Tag Archives: stillbirth

Loss is loss, whenever it happens

Angel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#babyloss #breakthesilence

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I’m sorry for lying

2 Rainbows, dreamy

How many children do you have?

A simple question. Or is it?

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

I don’t. I have three.

So why do I lie?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blogging – is it worth it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Longest Weekend – My Stillbirth Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It wasn’t.

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

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

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.

 

 

Make your voice heard people – The NHS Maternity Services Review

I am big fan of our National Health Service. Before Ewan died I probably would have been quite non-committal about my thoughts on the NHS. Sometimes I would be pro-NHS. They agreed to take my tonsils out when I was 21, which, having suffered from tonsillitis approximately 8 times a year, I was eternally grateful to them for. But then I didn’t like my GP practice for a number of years – the GPs were grumpy, stroppy and had terrible ‘bedside’ manners (for the record I LOVE my current GP. He is ace!). On the whole I would probably have sat on the fence if asked for an opinion.

Since our experiences with Ewan’s stillbirth and my two subsequent rainbow pregnancies however, both Adam and I have not been able to fault the care we have received. If anyone asks, we could talk for hours about the professionalism, compassion and dedication of the maternity teams at the Lancashire Women and Newborn Centre at Burnley, in particular our beloved midwives and consultant! I honestly don’t think I could find a bad word to say about them. The midwife who delivered Ewan was simply wonderful. I am so grateful to her for helping to make what was in essence the most awful experience of our lives, into a beautiful, calm, peaceful and memorable time. I hope one day to write a blog post about this particular experience. We were then supported through our next pregnancies with kid gloves by an amazingly kind and considerate consultant who absolutely understood our worries and stresses.

maternity review 3

So when I heard about the current NHS maternity review, I knew I wanted to go along and make my voice heard. There is currently a roadshow of drop in review events taking place up and down the country. Today I went along to my local event in Preston to share my views and also make suggestions. I am not so naïve to realise that a) improvements can’t be made and b) everyone has received the same care that we have. I truly believe, for example, that women (and men) would benefit from seeing the same midwife from day one, through all their antenatal and then postnatal appointments. We were lucky with our second pregnancy to be allocated a case-load midwife. I saw her every few weeks. She attended some of our hospital appointments and visited me at home. Through this I was able to trust her and ask questions that I may never have asked a ‘random’ community midwife. After we took Dylan home she came to visit a few times and I remember once compiling a list of about 15 questions for her. Some of them seem ridiculous now (I had about 3 questions alone about burping…. the baby, not me!), but I knew that she wouldn’t laugh at me because I had already built a good relationship with her.

Also, in relation to my last blog post, I referenced how mothers should be tested for Group B Strep as standard practice in the latter stages of pregnancy.

Maternity review

With Rainbow Jude and my old school friend Kelly who is now involved in NHS service commissioning

Anyway the review is ongoing for the next couple of months. So if you have had experience of maternity services anywhere in the UK, either as a parent, grandparent, friend or in any other capacity, now is the time to feedback about your experiences. Positive or negative, the NHS want to hear what you have to say. If you aren’t able to make it along to one of the drop-in sessions here, then email england.maternityreview@nhs.net.

Make sure you have your say.

The charity we never knew existed

We found out Ewan had died before he was born. His heart stopped beating when I was 32 weeks pregnant. We were in hospital at the time and after the ultrasound, we were taken to their Serenity Suite for an explanation on what would happen next. It was at this point we were given a leaflet by one of the midwives ‘When a baby dies before labour begins’. It had been written and published by a charity called Sands – the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society. This was the first time I had ever heard of them. I was still reeling from the fact that I thought stillbirth ended in the 1920’s. Yet here we were in the 21st century, discovering otherwise. And not only that but a charity dedicated to stillbirth research, supporting families and training professionals. The booklet helped to prepare us for what was to come. The birth, creating memories and keepsakes, the funeral, post-mortems. Things that clearly we didn’t have a clue about.

Sands logo

We elected to go home instead of staying in hospital for the next 48 hours. That night in between speaking to friends and family, I read the booklet from cover to cover. Although we had been given some of the information in hospital, we had been too dazed and in shock to take it all in. Afterwards I went on the Sands website and when in the early hours sleep deserted me, I read virtually every single webpage. There was a section called ‘My Story’ in which bereaved parents and family had written about their personal experiences. I think I looked at all of them. I needed to find out what they had been through. How had their babies died? It was as though I could gain some comfort in knowing other people had a similar experience to us. It helped to know that we weren’t alone. With each story I cried fresh tears, joining in their grief along with my own.

Reading the website I realised that whilst stillbirth is not common, it isn’t as rare as you may think. There are more instances of stillbirth than SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) or cot death as it used to be known. In the year Ewan was born (2011) there were 3,811 stillbirths compared with 723,913 live births. In the same year there were 244 unexplained infant deaths (this includes sudden infant death). All statistics are from the Office for National Statistics website.

