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Elaine and David

Brief Outline: Elaine was 33 and David 44 when they first became pregnant. At 23 weeks, Elaine could no longer feel her baby moving and a scan showed their baby had died. Their baby was born showing no signs of life at 23 weeks and 6 days. Elaine was interviewed when she was 47 and David 59.
Background: Elaine and David are married. Elaine looks after the home and cares for their son who is 12 years old. David worked as a business analyst and is now retired.

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Elaine and David were surprised and thrilled to find out Elaine was pregnant the day after their wedding. Elaine found the pregnancy hard, as she suffers from Crohn’s disease and anxiety. At the 23 week scan Elaine’s pregnancy was progressing well. However the next day Elaine noticed she couldn’t feel their baby moving any more. She and David returned to hospital where the midwife checked but couldn’t find their baby’s heartbeat. A doctor asked David to step out of the scanning room, and David and Elaine were told separately about their baby’s death. They both found this hard, and wished the doctors had not broken the news to them this way, as they wanted to be together to support each other.  

Elaine decided to take the tablet that day to prepare her body for labour. But they then had to wait over the weekend before they could return to hospital for Elaine to give birth. Elaine said she found waiting at home extremely difficult. When they returned to hospital, Elaine and David were left alone during her labour and just called a midwife when Elaine gave birth. Their daughter, Lauren was born showing no signs of life. Elaine held her for a few minutes but then had to go and have a surgical procedure to clean her uterus. She found this procedure very traumatic as she just wanted to go home. Elaine was extremely anxious and upset after the birth of her daughter and was admitted to hospital as her obstetrician was concerned about her mental health. Being separated from David for a week at this time was extremely difficult for Elaine. 

Although the hospital’s bereavement counsellor was very supportive, Elaine and David found it very hard going back to the hospital for their counselling appointments. Happily, they got pregnant again very quickly, but found the next pregnancy extremely stressful as they were so worried about losing their baby again. Elaine’s pregnancy progressed well and their son was born at 35 weeks and at the time of the interview he was 12 years old. However, the impact of their loss was profound for both of them. Elaine suffers from anxiety and is still involved with Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity 13 years on and David had what he described as a nervous breakdown a few years after Lauren’s birth.
 

Elaine regretted not hanging on an extra day before giving birth to her baby as her baby may then have been registered as a stillbirth.

Elaine regretted not hanging on an extra day before giving birth to her baby as her baby may then have been registered as a stillbirth.

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Once I delivered her - it was twenty three weeks and six days. And I regret to this day that I hadn't hung on to that Tuesday, and I could have a birth certificate and death certificate. And I really wish - There was no - They said I could have carried her for a few weeks. And they said infection can then set in.

But because I was so - in such a like, such a state - I wish somebody had explained to me, "Look, if you just - you know. If you choose to wait another day, you can have a birth certificate and a death certificate." And it wasn't until, I don't know how long after, that I realised - I tell people I was twenty four weeks. Because she wasn't a miscarriage, she was stillborn. She was a baby. She was formed. She was little, she was tiny, but she was perfect.
 

Elaine lost the photos of her baby as the film got ruined. She was devastated.

Elaine lost the photos of her baby as the film got ruined. She was devastated.

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They did take photographs. And they did take little prints. But it's dreadful, because someone had accidentally opened the camera, and the photos were ruined. And, we do have a few. Which are not great. I was-. That really is a very awful thing. Because that - you know - You can't get that back, it's gone. 

They were polaroid prints. And you know, we'd been told that someone had opened the back of the camera by mistake. And, and we did end up with some photos, but - I mean, holding her. I wish I could have held her longer, I wish I had. That's a regret, but all these years later I can't really - well, there's nothing I can do. Got to sort of, yeah. Wish I had held her longer.
 

Elaine wanted to be open with their son about his sister as he grew older.

Elaine wanted to be open with their son about his sister as he grew older.

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So [sigh]. You know, my husband and I were really concerned about telling him. Because I thought it will change his life slightly, because - you know - from being, you know, quite a carefree 10 year old, we're telling him something so big. But we decided we'd tell him in sort of more of a relaxed way. Rather than saying "Right, we need to tell you this." So, I don't know. I think we were maybe eating dinner, and I just said, you know, "There's something we need to tell you. Before you were born, I was pregnant. And unfortunately, you know, she didn't survive." So, you know, "Otherwise you may have had a sister." And he was shocked. He said he knew something was going on. And that's how smart he is. Because he'd always said he wanted a sister.

