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Courtney

Age at interview: 30
Brief Outline: Courtney was 29 and pregnant for the first time. At 20 weeks she went into labour and lost her baby because her cervix, the opening to her womb, was too short. Courtney went on to have another pregnancy which ended in miscarriage at 6 weeks.
Background: Courtney is married and has given birth to one child and had a miscarriage at 6 weeks. She is a designer.

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Courtney became pregnant for the first time very quickly. She felt very sick throughout her pregnancy until the day she lost her son at 20 weeks. She felt unsupported by her GP with help for her morning sickness. At 20 weeks Courtney was at work when she felt as though her baby was coming. She took a two hour trip home from work to her local hospital but the scanning unit was already shut. She stayed in overnight waiting for a scan and was told that the opening of her womb (cervix) was too short and she could have a stitch put in to prevent the baby being born. After waiting a long time for this procedure, she had some spots of blood. Courtney was told that she would have to give birth to her baby and that he wouldn’t survive. Courtney and her husband were left to go through labour alone in a room from where they could hear lots of babies which they found very hard. 

Her son Clark was born breathing but was not registered as a live birth. After the birth Courtney felt so ill she couldn’t cope with seeing her son, but later she was asked if she would like to spend time with him and although it was hard she was really glad she had time to hold him. Courtney feels like she missed out on a lot of opportunities for mementoes and funeral services that were not offered to her. 

She was just offered sick leave, so going back to work after 2 weeks was incredibly hard. She didn’t feel she had the time and space to grieve properly. Courtney encouraged her husband to come to a Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, group counselling as she had heard so much about losing a baby impacting on relationships and they found this helpful. Courtney found out about a treatment that could help her condition (short cervix) but that she would have to experience two second trimester losses before she would be eligible for treatment. She is devastated by this and feels it is unfair. After losing Clark, Courtney went on to lose a second pregnancy at 6 weeks, but this felt a very different experience. She is hoping still to have the treatment to give her a chance of carrying a baby for longer.
 

Courtney felt she wasn’t prepared for giving birth to her son because everyone told her she was having a miscarriage.

Courtney felt she wasn’t prepared for giving birth to her son because everyone told her she was having a miscarriage.

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And then labour happened. And, you know? The fact that I had to go through the whole process of giving birth and everything, actually like - I just didn't feel like that I was going to have to have him. I didn't realise how big he was going to be, and how formed he was. You know? I thought like - Because they kept saying to me, "Oh, it's a miscarriage. It's a miscarriage." Because obviously before twenty four weeks, they don't count it as a live baby.

But so in my head I was like 'it's not going to be like this, it's going to be like, like just blood or whatever'. But you know, I had to full on give birth, and. And they had to take the baby out. And then I had to give birth to the placenta. 
 

Courtney felt sick throughout her pregnancy and the first day she felt “semi-ok” was when her premature labour started.

Courtney felt sick throughout her pregnancy and the first day she felt “semi-ok” was when her premature labour started.

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I get very sick. I was very sick in the pregnancy. The sickness came to at six weeks, and just basically didn't go, the whole time up until I lost him.

And, and I used to complain because people used to say "Oh, morning sickness." And I'd be like "There's nothing called morning sickness, it's called 24/7 sickness." [Laugh].

And, and that's just the way it is. And it's horrible. But, but I remember the first day that I felt semi-okay was the day that we lost him. I remember waking up and thinking 'today I feel like I can do stuff'. And then obviously that's what happened.
 

Courtney was at work when she realised she might be losing her baby and had a long journey to the hospital.

Courtney was at work when she realised she might be losing her baby and had a long journey to the hospital.

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So I actually got on the tube, and the train. And the whole - did the whole journey, knowing that I’d probably have lost the baby. That was really tough.

And then rang up my husband, and was just like, "You need to meet me at the local hospital." 

