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Lisa and Matt

Brief Outline: Lisa and Matt were aged 35 and 36 at the time of their second pregnancy. Lisa had bulging membranes at 19 weeks and had stitches in her cervix to try to delay their baby’s birth. But at 22 weeks her waters broke and their baby was born alive and lived for two hours.
Background: Lisa and Matt are married. Lisa is 36 and works as a church women’s worker and Matt is 36 and works as a physiotherapist. They have a son who is 18 months old.

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Lisa and Matt’s first child was born at 34 weeks, so when they became pregnant for a second time they expected their baby may be born early again. The pregnancy progressed well until 19 weeks when Lisa had some bleeding and thought it was best to go to hospital to get checked over. She wasn’t overly concerned until it became obvious that she had bulging membranes and at that point was told her cervix was opening. They put in a stitch to try and delay birth and the Lisa went home for a few days and had to rest. Caring for their 14 month old son was difficult, so Lisa and Matt were helped by their family. Unfortunately, a week later Lisa discovered that she had bulging membranes again and so knew the stitch had failed. She returned to hospital and had a different type of stitch put in her cervix. Lisa stayed in hospital for a few days to rest and to be monitored for infection. She was able to go home again, but that night her waters broke so she had to return to hospital. A few days later the doctor removed the stitch as the risk of infection was too high, putting the baby and Lisa’s life at risk. Lisa waited at home to go into natural labour, which happened a few days later. At the same time she became unwell from developing an infection and arrived in hospital not long before the birth.

Lisa’s gave birth to their second son at 22 weeks. They named him Emmanuel. He lived for two hours after his birth and Lisa and Matt made the most of their short time with him, holding him and singing to him. They stayed with Emmanuel for 24 hours and close friends and family came to visit them. They really appreciated little gestures of thoughtfulness by the midwives who cared for them, such as ensuring there were no babies or other pregnant women around when they left the hospital.

As Emmanuel was born alive, Lisa and Matt were entitled to maternity and paternity leave from work which they found really helpful. Lisa returned to work after six weeks and found her employer to be very understanding. Lisa and Matt needed to register Emmanuel’s birth and death at the registry office. While this was emotional for them they appreciated the fact that his life was officially registered. They chose not to have a post-mortem carried out as they did not think it would show any health problems. The placenta was tested and the results showed that an infection was present.

At the time of the interview, 5 months after Emmanuel’s birth, Lisa and Matt were thinking about trying for another baby but were anxious about the stress they might feel during another pregnancy.
 

Matt struggled with weighing up the best for his unborn baby when Lisa’s life was at risk.

Matt struggled with weighing up the best for his unborn baby when Lisa’s life was at risk.

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So, Lisa went in the ambulance and I drove over, and then - and when we got there, the consultant was really reassuring. Because I think just seemed very confident in what she could do. And you kind of hear 'well, these are the risks and those are the risks, and something else is the risks'. And I think that was the thing that we were really struggling with weighing up, was we want to do the best for this unborn baby, and we want to give them the best chance to survive, but then we don't want to put Lisa at risk. 

And I think - I don't know, maybe it would be more for me, I don't know. Because I was worried about Lisa as well as the baby. And kind of the risks of infection, and that seemed to be the biggest kind of thing that was , they were worried about. And if you put a stitch in, and keep it all there, who knows what could happen. So I mean you said at that point, it suddenly gets really, really - moral, ethical decisions you're making about should I - yeah, should we continue, should we? And I think for us, we've got a strong Christian faith, and so the idea of kind of terminating a pregnancy - it almost wasn't, it wasn't really an option. But then, then you're also conscious of - you know - what's the right thing for Lisa. And you don't know all the statistics. And at the end of the day, they're just statistics. So anyway, we talked to the consultant, and she was a lot more - She didn't necessarily say anything different to what the other people had said, but just the way she said it, and. She was quite - just quite relaxed about things.
 

Lisa and Matt talked about how they found taking photographs difficult, not knowing whether to smile or not.

Lisa and Matt talked about how they found taking photographs difficult, not knowing whether to smile or not.