In the days after Ewan’s birth, we had to plan his funeral. We kept it a very small affair with immediate family and a couple of close friends. Someone rang and asked if we wanted flowers or money donating to a charity. Before then I hadn’t really attended a lot of funerals, so wasn’t familiar with the practise of donating money. It seemed fitting to choose Sands as a charity and so set up a Justgiving page in memory of Ewan. We told our friend and then decided to message the link to a few people, just so they didn’t feel as though they needed to ring with the same question (we quickly realised how some people found it difficult to make initial contact with us). I still have a copy of the email I sent the day after Ewan was born:

In Memory of Ewan

Hi everyone  

I’m more or less 100% sure that you are all aware of our recent news. If not then the link below will explain everything further.   We have had lots of extremely kind words, cards, text messages, emails and phone calls. We have also received a lot of flowers which have been a comfort to us both, brighten up our home and look beautiful. However we are starting to run out of space! A few people have asked whether we would like flowers at the funeral or a donation to charity. As such this has prompted us to set up a Justgiving memorial page in Ewan’s memory. We have chosen the charity SANDS (the stillbirth and neonatal death charity) – the information on their website, leaflets from the hospital and hospital facilities have already helped us enormously. If you would like to visit the page and/or donate then that would please us both tremendously however there is no pressure if you don’t.

 

We set up a system with Justgiving that I received an email every time a donation was made. Within an hour the first email came, then another, and another and so on. We were completely taken aback with how quickly our friends, family and work colleagues responded and also how generously. The page suddenly became a tiny ray of hope and joy to us. We got more excited with each donation and each landmark – £500, £1000. The amount kept rising! We said to ourselves ‘Look at our clever boy. He’s raised so much money’. It cheered us that something positive was coming out of a negative.

Justgiving (2)

To date the total on the page stands at £7111 plus gift aid of £679. This includes money from a quiz we held a few months later, donations from guests at a friend’s wedding (instead of gifts) and a friend’s baby sweepstake! We are so immensely proud of our son for raising this money and never dreamed it would be so high. We would have been happy with £500.

Talking to a friend last night, she asked if we were still raising money for Sands. When I thought about it, I realised it was quite some time since our last fundraising venture – we both took part in a local 10k run two years ago and raised over £400. Although recently Dylan’s nursery had a fun day and half the money raised was donated to Sands. Adam has also just started a monthly donation and I have recently booked another quiz night for October. But it made me think how I would like to use this blog to help further raise awareness of stillbirth and the work of Sands, along with other stillbirth and baby loss charities. If just one donation is made as a result of this blog post, I will be over the moon.

Sands 10k

The understanding and help we gained from Sands was invaluable and if we can help to raise money to support others, again this would be a great comfort to us. And of course, be ever more proud of our beautiful Angel.

 

 

What’s in a name?

Growing up I didn’t really have a nickname. But that didn’t last for very long when I started university. It was a bit of a ritual to be given a nickname in the first few weeks. And almost 20 years on (ok that really makes me feel old!), mine still refuses to be forgotten. To be honest I don’t mind. I quite like it actually.

Ninja

Don’t worry, I’ll explain. Without boring you too much, in Fresher’s Week there was an event at the Student Union bar. I’d maybe had a wee bit too much to drink (it was Fresher’s Week after all) and maybe got a wee bit too feisty with some students from a ‘rival’ hall of residence. A few weeks later it was reported in our Hall newsletter that the Ginger Ninja from Burnley had started a fight. And so the Ninja part stuck. Ok so the part about me starting a fight wasn’t strictly quite true, but I wasn’t going to let an elaboration of the truth get in the way of a good urban legend … and a good nickname!

Some of my close friends don’t even use my real name (I think they have forgotten what it is). They have even taught their children to call me Auntie Ninja. I wonder if they will still use it when I am sat in my rocking chair with grandchildren at my feet!

2 Rainbow picture

Two rainbows (I didn’t take this… I wish I had!)

 

So where does the title of my blog come from? An Angel and Two Rainbows. The name describes our children. Our Angel – Ewan, our eldest son who died before he was born and his two younger brothers Dylan and Jude, our Rainbows . The term ‘Rainbow baby’ is used to describe a baby that is born following a still birth, infant death or miscarriage. I had never heard this term before until I became pregnant with Dylan (our second baby). The rainbow represents beauty, colour and brightness following the darkness and misery of a storm. I keep finding these words below on the internet. I’m not sure where it comes from:

“Rainbow Babies” is the understanding that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of the storm.

When a rainbow appears, it doesn’t mean the storm never happened or that the family is not still dealing with its aftermath.

What it means is the something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds.

Storm clouds may still hover but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of colour, energy and hope.

I can’t remember when I first heard the term, but I think it is such a lovely description. Some friends of ours tragically lost their baby boy about 18 months after Ewan died. A year later they had a baby girl – they gave her Rainbow as a middle name. How beautiful and special for her.

