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Carly

Age at interview: 30
Brief Outline: Carly was 29 when she became pregnant for the second time. During a scan at 23 weeks her baby’s heartbeat could not be heard. Carly’s labour was induced and she gave birth to her daughter who showed no signs of life.
Background: Carly is 30 and is married with two children aged 5 years and 5 months. She works in customer services.

More about me...

Carly had pre-clampsia in her first pregnancy with her son, so when she got pregnant again she was monitored more closely. Although everything seemed to progress well Carly always had a feeling that something was wrong, which she didn’t have with her first baby. Her 12 week and 20 week scans were fine, but Carly felt her baby was not as active as her first child. When she was 23 weeks pregnant she had a bladder infection, and was asked to go to her community midwife for a check-up. All the tests were fine but her midwife was concerned when she couldn’t find a heartbeat. She went to the hospital where a scan confirmed her baby had died. 

Carly found it really hard coming back the next day to take a pill to start her labour. Carly was unsure how she would cope with seeing Josephine when she was born but valued the day she and her husband spent making memories with her. Leaving her baby at the hospital when she went home was incredibly difficult.

Carly found it hard having to get a sick note from her doctor to have sick leave from work. She found the word ‘miscarriage’ as a reason for her sick leave did not adequately express the experience of giving birth to her baby and then attending her funeral. Carly and her husband agreed to an autopsy which showed that the umbilical cord had been very long and had got tangled. While Carly found it reassuring that she hadn’t caused her baby’s death, she found it hard knowing her baby was healthy before the cord accident.

Shortly after her daughter’s birth, Carly became pregnant for the third time. She found this pregnancy stressful and felt anxious a lot of the time. But her pregnancy progressed well and she gave birth at 37 weeks. Ever since her daughter Josephine’s birth Carly has found it upsetting meeting friends with young babies or hearing pregnancy announcements but that is getting easier.
 

Carly felt that having a birth and death certificate would give her baby more dignity and validate her grief.

Carly felt that having a birth and death certificate would give her baby more dignity and validate her grief.

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So it's just like - it's just like insult to injury, isn't it. Same with the birth certificate. We got a little - was classed as a certificate of life. But really, it's just a printed out bit of paper that the hospital gives you, that's not formal, it's not recognised, and it's not official. Like a birth and death certificate, I think - they just give your baby that bit of, bit more dignity. Rather than - You wouldn't feel that you'd need to explain it so much, or like how you're feeling. It's like a - And it's almost like a recognition of your grief. Like if you've got that birth and death certificate, like they were here and then they died. And like the way you're feeling is valid. Whereas it doesn't feel as valid if you don't have those. The one thing that's like really important to me, which I keep, in her memory box - like I keep all her stuff in, but the most important thing in there is her little wristband. They put the wristband on her. You know, saying 'baby Josephine'. 
 

Carly described how losing a baby before 24 weeks made her loss feel less significant.

Carly described how losing a baby before 24 weeks made her loss feel less significant.

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I do find it hard, just with - When she was born, specifically. Because you're not categorised as a stillbirth mother, I find that hard. I feel sometimes almost like I'm a fraud. Like my baby didn't matter as much. Even though to me, she does. But to other people, they might just see it as 'oh well, it's a miscarriage, like how are you so devastated, you know, why aren't you over it yet, why is it - why is it that you can't move on?' But like to me, like - like my daughter died, I can never move on from that. Like I'm always going to be heartbroken. There's no good that comes out of a baby dying. Like it's not like when someone's old or ill, and they've had a fully life. Like when a baby dies, it's just - it's always sad forever, forever. I'll never ever feel okay about it. And I mean, I'm a lot better. And I can talk about it. And you know, I can function okay now. But I'll never be - you know - happy about what's happened. I'm always going to feel devastated over it.

When I'm 90, I'll feel like that.

And the difference of if she'd been born after twenty four weeks? So the maternity leave, and -

Yes. 

- birth and death certificates?

Yes. So important.

Yeah. Which - Are there some of those that are really?

