A-Z

Helen Z

Age at interview: 37
Brief Outline: Helen was 36 when she became pregnant for the second time. During a scan at 23 weeks her baby’s heartbeat could not be heard and her labour was induced. Helen’s baby was born showing no signs of life at 23 weeks and 3 days.
Background: Helen is 37 and is married. She used to work as a garment technician but now is a full time carer for her son aged 5 years and her daughter aged 4 months.

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Helen was pregnant for a second time. Everything had been progressing normally until she went for a routine scan at 21 weeks of pregnancy. The sonographer was able to find her baby’s heartbeat but because of the position he was lying in, they could not take all the measurements they needed to. After trying unsuccessfully to get him to move, Helen was asked to come back for another scan 2 weeks’ later. At this second scan they could not find her baby’s heartbeat and Helen was told he had died. She was 23 weeks pregnant. That day, Helen was given a tablet to prepare her body for the labour and birth. She found swallowing the tablet really difficult because it meant the end of her pregnancy. She was sent home and asked to come back two days later to give birth to her baby. But Helen found waiting at home so difficult she went back to the maternity unit the next night.  

Helen had a short labour and her son was born showing no signs of life. She named him Beau. Helen and her husband spent the night in hospital with their son in a dedicated bereavement room. They really appreciated the memory box they were given by midwives. In particular they appreciated the book they could read to their son and the certificate to record his birth. 

Helen and her husband had initially thought that they would not want an investigation to understand their baby’s death. But a week later they decided that they would have a post mortem as it might give them information that could help them make a decision about whether to try for another baby. Helen found her employer very generous in giving her 6 weeks off work. Nevertheless going back to work was particularly difficult for her, as she worked in a company selling baby clothes. So she decided to leave her job to be at home with her older son. Helen and her husband decided to try again for another baby and she became pregnant very quickly. Helen felt anxious throughout the pregnancy but it progressed well and her daughter was born at full-term.
 

Helen Z was given various options for when she could give birth but felt that she was in shock and didn’t know what to do for the best.

Helen Z was given various options for when she could give birth but felt that she was in shock and didn’t know what to do for the best.

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From that point in the scan room, just got taken to [sigh] - to delivery. They take you round to the maternity unit, where it's delivery unit. And you're in a delivery room. And all these people were telling you that you have to - going to have to go into labour and give birth to a baby. Something that you don't think that you're going to have to do.

You think they'll just, I don't know - Caesarean, or I don't know what I was thinking in my head at the time. I don't know what I was thinking. But they were like, they were like "You don't have to do anything now, you can go away and think about it." But all these things - they give you too much information, and. 

You can go away and think about it, but you're in so much shock, taking on all this information. It was [sigh] - yeah, it was just crazy. And they said that I had to take this tablet, to start shutting everything down. And again, I didn't have to take that table now, I could go away and think about it. But you just don't know what to do for the best.

You don't have time to think about it really, you just have to - So I took the tablet. Which made me sort of gag on that - I gagged on it. Because I just couldn't think about what I was doing. And we all went home. We had our little boy with us, so. He was 4 at the time. And we all went home. And they said "Come back in two days." So we came home. And it was the longest day ever, the next day. And it was just really hard, trying to entertain a 4 year old.

Knowing what you're going to have to do. It was just awful day. And we got to the second night, and I couldn't sleep. And I was laying in bed, and I just said to my husband, "Look, we just have to go to the hospital now. I can't wait any longer. I can't be in this bed. I can't lay here." So it was about three in the morning. And we drove to the hospital. Or my Mum drove us to the hospital.
 

Helen Z explains how she and her husband spent their time while in hospital with their baby.

Helen Z explains how she and her husband spent their time while in hospital with their baby.

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And when he was born, he was born in his sac. I didn't see him in his sac, but my husband did. And then they took him behind a curtain, and my husband went to see him first. To make sure if, you know, if I'd want to see him, because I didn't know. Because you don't - all these things is brand new. And my husband said it was fine. So they brought him out to us, and we held him. We held him for a long time. He was just tiny. And they couldn't have been nicer. We had - they didn't - Nothing was rushed. We just sat there and held him for as long as we wanted to do. And a woman came in and took his handprints for us, and asked us if we wanted any clothes for him. And I didn't know that they even had clothes that were that small, but they said that they did. So they got him a little cardigan to wear. And a hat. And then they asked us what we wanted to do, whether we wanted to - We could go home, and come back and see him. Or we could stay, and. I think by this time it was like mid-afternoon, late afternoon. And we decided that we would just stay the night, and spend one night with him. And then we'd go home in the morning. We wouldn't keep coming back to see him. We just wanted to spend one night. I think one night just for us as well. 

