A Mother’s Promise

When I make a promise to one of my children I will move mountains to make sure I keep that promise, a mother is someone that the children are supposed to be able to depend on… and I sure as hell am not going to break a promise I make to one of 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 was hard to bear, however, they were pretty certain that she died when a blood clot 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 girl! As said your mummy will never break that promise and through the Facebook page, the support group and this blog many, many people now know who you are, your story and have 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 that rates of stillbirth, and I will always help and support the mummies of your angel friends.

 Love always xxx

 

Mum… Why Does Every Baby You Have Die?

This question took me by surprise this morning! My 11 year old son asked me in between mouthfuls of cereal! Shit… how do I even begin to answer that!? How would you answer that if you were asked? An innocent 11 year old child should never even know the harsh reality of babies dying! Oh crap!

I explained to him that not every baby dies… that he and his two brothers didn’t die. But that the babies I lost early were probably very unwell. He started to say ‘but Sophie wasn’t unwell and I was really looking forward to having a sister’…. He started to cry, I was trying to comfort him as best as I could… it was just a situation that I never dreamed that I’d be in… and I never dreamt that my children would either.

Why did you leave? We were all so excited about bring you home! It’s not fair, it’s not right, and I don’t want to have to deal with this anymore!

Brendon is very sensitive and can become very emotional at times, I always encourage him to talk about his feelings but this time I was so unprepared! This is the harsh reality; the unspoken truth. It is not just the parents that deliver the baby, but also their other children plus the wider family who are affected. My son is always asking questions, but this particular one shocked me! Why does every baby I conceive seem to die? It’s not fair and mother nature just needs to give my family a break!

 

How I Feel – 16 Months On

It is so hard to put in to words how I’m feeling as it goes in waves; sometimes the waves can be pretty rough and sometimes quite calm! It’s 16 and a half months since Sophie was brought silently into this world and some days it still feels as raw as it did the day she was born. I don’t think it has gotten any easier as time has gone on – in fact for me it has become harder. I keep thinking about all the things she would be doing now; cruising the furniture, crawling, laughing and playing and it just breaks my heart. I see other children the same age and my heart aches a little bit more, I see clothes which I would have bought for her, or toys which I’m sure she would have enjoyed and it makes me so incredibly sad. The only things I can buy for her now are presents for her grave, that’s the only thing I can do for her and it kills me!

I do have times where I don’t feel so bad, when I’m looking after my other children or my mind is occupied with something else. But at the moment, with the children being on summer holidays, I am finding it particularly tough. When we take them out somewhere I am continuously reminded that Sophie should be there, she would now be at an age where she could get more involved… and it’s tough… really tough.

I have written before about how you find a ‘new normal’… where things will never be the same again but you find new ways of coping and this is very, very true. My ‘new normal’ now consists of me looking towards the future with my midwifery degree looming, looking after my family, making sure that Sophie is remembered and thought about, and helping to support other bereaved families while also campaigning for safer pregnancies and births. There is a link to our support group at the top of this blog, please feel free to join as it can really help to connect with people who have gone through this.

I still find it hard to talk to my husband, as he still tends to shut off! And I am finding being without my little girl very tough, but I feel privileged to be able to share my journey with so many people. xxx

Flashbacks

One of the hardest things for me to deal with at the moment are the flashbacks I seem to be getting. I can’t control them and they are never the nicer memories… ‘It doesn’t look good guys’ is what the doctor said when he told us the news, ‘what will she look like’ I asked a different doctor, to which she replied ‘she will look like a baby’… this last one has stuck with me, because although comforting at the time, she will not LOOK LIKE a baby… she WAS a baby… MY baby!!! She was loved, wanted and cherished and she always will be! I will always have a piece of my heart missing, and it will never be complete again. I understand that now… I don’t like it and I can’t accept it… but I do understand it.