Well, it just makes you feel like you're less significant than a mother whose baby had been born dead a couple of days later, and that's just not the case. You know, my baby existed, and she was here. And I laboured and delivered her. And I held her. And I had a funeral for her. You know, she was a real person. Like I felt her move. And, I - I feel like any woman that goes through that deserves the same recognition as a woman who has a baby a little later on. I don't think that you should be categorised. It's almost like you're being punished, on top of all your heartbreak. It feels like a punishment. You know, like you're pushed down into a subcategory of loss, and your grief should be as deep as somebody else's. And that's not how it is. 

You know? 'Mother Carly' on her little band. That's like the only real medical documented proof that I have that she was here. And so that band's so precious now, because I don't have anything else. Except her - I've got like a little document, like I got with her ashes. But those are the only official things that I have of her. 
 

Carly described the shock of finding out her baby had died.

Carly described the shock of finding out her baby had died.

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And it was so sudden, you know? It was one day she was fine, and then she's just dead. There's no - It's like your whole bottom of your world has gone. Like you're in shock. You know? The shock of what happened is almost as bad as the grief. Like you just can't seem to comprehend it. You know, your whole world's destroyed in a second. And all them things that you thought you would do, you just - you can't do them anymore.
 

Carly described how her and her husband met their baby but wished she had invited other family members to be there too.

Carly described how her and her husband met their baby but wished she had invited other family members to be there too.

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I think it's a different experience, isn't it. Like going to hospital, going to the labour ward, going through labour. Getting to - I mean, my baby - you know - She was washed and dressed. And you know, she was - you know - we could see her features, we could see her eyes and her little hands and feet. And she wasn't, she wasn't anything less than a real baby, to me. Like she was a real, you know, she was - she was just a little - she was another child. She was my little girl, and. And we really desperately wanted her. You know? And, she died. And it was so sudden, you know? It was one day she was fine, and then she's just dead. There's no - It's like your whole bottom of your world has gone. Like you're in shock. You know? The shock of what happened is, is almost as bad as the grief. Like you just can't seem to comprehend it. You know, your whole world's destroyed in a second. And all them things that you thought you would do, you just - you can't do them any more. 

You were saying you were worried about seeing her, after she was born?

Yeah.

How did it feel when you held her and saw her?

She wasn't deteriorated. I don't think she had passed away that long before we found out. Like she was just - she just looked like a little premature girl, you know? She wasn't. There was nothing wrong with her. You know? Like, and. I’m pleased I held her. And I'm pleased that I got to see her. I would have regretted it if I'd chosen to say 'no, I'm not going to see her', I would have left the hospital and I would have regretted that decision my whole life. So although it was hard to hold her, you know, she'd passed away so holding your dead baby is never easy. I'm still - it was the right decision, for me. And I'm glad that my husband got to meet her, too. Because I felt like I had this connection with her, you know, from the second she was conceived.

I think men bond better when the baby's born. Because they're not as involved in the pregnancy - you know - other than coming to the scans, and they're excited, but you know. For me, like we were one person. You know? So I'm glad that he got that little connection with her, and he got to hold his daughter.

You know, even if it was just for a short time. And I think he's glad too. He's happy he held her.

I wish now that I'd invited family to come and meet her. But at the time, it didn't seem right. It was so private. You know? The only people that saw Josephine were me and [my husband], the midwife, and the hospital chaplain came and blessed her. And, and nobody else. So I think probably - You know, in hindsight maybe I could have had some close family to come and that could have met her before, but. You know, I can't change that now, that's - that's happened, and we just have to be happy that we’ve seen her.

But she was just, she was just a little baby, you know? She was just tiny. And just - her, her face was like a little bit like more - the skin was a bit more red than like a full term baby. And, obviously her features were smaller. I got her hands and foot prints, and they're just - you know - she's just little, little tiny handprints, you know? 
 

Carly talked about what her memory box contains and some of the things she wished she had done.

Carly talked about what her memory box contains and some of the things she wished she had done.

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You were saying about having hand and foot prints. Were there any other? Did you have photographs taken of Josephine?

