“Talking about what happened to us makes Samuel’s life worthwhile – it’s like it makes him more special”.
What followed was one of the most emotional few weeks of her, and her husband John’s life where, after test after test, they would discover that their baby had a rare chromosome abnormality and ultimately would not survive the pregnancy.
Sarah explained, “my bump was growing, I had felt him move, I was making milk – everything felt like it was OK. But the doctors could clearly see his heart was squashed right up to his rib cage, his lungs were really flat and that some of his organs hadn’t formed properly. We were told that if he did get to full term (and all the risks that that would hold), he would never be able to breathe.
All of this just blew us away. We were terrified.
The train journey home from hospital that day was just rubbish – we were surrounded by people coming back from work, all boxing around us, and me and John just sat in the corner and cried.”
During that time, Sarah and John decided to be honest with friends and family about their story. “We were quite far into the pregnancy and I’d started showing, so we had to go around and tell everyone that basically we weren’t pregnant anymore which was really hard. John did a lot of that, I think to shelter me”.
On the advice from the doctors, Sarah and John decided to have a termination, and, at 23 weeks, Sarah gave birth to their special baby boy who they named Samuel. “They made a very very early appointment for us in the delivery suite that day, so that we wouldn’t have to see other parents. We were prepped on what the procedure would be and then they scanned him for the final time. I remember asking them to just do one last scan again, to double check that there was a problem ….but I knew that for the last four weeks, something was definitely wrong because Samuel hadn’t moved”.
“John was able to be with me and I remember it being very peaceful, and the staff were very sensitive and caring”.
“When Samuel arrived, he was very tiny. He was the size of John’s hand. He looked perfect and we fell in love with him. We laid him in a little basket and we were able to just be with him. Later on our parents came, and that was an important part of the grieving process for us all”.
“When we told people, they were lovely. A few didn’t know how to react. It’s like when anybody dies – they don’t know what to say so they don’t want to talk to you, they avoid you. They’re afraid to upset you – but talking is actually the best thing to do – it’s the most helpful thing, it’s like therapy in itself”.
Sarah’s story is special, but it’s not unfamiliar. Many of us mummies have gone through miscarriage and tragic complications during pregnancy and, while we’ve come along way from our stiff-lipped Victorian ancestors, there are still some real social taboos that pop out and surprise you like a big cold slap in the face. And I believe that miscarriage is one of them.
Sarah and her husband were open about what they went through. They told their story, as it unfolded, and their family and friends stood by them and lived that journey with them.
Sarah said, “as we told our story, we were struck by the number of people – even much older people, who turned around and said, “actually that happened to me”.
The love and support John and Sarah received helped them….but unwittingly their openness helped so many others too as they remembered their similar stories all those years before, and, in some way, it helped them to make sense of their own.
When I asked Sarah if she would be happy to use her story, she said “If our situation can be used it makes the whole thing worth the pain that we went through. I believe that we went on that journey for a reason and it’s amazing how many people little Samuel has helped already.”
“Actually the doctor who supported us during that time, phoned a few months ago and asked if I’d mind speaking to a lady who had lost her baby at 5 months – her story was very similar to mine as her baby had genetic problems too.
She was able to ask me the questions she hadn’t felt able to ask her doctor: many women blame themselves in situations like this – they may think that their body rejected the baby because they did something wrong when they were pregnant – they don’t want to talk about it through fear”.
Mummies, as we live through our own special stories, remember this:
Loneliness can amplify grief.
But honesty and openness can play a massive part in the healing process.
“John and I think about Samuel every day, and the dates when key things happened that year are always in our mind. On his birthday, we make a birthday cake and celebrate with our two wonderful boys that we’ve had since then – we’ll always see Samuel as a part of our family.
If you have been affected by these issues and would like some support or information, go to Bristol Miscarriage Support or contact your local Health Visitor.
Jane, 34 lives in Bristol with her husband and two young boys. She is passionate about being a mum and the issues that we face including diet and fitness, mental health issues and money matters. Write to me at guccimiss @ hotmail.com
Words: Jane Rogers
Photo: Olesea Ciumac
Illustrations: Aliah Malik and Laura Lewis