How Did You Know That Something Was Wrong?

This is a question that came up in my radio interview yesterday, and it really got me thinking! How did I know that Sophie has passed away… because I knew before I got to the hospital; I was convinced that, although I had been there 3 times during that week for the same thing, I knew that on this occasion they wouldn’t find a heartbeat, I just knew that she had died.

I do strongly believe that I had a ‘gut’ feeling on the lead up to her death, and I also feel that women should be listened to much more if they feel there is a problem… it’s just an inbuilt feeling which is hard to explain; women are very in tune with their bodies and very often they just ‘know’.

On that particular morning, when the movements had stopped and I had a ‘heavy’ sensation in my belly, I ‘knew’, and I didn’t rush to the hospital as I couldn’t bare to have it confirmed. I tried my home doppler and all I heard was an empty silence, no blood rushing through the placenta, no heartbeat… nothing… just silence. And I just ‘knew’.

Paul was trying to remain positive and it just broke my heart, because I knew that in a few hours his world would come crashing down; the children had no idea that there was a problem and that shattered my heart as I knew that I would have to tell them that their much longed for sister had passed away. My parents and Paul’s parents were so looking forward to Sophie’s birth… and I knew how devastated they would be when we told them.

So, in answer to this question, I just ‘knew’, I didn’t want to be right but I knew I was. How did you know that something was wrong? Were there any signs or symptoms? Or was it just a ‘gut feeling’?

IMG_0690[1]

Sophie’s Angels and the Future

I am constantly trying to think of ways to support more people who are going through the loss of their child and raise awareness about miscarriage, stillbirth and infant death. The Sophie’s Angels support group has become very successful, with many people making new friends and finding that connecting with other mums, dads, grandparents etc has helped them with their own grief. The Sophie’s Angels – Raising Awareness page has been amazing for raising awareness and breaking the taboo, and this blog is now being viewed all over the world which is just incredible.

The petition is going well… but it’s still very early days! However, the awareness it has raised concerning preventable stillbirths has been amazing! Sophie’s story and the petition have been on the Mirror Online twice, The Kent Messenger Newspaper, and tomorrow morning I have an interview with BBC Radio Kent. I have had a letter from the House of Commons in support of these changes. This wouldn’t be possible without so much support from friends, family, followers and other grieving families… so Thank you!

In the future I would really like to see Sophie’s Angels become a charity, and I am currently looking at ways to make that happen! I would ideally like the charity to concentrate on raising money for bereavement suites, cuddle cots, and memory boxes… not just for parents, but for siblings and grandparents too. I don’t feel that there’s enough support out there for siblings or grandparents.

So, exciting plans for the future! If you would like to sign and share the petition it would mean so much to many grieving families; and please feel free to join Sophie’s Angels if you have suffered a loss… it doesn’t matter how long ago that loss was.

Letter from the House of Commons!

I have, today, received a letter (which I’ve posted below) from Helen Whately at the House of Commons; she is our MP and the letter is very encouraging! In the letter she states ‘I agree with you that we must raise as much awareness as possible about baby loss. Our stillbirth and neonatal death rates are not as good as they should be given that we have one of the most advanced healthcare systems I the world’.

She has also given me pointers on who I can contact next, and asked me to contact the ‘All Party Parliamentary Group on Baby Loss’ as they are also campaigning to reduce the stillbirth and neonatal death rate, this was set up by two MP’s who have also suffered loss. I will be contacting them tomorrow.

She then goes on to say ‘I have written to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt to ask about scans and what assessment the Department of Health has made for routine scanning post 20 weeks’.

This is amazing, we still need a lot more signatures, but the awareness of the problem IS being raised, and recognised. This wouldn’t be possible without your support… So thank you xxx

To sign and share the petition please click here.

To Join Sophie’s Angels – Raising Awareness, please click here.

IMG_4919

 

Sophie’s 2nd Birthday

In less than two months it will be your 2nd birthday, how is that even possible!? How has it been nearly two years since you were born? What can we do to make this year special?