Went to the local hospital, and they said that the scan unit had closed, so they couldn't scan me. Which I thought was - At the time, I didn't think anything of it. Now, I think it's disgusting. You know? And they said that I'd have to wait until it opened at seven o'clock in the morning, and they were going to keep me in. And I had no bleeding. And they'd had a look and said "It's incompetent cervix. You just need to be stitched up." So, once we scan you, you can see how far back the hole goes, so how much we need to stitch. And I was like, "Fine." 

So, went the whole night, terrified. Absolutely terrified. The next morning came, seven o'clock - because obviously we didn't sleep, at all. 

Seven o'clock came. And, I was fully expecting that I'd be taken in to have a scan, to have the scan straight away.

And they were saying that the appointments that had been booked that day take priority. 

So I was left there, waiting. And then it came to eleven o'clock, and I was still waiting, to try and see to get someone to have this scan, so I could go into surgery. Because in my head, once I had the surgery, everything would be fine, because it'd just be stitched up. And then you could go on with it. Eleven o'clock came. Still didn't have a scan. Twelve o'clock came, still didn't have a scan. Also, not - I'm not, was angry with them or getting annoyed, because - you know - this is the first time that I'm going through this, I'm totally going by their judgement and everything that they're doing, and understanding that they know best. One o'clock came. And I - It's the first time that I said to my husband to, you know, "Go home. All I'm doing is waiting for a scan. Go home. Get some bits for us, and then come back." Half one, I started bleeding. And they come in, and they tell me - didn't even - it wasn't even bleeding a lot. It was like spotting.

And they come in and they tell me that there's nothing they can do, that I'm going to have to let the baby pass.

Without the scan?

Without the scan. The whole time I was there, I never got a scan. I got, I got a Doppler, which allowed the heartbeat. And, and the heartbeat was really strong. There was nothing wrong with him at all. 

Like the whole time, his heart was really strong. He never had any issues with him, it was - it was my cervix that was the issue, we just needed to close it up. 
 

Courtney explained how at first she didn’t want to see her baby but she was glad she changed her mind.

Courtney explained how at first she didn’t want to see her baby but she was glad she changed her mind.

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And the whole time, I just didn't want to see him. So I made them put a big sheet up, and - because I was just like, 'if it isn't real, if I don't see it, it isn't real'. 

And, and so I had my head turned the whole time I was giving birth. And, and my husband saw him as he came out. And then - But then I'd, I was having this fit. So then I just said "I don't want to see him, I don't want to see him. Take him away."

And then I woke up, and - and he said - and I still was adamant that I wasn't going to see him, the boy. Because we - Obviously it was - it was a son that we were going to have. And, and my husband was like, "Oh, you really should see him. I feel better for seeing him." So they brought him in. And I literally - it is really difficult to remember. Because it was such a blur. Like I was still quite out of it. And, but I remember thinking - couldn't believe how formed he was. I couldn't believe how much he looked like my husband. I was just like shocked. That was pretty tough. Because it was like [in tears]. But I'm really pleased that I did see him.
 

Courtney found it hard not to blame herself when she found out there was a problem with her cervix.

Courtney found it hard not to blame herself when she found out there was a problem with her cervix.

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Even when our son was born, he was - he was born breathing. You know, because there was nothing wrong with him. And that makes it hard, because you know, if there was something wrong with him, I'd be like - it was better for him, I could understand it. But it's really hard for me to not blame myself, because obviously it's my condition that has caused it. But. And it's just frustrating that - to think that when you think it's your fault, and it's your condition that's caused it, and that you're trying to get help for that, and no one is giving you any help - that's really tough, as well. Because you literally feel like, like 'what can - what can you do?' You feel lost. And amongst all your grieving, it's really - it's been really tough. Really, really tough.
 

Courtney went back to work after two weeks as she wasn’t entitled to maternity leave. She found it very hard returning to the place where her miscarriage had started.

Courtney went back to work after two weeks as she wasn’t entitled to maternity leave. She found it very hard returning to the place where her miscarriage had started.

