A-Z

Losing a baby at 20-24 weeks of pregnancy

Messages for other parents experiencing loss

We asked parents whether they had messages they wished to share with other parents. Often they had participated in this project to help others. Sarah wanted to let parents know that there was good care for people suffering a loss as, after attending a support meeting, “I knew that lots of other people had had much worse experiences than me and I didn't want everyone to think that that's how it had to be.”

Do what is right for you

Parents strongly felt that every parent’s experience was different and there wasn’t one right way to do things. There are likely to be many decisions. It was essential to do what felt right for them throughout the birth and time they spent with their baby, and then following their loss.
 

Michelle felt that validating your experience was important and there was no right way of doing it.

Michelle felt that validating your experience was important and there was no right way of doing it.

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Michelle: I think for me it's about validating your experience, however that feels right for you.

Iain: Mmm.

Michelle: And there is no right or wrong.

Iain: Mmm.

Michelle: I think grief is a very unique experience. It comes at different stages, so. You know, if it - if it doesn't hit you on the bum in three months, it might in a year, and that's okay. To be really kind to yourself around the due date, and around anniversaries. And the build-up to those can sometimes be worse than when you get there.

Iain: Mmm.

Michelle: Definitely to go to support groups. Or to find online forums. But at the stage when you feel ready. So, some people feel ready immediately, some people don't want to do that. So really I think for me it's just about knowing it's unique, knowing that whatever you choose is okay. And that whatever stage of loss you've gone through, you have the right to validate that as a life. And no one else is going to probably give you that right, so you've got to find that right for yourself. And, yeah. To do what needs to be done for yourself. And is so individual. Some people want to mark the baby, name the baby - some people don't. And not to feel guilty if you choose something different to what now is expected.

Michelle: You know, I think - you know - sometimes we go the other way, and say you have to light a candle, you have to - you know - name the child, you have to plant the tree, you have to put an extra decoration on the Christmas tree.

Iain: Mmm.

Michelle: And it's like well no, you don't, actually. If for you, the best thing to do is just lay down and walk away, that's - that's a right as well, so. 

Yes, there's a place to offer empathy, and a place to be heard, but also it really, really is an individual thing. So I don't have like anything to say that says, you know, do what we did, or anything like that. It's just more about do what you need to do to get through it.
 

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.

Age at interview: 35
Sex: Female
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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. 
As time with their baby was so short it was important to think about these decisions carefully as there was only one time to get it right. It was really important to know about all of the possibilities when making decisions so that they could make an informed choice that felt right for them. 

Talking about loss

One main message parents discussed was the value of talking about their loss. They described the importance of talking to their partner, and encouraging friends and family to talk about their loss with them. They had often found great support and reassurance from other parents who had a similar experience. Parents recommended contacting other parents through face-to-face support groups or online forums. However, they felt it was important to recognise that everyone’s way of coping was different and that parents needed to find what suited them best. Those parents who had counselling often found it offered space and time to talk about their loss. Kelly said she bottled her feelings when close relatives were around and found counselling offered an opportunity to talk.
 

Vikki Z emphasised how important it was to talk through your loss and get help straight away.

Vikki Z emphasised how important it was to talk through your loss and get help straight away.

Age at interview: 38
Sex: Female
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I think - I think get help straight away, and don't just try to carry on. Because I just tried to carry on as usual. And that really wasn't the best thing to do. Because actually it meant that I had a total breakdown, and that was worse for the children and everything else, by trying to carry on. So I think you do need to talk about it. And you do need to find that, you know, help is available. I don't think it's advertised as much as it should be. I think you have to get to breaking point before they tell you about it. But you do need to talk it through, you do need to deal with those feelings, you can't just like push them away and hope that everything will be alright, and - and just get on with life as usual. You can't do that. Yes, you have - especially like I say, with children you have got to get on with things, but you've got to deal with the, with what's going on as well. So yeah, I would say definitely - you know - go to the Miscarriage Association, get help from the hospital, speak to a counsellor, a bereavement counsellor if they have one. Those things are really helpful. Speak to friends. Speak to your partner. Speak to - I think just speaking to people about it. 

Because after a couple of months, people thought I was fine, because I didn't speak about it. But if I had have been speaking about it, then maybe - you know - I would have worked through the issues a bit, a bit more quickly. And then people don't want to talk about it because they think it'll upset you. Not knowing that that's all you're actually thinking about. But people aren't just going to bring it up, are they, if - if you're not bringing it up, because they wouldn't want to upset you. So yeah, definitely just get help.
 

David felt it was really important for fathers to talk through their experiences and not to hold things in.

David felt it was really important for fathers to talk through their experiences and not to hold things in.

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What messages would you give to other fathers going through something similar?

Don't - don't hold it in. I mean, don't try and act the macho man. Get all - you don't - oh, you know - 'I'm the man, I've got to get out there, I've got to earn a crust'. Don't keep it inside, because it's going to catch up with you one day. You've got to talk it out. Talk it through with someone. Your best friend. Even a professional, if you can get hold of a professional. Just talk it out. And if you want to cry, like I'm crying now - so what? Don't act, don't act macho, don't act the man. Deal with - deal with it, because it is a horrible experience, and you don't want it catching up with you further down the line. Deal with it then and now. 
Coping with grief

Parents wanted others to know that losing a baby was devastating but that slowly things got better. They emphasised how they would never get over their loss but that they got used to living with it and had started to enjoy life again.
 

Michelle and Ian felt they would never get over their loss but got used to living with it.

Michelle and Ian felt they would never get over their loss but got used to living with it.

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Michelle: And it's not, you know - with any grief you get used to it. I always say, you know, it's like you get a scar, isn't it. You don't get over it, but you just get used to having that scar, and it's part of who you are. 

We would say we're definitely nicer people, more empathetic.

Ian: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.

Michelle: And connected with people at a lot deeper level because of Arthur.

Ian: I think scar is a really good description. Because it's - you're assimilating it into your life, aren't you. It's a part of you. You're not ignoring it. You're acknowledging it. It doesn't completely take over and control you, but neither is it ever not there. You know.

You know, so it's not an open wound that needs emergency attention all of the time. Of course there'll be moments when it might just tear a bit, and you give it a bit of emergency attention, you know.
 

Vikki Z felt that while she would always miss her child, over time she was starting to enjoy life again.

Vikki Z felt that while she would always miss her child, over time she was starting to enjoy life again.

Age at interview: 38
Sex: Female
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And I think as well, things do get better. You can't imagine it at the time. You think, you know - this is going to be it forever, it's going to be terrible forever. And it's all you can think about, the baby - constantly, all the time. And then it does get better. And you still think about them, that - you know - there's always something missing. But you're not thinking about them all the time. And you do gradually start to enjoy things again, and you do find happiness. 

And somebody said to me - it was somebody at - somebody said to me, "It's going to be two years." Somebody in a very similar situation that had lost a baby at the same time, "It's going to be two years." And I just - I remember thinking, six weeks or so after I'd lost the baby, 'two years - I can't deal with feeling like this for two years'. They were right. It does. It takes a long time. It does take a long time. And I'm not saying that those two years were all entirely bad, but it really - it really is, it's a long period of time before - It was pretty much two years to the day, almost, until I started to feel that I was getting back to myself, my old self, and really enjoying things, and. Yeah. Enjoying life. So it does take time. But it does, you know - things do get better. Yeah. Happiness does back. Because I just thought it wouldn't. I just thought there's no way I could ever be happy again. But, but yeah. You definitely can.
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