One of our FHH readers has shared her personal story of stillbirth, loss and grief with us. We were in floods of tears publishing this and admire her strength to share enormously, in a bid to help others facing similar feelings of heartbreak and loss. If you have been affected by baby loss, please feel free to message us, to find out more about supporting charities and counsellors who may be able to help.
Related Baby Loss stories can be found here.
Written by a Fertility Help Hub Reader (Anon)
What if I had eaten healthier? What if I had eaten more fruit and veg, would that have made a difference? What if I hadn’t woken up on my back twice the night before? What if I had insisted that something was wrong? What if I am to blame?
These are only a few of the questions that I have repeatedly asked myself recently…as well as, ‘when will this torture ever end?’ In order to tell my story, I need to start at the beginning. Unfortunately, we don’t have our happy ending, yet.
I met my husband just over 12 years ago through mutual friends. From the beginning I knew he was ‘the one’, corny I know. We got married in July 2013 surrounded with our family and friends. I felt like the luckiest girl alive to be settled in a loving relationship and was looking forward to seeing what the future would hold. It came naturally to us both that we wanted to try to conceive straight away. I even came off the pill the year before our wedding so that my body was ‘ready’. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.
After over a year of trying to conceive (TTC) we decided to go to the doctor for ‘routine’ testing. My husband’s tests came back normal which is when (in the doctor’s surgery) the realisation hit me like a ton of bricks that the problem lay with me. After some blood tests the doctor found that I had low progesterone. Our GP was so supportive and kind when explaining this to us. He referred us to the hospital for further tests.
Fast forward 3 months and I was put on Clomid for a year. If anyone has experience with these tablets you will know how horrible they make you feel! Little did I know that they were nothing compared to the effects of the IVF treatment. The Clomid didn’t work, so our hospital referred us to Aberdeen Fertility Hospital. They couldn’t understand why I hadn’t fallen pregnant because on paper everything was normal as they had managed to make the progesterone levels rise.
The First Cycle
We discussed our options and were told that the best course of treatment for us was IVF. We were lucky enough to be entitled to two cycles on the NHS. The first cycle started in November 2017.
I developed OHSS (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome) and ended up with 27 eggs. Around 20 of them fertilised, of which 5 became good grade embryos and were able to be frozen. A few months passed and my scans came back clear, so it was time to transfer the first embryo. Unfortunately, the first one to be thawed didn’t survive but I was still very positive as we had 4 left. I underwent 3 separate transfers over the coming months leaving us with only one left. Surely this would be the one?
Related Article – ‘Implantation Failure – Everything You Need to Know by IVF Spain’
The final embryo from our first cycle was transferred. The two week wait (2WW) went past, slowly, and I nervously did a pregnancy test. I couldn’t believe it. It was positive. There were 2 pink lines. I sat and sobbed in the toilet. I ran into the bedroom and woke my husband. (It was 4am…I couldn’t wait till morning to do the test!) The excitement took over so I drove to my parents’ house and woke them up at 7am to tell them our amazing news. My mum burst out crying and hugged me tightly. (She had travelled with me to so many of my hospital appointments that my husband couldn’t attend. She even stayed in Aberdeen with me for the week of scans, so she was as invested in this almost as much as us.)
Another 2 weeks passed and we excitedly went for our 7-week scan. I didn’t have any pregnancy symptoms but it was still such early days I never thought anything of it. I will never forget the lady’s face who scanned me. She looked so upset and turned to me and said those dreaded words, “I’m so sorry, there is no heartbeat.” The room was silent except from my sobs and my husband trying to reassure me that it was going to be ok. Ironically, the same lady would scan me once more in my next pregnancy.
I can’t really remember the drive home (luckily my husband was driving). My in-laws were visiting and looking forward to us bringing a scan picture home. I will never forget the look on their faces when they saw how upset I was. I miscarried two nights later. I will never get over the loneliness I felt lying in agony, on the bathroom floor, even though my husband was by my side, holding me.
The Second Cycle
We gave ourselves and my body a few months to heal, then decided to start our second cycle. We managed to get 9 eggs and 5 fertilised, however only 2 made it to the blastocyst stage. The morning of our transfer we were told that there was only one embryo of good enough quality that could be transferred. We couldn’t believe it. This was our last NHS cycle and we had one! Only one embryo. How could this be?
My husband and I spent the next two weeks nervously waiting on the test date. We were due to test on the Saturday, but on the Thursday morning I woke up and just knew I was pregnant. I sneaked a test into the bathroom and there it was – two pink lines. I just sat and stared in disbelief. Our one embryo had implanted. I started to sob again. I have cried a lot throughout this journey. My husband was delighted but, caringly, warned me not to get my hopes up and to wait for the scan.