It is just so hard to plan a birthday for someone who is no longer with us, and absolutely everybody seems to have an opinion on what we should do, and how the day should go! Some think that the day should be celebrated with family and friends, while others feel that it should be a quiet affair with just me, Paul and the boys.

It is easy in comparison to plan a birthday party or celebration for your living children; to plan a large gathering with lots of family and friends, playing pass the parcel and eating Peppa Pig birthday cake! But when your child isn’t here it can be so hard to plan. The things that I envisaged for her birthday parties can never happen… and I struggle with that thought.

Last year, as it was her first birthday, we celebrated with lots of family and friends; I made cupcakes and we all had ‘tea and cakes’ before going to visit Sophie at her resting place; we then watched the most beautiful dove release by Sophie’s forever bed, and finally we went for a delicious meal at an Italian restaurant. But this year things are different, it’s not the first birthday anymore, many people are not expecting me to plan something, and I’m finding it quite hard!

Paul and I have conflicting opinions which doesn’t help! He would like a quiet day, with just me and the boys; almost a day of mourning and reflection. I, on the other hand, would like family and friends to be involved, with cake, a nice meal, and maybe a balloon release; so we can celebrate and remember the joy that she brought us… no matter how brief.

So, we will need to find a compromise! Maybe we can see friends and family the day before her birthday, which will then leave her birthday free for just us! What did you do on your angels birthday? How do you choose the remember the day?

 

Promises are Never Broken

I try very hard to always keep my promises, it’s not always easy but if I make a promise to one of my children then I will move mountains to make sure that I keep it! Promises are built on trust, and my children trust and depend on me, and I sure as hell won’t break a promise and disappoint my children!

When Sophie was born I made 3 promises. The first was that I would always love and remember her… that one is easy to keep because she will always be my daughter and I will always love her; the second promise was that we would find out why she died; this one was slightly harder because the post mortem can back largely inconclusive… she was perfectly healthy which made things harder; however, they were pretty certain that she died from placental insufficiency caused by a blood clot which restricted her oxygen; the third promise was that I would make sure that other people know about her, help to support other mums who’s babies have died and campaign for safer pregnancies and births to try to stop other people going through this… Well… my darling beautiful daughter, your legacy is living on! Your mummy will never break that promise and through the Facebook page, the support group, Twitter, the petition and this blog many, many people now know about you, they know your story and they have also felt supported in their own grief.

I am shocked and humbled by how many people have visited this blog and amazed by how many different countries your story has reached. People from all over the world know who you are and I am very proud to be your mummy. I will never give up and I will never stop fighting to reduce the rates of stillbirth, and I will always help and support the mummies of your angel friends.

Love always xxx

You Have to Live On

Last night I was watching an episode of Eastenders which made me think and analyse my own emotions; and how much these have changed since Sophie died. For those of you that don’t know, Eastenders is a Soap Opera in the UK; Max Branning has lost his daughter Abi, she is now brain dead and they are preparing to turn off her life support machine; he is obviously, like any grieving parent, a complete mess; Dot Cotton is trying to make him look to the future, and the speech she gave really made me start to think! In fact it kept me up last night wondering how my feelings, and the way I view ‘carrying on’ have changed over the last 22 months.

Dot’s speech went like this: ‘Don’t you think it’s time that you stopped hiding yourself away? Life can be very cruel and to lose a child is against the natural order of things. Is it because you feel guilty, that it was all your fault? You have to carry on for the sake of them that are left, Because they (the ones that have died) live in your memories, and you’ve got to live for them too; And you’ve got to live for yourself’.

Don’t you think it’s time that you stopped hiding yourself away?

When Sophie first passed I did hide myself away, I think that’s natural! I am still guilty of that now, although not as bad! I do like my own company though, my own thoughts… it’s just the way I am! But I do also enjoy the company of others, and they have helped me to ‘stop hiding myself away’. At first, I think it was the fear of people looking at me, not knowing what to say and just giving sympathetic glances in my direction; after a while I think the low motivation took over and I think I just wanted to shut out the world… this is natural and something which you have to work through in your own time.

