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Lindsay

Age at interview: 35
Brief Outline: Lindsay was 34 when she had her second pregnancy. There were no problems at 20 week scan but a few days later a life-threatening infection led to preterm labour. Lindsay’s pregnancy was induced and her baby was born with a heartbeat but did not take a breath. Lindsay was 34 weeks pregnant with her 3rd child at the interview.
Background: Lindsay is married with two children and at the time of interview was 34 weeks pregnant with her third child. She is a trained speech and language therapist.

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Lindsay was left with scar tissue in her womb after her first child was born and was fearful she wouldn’t be able to get pregnant again. So she was surprised and thrilled when she became pregnant two years later. However a few days after her 20 week scan, when all had appeared to be going well, Lindsay felt unwell. She had gone into labour unexpectedly at 21 weeks due to an infection. She went to hospital where she was informed by a registrar that her baby would die. His manner was very abrupt and has had a lasting effect on her. Lindsay had to make the decision to have her pregnancy induced knowing her son would not survive as she was told the infection was life-threatening for her and her baby.

Lindsay found giving birth to her son very upsetting – labour was more painful than she anticipated labour at 21 weeks might be, and it did not progress quickly. She was told she had experienced a late miscarriage. When her son Henry was born he had a heartbeat for half an hour but did not take a breath. Lindsay was able to hold him for that time, but her husband found that difficult and chose not to hold him. After she left hospital she found visiting Henry in the Chapel of Rest was very helpful until his funeral was held. She found the delay of both her son’s funeral and her follow-up appointment with her consultant frustrating.

Lindsay was interviewed when she was 34 weeks pregnant with her third child. Becoming pregnant again was very important for her but a difficult experience. She has been helped by involvement from a fetal medicine consultant who was clinically interested in her case who has offered her reassurance and regular check-ups. She finds the term late miscarriage hard to deal with and would rather health professionals referred to the death of her son. Particularly difficult times have been the anniversary of Henry’s birth and death, the first Christmas following his death and the 21st week of her following pregnancy.
 

Lindsay felt it would have been easier to make a decision about inducing the birth if her baby had died.

Lindsay felt it would have been easier to make a decision about inducing the birth if her baby had died.

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So, the poor midwife that was sort of standing there once the consultants had left, I kept saying to her "So, what's going to happen if I don't do anything?" And she was saying "You will die." "So, what's going to happen if I don't do anything? Sorry?" You know. And she just kept saying "You will die. You will die. Both of you will die. Or you can be induced." And in the end, I said, "Well just plug, plug me in then." You know. Which was just - it was then really bizarre, because [laugh] almost the hormones that were going around in my brain were like 'oh, how exciting, you're about to meet your baby'. You know, those kind of hormones are still there. And I was still feeling him kicking, he had normal movement patterns. And I know I keep saying that, but I think for me, part of my story is it's so important for people to know that actually the baby was fine. There was nothing wrong with him. And again, if he had died, or if he had been suffering - again, it would have made it easier for my head to digest what was going on. But as far as I was concerned, he was fine, and I felt fine, so what are we doing? [Laughing]. You know? It's very hard. Even now, I'm not sure it's really sunk in. Like the gravity of the situation. So. 

How long did they leave the decision with you?

[Sniff] Not long at all. Like I said, there wasn't really a decision. They weren't really asking me, "What are you going to do?" They were like "These are your two options, and this is what we're going to do." And they really were just waiting for my consent to put me on the induction drip. So probably half an hour from the consultant coming in, to me being plugged in, and asking the midwife a hundred times to just clarify exactly what she'd said, what they'd said. Yeah. So yeah, it wasn't really a choice. I think as they said it, they walked in with the medication, really. And with hindsight, obviously that was the right thing. Because I did have a family to come home to. But it's grief mixed with shock mixed with maternal hormones, is just a [laugh] - a really weird concoction to go through. So they plugged me in.
 

