Healed by our saviour babies: Nothing can ever replace a lost baby. But four women say having another child helped them come
to terms with their despair
23:41 GMT, 25 July 2012
When Amanda Holden described her new daughter, Hollie, as her ‘saviour baby’ after losing a son seven months into the pregnancy, her words resonated with many women. Here, RACHEL RAGG speaks to four mothers whose babies helped them come to terms with tragedy…
Little Finlay is the child Claire Duggan
thought she might never have. Businesswoman Claire, 36, from Aylesbury,
Bucks, and her husband Jason, 41, a marketing manager, suffered two
stillbirths and two miscarriages before their little boy was born 15
months ago. Their first son, Rory, died at 21 weeks of pregnancy in 2009
and their second, Milo, was stillborn at 28 weeks in 2010. Claire also
suffered miscarriages at five weeks and eight weeks. She says:
Mum at last: Claire Duggan with her son Finlay. She previously had two stillbirths and two miscarriages
When I told my husband he had to stop eating peas, he looked at me in disbelief. But when I explained that peas might stop me from conceiving because they have a natural chemical that can reduce sperm production, he agreed.
After two stillbirths and two miscarriages, he understood that I needed to try everything to have a baby.
Going through labour is hard enough when you have a healthy baby at the end of it. But going through labour in order to give birth to a baby that has already died is excruciating. I did it twice.
All was going well in my first pregnancy until my 20-week scan, when the sonographer noted the baby was a bit smaller than he should be. But as he wasn’t concerned, we weren’t worried either. Two days later, I booked a private scan as a birthday present for Jason. Our joy turned to shock and then grief when the sonographer broke the news that Rory had died.
I was told to go straight to my local hospital. Nothing you read about pregnancy prepares you for this. I was given a tablet to induce labour, and sent home for two days for it to work. Then I returned for the delivery.
I was so severely shocked I didn’t hold or see Rory, although I have some photos the hospital took. I was devastated, and the only thing I knew was that I had to try for another baby as soon as possible.
I became pregnant just six weeks later, but sadly lost the baby at five weeks. However, it didn’t take long to get pregnant for a third time. This time, I was relieved to pass the 21-week mark.
At 28 weeks, we went on holiday to Wales. While we were away I noticed the baby’s movements were less frequent, so I went for a check-up — and learned that once again my baby had died.
We had to drive back to our local hospital, where I was induced and delivered my second sleeping son, whom we named Milo. This time a bereavement midwife was with me. She encouraged me to hold and see Milo, which I did, but only briefly. I couldn’t bear to see something so precious that I couldn’t keep. Doctors and friends advised us to take a break and heal before trying again for a baby, but it was as if I was on auto-pilot — all I could do was try to get pregnant.
Eight weeks after Milo died, I became pregnant for the fourth time — and miscarried for the second time, this time at eight weeks. Fortunately, Jason never questioned my need to keep trying. He was grieving, too, but was so strong for both of us.
From then on, I became obsessed with conceiving. I tracked my monthly cycle and made Jason give up cycling and tight pants as well as peas, because they’re all thought to reduce the sperm count.
When I became pregnant for the fifth time, I was put on a strict drug regime. Because the post-mortems on Rory and Milo indicated a problem with blood flowing through the placenta, I was given a cocktail of blood-thinning medication, hormones, folic acid, vitamin B, and steroids.
At five months, I was put on bed-rest at home. I gained four stone because all I could do was sit, eat and watch TV, but this was a minuscule price to pay for a healthy baby.
The doctors waited as long as I could bear and induced me at 36 weeks. They were so confidence-inspiring I even agreed to a natural birth, and Finlay was born weighing 7lb 7oz.
I’d spent two years crying myself to sleep, longing to be up at night with a baby — and my wish finally came true. Finlay doesn’t replace my other babies or lessen the grief, but he is a kind of magic pill that helps to ease the pain. I’m terrified every time he coughs, of course — but when we look at our lovely, healthy baby, we feel utter delight.
