Author Archives: Digital Storm

For Little Hen

spring_logo_250‘It was the most bittersweet moment of my life at 12.12pm on Wednesday 21st May, when I saw her gorgeous little body and fell absolutely in love with her, yet knew she would never breathe or grow, and I had less than a day with her’…

It is a little corny but it began with sunshine and ended just so.

I had just turned 28 years old, 37 weeks pregnant on the 17th of May 2014, and couldn’t have felt happier with baby girl kicking away over the sunny weekend with me and my family getting the house ready for her. Ben called it ‘nesting’. I remember breathing in the air whilst sat in the garden hammock with Ben’s hand on my tummy, after giving it one of the soft kisses I always love to feel him do. He didn’t have his prickly beard, even though I prefer his bearded self. He says “Hello baby! Kick for daddy!”, and I say “Don’t listen to daddy, baby!”, and we wait in eager anticipation, teasing each other, second guessing who she’s going to listen to. I have to say she was pretty fair, over her time, and took care, I’m sure, to alternate whose advice she took.

The sky was bright blue as our apple tree leaves hushed the breeze, and the lilac was in bloom, pouring itself out all over the lawn. We had had our first barbecue of the season and the radio was playing. We had finally painted the garden furniture (only a couple of years of not finding the time), and I had spent the day tidying the stable whilst Ben went about weeding a little square of land that grew tall from the seeds of his care, and strong with the touch of his pride. In fate’s true sense of humour, I recall that I really did say the words that I couldn’t be happier.

After such a long wait, it was the first whiff of summer, if you dared to believe it had arrived. I couldn’t wait to meet our first daughter together, after such a long wait for her too. I wanted to see the beautiful mosaic of a person we would have put together. If you love each other, and can love yourself, then you could only love your child exponentially, and that seemed such a sweet prospect. I only had 4 more days of work, and was eager to have a break from my life as I knew it, for the adventure of motherhood, and discovering for myself the wonderful father that my husband would become. The start of my pregnancy was heralded by a lot of nausea and a few scary painful bleeds, and after the mental tussle with anxiety that anything could go wrong at any time, we had dared to accept she was coming only just that week, and got all the things we would need. I had made an overnight bag for me, and one for her, and put them by the door only just that week. Some things were old, some things were new, yes, many things were borrowed, and for a girl, I had made sure to keep a lot of blue.

I felt a little light headed around Saturday lunchtime. It was the first hot day of the year, and I thought maybe it was because of that. A quick nap fixed it, and nothing was otherwise amiss. That night she was kicking away like crazy. In retrospect, maybe she was struggling, maybe she got herself into a tangle, but maybe she was kicking away because she was as happy as I was. I didn’t notice any movement on Sunday, but that can be normal for me when I’m busy and concentrating on other things. Sunday evening came but there was no movement. That was unusual. I tried not to think the worst, and hoped for a wriggle overnight. It was a hard night, Ben and I holding on to my stomach, hoping, hoping. There was nothing. We would poke her little foot, and get a sickening feeling when nothing happened in return. She was always so obliging. We had no words for each other then, but we were both thinking, kick, please kick, kick for mummy and daddy, baby. Panic started to rise, but you rationalise, disbelieving that the worst could happen to you. Morning came and we woke for work. Routine; how I craved to return to it later. I kissed Ben goodbye, promising I’d get checked before I started my long day. I remember clearly looking for a moment at my maternity notes, almost thinking not to take them because I hoped it wouldn’t be anything that needed recording, but knew I should take them. I had a few sheets of paper in there titled ‘how to deal with a crying baby’, and I left them in my car, as a compromise to myself that although I was taking my notes, I could leave these in my car, allowing myself the hope that I’d still need them.

I hadn’t been to that part of the maternity hospital before, and I wasn’t sure whether I could just turn up, or even if they were open, but I arrived at 7.30am, fortuitously just as their day was starting. A lovely lady spotted my searching face, and took me straight in. She listened in with the Doppler, but silence. Where was that reassuringly persistent drum beat that tugged at my own? That calming hum, that metronome that made a million smiles, that best noise in the world? It wasn’t mine that day. I was so sorry I had ever taken even a single beat for granted. She asked that I wait for another person to check with a better probe, just in case. But I knew. I had a big baby girl who had a big beating heart because she was so close to being born. If she couldn’t find a heartbeat, it was because it wasn’t there. But I waited, refusing to let those thoughts in. In desperate times, the mind will clutch onto the most desperately small hope.

Mornings are never good times to arrive in hospitals, because it is the time the doctors’ hand over, and will often incur a wait. It’s ok, it has to happen sometime, and I was well treated. Fearing the worst, I was actually glad of the delay of the scan that would make the worst a certainty. Those minutes were an exercise in enforced emptiness. I didn’t want to think. It was a make or break moment, and I didn’t want to contemplate the break. The doctor who came to check was quiet as she scanned. And again, I knew. If there was a heartbeat, I would have been told so in a heartbeat. I know the doctor speak warning shot for bad news, and that’s to ask if there was anyone with me, which is what she said. It was the shot that broke me and let the grief pour out. Ben was an hour away in Southampton. I called him, and he was there early with his children waiting to drop them off at school, which he couldn’t do for another 20 minutes. I only managed to say there was no heartbeat, and asked whether he could come. It was the shortest telephone call we have ever had. Because he was crying in front of them, he told them. They asked for a doughnut, he snapped at them, and then drove to me in the car that we had always joked was incapable of acceleration.

By the time he arrived, I’d had a further scan to confirm the bad news. I grabbed hold of Ben and let out the most guttural of cries. A consultant called Daniel came to tell us what would happen next. He was very gentle, and I remember his words. I had to give birth to her, but the process for this would take a couple of days, and he recommended I go home in the meantime; to do what? To hoover and cook tea, watch a bit of TV, and then go to bed? I had a dead baby, my baby, our baby, inside me, and based on a few words and scans that gave me an abstract notion of loss, I had to go home and try not to get too traumatised at the dismantling of the future that I had planned. I refused. I couldn’t go home. They have a room for mothers who are being induced for a stillbirth which was available. We agreed I could stay there, and compromised on giving me the second set of drugs a day early. There was no guarantee it would speed anything up, and instead could just result in a prolonged labour, but I wanted it. I wanted something, anything, that wasn’t just waiting. I would savour a longer labour. I wanted that pain. It was my time with her and I wanted it so badly.

Ben volunteered to fetch me my overnight bag. I didn’t want to be without him too, so we went together. It was hard driving home and watching the rest of the world go by. It was even harder picking up that bag that was by the door, but leaving her little one there. So we went to the room. It was on the first floor, thoughtfully placed in the antenatal section so we wouldn’t be next to the cry of new born babies. It had a double bed, a little sitting room, and an ensuite. There was a shiny plaque, upon which was written was ‘SPRING, Support for Parents in Neonatal Grief’. I scanned each word with a pause in between. I was angry that it wasn’t just for other people anymore, that it included me now, however much I rejected and resented that role. We didn’t want to be known as that couple who had the stillbirth. What rubbish luck was this? I thought back in time. Only half interested, falsely confident, I’d only half read a leaflet given to me called ‘Count the Kicks’. I felt stupidly guilty. Was it because of that? Was I too confident? Too happy? Was everything just too perfect? Had I chanced it by exerting myself? I tried to stay sane but I wanted a sense of fairness and understanding. I looked at the plaque and pleaded – but we were so excited, the timing was perfect, the house was ready, we had all her things. We were so full of love; like a coiled spring, quivering with the potential to show so much more. I looked down and saw a kettle. This had probably been the longest Ben had gone without a cup of tea. The kettle didn’t work. It felt earnest. So we sat, we cried, and we waited. It was an odd thing, but as soon as we arrived in that room on the first floor, a huge watery broomstick head thumped the window, paused, and then squeak, squeak, squeaked as it cleaned the windows of the room. I could have been upset, but it just made me bemused, thinking, well, life goes on. We can have a hand in choosing what we read into what happens to us, and at that moment, I chose that.

A kind lady came and gave me the first tablet, and I thought that’s that, then. I looked in the mirror and I still had my massive belly. Everything looked the same. That first tablet doesn’t cause any physical symptoms. Everything could have still been the same. I had to do something to make myself accept that it was really happening, so I spent the day telling others. Ben and I called our parents first. They always pick up the phone with such delight in their voices. I guess we are always their children, however old we feel. It felt mean, breaking their hearts too. It felt meaner asking them not to come. The rest of the day went by in tears. I was grateful for the technology to inform family and friends, but it felt very poor taste that both Ben and I were on our mobile phones at such a time. Nonetheless, we felt very loved, and supported, and I can’t thank everyone we know enough for their help. A few of the more local and stubborn friends came by that evening, and were a welcome distraction in keeping us talking. We didn’t sleep much that night, as you can imagine.

