Everybody said “you just have to get on with it.”
Everybody said “it was different times”.
Everybody said “the best thing to do is have another one quickly..it will help to get over it.”
Everyone meant well but really everyone hadn’t a clue. No one knew how brutal and lonely it was and how eventually it all morphed into the “baby who died.” Eventually if it was ever referred to, which was rare, it was with a small and pitying smile intended to convey empathy but in reality just inducing a rage which simmered gently over the years but often boiled over in to grief induced sobbing which was always alone, often overwhelming and sometimes put back in its bottle while resorting to many other bottles.
I was 29weeks pregnant with my second child in the early eighties. I was living in a town in the North of England where I knew few people as we had just moved there. The regular kicking and internal somersaults had been happening for a while, by then mainly at night , as we all know they start when we stop! Over the previous week, however, I had begun to notice that they were not so energetic and after a couple more days we went to the GP. He felt that the baby had stopped growing and I was admitted to hospital in the city we had just left which was about 40mins away.
I was prescribed bed rest and some medication, which to this day, I am unclear of its purpose (different times). After a few days I knew that the baby had stopped moving. I hoped against hope that I was imagining it and every gurgling of my digestive system I willed to be a flutter of movement. It was not to be and after about a couple of days in hospital I went for a scan which confirmed that the baby had died.
I was offered ether induction or to go home and wait for my body to reject the baby naturally. As my son was 3years old by then I opted for induction as I thought it would be really confusing for him if I went home still looking as if there were a brother or sister on the way only to have to go back into hospital and come home empty handed.
It was a really painful procedure as obviously my body wasn’t ready to deliver and the contractions and subsequent delivery were difficult. This being different times, as we know, I was taken to a single room afterwards and basically left alone. No one came in. No one spoke about it. No one asked how I was feeling. A friend, who remains one to this day, who lives in the city where the hospital is and who looked after my son when I first went into hospital, came in when she could but even we had trouble talking about it. The words didn’t seem to be in my vocabulary and the business of getting on with it had started early. I was making preparation for going home almost as soon as I came out of theatre.
Once home we did just get on with it. My husband went back to work early as he thought he was needed more there than at home and my son and I took up where we had left off. About ten days later, however , we were jolted out of things by a call from the hospital. As I had been 29weeks into the pregnancy we needed to register the death, a fact that no one at the hospital had thought to mention. I was furious and wanted to make a complaint. My husband persuaded me against it and I did not take it any further. I think with hindsight it would not have served any purpose and it was just a feature of my grief, but it was yet another examples of “different times”. We both went to the hospital but my husband went in to get the certificate and then went to the registrars office to record the still birth. I did not see the certificate and we did not talk about it afterwards
Over the thirty odd years since my baby died I have thought about her often and it has always been accompanied by an overwhelming feeling of real sorrow -always when I have been alone and usually resulting in bouts of uncontrollable tears. I often wondered about getting a copy of the certificate and started many internet searches over the years but did not, until this year, take it any further.
It was during one of these searches that in January of this year I came across the SANDS website. To my amazement I noticed that they were based in the grounds of the sports complex at Craiglockhart where I had recently started going to the gym. One Monday after a gym session I noticed the SANDS banner on the railings of the building as I was heading for my car and on an impulse took the lift up to the office, knocked on the door, went in and promptly burst into tears! I had intended just to ask for an appointment but within minutes I was in a lovely, comforting room, being made a cup of tea by the lovely and comforting Tracy (as I now know her to be ) pouring my heart out to someone who knew! Someone who listened. Someone who didn’t think it mattered when it happened, how long ago it was or how “different” the times were. Someone who realised that I needed a place where I could describe and remember my daughter Jennifer and not just “the baby who died”.
I have met up with Tracy several times since then and have become a bit more involved with SANDS which I hope to continue. I have obtained a copy of the extract from the stillbirth register which details Jennifer’s birthday (a date I could not remember) This gives me tangible proof of her existence and solidifies her memory for me. I would say to anyone whose baby died sometime ago and who may feel that it is too late to get some help and advice, if you feel the need of it, that nothing could be further from the truth . It is never too late and if you contact SANDS you will be met with friendly, understanding people who will allow you to speak about your loss in the way you want and in the time you want.
I now feel that I can say I have had three children and that although, sadly, my daughter Jennifer died she is very fondly remembered.