Life can be very cruel and to lose a child is against the natural order of things

I can’t argue with this! No one expects to bury their child, and it is just heart-breaking that there are so many of us out there who have been in the position where we have to lay our child to rest.

Is it because you feel guilty, that it was all your fault?

Well… yes actually! Most grieving parents feel like this at some point, I know I have! I felt like I should have waited longer at the hospital, waited for a doctor, asked for a doppler scan; but hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I can’t change the past. However, there is one thing I want to tell you… it is NOT your fault… not even remotely your fault! It is cruel, and it is unfair; but it is not your fault.

You have to carry on for the sake of them that are left

My children, my husband, my family and my friends were the reason that I carried on in the early days. I HAD to get up to make sure Brett and Brendon got to school on time, I HAD to get up to take Aiden to toddler groups so that he could socialise, and I HAD to get up for Paul, so that he wasn’t left to deal with everything on his own… he was grieving too! My family and my friends were the only reason that I carried on; because if I was on my own, I’m pretty certain that I would have stayed in bed, staring at the ceiling, all day, every day!

They (the ones that have died) live in your memories, and you’ve got to live for them too

This is so true! Sophie lives on in our memories, and I try to make her proud with everything I do. Sophie is helping so many people now with the support group which is fantastic! Helping others, helps me to see a future; She is raising awareness with the petition; and many people across the world know about Sophie and her story. She is one of the reasons that I do carry on, I campaign for change for her, and I help people for her.

And you’ve got to live for yourself

This one was harder, but now, I am pleased to say… that finally, after 22 months, I am now living for myself too! I see the fun in life once again, and I can look to the future.

If you would like to sign and share the petition to reduce the number of preventable stillbirths, then please click here. It only takes a minute and would mean the world to me, my family, and other grieving parents.

If you have been affected by stillbirth, miscarriage or infant death, then you are very welcome to join Sophie’s Angels.

Please Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter.

How I feel – 22 Months On

How has it been 22 months since you left us? On one hand time seems to have flown by and on the other it has gone in slow motion. It’s a very bizarre thing! I am trying to find the words to say how I feel; I have written and rewritten this so many times, and the truth is… I just don’t know!! I still have so many emotions, and so many triggers. People don’t tend to see the real me! They see the happy, strong, organised me; but they don’t see the ‘me’ behind closed doors! They don’t see the ‘me’ who is jealous of every single pregnancy announcement, and the don’t see the ‘me’ who suffers with anxiety, who is so protective of my other children, and paranoid about something happening to them that I had a panic attack when there was an incident at my son’s school… my son wasn’t even involved but it still caused a major panic attack. These are the things that I keep to myself, these are the feelings that people don’t realise affect me, this is the ‘me’ that I tend to hide.

Because I’m still not sure exactly how I feel, I will start by talking about the feelings and emotions that haunt me, before talking about the positive way I feel… as I’m sure that the good outweighs the bad!

After so many losses, I am still triggered by pregnancy announcements and birth announcements, I still struggle to see new born babies, and although I recently held my friends baby (who I adore) it is hard. I am sorry if this comes across badly; I am truly very happy when someone is expecting, and when their baby is born; but I still feel that pang of jealousy… I don’t show it, but it’s there! My anxiety became quite bad recently, and I finally (after months of my husband pleading) saw the doctor, I am now on anxiety meds and waiting for an appointment for therapy to help with my panic attacks… This was an important but difficult step for me to take, as I like everyone to think that I’m in control and everything is ok!

