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Kirsty and Matthew

Brief Outline: Kirsty and Matthew were aged 33 and 32 at the time of their first pregnancy.. Kirsty was rushed to hospital after she went into labour at home at 23 weeks of pregnancy. Their daughter was born showing no signs of life. Kirsty was interviewed age 37 and Matthew aged 36.
Background: Kirsty and Matthew are married. Kirsty is 37 and Matthew is 36 and they both work for the civil service. At the time of the interview they have two sons aged 2 years and 2 months.

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Kirsty and Matthew were thrilled to find out Kirsty was pregnant as they had been trying to conceive for a while. Everything progressed well with the pregnancy until 23 weeks. Kirsty felt some strong pains and realised that her labour was starting and she was going to give birth to her baby. Kirsty and Matthew were rushed to hospital by ambulance and were met by a team of doctors who would be there to care for their baby after birth. But when Kirsty was assessed they could not find the baby’s heartbeat. When they realised the baby was not going to be born alive, the neonatal doctors left. Kirsty and Matthew found it hard being suddenly alone. Kirsty gave birth to their daughter, named Rebecca, who was born showing no signs of life. Kirsty then had to deliver her retained placenta which took several hours. Kirsty and Matthew spent time with their daughter in the hospital before saying goodbye. 

A few days later Kirsty was very upset when her midwife rang to ask why she had missed her routine check-up as the midwife overlooked that she had lost her baby. Kirsty and Matthew decided not to attend their daughter’s funeral service but collected her ashes and buried them in a memorial forest.
They have found it particularly difficult that their baby’s life was not registered officially. This has also meant that they did not receive maternity or paternity leave. They both found it extremely hard going back to work after two weeks sick leave. 

Kirsty and Matthew became pregnant for the second time four months later. They both found their second pregnancy extremely stressful, but it progressed well and their son was born at 41 weeks of pregnancy.

Kirsty and Matthew both found doing a charity run to raise money for Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity helped them feel something positive had come out of their experience.
 

Matthew felt the term miscarriage prevented people understanding what they’d been through.

Matthew felt the term miscarriage prevented people understanding what they’d been through.

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I think it's almost like because she hadn't reached twenty four weeks, it wasn't legitimate, it was - Because it was still termed as a miscarriage. 

And because there hadn't been a birth certificate or a death certificate, it's almost like everyone - it's almost like it was minimised and wasn't that big of a deal. 

Not just for the people who were involved at the hospital, but for like families as well. They didn't really seem to grasp what had happened, or how horrific it had been. Or that you know, a few days here and there shouldn't really make much difference. I mean, I think if she'd have been born at twenty four weeks, I think Kirsty would have been able to have like some maternity leave. Which I'm sure would have really helped her. She'd have very much appreciated that extra time off work. As it was, she was - she was back there herself after a couple of weeks. So. I don't know. I'm sure it wouldn't have helped the loss or the grief to have had the paperwork, but I think perhaps how other people dealt with it, they might have been a bit more sympathetic, I guess is the word. A bit more understanding, that we'd been through something quite, quite bad.
 

Matthew didn’t want to attend the cremation of his daughter as he thought it would be too painful.

Matthew didn’t want to attend the cremation of his daughter as he thought it would be too painful.

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They wanted to know if we wanted a little service, or if we wanted to be there. And we just said, "It's just too hard. We'll have the ashes back once it's done. We can't - we can't be there and turn it into a ceremony." Because you know, she didn't - it's more that I think when you have a ceremony, it's like a - you're celebrating a life, and there wasn't - there hadn't been any life. It was more a - it was more like you've lost your dreams about this little baby. It just seemed wrong to have a ceremony for that.
 

Matthew described how fundraising for Sands was the moment he felt he was able to move on.

Matthew described how fundraising for Sands was the moment he felt he was able to move on.

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I think a big turning point was when we did a 5k fun run, sort of thing. Where we raised money for Sands. I think that must have been 2015. The summer of 2015. So that was - because [son’s name] was about a year old then. So it was about two years later. 

And that to me, I felt for the first time that I could say that something good had come from it. Because we raised about £1,000. So I could finally say, well - Up until that point, it was like that there was nothing, nothing positive to say about the situation. And I think after that, I think after that I felt differently. That was almost like - I was able to move on.

Because up until then it was like I was going out running every couple of days, and the whole reason I was doing it, was sort of always there at the forefront of my mind, and. Kirsty had been in contact with Sands, and we were getting t-shirts, and sort of trying to raise money about it. And so it, it was - it was almost like it was a constant daily reminder about it. And, and that to me - That for me sort of put - it was a moment where I was able to say 'okay, I think I - I think I'm able to, to move on from this'.
 

Matthew felt people don’t really think about how loss affected fathers.