Tuesday morning was the same nightmare. I looked the same. Physically, I felt the same. The tall hospital building across the road looked the same. The grey clouds even looked the same. We had been given some reading material for the circumstances, which was good for an information junkie like me. My parents were so close geographically, and I had kept them at arm’s length to preserve myself, but I knew the news had plunged them into their own waiting room of despair, and that I could at least do something about that. Ben, being more than a rock for me, put me first as usual, and let himself go through the pain of watching more people grieve. So I asked them to come and feel involved, hoping to help them create a memory of something more than a phone call that pierced their hearts and extinguished their hope. Unfortunately they arrived just as I had been given a pessary and was in a lot of pain. It must have been tough for my dad, whose business is in the safe delivery of babies, to watch his own in the physical and mental pain that ensues when it all goes wrong. He kissed my face all over, holding it in his smooth hands. My mother was stoical with her words, and the kindness and strength in her smile mixed in tears of gratitude and pride with my tears of pain. How can you bear such love and such sadness all at once?

My Ben, my family and a good friend helped me through the next hours with backrubs and hand holding. My friend was a friend that had bumped into me right at the start, when I’d had the bleeding and pain and had to go for an early pregnancy scan in case I’d had a miscarriage. She came with me to hold my hand then too, and exclaimed at my little bean’s heart beating. Her being with me at the end felt like coming full circle somehow. I was looked after by a lady, who, as well as looking after everyone else, had been tasked with being cruel to be kind to me. I spiked a fever after each subsequent tablet I needed to progress the labour that day. I got rigors, feeling freezing and shaking, and she had to persuade me to lose my sheets and withstand a fan when I least wanted to. Her hands worked like speedy magic, clearing up my Entonox and Oramorph induced vomit, and cleaning up the bed. A cheesey jacket potato for lunch was a bad idea.

It felt animalistic, having spectators during our pain. Nobody likes to be seen in distress, and nobody likes to watch it. Although the Entonox didn’t really do much for the pain, it made me light headed and woozy, and provided a lighter side to Tuesday afternoon. I wanted to know exactly how many young people lived in Swanage, and was concerned about the political situation in Russia. I was quite specific about wanting my baby to come out precisely sideways, and quizzed those around me about the square roots of numbers that didn’t have square roots. The anaesthetist was called, and although the pain had suddenly ceased at his arrival, resulting in me looking remarkably comfortable, the dropped jaws of those around me persuaded him to give pethidine to help the pain. I don’t recall much of this time, but am told it just knocked me out, and left me groaning in pain on the bed but not fully aware of it, which must have been awful for those present, and that I do regret.

At this stage I was taken downstairs for one to one care briefly, with a lady, who was about my age and had the same hair. She was quiet and sweet and diligent. This was to try a PCA, which allows a dose of pain controlling drug (remifentanyl in my case) at the touch of a button that I controlled. This helped a little with the pain, continued the dappy comments I insisted on making, but mostly just made me start to stop breathing. My oxygen saturations would deteriorate and an alarm would beep, and Ben and the nurse would shout “BREATHE!” to which I would respond, to our collective relief. Ben attempted a watchful slumber at the other end of the room on a sofa bed. That wasn’t a restful night either.

I was quite dehydrated and given a lot of fluid overnight which resulted in a ballet dance of drips and stands and blankets in trying to get to the toilet. By the time I needed two drips I gave up and just peed in a vomit bowl, crouching by the side of the bed. You learn a lot being a patient. By the morning, I wasn’t getting any pain, which wasn’t progress. I was only 1cm dilated after all that time.

The next lady came on shift, and she was a short, practical, blonde haired midwife. She oversaw the start of an oxytocin drip to try to kick start my contractions again. After titrating to the top dose a few hours later, I was still only 1cm dilated. She said she would need to break my waters. Luckily my waters are far from my eyes, because this involved a small hook, but I thought it was just a strong finger. This let a small burst of fluid out, which set off a tidal wave of contractions, and my firstborn shot out in three burning pushes at the end of a little over 2 hours of established labour. The exodus between my legs let all the pressure, hopes, and dreams I had fostered inside for the better part of the last year come crashing out. I listened anyway, but no baby cry came. I sobbed hard, as at that moment my heart burst too, and a litre of my own blood came crashing out.

It was the most bittersweet moment of my life at 12.12pm on Wednesday 21st May, when I saw her gorgeous little body and fell absolutely in love with her, yet knew she would never breathe or grow, and I had less than a day with her. The midwife had tidied her up, popped on a nappy, and put her in little white beribboned knitted clothes that those adorable knitting nanas in hospitals knit. She was so thoughtful, and put two blankets around her in her moses basket, one for her, and an identical one for me to keep. Our daughter was perfect. Her skin had started peeling a little, as she had been dead for three days already, but I saw past all that. She had a cute little button nose, a little like my own, her dad’s small ears, delicate eyebrows. The most sensationally carved lips. Curly black hair, in mounds, and although it was crinkled flat, caked in that sticky paste babies are born in, I could see its potential. And she smelled amazing; a sweet, bready smell. A primal love potion, I guess. My own granddad bought me freshly baked sweet bread treats from the baker when I was little, and I was reminded of being a little girl myself. I inhaled her, wanting so much to let her own granddad give her the same sheer delight and him have the same great big smile in being able to do so. She was going to be called Hannah Eman Nicholas; Hannah, after my dad, Hany, which fit, because he is the only one with the genes for long legs and big feet, which she got too. Eman is a tribute to my mum, who is the kindest, most selfless person I know, and Nicholas is our family surname. I wasn’t sure about the name Hannah to begin with, but the initials spelled ‘hen’, and she was going to be my little hen, and I loved that too.

Though my words suggest otherwise, I had previously been worried that I wasn’t especially maternal, and I had to hope that something would click on the day. It did, and in a big way. I got a glimpse of overwhelming love, and it really was something beautiful. I was hers and she was mine, and that’s how it would always be. She had nobody else in the world but her parents, and we couldn’t concentrate on anything but her. It felt other worldly and wonderful. I had always smiled politely but felt a little inwardly nauseated at mums who vocally celebrated their bond with their children so vigorously without a trace of sarcasm or humour. Now I had become one of those people, and I understood. I know now why they say it is a labour of love. I felt grateful that at least I could conceive, and had gotten that far, and the door to that part of life had been opened for me. I wish I could have gone further, and had the light-hearted and carefree circumstances I had been expecting, and to be able to keep some of that humour too. I hadn’t had any soft cheese, I didn’t smoke, I followed the rules – I felt I had earned a happy healthy baby. But the world owed me nothing, just as many others in the world feel the sting of undeserved pain. Was it too much to expect a little hen for me to keep?

It was time to tidy me up, as I’d lost a lot of blood, and had a second degree tear. The midwife gave Ben our daughter, and it was his moment with her. He was torn between bonding with her, and trying to be there for me, the sweetie. He cried his tears and said his goodbye, keeping a watchful eye on me. I was okay, I felt the numb tugging of those skilled hands with sutures against flesh as I puffed away on the Entonox, and pressed on the PCA like there was no tomorrow. I remember an endorphin and drug fuelled haze where time slowed to let me savour my husband and daughter, both warm and both by my side.

The midwife let us have a quiet moment together after that. Then the oddest thing immediately happened. We were on a different floor in a different part of the hospital, there was only one window in the room and it was right by my face, and it had been 2 days since we last saw it, but there it was – it thumped, then paused, then squeak, squeak, squeak. The window cleaner’s mop again. I imagined a John McEnroe moment, shouting ‘YOU CAN-NOT BE SERIOUS!’, and I couldn’t help but laugh. In the first round of my grief, that mop reminded me that life goes on. Appearing in the second round of my grief, that water poured down that window just like my tears poured down my cheeks, but it showed me that I could still smile, and would smile again. I am grateful to that window cleaner for unknowingly, simultaneously, ruining and improving such a sensitive moment of our lives.

