I was honoured and privileged to have been asked by Nikki Osman, a journalist at Women’s Health to feature in an article she was writing about stillbirth and its effect on women.
It’s always difficult to recount the stillbirth of Arella but it’s equally cathartic, to honour her memory and ensure that her little life wasn’t lost in vein.
I have copied the information relating to me below but the full article can be found here: https://www.womenshealthmag.com/uk/health/female-health/a26644423/stillbirth-stories/
Before I experienced stillbirth: I’ve always thought of myself as an empathetic person. As a medical negligence solicitor, I dealt with some tragic cases, including stillbirth claims. I’d listened as women told me their stories, I’d cried tears for their babies and I’d read psychiatric reports that laid bare the trauma of losing your child.
I thought I had some grasp of how painful that could be. One of the first things I thought, lying in a hospital bed a week before my due date, hearing that my baby had died, was, ‘Oh, I’m one of those women now.’ It turns out you can never know that pain until you’ve lived it.
We chose not to find out if we were having a boy or a girl – it didn’t matter to us, we just wanted a healthy baby. I spent a few months feeling nervous, but at the 20-week scan, we were told our baby was healthy and I began to relax.
We’d just moved into our new house and my due date was three months before my 30th birthday. We bought a pram, got the nursery ready, and on a Friday in June, I started my maternity leave.
What happened: The following Thursday – a week before my due date – I had a routine hospital appointment. My mum came with me, and she was at my side when the midwife said she couldn’t find a heartbeat.
I looked at my mum, she looked back at me, and I knew. I called my husband Jonathan and told him to come to the hospital. He told me later he left everything on his desk and ran out the door. He didn’t even close his computer.
People say they’ve had the worst birth ever because the epidural failed or the labour went on for hours. I had to give birth to a child I would never know, on a ward filled with the sound of babies crying. We tried to drown them out with music, but it didn’t work, and it was torture.
She was a she, and she was born around 10pm. We named her Arella. They asked me if I wanted to hold her, but I said no. I didn’t want to know what it was like to hold a dead baby.
I regret that now, but you make the best decision you can at the time. Shortly after, I started to haemorrhage. There were times in the months that followed when I wished I’d bled to death in that hospital bed.
My life after stillbirth: My world became a dark place. I’d get out of bed each morning, but I was going through the motions. My best friends were pregnant, so were both my sisters-in-law, and I couldn’t bear to see them – or anyone else. Jonathan went back to work after a week, but he was hurting.
Men aren’t affected physically, so they’re just expected to get on with it. But he’d lost a child, too, and on top of that he had to watch his wife fall apart.
My very best friends were amazing, because I gave them the tools to be amazing. I’d send emails saying what I needed and what I didn’t. I didn’t want to hear well-meaning platitudes that I’d have another child, that this wasn’t meant to be or that someone understood what I was going through because they’d had a miscarriage.
It’s misconceptions like these that make the grief so much harder to bear. You’re not just grieving for the baby you didn’t bring home. You’re grieving the child, teenager, person they will never grow up to be; you’re grieving the memory of giving birth to death.
What I wanted to hear after stillbirth: What saved me, I think, was Jane, a bereavement midwife specialising in grief who was assigned to me by the hospital. From the first day she arrived in my life, she changed it for the better.
She got me at a time when I felt like no one got me. She understood that my desire to become a mother hadn’t died with my daughter, and she instilled faith in me that I would go on to have more children without diminishing Arella’s memory.
Some days, she helped me to normalise my feelings of anger at the world and envy towards other mothers; others she just held my hand while I cried.
I love her for giving me faith in the future at the time when I needed it most, because she was right. I went on to have three healthy children – children Jane delivered – and they are the most precious things in my life.
My life now: Since going back to work, I’ve specialised in medical negligence in stillbirth, which means it’s my job to make sure that if the NHS trust involved is at fault for a baby’s death, it is held to account. I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a baby because of someone’s negligence, but I know how to word the letters and what it means when someone uses your child’s name.
My life is so busy now for the best reasons. I don’t dwell on the pain of what I went through, but it doesn’t go away either.
I’ve got another child who’s not with me, and I feel it. I don’t go down the road of ‘what if’, I don’t sign her name on birthday cards, and if a stranger asks how many children I have, I don’t say four. It’s too sad, too uncomfortable. But I do have four children, and only three are at home with me.
If you or a loved one would like to discuss a stillbirth compensation claim or neonatal death compensation claim, please do not hesitate to contact us.