Yes. We didn't take them, the midwife took them. And put them on a disc. I haven't been able to look at them. But I have them in her box ready for when I feel like I can look at them.

And we have a box - we got flowers, and we got cards, and I've kept every single - every single thing that anyone gave us around that time. You know, we put it all in her box. So we've got every card that anyone sent. We've got her ultrasound pictures. We've got her hand and foot prints. Most of her ashes we sprinkled at the remembrance garden. But I kept just a, a few, in a little heart necklace with like a little compartment. So we've got a few of her ashes. And her little wristband from the hospital. And then we've got a few things that were given to us at the hospital, like a remembrance candle. And a little seed to plant a flower, like a remembrance flower. But I haven't been able to do any of that yet. But eventually, I will. 

But I quite often get her box down. You know, I look at it. I've even got all the pregnancy tests. You know, from when I found out I was pregnant with her. And when we - when we found out we were pregnant, we bought a little babygro, that said like 'due in 2016'. And we sort of wrapped it up and gave it to our family, so they'd open it up, and - you know - that's how we like announced that we were having the baby, and. You know, we've kept that little babygro [sigh]. I really would have liked her little outfit. The little hat, and. And we had this blanket, and we - we gave it - you know, we wanted her wrapped in it. So she was cremated, with them things, but. I wish maybe we could have kept her hat or something. But you just don't think about it at the time.

And then I had this little teddy that I wanted to put in her coffin. So I wish I'd got a replica. You know? But I didn't, at the time. But obviously, hindsight. You know? 
 

Carly described how difficult it was, driving home from the hospital, and leaving her baby behind. Her heart felt broken.

Carly described how difficult it was, driving home from the hospital, and leaving her baby behind. Her heart felt broken.

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Leaving your baby in the hospital, and actually walking away and getting in the car and driving off, and - like knowing that you've left that baby behind. You know? I just don't think there's much worse things that you can feel, like your heart just feels like it's broken. Like it still feels like that now. Like I still remember sitting in the car, just - I couldn't believe I was leaving the hospital with no baby, and with nothing. After all that, there was nothing - I had nothing, I just had pain. 
 

Carly had mixed feelings about the post-mortem results.

Carly had mixed feelings about the post-mortem results.

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But in February 2016, when I was about nine weeks pregnant with [my daughter], we did get the autopsy results back. It took about four months altogether.

And her umbilical cord was a lot longer than average. And it had tangled up. And that's why she had died. And so we knew it wasn't genetic, or - you know. It was, it was a horrible accident really, but no one could have prevented it. I didn't do anything wrong. The doctors didn't do anything wrong. It was just the cord tangled up. So I felt really mixed about the autopsy. 

Because I felt well on the one side at least I knew, so I could get rid of the guilt - you know, that I didn't do anything. Because I'd sort of convinced myself I'd done something, or I'd slept on my tummy, or you know - I'd killed her. And then on the other side, it made me so sad, because she was perfectly healthy. And if it hadn't been for that umbilical cord, she would have been fine. 

You know, I think it almost would have been easier to hear, like she would have been - you know - had no quality of life, you know? But to hear that your perfectly healthy baby died for no reason, it's hard to swallow.
 

Carly felt a huge financial pressure to return to work as she was not eligible for maternity pay or sick pay and felt demeaned by having to ask for a sick note.

Carly felt a huge financial pressure to return to work as she was not eligible for maternity pay or sick pay and felt demeaned by having to ask for a sick note.

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Well, I think maternity leave - for me particularly, it was difficult because my work don't - I only work part-time because I had [my son]. So I was only working sixteen hours a week. And my workplace don't pay sick pay. So I couldn't get any financial help.

Whereas obviously if I'd been able to take maternity, then I could have - It's not about the money, it's just you need that to live. So I ended up getting statutory sick pay off the government, which - it isn't, you know, very much. And it was almost demeaning having to go and ask for it, and keep asking for a sick note, and having to go back and explain why you need a sick note. If you'd been allowed to have maternity, you could have had that time to recover from labour - which is significant in itself - and then the grieving process goes on for months and months. And I ended up going back to work after three months, but you know, in hindsight I wasn't ready at all. Like I go to work and I'd sit in the cupboard and cry. You know?