And we just went through the memory box, and. The memory box was so, so - not - It's just so nice to have, because - things in it that you don't even think about. Like I would never even have thought that I'd want to read him a story, and there was a little book in there so we could read him a story. And two teddy bears, so we could have one for him and one for us. So we read him a story. And we spent the night with him. We just had on a loop, about sixty Disney songs, just softly in the background, just so it wasn't a quiet room. And we just held him, and we just laid on the bed together, and. And then in the morning, they asked us if we wanted him to be blessed. So they sent for a chaplain. And the chaplain came and blessed him. And, and then we just said our goodbye, and they took him away. And we decided that we didn't want to go back and see him. We'd already seen the change in him, from that - just overnight he'd changed.

So we just said our goodbyes, and - and then we didn't go back and see him again.
 

Helen Z described how she and her husband spent their time while in hospital with their baby. They didn’t feel rushed as they said their goodbyes.

Helen Z described how she and her husband spent their time while in hospital with their baby. They didn’t feel rushed as they said their goodbyes.

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So they brought him out to us, and we held him. We held him for a long time. He was just tiny. And they couldn't have been nicer. We had - they didn't - Nothing was rushed. We just sat there and held him for as long as we wanted to do. And a woman came in and took his handprints for us, and asked us if we wanted any clothes for him. And I didn't know that they even had clothes that were that small, but they said that they did. So they got him a little cardigan to wear. And a hat. And then they asked us what we wanted to do, whether we wanted to - We could go home, and come back and see him. Or we could stay, and. I think by this time it was like mid-afternoon, late afternoon. And we decided that we would just stay the night, and spend one night with him. And then we'd go home in the morning. We wouldn't keep coming back to see him. We just wanted to spend one night. I think one night just for us as well. 

Just to have - gather our thoughts, and not have to come home to another child that wanted our attention. So we got put in this room. The [bereavement] Room, it was called. And we named our little boy Beau. And they just - they brought him in. And they said that they could bring him to us and take him away, or bring him - and they would do anything for us. But we decided that we would just keep him with us the whole time, just for that one night. And we held him. And this is when we got given the memory box.

And we just went through the memory box, and. The memory box was so, so - not - It's just so nice to have, because - things in it that you don't even think about. Like I would never even have thought that I'd want to read him a story, and there was a little book in there so we could read him a story. And two teddy bears, so we could have one for him and one for us. So we read him a story. And we spent the night with him. We just had on a loop, about sixty Disney songs, just softly in the background, just so it wasn't a quiet room. And we just held him, and we just laid on the bed together, and. And then in the morning, they asked us if we wanted him to be blessed. So they sent for a chaplain. And the chaplain came and blessed him. And then we just said our goodbye, and they took him away. And we decided that we didn't want to go back and see him. We'd already seen the change in him, from that - just overnight he'd changed.

So we just said our goodbyes, and - and then we didn't go back and see him again. 
 

Helen Z explained how knowing she could go back and see her baby if she wanted to was very important to her.

Helen Z explained how knowing she could go back and see her baby if she wanted to was very important to her.

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I think it's important to always know that - you know - you can always go back and see them. I think some people might not want to look at the baby, and go away. And to know that you can always go back as many times as you want. I mean, the midwife that we had told us one woman was coming back, and she'd be coming back every day for two weeks or something. I couldn't have done that to myself, but. If you - you know. Everything happened so fast, maybe you do need to go home and have that time to reflect, and come back. But I mean, the way that they came in and they dressed him, and they took his handprints - they were treating him like he was a proper full term baby, as emotionally. They weren't - They didn't ever, you know, put us to the side because he wasn't a full term baby.
 

Helen Z described how planning another pregnancy made her change her mind about whether to have a post-mortem.

Helen Z described how planning another pregnancy made her change her mind about whether to have a post-mortem.

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But I think about a week later, when we were thinking - Because we didn't know whether to have a post-mortem. 

And we were very much - we weren't going to have a post-mortem, he'd been through enough. He was very small, and we didn't want to put him through it. And then I think over the week when we were thinking of if we ever did have another baby, we couldn't put another baby through it if there was something wrong. And that he'd want to help if he could. So then we decided that we would have a post-mortem. So we had to go back and see the bereavement midwife. And it was at that point that we said could we have his hat. So she went and got his hat. And it was quite hard knowing that she just nipped out of the room for two minutes and got his hat, and he was right there.

But I knew that I couldn't go and see him. I couldn't have done it to myself again. So I decided - I just - We didn't go and see him again. But she gave us his hat. And then we had a post-mortem. And everything came back normal, there was nothing wrong, that they could see nothing wrong. 
 

Helen Z and her husband appreciated the help of the hospital in organising their baby’s funeral and creating some special memories.

Helen Z and her husband appreciated the help of the hospital in organising their baby’s funeral and creating some special memories.