We were then taken back to the special room, the SPRING suite. It felt like she was just sleeping, and I was so happy and excited to finally have my baby girl. I couldn’t help it. Looking at her made it hard to feel sorrow or anger. Holding her made me feel calm. Ben, once again sacrificing his feelings and letting the wound cut open again, let me invite my parents to come, grieve, and say their goodbyes to her. I showered whilst they did this. Actually, I didn’t want to wash any of the blood, sweat or tears off. I wore the bruises from the needles like a badge. All the blood that I bled, I would bleed it all over again. I looked in the mirror and saw a flat tummy. I hadn’t seen myself like this for quite some time, and I didn’t want back what I had been previously so keen to have returned; my body to myself. It just felt lonely. I wondered what I was doing wasting time in the shower, I needed to get back to her. My parents left and Ben found it painful to hold her again, so I got her to myself all evening. I put all of her on my chest, her skin on mine, her cheek to my own, so she felt my warm salty tears, a feeble ghost of the promise of a warm sea-soaked day I had wanted both our faces to experience together. I stroked her soft hands and feet for hours. I told her how much she was loved, and tickled her tummy. I couldn’t stop smelling her and kissing her, trying to take as much of her in as I could. I moved and her head lolled back. Her pretty lips parted, making a quietly perfect ‘pop’. My heart thumped. It was a noise I would hear if she was alive. I wished so much I could keep her, to hear all the noises she would make, to do all those things that mums do, and see all the things she could have been. All I had was a ‘pop’. But at least I had that. The support of the specialist midwife meant I got a little more too. Although she had suggested getting hair cuttings, photos and footprints, the idea of it seemed morbid, initially. Once I’d met my daughter and saw her as a small person, I wanted everything I could get, and I had the foresight of a devoted bereavement support midwife to thank for that.

Unfortunately I had to let go of baby girl at some stage. She needed to be placed on a cold mattress so she was somewhat preserved for post mortem. It was hard putting her down, but I put her basket on a chair, so she was at bed height, and I could hold her hand and look at her face whilst I fought exhaustion. Her cheeks were becoming a mottled red, and gave the impression that she had been crying too. I knew Ben had said his goodbye, and this prolonged grieving I was doing was hurting him. In such a situation, you learn a little bit more about one another. I talk through my grief, but Ben…he digs in the garden and sweats it all out. We had previously thought we were going to leave the hospital that evening, but I couldn’t leave our little girl there overnight on her own. I didn’t ever want her to be alone, or Ben and myself without her. Such encompassing love comes with the penalty of feeling such anxiety. I felt so compromised. Being selfless again, Ben couldn’t leave my side, so we stayed; all three of us. I didn’t want to, but I fell asleep at midnight, shattered in body and in spirit.

I woke again at 5.30am. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw her, though I knew time was fast running out. It had been cloudy and wet the whole time we had been in hospital, but in the quiet of that morning, before the working world stirred, a little ray of sunshine came through that freshly cleaned window. I really wanted her to feel the warmth of the sun on her face, because the sunshine meant so much to her parents. I had looked forward to sitting in our sunny garden with her, after all, we had bought our house for its garden, and I thought this was a little something we could share in lieu. I picked her up, and although the only place the sun reached was by the toilet, I held her up over it and let the sun touch her face. Again, it was beautiful, even though it only lasted a moment.

I knew I needed to put her back on the cold mattress but when I got back to it, my arms refused. It felt so good having her in my arms; a reassuring weight against my chest. I figured I could persuade my arms to do something else I had looked forward to doing when I got home, which was to put her on our bed, between her mum and dad, with the radio on in the background, spending hours smiling at this little girl that we made that was ours, doing our best to make her smile too. I turned the radio on. It was on the hospital bedside radio station. It was playing the most soulful country and western music. I curled up my whole body around my little hen, her big soft feet on my thighs, her dolls face by mine, my one arm curved above her head, hand reaching and holding hers, my other hand on her chest, over her heart – the heart that had inexplicably, suddenly, and devastatingly stopped, so close to its independence, halting all three of our lives in one sickening stall. I cried and cried and cried that guttural cry; it was such a beautiful moment full of such deep sorrow. Sadly, it was also the moment I heard the bruised remains of my husband’s heart break. I knew we had to go. We needed to for him, and because if I didn’t say goodbye to her on my terms, someone would have to prise her out of my hands, which would be distressing and undignified. Forever really isn’t enough. How could I decide when it was time to leave her otherwise? I asked the midwife to get the paperwork ready, which she duly did, and I had a final half hour with my daughter in her basket. I pulled a few strands of my hair out and put them in her hand, considering it only fair, as I’d taken a little of hers to keep. I crouched over the basket, stroking those cool soft cheeks, feeling more protective than ever.

The midwives were so good to us, taking our bags down, and clearing the way to the place we’d have to leave her in. I carried her down to a humble little room. I picked her up gently and placed her in another basket, lifted up her knitted hat, took a final deep breath of her sweet self, and kissed her forehead, as Ben did too. Bye-bye baby girl. The hardest moment of my life was turning around, taking a few steps, and continuing to take them, not turning back, just walking away, and leaving that hospital without our baby. I cried the whole way out. I felt numb on the drive home, and had to face the second hardest moment of my life, which was arriving at our home, without our baby. I hadn’t yet learned how to clip in a car seat, but had a shiny lime green one that would now stay in the garage gathering dust. How frivolous the hours spent choosing it felt. After that perfectly sunny weekend, our four days in the hospital were grey and the clouds felt heavy, threatening a storm. At that moment, it started to rain mightily. The low clouds rumbled with thunder, and I thought it apt. I walked past her little new born bag still by the door and managed only a glance at the posted sympathy cards before collapsing on the sofa and crying myself into another sleep of grief and exhaustion.

I woke a couple of hours later to find that Ben had cocooned me in all the blankets and cushions we had in the house. He threw himself into caring for me, and had gone shopping for steak, having been told I needed to keep my iron levels up. He asked that now I was awake, whether I felt strong enough to go to a garden centre. When he was young, his grandparents celebrated the birth of his dad by planting a pear tree in their garden. He remembered going into their garden as a boy, eating those juicy pears in the summer, and the delight it brought him. He wanted to buy one to commemorate our little hen. I put my wellies and a coat on, and we went to the local garden centre. The sun suddenly came out, and it was warm. I unzipped my coat and looked at my husband reading the pear tree labels, and then looked up at the clear blue sky. It felt like permission.

That pear tree stands strong in our garden now. It too feeds on the care borne of Ben’s pride and his love. When we went out to plant it, I noticed three little baby blue tits on the ground, they had died too. The blue tits in the garden were mourning, like us, but still flew about full of energy, zooming in and out of their birdhouse with bugs for their remaining offspring and themselves. I looked at the hammock in the garden. It was still there. The lilac still malted scented purple petals over the lawn. The apple tree leaves were still very green. I bought a little bush that had sad drooping flowers that start as blood red buds but bloom into the most vivid, uplifting yellow in colour. It flowers in May. We hope to put a little bench under the pear tree and look at the flowers every May 21st, chomping on pears in honour of little hen, hopefully healing whilst still remembering the beauty amongst the sorrow.

We have had tremendous support and I know we will be okay. They couldn’t find anything to explain it – the cord was wrapped around her neck quite tightly but that could have happened afterwards or been incidental. We will have to wait for the post mortem but they don’t usually find any cause. Rotten luck I guess. However, in being so unlucky, our family, friends and neighbours have drawn closer, and I can’t help but be reminded that I am so lucky in those other ways. Even with strangers – I emailed the radio presenter that played those songs that morning we said goodbye, for the playlist, and he sent such a heartfelt response. My mother said that if you are good, good people will be drawn to you. I feel that the strength I have for dealing with this really has come from those around me. I have been shown nothing but goodness, love and kindness, so I can’t help but be all that I have learned. For that, I feel pretty lucky indeed.

We spent the next week sharing this story with those people that make us feel lucky in our lives. The story of that is a whole another story, which I won’t begin because I’ll never end, but needless to say I was incredibly thankful they were there. I also realised I got a bit self-centred in my grief, when looking at the SPRING website, I saw other couples in that same room we were in, that same bed, sharing their stories, going through the same grief, and trying to repair themselves in the same way. I thought about all the people who had shared their stories of difficult times in life with me. It made me quite philosophical. We weren’t so singled out. Yes, what happened was rare and awful, but everyone has their own trials in life, we are all just humans, trying to keep swimming, not sinking, and trying to make our own and other people’s lives a little better along the way. I had to let what happened change me, aim for it to be in a good way, and accept the person I now was. There are times I feel sad, and I listen to those songs that played that morning and cry. There are also times I feel resentful. I didn’t get to keep my child for life, instead I got some stretch marks, a certificate of stillbirth, and the memory of what could have been to torture myself with. My anger comes when I stomp my feet on the ground like a toddler and shout ‘I want my baby’. There are times when more bad news comes our way, and I feel that surely I can’t take any more of it. But there are times when I feel like maybe I can take anything on. Most importantly, there are times when I feel happy. Over that week I was able to dance with Ben to songs on the kitchen radio again. Over that week, several friends had been dealt their own hard trials, but it was also their birthdays, engagements and weddings, and joy at their own children’s firsts. What are we here to do, if not feel? I like to sit on the sofa with my head on Ben’s chest and listen to his heart beating. I will eventually get back to work, where I will put a stethoscope to my ears and listen to everyone else’s hearts beating too. I’ll be calm, and I’ll be thankful, and have a quiet little word with each heart. We’ll agree together, one to one, to just keep beating. I look forward to our future, and hope to get a bit more than a glimpse the next time around…

Our Little Man River

spring_logo_250‘I had a horrible feeling that something was wrong but I tried to stay positive like people tell you to do. She placed the monitor on my stomach but couldn’t seem to detect a heartbeat. I now realise she had just tried to keep us calm by saying ‘where is he hiding?’. She disappeared from the room to arrange a scan’…

We were creeping closer and closer to our little man’s due date which was the 7th May 2014. We saw our midwife on the 6th May for our 40 week check and all seemed totally fine.