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So, when we lost, two weeks later I went back to work. Because it is a second trimester loss, again it isn't counted as a stillbirth. You don't get any rights. You don't get any help. So you do have to just go back to work. You're lucky if your company gives you bereavement time, which mine was two weeks.

And, so I went back to work after two weeks. And it's literally the worst thing you can do. Because -

Going back to work?

Yeah. Especially with mine - my miscarriage started at work. And there was four of us all pregnant at the same time. So I was going back to work and sitting with the three other girls who I was two weeks ago, who were talking about their pregnancies. And I'm there, not pregnant.

So the whole situation was really tough. And - But again, you don't get that support that you would , like some - For instance, if you are counted as having a stillbirth, twenty four weeks later, then I'm entitled to taking part of my maternity cover. And it amazes me. Because I think to myself, 'right, I was four weeks away from that'.

If I was one day away from that, would I still not get it? And you wouldn't. You would still not get it. Even though, twenty four hours later, you'd be entitled to that. So there's no - You'd be at exactly the same stage. Like there's, there's just - there's something that needs to be allowed during that. Because it doesn't matter when you lose, you're grieving the same amount. 

And, you know. All - You're not grieving just because you lost, you're grieving because of the future that you'd planned. So it's really different. So I had to go back to work, and - and just get on, get on with everything. And I think that really takes a toll on you. 

Because how can you grieve when you're not given that time? For instance, with the people from my friends that - from my counselling group that have lost in their third trimester. They've got their maternity cover. Almost fifty percent of them are pregnant again. 

And I a hundred percent believe that's because they were given the time, and that space to be able grieve properly. And be able to wallow for a few weeks. And you know, not - sometimes you don't want to do anything, you want to just wake up in bed and cry the whole day. 

And I think that's perfectly fine. But you've got to be given that time to do that. And there's something that's said about that, definitely. You know? If you're given time to understand your emotions, understand your feelings, and grieve - then you can move on with your life a lot faster. It's a lot healthier. It's a lot better. Whereas a lot of the people that I know that have lost in the second trimester, that have to go back to work and have to just be like get on with their lives, and people are just like 'oh, you're not over that yet?' Sort of thing.

You know? 'It's a miscarriage'. Or someone will say to you, "I had a miscarriage." And you think, 'oh, I was so close, though' [laugh]. And It's different. It's different. It's a lot - takes a lot longer. I see it. Definitely see it. 
 

Courtney felt there were no facilities for her husband while she was in hospital.

Courtney felt there were no facilities for her husband while she was in hospital.

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And like they don't - They're not given a bed or anything, so he just slept on a chair the whole time. They're not even offered the food that comes round. You know? And I mean, it's only a sandwich that you get given anyway. So, for me, I'm just like - It's not nice for them. They're going through exactly the same experience as you. But it's not nice for them. There really has to be more for people that are losing. 

I know some hospitals, - like a couple that have specific rooms for losses, and like the bereavement room where - if you're going to lose, you get taken into that room, and it has a nicer couch. It's sometimes a pull-out bed for the father. Or it's - it's like a nicer, painted nicer, and it's got a lot more light and stuff like that. Unfortunately in the hospital that I went to, doesn't have anything like this. Not every hospital does. You know? It's - It's like limited. When you're losing, it seems like you're just lucky if you get to the right hospital, or if you're not - every hospital's limited in what they can do. What can you do about that? 
 

Courtney felt at first her relationship with her husband was stronger than ever but found it difficult when her husband seemed to heal faster.

Courtney felt at first her relationship with her husband was stronger than ever but found it difficult when her husband seemed to heal faster.

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So the first time - So the first months when it happened, we were stronger than ever. Like you couldn't get anyone stronger. Like it was amazing. We'd do so much together, and we'd be grieving on the same path, and - And you really, like - You just - We loved each other so much that it couldn't - Like it was just insane. Like you were so privileged to be married to my husband, because I was like, I'm so lucky. 