Matthew felt people don’t really think about how loss affected fathers.

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I think it's - You don't - [sigh]. I think when you're the father, you're in - In the pregnancy, you're naturally the second fiddle anyway, you're pushed to one side. But it's, it's - I think it's certainly the case with something like this, where people don't really think about how it's affected you. Or it's kind of expected more that the woman's going to be upset, the mother. But the father's just expected to sort of get on with it. And I think it's - You've got to recognise you're allowed to say, you know, you're finding it hard. And that it'll only get better if you, you allow yourself to say that, and go and speak to someone about it. Otherwise just sort of trying to be stoic about it, and pushing on as if everything's fine, isn't really necessarily going to help in the long run. It's not going to help you or your partner to get through it.
 

Kirsty found it particularly painful not receiving a birth or death certificate. Her baby was born two days before the official 24 weeks.

Kirsty found it particularly painful not receiving a birth or death certificate. Her baby was born two days before the official 24 weeks.

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And then I remember saying to the midwife, "What do we do about a death certificate? What do I have to do about all of that?" 

And she said, "It's okay, it'll all be explained in the leaflets that we're going to give you." And then the realisation hit me, that I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that it had to be twenty four weeks. And I said, "I've just had a miscarriage, haven't I?" And she says, "No, you've just had a baby." That is what I would say to anybody now that talks to me about late - late miscarriage. Or, what we had that night was a baby. We got to cuddle her, we got to put clothes on her. And that is not a miscarriage. And we did have a couple of family members refer to her as miscarriages. And I put - I said, "Please don't refer to her like that again. We had a baby." And I don't know if it helped particularly. A lot of our experience with Rebecca, I can see from two angles. I know why it was done. And I know why it would be seemingly to help us, but also, did it really? And when I'd asked about the birth certificate, we got given like a fake birth certificate. And I know that some people would probably love that. And I know that that was given to us because they wanted us to know that they recognised we'd just had a baby. 

I don't want a fake birth certificate. And I think out of the whole experience, my hang-up has been the birth certificate. She was two days short. They had a crash team there. We had a baby, but she'll never be recognised by UK law. She'll never - she just didn't exist. And people treat you differently. People do treat it like you've had a miscarriage. And they'll tell you about their experiences of having a miscarriage. And I'm not going to take anybody's pain away, and say that my pain was worse than anybody else's. Because it's a very individual thing. But it's just a different experience. And I don't think you can put them in the same box. And having a loss of a baby at fewer weeks and having one where you have got a baby, they are different experiences. Same kind of pain, but different experiences. But I was all of a sudden in this other box that I didn't want to be in.
 

Kirsty was taken to hospital by ambulance when she suddenly started to give birth.

Kirsty was taken to hospital by ambulance when she suddenly started to give birth.

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So I got home. And I also remember Matthew had bought me flowers that day. And I remember running into the kitchen, and he said to me, "Here's a bunch of flowers." And I said, "Thanks, great. Brilliant. Got to go to the toilet." Ran up the stairs to go to the toilet. We didn't have a lock on our bathroom door. [clears throat] Excuse me. And I went to go to the toilet. Felt something very strange. And looked down, and there was these two little legs hanging. So, in my panic, I didn't - I didn't know what to do. I just did not know what to do.

Screamed for Matthew. He came in. And he just took control. Absolute control. I'm generally the one in the relationship that takes that stance. He rang 999. And they were speaking to me, telling me to get into this position and that position, what was going on. And there was no other feeling I had to push, there was no other - that was it. I had that obviously - I now know they were contractions. I was told at the hospital I was having contractions. But that was it. So I had this baby that was half in, half out. The ambulance came. And they didn't know how to put me into the ambulance. And I remember being really awkward. I couldn't sit down. I didn't want to lay down. So I ended up hugging a chair, in the ambulance, on my knees. And I remember them saying to me, "We're going to the delivery ward. We're going to the labour ward." And that really confused me.

I remember feeling really confused, and going "Well, why am I going to deliver the baby?" I just didn't understand at the time. It didn't compute that actually I was having a baby. I think in the back of my mind I thought that they'd be able to put her back in, or. Because she wasn't ready to come out.

We got to the delivery suite. And they had a crash team ready for her. And the room was just full of people. And they were all desperately trying to get her out. They were pushing my stomach. They were telling me to push. And I, and I also remember they kept saying to me, "Bear down. Bear down." I didn't know what that meant. I hadn't been to any antenatal classes yet because we hadn't got that far along. 

