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Reflecting on Baby Loss Awareness Week, a member of NHS England’s Digital Communications team shares her heart-rending and intensely personal experience of bereavement:
Hello, my name is Emma. I have two children, Evelyn and Ruben.
Evelyn was born in December 2015 and is my first born. She made me a mother.
I knew little of the dangers of pregnancy, I was low risk, I was a fit, healthy 31 year old and there was no reason to assume I would not leave the hospital with my happy, healthy little baby girl.
I was, like all expectant mums, given the leaflets and went to all my antenatal appointments and classes, but losing your child is not really talked about.
I think there should be more encouragement for first-time mums to not be afraid of contacting the antenatal unit. It is not wasting their time – if you sense there is something wrong or something doesn’t feel right – trust your instincts and act straight away. It is probably nothing and you’ll walk away feeling silly, but it is better to feel silly than to be told it is too late.
At 36 weeks and 4 days pregnant I noticed Evelyn was more quiet than normal. After attempting all the things you are told about to encourage them to wriggle around, I called the antenatal unit. I remember saying that as soon as we get all the way to the hospital, she’d wake up start wriggling around again.
After being scanned by a concerned looking midwife and waiting for the doctor to be called in from home, we sat in an empty, silent, clinical room, not wanting to accept that what we were about to be told would be bad. When the doctor arrived, we were given the earth-shattering news that Evelyn had died.
Ferndale Suite is the room Harrogate hospital has specially made for parents to give birth to their babies who have died. It doesn’t look clinical, and is near the entrance to the unit, to save grieving parents from being confronted with the sounds of what should be.
In this room we were allowed to make it our own and I nested as any other mother would do. She was coming into this world and I wanted her to be like any other baby. As lovely as the midwives were, many of them didn’t stay in the room long. Apart from one lady, Amanda, a midwife on shift, who walked into the room, sat on the bed and held my hand, looked me in the eye and spoke to me.
I truly know that if she hadn’t reached out to me, held out her hand and talked me through what was going to happen with honestly and complete compassion, I would not have been able to do it.
Evelyn was born at 03:06am, 6lb 3oz, a beautiful, perfect little girl. She had tiny little fingers and toes; the cutest button nose; a little bit of soft, strawberry blonde hair, just like mine; she had long feet, just like her daddy; she was warm, and silent just like she was sleeping.
I left the hospital that day without my baby in my arms. Instead carrying a memory box made by ‘Our Angels’ charity and support group, containing the few precious tokens of Evelyn I could hold in my arms.
Six months after we laid Evelyn to rest, I found out I was pregnant with my little rainbow baby Ruben.
Pregnancy after losing a baby is a bizarre juxtaposition of excitement and fear. Every single day I hoped that he would survive. Yes it was beautiful and I was so grateful to have this chance to have another baby, but it was filled with anxiety and fear that at any point I could be told that he wasn’t alive any more.
On the day Evelyn was born I met the bereavement midwife, Sue. The second time I met Sue was on one of my first visits to the hospital after finding out I was expecting again. I can honestly say that this lady, along with Amanda, is a credit to the NHS and humanity as a whole.
Sue held my hand every step of the pregnancy. She was always at the end of the phone. She was there at my appointments – even if she wasn’t on shift. She went above and beyond her call of duty. I would go in for regular visits just to be monitored and listen to Ruben’s heartbeat. If I could have spent the 37 weeks listening to his heart beat, I would have, but Sue got me through it.
Ruben was born on 8 February 2017 and is my beautiful miracle – my earth angel.
Having Ruben has not filled the space in my heart of Evelyn’s memory, he has his own special place. Both of my babies are beautiful reminder of how precious and fragile life is, how I should take nothing for granted and how lucky we are to have the NHS.
During National Baby Loss Week, I lit a candle in memory of my little girl and all of her friends, who play with her in the stars. And I remind everyone to never be afraid to talk to angel parents about their babies. We are proud of them and want to keep their memory alive. Evelyn is a part of me and a part of my family forever.