Another two long weeks to wait! Eventually it was the scan day. The nurse told us that she would keep the screen facing her and if there was a heartbeat she would turn the screen for us to see. I noticed she went quiet and I burst out crying. She asked me if I’d like to see and started to smile saying, “Congratulations, there is a strong heartbeat in there.” We were overjoyed and I felt like the luckiest person alive.
Although I was overjoyed to be pregnant, worrying thoughts niggled away and I said I wouldn’t let myself believe that it was actually happening until after the 20-week scan. I was so scared I would miscarry again. I slowly started to buy everything we could possibly need. My husband began to joke about the amount of deliveries we were getting and how every delivery driver in the country had been at our house. I felt truly blessed and so happy to finally be near what I thought was the end of our painful fertility journey. How silly that makes me feel now.
Over the next 8 months I had every pregnancy symptom there was going, even still being sick until I was 28 weeks pregnant. After everything, I was secretly quite pleased to have morning sickness even if I did feel terrible! It told me everything was ok. I was so nervous before our 20-week scan but felt so much better after it. We found out we were having a boy. Every scan and test showed he was progressing well and there were no problems. We were overjoyed.
I loved my pregnancy belly and feeling him moving around. He had a strong kick! Meeting friends and family, I was so proud to show everyone my scan pictures. They were so happy for us especially after everything that had happened before.
Constant Worries / What if’s
My baby mainly moved in the evening and through the night. I used to love waking up and feeling him kick on one of my five trips a night to the toilet. On Monday 23rd March 2020, I hadn’t felt much movement during the night and most of the morning so said to my husband that I was going to phone the midwife to get a quick check as I wanted to put my mind at rest. As I was now 34 weeks, she advised me to go to the local hospital to get a heartbeat trace. Due to the current pandemic, I had to go alone.
The midwife was lovely and soon had me hooked up to a monitor, finding his heartbeat straight away and said he had a good strong heartbeat. The trace went fine but she said she had booked me in for a scan the following day to put my mind at rest. Again I would have to attend this alone.
I arrived on the Tuesday and a nurse who we had seen many times at the fertility clinic scanned me. He was moving and his heart was strongly beating. She printed me a sneaky picture of him (I’m so glad she did as it is the last picture we have of our wee boy alive). I phoned my husband and told him everything was fine. I was just being paranoid…
On the Wednesday night I filmed my stomach and he was kicking away. I went to bed happy and content that everything was ok. My baby only ever knew love which is very comforting. The following day I was working from home due to the pandemic and I didn’t feel much movement but reassured myself I had only just had a scan 2 days before and he was fine!
I always made sure I went to sleep on my side and made sure the pillows propped me up. I woke up twice that night on my back and turned straight onto my side before falling asleep again. I now constantly wonder if that had something to do with what happened. (I’ve been told by numerous people that it wouldn’t have made a difference but I can’t help question it.)
On Friday 27th March I didn’t feel any movement and my stomach seemed smaller somehow. I phoned the hospital and they advised me to come for a heartbeat trace but again I had to go alone due to Covid 19.
Back at the Hospital
I arrived at the hospital and sat in the waiting room. A midwife, who I later found out was called Lynne, spoke to me. She took me through to the ward to hook me up to the machine. She played about with it for a few minutes and eventually heard a beating sound. She was concerned as it was at the same rate as my heartbeat from my finger monitor. (Sorry I’m not very medical with this terminology!)
She said it was an older machine and she was going to get the Sister to see if she could get a clearer trace. When they both came into the cubicle. I could tell from their faces something was wrong. I could hear the heartbeat monitor in the cubicle next door and just prayed that mine would make the same noise. I felt the tears pouring down my cheeks. I began sobbing and stared at the ceiling begging a beating sound to come. The sister said she was going to arrange a scan as she couldn’t hear the heartbeat clearly. I was told I could go for one straight away.
I walked up the corridor with the Sister as she tried her best to comfort me. I was still sobbing when I arrived at the scan room. Remember I mentioned the lady who would scan me once more? My legs nearly gave way under me as I walked in and saw that same lady. As soon as I saw her, I just knew it was going to be the same outcome.