Baby’s heartbeat was normal, and apart from my blood pressure which was a little high things were running smoothly. Our lovely midwife said she would pop by to see me the following day just to make sure my blood pressure had dropped. I had noticed little man wasn’t moving around as much as normal, but he was still moving and I put this down to him being a little crammed in there, after all, he was full term!

That night I went to bed but woke up in the early hours at about 2am.  I realised he had not moved at all. Again I reasoned with myself and put it down to lack of space and I managed to go back to sleep.

The following day I felt some slight movements but nothing compared to what I had felt before. I did all the usual things in the morning, had a shower (little man seemed to like the warmth of the shower) still nothing.
My midwife came by the house at 3pm and my blood pressure had returned to normal. I mentioned to her that I had reduced movements and she booked me in at Royal Bournemouth Hospital an hour later to be placed on a monitor to check baby’s heartbeat. We were greeted by our midwife who took us to the maternity ward and we waited for her to pop us on the monitor.
I had a horrible feeling that something was wrong but I tried to stay positive like people tell you to do. She placed the monitor on my stomach but couldn’t seem to detect a heartbeat. I now realise she had just tried to keep us calm by saying ‘where is he hiding?’. She disappeared from the room to arrange a scan.

We had to wait for a few minutes for the machine to be switched on. I lay on the bed and hoped to see his little heart flicker on the monitor. I could see my partner, Duncan, had full view of the monitor and the nurse didn’t say anything.
Then she told us the words no one wants to hear – that our baby didn’t have a heartbeat. Obviously our whole world caved in at this stage and we were left alone for a few minutes to let those words sink in.

The hours after that have become a bit of a blur. All I knew was that I now had to give birth to our little boy. We went to St. Mary’s Maternity Hospital, Poole and we were taken to the SPRING suite (a room away from the maternity ward with a private bed/living room area). I was given a tablet to stop the hormones from reaching the placenta and hopefully start labour. If this didn’t work I would have to return a few days later to have a tablet every three hours until labour started. So we went home.

In a way I’m pleased we went home, and little man came with us, still in my tummy. It was horrible not having the usual kicks and movements that I had felt just a few days prior. The day went on and still no signs of labour.

The next day arrived, the 9th of May which was my birthday, and slowly I started to get contractions. I almost didn’t want them to come as even though he was gone he was safe inside my stomach and he was still with me. I stayed at home for as long as I could and then decided to go back to hospital later that evening at 10pm. With Duncan and my mum by my side I knew I could do it. I owed it to our baby to give birth to him; after all I would have done the same thing had he been ok.

Again the next hours were a blur; all I know is that our perfect baby boy arrived quietly at 6.31am. I know I’m biased but he was totally perfect in every way.

We stayed in the SPRING suite for a few days, able to spend some precious time with our son. We named him River Kaya Skinner. We were able to hold him, he was dressed lovingly in a white baby grow and a beautiful green cardigan that my nanny had made. He was wrapped in a grey blanket made by my mum, River’s nanny. Although we didn’t want to let him go the time came when we had to say goodbye to our baby. He should have been coming home with us; instead we had to leave him behind.

The next few weeks we kept busy making the funeral arrangements for our little man. We decided to have him buried in Jumpers Road cemetery in Christchurch with all the other children and babies. A lot of my family are buried there too so I knew he wouldn’t be alone. We wanted to make his funeral as personal as possible, so Duncan and I took him to his final resting place in our pale blue VW Campervan, as we would have driven all over the place with our little man. All his flowers were beautiful and bright. Sunflowers were our main flower. He also had a beautiful wicker casket.

On the day of his funeral he was brought to us and we took him for a little drive around Mudeford Quay and through Christchurch. Looking back on it now it meant to the world to me having him with us in our van on that day. We were totally overwhelmed with how many people were there waiting for us at the cemetery. Duncan carried our baby into the chapel for the service, I don’t know how he managed to stay strong enough to do this, but he did. As we walked in our song for River was played, fittingly it was called ‘River’ by Joni Mitchell. We also had other songs played for him. ‘Go on Through’ by Afro Celt Sound System and ‘Morning Yearning’ by Ben Harper. It was a wonderful service.

We all made our way to the place where he would be laid to rest. A tiny little hole in the ground was waiting for him. I saved all the petals from the flowers that people had bought for us and dried them to sprinkle on his casket. All those beautiful flowers were all bought out of love for us, and River. The petals covered his tiny casket with vibrant colour. He was the most vibrant colour in our lives and still is.

We invited our friends and family to return to my mum’s house for the wake. It’s wrong to say wake really as I wanted it to be how we would have celebrated his first birthday, a little tea party with cake and sandwiches. It was just how I wanted it to be but the only thing that was missing was River. It was cruel to think of him all alone in the cemetery.

Now it’s just a case of waiting for the results of River’s post-mortem. Obviously the usual thoughts go through your head – Was it something we did? Did I not eat the correct things? etc. But what I have to think to myself is that he just wasn’t ready for this world and hopefully he will come back to us in some form in the future.

Duncan has now returned to work and I am still on my maternity leave. I say I am lucky to have this time off, but there is nothing lucky about it really. Maternity leave means being filled with joy, being able to spend time with your baby. I’m not doing that, I’m grieving for my baby instead of holding him in my arms.
Our little River will always be in our hearts – our beautiful baby boy with the perfect little nose.

Thanks to SPRING we were able to spend time together in the suite for as long as we wanted. It wasn’t until sometime later I realised that SPRING is a local charity based in Poole and that sadly, many women across the country in the same situation as us have to give birth to their babies in the normal maternity wards and that their partners have to leave them alone at night! Even though our story is devastating SPRING made an unbearable situation a little more bearable for us and we will never ever forget the precious moments we had with River.

We are trying to stay strong, he meant too much for us to just fall apart even though we feel like it at the moment. We are so proud of River and the effects he has had on so many people’s lives. It’s easy to forget about other people when you are suffering such saddening grief, but he was someone’s grandson, nephew, cousin, second cousin. It’s that rippling effect like a stone being dropped into a pond; it directly starts with you then ripples out to family, friends and even strangers. Duncan has been amazing throughout this whole process, he was so ready to become a dad and I do feel for him. We are so lucky, as women, to be able to feel life within us before our babies enter this world and quite often for the dads it seems to only sink in when that little baby is born. He only really met River when he was first born and that is all he was allowed to have and for Duncan that was saying hello and goodbye all in one day.

My immediate family have also been wonderful, especially my mum. Becoming a mum has made me realise just how strong that bond is with your children and I’ve seen my mum in a whole new light. She would give anything to make me feel better even just for a moment. And she has done just that. More than she knows.

Small things seem to ease the pain at the moment, for example my mum made us a grey blanket, exactly the same as little Rivers blanket so we can cuddle up together and remember him. A lot of our friends and family have also been to visit River and left him little things like china hedgehogs, windmills and flowers.

He may be gone from this world but he will never ever be forgotten.

Trent and Ruben

rainbow-spring-fullA night shift on ITU was busy, like any other. I didn’t feel right all night. I popped to casualty as I had pains below and they asked me to do a pregnancy test. I laughed. Pregnant? Me? Don’t be silly! I was 36 when I met my partner Steve on a blind date organised by work the May before. Nine months into our relationship what would our families say?

Steve picked me up outside A&E and I gave him the news. I was four weeks. He was over the moon! It was bitter sweet for him as six months into our relationship his mum passed away suddenly at only 60 years old.

We lived in a small house in Corfe Mullen so house hunting was definitely on the agenda. I wanted to get excited but Steve always held me back he wanted to know the scans were ok. I became big very quickly and at 4ft 11” I looked like a beach ball! We finally found a three bedroom house in Stourpaine, near Blandford which would complete on 06.06.06. We thought at the time that was a bad omen.