One of the biggest flashbacks I’m getting is of Sophie being wrapped in a towel and me being taken to theatre to remove my retained placenta; when I got back from theatre Sophie was bathed and dressed. I asked Paul if he had washed and dressed her, and he said ‘no the midwife did it’… this I accepted at the time (I had just given birth to a stillborn daughter and didn’t want to make a scene!), but it has affected me… really affected me! I can visualise every single part of Sophie, except her feet! I never saw her feet so I have no idea what they looked like! I should have bathed her, I should have washed her, and I should have told the midwife not to do it… but I didn’t, and now I never will be able to… and that crushes my heart sometimes.

The flashbacks are so hard, I had a dream 2 nights ago that I gave birth and the doctors were wrong and Sophie was alive… then I woke up and cried! I have had dreams where I’m in labour and Sophie is born with a smile on her face, waving as she flies into the air to be with the other angel baby’s… and I just try to pull her back. Dreams can be very upsetting sometimes.

 If you are experiencing flashbacks then please write a comment.

 

Bereavement Midwives – Experiences and Opinions

My own experience with the hospital bereavement midwife wasn’t a very positive one and I wanted to discover whether more can be done to ensure that people are more supported by the bereavement midwives after they leave the hospital. I went about asking for experiences and opinions from other loss parents; and to be honest it is completely mixed! Some had amazing support, while others had awful, or non-existent support!

My Experience

After we lost Sophie we were assigned a bereavement midwife by the hospital; she wasn’t working the day that Sophie was born and therefore we didn’t meet her before the birth; however, we were induced two days after we were told that Sophie had died so she really could have made contact during that time to offer support and explain what would happen… it’s a very scary time and that would have been helpful! She was working the day after Sophie was born, but she still didn’t come to the bereavement suite to meet us before we left as she was ‘really busy’, so the hospital chaplain came in her place.

In fact the first time I spoke to her was the day after we got home when I wanted to go back to the hospital to see Sophie before she went for her post mortem; I telephoned her number and left a message for her to call back… which she did and then she met me at the hospital. The first time I met her she seemed pleasant, she asked how we were coping and if there’s anything we need help with. I asked for a referral to bereavement counselling for my son (I am still waiting for her to do this and ended up going through my GP!). After I visited Sophie she explained about how long the post mortem would take etc, and said that she would keep in contact to see how we were; and to please phone if I need to talk to someone as that’s what she’s there for.

I did telephone a few times (always got the answering machine!), and it always took 24 – 48 hours to receive a call back, and then she was nice on the phone but didn’t action anything she said she was going to!, she has never once visited me or invited me to any appointments, she did not attend Sophie’s funeral and she has not acknowledged Sophie since… I have heard from some people who, for instance, received a letter or a ‘thinking of you’ card on their baby’s birthday… we didn’t even get a phone call! I personally think she’s in the wrong job!

Experiences by others

I asked members of the Sophie’s Angels support group for their experiences and opinions, and the comments were completely mixed! Some positive and some negative. I thought this would give an idea as to what more can be done to support families who have lost a baby.

Positive

I’m always pleased to hear positive experiences about bereavement support… these are some of the comments that were made:

‘So far… AMAZING. I had a side room and the same 2 lovely nurses who looked after me from being admitted to being discharged. Nothing was too much trouble, pain was well managed. Small acts of kindness like letting my husband come/go and stay as much as I/he wanted without restricting us to visiting hours. Giving him a pass to the car park so we didn’t rock up a huge parking debt. They fed my husband and brought him cups of tea/coffee. The way they were with Dexter, how they dressed him and complemented him, the gorgeous memory box and ‘birth certificate’ (not an official one as he was born at 20 weeks), the way they brought him to me as many times as I wanted, the pass they gave me to come back to the ward to come and see him as much as I liked after I was discharged. The photographer they got to come and take pictures of the 3 of us, the chaplain they arranged to come and see us, the bereavement midwife who came to see us… if it’s possible to have a ‘positive’ experience whilst going through this I certainly did’

‘My son died at the children’s hospital where they had a group of people specialist in bereavement. They took hand and prints as well as a foot cast of my son, gave us a box with a candle, an angel, seeds to plant a flower, a box to put some of his hair in. The phoned every so often to check on us and they were wonderful’