Now we move to my other children. As you know, I have 3 boys Brett (18), Brendon (12) and Aiden (4); all very different characters but all lovely in their own way. Brett is going through a hard time at the moment, we are trying to get an ‘all over’ assessment by the doctor (we have an appointment tomorrow), because since Christmas he has been really unwell. We’ve been to the doctors 3 times so far, but I’m hoping that by seeing a different doctor tomorrow we may get better results! He needs referrals to lots of different departments to find out why he’s so unwell; and hopefully get him back to college. I worry about him so much because he IS very unwell, and we don’t seem to be getting answers! My middle son Brendon is very outgoing, he enjoys sports and loves to take a football to the park with his friends. This causes me so much anxiety, I ‘have’ to take a step back and let him have fun… but it’s so hard! I like him where I can see him, and I can’t see him if he’s out playing! I try not to make it obvious; going out with your friends is a good thing… but to the ‘me’ that I hide, it is scary! Now we move on to Aiden; he is a ‘character’… that’s they only way to describe him!!! But, my goodness he seems to find danger at every turn! He is always hurting himself, knocking things over, bumping into things… these are normal things for a 4 year old, I know that, but I still can’t help feeling worried! He is probably my biggest worry at the moment, as he doesn’t seem to recognise danger, and he is always putting himself in dangerous situations (Opening the oven door, running in the road, putting his fingers in the hinges of the door etc).

Losing a child changes you, there is no doubt about that… but one of the biggest changes at the moment is the paranoia that something might happen to one of my other children… and this I find hard to shake.

Now I’m going to move on to the things I am grateful for. I am very thankful that I have such an amazing, loving family. Paul and I have become closer throughout the losses, and as I know this can tear relationships apart, I am really pleased that this hasn’t happened with us! My children are happy and healthy (apart from the health concerns with Brett, but we will sort that one out!!), and we are very close as a family; we always keep the lines of communication open so that helps a lot! I am also grateful that I can speak to my mum and step-dad, my dad and step-mum and paul’s mum and dad about anything and everything! We really do have a fantastic family and I owe a lot of my strength and courage to them! They have supported me with anything that I wanted to do, and been there to wipe the tears!

My friends are amazing! I have both friends that I see, and online friends in the loss community… after losing Sophie I ‘lost’ quite a few friends and was upset for a long time; however, the friends that I have now are the most amazing people! It is true that you find out who your friends are when something tragic happens!

I am really happy that I have been offered an unconditional place to study Midwifery at Canterbury Christchurch University in September. Not many people would be happy to receive an ‘Anatomy and Physiology’ book, or a blood pressure monitor for Christmas… but for me… I was over the moon!! I’m excited and nervous!

Sophie has also given me the opportunity to help other people, which although it hurts like hell sometimes, I feel very privileged to be able to do it! Sophie’s Angels has grown so much recently, and although biased, I feel I have the most amazing admin team! They are always there for people, and we all truly care about the members of our group; some of which have become good friends, or formed friendships on the group. It has been great to see the group change and develop! Our Angel Sophie has also grown which is fantastic! More people are hearing Sophie’s story and more people are interacting with the page. Our Twitter Page is slowly growing and I’m finding this to be good way to communicate with a range of organisations and people. I am thankful that we have had media exposure, and were in the Mirror Online twice last week! This article focuses on Sophie’s Story, and this one focuses on the things not to say to grieving parents.

I am extremely grateful with the support that has been shown for the Petition, there are far too many preventable stillbirths and this need to change. At the time of writing this we have 3,069 signatures… still a long way to go, but it is rising and it is gaining awareness! If you could sign and share it then it would be really appreciated.

So, yes, there are now many things that I am grateful for! And although I still get ‘triggered’ and find some things really tough, I can see that we have a happy and positive future ahead!

Forever loved and forever missed my gorgeous girl, but you are making a difference and you legacy will live on xxx

Things to say, and not say, to grieving parents

I asked the members of Sophie’s Angels what things have stuck in their minds, following the loss of their precious children. I wanted this post to be raw, largely unedited, and from a grieving parents perspective. Yes – I can write the things that trigger me, or make me feel better, but as we all grieve differently I wanted a larger input on this. Many things were said to me when I lost Sophie, mostly people meant well, but even people that say things ‘out of love’ don’t realise how hurtful their words can be. I have previously (in July 2017) written a blog post on ‘Things not to say to a loss mum’ which you can read here; but I wanted to write an updated post with the helpful, as well as the not so helpful, comments that parents receive.

Are you ok?

Now this is obviously coming from a caring place, however this can be a real trigger for some! One of the members on my group replied to this comment with ‘of course I’m not ok what a stupid question’ and another member said ‘I used to reply with a curt no’. A better way to ask this question would be ‘How are you feeling?’

