My baby son Noah was stillborn at 42+3 weeks in 2013. I was 23 when Noah died
So my blogging journey started when I was asked to be part of the Our Chance campaign; Sands are involved with, in a bid to reduce stillbirth and neonatal death in England by half by 2030.
I took part in an interview at my home, filmed by 2 lovely people; who work for a film company, and shared my story for the first time on camera. It felt liberating to be part of something bigger than just myself. To accompany the video and to add to the campaign here is my story about my journey as a mother to an angel.
I’ve been on autopilot for a long time and it’s only since having my daughter; after losing my son, that I’ve realised the enormity of my loss.
Aged 23, I found out I was pregnant. Not thinking too much into it, I did a pregnancy test as I hadn’t had a period for a while (which wasn’t that uncommon for me)… A while later, I picked the test up ready to throw it in the bin, only to see a slight line where it shouldn’t have been. I was in complete shock! My partner was elated, he is 8 years older than me and felt ready to have a child. I on the other hand was petrified at the thought of such responsibility.
I managed to get in for a scan relatively quickly; as I thought I was further on than I was. So the first scan I had turned out to be at 8 weeks pregnant.
Seeing that little jelly bean on the screen changed everything. My instincts kicked in and I wanted nothing more than to have and protect this beauty!
We went back for the 12 week scan as this is when they check the baby and things are ok. I opted to have the Down’s syndrome screening test at this stage; where they test some hormones in your blood to get back whether you are high or low risk of your baby being downs. They said if everything was OK I would receive a letter in the next couple of weeks, otherwise I’ll get a phone call in the next couple of days.
The next day I received a phone call whilst at work, so I slipped out of the office to take it – worried that something was wrong – they reassured me the test came back low risk but there was a hormone which was lower than normal. At this point, the woman on the phone told me, this hormone related to the size of the baby, which they would monitor in the third trimester by having 3 additional growth scans. Nothing more was mentioned at this point. I remember feeling uncertain about everything, what hormone was it, what could it mean. I had so many questions so after discussing the with my family, they suggested phoning the midwives back. So I did, and they couldn’t answer these questions but reassured me everything was fine and if anything additional needed to be done, it’d be picked up at the growth scans.
That year, we had our dream holiday to Mexico in an amazing hotel. I’ll cherish those memories for my entire life. There I felt my boy move for the first time; whilst having a romantic evening meal at 17 weeks. We decided on the name Noah whilst chilling in the pool there.
Sometimes I want to go back there so we can be close to the memories I have of his existence, but other times I fear would confuse the two visits.
Shortly after we returned from Mexico we had the 20 weeks scan – the gender scan – we were so excited after all this time, to find out so much about the rest of our lives all in that one scan. Here they confirmed Noah was a boy. The sonographer advised the scan showed Noah’s size was back on track and as a result, cancelled the extra growth monitoring scans they had scheduled for the third trimester.
This in turn had a detrimental effect on the outcome of my pregnancy. I believe this decision is the reason my son is dead. But at the time I didn’t question it, as I was pleased thing were now considered ‘normal’.
I flourished during pregnancy I loved every minute of it, everyone commented on my glow, I barely had any sickness. I was in awe feeling my baby moving inside and watching the effects those movements had on my ever growing bump.
I booked a 4D scan as a surprise for my boyfriend’s birthday, and I’m so glad I did. We had an hour or so long scan that gave us hundreds of images of Noah inside; happy warm and loved. The images of a lifetime. These to me, prove my baby was alive and should have the rights of any other living human. You can see he smiles, rubs his eyes, yawns and stretches. Those images are stored in several albums and backed up so they’re safe as my most prized possession.
Towards the end of my pregnancy I was still working, keeping busy as my partner was at work offshore until really close to the due date. You have lots of appointments with the midwife and lots to be getting on with like packing and repacking your hospital bag and all the organising that takes. I had my birth plan written well in advance, claiming i didn’t want an epidural, but was open to other pain relief, that I’d like a water birth and for the baby to be put straight on me (skin to skin) when he was born.