And then your grieving pattern differs. You know? It is very different. Because yeah, my body had to change a lot. You know? And on a monthly basis I was still bleeding excessively. Then I went through another miscarriage. And your hormones as a woman, it changes completely as well. As a male, you obviously don't feel that. And, so it took - it was faster for my husband to get healed faster. Whereas for me, it's taken a lot longer. So our paths sort of widened. We still stayed, stayed on the same length, and we're still strong and everything. But you know, you just have different views of certain things. And you know, you're not - maybe you're not as close as you normally are, because you don't want to say something because you might upset the other person with it, who don't feel like that. And you know, it's - it's very - It becomes very up and down, and. Intimacy is very difficult. Because obviously - sometimes, and I hear this from a lot of people. Sometimes after, you're like 'we want to try again, we want to try again'. 

And then after a while you're like 'no, I don't want to do this at all, I don't even want children'. And then you sort of are afraid to discuss it. Whereas previously, the conversations you would have would be about your future, and how excited and, 'we're going to do this together, and we're going to do that together'. And, 'and we're going to have this family'. But, and reality - it's sort of like reality kicks in. 

And now the conversations you have aren't 'let's do this, let's do that', it's 'well really, can we do this?'

It's like - And, and then when you think to yourself 'no, we can't', you're just like 'well, what's the point in even thinking that?'

So that's really tough. Because you're trying to build a new path of the relationship that you didn't see, but you're trying to stay on the same level together. But you don't know where it's going to go.
 

Courtney felt she lost so many friends because they didn’t know what to say to her.

Courtney felt she lost so many friends because they didn’t know what to say to her.

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You lose so many friends. You absolutely lose so many friends.

I can't tell you how many friends I've lost. Had a massive friend, friend base. Like easily I would meet up with people, ten – or ten people, like a weekend, or go out for lunches and stuff like that. This happens, no one contacts you. Whether it be because they don't know what to say to you?

Yeah.

Or, or they're - they're just a bit like, like 'ooh, I don't want to upset them', or something like that. But at the end of the day, who cares? If they're your friend, just - all you've got to do is text once, and just say 'I'm thinking of you'. Do you know? Or a couple of months later, say like 'I'm still thinking of you', and stuff like that. 

But people don't. And then you end up really re-evaluating the people in your life. Because you think well, what's important? And some people who you just walk past and go "You're alright?" And you're not really good friends with anyway, but you make that extra effort because you think you should, you don't. Because you think 'ooh, I'm not wasting my life, which is so precious and important, in trying to give you energy that you don't need - because you're not there for me, don't need to be there for you, let's just leave it at that'. And that happened with so many people. People that I thought were best friends, and really close, you know? And would never - wouldn't even come to see me. Wouldn't even ring me. Hadn't even rang me up within months. People that I worked with - because I had to go straight back to work - didn't come up to me, within two months of me having to go there on a daily basis, and go to me, "What happened?" Do you know what I mean? Like, "How are you doing?" You know? They all just ignore you, flat out. 
 

Courtney found other mothers who had experienced loss understood her feelings about pregnancy.

Courtney found other mothers who had experienced loss understood her feelings about pregnancy.

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And the Sands group, you're - you're still going to that. Do you feel like you've still got some time there?

I feel like I go now because they're my friends. So, and they understand me so well. So whereas I go and I discuss my month and how bad it's been, or the good side it's been, I also go because I want to hear how they're doing. And if say that month someone comes up to me - like for instance someone come - was in a conversation and they're pregnant, and they were like "Oh, I really want a boy." And then someone else was like, "I really want a girl." And I'm just like, "No, you want it alive." [Laughing]. I'm like "It doesn't matter if it's a girl or a boy, it doesn't matter, as long as it's healthy, and alive, then it's not - then nothing's an issue." [Laugh]. The Sands group would understand that. They'd - I could say that there, and they'd understand why I would come away annoyed. They'd even laugh about it. 

And to have people around you that understand little things like that, and comments like that, is priceless. It literally gets you through. Like, we - We now to a point have become friends that - like you, you would text them like they were your best mates, the people that you've lost. It's, it's like you experience something together and you understand.
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