Joelle and Adam

It was Joelle and Adam’s second pregnancy. Joelle went into premature labour at 21 weeks. Their son was born showing no signs of life. They were both aged 33.

Joelle and Adam’s first pregnancy had ended in a miscarriage at 9 weeks. Shortly afterwards Joelle became pregnant for the second time. Joelle’s chronic fatigue syndrome meant she found pregnancy stressful as it put a lot of strain on her body. Throughout her pregnancy Joelle had a feeling that something was wrong but doctors and midwives reassured her that her pregnancy was progressing well. A routine scan at 20 weeks of pregnancy showed her baby was growing well and she began to relax. However a few days later Joelle had some light bleeding. The midwife suggested she come in to the hospital for a check. When she was examined she was told her cervix (the opening to the womb) had started to open.

The doctors recommended putting a stitch into her cervix to delay labour and birth, although it remained highly likely that their baby would be born very premature. But Joelle and Adam found this was an incredibly difficult decision. Joelle works as an allied health professional and knows first-hand about the health problems premature babies may experience in later life. So she sought reassurance about whether the stitch would delay her going into labour until 28 weeks, a gestation that would mean her baby had a better chance of avoiding long-term health problems. Although the doctors could not give her that reassurance, Joelle and Adam finally came to a decision together to have the stitch put in. However the day after the stitch was put in, Joelle’s waters broke and her labour had to be induced because the risk of an infection was life-threatening for Joelle if she continued her pregnancy. She stayed in hospital for two days while she waited to go into labour.

The hospital was able to offer a dedicated bereavement delivery suite, which Joelle found a helpful place for her labour. Joelle and Adam were left by themselves but had to call for help from a midwife when their baby was born. Their son, Jacob showed no signs of life. Joelle and Adam spent a long time with him, which they fondly remember. But afterwards they wished they had asked other family members to meet their son so that they would be able to better understand their loss. They decided to have a full post-mortem to help understand the reasons for their baby’s death, but found the appointment with the consultant to discuss the results very difficult. They felt the consultant dismissed their questions and didn’t help them understand the results of the tests. At the time of the interview Joelle and Adam had sought help from a private doctor to understand why their baby died and talk about future pregnancies. Joelle was about to return to work as a healthcare professional working with young families, which was daunting after her loss.

Joelle found other bereaved parents offered her unconditional support.

Joelle and Adam described the support of some amazing friends.

Joelle and Adam felt unsupported when they were deciding whether Joelle should have treatment to try to delay the birth of their baby.

Joelle explained how the bereavement suite made her feel less like a patient in hospital.

Joelle wished someone had suggested that her parents might like some time with the baby.

Joelle and Adam explained how they made the decision to leave their baby.