Taking a deep breath Ros begins “Four and a half years ago on 24th December 2007, I was 32 weeks pregnant. We’d had the usual Sunday before Christmas when we have a big family get together. I had been very good that year and bought everything before hand so I’d be organised and we were all set for Christmas.
“Normally when I got up in the morning the baby would have been kicking about but on the morning of Christmas Eve, nothing seemed to be happening. I did think that was very strange, but just carried on with everything because it was such a busy day, being the day before Christmas. There were presents to sort, deliveries to be made and I’d arranged to meet friends for lunch. However, in my heart of hearts, I still thought – there’s something not right here. I returned home with my three older children Emily 13, Tom, 10 and Beth, 19 months and phoned the hospital. The nurse I spoke to said I was probably stressed, busy and just needed to sit down and have a cup of tea. I insisted no, something’s very wrong and I’m coming straight in.
“I drove myself up to the hospital and when I got there it was very quiet and I was taken in straight away. They strapped me up to the monitors and I continued to have that terrible gut feeling that there was something wrong, perhaps I’d resigned myself to the fact that bad news was coming. I remember thinking, how am I going to tell everyone? We had lots of children at the house – nieces and nephews – how could I ruin their Christmas too? I felt detached from what was really happening and was thinking about everyone else rather than me.”
With her heart breaking, Ros continues “the nurse didn’t say anything at that point but she got the ultrasound technician in and it was then that I heard the dreadful news that my baby had died. I had to phone my partner Paddy who had to get someone to look after the children so that he could come in. By this point it was 7pm on Christmas Eve. When he arrived, they induced me. They had given me the option of going home, having Christmas and Boxing Day and then coming back in to have her but I thought, how on earth could I do that? How could I go home and cook Christmas dinner, knowing my baby was dead inside me. No, she had to be born that evening, she couldn’t be born on Christmas Day. After a four hour labour my beautiful baby girl was born at ten to 12 on Christmas Eve. She was 4lb and perfect, just perfect. We called her Eve.
“The next morning I drove myself home. Paddy had his car so we ended up having two cars at the Hospital. I just remember thinking – that was a bizarre thing to have to do. I was on automatic pilot. I had to go on - I had three children at home and it was Christmas Day. I hadn’t even wrapped the presents as I was going to do that the day before. Paddy had tried to explain a bit about what had happened to the children as there was no way I could have done it. It was probably better that we at least tried to explain to them why I had to leave them on Christmas Eve.”
Ros continues to recall “I didn’t agree to a post-mortem, I just didn’t want her being touched. I know most stillbirths are unexplained, it’s like a cot death in the womb. However, they did all the other tests and they showed that she had been absolutely fine. All they could tell me was ‘it was just one of those things’. During my pregnancy, I was tested for diabetes which came back negative but I have always had this doubt in my mind as to whether or not that would have had anything to do with what happened later. I suppose I’m just looking for reasons and clues and an answer to the ‘why’. The pregnancy had been fine up until 20 weeks when we’d also had to have a Downs Syndrome test, which had also come back clear. My previous pregnancies had all been fine but perhaps I was a bit more stressed about this one. I was a bit older too at 39, but I’d been an older mum with Beth too and everything had gone smoothly with her. These were just some of my many concerns and questions, when all the test results came back. I was told my age would have had no bearing on what had happened. When I look back again to the morning it happened I just felt that there was something different. My whole stomach had changed shape and my baby wasn’t moving, she was obviously just lying. Maybe I should have gone in earlier in the morning but again I was told it would have made no difference. I do remember that she did some summersaults as I was going to sleep the previous night and I often wonder if something had happened then, but I suppose I’ll never know.
“We had a little funeral for Eve on January the 14th at Mortonhall” Ros continues “I’m quite a private person and I couldn’t bear having a lot of people there, so it was just the five of us. I didn’t want to have to worry about other people. I carried Eve’s little coffin in and I’m so glad I did. She was cremated and she rests in the little Rose Garden. She has a plaque there but it took me a year to go and see it – it was all so hard.”
Ros continues “In the months after losing Eve, I went back to the gym and back to work. I only took 3 months off which in hindsight, was a big mistake, I should have taken longer off. I was a Senior Finance Manager and I ran a dept of 109 people. When I went back, I had the job of setting up a Governance and Risk Team and I just remember wading through a pile of papers and thinking - I just can’t be bothered with this, it means nothing. I then had this wild idea that if I gave up my job and my career it would take some stress off me and we could try and have another baby. Sadly, that didn’t happen so then I felt left with no career, no baby, no nothing. Perhaps it hadn’t been the brightest thing to do!
“At that point it was just a month before Eve’s first anniversary and my favourite aunty was dying too, so it was a terrible time. I just felt we had to get away. We live in a little village and I just couldn’t bear being there at Christmas because everyone gets involved in Carol singing on Christmas Eve. It’s so lovely and beautiful but would have been too much for me at that time and I didn’t want to ruin everyone else’s Christmas.
“So we went skiing and I hate skiing! I decided to throw myself off the top of a mountain to keep me occupied and keep my mind off everything. I was stuck in the beginners group and strangely everyone else seemed to have something they were running away from. Without spilling out all our life stories, we got great comfort from each other – it was really very therapeutic. I’ve never seen those people again but at the time it was just what I needed. We’ve actually been away every year since, although we are thinking about staying at home this year for the first time.”