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Everything they did was so lovely for us. They kept us informed the whole way through. And phone calls all the way, "Oh, Beau has left the hospital now to go to the post-mortem." "He's arrived at the post-mortem." Now a week later, "He's back from the post-mortem, he's back here." And then they phoned us again that he'd arrived at the crematorium. And just - Everyone kept us informed, the whole way along, of where he was, and his movements, and. People - My husband did it all, because I couldn't bear to talk to anyone. But getting the music that you wanted to play at the funeral. They were really helpful.

And, yeah. You can't believe that they do all this for you. So yeah, my husband arranged it all, and. We only went to the funeral - just us two. And we - And the chaplain that blessed him was the one that did the service. So that was nice, to see her again, and have someone - even though we'd only met her once - familiar. 

And was it just for Beau, the funeral?

Yeah, just for Beau. It was very early in the morning. And it wasn't very long, obviously. But it was just - We got to say goodbye. 

And we played a song - we played some songs to him in that [bereavement] Room. We played the same couple of songs - sorry. The same couple of songs at the funeral. So now they're really special to us. And we listened to them, listened to them on the anniversary. So I think every year we'll listen to them on the anniversary. They're special to us now.

But yeah, they just arranged his funeral for us, and it was just - you don't know that these things happen. Yeah.
 

Helen Z found going to the local Sands group too hard because she started taking on everybody else's grief.

Helen Z found going to the local Sands group too hard because she started taking on everybody else's grief.

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We went to a Sands meeting. We went to one Sands meeting. And I think that was in April. And it was just really hard. Because you just end up taking on everybody else's grief as well. 

That was a face to face meeting?

Yeah. So it was a meeting, and there was six women there who'd all lost babies. And my husband was the only man, who came with me. I don't know how all these other women came on their own. [laugh]. And there was three women that had lost babies between twenty and twenty four weeks, and then there was three women that had lost their babies at full term that was there. But. Yeah, it was just - it was just really hard, taking on everybody else's - you take on everybody else's grief as well. I thought - We didn't go back to a meeting, I found it too hard. 
 

Helen Z took her son to the scan and had to cope with her grief while staying positive for her son.

Helen Z took her son to the scan and had to cope with her grief while staying positive for her son.

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He wasn't at school yet. He wasn't at school. So he just came along with us. And we were sitting in the waiting room. And our name hadn't got called out for ages. And I think they'd just not realised that we were there. My husband went up and said "Hang on, we've been here for ages." And my little boy was messing around, and we - I didn't have any worries at all, in my head. I was - I feel stupid that I didn't even think anything was wrong. I just was sitting in that waiting room for longer than I should have been, trying to control a 4 year old, and I didn't even think that anything was wrong. And I laid on that bed, and I went, "Oh, is he in a better position now? Because last time he wasn't." Stupidly said that. And she said there was no heartbeat. And, just makes you feel - just awful, most awful thing to hear. My little boy didn't really understand what was going on. He was, he didn't understand at all.

It must have been hard having him there.

Having him there, yeah. Yeah. And he was just running around. And when we got taken to the delivery room, he was just running around playing. And you're trying to be happy and positive for one, for one child, and you're so, so sad on the other side. But [sigh] I mean, actually looking back and thinking about it, having him there probably made it a bit easier, than if it was just us on our own. Because he brought us back to reality, and actually there was another little boy there that needed us. Yeah.
 

Helen Z found scans helped allay her fears but also found them extremely distressing.

Helen Z found scans helped allay her fears but also found them extremely distressing.

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So. Every time I went for a scan, I was in tears. Because I couldn't - Took me a long time to get onto the bed. Especially on the first few scans, when I wasn't - still couldn't feel any kicks. I was crying before I got on the bed, because I couldn't go through it again. 

So, what weeks did you have a scan?

So, privately I had a scan at I think - Well, I had a scan at seven weeks. And then they'd said to me something about the baby not being the right size, even at seven weeks. So I went back at nine weeks. So that scared me, even though it was so early. 

Then I had my twelve week scan. And then I think we had a private scan at fifteen weeks. And then we had - And then the NHS gave us scans at twenty, twenty four, twenty eight, thirty two, thirty six. So I had scans the whole way through.

And was there a time when you started to relax a little bit more in the pregnancy, or?

No.

No?

Because I've made friends with women that have lost their babies at full term. 

Everyone was like "Once you've got past twenty three weeks, you'll relax." But you meet so many people that have lost babies maybe later down the road.
 

Helen Z and her husband felt it important to mark their baby’s due date and birthday.

Helen Z and her husband felt it important to mark their baby’s due date and birthday.

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We let off some balloons on his due date. So on his due date I think maybe I was like seven - seven weeks pregnant. So we let off some balloons for him. And then on his actual day that he was born, the 30th of January. So I think a couple of days after he was born, I went on this 4Louis website. And I bought a memory box, in his - in his memory, for someone else to have.

And I think every year - I did again this year, I bought a memory box. And every year, I'm going to buy a memory box on his birthday. In his name, for someone else. 
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