From the outside looking in you would think I had everything a girl could want: a happy marriage, an amazing son, a beautiful home and a dog. Appearances can be deceiving, I do have it all, but what I don’t have is all my children at home.
From a young child I assumed I would have been married and starting a family by the age of 25, however that age passed rapidly. I was far too busy enjoying myself and hoping Mr Right would come along sooner rather than later. It’s seemed like forever…
Four years later than my child self had planned, Steve appeared, After a few weeks I decided he was the chosen one. We enjoyed being a couple and doing what couples did: pub, days trips, holidays and being spontaneous because we could. The subject of having a family was raised and highlighted on date three, I didn’t have time to waste. My biological clock ticking so I was reminded by my family on numerous occasions!
We’d been together for just over three years and decided we were ‘gonna go for it’ and see what happened! Well, it actually wasn’t too bad, lots of practice and six months on, I did a home test with our dog Belle as my accomplice. I couldn’t believe it, we were pregnant. I had begun to worry myself having previously being tested for endometriosis. Every emotion rushed through my head. It was real! How was I going cope? What about work…? I couldn’t wait to show Steve the test upon his arrival home! In summary: he was very proud of himself and himself!
Being our first pregnancy we had no idea what to expect, the GP surgery booked us in for our first routine midwives appointment and the process was explained. We were low risk and everything seemed great. I was very proud to walk out with my pregnancy folder and the start of my notes.
Our scans went well, all routine tests returned clear at 20 weeks and confirmed we were having a girl – I was so pleased! We’re pretty top-heavy on girls in the family and I was pleased I too would contribute to the number.
As the weeks went by my pregnancy was perfect, a beautiful little bump, nice and neat. All was going as it should, the end was in sight and we were so excited to meet our baby girl. My placenta was at the front of my bump which resulted in limited feeling of her movements, but they grew stronger as she did and we were reassured at every midwife visit that all was well.
Forty weeks pregnant
At 40 weeks I had a stretch and sweep, and a few days later I had some fluid leak after I’d been bouncing on the ball for a while. Unsure and slightly un-nerved Steve and I visited the hospital the next morning. I was hooked up to the monitor and baby checked, we were sent on our way, all happy.
The onset of labour
Finally on the 6th October 2015, I woke early about 4am with soft pains. Feeling apprehensive but thrilled she was coming, I decided to run a bath and relax, in fact I think I had about five baths that morning. We checked in with the hospital to advise we were having contractions and would stay at home up until they increased, to the desired five contractions in five minutes. Then, my contractions became sporadic, so we decided to visit the hospital in the evening to get checked ‘just incase’.
To the hospital we went.
I provided a urine sample, and I was scanned to check the baby and that’s when our worst nightmare was revealed – there was no heartbeat. She had gone.
I have no recollection of the midwife’s name, it all seemed like a fast-forwarded blur. She held my hand tight as the emergency crew were alarmed and I was prepped for theatre. Additional midwives scanned again hoping it was just the placenta blocking her, but still no heartbeat was found.
She had gone, she was dead.
Tears flooded my eyes, I was in shock and disbelief. I felt guilty, heartbroken. I was unsure of how to feel. I was unable to absorb the word, ‘gone’. Steve was watching over me from the corner. I’d carried her all the way, 40 weeks and five days and she’d gone. The guilt of letting her down, and Steve.
How had I not known she’d died inside of me?
Delivering our daughter
We were moved from the general ward to a side room and waited for the on-call consultant to arrive who would confirm the findings of the midwives. They needed two scans to confirm. We were asked to return in the morning where I would be given a pill which would bring on labour to deliver our daughter. Steve was amazingly strong and held me and took the reins where I’d normally do so. I don’t even remember the drive home.
Later that evening our baby girl had no intension of waiting. My contractions continued into the early hours – I consider myself to have a high pain threshold but jeeze!
We returned a few hours later to deliver. After I was examined the midwife was delighted to tell me I was 9 centimetres dilated – explaining why my pain was so intense. I definitely have a great pain threshold.
