories of Millie, how she deals with different anniversaries and the mental health illnesses she was diagnosed with after Millie’s death. She also writes about Millie’s brother, their Rainbow Leo and the absolute joy he gives them. She writes about how she got through her pregnancy and how she is currently dealing with the issue of weaning. Most parents out there would see weaning as an exciting time. But understandably given the way Millie died, it has been much more difficult for Joanne. I feel as though she is so incredibly brave to share her thoughts and feelings. If you are going to read any other blog, then please head on over to take a look.

Finally (and this is what has prompted me to share my love for the blog), Joanne and Dan have entered a competition by Thomson to name a plane! They could very easily have chosen a name representing Millie or Leo. But instead they have entered ‘Enchanting Stars’ to represent all our lost loved ones, flying high through the clouds. This is her full post with its beautiful explanation. So click on the link below to vote for Enchanting Stars. If you don’t have a lost loved one, then use your vote for our angel Ewan.

http://www.nameourplane.com/name/enchanting-stars

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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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……

Group B Strep Awareness Campaign

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One of my aims with this blog is to raise awareness of stillbirth, baby loss and anything connected to it. Since launching myself on Twitter a couple of weeks ago, I have learnt about a charity called Group B Strep Support and their ‘Why Guess’ campaign. July is Group Strep B awareness month which is possibly why I have heard so much about it. So whilst we are still in July (just) I wanted to pass on the information I have learnt to you all (another example of me devouring information on a website!), and hopefully engage your support.

In a nutshell, Group B Streptococcus is a normally occurring bacterium which is usually harmless and can be found in around 20-30% of people. However it can be passed from mother to baby around birth, and for those babies that develop Group B Strep infection it is potentially life-threatening.

Here come the numbers:

  1. Group B Strep is the most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies, causing septicaemia, pneumonia and meningitis
  2. Every week in the UK, one baby dies from group B infection
  3. Every fortnight in the UK, one survivor is left with long term mental or physical disabilities

Whilst many developed countries routinely offer pregnant women testing for Group B Strep, it is not offered in the UK. According to the charity, the test would cost £11 and if Group B Strep is detected, then it can be treated with penicillin. £11? I mean that’s not expensive is it? You can buy an 8 piece KFC bargain bucket for £10.99 (not sure why I used KFC as an example, I hate it!).

So you might be thinking, hmmm, one baby dies a week, that’s actually just 52 babies a year. Compare that with the 700,000+ babies born each year. Maybe that is why the test is not justified (I don’t know .. I am just speculating!). And although the test may seem cheap to us – £11, when you multiply it for every pregnant women that comes to well over £7 million a year. Now I’m not Jeremy Hunt (and I’m extremely glad I’m not – that guy is one seriously unpopular Health Secretary dude) and I don’t have the NHS purse strings. I don’t know exactly how much everything costs …. although I am guessing that they have one seriously LARGE budget. I do have friends who work for the NHS (and work bloody hard too) and they tell me how frustrated they can get with the money and time which is wasted.

And what I do know is this. I know the pain of losing a baby. I know the pain of having your dreams shattered in a heartbeat. I know how it feels when all the excitement of a newborn comes crashing down around you. I know that if Ewan had died because of an infection which could have easily tested and easily treated ……………. Actually that I don’t know. I can only imagine. Disbelief, horror, frustration, anger. Along with all the other awful feelings that bereavement brings.

So for that reason, I signed the petition asking for the NHS to routinely provide tests to pregnant women to prevent any more avoidable deaths. If you agree with me, then please do the same.

Group B Strep Petition

At the time of writing, there are over £190,000 signatures. Wouldn’t it be amazing to help push this up to their target of 200,000?

All the Group B Strep information has come from the GBS Support website if you want to read more. You can follow them on Twitter @GBSSupport and on Facebook

I think this is a really worthy campaign. I hope you do too. If you do sign the petition, I’d be really interested to know – leave a comment below, or on Facebook/Twitter.

And just a final thought for all the angels who have been taken, and the families who have been affected. My heart goes out to you all. Much love.