I was - but I felt like I had to go back to work, because I didn't have - I didn't want to keep on asking for a sick note. So I just said, "I'm just going to go back." But really, I should have been entitled to my maternity. You know? I was preparing for it already. 

But I think - I think if I'd had maternity, you know, it would have been a worry off my shoulders. To not feel pressured to go back, and have that breathing space. And, but it - it just didn't happen like that. But I think that it should. You should get your maternity. Even if it's half maternity. Even if you got six months, or - you know - just a bit of time to recover. Because not only have you been through delivering a baby, you've got - you know - grief. It's, you know - it's - It takes a long time to get back to a bit of normality after something like that happens to you.
 

Carly felt that while her grief would never go away, it did get easier.

Carly felt that while her grief would never go away, it did get easier.

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But someone said to me, "When it first happens, you're going to feel like you can't breathe. And your grief is going to be like an ocean. So, all the waves are going to be hitting you, and you're going to feel like you can't come up for air, you can't breathe, and it's going to be wave after wave after wave. And then over time, it's like the sea calms a little. So the waves will come, but they'll be fewer, and further between. And then eventually they'll get even fewer, and they'll be less severe. And then eventually the waves will just come when certain triggers happen. Anniversaries, or music or something will trigger that wave. And the rest of the time you'll be on a calm sea." So it does definitely get better with time. But I still feel like wave crashes over me. Like just the other day I was walking down the street, and I put a song on - and it wasn't even one from the funeral, it was just a song that came on a list, and for some reason I just cried. And it just happens out of nowhere. And it, it's very sudden. But most of the time like I feel like a fully functioning human being. But I'm never going to forget my baby. Like I'll - I think about her every day.

You know, even if I don't talk about her as much, I think about her constantly. And what she would have been doing, and how old she would be, and - you know - we keep her alive in our house. Like I'll talk to [my son] still about her, and tell him he's got a sister that lives in heaven now, and . But it's - it does get easier. It never goes away, but it'll get a lot easier. 
 

Carly really appreciated it when people were sensitive about telling her they were pregnant.

Carly really appreciated it when people were sensitive about telling her they were pregnant.

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Some people were very sensitive toward our situation, when they found out they were pregnant. Obviously we're all late twenties, early thirties, all the people we hang around with, so everyone's having kids. And quite a few people found out they were pregnant, and some people were really sensitive, and came over and they would sit us down and say, you know, "This is going to be hard, but we wanted to tell you ourselves." And some people weren't so sensitive. And I found that really tough, you know, when people were insensitive towards what had happened.

I still struggle like with that now. I don't like pregnancy announcements when it comes from nowhere. You know, like I like - I like to be alone, when I find out. Because sometimes my reaction might be to burst into tears.

So, telling me like one on one is - it's better than, you know, finding out another way.

I had Facebook, and I had to delete everybody who was pregnant. Or had just had a baby. Or was a grandmother who'd just had a grandkid. Like I just had to get rid of it all, because I couldn't - I just couldn't cope with having it pop up, like unexpectedly on me. It just felt like someone was kicking me in the stomach, whenever I'd hear about - you know - someone having a baby. And all I could think was why my baby? You know? Why is everybody else having a baby, but my baby died? Like it, it just felt so cruel. And just unfair. It still feels like that now. Like I still feel like it, like it's unfair. But I've come to terms with it a bit more. But in the early days, that was rough. I didn't like going out. Just I didn't know if I'd bump into someone who was pregnant, or see someone with a newborn. Boys were not as bad, but girls I couldn't - couldn't deal with it at all. 

So I sort of - I lost a lot of confidence, even just going out. Like going out anywhere was like a chore. Like at first I needed someone with me all the time. I just didn't want to be alone. So it took quite a long time like for me to build up the confidence even just to go out. Even going to the GP was tough at first. But eventually it got better. I'm still not that - . I don't think I'm back to a hundred percent where I was before she died. 

Like I'm not keen on big crowds. And I find it easier to be around people who already know. 
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