And I think - I don't know how he would have figured something out, but he said he thought something had gone on. He ran up to his room, and he was really upset. And I thought 'oh my gosh, what have we done?' But we said, you know, "We'll give you time." And then we encouraged him to talk about it. And you know, he's – he’s said it's part of his life now. He said it has changed his life, completely. Because he is an only child.

Some people said it's a good idea to tell him. "Are you sure? Do you think you should?" Will I ever be a hundred percent sure? No. I don't think a hundred percent about anything. I just think he's a smart kid. I didn't want him to grow up saying "Why didn't you tell me? Why did you keep it a secret?" You know, she has a grave. She has a gravestone. 

And he asked to go, and we took him. And you know, he took flowers. And it's important, because when we're not here, he can then choose whether to continue to visit her, or not. And that's his choice. 
 

David found his grief was triggered several years later after a traumatic event.

David found his grief was triggered several years later after a traumatic event.

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And it caught up with me, several years later. This happened in 2001. In 2005 it actually caught up with me. And I didn't know it at the time. Strange story, was - I'd taken the day off in 2005, to go - And we went to see Lauren's grave. We had a headstone done at that stage. And I went to see Lauren's grave. I don't know why I went to see her. It was a Tuesday. And the date was 7/7, July 7th 2005. And I worked where those bombs went off. And I normally go on the train that these, those guys took. And the bus that these guys took. Not at that time, but that was my journey. Not saying I would have been on those at the time, because I usually get in at seven o'clock, so I would have missed it. But for some - I took the day off that day. And I went to see Lauren. And my son, bless him - he now knows all this these little stories. He said was Lauren keeping you safe.

But the follow-on from that was I got back in the car, Elaine had driven. Got back in the car, and we stuck the radio on about nine o'clock. We went early as well, it was nine, nine-thirty. And the news started to filter through. And it dawned on me, well - you know - that's where I work, that's the bus I would have taken, you know? It's the route I would have taken. And I had a breakdown. I went into - my brain switched off. And Elaine phoned the doctor, and the doctor - I had two weeks in [acute mental health treatment centre]. And I don't know what clicked in, but it took them six months to realise that I had the association of losing Lauren, and not dealing with it, and the possible death and carnage that I wasn't around - something clicked in my mind, brain, and it switched it off. And I spent six months in - Two months - Two, two weeks in the hospital, [acute mental health treatment centre]. And another six months as an outpatient having therapy to get over, over it. I couldn't go on a train, I couldn't do anything. Couldn't - I didn't want to go back to work. And it took till - from July until end of December, for me to get back to normality, and get over that. But they two things together, as a cause of that breakdown. And that's because I didn't deal with Lauren's stillborn as perhaps I should have. I didn't have the network. You know, the man gets on with it, goes back to work, carries on as normal. He's just lost a baby, what difference? You know? You've got to earn a crust. And get back to normality. And that's basically not good, a good thing in any way. And there should be something more for the man as well as the complete network support for the lady, the woman who's just lost that baby. So, there's nothing there for the guy. Should be more for the man, and there should be a lot more for the woman. And that's my story.
 

When he went back to work David was angered by someone asking if “Are you over it yet?”

When he went back to work David was angered by someone asking if “Are you over it yet?”

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David: And Elaine - Then we had to get back to normality. I think I went back to work, just a week later. Or a few days later. Was that a week? And Elaine went back to what she did. And that was it. And I remember going back to work. And they're very good, work. And I was working for [company name] at the time. And they sent flowers. You know, card of condolence. Which was lovely of them. [dealing with tissues] I was at work. My first day at work. And I remember, I went to my desk. And I was an IT analyst there, we had a team of analysts. And there was the guy, senior guy, who must have been then as old as I am now - about 60.

Elaine: [laughing]

David: Senior guy. And he said to me - I sat down and was getting my - trying to catch up with my emails. He said to me, "Are you over it yet?" And I thought - I thought [laugh] - If I hadn't have restrained myself, I probably would have smacked - done something I regretted. 

David: Like my football team had just lost the cup final, "Are you over it yet?" And I looked at him and I said, "You don't know what you're talking about." And I just went out for a coffee. If I'd stayed there, I would have - as I said - done something I would have regretted. 

But there was a lot of other people who were sympathetic, but this guy was lucky he didn't lose a few teeth. But it would have been worth it - if I'd have lost my job, it would have been worth it. But I couldn't believe someone's insensitivity. I think it took someone else to actually tell him what happened. 

But I'm not sure if he did know what happened, I can't believe - And he did apologise, but that sticks with me. That one thing sticks with me, about work.
 

David described the lack of support for fathers and the impact that had on delaying his grief.