‘I could write so much about all of the amazing care I received especially my amazing bereavement midwife Nikki. She was my rock when we lost Amelia last year. This time when we lost Sophia in June The care at the hospital was fantastic again. We were in the snowdrop suite again which is nice, my husband never had to leave they set up a bed so we could sleep together. They gave us our beautiful memory box and took hand and footprints for us. Nikki the bereavement midwife came straight up to the snowdrop suite to see me when she heard I was back. I could tell you so many things she’s done for me. She has gone above and beyond. Today she came to visit me and she knew I wanted to go back to the hospital to hold my baby as I didn’t have chance when she was born. My husband didn’t want to see her again and as she didn’t want me to go alone she took me. Sat with me when I cried and hugged me when I needed it the most. She then took me for a hot chocolate and a chat’

Negative

Unfortunately there are also many negative experiences, and more can most definitely be done to help with bereavement support; either before, during, or after the birth:

‘My experience wasn’t so good I was on labour ward for a whole week and I wasn’t allowed in the quiet room till the last night. The midwife’s where lovely, gave me a memory box hand and foot print had a cold cot were really respectful of him asked his name etc and talked to him which was comforting. I can’t fault the midwives, they gave me a lot of emotional support while I was in the labour wars for 7 days hearing births; another lady came in during that time at 39 weeks to deliver a stillborn baby which was heart-breaking all the more. I was given some leaflets and that was it when I was discharged, SANDS send me a letter to attend a candle lighting event every 6 months, but that’s all aftercare I have received’

‘My bereavement care was so poor. The whole care from admission to discharge was disgusting actually. Felt really let down and totally robbed of all the things, the little memories I never got to do that I will never get back. They only had 1 bereavement midwife for the hospital, and whilst she was off the week I was admitted no one stepped in and took her place to guide me and my partner through the process of it all. I had a different midwife and Dr every day and night literally no continuity of care what so ever. The memory box was left outside the room, they all avoided the room like the plague avoided all the questions I had. The midwife who delivered my angel was nice but she didn’t do the care to her full potential, she covered my baby with a towel as if she was a bit of trash, I was totally rushed with my baby, I was given 8 hours with her which I will forever treasure, but I was kept in that night and my baby sent to the mortuary even though they had a cold cot there. Also I wasn’t offered to see my baby again by the hospital, the bereavement midwife txt me and called me when she got back off holiday and explained that the staff hadn’t given me a bereavement info pack that I should’ve got which I later got posted out to me. Also I had to figure a lot of things out on my own. The staff were all so under trained with bereavement care (and I wasn’t even a difficult patient). I was 37 weeks pregnant when I had my little girl who was born sleeping, with no complications what so ever and no cause of death from a full post mortem’

‘I never had one. Wasn’t even offered one. I’ve just struggled through on my own’

‘My care was horrific! My bereavement midwife was none existent. Counselling was a great help but wasn’t offered until 12 weeks after, and by that time I had already attempted suicide! Nothing got explained, because of this we missed out on a lot of memory making’

‘Mine was terrible. I lost my daughter on the 8th April at 17+2 and I’m still trying to get help. I have taken an overdose too. I was assigned a bereavement midwife but only spoke to her once and that was to tell me Elsie had had her post mortem. I’m still waiting for the results. The care I received whilst suffering my miscarriage was on another level of shocking. I’ll never go back to the hospital concerned if I’m ever lucky enough to have my rainbow’

Conclusion

As far as I can see there are some bereavement midwives who go above and beyond to really support the families, while others could do with retraining so that people feel supported and cared for. Small gestures make all the difference… phoning or visiting to see how you are, offering help and support, referring to outside agencies who may be of benefit, attending the funeral, becoming a friend, being approachable and easy to talk to, returning telephone calls, visiting before the birth, organising the birth photographer, hand and foot prints etc, offering to help with any arrangements, recommending funeral directors… there are many things that can be done to help the grieving family and as a bereavement midwife or support worker they really should be doing everything that they can to make this difficult time slightly easier.