Cherry Parker, 35, a full-time mother to six-month-old Alec, lives in Blackheath, London, with her husband Simon, 35, who is the director of a research institute. Their daughter Evie was stillborn at full-term in October 2010.
Triumph after tragedy: Son Alec has helped Cherry Parker overcome the loss of her daughter who was stillborn
Sitting outside the Taj Mahal — built as a memorial to an Indian empress who died in childbirth — I turned to Simon and said: ‘We have to try again.’
Our daughter Evie had been stillborn five weeks earlier, and we had made a spur of the moment decision to go to India. While I was terrified of becoming pregnant after Evie, I also felt I just had to have another baby. My daughter had died, but I was still a mother.
Despite a previous miscarriage at 12 weeks, my pregnancy with Evie had been normal, and I planned a water birth. We found out that we were expecting a girl, and at around 30 weeks we decided to call her Evelyn — Evie for short.
But ten hours into labour my contractions slowed and I transferred from a private birthing centre to hospital in Surrey.
I never imagined I would end up being rushed into theatre, suffering from late-onset pre-eclampsia, which can restrict the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the baby.
When I came round, the first thing I asked was: ‘How’s the baby’ Simon then told me that we had lost her. Evie had been delivered within minutes and couldn’t be resuscitated.
I felt numb, hysterical, broken. My baby girl, whom I had come to know over the past nine months, was lost for ever. That morning we held her. She was long-limbed and beautiful, just as I’d imagined. But her eyes would never open, she would never smile, or play or grow.
I spent the next six months of what should have been maternity leave grieving. We went to India; I went to counselling and support groups; Simon and I started to talk properly about why we wanted children and what we could offer them.
I knew after Evie had gone that my life had gone on hold, that it wouldn’t resume until I had another baby.
I became pregnant very easily, but I was at risk of pre- eclampsia again, so I tried not to bond with my unborn baby too much. And I resolved to take as much uncertainty as possible out of the birth this time, so I booked myself in for a caesarean at 38 weeks.
At 36 weeks, though, I developed a different problem: low levels of amniotic fluid, which surrounds the baby. As a result, the consultant brought the planned birth forward a week. I couldn’t count on anything until I held Alec in my arms, but when I finally did the joy was indescribable. When I saw Alec, I wondered if Evie would have had the same blue eyes, the same rose-pink lips.
Nothing will ever replace the baby I lost, but now Alec is with us, life has resumed. I have an outlet for my maternal feelings. Whenever I feel tired or low, I look at him and remember how fortunate I am.
Lucy Furminger, 35, is an events fundraising manager. She lives in London with her husband Seth, 40, a landscape gardener, and their children Lola, three, and Millie, six weeks. Lucy had two miscarriages between her daughters, one at nine weeks and another at five-and-a-half weeks.
Lucy with her second baby, Millie, at 6 weeks old
Christmas 2010 was supposed to be the Christmas of my dreams. Lola was a toddler and full of wide-eyed wonder, and I was two months’ pregnant with her brother or sister.
But I started to bleed, and a scan on Christmas Eve morning showed I had miscarried. I spent Christmas Day crying and cuddling Lola. Nothing consoled me.
Miscarriages are relatively common, but you have no idea how awful they are until you experience one. I felt completely empty: my dreams of another baby had been taken away from me.
It hit me particularly hard as it had taken three years to conceive Lola. Tests had shown I had very low progesterone levels, and I’d been warned I might not be able to have children at all.
Trying for a second baby wouldn’t necessarily be easy, but I wasn’t prepared for what happened.
And when I miscarried for a second time, in May 2011, I felt a real injustice at being so unlucky.
I knew I was fortunate to have a beautiful, healthy daughter, but being a mother of one wasn’t how it was supposed to be. When you’ve had one baby, it’s very hard to accept you might not have others.
I retreated into myself. Several friends had new babies, and I found reasons not to see them. I’m not proud of the way I felt, but you can’t control these feelings.