Are you going to try for another baby?

A member was asked this 2 days after losing her angel! 1. It is none of your business, 2. It is none of your business and 3. It is still none of your business would be my reply to this!

My midwife walked in for my post labour visit and asked me what I had

‘I thought that was really insensitive considering he was stillborn. She had my notes and they even stated his name so I was quite annoyed by that’, I am so sorry this happened, it shouldn’t happen! I know from my experience that I had to contact the community midwives and explain what had happened to Sophie, because the hospital didn’t let them know that she was stillborn, and therefore the postnatal home visit checks that I was told to expect didn’t happen until I contacted them myself!

It was Gods will/It wasn’t meant to be/Everything happens for a reason

This is really upsetting and triggers a lot of people (including myself), please think before you say this! What possible reason could be good enough for a child to die? How do you know it wasn’t meant to be? Think before you speak!

He’s in a better place

Excuse me… nope, nope, nope!! The best place is ALIVE with a loving mummy and daddy. Do not ever say this… it is not helpful one little bit!

You’re still young, you can try again

And your point is??? Do you really think that plays any bearing on how I feel right now! Another pregnancy won’t replace my son/daughter so what’s the point in even saying this?

Be grateful/lucky that you have the other two

One replied to this comment with exactly what I was thinking! She said ‘I actually started to respond back and which of your kids would you choose to lose as you actually have x amount’. I have had this said to me by well-meaning people a fair amount, these are generally people that don’t (thank goodness) know what it feels like to give birth to a lifeless baby.

He was to pretty for this earth, he will come back as a girl

I actually fail to see how this is in any way helpful!

9 months and your still crying, it will get better

I’m sorry but what time limit would you like to put on my grieving? I lost my child, I will NEVER get over it and I will NEVER forget. One member wrote ‘I hate people that say this. We’ll never ever be over it. It’ll stay with us forever. We just learn to live with the pain and grief. So it gets easier but it’s always there’.

At least you have your daughter Sophia

Just because we already have a child it doesn’t mean our angel was any less Important or loved

One member wrote: ‘I don’t believe there are any truly good things to say but saying nothing and having people avoid you because they don’t want to upset you or don’t know what to say is harder. Are you ok? Seems silly and those that ask it feel silly asking it but they have taken the time to check in with you and to let them know they are thinking about you. I appreciate that every single time. People want to give you comfort there just isn’t anything out there that can. The reality is the way i am feeling there are no words to describe they haven’t been invented yet but i am grateful to my Patrick for being my son and to every single person who has shown me kindness, support and love since losing him (also losing him sounds daft as I didn’t forget where I put him)’

This seems to be mainly a post about what not to say! And there is a reason for this, the hurtful things that have been said (even by well-wishers), stick in your mind far more than the good, helpful things. I will try to list a few here:

  • How are you feeling?
  • Is there anything I can do to help?
  • I’m going to the shops, do you need anything?
  • When you’re ready I’d love to hear more about/see photos of your angel?
  • Do you need any help planning the funeral?
  • What are you planning to have at the funeral?
  • Can I come with you next time you visit your angels forever bed?, I’d love to lay some flowers
  • Would you like me to look after your other children so you can rest?

Above all, allow the grieving parents to speak freely about their angel, offer them a safe, non-judgemental shoulder to lean on; loss parents tend to love talking about their baby, but they can shy away from it because other people feel uncomfortable, by offering them time to talk, show pictures, laugh and cry, you will help them tremendously.

 

Cutting the UK Stillbirth Rate by 50%

The government are aiming to cut the stillbirth rate by 50% by 2020, although I am sceptical on whether or not they will achieve this unless they implement doppler scans and the Growth Assisted Protocol (GAP) for all pregnant women; at present GAP is used for high risk pregnancies, but as it only costs 50p per pregnancy it should be used for all pregnancies. It has been proven that regular doppler scan can reduce stillbirths by 50%, and GAP can reduce stillbirths by 22%.