I was due on the 13th October; which was a Sunday, and that date went by, the following Friday something struck me that I hadn’t felt Noah move while I was sat having my tea as he normally would… So I did the things I could think of that usually got a response like play some music, have a sugary drink and I didn’t think I could feel anything so I rang the maternity unit for some advice. They were very calmed and suggested I came down to be checked for reassurance – sure enough I was sat in the waiting area watching some Gino De Campo cooking show and the little terror was doing the Mexican wave which was such a relief, but equally I felt like I was wasting the midwives time. They didn’t mind though and still put us on the monitor and left us for a while to check.
We went for dinner for a relatives birthday the Sunday night and I was massive, as if I’d been stung by bees all over my body – photo for your amusement!
I was counting down the days to be induced the following Saturday.
The next couple of days, the midwife came to do a second sweep at my house. We went upstairs and I lay on the bed while she was checking our observations. She struggled to find the babies heartbeat but didn’t appear concerned. She asked me to lie on my side and after a few seconds found it and said he must have been lay in a funny position. The sweep didn’t work, I had no signs of going into labour naturally despite going for lengthy walks and trying the other old wives tales. This is a picture of the day before I went into hospital to be induced after a walk around the park, it’s like a different person, I could barely open my eyes!
The day arrived when we were to go to hospital and meet our boy. I’m not gonna lie, I was sick with nerves, I had no choice than to be giving birth this weekend – at least if you go into labour naturally it’s unexpected but this was planned and I couldn’t back out!
I got ready all prepped and primed (as much as a whale could have!)
When we arrived at the central delivery suite we were shown to a side room which was so narrow my partner could hardly squeeze down the side of the bed. My feet were so swollen they had massive delves in from my flip flops (yes flip flops at the end of October because that’s all I could fit into!) which I had on for 20 minutes at most…
We waited a long time without much interaction but eventually 2 midwives came; one had been off for a while and was shadowing the other. They did my observations and checked the baby, everything was normal and explained the plan of action. So they went on to administer the pessary to begin the induction process about 5:30pm.
We were left with monitors on for a while and we could see the baby started to become very lively – we were alarmed but thought it must be working. The midwife came back and said she would leave us on the monitor for a while longer to see if the baby calmed down. He didn’t, when she came back she left it another 5 minutes and came back again and said this time it’s ok to come off the monitor that the baby was just reacting to them being around that area.
Visiting time was 6-8pm so my mum and Craig’s mum we’re itching to get in to see us. We went to the car park to meet them and got the bags from the car. We were all excited, anxious, giddy.
Craig and I went for some food thinking it was going to be a long night and didn’t know when my next meal would be – how mad that is to think that was my last meal before my life changed so drastically.
We took some supplies of sugary drinks and snacks back to the tiny room and sat talking for a while. I was on the bed and there was this huge shift, my bump moved from one side to the other, it came out of nowhere but wasn’t painful. Craig’s mum said “that’s a contraction” and I remember saying “I hope that’s what a contraction is because it didn’t hurt at all”.
Then a new midwife popped her head in and introduced herself; Leanne, saying she was going to be looking after me through the night but that she’d come back shortly when the visitors had left. I instantly took a dislike to her – I still can’t put my finger on why I got that bad feeling, because I’ve since learned she is lovely and great at her job. All I can think is that something inside me knew she was going to bring bad news.
We said our goodbyes and I nipped to the toilet. When I got back the midwife was in the room talking to Craig, she started doing my observations whilst chatting away. She couldn’t hear the baby’s heartbeat with the stethoscope so she carefully started to move slowly around my bump, I explained this had happened the other day and the midwife got me to lay on my side and found it straight away, so I moved to my side but still there was nothing. So she said she was going to get another stethoscope.
When she returned another lady came in; Maria, who was the night shift team leader. She was jolly and didn’t seem concerned and neither was I at this point as it had happened before I thought it must have been the equipment. She couldn’t find anything despite moving me into several different positions, but I still didn’t pick up on any concern. Maria said she would go get an ultrasound machine to find out how the baby was lay and to see what was going on.