Lindsay was pleased her midwife discussed how she wanted to see and hold her baby.

Lindsay was pleased her midwife discussed how she wanted to see and hold her baby.

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So, I mean, this is one of the things. I was so lucky with the midwives that I had at that time. So they had talked to me - Before I got to that real end stage of labour, when you were a bit more coherent, they had talked to me about what I wanted to happen. Did I want to see him? Did I want skin to skin contact? Did I want him cleaned up before they gave him to me? What [my husband] wanted. Did [my husband] want, or me want to cut the umbilical cord? You know, every option was offered to us. And, yeah. They basically did whatever I wanted. They would have taken him away and I'd never have seen him, if that's what I'd wanted. 

Oh, yeah. Yeah. So he was born, and I think he kind of flopped out onto the bed, really. Because obviously he was limp. And as, as he was being born, I remember them saying "Do you want to do skin to skin?" And I was kind of still thinking there's hope, you know, like maybe if I do skin to skin - you hear these miraculous stories of these babies that come back to life. So I was like "Yeah, yeah." And then, so they were trying to get the robe off me, because obviously it was all tied up, and they were all trying to do this. And then when he came out, I said to [my husband], "Is he alive?" And he said "No." And then I said "Well I don't want to do skin to skin, then." But they did just wrap him up in a towel, and I guess they must have like cleaned his face or something. And then yeah, they handed him to me. Swaddled like that.
 

Lindsay explained how without the memory box no one would ever have known her son existed.

Lindsay explained how without the memory box no one would ever have known her son existed.

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And then, and I was sitting on my bed. And I was just thinking, what on earth do I do now? Am I supposed to just walk out of this hospital, and go back to work, and dance, and meals out with my friends? Like as if, you know - if you look at me, it would be as if he never happened. And that was something that really didn't sit well with me. The fact that actually I could just walk away, and that would be it. You know, like no one would ever know that he existed. And I was just sitting on my bed. And the midwife sort of came in, took one look at me, left again. And came back, and she brought a - she'd made up a Sands memory box. So in it were a little certificate to say that he had been born, the time and the date. Just one they'd made up, it wasn't anything official, it was just from [name of hospital]. His length. The handprints and footprints that they'd taken. The blanket that they had wrapped him in. Because obviously I didn't have anything with me to take. There were two teddies in there. One to stay with me, like a little one. And one that could go with Henry. A little card. It was really lovely. Really lovely. And then they also brought me a big bear, that's from a charity called Aching Arms. And on the back of the tag, it says something like 'this is from another bereaved family'. So I have a bear that is dedicated to the name of that, another child that has passed. And it says, you know, 'you're not alone in this'. And that was just such a [sniff] fundamental moment. You know, this feeling that this random person whose name is on the bear [laugh], they have also been through this. And that there might be other people that have been through this. And I'm not completely alone in this situation. So that was really helpful. And also that bear turned out to be really fundamental in my kind of mental recovery from it all. And the fact that it wasn't another leaflet - because I did leave the hospital with a carrier bag - literally a carrier bag - full of leaflets from another charity, that give you booklets on how to return to work, how to tell siblings, how to tell grandparents, how to [laugh] inform the tax man. You know, anyone you might - But it was literally a whole bag full of them, that if I'm honest, sat on my coffee table in the bag for weeks, until I binned them. It was just too much information. 
 

Lindsay explained how difficult it was to manage her grief when she went home while trying to behave normally for her son.

Lindsay explained how difficult it was to manage her grief when she went home while trying to behave normally for her son.

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And that was so weird. It's so weird walking out of hospital with just my Sands memory box, and my Aching Arms bear. Leaving Henry in the chapel of rest there. That was awful. And just, yeah. Leaving, walking alongside the people that have got their babies in their car seats, you know. And it just felt so wrong. It was so - it was just so wrong. The whole thing, you know. And just leaving, empty. Like literally, physically and emotionally empty. And we came home, and it was nice to be home in some respects, to have my own bed and stuff. But I literally had about five seconds of being home, and being like oh my goodness, we've got a half made-up nursery upstairs, what am I going to do with that? Letting it sink in, before [my son] came back and I was back into normal mum mode. 