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Matt: One of the midwives who was trained in taking photographs, and so they did a number of photographs. And, and yeah, just some clothes for him, although we'd had some stuff from Lisa's Mum. Just the - yeah, some other things, and. And then doing the things like handprints and footprints, things that we wouldn't have thought about.

Lisa: Yeah, that was really good. 

Matt: We'd thought about getting a camera there, and. But yeah. Those things were nice to be able to just - you know - get some different memories, really.

Lisa: Mmm.

Matt: It was - yeah, think about things like a teddy bear - like the thing with two teddy bears. That one teddy goes with Emmanuel, and then you keep - keep the other one. And that was really - yeah, really kind of helpful to do that. And there was also various kind of leaflets and things. Again, I think from Sands, which said about - well, for various different people.

Lisa: Photographs are always difficult though, aren't they. Because you don't quite know what you're meant to do - do you smile, do you not smile?

Matt: Yeah [laugh].

Lisa: Do you look miserable, or? Yeah, it's quite awkward in a way.

Matt: Mmm.

Lisa: But you still want those, kind of you still want them, so. Yeah.

Matt: Mmm. 

Lisa: I find that I mainly look at the photos of him alive. And I don't know how many times I've looked at the ones that we have that were taken after.

Yeah. That's just - Maybe at some point I will. But I don't. 
 

Lisa and Matt had just two hours with their son before he died. This time was a gift.

Lisa and Matt had just two hours with their son before he died. This time was a gift.

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Matt: And I think it - It was a strange situation. When Emmanuel was born. It, I mean it felt - Initially it felt just like when [older son’s name] was born. Just that amazement at new life, we were amazed at just how like a proper he looked. I mean, he was a proper baby, just very tiny. But just to see his fingers and his, and his feet. And see him - initially we could see kind of - you could see his heart kind of beating, and kind of trying to take a bit of a breath. But yeah, it was kind of that just amazing - I don't know. Just that –

Lisa: Wonder. Joy.

Matt: Yeah, wonder. Yeah. It was joyful. So we really - like to have those - He was alive for two hours. To have those two hours, just holding him, and taking pictures, and videos, and. 

Lisa: Yeah. Singing to him.

Matt: Yeah. It was - That was just - yeah, really nice –

Lisa: Yeah.

Matt: - to be able to do that, and enjoy that time with him.

Lisa: Yeah, that felt like quite a gift. Considering the circumstances, I think.

Matt: Yeah.

Lisa: Yeah.
 

Matt said their midwife offered different options of “stage-managing” how they left their baby at the hospital, asking if they wanted to leave him in the room, or push him out in a cot.

Matt said their midwife offered different options of “stage-managing” how they left their baby at the hospital, asking if they wanted to leave him in the room, or push him out in a cot.

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Matt: We were there –

Lisa: Think it was about twenty four hours by the end, wasn't it?

Matt: Probably, yeah. Yeah.

Lisa: Because there was - I think I couldn't get discharged until that afternoon, could I.

Matt: Yeah, the next day.

Lisa: We basically - When they said that we could be discharged, I think that's when we - yeah, started thinking about going home. 

Matt: Mmm.

And did you keep Emmanuel with you all that time?

Matt: Yeah. So he was with us, yeah, until we left the hospital. Because as we went out of the hospital, he kind of went - they took him, I guess down to the mortuary or whatever they did. Don't know. Yeah, so. And that was kind of - They kind of handled that well, in that we had that option of like did we want to leave the room, and leave Emmanuel there, or did we want to push, push him out.

Lisa: Walk him there.

Matt: Or did we - yeah, how did we want to kind of stage-manage that, I suppose. And what , yeah. So that was - I mean, we didn't really know, though [laughing]. We didn't know what we wanted to do. We didn't want to leave him, we wanted to take him home alive. But.

Lisa: Yeah.

Matt: Yeah. So it was kind of difficult, didn't know - yeah - what to, what to do. But it was good for that to be thought about.

Lisa: And they were also quite thoughtful in things like they - you know - So when we did leave hospital, they made sure that there was nobody really in the corridors and stuff, didn't they. 

Matt: Mmm.