She scanned me along with the nurse that I had on the Tuesday. I lay on the bed sobbing as they turned the monitor away from me. I lay there holding the Sister’s hand begging for my baby to be ok. I was repeatedly saying, ‘please, please, please’ over and over again. The room was so quiet and peaceful. I could tell from their faces my worst fears had come true. In the moment when she then turned and said those dreaded words, ‘I’m so sorry, there is no heartbeat’ my world was shattered into a thousand pieces and I knew I would never be the same again.
Related Article – ‘Dealing With Recurrent Miscarriages’
The World Falling Apart Around Me
My world had crumbled around me. The room was silent. I was silent. I couldn’t even cry. I just simply calmly asked, “How has this happened? He was ok on Tuesday.” They explained that sometimes there is no explanation and this, sadly, just happens. The nurse then asked if it was ok if she scanned again to check fluid levels, etc. in case it gave some detail to what had happened. My fluid level was lower than it had been on Tuesday but I didn’t have any idea that my waters had broken. They said that perhaps it had happened when I was at the toilet so I wouldn’t have known. How cruel is that?
Then it hit me. How on earth was I going to phone my husband to tell him. He was at home oblivious and how I envied him not knowing this pain. I had left that morning saying, ‘It will be fine…they are just taking precautions having me in…there is no point in you coming and waiting in the car…I will be out in no time…I’ve been in before and everything was fine it will just be the same.’ How wrong was I?
They led me into a quiet room so I could phone my husband, my parents and my sister. One of the most horrendous things I have ever had to do was tell my husband that our baby had died, only second to saying goodbye to our little boy for the final time. I then had to wait for half an hour while he drove to the hospital. I was so scared that he was going to have an accident as he would be distracted by how I had just devastated him. It was the longest half hour of my life.
He arrived and the midwife Lynne brought him through to me. We were left in the room sobbing in each other’s arms. I had been in the scan department many times and never once did I see the door to this little room. How did I miss it?
A consultant, a junior doctor and Lynne came into the room to speak with us. They passed on their condolences and explained that due to having a low lying placenta (Placenta Previa), they felt the best course of action was for me to have a caesarean section on the Monday. It was now 3pm and they felt it would be best to wait, as there was a skeleton staff on at the weekend.
I will never forget the feeling of numbness I felt when sitting listening. The doctor explained that she would need to take blood from me. She was so gentle and kind and took 11 bottles of blood from me and one from my husband for testing. I didn’t even feel the needle go in, I felt so numb. She has since sent us a card saying that she was so sorry for what we were going through and that she would never forget us. It really did mean a lot to receive a card from her as she genuinely cared about us.
We went home and spent the weekend in a blur. My parents and sister came over to see us and gave us their support. I sat on the couch with everyone around me but I have never felt more alone. I had heard of people saying that you go numb when in shock but I can honestly say I have never experienced anything like that before. It was a completely different level of grief. The 48 hours at home were so painful, to sit and basically wait for them to take my baby out of me. I can’t remember what happened that weekend, I just remember feeling numb. The tsunami of grief kept hitting me over and over again and, to be honest, still does.
We arrived at the hospital on Monday 30th March 2020. We were shown into a room that we both could stay in. They made an exception so that my husband could remain with me throughout my hospital stay, as due to the Covid-19 pandemic dads weren’t allowed in the ward. The walk into the ‘room’ was so painful seeing the cots lying empty in the corridor. One should have had my baby in it, instead he was about to be placed into a cold cot. Don’t get me wrong I was so grateful for the special type of cot as it allowed me to spend precious time with my baby.
We unpacked a few items while waiting for the doctor to join us. She went through the relevant paperwork with us – all I seemed to do over the next 2 days was sign for different things. The anaesthetist came to join us and speak about the procedure. She asked if I would like a general anaesthetic instead of a spinal. It was such a relief to be offered this as all weekend I was dreading being awake and feeling everything even though I knew I wouldn’t feel any pain.
At 11am, Lynne came to take me to the theatre. She had asked to switch wards to be on shift with me. I will be forever grateful for her support. I hugged my husband so tightly and told him I loved him. He said he loved me too. I will never forget the worried look that was all over his face. He just looked as broken as me.
I walked with Lynne back through the ward, passed the cots in the corridor, hearing newborn babies crying in the rooms across from us, to get to the theatre. Walking into the theatre was probably the worst experience of my life. I was terrified. I saw the bed with a medical sheet, implements lying prepared in the corner and the worst part was seeing an ‘emergency’ style cot in the other corner waiting for our baby to be placed in. My heart was breaking even more than it already had. I didn’t think it was possible.