And I think whilst [my son] has been a fantastic distraction, it has meant that even now, I wouldn't say that I have had an opportunity to really process what's happened. And some of that is my own mental protection, I think. But, yeah. It's very difficult to grieve when you have to appear normal to your child. 
 

Lindsay explained how she didn’t want a post-mortem because she didn’t want her baby’s body tampered with.

Lindsay explained how she didn’t want a post-mortem because she didn’t want her baby’s body tampered with.

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And can you remember why you didn't have a post-mortem on him, but you did on the placenta and the cord?

Yeah. Because I didn't want him tampered with, really.

I felt like he'd been through enough. He'd already given up his life, to save me. And the thought of someone cutting him up, for what, really? You know, I think maybe my decision would have been different if he'd had some kind of chromosomal or genetic issues. But everything was saying that he was healthy, and the problem was with me, so. And I was really glad with that decision. Because when they did come back, there was no sign of infection in the umbilical cord at all, so it hadn't even passed to him. So he was just a healthy twenty week one gestation baby. So I'm really glad that we didn't do that. Yeah. 
 

Lindsay described the difficulty of being asked about the post-mortem shortly after giving birth.

Lindsay described the difficulty of being asked about the post-mortem shortly after giving birth.

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And you mentioned about post-mortems, and you had a post-mortem on the placenta and the umbilical cord, but not Henry himself. When was that discussed with you? Was that in the immediate sort of aftermath, or? 

That was in that morning, when I woke up, and they went "Do you want, what do you want to do about this?" Sort of thing. Yeah. So I think everything happened in a really short space of time. And they were making these what maybe don't feel like it to the midwifery staff, but for you they're massive decisions that you have to be happy with. You can't take that back, can you. You can't then decide you don't want a post-mortem if it's already been done. So it felt like big decisions in a very short space of time, when you're still medically and psychologically quite unstable, I would say. Yeah. Like within hours, really.
 

Lindsay talked about how it never occurred to her that she could have a funeral for her baby but that planning it became very important to her.

Lindsay talked about how it never occurred to her that she could have a funeral for her baby but that planning it became very important to her.

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And then the next morning I was woken up by the midwife that had delivered Henry also turned out to be one of the bereavement midwife teams. And as I opened my eyes, you know those few minutes before you - when you realise, you've kind of forgotten what you're doing there? Because also like your body still has those fake contractions, fake kicking sensations. So I woke up and I had those. And I was like, 'oh, great - oh, what am I doing here - oh'. You know? Just like when it hits you. And the midwife was sort of sitting there. She said, "I'm about to go off shift. Just to let you know, my supervisor is going to come and talk to you at some point today. So you need to think. Do you want us to do the funeral, or are you going to do the funeral? Do you want professional photos taken? And do you want him to be blessed?" And I'm like "Morning [laugh]. Can I have a cup of tea first? And what are you talking about? I have to have a funeral?" 

Like it had never occurred to me - I don't know why it would - that you have to have a funereal [sniff]. And it had never occurred to me that I would have to plan one. And I had no idea where to start, really. So I was like "Well, I don't know the answer to any of those." So, she went off. And they carried on sort of working on me. I mean, it was a lot less acute now. So it was just having various IVs and, you know, monitoring and stuff. So yeah, that was sort of all of Wednesday. And then the bereavement midwife did come round. And apparently you have to have a funeral. And, well to dispose of the body, really. And they would happily organise it for me. So I went with that option. And I said, "Yeah, that's fine, you do it. We'll just turn up and be there. Because I can't even imagine having to do that." I decided that I did want him blessed. So, they arranged for - so I was allowed to pick the times that I wanted Henry to come back up to the room. I could have the duration that I wanted. You know, it was very much on my terms. Which was lovely. 