The day of the first scan arrived. On this occasion my mum also came along and I got dressed up. I lay on the sonographers couch and the scan commenced. I was not aware anything was wrong, but was told to go for a walk. We popped over to the garage. I was oblivious to the fact that Steve and Mum had concerns. I was only told the baby was not in the right position to scan.

I remember going back into the room to find it full of people. I was given the horrifying news the baby had Spina Bifida, a neural tube defect malformation in which children are often paralysed from the waist down and Ancephaley, a birth defect in which part of the brain and skull is absent. I looked at Steve. As he cried “No!” my dad entered the room just in time to catch him. That face I will never forget.

Mum and Dad went home and Steve took me for lunch. We had an appointment to go back and see our consultant at 2.30pm. It felt like forever. We walked into the clinic room and we were given the devastating news that we would have to terminate. We were informed of the process. It was Wednesday and by Friday I would have given birth.

We went back to my parents’ house. We were moving house on Friday. It was also Steve’s birthday. The process began straight away. I admitted myself to the SPRING suite a day early as I didn’t know what to expect and was very frightened. On Friday I gave birth to a little boy called Riagan. He was born asleep at 11.50pm on 7th June 2006.

I returned to the SPRING suite from delivery in the middle of the night. Somehow we slept, but I woke up very confused. I just wanted to go home. We had visits from lots of members of staff who I have now become extremely close to.

A new chapter began; a mum without her baby. It felt very strange. The grief was overwhelming for us both. We felt alone, confused, devastated. I did not see Riagan and it was a year down the line before I could look at photographs and accept what had happened. I regret this deeply now as I feel like I abandoned him.

I went back to work within a couple of weeks. I loved my job and my work colleagues supported me one hundred per cent. Work felt normal, home didn’t. Our relationship suffered, friends avoided us, finances were low – we struggled a lot.

We then went on to suffer two miscarriages. My work moved me to another department for me to allow myself to have a rest. I was devastated as the only thing that felt normal was my job. I began to receive counselling and saw the Director of Nursing on a regular basis – both of which helped us to get our lives back together.

I fell pregnant again for the fourth time. I carried a little girl who suffered the same problem as Riagan despite being told it wouldn’t happen again. We couldn’t believe it. I gave birth to Bonnie Glynis on the 21st November 2009. The pregnancy was hard. It was a huge blur as I hadn’t allowed myself to grieve properly for Riagan.

As if we hadn’t enough to contend with, Steve’s dad then passed away in intensive care under tragic circumstances. Our lives had completely fallen apart.

Soon after I agreed to become part of a research project into Spina Bifida called the PONTI study (Prevention of Neural Tube Defects by Inositol). I started a drug called Inositol – a vitamin-like substance widely available in health food stores which I took religiously for 3 months and then 16 weeks into each pregnancy. Amazingly it worked! Our son Trent was born 10th February 2010 weighing 5lb 6oz, followed by Ruben born 12th September 2012 weighing 6lb!

I still needed help post births, but our lives have changed for the better. Steve now works with austistic children and I have a dream job in the Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit at St. Mary’s Maternity Hospital, Poole.

We made it over that rainbow. This story does not reflect the true emotion and heart-break we endured – there aren’t the words to describe the pain of losing our babies – but we are so glad we didn’t give up.

We feel we closed the book on Sunday 13th July 2014 when we had both our boys christened, surrounded by all the family and friends we love, and, as a ‘thank you’, we received donations for SPRING in lieu of presents.

We made it!

Rainbow Twins

rainbow-spring-fullHaving read previous rainbow baby stories in the SPRING newsletter and taking comfort from other people’s success with conceiving following a loss, I was keen to share my story in the hope that other women can take comfort from it and also realise that there is support out there and, if you need to, you can seek help from a trained SPRING counsellor.


August 2010, my husband and I got married and were surprised to conceive on our honeymoon. Unfortunately I miscarried at 6-7 weeks but we tried to remain positive. As we had conceived so quickly we expected it to happen again with no problems. Little did we know we would go through three years of pain and suffering before we were to be blessed with our twin girls.


Following the miscarriage in October 2010, we tried unsuccessfully for 4-5 months when I found out I had developed a very large ovarian cyst. The doctor at the time said it would go away on its own, which it did, but I am sure to this day it affected my fertility and led to more problems later down the line. We spent the next 12-18 months trying all kinds of things that might help with conception including acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal remedies and more conventional medicines such as clomid, but nothing seemed to work. I even paid to go to a specialist in London to get tested for immune problems and I took a very strange concoction of herbs in the hope it would be the answer we were looking for. Every month that went by I would get so distressed when my period came and I got obsessed with wanting to get pregnant. We found it so hard to understand how we could get pregnant so easily first time and then struggle for so long afterwards. Looking back now I realise my stress and anxiety about getting pregnant definitely contributed to the problem of conceiving.


Following several blood tests and testing for my husband there was no clear answer as to why we weren’t conceiving so I was sent for an HSG dye test in August 2012. This test showed my right fallopian tube to be blocked (same side I had the ovarian cyst) and therefore was compromising our opportunities to conceive. We were given the option for me to have a laparoscopy or go straight to IVF. I was quite frightened at the thought of having IVF and certainly wasn’t ready for it so we opted for a laparoscopy to determine the cause of my sub fertility. Again this showed the right fallopian tube to be blocked so we decided to continue to try naturally for a further few months before going down the route of fertility treatment.


It was at this time that I was at my lowest point and a friend of mine put me in touch with SPRING. I attended counselling sessions on a weekly basis to start with and found them so beneficial. It was nice to talk to someone outside of my family who could help me understand the myriad of feelings I was experiencing and give me practical steps to deal with the difficulties.


After six further months we decided to have a couple of IUI’s (Intrauterine Insemination). Neither of these treatments worked for us – given the fact it was likely a blocked tube that was causing the problems it was unlikely to be successful. I found it really hard when neither of these treatments worked as you do invest so much time and energy and it can be an even bigger disappointment when they don’t work. I realised as time went on that the only way we were going to be parents was to undergo IVF treatment. I think after going through everything else I got to a point that I was accepting of this option and actually started to feel excited at the thought of going through the treatment.


It was August 2013 and I had started the injections ready to have the IVF in September. It was my mums 60th birthday that summer and as a family we decided that first week in September to take her to Lourdes as a surprise. We knew she had always wanted to go there and being brought up catholic we knew it was a special place that would be lovely for all of us to visit. Eight of us stayed in a farmhouse for a week and spent a couple of days in Lourdes. Whilst I don’t go to church I have always had a belief in god and it was in Lourdes I had a wonderful spiritual healing that I believe enabled me to find peace with the struggles of the past three years.


The medical advancements of IVF, together with my spiritual experience in Lourdes is what I believe has given my husband and I our most wonderful blessings. Our twins are nearly a month old and whilst it is hard work with the sleepless nights, I thank god every day for blessing me with them and also for everything I did go through as it has made me appreciate life so much more now. I am also really thankful that I had access to SPRING for the emotional support and reassurance they provided during such a difficult time.

Baby Marnie

rainbow-spring-fullIn 2012 we found out we were pregnant and we were over the moon. Our baby was due on 28th March 2013 and we couldn’t wait to meet her.  The weeks passed and on the 23rd December 2012, our wedding anniversary, my husband Rodson and I sat down to breakfast at work and a little while later my waters broke. I rushed to St. Mary’s Maternity Unit, Poole, thinking how amazing it was that we were going to meet our baby soon; but she was only 22 weeks 3 days.  Still thinking everything would be ok I was admitted to the SPRING suite. On 24th December 2012 we met out little girl Angel, but only to have  our hearts  shatter into a million pieces as she only had thirty precious moments with us. All we could do was hold her while she took her last breath and went to sleep forever. Never in a million years did we imagine this would or could happen. Leaving the hospital without her was heart-breaking – we felt such emptiness. The days, weeks and months that followed were the hardest times of our lives and all we wanted was to have our beautiful Angel.

As time went by we decided that we wanted Angel to have a brother or sister and became pregnant again in May 2013. Missing Angel so very much and being pregnant with our rainbow baby was very hard, but we had been blessed and given another chance. We were so excited. We lost Angel due to an incompetent cervix, so we knew that this pregnancy wasn’t going to be a walk in the park, but thanks to the doctors, midwives and nurses at St. Mary’s Maternity Unit, who did everything possible, our baby arrived safely. When I was 14 weeks pregnant I knew something wasn’t quite right so I went to the hospital only to find out my cervix had shortened. I was then given an emergency cervical stitch and from that point on I had fortnightly appointments until the 4th January 2014 when our beautiful little girl Marnie was born. She was 5 weeks early and weighed 5lb 1oz. After spending 2 days in NICU she was allowed to stay on the ward with me and we were able to go home ten days later.