David described the lack of support for fathers and the impact that had on delaying his grief.

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Elaine was fantastic. She was like - She was like she was just in there for a check-up [laugh]. She was making jokes, and - I don't think a lot - you know - Elaine's, Elaine says she's got anxiety issues and that sort of type of problem, but she's stronger than she thinks. She got through that. I don't know how she-. In her position, to give birth like that, I don't think I could have done it. Obviously not. But if I was a woman, you know what I'm saying. 

Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

The mindset to get through that - I wouldn't have the mindset to get through that. I don't think a lot of women have. Obviously they do, and I - As a man, I don't know - I don't know - I can't comprehend what they go through. You know, my wife went through it, and she got through it, and she was fantastic, you know? And - What I don't think is the men, i.e. me - the man - has to get on with things. Because I don't think there's any network for a man to get through this. And it caught up with me, several years later. This happened in 2001. In 2005 it actually caught up with me. And I didn't know it at the time. Strange story, was - I'd taken the day off in 2005, to go - And we went to see Lauren's grave. We had a headstone done at that stage. And I went to see Lauren's grave. I don't know why I went to see her. It was a Tuesday. And the date was 7/7, July 7th 2005. And I worked where those bombs went off. And I normally go on the train that these, those guys took. And the bus that these guys took. Not at that time, but that was my journey. Not saying I would have been on those at the time, because I usually get in at seven o'clock, so I would have missed it. But for some - I took the day off that day. And I went to see Lauren. And my son, bless him - he now knows all this these little stories. He said was Lauren keeping you safe.

But the follow-on from that was I got back in the car, Elaine had driven. Got back in the car, and we stuck the radio on about nine o'clock. We went early as well, it was nine, nine-thirty. And the news started to filter through. And it dawned on me, well - you know - that's where I work, that's the bus I would have taken, you know? It's the route I would have taken. And I, I had a breakdown. I went into - my brain switched off. And Elaine phoned the doctor, and the doctor - I had two weeks in [acute mental health treatment centre]. And I don't know what clicked in, but it took them six months to realise that I had the association of losing Lauren, and not dealing with it, and the possible death and carnage that I wasn't around - something clicked in my mind, brain, and it switched it off. And I spent six months in - Two months - Two, two weeks in the hospital, [acute mental health treatment centre]. And another six months as an outpatient having therapy to get over, over it. I couldn't go on a train, I couldn't do anything. Couldn't - I didn't want to go back to work. And it took till - from July until end of December, for me to get back to normality, and get over that. But they two things together, as a cause of that breakdown. And that's because I didn't deal with Lauren's stillborn as perhaps I should have. I didn't have the network. You know, the man gets on with it, goes back to work, carries on as normal. He's just lost a baby, what difference? You know? You've got to earn a crust. And get back to normality. And that's basically not good, a good thing in any way. And there should be something more for the man as well as the complete network support for the lady, the woman who's just lost that baby. So, there's nothing there for the guy. Should be more for the man, and there should be a lot more for the woman. And that's my story.
 

David described his need to know the baby was moving and kicking before he went to work each day.

David described his need to know the baby was moving and kicking before he went to work each day.

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David: Thank god we got [my son]. But you know, when Elaine was pregnant with [my son], I don't think we had a restful night. Because it was always 'is he kicking?' I wouldn't go to work, unless Elaine gave me the green light that yes, she felt [my son] kick. Often, she'd [laugh] - she wanted me to get out, and he hadn't kicked, I mean she would actually - because of what - She would actually go to you know, get it checked, there and then?

She'd have to get scanned at the hospital. Is that right?

Elaine: Mmm.

David: Without telling me. So, it was a case of six, sorry - nine months of actual –

Elaine: Eight and a half months [laughing].

David: Eight and a half. Yeah. Eight and a half months of stress, and with a fantastic result at the end of it, but. Yeah.
 

David felt it was really important for fathers to talk through their experiences and not to hold things in.

David felt it was really important for fathers to talk through their experiences and not to hold things in.

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What messages would you give to other fathers going through something similar?

Don't - don't hold it in. I mean, don't try and act the macho man. Get all - you don't - oh, you know - 'I'm the man, I've got to get out there, I've got to earn a crust'. Don't keep it inside, because it's going to catch up with you one day. You've got to talk it out. Talk it through with someone. Your best friend. Even a professional, if you can get hold of a professional. Just talk it out. And if you want to cry, like I'm crying now - so what? Don't act, don't act macho, don't act the man. Deal with - deal with it, because it is a horrible experience, and you don't want it catching up with you further down the line. Deal with it then and now. 
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