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Maxine and Steve

Brief Outline: It was Maxine, aged 34, and Steve, aged 48, second pregnancy. Maxine‘s waters broke at 18 weeks and so her labour was induced early. Their baby was born showing no signs of life at 21 weeks of pregnancy. Maxine was interviewed aged 35 and Steve aged 49.
Background: Maxine and Steve are married. Maxine is 35 and a teacher and Steve is 49 and is self-employed.

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Maxine and Steve had one child who was five years old when Maxine became pregnant for a second time. Her pregnancy had been going well, so she was shocked when her waters broke at 18 weeks. She is a school teacher and they broke while she was teaching a class of children. Maxine was taken by ambulance to an Early Pregnancy Unit where doctors assessed how much fluid was left around her baby. Over the next few days Maxine was seen by several different doctors, who gave different opinions. One gave Maxine and Steve hope that things might be OK, but a different doctor told them that the risk of infection was life-threatening for Maxine and their baby if she continued her pregnancy. They were faced with a very difficult and painful choice, and advised to have the pregnancy induced in the knowledge that their baby would be too young to survive. Maxine and Steve felt there wasn’t really a decision to make and Maxine agreed to have her labour induced. But they decided to wait a fortnight so they could spend Christmas with their older daughter. 

Having two weeks before giving birth gave Maxine and Steve time to reflect and make decisions about whether they wanted to see and hold their baby. Their daughter was still alive when Maxine took a tablet to induce her labour. But when she was born, she showed no signs of life. They named their daughter Heidi, and spent time with her in the hospital and then visited her two or three times over the next few days. The hospital offered to organise the funeral for them, which Maxine and Steve found really helpful. 

The interview took place just 6 weeks after Maxine had given birth to Heidi. Maxine was on sick leave from work as she was not entitled to maternity leave. It is early days but she has found talking to other parents who have lost their babies through online support groups really helpful. 
 

Maxine felt an early miscarriage was very different to giving birth and holding her baby born at 21 weeks of pregnancy.

Maxine felt an early miscarriage was very different to giving birth and holding her baby born at 21 weeks of pregnancy.

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And I think there's those two groups of people who talk about what's happened, the people who - you know - are very - have a very early miscarriage, before twelve weeks. Or people who will have a proper baby to hold, and to - you know - even if it is stillborn. And then there's that people in the middle, who - I didn't have a clue what I'd have to do. I kind of thought I might go to the toilet and the baby would go. And it, it doesn't work like that.
 

Maxine and Steve felt it was “two weeks of a rollercoaster” especially when they went in to hospital for Maxine to have the birth induced and the doctor wanted another expert opinion.

Maxine and Steve felt it was “two weeks of a rollercoaster” especially when they went in to hospital for Maxine to have the birth induced and the doctor wanted another expert opinion.

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Maxine: But obviously what we were expecting on this Tuesday was that I'd take the first tablet and 24 hours later, 48 hours later, I'd come back in and I'd deliver. And then we went on that Tuesday, and we - we had the scan and the fluid had gone down. And we were put into the quiet, the quiet room, weren't we [laugh].

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: The purple room.

Steve: And I think we were still, in our minds –

Maxine: She was still alive.

Steve: Yeah, she was still alive. But we were still in the mind of, like Maxine says, you know - come in to take the tablet or whatever. The consultant sort of was going to say, "Right, you know, this is what we need to do. What you saw last week is right." And everything that. 

Maxine: It was almost just - we felt that was the confirmation.

Steve: Yeah. And then suddenly, he came and then told us "Ooh, I don't think I can make the decision. I think we need to -"

Maxine: He wanted a second opinion. 

Steve: A second opinion. And it was like, well hold on - we're all - Suddenly, we're on a - It was a rollercoaster. But at the time, the rollercoaster was just going along at a level? And I think we were thinking, right this is where - you know –

Maxine: The Tuesday, it's almost –

Steve: The Tuesday, the tablet's going to start. And we're going to, you know, just carry on. Then suddenly we got this boost again, going up, of 'oh, hold on - I want another consultant to, to analyse what we're looking at'. And you think 'oh, hold on' [laugh].

Maxine: That - it was just –

Steve: The hope came back again.

Maxine: The hope came back again. 
 

Maxine found it helpful having time before birth to use the internet to look at pictures of what their baby might look like.

Maxine found it helpful having time before birth to use the internet to look at pictures of what their baby might look like.

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Maxine: I'd looked on the internet. Which maybe I shouldn't have. But we'd looked at things about it. And we'd looked - I'd looked at pictures of what she'd look like, to be prepared for holding her and things, hadn't I?

Steve: Yeah. Well we'd gone through that - we'd gone through that as well, hadn't we? When I think - you know - When you rewind the clock back, when we were told on the Tuesday when it was blatantly - you know, you're not going to survive. We obviously had this, we had to then think 'well, when Maxine gives birth - you know - birth to Heidi, do we want to see her?