Please don’t give up hope if you are waiting for your little rainbow. Miracles do happen. We now have two beautiful daughters; one who we can watch grow up and one flying high in the sky. Sleep tight our beautiful little Angel xx

Baby Scarlett

rainbow-spring-fullOur story does begin as a sad one, but I want to share how we got through such an awful time and went on to have our beautiful rainbow baby Scarlett.

In January 2012, at 6am, before work…one magic stick showed positive! We were delighted and I skipped off to work beaming inside, but aware that it was extremely early days and we would need to keep it quiet for a while yet! As a nurse however, by 6 weeks I felt the need to let my employers know, purely as a safety precaution. Immediate family had been made aware by then too! Our 12 week scan date arrived and all looked very well. Our baby was developing nicely, no problems noted. Delighted and very excited, we shared the good news with the rest of the world. Everyone was so very happy for us and from then on all I could think about and talk about was our baby.  In fact I even naughtily bought a couple of baby things…I couldn’t contain myself.

The next couple of months went by merrily as I luckily felt well during the pregnancy. I remember the first flutter of movement which quickly turned into acrobats. I loved every movement. The weeks passed and before we knew it we were having our 20 week scan. My partner and I were really looking forward to seeing our baby again, we hadn’t thought about the fact that this scan had a medical purpose to look for anomalies and check growth. Unfortunately, all was not well; we came back for a thorough scan with a consultant two days later. Her findings were extremely rare and she had not seen it before herself.

To investigate further, we had to visit the specialists at the Princess Anne Hospital, Southampton.  Another very long, detailed scan confirmed the findings were extremely rare and complex. We had an amniocentesis to rule out any genetic cause for our baby’s condition – this was a long and very uncomfortable procedure. We left the hospital exhausted, emotionally drained and our brains completely frazzled. We had to wait a week for the results and there were to be further meetings with various specialists. In the meantime we tried to keep busy and carry on as normal. We still went to a Christening and a wedding, during which I chatted away about my baby and future plans as if all was well. I was in complete denial that something was very wrong.

Our unborn baby was diagnosed with an exceptionally rare condition called Lymphangioma (malformations of the lymphatic system). With so few cases known, there was very little they could do to help her. We came to the conclusion that we didn’t want our little angel to suffer anymore and she did not deserve a life potentially full of surgery and illness. We said goodbye to our baby Sarah in Mayat 23 weeks and gave birth to her 2 days later in the SPRING suite. The privacy and comfort of the room was invaluable.  It gave us our own personal space to deal with such a devastating situation in peace and in our own time. We went on to have counselling through SPRING which helped both of us hugely to talk about our baby and the sad journey we had made.  We arranged a private funeral for her so we could both say goodbye properly. It was extremely emotional but it was a lovely way to set her free from our pain, up to a place where we knew she would be happy and looked after by other lost loved ones.

I never have and never will stop thinking about Sarah and how much I miss her, but my partner and I knew we still wanted to try again for another baby.  What would have been Sarah’s due date arrived and we marked it by lighting a candle and thinking of her together at home. Not long after that, I fell pregnant again. Another magic stick showed positive the following November. We were delighted of course, but our excitement was held back by the memories of the pain we went through last time. We were very cautious this time about telling people. It was difficult to shake the fear of something awful happening again, even though Sarah’s condition was so rare. However, we were under consultant care, had regular scans to check babies development closely and much to our relief all was well this time. The 20 week scan showing no problems was a huge relief and from then on I tried to relax a bit. I was lucky to have a very enjoyable pregnancy with very little discomfort. We found out we were having another girl and knew this was our second chance – a chance to give our little miracle all the love we had ready to give Sarah. We were unbelievably excited and felt truly blessed to have a successful pregnancy the second time around. I embraced every amazing movement she made, feeling her growing inside me, knowing that she was developing well. We couldn’t wait to meet her and she knew it…Scarlett was born four days early (on the same day as Prince George) and in a hurry to get out too! As I sat gazing at our beautiful daughter I realised that although, at the time, those dark days seemed like they would never end, there IS light at the end of the tunnel. When your turn comes, you feel like the luckiest person alive and it makes us grateful every single day that we have our amazing rainbow baby Scarlett.

Dad’s Loss, Admiration, Love, Support & Positivity


‘I assumed as we had already had a loss we would just sail through this pregnancy like before, but I was wrong. We had our 20 week scan at 21 weeks and all was going well until the nurse announced she ‘was not happy with the scan’…

Our first child came along with really no effort at all; we were so very lucky and fortunate.

Poppy was coming up to her 1st birthday when we discovered we were pregnant again, despite a recent loss at the very early stages of 6 weeks, not that long before this it seemed.

I assumed as we had already had a loss we would just sail through this pregnancy like before, but I was wrong. We had our 20 week scan at 21 weeks and all was going well until the nurse announced she ‘was not happy with the scan’.


Really this is where the loss began.

Numbness took over. My partner and I didn’t say a word. We just sat; it seemed, in our own thoughts. A second opinion backed up the fears of the first. The diagnosis was not good and our child would not live more than 2 weeks if indeed she made it that far. That weekend was the hardest time of our lives, but we decided to send her off to sleep.

When the day arrived, we hugged and cried so many tears before my partner went through the most traumatic and difficult experience I think a mum could ever go through.


My admiration is for my partner – her strength, her weakness and her love for the child she was losing was nothing but to be admired. I would like to say we went through it together and in some ways we did, but in so many ways we did not. A father’s role is so very different although important all the same. It’s still so very painful, we still shed tears, but we cannot feel the emptiness and loss the body has to endure.


This is where love comes in. I could not help myself in a time of absolute pain and heartache to love my partner even more. And then there was our little girl, fast asleep in our arms. You never really get to say hello and tell them you love them, but you do all the same.


Despite the reason for being there which was the worst reason ever, the support we BOTH received was truly spot on. The staff supported my partner just right, respectfully, never leaving her too long, but just long enough to have her time to deal with her emotions when the loss about to happen, when it happened and after it happened. All of the staff were superb and this, as strange as it may sound made it the easiest worst experience ever. They could not have supported my partner any better.


Despite our reasons for being there and again, this may sound strange, the experience was a positive one. The two main reasons for this were the wonderful staff and having the privacy and comfort of the SPRING suite. Both gave us just what we needed to help us deal with our loss. Having had this experience I can’t believe every hospital does not have one of these suites…it’s essential to the wellbeing of the parents going through the worst time of their lives.


I would just like to say a very big thank you to all whom looked after my partner and to SPRING for providing the suite. The two did their job in looking after her in the best possible way…thank you X

Babies Ivy and Ava

spring_logo_250‘Such a difficult experience knowing that after the labour and delivering the girls we would not have the joy of holding two healthy, crying babies in our arms’…

In March 2013 we were delighted when we found out we were expecting our first baby. So when we had our twelve week scan at the end of April and found out we were expecting Mono Chorionic Identical Twins it was double the excitement.

We were immediately placed under a consultant who would see us every two weeks for scans as there can be complications with identical twins, but with the constant support from everyone at St. Marys Maternity Hospital and additional scans, we knew we were in good hands and kept positive.

Sadly at seventeen and a half weeks we found out the twins had developed TTTS (Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome) – our worst fear. One twin was much smaller than the other, had no amniotic fluid and was shrink wrapped in the membrane – the other had lots of fluid. We were immediately sent to St. George’s Hospital, London. We arrived within three hours where we met with the leading consultant who confirmed the diagnosis.

Thanks to an early diagnosis, the twins were not in immediate danger and the risks to the twins would be lower when performing the surgery if we waited so we were asked to return in a week’s time for Laser Ablation surgery.

One long, anxious week later we returned to London for further scans, when we found out we were expecting little girls. The surgery would follow the next day. After a restless night’s sleep we arrived early in the morning for the ablation procedure, which was initially a success. All the blood vessels running between the twins had been severed with the laser. We even got a sneaky peak at the hands and feet of our baby girls through the scope used for the procedure which was amazing and beautiful. We were then taken to a ward for observation while we waited five hours for another scan to check all was well with the twins and confirm the surgery was a success.

We were sent home later that day a little exhausted but happy with the outcome. We were aware that the road ahead would be a long one as we were now at risk of delivering the girls very early – the next two weeks would be crucial. We were to have weekly scans at St. Mary’s Maternity Hospital, Poole until things looked to be ok.

For three weeks all seemed to be well and improving. The signs of TTTS were now almost gone as things balanced out and the girls were even almost the same size which is what we had been looking and hoping for. We allowed ourselves real hope for the first time in weeks.