After my second miscarriage, I asked for tests to find out why I was miscarrying, but the doctors refused. Apparently, I would only qualify if I had a third miscarriage. My mum kindly paid for some private tests, which showed that I had a low egg reserve for my age.
At this point I became completely depressed. I finally had to face the idea of having no more children. At the same time, though, I knew the only way I could carry on was to keep trying for another baby.
But when I miscarried for the second time, Seth was more resilient than I was, and perhaps more resigned to disappointment. I found it hard that he wasn’t as visibly upset or angry as me, and that we didn’t discuss our emotions the way we had done the first time.
While I retreated to bed in tears, he just seemed to get on with life. With hindsight, it was probably a sensible reaction as there was nothing we could do, but I felt quite angry with him. I think he knew then I wouldn’t be truly happy again until I had another baby.
I was overjoyed when I became pregnant with Millie later in 2011, but I was nervous until she was safely in my arms. From 28 weeks I had intense tightenings of my uterus. They were probably only strong Braxton Hicks contractions, but made me very unsettled. I didn’t dare to allow myself to be happy until Millie had been born. Then my grief and fear evaporated, replaced by joy.
Amy Cartwright, 30, is a customer services co-ordinator. She lives in Crewe, Cheshire, with her husband John, 32, a builder, and their daughter Georgia, 21 months. Their older daughter Lucy was stillborn at 37 weeks in September 2009.
Mum Amy, whose previous baby was stillborn, and saviour baby Georgia
Minutes after we heard that Lucy had died, I turned to my husband John. ‘Tell me we can try again,’ I begged. The only thing that could stop me from running out of the hospital and throwing myself under a train was the thought we might have another baby.
Before Lucy, I had two early miscarriages, and the second hit me particularly hard as I was so keen to become a mum. This perfect pregnancy had been third time lucky.
On the day I turned 37 weeks, though, the baby stopped moving. I waited an hour, then John and I went to hospital for a scan.
The sonographer ran the probe over my bump, then again, and again. She looked at me, her eyes full of tears, and said the sickening words: ‘I’m so sorry, there’s no heartbeat.’
I remember screaming and begging everyone in the scan room: ‘Please, save my baby.’
We were taken into a private room, where I agreed to an immediate induction. My perfect daughter Lucy was born, weighing 6lb 13oz. She was placed on my chest and initially I was scared to look at her — but she looked peaceful, exactly like a sleeping baby.
In the days that followed I felt empty, desperate, guilty. We had a family cremation, with everyone wearing pink to celebrate Lucy. But it was just the start of our grief.
The post-mortem said Lucy’s death was caused by a ‘sudden and cataclysmic failure of the placenta’, but nobody could answer all the questions in my head. Was it because I’d been mowing the lawn Because I’d been lifting bags of rubbish at the local tip
A few weeks earlier, Lucy’s heartbeat had been erratic when I saw the midwife. It settled and she sent me on my way — but should I have asked more questions then
You feel wholly responsible for the life of your unborn child, no matter how many people tell you that you aren’t to blame.
Losing a baby is also hard on a relationship. But John and I just kept talking about how we felt, as honestly and frankly as we could. Now we think our relationship has moved to a new level of closeness.
As soon as I’d physically recovered, we started trying again. Five months later, I became pregnant. This time I was an encyclopaedia of things that could go wrong in pregnancy. Every twinge terrified me.
I even found myself planning this baby’s funeral. I was so convinced we wouldn’t be taking him or her home.
Our second daughter Georgia was delivered at 36 weeks by caesarean section. As we lost Lucy at 37 weeks my consultant wanted this baby delivered before that point.
We held our breath, then heard the most wonderful sound — a squeaky, new baby cry. We burst into tears of joy and renewed grief. It couldn’t help but remind us of what we should have experienced with Lucy.
We are so blessed to have Georgia, and I really do wonder if I would still be here had she not come along to give us hope.
Bereavement counselling and support is offered by Tommy’s PregnancyLine (0800 0147 800, tommys.org) and Sands (020 7436 5881, uk-sands.org)