Baby Loss Awareness Week - The Baby in the Sky14 Oct, 2019
Baby Loss Awareness Week - The Baby in the Sky
This week is Baby Loss Awareness Week, a campaign which aims to raise awareness about pregnancy and baby death.
We're supporting the campaign because it's important we not only signpost colleagues to the help that is available but play our part in encouraging an environment where we all listen to and look out for each other.
Today, Diane shares her experiences:
I had pretty easy-going pregnancy. It was my first pregnancy so very exciting times for us. On my 20-week scan the baby was wiggly and the nurse was unable to tell us for sure if it was a boy or a girl.
On Sunday 20th March 2016 we went to London for a private scan. I was 27 weeks pregnant. We were going to celebrate by buying a blue or pink item depending on the news. She said the baby, a little girl, was not well and that the blood flow in the umbilical cord was too fast and that I need to go to hospital. I have no memories of how that made me feel - I just switched off. Straight from there I went to my local hospital where they monitored me for three days but things were getting worse
I was given an initial steroid injection to get her lungs ready for an early delivery. I was then transferred to a bigger hospital as my organs were shutting down - pre-eclampsia was setting in. I had Lily delivered on 24th March 2016 by emergency C section. I didn't see her at the time as she was placed straight away on wires and tubes. She had beautiful long legs, button nose and black hair is what sticks to mind most. I was poorly and stuck in bed unable to move. My partner had a chance to stay with her for a while.
After about five hours we were told that the doctors want to stop 'working' on her as her lungs did not work as well as they should have, and her heart was giving up too and it was better to let her go. There was an on-call vicar at hospital and they offered to christen her before turning the machines off. As I am coming from a Christian background that brought me a bit of comfort. She was then brought to me and I got to hold her, but I was too scared to touch her. Half an hour I held her for, although it seemed longer.
I was in hospital for another five days after this. I was on one floor, Lilly on a different floor; I haven't seen her once - again I have no memories of my feelings. I got out of hospital on the 29th March. Nine days after going in for a routine scan I came home empty-handed. My birthday was two days later - I don't have many memories of that either.
And then the funeral arrangements. I had never ever imagined that I'd have to organise my own baby's funeral, I didn't know where to start from, but I did it. I had some unexplained inner-strength that kept me going. I had to make Lily proud somehow. I had the support from family, friends and my partner, I accepted the medical explanations of why Lily had to go, I embraced the spiritual explanations of her becoming an Angel. Lily was brought to the local funeral director where I visited her three times and I got to clean her and dress her up and talk to her and tell her of all my plans I had for her.
I was still very much under heavy medication as my blood pressure did not settle after delivering her and various other health issues popped up for the following few months. I didn't have the energy to keep an eye on my partner too. He returned to work after his two weeks off and I thought that although he was sad and in pain he carried on. In hindsight I now know he was crumbling and was falling apart. We didn't access any couples type help or support - as I found out later all the brochures with the help that was offered to us was in a back of a draw somewhere tucked away and forgotten about. By August I had to move out - at first with a suitcase and later with all my stuff. As if life was not unfair enough now my future was gone too and all the things I held onto for hope and for moving forward.
But this is when I reached out and someone I know at work had picked up on my vulnerability and shared his story with me - a male colleague who also had lost his baby. His story sounded so raw as if it happened only few months before when in fact it was three years before. His story brought comfort and I understood that I wasn't on my own, that the fact that my partner and I split up was almost normal, the fact that I was feeling numb was also normal and that three years, ten years later I will still feel as raw as I felt then but manage it better.
After having lost my baby, my partner and my home, all I had left was my job. I returned to work after first part of my maternity leave. The support I had from my managers and colleagues was second to none. Whilst at home where everything was falling apart I did not have to worry about work once. As I was always re-assured and was encouraged to focus on getting better and not think about work. HR, OH, supervisors and colleagues were all very understanding.
Coming back was hard, as for a while I still had the occasional awkward conversation and at the time I was often tearful. My supervisor identified that and referred me to CARE FIRST.
I was able to talk about Lily most of the time without crying. I sometimes purposely did it even if there was an awkward silence around it. I just refused to not acknowledge her. If I was asked if I had any children by colleagues who didn't know me, I would hesitate answering and a massive sense of guilt would hit me straight away. So wherever possible and comfortable I have shared my story.
I have put a lot of energy into work, progression, a little holiday, buying a place of my own so that I never have to 'pack a bag` again and generally moving forward. Then one day things reached their toll when I saw an article about a lady who wrote a book about the loss of her little boy. The title was ASK ME HIS NAME. That's when I broke down and finally I was able to feel. I have analysed every minute of my experience and wondered where it all went wrong. The guilt and the pain that hit me were unbearable and something I have never experienced before. I had to go off sick; more counselling, medication and the support from my new and understanding partner and supervisors support made it all better again. But with work colleagues it was different this time - two and a half years later - they didn't know or those who knew thought I had moved on.
I do feel that if more people know and the more I talk about Lily, the more I feel that I am understood, and I am not judged. If dealing with unusual incidents like a pregnant woman jumping in front of a train colleagues knew to make sure I was ok. Also, more I talked about it more stories were coming out. It's like a hidden secret. It shouldn't be secret. Life goes on but little memories, anniversary dates, and a grave to visit, they remain and bring me comfort.
If you're affected by the issues Lucy raises, there is support available via supervisors, OHU and staff associations. You can also visit the Health and Wellbeing area of the intranet or www.babyloss-awareness.org