Ros continues to reflect “Going back to work I felt, if I just slotted back into my old routine everything would be ok and go back to normal – I was so wrong. I was in a very male dominated industry so it was almost as if they didn’t know what to say. My boss said nothing, he completely ignored the fact that I had lost a baby. Even when I left, he didn’t even say goodbye and I’d worked there for 20 years. I suppose he just had no idea how to deal with it.
“I went back to work at the end of March, by September I’d handed my notice in and I left in November.
“The loss of Eve was completely life changing” Ros goes on “Last year when Beth went into Primary 1, I started to beat myself up a lot for leaving work, after all, I had really enjoyed it. It gave me confidence and an identity. I thought about going back again but after beating myself up a bit more, I decided not to as I felt I didn’t fit into that environment any more. I wanted to do something more giving and worthwhile. I was grieving for my baby, but I was grieving for myself too and the person I once was. A part of me was dead.
“I’d also had a couple of miscarriages too so I started re-evaluating everything. I started working with the Good Food project which is part of the Fair Share scheme, twice a week helping ex homeless people and they are the most wonderful people. It has really helped me, to help others.
“Beth also knows all about her little sister now. I waited until she was 3 years old to take her up to Mortonhall. It was a beautiful day and there were flowers everywhere. She kept running around calling ‘Baby Eve, Baby Eve - where are you?’ As my heart broke for her, she suddenly turned to me and said ‘Mummy, maybe she’s turned into flowers.’ It took my breath away. Her words were so beautiful. It was Beth’s way of making sense of things and the way she said it was so gorgeous. Eve wasn’t there and she knew she wasn’t coming back, she couldn’t see her but she could see flowers everywhere. ‘Maybe she has darling’ I replied ‘maybe she has.’ I don’t ever want to forget that moment.
“I’m going to get her plaque changed to include Beth’s words and I got a tattoo on my arm with all the children’s initials, Eve’s name and the words ‘Maybe she turned into flowers’. Beth continues to talk about her sister. We’d bought a six seater car before Eve was born and someone once asked why we had a car with six seats and straight away Beth said ‘that’s mummy’s seat, that’s daddy’s seat, that’s Beth’s seat and that’s Baby Eve’s’”.
“Paddy and I tried to have more children” Ros says “One of the miscarriages I’d had was in between Beth and Eve and the other was after Eve. By that time I was 41. I’d given myself until I was 41 ½ to become pregnant again but there had to came a point in time when we would have to stop trying. This time came with great sadness but a little relief too as slowly, I began to move on.”
“The first time I heard about SANDS Lothians was through a lovely lady that lives in the village. After I lost Eve, she’d written me a lovely letter saying she’d lost two babies herself. She’d heard what had happened to me and told me how helpful she’d found SANDS. She had offered to come with me to some meetings and she was a great support to me.
“The next time I saw her, I remember looking at her and thinking about the babies she’d lost and being surprised at how normal she looked! At the time, I found it hard to believe I’d ever be normal again as my life had fallen apart. We’re still in touch to this day.
“One of the other things I remember so clearly about that terrible time was, one day I’d ventured out of the house for a pint of milk and one of the mums in the village crossed the road to avoid me. We had been due within days of each other and she was still pregnant. Her crossing the road and the fact that she still had her baby, made me so angry but it was so helpful to go to SANDS and realise my feelings were completely normal.
“The first meeting I went to, I just sat in the corner crying and listening to other people talking. No-one made me feel I had to speak until I was ready. I went to the meetings in Edinburgh for a good few months then I tried to set up something up in my own area. I’d done my befriending training, but perhaps it was a bit soon for me to do it on my own back then, but I feel ready to try again now. It would be another way to move forward.
“I also do fundraisers for SANDS now and we’ve raised quite a lot. We’ve managed to make enough money for a Cold Cot.”
Ros reflects “I feel it would really have helped to have another baby. I feel the family’s not complete. I feel I’ve let Paddy down by not having another child although he says he’s happy. He is a stiff upper lip man and doesn’t talk about things, but when Eve died he took a month off work which for a workaholic is a long time! He deals with things in his own way but there is no doubt, losing a child can put a toll on a relationship. Personally, I still feel I’m ‘filling’ my life. I need to be very busy, keeping busy is good for me, I like routine and it keeps me going”
When asked what advice she can give others Ros says “The pain will ease. I used to wake up in the morning crying because I didn’t want to wake up at all and I could barely get out of bed. Now I have a full life. I am training to do a ‘Tough Mudder’ to raise more money for SANDS, it’s like an army assault course. It gives me a great focus and I will be pushing my own boundaries.” And for those not quite as sporty as Ros she says ‘Give yourself time and allow yourself to grieve. Know you’re not going to be the same person you once were. I have a pre Eve and post Eve ‘me’. I accept the new me as I am and I am getting there. Our life experiences make us who we are, we adapt and move on.
Ending Ros says “most of all, speak to someone. Go to SANDS and talk about your baby and never feel guilty. For me, Christmas has gradually got a bit easier, you learn to live with the big gaping hole and I can ski now…sort of!”