But then at the same time I found out that they actually couldn't do the funeral before [my husband] went away. So, and that was then going to be another sort of four weeks from when I'd had that conversation. And I got to the stage where I was like 'well, what will we be burying?' You know. Like I cannot leave him, decomposing in a morgue, for four weeks. Like if they're saying I can't visit him anymore, then we need to do something quicker. So, luckily [my husband] then kind of sprang into action. And contacted the local funeral directors, who were lovely. And it was quite a handy project for me to have, really [laugh]. Because it was very much like, 'if that's all you can do, it's going to be the best damn funeral ever' [laugh]. So I spent a lot of time [sniff], you know, picking out music and poems, and flowers. You know, those sort of things were really important [struggling against tears]. And the funeral was lovely. It was, it was very, very small. We just had our very close immediate family, so there were only seven of us.
 

Lindsay found the first anniversary of her baby’s birth much harder than the day itself.

Lindsay found the first anniversary of her baby’s birth much harder than the day itself.

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And then it got to his birthday, and I thought I was doing really well. I'd kind of expected that I would be a mess for like the week up to it. And I was like 'no, I'm doing really well'. It turned out to be a Saturday, and we were going to just have like a family day. Take [my son] out, have a easy, happy day. And it got to Friday night, I think, and I was thinking 'oh, I'm still doing really well' [laugh]. And I'm like not a jelly on the floor. And suddenly it all came crashing down, really. And I couldn't keep myself together. And I think a lot of it had been like the emotions in the build-up to it, and all that was going on currently. But, yeah. It was - Friday night it started. And then Saturday morning, yeah. Again, [my husband] and I dealt with it very differently. And whereas I was just like - for that day [laugh], anything for a happy day. So [my son]  gets up really early, just go with it. You know, I'm not going to struggle putting him back to bed, like whatever. Doesn't want to eat his breakfast? I don't care, this day, sort of thing [laugh] [my husband] did it very differently from that. And I think he woke up really feeling quite angry, in his grief. So that wasn't an easy day at all. And we did eventually get out. But it's very hard, isn't it. Because really what I wanted to do was just not have my breakfast, and cry. [laugh]. But I was sitting next to [my son] at the breakfast table. So you kind of have to put this front on, that you're just having a lovely day, going out to the park [laughing]. Sort of thing. 

And we did end up sort of pulling it together and having a day out. And then the next day it was kind of all done with. It was almost like 'oh, well now it's just Sunday and it's just another day without him'. So the grief didn't continue on after that. But it was almost worse than the actual event. I think because at the event, when I gave birth to him, there was so much shock and so much medical intervention, and so busy - you kind of didn't really process at that time what was happening. And then that processing has, is continuing to happen. Whereas on his birthday, it was almost like you lived it again, but without the cushion of people in and out all the time, and the shock. And, you know. It was - you were just left to deal with it. Which, yeah, it was kind of harder, that first year anniversary, than his actual birth day.
 

Lindsay felt she needed to get pregnant to fill the void in her life.

Lindsay felt she needed to get pregnant to fill the void in her life.

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Like trying for this baby, you know - it was almost like I needed to get pregnant again, in order for the void to be filled, or - like that's how it felt in the hospital. I was almost like in my craziness, bit like 'just get me pregnant again, now - quick, like just do it now' [laugh]. And then like we did [wait] for the twelve week appointment with the consultant, but then it was almost like my life - I don't think I'll ever move on from Henry, but the circumstances of my life can move on. So when you're trying to get pregnant having had a loss, it's like 'yeah, I have [my son] - oh, and then I lost Henry'. You know, and that's kind of where life is. You're kind of stuck in this state of acute grief and loss, and. Like your world is just - there's no flooring to it, you're in freefall. And I felt like I had to have another stage to my life. I couldn't stay there. For me, that wasn't - that wasn't going to sit well [laugh].