Lisa: They really helped us kind of just get out. 

Matt: Mmm.

Lisa: Which was one of the hardest things. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lisa: There was a lot of flights of stairs. And, yeah. I think that - Getting to the car I think was one of the hardest things.

Matt: Mmm.

Lisa: I found, anyway. So yeah, they did try and make that as smooth as it could possibly be, I guess. 

Matt: Mmm. I think that was it, yeah. Not - leaving hospital without him.

Lisa: Yeah.

Matt: Yeah, was –

Lisa: It felt very wrong.

Matt: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
 

Lisa and Matt explained how seeing their older son made coming home easier.

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Lisa and Matt explained how seeing their older son made coming home easier.

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And so you came home. Was [older son’s name] with you when you came home, or?

Matt: No, so just the two of us. My Mum and Dad were still here, looking after [older son’s name]. I forget where we went - must have come straight home. Yeah. So that was - yeah, kind of strange, just in the car. But that really is - it was - I mean, I think through the whole thing we were just so thankful for [older son’s name] at that time. Because we just thought, if we hadn't had [older son’s name] and we were coming home to a house totally empty, with a whole load of baby stuff and whatever that we were going to use, that would have been so much - So we were so thankful. I think, yeah. That was easy - easier for me, in that I saw [older son’s name] a lot more than Lisa did at the time. So, that was - it was kind of a different tension of emotions for you, because you weren't seeing him, but.

Lisa: Yeah, so I think that was adding to the stress of things really, to just see him for like half an hour, forty minutes a day or something. And haven't really been able to pick him up. 

Mmm.

Matt: Mmm.

Lisa: So I think coming home, yeah. It was nice to be - It was like well, if - if this is the situation, I might as well enjoy just yeah, picking him up and bathing him, and doing things that I haven't been able to do for a long time. And I think there was - yeah. So, that was the one thing we were really thankful for. And I think I was thankful for the time that we had with Emmanuel. So it was like those two things that I think were just going through our head. Yeah. In that time. 
 

Lisa and Matt explained how anxious Lisa was at the thought of returning to hospital to check why she was bleeding.

Lisa and Matt explained how anxious Lisa was at the thought of returning to hospital to check why she was bleeding.

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Lisa: And we thought we were going to have to take another trip into hospital. Which I really at that point was dread - like really didn't want that. I didn't want to go back. But thankfully when I phoned them, they were just like, 'no, hold on - phone us if like if it's terrible in however many hours, then come back.' But yeah, so I'm glad we held on there. Because I think that was when I just was like 'oh no, I just can't, I can't go back'. 

But that was the only time when I had any kind of issues really.

Had they prepared you that that might happen, or? Was it a bit of a surprise?

Lisa: I don't think it was necessarily a surprise, because I think it's just - you know, having had [older son’s name], you know what your body's doing a bit more, don't you.

So I don't necessarily think it was a surprise. I don't think they prepared us, but it was just kind of - just one of those situations.

Matt: Yeah, and I think you're just more conscious of these things. Like before, when you've got a baby to look after, you're busy.

Lisa: Yeah, that's true. 

Matt: You're looking after the baby, that's your main focus. But now, you've only got - only got you. You kind of forget what happened with [older son’s name], because you had other things on your mind.

Lisa: And I think you were more paranoid as well, but - because of the infection, that there could be something. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lisa: Being on the kind of blood thinning things. So I think that would also make me more aware of it.

Matt: Mmm.

Lisa: So maybe I was more aware of things. And maybe this happened with [older son’s name] and I had no idea.

Matt: Mmm.

Lisa: Yeah. So. I guess you're more aware of infections and stuff.

Matt: I think there was that - yeah, you're right. I was more conscious of –

Lisa: And you're really hyped up about things.

Matt: Yeah, just because - yeah. Obviously this infection, and you hear about sepsis and everything else, and. Yeah. So I think I was more kind of conscious to make sure that you were alright. 
 

Lisa could never predict what would trigger her grief.

Lisa could never predict what would trigger her grief.