Maxine: Do we want to hold her?

Steve: Do we want to hold her? Or do we just, you know?

Maxine: Do we just give her away?

Steve: Yeah. Yeah.

Maxine: And I think you know, that was - We'd, I'd said - I think we had very mixed views on that. 

Steve: Yeah. I think originally –

Maxine: We had very different views, maybe not mixed. 

Steve: I think originally we sort of said no.

Maxine: We both said no.

Steve: No, you know, we couldn't handle it. And things like that. And –

Maxine: I think, I think it's that detachment.

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: If you don't see it, it's not - it's not happened.

Steve: Yeah. Yeah.

Maxine: That's very, that’s very naive –

Steve: And I think that, yeah. Because I think suddenly you think oh, you know - what's the baby going to look like when it comes out? And everything like that. And you just think right, you know, take it away, and you don't see it. So, you know.

Maxine: And then I think the more, the more I looked into it, and I looked at pictures, and - I don't know what I was expecting –

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: Because obviously all you’ve got to - All you've got to go on is, a baby like when we had our first child. 

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: Which is a normal baby. Or, what you've seen on a scan. And a scan doesn't look anything –

Steve: No.

Maxine: You know, it doesn't look anything like it. And I think I gradually - You know, when I'd had the time over Christmas, I'd looked. And I'd said to you - I told you I'd looked –

Steve: Yeah. Yeah.

Maxine: You know, I just Googled - you know - eighteen week old babies.

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: And I'd looked, and I'd kind of thought, 'I can probably - I can do it, and I want to do it'. And I'd said it to you, hadn't I?

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: And I'd said, "We don't have to have the same decision. You can go out of the room, and I will gladly -."

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: I said, "But I think I want to do it." And I think it's - I think looking at stuff and reading stuff as well, you - you read people who didn't have the chance to hold their baby. And it's - You can't go back on your decision, once –

Steve: Yeah. I mean, it - that's the thing, isn't it.

Maxine: Once she's gone, she's gone.

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: And you can't, you know, a week later say "I want to go back and hold her." There's no, there's no choice. And I think equally, it's nice - I think the time we had made us - If we'd have been forced to do it on the Tuesday, and terminate the pregnancy straight away before Christmas, then we'd have probably both still said "No, we don't want to hold her."

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: And I think you know, now –

Steve: Yeah, time sort of changed, didn't it?
 

Maxine experienced bleeding and her breast milk coming in. These were extremely painful reminders of the loss of her baby.

Maxine experienced bleeding and her breast milk coming in. These were extremely painful reminders of the loss of her baby.

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Maxine: Physically you walk out of the hospital, and you bleed and you clot like you would as a new mum. You, your milk comes in like a new mum. 

But you don't have a baby. So you've got all - And obviously your hormones are all over the place. 

Steve: Mmm.

Maxine: And you have all that to go along with. And I think, you know I said to you since we lost Heidi - as a new mum the first time round with [daughter’s name], you don't notice all that happening, because you've got a baby to focus on. But when you've got time, you notice everything. So you notice how long your clotting goes on for, you notice - you know - every single drop of milk you lose or whatever, and it's - your body is so, so cruel. Because my body thinks it's just had a baby. And it doesn't have a baby.
 

Maxine and Steve had their baby cremated so that they could keep her ashes close to them.

Maxine and Steve had their baby cremated so that they could keep her ashes close to them.

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Maxine: We'd said, when they said about we could have buried her. But I said I don't - we didn't want - We couldn't see ourselves going every weekend and laying flowers. Because it's not - It's just not how we wanted it to be.

Steve: Yeah. And if we moved house, all of a sudden -
Maxine: We couldn't. And that sounds really selfish. But it isn't, it's kind of thinking about the future. We - It wasn't how it was meant to be.

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: And things haven't worked out how we wanted them. But we don't - We know in time it'll get easier. But we also know we didn't want to go to a grave every week, and –

Steve: Replace flowers, or whatever. And that, isn't it, you know what I mean? And if, if we moved house, you suddenly - oh, we don't live round this area any more, but Heidi's living here, you know what I mean? You know? So we didn't - you know - that's why we had her cremated, wasn't it. You know what I mean? 

Maxine: And I think part of that is the idea of keeping her close, and always knowing –

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: - always knowing where she is, and.

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: And not - Never wanting her very far. And I suppose that's because she should have come home with us. 

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: So she has come with us, and she is at home with us, isn't she?

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: And, you know, that's - that's how we want it.

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: And in time, it might change. But in the minute –

Steve: That's how we deal with it, isn't it?

Maxine: Silly things, like when we went - When we went away last week, she - she went to my sister. I couldn't - I couldn't leave her here. 

Steve: No.

Maxine: She had to go somewhere. And that sounds really stupid. But I couldn't. I know she's not a person, but I couldn't leave her.

Steve: Yeah. In the house on her own [laugh].