Mentally, or any kind of way. And so therefore I needed to get pregnant again, so that there could be some kind of hope at the end of this story. And so that yeah, the focus of my life could shift slightly, even if my grief doesn't. If that makes sense. 
 

Lindsay found counselling gave her time each week where she could let the barriers down and cry.

Lindsay found counselling gave her time each week where she could let the barriers down and cry.

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Whereas I didn't get referred anywhere through - from a health professional, but did from work. So I went to see a really lovely counsellor. But I think what was a bit tricky is that she was very good at validating my feelings, and actually she was saying, "You know, everything that you're feeling is really typical. There isn't anything we need to counsel you about, or you've got goals to set." It's not like if you go for anxiety and she can say "Well, try these strategies and then come back in a few weeks." 

Or that I have anger issues, you know, those sorts of things that I think the more rounded counsellors maybe are more used to dealing with, as such. So it was fantastic. I went for a long time. And it was fantastic, because it gave me an hour a week where I could just let the barriers down, and cry, and talk, and say the same things over and over again. And she did a lot of listening. It was very much like talking therapy. But I think with hindsight, I would have liked to have pushed to see a bereavement specialist counsellor, really. 

Because I think that bit has kind of been missed, a little bit.
 

Lindsay felt no-one knew what to say to her.

Lindsay felt no-one knew what to say to her.

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And, and I think like one of the things that I really struggled with is that everyone tries to be very well-meaning, and everyone tries to , yeah, be there for you. As they would, you know. But actually, it's - very rarely is it very helpful [laugh]. And the best thing you can do is just be there, and hold the tissues, and not say anything, other than "Yeah, it's really awful. Yeah, that does - it is really awful." [Laugh]. Because people try and relate it to something that's happened to them. 

And I had lots of people saying "You need to get back to work. You need to distract yourself." "You need to - yeah, it is really bad, but at least you've got [my son]." Yes, I'm very thankful that I have [my son], but - and I've now learned to say, "Well which one of your children could you live without? Would the other one be enough for, that if you lost one, it wouldn't matter anymore?" [Laugh]. But at the time, you just sort of sit there thinking 'well no, no, no - Henry was alive, he was a person, and he needs to be validated'. And by the fact that people around you try and gloss over it - because it is such an awkward conversation, no one knows what to say to you. But the fact that they try and dismiss it, or dismiss your feelings, makes you feel that you're just - yeah, making a mountain out of a molehill and should just snap out of it, and carry on. Which is what I tried to do. I went back to work after five weeks, and I sat crying at my laptop for six months, really. And luckily, work are amazing, and were very supportive. And just pretended that they didn't notice that I was crying and not doing anything. And, you know, they were lovely. 
 

Lindsay found her son was very factual about death and would catch her unawares talking about the loss of his brother when he was very young.

Lindsay found her son was very factual about death and would catch her unawares talking about the loss of his brother when he was very young.