Steve called our parents and my sister’s partner to inform them what was happening. My parents and sister arrived at the hospital and sat in the next room listening to my whale noises throughout the labour.
After eight hours of sleeping through the gaps in my contractions and with Steve by my side I delivered her, the air fell silent as our baby girl was placed on my chest. I was so proud, I’d done it! She was so perfectly formed, and ours!
It all seemed a blur, I don’t recall all of the events that took place, and I will occasionally get a flashback and question Steve who will fill in the blanks and tell me another story.
We spent a few hours together in the ‘Snowdrop’ room at our local Hospital. The bereavement midwife helped me bathe our baby and dress her, take the memory prints of her hands and feet and a lock of her hair.
She then informed us of what was to happen next and how we would say goodbye. There was so much information but again Steve took the lead where I couldn’t.
My body still dealing with the after effects of having a baby, the wobbly tummy which housed and protected my baby, the pain relief, the enlarged breasts, the milk coming through and the continuous bleeding. My body coped better than my emotions, my body supported me and did everything it could to be kind.
Time flew, and saying goodbye to her that evening was the most difficult part of the journey. We left the hospital as parents but without our daughter.
My world shattered, we visited her everyday until the day of her cremation.
On the 16th October 2015, just ten days after her birth she was cremated at our local crematorium.
I hated having to do the arrangements, registering her, getting a voucher to pay for her funeral, having to write a spiel about our daughter and our lost hopes and dreams we’d had and discussed.
Preparing to say our final goodbyes was something we had to do, I didn’t want to and found it to be a tick box exercise.
Having to actually tell family and friends she had arrived but didn’t survive was so difficult, I could see their sadness and sorrow for us.
There are things you’d never think of, packing her room away, the tiny beautiful pink clothes. Packed away until I can cope to know what’s best to do with them.
Light in the darkness
We had no intention to marry, however we decided to do so and took off to Birmingham Registry office on the 28th November 2015. Some light in our darkness, some happiness to overshadow the pain. She bought us together, to be husband and wife.
The reality of being on maternity leave but with no baby to care for was incredibly difficult. I thought at the time it would be a great idea to return to work, just four months after. I was an Account Manager, based from home. It was by far not the best decision in which left me unable to get through a whole day, let alone be productive and normal. The driving alone was the worst: dark thoughts, what ifs, stupid thoughts.
I struggled returning to my previous position and having to tell people. It was like ground hog day. All I did was cry. Eventually I confessed to my employer and my role was adapted.
The only thing that kept me fighting was Steve and the thought of our future together.
It just so happened that being at work was a means to an end because I was expecting our second child, otherwise known as our rainbow. I had six months to work before I was due to be on maternity leave again. This pregnancy, however, was most definitely over shadowed with anxiety and darkness. Since we lost our first all I had wanted to do was be pregnant and prove to myself I could bring baby home.
Every twitch made me a nervous wreck, over thinking each scenario. The health professionals were fantastic and helped reassure where they could with regular scans and midwife visits. The pregnancy was long, hard and so different, I had a huge bump. It was so different, because this time we were expecting a boy.
Small milestones and achievements
I took it week by week setting small milestones and achievements. This time we opted for a planned C-section, and on the 22nd September 2016 we welcomed our son safely into the world. He was a whopper at 9lb 13oz. I was so thankful he was safe. The emotion most definitely flooded the room, he was perfect and healthy. This time we got to bring our son home and enjoy being his parents. He is now very nearly three and every inch a boy. He is a trooper and rises to any challenge, making us smile and beam with pride daily.
Answering awkward questions and the reality of being honest
I took the full year of maternity to enjoy being a new parent, I signed up to tots classes to socialise and make sure Harrison didn’t miss out even though I found myself becoming socially awkward. All the firsts I did with Harrison, I missed out on with our daughter – this hit pretty hard. But I had to focus on Harrison and be the best mummy he deserves. Meeting new people made me so anxious, mainly about what they were going to ask, I was scared how to answer. For example –
“How many children do you have?” ‘Just Harrison…’ in my Head – ffs, why? My heart breaks as I say this! Why am I lying? Just say the truth – but then watch the ground swallow them up as I answer.