I sat terrified on the bed and everyone in the room introduced themselves. There must have been about 10 people there, maybe more, I struggled to see them all through my tears. My face was hurting from crying so much. I was physically shaking. The anaesthetists helped me to lie down and put 2 cannulas in my shaking hand. I was pleading, in my head, that they had got this so terribly wrong and that when they opened me up they would lift a healthy baby out. Of course that wasn’t to be.
I remember lying there sobbing, asking them to hurry up and put me to sleep as I couldn’t bear it any more. I gave my tummy one last rub and whispered that I loved him. I looked at Lynne who also had tears pouring down her cheeks. She held my hand, comforting me as I fell asleep.
We had decided that we would like to meet our son together once I was awake and feeling strong enough to hold him. I vaguely opened my eyes in recovery and asked where my baby was and they told me he was in the ward with Lynne. She was bathing and dressing him.
My next question was do I still have my womb? Part of the paperwork I had to sign was that they could give me a hysterectomy if it was needed. I hadn’t even considered this could have been the outcome. I remember feeling such relief when they said my womb was still intact. The next time I remember opening my eyes I saw my husband. He was holding my hand and was reassuring me that everything had gone ok and that our baby was in the room next door.
After The Operation
The doctors and Lynne came in to see us and said that the operation had gone well. I remember thinking how could it have gone well if my baby is dead. I know they didn’t mean it like that. I was hooked up to so many machines and was on oxygen.
I was having quite a lot of pain, as the uterus contracts back down to size, so I kept pressing the morphine drip. My husband was concerned, probably rightly so, that I kept pressing the button to get more. I was in a lot of pain but by pressing it so much it was helping me to block out the emotional and physical pain I was in. I couldn’t tell him that properly to him at the time but Lynne explained that the machine wouldn’t let me overdose.
After a few hours I wanted to shower. I was covered in the yellow liquid that they use in surgery and I felt horrible. I have never felt the support of my husband as much as I did in those few days. He was utterly amazing. Nothing was too much work for him. He helped me shower, go to the toilet, get washed and dressed and even helped me eat. It is true what they say… you have no dignity with childbirth!
When Lynne brought our beautiful baby boy through to us for the first time. He was in the cold cot and just looked so peaceful. She passed him to me and I’ll never forget how utterly terrified I felt at that moment. Not a feeling I ever expected to feel. I couldn’t even look at him. I was so scared. I’ve never seen my husband look so emotional. He was sitting beside us telling me he was just perfect. I slowly started to look down and he was right. So tiny but just perfect. I put my finger in his hand so he was ‘grasping’ onto it. It filled my heart with such love to see him holding my finger. I know he wasn’t really but it was the closest that I will ever feel to him doing so.
We were unsure about the hospital taking photographs. They explained that they could take them and keep them until we were ready, if ever, to see them. I’m so glad now that we agreed. I treasure them with all my heart. They arranged for the medical photographer to take photos that night. It sounds silly but I showered, washed my hair, put on nicer pyjamas and even put on a little makeup (no idea why I did this bit). I wanted to look my best for my precious little boy (I looked awful but it made me feel more like me at the time and I wanted him to ‘remember’ me rather than this blubbering wreck I had become).
We had decided that this would be goodbye. Leaving him that night was the most heart wrenching, agonising thing I have ever done. My emotional pain in doing this was horrific. I held him tight and hugged him closely. I told him how much I loved him and that we would always remember him. My husband had to help me physically walk out of that room as my world was shattered.
Related Podcast – Baby Loss – ‘Dealing with Grief and Saying Goodbye’
I looked up as I left the room sobbing and saw a mother cuddling her new born baby in the ward opposite. Just when I thought I couldn’t feel any worse, I did. We got to our room and I collapsed on the bed howling. My legs physically couldn’t hold me up any longer. We just sat there holding each other. My husband has been my rock throughout this whole experience and I will forever be thankful that I have him. Not only does he have his own grief to deal with but he was watching his wife break in front of him and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
The following morning, I just wanted to go home. I was completely broken and just wanted to get away from the sounds of newborn babies crying and waking me up in the night. It was horrendous. I couldn’t take it anymore. I spoke with the doctor when she did her rounds and she agreed to discharge me. We were given a memory box from SiMBA. It had his cot card, ankle bands, his hand and foot prints inside as well as 2 teddies which were in the cold cot with him. We have given one to each set of his Grandparents.
I asked for our boy to be taken down to the mortuary before we left, I didn’t want to leave him on the ward on his own. The midwife said she had sung him a song and had given him a cuddle when she took him down. This meant the world to me as he was being cared for even right up to that dreadful moment.