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And we were very factual with it. And at the time, he was like "Okay." And off he went to play. But then he'd say things like [sigh], just like catch you unaware. "Oh, that spider's dead. Dead like Henry." "Mmm, yes. Dead like Henry." You know. Or when it got to Christmas time, lots of people gave us like baubles and stuff for the tree. And he would very matter of factly explain it to my Dad, that "This is a special bauble, you have to be careful. This is Henry's bauble, Henry died." "Ah, okay." But now, he's sort of matured a bit more. And he - so we've got the tree in the garden, where Henry's ashes are. And our friends also bought us like an olive tree, so we've got that as well. And he's very, "They're Henry's trees, you have to be careful with them. I want to water Henry's trees. Let's put - let's build that for Henry." You know, so he does talk about him a lot more. And the hospital also gave him a bear, a Henry bear. Which stays in bed with him. And even though it's not one of his favourites, and he doesn't play with it all the time, he would say that that is a special bear, because that's a Henry bear. And he knows about the work I do for Aching Arms, and I do Henry talks. And stuff like that. And I think, yeah. I mean, the enormity of it he obviously can't comprehend at all. But he has very good understanding that this, something has gone really wrong. And he was supposed to have a Henry, and now he doesn't have a Henry any more. And I'm - [my husband] and I have differed really, in how we wanted to approach it. So I feel like he should know, not all the ins and outs - probably never all the ins and outs - but that actually, Henry is part of our family. And, you know, I don't feel the need to make Henry birthday cakes, or anything like that, but that every year we'll have a family day out and it'll be for Henry's birthday. And, you know, at Christmas we might light a candle for Henry, and we'll remember him that way. Because I think he needs to grow up sort of kind of knowing, like acknowledging that he did exist. So it's made this pregnancy rather interesting [laugh]. So I'd planned not to tell him, like forever, really - until the last minute. Because he was disappointed, and he did for a long time sort of keep saying "When Henry comes, we can play football." And then I'd have to say "Oh no, Henry's not coming." "Ah. Henry died. Yes, Henry died." You know, so it took him a while to really kind of absorb that. Because until then of course, I hadn't talked about death with my two year old. Why would you? You know? [Laugh]. So, yeah. So that whole concept was quite tricky. So with this baby, I'd planned not to really mention it until my baby was in hospital, and like here [laugh]. But, he guessed, from like seven weeks. Some crazy child intuition. So he again, is very excited. He's fed up with waiting [laugh]. He wants the baby here now, and I'm like 'keep it in', [laughing]. But, yeah. So, but it's been - we've been more cautious, I think, this time. We very much jumped into telling him all about it, from very early on, with Henry. But hindsight's a wonderful thing, really [laugh]. So, yeah.
 

Lindsay described how she had a few hours of being excited about her pregnancy before she felt overwhelmed by fear.

Lindsay described how she had a few hours of being excited about her pregnancy before she felt overwhelmed by fear.

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So I found out that I was pregnant in February. I had about four hours where I was really excited, before the absolute terror hit in. 

And, yeah. Just like the prospect of what could happen again. And it's been a shame in some respects, because that lovely naivety of pregnancy that I had with [my son], and with Henry really until it went wrong, has just been shattered. And so whereas I before I used to think 'well if you get to your twelve week scan, you're fine', like 'let's go shopping and buy stuff', you know? [Laugh]. Whereas now, I'm thirty four weeks now, and I still haven't bought a single thing, or organised a single thing [laugh].
 

Lindsay described how important it was to be kind to yourself and not to feel you have to conform to what others expect of you.

Lindsay described how important it was to be kind to yourself and not to feel you have to conform to what others expect of you.

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I think I would say, be kind to yourself [laugh]. I felt very much a need to kind of conform to what other people thought I should be doing, getting back to work and jollying myself up, and doing normal things. And I think really there is no protocol for what you're supposed to do in this situation. No one can prepare you for it. But know that whatever you're feeling, is okay to be feeling at that time. And as much as you can, allow yourself to go through that process wherever it takes you, and to know that there are other people out there that may be dealing with it in a slightly different way but will understand those really sort of primal emotions that you feel about this situation. And if it's right for you, to reach out and find the right charity to support you. So, some charities will have support groups, which I felt wasn't right for me. Other charities will do befriending, one to one. Others, it's just by Facebook or email support. But I'd really encourage people to look around, if you're looking for support, and find the right one. Don't be put off just because the first one isn't right. But really, just give yourself time. And to know that whatever you're feeling is a valid feeling. And , you know, regardless of what people say around you - the most well-meaning people, and the people that you think will absolutely get it, if they haven't been there they won't absolutely get it, because it is too much of a - yeah, it's too much of a terrifying event for anyone else to be able to comprehend what it is. So be kind to yourself, and allow yourself to feel the way that you do. I would say. 
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