Each year, more than 3,000 babies are stillborn in the UK, and 1,500 of these are thought to be preventable, Britain has one of the worst stillbirth rates in the developed world. Prof Kypros Nicolaides was interviewed by the BBC, he said ‘offering all women Doppler scans, which measure blood flow between the placenta and foetus, could save 1,500 babies a year’ Many stillbirths (like Sophie’s) are caused by placental insufficiency (if the blood flow is abnormal, babies are starved of food and oxygen). This can be spotted by a Doppler scan, but most hospitals use these only on the 15%-20% of women who are deemed high risk – as per national guidelines.

The BBC also reported that ‘All pregnant women who attend Prof Nicolaides NHS clinic at King’s College Hospital in London are offered the Doppler scan at 12, 22 and 32 weeks of pregnancy. We have demonstrated through extensive research that you can identify more than 90% of these cases and can easily avoid them, and we can do so through very simple adjustments in the way we deliver antenatal care’ He offers the additional scans with the support of King’s administrators, but consultants at other hospitals have been told to stop because they were acting outside NHS practice guidelines.

St George’s Hospital in London has also introduced the scan to all first-time mothers at 20 weeks, which costs £15 per mother if given at the same time as a foetal anomaly scan. Since this introduction, the hospital has seen its stillbirth rate drop by 50% in three years.

Prof Gardosi’s method involves measuring the pregnant woman’s bump and recording the measurements on a personalised growth chart. Prof Jason Gardosi, director of the Perinatal Institute in Birmingham, set up the Growth Assisted Protocol (GAP), which costs 50p per pregnancy, and can reduce the stillbirth rate by 22%. It works by giving each mother a customised growth chart developed using her height, weight at beginning of pregnancy, ethnic origin and how many children she has had. It tells her how large her baby is expected to be, for each week in the pregnancy and if the baby’s growth falls outside the expected “norm” for that individual woman, the mother is given extra scans to check that the baby is thriving.

Feel free to sign my petition to ensure that doppler scans and GAP are used for all pregnant women, you can find the petition here.

Click here join Sophie’s Angels Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Infant Death Support Group
Click here for the Our Angel Sophie Facebook Page
Follow @OurAngelSophie on Twitter
Click here for our YouTube Channel

The Second Christmas Without You

This is the first post I have written for a while, I just haven’t been able to find the words! I have wanted to write for a long time but the time simply hasn’t seemed right! As we approach the second Christmas without you, the need to write is much greater.

This year seems different to last year and I’m not sure that I’m dealing well with it all! Last year I wanted to completely ignore Christmas.. I couldn’t, of course, because of your brothers! If I had my way then I wouldn’t have celebrated at all; it just didn’t seen right when such an important part of our family was missing, my little girl, my princess. I was so exhausted by it all (painting on a fake smile for relatives, trying to appear happy for the boys, buying things for their stockings when I knew I should have also been buying gifts for you), that when Christmas day was over I refused to attend any more Christmas celebrations… I just couldn’t! This cause a lot of upset from family members, but I had to look after my own heart.

This year seems different. Aiden is now 4 and full of excitement, getting up at 5.30am every day as he wants to open his advent calendar! Brendon is 12 and really looking forward to Christmas, and Brett is 18 so Christmas will now be a different time for him! More adult! I feel excited, I really do! I can’t help it! I am excited to see the boys open their presents, spending time with your daddy and brothers over the holidays, and I’m actually looking forward to the year ahead! But then I get this pang of guilt… how can I get excited when you are not here? The only thing I can do for you now is decorate your forever bed with Christmas decorations, and keep your memory alive by connecting with people and offering support via Sophie’s Angels. How can I be happy, excited, looking forward to things? That must make me a terrible mum! But I am, and I hope you understand that doesn’t mean I don’t miss you, I will miss you for as long as I live. You are the first person I think about in the morning, and the last person I think about at night, but I do also have 3 other children and I do need to make an effort for them.

This is the second Christmas without you, and the emotions are different, but the way I miss you is still the same. Sleep peacefully Sophie, until we meet again xxx

angels in heaven