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I mean, there was one time I did - I don't even know what it was. I still look back and don't know what it was. I just woke up feeling terrible about things. And . But it was a work day, and to be fair, it was a work day but I was meeting lovely women [laugh], to do bible study with them. Yean. And I just thought I don't think I can go. But I did go. But then I had a bit of - Somebody had a bit of road rage with me on the way, which just made me just completely lose it. So by the time I got there, I was - yeah. Not really sure whether I could go in the room. 

And I did. And then - yeah, just later just burst into tears there. But I don't - I don't know if that was a bad or a good thing. Because I guess it reminds people that maybe you're not a hundred percent. But I can't say what would trigger that. You know, people say to you, "Oh, is it because it's coming due date?" Maybe. I don't know. Like to me, it was just a bad day. Like there was no - I guess there are other times when you've been away and had you know, there's been everybody that's pregnant, and somebody was celebrating someone's - you know - whatever. Like someone's just had a baby, or - And it was like too much for one weekend. 

I guess that, when it's too much all at one time. But yeah, I don't know other than that. Yeah. The triggers don't always make sense to me.

One day it can be one thing, and the next day I can be fine with it. So I don't - and I guess part of it is learning to celebrate with people, at the same time as feeling loss. 

Which is - yeah. It seems to be something I'm learning.
 

Matt describes feeling almost relieved after the birth because he was so worried about Lisa’s health.

Matt describes feeling almost relieved after the birth because he was so worried about Lisa’s health.

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Matt: And that was one thing that I kind of yeah, found a bit difficult. In that I was kind of almost relieved that it was over. Because it was so stressful.

Lisa: It was very stressful.

Matt: Like, yeah. I was relieved that okay, Lisa's - Lisa's alright. And I think I hadn't - and you know, you don't like kind of saying these things. But I hadn't - hadn't had a kind of connection with Emmanuel. And I knew Lisa was pregnant, but to be honest I hadn't - it wasn't something that I thought about very often. So I kind of hadn't really got my head around the fact that we were going to have a baby. I knew we'd have a baby, but I didn't know. So. So kind of my main emotion was relief that Lisa was alright. And I was kind of - yeah, sad that we didn't have Emmanuel, but I didn't have that same emotional connection. Yeah, which is kind of difficult to kind of get our heads round first. And we both kind of processed things differently. I think Lisa thought a lot more about having a baby, was more aware of the whole thing. And I think perhaps just differences in personality. I hadn't really thought about, about things.
 

Lisa and Matt felt were unsure whether to access counselling services as they weren’t sure what they would talk about.

Lisa and Matt felt were unsure whether to access counselling services as they weren’t sure what they would talk about.

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Matt: I think there was - There was a number for bereavement. You spoke to a bereavement midwife.

Lisa: Yeah. 

Matt: And I think there was numbers for counselling and things. 

Lisa: Yeah.

Matt:  But –

Lisa: I think it's all just too blurry straight after.

Matt: Mmm.

Lisa: Like there's a number for this, and a number for that. And you don't really know what you need, or what's what, to be honest. It's good to know the numbers are there.

And I think there was one - is she a midwife? I don't know. Who basically, yeah - like you say - deals with people with bereavement. And she phoned me, which was very good. So I've spoken to her on the phone once. And we talked about meeting up. But I think [laugh], sometimes I find it hard to know. Like if you organised to meet up, then what are you meant to do? Are you meant to just talk about things, or? 

I didn't - yeah. Maybe I didn't really - I don't really understand whether - Because it's not counselling. Yeah. I think I find that sort of thing difficult. Because if you instigate something, then you feel like you must have something to say [laugh].

So I'm never very good at that sort of thing, am I.

Matt: Mmm. But I think - Also, I think because we'd had some preparation. We had a week or two of kind of getting our heads round this whole thing. I think if we hadn't have had that - perhaps that processing afterwards, we would have had a lot more questions.

Lisa: Yeah.

Matt: If we'd have gone in that first time, and it happened straight away at nineteen weeks, it would have been a lot different.

Lisa: Yeah.

Matt: To when - yeah, we'd been able to process some of it ahead of time. 

Lisa: Definitely made certain things easier, but some things harder with that, I think.
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