Please feel free to join Sophie’s Angels, it can really help to connect with other parents who are going through loss.

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From Guilt to Relief – Visiting Sophie

 

The sun was shining and Sophie’s resting place was so peaceful. I was sad to see yet another baby has been laid to rest in the baby garden since I last visited. A little boy, the flowers were still fresh from his funeral so it must have been recent (maybe today or yesterday), and I walked over to his little bed and looked at the beautiful flowers, a gorgeous blue and white floral arrangement saying ‘Brother’ stood out to me and made me think about how my own children coped with such a horrific day, I was so proud of them that day. I thought about his family for a moment, fresh in their grief wondering how they were. I can imagine their pain as they try to move forward for their other children, and try to build a life with a piece missing. I absolutely hate it when I see more graves filled in, but what I hate more is seeing freshly dug graves; because I know that the next day there will be yet another family saying their goodbyes to their child… It happens too often and I feel for each and every family.

I sat by Sophie’s grave cleaning and polishing the granite headstone and kerb, and started to talk to her about looking after the newest little boy. I rearranged all her little ornaments and put some fresh flowers in the vase, and I just sat and talked for ages. It was quite an emotional visit, not just because I was visiting my daughters grave, but because I had been feeling so very guilty recently… I hadn’t been able to visit her for a couple of months; it’s not that I couldn’t get there, and it’s not that I didn’t want to… I just couldn’t get passed the cemetery gates! I had no idea where this sudden feeling had come from but I would get to the cemetery gates, my legs would go to jelly, I’d feel really quite sick, and I literally couldn’t go any further! But today I was determined! I was going to see my daughter and I was going to push through that feeling! And I did! I spent quite a long time there today, talking and just sitting! It was really very peaceful and after I got back home I just wanted to go there again! So, I did!!!

I spend so much time supporting others through loss, and today the members from my Facebook group ‘Sophie’s Angels’ and my friends group ‘Otis and Friends’ were the ones propping me up! And I can’t thank them enough!

The photos below show how her resting place looks now.

 

 

I want my baby back!

When I say to people that ‘I’m having a moment because I miss Sophie’, why do they then insist on saying ‘still? Do you think you need help?’. I find it upsetting that I can’t just tell people why I’m feeling sad, all I want is a hug and for them to say, ‘I know, and you have every right to be’. I do have a right to be sad, it doesn’t happen all the time, I don’t sit there every day feeling upset, down or depressed… but I do have every right to miss Sophie.

To put my loss into perspective Sophie has been gone for 16 months… That is not a huge amount of time, regardless of what people think. During those 16 months, my family have been through hell and back, but we still keep pulling through and I am so thankful for the family I have got. However, that does not make Sophie’s death less important and right now all I can think of is I want my baby back! She should be here and not buried in the cold, hard ground… it’s not right, it’s not fair, and it never will be.

Sophie was born sleeping on 11th March 2016 at 2.09pm, that was 490 days, 18 hours and 21 minutes ago; that is not enough time for me to stop feeling sad! Even if I break it down further to 706,701 minutes… it sounds longer but it really isn’t! Every single one of these days I have felt sad moments and moments of regret, I relive what could have, and should have, happened to save Sophie; and I have flashbacks and remember exact conversations that I had with the doctors after Sophie died.

So, for everyone who thinks I should ‘be over’ my daughter’s death by now, but has never experienced the loss of a child… you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about and I hope you never do; because pain like this I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. This is a lifetime of pain and a lifetime of guilt and regrets.

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Does Baby Loss Make Others Feel Uncomfortable?

Does baby loss make other people feel uncomfortable?

Probably yes!!! No one wants to think about this as a possibility… I never thought for one second that it would happen to me; especially after having three heathy children. However, the fact is that it can happen to anyone which is the reason that it should be spoken about; not to frighten people, but rather to make them aware of the warning signs and risk factors. Of course, sometimes there are no warnings which makes the loss even harder to comprehend, but people need to be aware of the subtle changes which can take place, which can be the difference between life and death.