And it was panic. It was just this mass feeling of panic. And then all of a sudden the doctor came to my bedside, she had a stethoscope. And she put it to the umbilical cord, and she just said "There's no heartbeat." And then that was it, and the room emptied. Everybody left. We were left with a lovely midwife. And I think that's when we let go. I think we knew. We both knew, on the way that this wasn't good. We weren't at that stage yet, where it was all going to be okay.
But I think when somebody turns round and says to you, "there's no heartbeat," that's when - that one minute, everything changes. Everything changes. The room emptied. The midwife left us alone. We had a good cry. But I still had a job to do. I had to get this baby out. 
 

Kirsty described how she felt she had very little time with her baby after she was born.

Kirsty described how she felt she had very little time with her baby after she was born.

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Initially, the midwife had said to me, "What would you like me to do with her? Do you want her?" And I couldn't - rightly or wrongly, I couldn't look at her at that time. So I said, "If you could just wrap her up, but put the cot to the foot of the bed. So I know she's there. But I need to be ready to have a look at her."

And I do remember saying to Matthew, once we'd delivered the placenta and it was just us - I said, "Can you - can you go and get her? I want to see her." Because I couldn't really get off the bed. 

And that broke my heart, seeing him carrying her to me. And knowing that we weren't going to take her home. And because it had been some hours, she had already started to change. Because she wasn't viable, she wasn't twenty four weeks. And we were just two days short of that, we were twenty three weeks and five days. We weren't given a cold cot, we weren't given anything to help preserve her.

We weren't given anything to help us spend our time with her. They did come and dress her, and they - they put a little dress on. And I didn't want her to wear the hat. I don't know why, but I didn't want her to have the hat on. And they said, "We'll take some photos, and some footprints and handprints."
 

Kirsty and Matthew went away to a cottage for a few days, and felt distressed when she received a reminder about an antenatal appointment that should have been cancelled.

Kirsty and Matthew went away to a cottage for a few days, and felt distressed when she received a reminder about an antenatal appointment that should have been cancelled.

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We decided in that two weeks to rent a little cottage in Wales, take the dog, and just get away. No TV. Sit and watch the sea, on the bench. And that's what we did. And we had a really nice time. The evenings were a bit bleak. Because that's what - when we'd go over what had happened. But actually, it was nice to get away. And we, we didn't have great phone service. And I remember this midwife, had left a voicemail. And she was quite rude. And I'm not one to berate midwives, I think it's a fantastic profession, I think it's a calling. And practicality side, amazing. You know? Could not fault our midwife that night. Could not fault any of the midwives. But I got quite a berated message for missing an appointment, a midwife appointment. So I rang her back, and it was the same woman that had come to my house with pictures of Rebecca. And I had said to here, "You were at my house four days ago." And she tried to say that "Oh, yes." And I could hear her back-pedalling slightly. And she was very apologetic. But that was - again - was something that we didn't need to have. We had letters sent to us from the hospital, 'you've missed this appointment, please reschedule'. So obviously I'd have to ring them and explain what had happened. So it was just being - It was never going to go away, there was nothing to dredge up, but it was just having to explain to people that you shouldn't have to explain anything to. 

Nobody had sent a letter to my doctor. Nobody had done anything about it. Which kind of made it all worse, because then you're thinking 'well, how have they dealt with her? If this hasn't all come together, admin-wise, what are you doing with her?'
 

Kirsty strongly felt she often didn’t speak in full detail about her loss because she didn’t want to upset friends and family.

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Kirsty strongly felt she often didn’t speak in full detail about her loss because she didn’t want to upset friends and family.

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I would say that even though you didn't manage to bring anybody home, they existed. And you should remember them. And you should talk about them. And do what's right for you. As I say, we remember our Rebecca at Christmas, we remember her on our anniversary. And we have our tree. I would certainly say that the hardest thing - and they will have gone through it - is to - is to not take them home.

And yeah, I just think just remember them. Just - They're not something to be swept under the carpet. And if I'm, if I'm honest - reflecting back, I made far too many people feel comfortable. For their sake. And I didn't want to upset them. So I never really spoke in full detail about it.

I never - I never really went into what happened, particularly. And as I say, I think now, looking back, it didn't do us any favours, putting on this brave face. Because people just knew that we were going to get up and get on with it. And there are some times when I don't want to get up and get on with it. But that's what's expected of me, because that's what we did from day one.
 

Kirsty described how friends and family thought having another baby would take away her pain.

Kirsty described how friends and family thought having another baby would take away her pain.

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And I think that you can't expect to have another baby and it'll just take away all the hurt. Because it doesn't. And I think people found that quite difficult. Again, I don't know why I'm so fixated on what people say. But when we were pregnant again, everyone else was like really relieved. You know? And it's like 'oh, that's such good news,' you know? As if it makes everything alright now. And it really, really doesn't make everything alright. And it - As a, as a mum, there's no end to the guilt feelings that you have. But that just adds to the guilt. You know? Even getting pregnant again makes you feel guilty.
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