With the machine came another person he was a doctor of some kind. Leanne sat at the end of the bed and the 3 of them were looking at the screen. I started to panic the longer it went on without them finding anything. Leanne begun to stroke my leg in an empathetic manner which I really didn’t like. The male doctor advised he couldn’t find my baby’s heartbeat but would go get a senior doctor to confirm. I remember thinking well obviously you’re not good enough, the senior doctor will find it.
My partner since told me he knew they couldn’t find a heartbeat because they kept zooming in over it and double checking.
Sadly, the consultant came and confirmed there was no heartbeat. And just like that my world collapsed.
The staff were great all left the room to give us some time. The doctor pulled the ultrasound machine out whilst it was still plugged in and you could see how much it affected them all as he kept pulling the trolley and the plug flew out of the socket.
The next couple of hours are all a blur, but I know the staff were there as much or as little as I wanted them to be. One of the midwives came into the small room and said they’d move us to a bigger room so we could have some space and moved our bags for us. My first memories of that big room are being on the floor crying and being sick and pulling myself up to Craig’s knees trying to make sense of what was happening.
We thought we should call our mums to let them know and get them to come back. The plan was for my mum to be to be my second birth partner so she knew she was coming back – but little did she expect me to tell her grandson had died in the hour she’d been gone. I then texted my two sisters saying “he’s dead”, why I said it so bluntly I don’t know but equally what else could you say in that moment when you can’t even retain that information?
One of my sisters had just ordered a bottle of champagne in a pub to celebrate getting another nephew, she collapsed into the bar reading the text. The other sister rang me like WHO? To which I replied Noah I’ll have to go, and put the phone down on her haunting cry.
I’ll never forget the hugs I got from my step dad and Craig’s, these big old men that don’t say much but were clearly so so heartbroken they didn’t want to let me go.
The midwives were coming in trying to explain the next steps, one of them said I could be ‘out of it’ and I took that as putting me under a general and giving me a Caesarean, which she didn’t mean, she meant giving me as strong pain relief as they could, if I wanted. I so wanted a Caesarean as I thought I wanted it to be over quickly.
I can’t describe the feeling of having something dead inside you and wanting to get it out but soon realising that that will be the end, so I desperately wanted to keep him inside me – here commenced the torn feeling, a feeling which I hadn’t felt that often as I generally knew what’s what and what I want, things used to be very black or white for me, now being torn is part of my makeup and is a battle I face most days.
Amongst the conversations and confusion I started to get some pain and felt like I was bleeding. The pessary which I had forgotten about had started to work. Everything was heightened by this time and the pain was already unbearable.
My Mam realised and begun to get the midwives into action, I agreed it was in my best interest to have a vaginal delivery; so not to have scars on my uterus which could cause more issues for future conceptions, and by this point it had already started. I opted for an epidural and pretty much anything else I could to get me through.
The next 8 hours are a bigger blur. I do recall having someone with me at all times, every decision I could make being explained to me and everyone having my best interests at the forefront. The pain; physically and mentally, was like nothing I can fathom, I wanted to die rather than continue put it that way – however I was on a hormone drip to encourage my body to work faster so things were pretty intense.
The part where I birthed Noah is clear though, I remember not wanting him to come out because I knew he’d no longer just be mine. I asked the midwives not to put him straight onto me as I was frightened of what a dead person would look like – a decision I regret more than most now, as no matter what he looked like he was and still is my son.
However, I bled a lot after the delivery so a lot of medical staff were rushed in, it was like a film someone shouted “CAN WE GET SOME HELP IN HERE” and I was relieved thinking I am going to die and I want to. But after a short while I stopped bleeding heavily and things calmed down, then Noah was brought in to meet us. He was perfect, so long, the picture of health which makes his death so much more questionable and unbearable.
We were so lucky to spend lots of time with Noah, over a few days before he went for a post mortem. We were able to have a blessing for him that we invited our close family to. We took him into the memorial garden and had lots of photos taken to capture as many memories together as we could.
We met the bereavement contact at the hospital who gave us lots of help and support, they even offered to arrange the funeral for us, but I wanted to do that to keep my mind busy. They organised for us to register Noah’s death and we were given a death certificate – which is ironic considering we weren’t issued a birth certificate.