Before we left the hospital we spoke with the hospital Chaplain who helped us to arrange our baby’s funeral. She was so kind, helpful and supportive towards us.
The walk out of the ward was awful. We left the hospital on 1st April. It felt like a cruel April fool’s joke. I kept thinking: I was pregnant so why am I now without a baby? We were leaving with empty arms. My husband and I held on to each other as we left. All I had was his little blue rabbit to carry with us. I didn’t go anywhere without it for weeks. It was the only connection I had left to him. I felt and still feel like I have failed as a woman, wife and daughter, in not giving my family the baby they so desire.
Walking back into our house it just felt so empty. His room was set up waiting for him. My husband and dad had decorated it only a few weeks prior. I used to love seeing his clothes hanging up in the wardrobe. Now what do I do with them? I couldn’t bear to be on my own so we asked my sister to stay with us. She has been here throughout it all and been an amazing support. I couldn’t have got this far without her, my husband, parents and my two best friends. They both have messaged every day and due to this silly virus I’ve not been able to see them yet. I am so appreciative of them all.
The Funeral Service
As a result of the virus we weren’t able to have many people at his funeral. Only my parents, and sister. My husband’s parents live too far away to be allowed to travel during lockdown. This is something that was very difficult for them to miss.
Arriving at the crematorium and seeing the hearse parked outside was a strange experience. As we walked round the side of the car, I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t see his casket. Of course it was so small that it wasn’t sat up like a ‘normal’ coffin. It was placed, very respectfully, in the car – but to me it looked like it was sitting in the boot. It just seemed wrong. The casket was so incredibly small. I obviously knew it would be small but couldn’t comprehend how tiny it was. It was white with silver handles and on the top his name was engraved. It was so little that it caught my breath. We walked towards it and I sobbed into my husband’s arms. I placed fingers on my lips and kissed them, then placed them on the top of his coffin whispering, “I love you.” My heart broke again.
The service was led by the hospital Chaplain. It was a lovely service. My best friend had written a lullaby for him and we played it as the gates closed. My husband who hadn’t been able to listen to it before the service turned and whispered to me how nice it was and it was just perfect.
After the service, the five of us went for a walk in the remembrance garden. I remember thinking it was the first time since we lost our baby that I felt peaceful. The sun was beaming and it was a lovely day out,0 even if a little cold.
Phoning Aberdeen Fertility Hospital to tell them the news was so hard but I honestly can say that the staff there are amazing. Val, a nurse, was so kind on the phone and has since called again to check how we were. She has arranged counselling for me and this is definitely helping. My husband was offered it too but isn’t keen. Everyone grieves differently and it is important to do what is right for you at the time. I know I will never get over the loss of our baby but I need to find a new normal.
As well as the support of family and friends, I have found a lot of comfort online. I now follow a few people on Instagram that have also had a stillborn baby or neonatal loss. I have spent hours watching YouTube videos of families in the same situation as us. I have made sure that all of the people I now follow have gone on to have other children after their loss, as I need to see some sort of hope in all of this. Sands is a good support to many and I have been on it a few times. I find it quite painful to see how many people are affected by this, so limit how much time I spend reading the posts.
People try to be kind and say we can try again. But this was our baby, I carried him and felt him move for months. I love him. People have said, you never know it might happen naturally. We’ve been trying for 8 years naturally. It doesn’t work for us. These unhelpful but well-meaning comments painfully chip away at you and all I want to do is scream at people, “BUT HE WAS MY BABY! I CAN’T REPLACE HIM!”
I know they mean well and are only trying to help but, my goodness, it’s annoying! I understand it is a hard subject for some people to speak about. No one knows what to say to you. I don’t blame them for that. I wouldn’t have known either what to say to someone before this happened.
Related Article – ‘What Not to Say to a Woman Who’s Had a Miscarriage’
When I wake up, I don’t get that split second of forgetting what has happened. It hits me full force. The sadness physically hurts my chest and I feel broken. Everyone keeps saying how strong and brave I am. I’m not. I’m surviving. This baby loss grief still hits me like a wave and sometimes like a tsunami when I least suspect it. I wish I could go back 9 weeks to my naive self.
When I found out that I was pregnant I thought that I was at the end of my fertility journey. Of course I now know I’m not. The past 9 weeks has made me appreciate everything I have and the people who love me so much more than I ever knew was possible. My desire to be a mother has only become stronger. My husband and I are going to have IVF again one day and hopefully it will be a different outcome. For me, I know I won’t stop until I have a baby in my arms.