“Is he your first?” – “Yes”. Politely… In my head though – fuck no, I’ve carried and delivered two – she didn’t make the delivery! Note awkwardness.
People I’ve not seen since my first pregnancy – “I thought you were having a girl?” “I did, she sadly didn’t make it.” Again an awkward pause… And in my head – ffs, fuck off! That was two years ago, he’s one and a boy! Clearly something doesn’t add up, so why ask?!
“It didn’t go to plan. Better luck next time”. Smiles… – There is simply no need to respond at all – cheeky fucker!
Gym re-enrolment – Beefy guy asks cockily, “What gives you depression?” from GP referral… Like I’m taking the governments money and taking liberties. Completely unprepared for a counselling session I answer, “My daughter was still born.” Awkward! Cue more tears…
Dentist – I get free dental when pregnant and up to when my child is one year old… Shocked voice: “It must be difficult with two under two!” Me = frown, smile.
Work customer: “You’ve returned early!”… “She didn’t makes it.” Tears! #Missedtheannouncement.
Doctor’s visits – invited for some type of injection. Questions about baby. Why does no one read my notes? AGAIN, tears.. There are teardrops on my notes for a reason.
“Gonna try again for a girl?” – “Yeah, maybe when the time’s right.” Slightly dismissive in my reply. My head – I’ve had my daughter! She’s super special and as long as my future children are healthy and happy that’s all I care about – they’re mine!
Harrison was 18 months in May 2017 when we discovered we were pregnant with our third child. Another emotional pregnancy but this time I so wanted it to be different – I wanted to be happy and enjoy being pregnant.
I’d had some spotting – not a lot, and not fresh blood. The doctors advised I hold out til my 12-week scan which was booked. Apprehensive, we attended the scan, I just needed to see baby and know everything was OK. But there was no heartbeat, baby had passed at eight weeks and four days… We were shattered once again.
Given the options on the what happens next, I opted for the extraction. A week later I was no longer pregnant. Attempting to work out what plan B was, what was I gonna do now? Unable to cope emotionally with another pregnancy I decided I would not return to my old employer, I walked away from a good job, company car and benefit package. I simply couldn’t face going backwards where everyone knew my story. I sought a new challenge elsewhere. Most definitely not what we had planned, but the universe clearly has different plans for us.
Reflecting back on our journey, I’m saddened by the pain and I wish it had never happened to us or continue to happen to anyone. The emotional rollercoaster: My husband didn’t blame me, he supported me and did everything to keep me fighting.
You never think it’s going to happen to you but it did and this is our journey, the one we took together, I’m lucky he’s a keeper and our journey as a family continues.
As I write this I’m 36 and a month away from returning to full time employment, a new chapter to embrace for a new year. I am anxious but I’m focused on succeeding and pushing myself to be the best me, mummy and wife I can be. 2019 is the year I’m fighting back… I question myself all the time – would I parent differently if I hadn’t have lost her? I could be a better mum, more patient… but my love is not questionable for my son and husband, it’s unconditional.
My mental health has taken a battering, I am fortunate to be surrounded by loving family and friends but there are times I’ve felt so lonely and isolated. I should be so happy that I have my son, yet my heart is not complete. I opted and tried but failed ‘Cognitive Behaviour Therapy’, it wasn’t for me. I’m considering counselling to talk about the events and her passing but I’m undecided.
I take the steps I think I need to do so and think about those steps.
A reader story by Gemma.
If you’ve been affected by Gemma’s story and need further help and support, we recommend Tommy’s website and advice line: 0800 0147 800, Monday to Friday, 9-5pm and The Lullaby Trust’s Information and Advice Line on 0808 802 6869. If you are looking for support following the death of a baby or toddler, The Lullaby Trust can help. Please phone our Helpline to talk to an Adviser on 0808 802 6868.