Noah was away from us for 8 days while they performed a post mortem and during this time we planned a funeral fit for our prince.
I kept busy, wishing the days away until I could have my boy back. I was on autopilot, it didn’t sink in how much I had lost and the massive effect this loss would have on my future.
The following Wednesday, Noah arrived at our local funeral home and they worked hard throughout the next day so we could have him back for 2 nights at home before his funeral on the Saturday.
We went to the funeral home on Thursday tea time to see him, it was such a relief to get him back. People said I shouldn’t pick him up as he would have deteriorated and may overshadow the beautiful memories I’d already made, but that didn’t matter. Anyway, he hadn’t and it was so good to have him in my arms. That night we let family members come over to see him again, but chose to have the day and night on Friday just the three of us.
We told Noah stories, showed him his bedroom; which was filled with all of his presents clothes and so much love. We introduced him to his dad’s beloved fish in the garden. He stayed in his crib next to me as we slept, waking up those mornings with him there were so bittersweet, it was heart-warming seeing Noah where he should be, but devastating knowing we would only have him there one more night and he would be gone forever.
The day of his funeral came swiftly, too swiftly. I bought a fabulous dress and put my face on. I figured I would never get to buy a dress for his christening or his wedding day, so I needed to make him proud the way I could, in the short time I had. I’m sure people were surprised that I wasn’t a broken mess when I got out of the funeral car, sadly I kept a lot of the horror I was going through inside. Looking back I sometimes feel things would have been better if I had broken down and allowed the grief to consume me.
We opted to bury Noah rather than cremate him and we bought a plot that the three of us could be buried in. His headstone is beautiful, just like him. We go to see him there every day and light some candles. I suppose this is my way of making time for Noah in a busy working life, I need a moment that is purely for him. After all, if he was still here my life and everything in it would revolve around his needs, so it’s only right I make time to acknowledge him.
I was fortunate to fall pregnant relatively soon after Noah; unlike many other mothers in my position. My daughter; Freya, is now 21 months old and she lights up my world. I believe she has saved me and given me a reason to live again.
My rainbow pregnancy was difficult, I struggled to believe I would have a baby at the end of it, but received exceptional care from the same consultant and hospital who dealt with me once Noah had died.
Though I appreciate everything they did throughout my second pregnancy, it shouldn’t have taken my first child’s death to reach that level of care. It was my first pregnancy, the NHS nor did myself know what my body was capable of, which is why I believe more should be done to personalise care women receive.
I like to throw myself into fundraising and to raise awareness of how common stillbirths are. I joined the committee of my local Sands group and feel like I am making a difference there to help others and to make the group a success in people’s times of need.
Here’s a snap from one of the fundraising events; a 100ft waterside, my beautiful family took part in. So far we have raised over £5,500 for Sands and 4Louis thanks to the generosity of people we know.
In summary, Noah’s life and death have changed my world but I wouldn’t change having my son even if the outcome was the same. I believe my baby could have survived had those scans never have been cancelled and had I have been given more information on the low hormone at the time.
The hormone is PAPP-A and I’ve since learned it is related to growth of the placenta.
With Noah, my placenta was abnormally small for the 42+ weeks he was. He was a perfectly formed, 7lb 6oz, long and stunning baby boy. The placenta was small, off coloured and gritty to one side.
I strongly advise mothers follow their instincts and ask as many questions as they need to until they are satisfied. Research everything they are unsure of until they know enough. Don’t wait – if anything changes after being in a routine, do not wait to get checked by professionals.
Sadly, I will never know if any of the above could have saved my Noah’s life but hopefully in time, the work of Sands and other organisations involved will reduce the number of preventable stillbirths and neonatal deaths and in turn reduce the number of families who have to endure this world shattering heartache.
A baby dying is a death like no other.
I haven’t just lost a baby, he should have been a toddler pushing my boundaries, a funny child, a stroppy teenager and a grown man all of whom I will never get to meet.
I’ll never get the opportunity to have a photo of all of my children, my Mum will never get all of her grandchildren in one room, and the loss is endless.
I hope by writing this blog it helps someone even if it’s just one person understand a bit more about the grief surrounding baby loss.