Maxine: No [laughing]. She couldn't just stay, she had to go somewhere. 

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: And I think you do what - We're doing what we need to do to get through. There's no - There's no textbook. Because if it was, I would have read it. And I'd be doing what it says. But there isn't. It's just doing what you need to do to get through.

Steve: That's our story [laugh]. 

Maxine: That's our story.
 

Maxine and Steve felt that there wasn’t a lot of support available.

Maxine and Steve felt that there wasn’t a lot of support available.

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Maxine: What we've been offered is going and sitting in a big group, and I don't want - I don't want to sit in a big group.

Steve: Well, you said you're not ready.

Maxine: I'm not ready. I think at some point I'd love to go and sit in a big group and just listen to stories, and -see how, see how I can be in the future, by looking at other people. But also kind of help people who've maybe just come the first time, and they're looking at me thinking 'well, she's six months - I can be like this in six months'. But at the minute, I couldn't - I couldn't go and sit in a group, in a circle, and - you know - 'I'm Maxine, my little girl Heidi died'. I couldn't. I can think of nothing worse than going and having to do that. I can see how it would work for some people, but I - I couldn't do it. And when I've, when I’ve had those dark days, and - you know – you’ve said about counselling and my Mum said, and - you know. There is support out there. I don't think there's a lot of support if you just want to go and sit and talk to somebody. I think the best way to do that is what I've found, by people - you know - strangers in the Sands community group, just messaging you and saying –

Steve: Mmm. Yeah.

Maxine: - you know, "I'm not saying I've gone through the same as you, but I know what you're going through because I lost my little girl or my little boy." But I don't think there's a lot out there, one on one, or for couples, that you could go and sit and talk just to one person, or. You know, I think it's a real - there's a real stigma attached to people offering to do that. You know, that's something we've - you know - we've said. Our choice is, we go and talk to a big group. Which we don't want to do. You know, it's different people. I don't think you'd want to go and sit and talk to anybody –

Steve: No.

Maxine: Whereas I'd be quite happy to go. And I think it comes back to what I said about - to me, the talk - if you talk about it, you're not forgetting about it. 

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: Whereas you, you grieve differently. And maybe – 

Steve: Yeah. Well, like I said to you, I just get those moments, don't I, you know what I mean? I can - I can sort of - not focus, but you can get on with life and things like that. And just think right, you know, she's always in the back of my mind. But it's certain things. So.

Maxine: But I think it's - you know - when I've talked to friends and things, and they say "Well what support are you getting?" There is, there is support out there, don't get me wrong. And Sands, and you know, community midwife - or not community midwives, bereavement midwives. 

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: They're, they're doing - they're playing a role. But there's not -

Steve: But like you say –

Maxine: There's not enough out there if I just wanted to ring up somebody and say "Can I come and see you, I need to talk about this?" There's nothing.
 

Maxine and Steve described how they lit candles to help communicate their feelings to each other.

Maxine and Steve described how they lit candles to help communicate their feelings to each other.

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Maxine: But now when someone goes, "Are you okay?" And I just think I'll never be okay again. So, why are you asking me? And I wouldn't say that to like - you know - a friend, if they went, "Are you okay?" I'd probably just go, "Yeah."

Steve: Yeah. Just having an alright day or something, or whatever.

Maxine: And just in my head be thinking something different.
[both talking at the same time]

Steve: But when I say it-

Maxine: But to you, I kind of go, "Well why are you asking that question?"

Steve: Well, I know - Yeah. You know what I mean?

Maxine: Don't be so silly.

Steve: And then like the, the - The way the like the –

Maxine: The chaplain.

Steve: The chaplain said is, "Light a candle." So you light a candle. And then it's not a good day, because otherwise I keep asking the same - you know? And they said to me, "Steve, you'll ask a question to Maxine - are you okay - and she'll probably say no." 

Maxine: [laughing]

Steve: Ah, and then you think, oh for heaven’s sake, yeah, yeah, I know, I stupidly asked that question. And they say "Oh, you know, if you light a candle, then you know that Maxine's not good, or."

Maxine: Stay out of the room. Don't come near.

Steve: Yeah, that's it. That's it. Or if I'm not happy, light a candle. 'Oh, Steve's not good today, better walk away'. And you don't, do you. You know what I mean? But it, it's a way of trying to communicate, isn't it? You know what I mean?

Maxine: Mmm.

Steve: But I think just say like, you know, "Oh, are you okay?" Oh, sorry - putting my foot in it again. No. You know what I mean? But.

Maxine: Mmm.

Steve: You are, like physically. But like Maxine's saying, emotionally –

Maxine: Emotionally.

Steve: You know - know what I mean? So.

Maxine: Yeah, I think what you find is, you can have - You can have days - You don't have good days. You have okay days.

And then you just have days that creep up that are, are just – 

Steve: Yeah.

Maxine: - they're the darkest days you could ever imagine.
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