When I think about whether my loss makes others feel uncomfortable, I think it probably does, and let’s face it… it should do!!! I say this because it is not ‘normal’ to go home with empty arms; it is not ‘normal’ to have to tidy away all your baby’s belongings, fold and pack away all the clothes that will never be worn, the crib, bottles, breast pump, blankets… It’s amazing how many things there are, and it’s not ‘normal’ to pack them away in the loft, knowing that they are unused, and yet you can still never part with them; and it is certainly not ‘normal’ to bury your child, watching his or her coffin being lowered into the cold, hard ground. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that baby loss is a subject that no one wants to talk, hear, or think about.

I would, however, encourage people to talk about their baby, regardless of how it makes others feel; it is one of the most powerful ways to raise the awareness that this really can happen to anyone.

How do I react when someone says that my loss makes them feel uncomfortable?

Yes… this has actually happened a few times! And do you know what? It doesn’t bother me in the slightest! It used to though, I used to get really upset, and then I would stop writing Sophie’s blog, stop posting on Facebook, and generally stop talking about my daughter; knowing that I was making other people feel comfortable meant that was almost frightened, and apologetic whenever I mentioned Sophie.

However, my response is very different now; I don’t force anyone to listen, read my Facebook posts and blog, or look at her photos; therefore, they are welcome to hide my posts if they wish. My view is that this is something which my family and I live with every single day, and for that reason I will never stop talking about my daughter who should now be crawling, learning to talk, and driving me up the wall!

She may not be here with us, but I refuse to stop talking about her and sharing her photos, in case it makes others feel uncomfortable; because my response to them would be ‘I’m sorry it makes you feel uncomfortable; but how the heck do you think it makes me and my family feel!?’

How Long is Too Long?

I have been asked several times over the course of the last year if I feel I need help because I still talk about Sophie and share her pictures; I know these people mean well, but I feel that I’ve got all the help that I need at this moment in time. However, if I feel that I need more help and support in the future, I will definitely ask for it!

So, when should you stop talking about your child? The answer for me is that I’ll stop talking about Sophie when I stop talking about my living children! I don’t think that anyone has the right to put a time limit on the ‘acceptable’ amount of time to talk about your baby, whether that loss is from miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss; would you tell a widow that they shouldn’t still be talking about their husband? Absolutely not! Therefore, it is completely unfair and unacceptable, in my opinion, to tell someone that they shouldn’t discuss their baby as they need to move on… you never ‘move on’ from losing a child; you find a way to ‘move forward’, but that doesn’t mean that you can no longer talk about your angel.

If you feel like you would benefit from extra support, then please click here where I have written about bereavement help and support services which are available in the UK; if you would like me to research services outside the UK then please send me an email and I’ll do my best to help.

 

Does Being Around Loss Stop Me Healing?

I have been asked this twice recently by family members who were concerned; I know they mean well and are looking out for my emotional state, and it is a very fair question! However, I thought I would write this post as it’s the best way to get the message across to either other well-wishers, or to people who are possibly being asked the same questions!

The simple answer to this is no; no being around loss and supporting people with their loss does not stop me from healing or make me more upset. When you are a loss parent/grandparent/sibling you can often feel very lonely and isolated; you may feel like there is a short period of time when it is ‘acceptable’ to talk about your angel, to share photos and to discuss your memories and grief. Anyone who knows me, knows that I talk about Sophie as much as I talk about my living children; the reason for this isn’t to look for sympathy, but rather because she is my daughter and she deserves to be mentioned, loved and remembered.

Support groups are fantastic as you can connect with other angel parents at different stages of grief, you can share your baby as much as you want, and it can really help you to stop feeling so alone. Please feel free to join the Sophie’s Angels support group on Facebook if you’ve experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death… no matter how long ago, we are here to support you in your grief.