At twenty-one and a half weeks during another scan it became apparent that something was wrong. We were briefed and sent back to London. We were again seen immediately and monitored for two days by two more of the three specialist Fetal Medicine Consultants to see if things would improve or change. They consulted with their colleague who performed the prior laser surgery, and also with colleagues in America. Everyone seemed to be baffled as to why this had happened after three weeks with such promising improvements. Following advice from these leading experts in the field it was decided we should try the laser ablation again. No one knew how it would turn out as these circumstances had never happened before. It was a case of risk the surgery again and hopefully save one or both of our babies or risk losing both girls by doing nothing. Surgery was complicated but we were incredibly comforted and well looked after with all three of the Fetal Medicine Consultants in theatre performing the ablation. More blood vessels running between the girls were discovered and severed as before. We then had the long, anxious, five hour wait for the scan.

Having had as many scans as we’d had and having had everything explained to us during them, we knew what we were looking for – two little heart beats. We looked at the screen hoping for the result that we could see we were not going to get. It was confirmed we had lost both our girls at twenty-two weeks – our world fell apart.

Everyone at St. George’s Hospital were wonderful, emotional and supportive as everyone had hoped for a different outcome. They were all wonderful when consoling us, but they then had to explain what needed to happen next. It was all so much to take in after all we had been through. We stayed in London for a few more hours to be monitored further and I was given some medication. During this time the staff at St. Georges made arrangements for us to go to the SPRING suite at St. Mary’s Maternity Hospital so we could deliver the girls and be near our home, family and friends.

After an horrendous drive and two nights at home with our grief we returned to St. Mary’s where I was induced. Such a difficult experience knowing that after the labour and delivering the girls we would not have the joy of holding two healthy, crying babies in our arms. The girls were born on 7th July 2013, Ivy Murray at 19:07 and Ava Murray at 19:15.

We have since found out that the girls had TTTS then, following the first laser ablation surgery developed TAPS (Twin Anaemia-Polycythemia Sequence), both of which are rare conditions. The leading experts in fetal medicine have been able to use our case to learn from and educate others in the fetal medicine community. Hopefully they will be able to help other families so they do not have to suffer the heartbreak that we have.

From the minute we stepped into the SPRING Suite at St. Mary’s Maternity Hospital, SPRING have been with us every step of the way.

It has been such a heart-breaking experience losing our beautiful twin girls Ivy and Ava to TTTS, but SPRING have enabled us to deal with a very difficult and personal situation in an incredibly supportive and caring way.

We have benefited from the SPRING suite many times; when we delivered the girls and for as long as we needed after. We were then able to use the suite again for as long as we wanted while spending precious time with them.

The SPRING suite is also where we met Julie, our lovely Bereavement Midwife. Julie has been great helping us with funeral arrangements; organising counselling provided by SPRING and so much more. SPRING have been there for us knowing what we need and want as well as helping us deal with our emotions through this terrible time. We feel encouraged and privileged that we will continue to receive this support for many months and even years to come.

We started a collection for SPRING as we wanted to give back a little something to help other parents in similar situations. And we plan to continue doing fundraising events in the future to support the charity and keep the memory of Ivy and Ava alive through their wonderful work. We’ve raised money so far through donations from our wonderful family, friends and work colleagues and some of our friends have even supported us and SPRING through various events of their own, for which we are hugely grateful.

The bake sale we held at work is just an example of how supportive everyone is. They know how much SPRING means to us and how important it is to be able to give something back. With one hundred staff in our department and over thirty cakes made by very generous people we were eating cake for three days! Over £400 was raised by equally generous people, perhaps even a little more generous in the waist as a result of eating all the cake too!

Thank you SPRING

Baby Fraser


‘The enormity of what we had lost hit us as we said goodbye; it wasn’t just Fraser the baby we had lost, it was Fraser the toddler, the teenager, the adult…’

Part 1 – The Beginning of Baby Fraser
Steve and I met in 2004 in our early thirties. Steve already had a teenage daughter but I had no children. After a few years we were ready to start a family, but found that was easier said than done. We had a long 4 years where nothing happened, had a miscarriage at 8 weeks in early 2012 and then a round of IVF which failed. Finally, a few weeks after the disappointment of the IVF, whilst building ourselves up to start the next round, we found out we had conceived naturally; the most unexpected but welcome surprise ever.
Our pregnancy was low risk, straightforward and enjoyable from the start and at 20 weeks we found out we were having a little boy. My age (40) meant they gave me an induction date very close to my due date, but when the time came it was put back a week as everything was going so well. At the time we were frustrated by that, desperate to meet our son; but we also felt that it gave him a little more time to come of his own accord. In the early hours of the 1st August 2013 he did just that and let us know that he was on his way.
In the early stages we had a couple of scares with his heartbeat dropping, but I was given the go ahead to try and deliver naturally in the birthing pool. After a little while when we weren’t progressing they assessed for forceps, but on realising he had turned the wrong way and was too high, they proceeded with an emergency c section. His heartbeat, despite the earlier concerns, was strong and stable, and just before the caesarean when we saw his feet come out and heard a little gasp we knew it was only going to be moments until we heard his first cry.
But that cry never came. He was whisked away and there were desperate attempts to start him breathing, but after 15 minutes or so the paediatrician came over to tell us that they had done what they could; the gasp we had heard was a reflex and they had been unable to start his tiny precious heart. Our world fell apart.
Like many of you reading this, we never, for one moment, contemplated going home without our precious baby. There had never been any thought of the possibility of stillbirth, it hadn’t happened to anyone we knew. At our antenatal class it was mentioned briefly once, but understandably, it wasn’t dwelled upon. And you always think it happens to other people not you. After all, it would be too cruel wouldn’t it, after taking so long to conceive?
Part 2 – The Aftermath
The doctors, midwifes and nurses in Poole’s maternity unit were incredible. Everyone we came into contact with over those next two days were upset and deeply shocked; it had been a complicated but routine failure to progress and it shouldn’t have had the outcome it did. At that point no one was able to give us any explanation as to what had happened and we made the difficult decision to have a post mortem.
That time is a blur for me, but Steve managed to keep everything together for us both. He had all the calls to make to our friends and family and how he got through those calls I’ll never know, I’m not sure he does either.
In the days that followed, thanks to SPRING, we were able to keep Baby Fraser with us and were given the time and space to create some very special memories. We explored every part of his tiny perfect body and carefully dressed him in the outfit we had brought to take him home in. We had professional photos and hand and foot prints taken, and Fraser and I were each given a small white knitted bear. At the time I remember thinking how on earth was that supposed to help? But it did, and in the early days at home without our baby that little bear became my crutch.

On the third day we met our wonderful bereavement midwife, Julie. All she did initially was hug us hard, and instantly we felt like somebody understood. Julie became our lifeline, particularly when we got home and we were out of the protective hospital bubble.

Part 3 – Grief
The grief process is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. You feel that you have entered a parallel universe; and you hope beyond hope that nobody ever has to experience what that feels like.

Emotionally we had gone from expecting to meet the most precious thing in the world to us having it all snatched away in a fraction of a second. Our hearts were broken, our anguish so painful we thought we couldn’t survive it. He just looked like he was sleeping and we would have given anything for him to have opened his eyes even once so he could see the love we had for him. I can still feel the shape and weight of him in my arms and how perfectly he fitted there. We had the awfulness of not being able to sleep; when we were asleep our minds full of dark and frightening nightmares and when we awoke again the raw, crushing realisation of what had happened came crashing down. For days, weeks, there was just no relief.

Although our world had stopped we got through those days. Julie encouraged us to have one or two tasks to do each day. Most of it involved medical appointments, putting a memory box together, making arrangements or choosing readings for the funeral, but it worked and gave us a purpose for getting up each day. We also had our dog that needed walking and feeding, and he was an incredible comfort.

The funeral probably marked the end of that first phase. It was a beautiful service on a sunny day that only Steve and I attended; but our family had written cards and letters to put in his coffin. We also swapped over the bears that Fraser and I had been given. The enormity of what we had lost hit us as we said goodbye; it wasn’t just Fraser the baby we had lost, it was Fraser the toddler, the teenager, the adult.

Not long after that we started to engage with the outside world again. We had become very close and reliant on each other. We had a couple of visitors in the early days and my sister came for a week, but we pretty much shut the world out. Now it was time to prepare ourselves for the transition back into ordinary life. Steve needed to think about going back to work and I needed to think about what I was going to do without him, I still couldn’t drive and I was terrified of him not being there.
When Steve did go back I had a few weeks of people visiting me at home or calling on the phone and then I started to go out; arranging to meet up for coffees, lunch or dog walks. It was an incredibly difficult time but my friends got me through it. I had to vet venues carefully for the possibility of babies and new mums; the cries of little ones were torture to me and I abandoned several lunches midway through whilst friends took care of the bill. Steve, although his work were incredibly supportive and understanding, found it very hard to leave me each day, he struggled to focus or care about his work, and the energy he had to put into trying to be ‘normal’ was exhausting.