I’d been musing about a blog title for a few days and wasn’t happy with anything I thought of. Then, when I was out for a run, with my head clear the name just popped into my brain. I knew straight away given the things that I wanted to write about, it was the perfect name. I was so happy that I ran an extra lap around the reservoir!

When I was pregnant, Ewan was always our number one boy’s name. I remember being on holiday when I was about 8 weeks pregnant and we started to tentatively and excitedly talk about names. We knew we probably shouldn’t at that early stage. Anyway there was no contest with Ewan and Adam and I were in complete agreement.

We found out that Ewan had died two days before he was born. Friday 14th January 2011. We spent the weekend at home before we went back into hospital on the Sunday to give birth. We decided to finalise names before going in. Adam and I had an agreement early on that we would be honest with each other and talk about anything, no matter how we felt. We talked about how we weren’t sure whether to use the name Ewan (I think I was the one who brought it up). Because it was our favourite name. The one we had always wanted. If we used it for our baby who wasn’t going to live, then we couldn’t use it again if we were lucky enough to have another boy. So we started to think of other names. I can’t even recall what the suggestions were. It doesn’t really matter because we quickly realised that none of them seem right. So we decided to go with our first choice.

A few days later after Ewan was born, Adam said to me that he was so glad that we went with our hearts and chose our favourite name. Because it was our special name and our angel was, and will always be, so very special. If we had chosen any other name, it would have been like saying Ewan was second best. When he was anything but. In hindsight it now seems almost ridiculous that we had that initial conversation. Why did we ever think that we wouldn’t call him Ewan? But also in hindsight I remember that we were in a state of real shock and despair, and that helps me understand.

Whilst we were able to pick Ewan’s name easily, it took us a long time to agree on Dylan and Jude, our two Rainbows. Not down to me I might add. Adam was the fussy one (you know the episode of Friends where Ross and Rachel are trying to pick names? – Adam veto-ed almost everything I suggested!). I love all three names, but Ewan? It’s just that extra bit special.

The start of something new – my first blog post

So this is it, my first blog post.

I imagine most people reading this first post will know me personally. And perhaps be wondering why I am starting a blog? I’ll do my best to explain.

I have always enjoyed writing in some capacity. As well as loving English at school, from the ages of about 11 to 13 I kept a diary. I wrote my innermost thoughts and feelings … ok, so actually that bit isn’t strictly true. From recollection my first diary wasn’t very in depth. I spent more time detailing what I had eaten for my lunch at school and what time I went to bed, than exploring my adolescent emotions. But that did change over time. When I discovered boys! I kept my diary hidden under my mattress. At the time I thought it was an awesome hiding place. Oh how wrong I was. With two older brothers in the house, you can imagine I wasn’t the only one who knew the contents. Anyway I gave up writing a diary. I’m not 100% why – probably because I knew it wouldn’t stay hidden for long!

Until now, the only other times I have written a diary/journal have been on my travels. When I was 20, I spent a month Inter-railing in Europe one summer with three friends. We all wrote a diary every day. A couple of years later I backpacked around the world and catalogued every day of my entire journey. Eight countries over fourteen months. It was a mammoth undertaking and at times hard work. I used to refer to it as the millstone around my neck. But now I am so glad that I took the time and effort to do it. Occasionally when I’m in a reflective mood I go up into our loft, find my battered diaries and lose myself for an hour. (I just nipped up to take this photo and got caught up in my Indonesia adventures!)

Diaries

My round-the-world travel diaries (in all their battered glory)

 

Recently I embarked on the #100HappyDays challenge (it is still ongoing!) for the second time. It has struck me how much I have enjoyed composing my post each day. I have also recently started to read a few blogs (mainly mum/parenting related!) which have fired my enthusiasm for writing and made me wonder whether I could do it too. So here I am, having a go!

Me and Jude blogging

Setting up my blog, with Jude’s ‘help’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want to write about a variety of things. About my family – my children and my husband (if he’ll let me) and the fun things we get up to. About my life as a working mum (ok I am on maternity leave at the moment, but that won’t be forever) and my attempts at juggling work, home life, parenting and keeping fit. I want to write about the beautiful corner of the country where I live (Lancashire) as well as our jaunts out and about. Maybe I will also write about our two cats and how they are sometimes harder work than the rest of the family put together!

There is also one significant subject I want to write about. Our eldest son. Our angel. Ewan.

Ewan was born in January 2011. But we never brought him home. He was stillborn.

I want to use my blog to share our story, how it affected us and how time helped us to heal. Not entirely. Because there will also be a piece missing.

But we learnt to laugh and love again. And we were so incredibly lucky to go on and give birth to two healthy and happy boys. Our two rainbows. Dylan and Jude.

Anyway I hope you will enjoy my posts and musings over the next few days, weeks and months to come. I am looking forward to developing the look of my blog – admittedly it’s a bit basic at the moment and I’m just getting my head around using WordPress. I also have a logo/heading being designed, which I am very excited about. Hopefully it will be ready to showcase soon, but I just couldn’t wait any longer to post. Impatience is my middle name!