It had only really just hit me that I was also grieving for the loss of being a full time mum for 9 months at a time in my life when I was the most ready for it. Being on maternity leave without a baby is very hard, everywhere you go during the daytime is the domain of carers of young babies and toddlers. The supermarket could be a minefield as could driving during the school run. I learnt a few coping strategies during this time, but Julie helped me realise that I couldn’t avoid difficult situations altogether so it became a fine balancing act.

Throughout it all, and encouraged by Julie, Steve and I kept talking and grew even closer than we had been before. We had to work at it, the times we were upset and the things that triggered it were different and we were both worried about upsetting each other when we were having a ‘good’ moment.

One day we realised we were making progress. We had transitioned from feeling broken to feeling like we were existing, to feeling like we were living in limbo, waiting to find out what had caused our baby to die. Steve was able to switch things off better than I was; for him there was no point going over and over things, we could do that when we knew what we were dealing with. I wasn’t able to do that though. My mind was in a complete turmoil, it played several different scenarios over and over… Was it an error by the hospital or because my induction was pushed back? Was something wrong with Fraser? Was it something I had done or something my body couldn’t give him?

Part 4 – The Post Mortem Results
In October we had a follow up appointment with our obstetrician and the paediatrician who had tried to resuscitate Fraser. The initial post mortem results showed that the bones in Fraser’s skull hadn’t developed properly and the pressure of being born caused fatal head traumas. They assured us it would have been very quick, which we believed due to the strong heartbeat recorded moments before the caesarean; and that no matter how he had been delivered his survival rate would be very low. We were grateful for having been given a reason, which a lot of people don’t have; and although we were distraught that our little boy was poorly, we felt relieved that no-one was at fault.

It was then a waiting game for the full results to tell us if it was a recognised condition or if it was genetic. During this time we both decided to run a local 10k race; initially a goal for me to return to fitness. Incredibly though, as we started to mention it to people, it turned into an event that 13 of us in total ran (including a friend’s 4 year old little boy who ran the fun run on the same day), all wearing SPRING t-shirts and raising a phenomenal £8,500. We were blown away. I think most people felt so helpless by what had happened that this was a way they could help, by either running or donating. Some of those who ran had never run before, and one of those friends is now undertaking a challenge to do ten 10ks in one year, starting and ending with the same race.

We got the final post mortem results in early December, but strangely we didn’t learn very much more. Despite specialist bone surgeons having been consulted there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest a recognised underlying condition (the most obvious culprit would have been brittle bone) and it was classed as a ‘spontaneous mutation’. We were advised to go for genetic counselling to look at the likelihood of it happening again, but we have been told the risk is very low; and that is enough reassurance for us to try again; especially since we were reassured by our obstetrician that that if we are successful I will be monitored all the way through and will have a planned c section at 39 weeks.

Looking back on his birth, we are now so grateful that he arrived when and how he did. We had an extra week with our perfect little boy who was never meant to survive in the outside world, and any other method of delivery would have meant he would have looked less perfect.

Part 5 – Where We Are Now
Our obstetrician and SPRING are essentially the reason we can write and talk about what has happened. Our obstetrician has shown us nothing but kindness, empathy, care, advice and honesty; we can never thank him enough. The same goes for SPRING. Not only have they helped us cope with the immediate loss of our baby, they have set us up with the strength to come to terms with the impact of our loss for the rest of our lives; and that is just invaluable.

But we know it isn’t over. We are only five months in, Christmas is tough and we are dreading the anniversary of his birthday. However, we are learning to live with him being with us but not here. We have a grave we can visit, a memorial in our garden and I wear his picture and a lock of his hair in a locket. I am still off work but planning to phase back in soon and that will be another step on the journey. We are now doing everything we can to see if we can have his little brother or sister. I’m worried that it will never happen; after all we have had a lesson in how harsh life can be and we have our history of infertility to contend with. But we are heartened by all the stories of rainbow babies and so we have hope. Most of all Fraser taught me that I was born to be a mother and nothing can take that away from me, even if he was the only child I am able to have.

Baby Ned

rainbow-spring-fullNed William Geoffrey Johnston – our gorgeous rainbow baby boy – safely entered the world on Monday 8 October 2012. Although this is his story, it’s impossible to tell without also talking about his older sister, Daisy, who was stillborn at 41 weeks in February 2011. Our children are intertwined – you can’t have one without the other. So here’s their story.

My husband, Nick, and I had been trying for a baby for over four years when I fell pregnant (naturally) with Daisy. My pregnancy was described as ‘text-book’. Everything was so low-risk, we opted for a home-birth so we could have a water-birth in a relaxing and serene environment. I went into labour on a Sunday evening. At 10.30pm, we had a midwife at our house, and I was already 3cm dilated. Everything was going so well – I was coping really well with the contractions and we were excited that we would soon be meeting our baby. But just a few hours later our world fell apart.

A different midwife was with us now. I was in the birthing pool and, although comfortable, the labour was definitely more intense. When the midwife checked me, she seemed surprised that I was fully dilated – brilliant we thought! ‘We’ll just check for baby’s heartbeat,’ she said. And that was when our lives changed forever. The midwife couldn’t find a heartbeat and it was obvious from her face that something was seriously wrong. An ambulance was called to take us to Poole Maternity Hospital where I gave birth to our beautiful baby girl. Her still, lifeless body was placed on me before she was rushed off by doctors who confirmed she had died. Even now, I still can’t believe this happened – it still doesn’t seem possible. The post-mortem revealed that although Daisy was healthy in every way, at 6lb, 6oz, she was small for her age – evidence of the placenta not functioning properly, which had not sustained her during the labour.

The initial hours, days, weeks and months were hard as we came to terms with our shattered hopes and dreams, and the terrible sadness that poor Daisy would never get her chance at life. And we cherished (still do) the precious time we got to spend with Daisy in the SPRING suite. It helped to cement Daisy’s place in the hearts of our family.

We always knew we wanted to Daisy to be a big sister, so when nothing had happened naturally by the end of 2011, we decided to try IVF. We found out our first attempt had been successful at the beginning of February 2012. Although our happiness of being pregnant again didn’t take away the pain of losing Daisy – it certainly made life less dark. It also gave us some optimism when we marked what would have been Daisy’s first birthday later that month.

Being pregnant again was very different. All naivety was gone, but I still wanted the baby growing inside me to experience the same happy vibes I hoped Daisy had felt for nine months, so we did some things the same – like not finding out the sex of the baby until the delivery and going to ante-natal yoga classes. At the same time, although we didn’t want to be completely neurotic and scared, we weren’t taking any chances – we had additional scans to check the placenta was functioning properly and to check the baby’s growth, especially towards the end of the pregnancy. I also regularly went along to ANDA to listen in to the baby’s heartbeat. We also said we wanted to have the baby by caesarean section (I couldn’t face the uncertainty of going through labour again – and we couldn’t put our family through it either), which we agreed with our consultant would be at 38.5 weeks.

We got fantastic support from my community midwife who had been with me through my pregnancy with Daisy. It was obvious she wanted us to have a happy, healthy baby this time – she couldn’t do enough for us. When my waters broke in the early hours of the morning I was due to go into hospital to give birth, I called my community midwife who, amazingly, got out of bed to meet us at the hospital so she could be with us throughout the delivery, as planned.

And so at 5.15am (a few hours earlier than originally planned), our rainbow baby was born by caesarean. I can’t describe how overwhelming the feelings of happiness and relief were. It was just so incredibly special. Looking at our baby boy, we couldn’t believe how much he looked like Daisy – so obviously brother and sister. I’m so pleased about that.

Ned is a really sweet natured boy and brings so much joy – not only to us, his parents, but everyone that has been with us on this emotional journey. We’ve always spoken openly about Daisy, and it’s important to us that Ned knows he has a big sister – that way she’ll never be forgotten. I talk to Ned about her often, like when I’m watering the tree we planted for her in our garden, or when we do things that Daisy never got a chance to do, like going to the beach or dancing to our favourite music.

Daisy will always be part of Ned’s story. Even his name includes a connection, as a friend pointed out – he asked if we’d picked the name, Ned, because of the initials: N (Nick), E (Emma), D (Daisy). We hadn’t, of course, but what a beautiful coincidence – further evidence of how our rainbow baby will always be connected to our first-born.