A-Z

Michelle and Iain

Brief Outline: It was Michelle. aged 32. and Iain, aged 31, fifth pregnancy after four previous births. Michelle started bleeding at 20 weeks of pregnancy and a scan showed her baby had died. Their baby was born showing no signs of life at 20 weeks. Michelle and Iain were interviewed aged 47 and 45.
Background: Michelle and Iain are married. Michelle is 47 and is a doula, caring for women giving birth including those experiencing loss and Iain is 45 and is a baker and chaplain.

More about me...

Michelle and Iain have four children. Michelle became pregnant for a fifth time and at first all progressed normally. But at 20 weeks Michelle had a spot of blood and an overwhelming feeling that something was wrong. Michelle and Iain had to wait over the weekend until they could have a scan which sadly showed their baby had died. They found telling their four children aged between 2 and 7 years was an incredibly hard experience. Leaving them to go back to hospital to give birth was also very difficult. Back at the hospital Michelle was told she would be given some tablets to start her labour but would then be sent home for a couple of days before coming back to give birth. Iain felt very strongly that this was bad for their family. He wanted them to stay in hospital for the birth and not go back home as it would upset their children. They were given permission to stay on at the hospital. 

Michelle was admitted to a gynecology ward to give birth to her baby. But this was very difficult. There were women having terminations of pregnancy around them and there was no access to pain relief options available in the maternity suite. Michelle and Iain were left on their own during labour and Iain helped Michelle deliver their baby. They found the manner in which their baby was presented to them after birth in a cardboard tray particularly upsetting. They didn’t get to spend time with their baby nor were they offered any mementoes. They felt there was no emotional support from health professionals for them following their baby’s death. 

Once home, Michelle and Iain found support through the Miscarriage Association and Sands, the national stillbirth and neonatal death charity. It was only five years later after working with Sands that Michelle and Iain found that other parents named their babies. They decided to name their baby Arthur although they had never been told the sex of their baby. Since losing their baby Michelle has trained to become a doula, and cares for women giving birth.
 

Iain felt very strongly that Michelle shouldn’t go home to wait for the tablets to work as their other children were at home.

Iain felt very strongly that Michelle shouldn’t go home to wait for the tablets to work as their other children were at home.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Michelle: You know, we really didn't know the questions to ask. We really didn't know our options. We just did what we were told to do. So then we went into hospital that second day, they said they'd induce me, but then they said "Oh, what we're going to do is we're going to give you some tablets and we'll send you home." And then Iain is very quiet, as a person, but you were so assertive in that moment.

Iain: [laughing]

Michelle: Just going, "You're not doing that. You're not sending my wife home." Because my kids were at home, with my Mum. Safe, having a good day. 

Iain: Mmm.

Michelle: Thinking when I come back I'd no longer got that baby.

To have to go home and say to them "Well actually I'm here, and I've still got the baby."

Iain: Yeah. We had everything in place, didn't we? 

Michelle: We had. We set it all up really well.

Iain: Mmm. Yeah, they just wanted to tell us about the hospital's protocol. You know? And I just telling them "I'm really, really not interested in your protocol. I'm interested in my family, my wife." It was very good, to be honest, once we - once we told them we weren't going to just do as he said [laugh], he was very good actually. 

Michelle: Yeah.

Iain: And he did relent, and said, "Okay, let's do it now, and let's get on with it." So.

Michelle: But then we were on the gynae ward, because we weren't there - you know - it wasn't a viable baby, because it wasn't twenty four weeks.
 

Michelle and Iain felt they were experiencing labour and birth with very little support.

Michelle and Iain felt they were experiencing labour and birth with very little support.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Michelle: And we were left on our own for most of it, weren't we. 

Iain: Oh, yeah. Very isolated.

Michelle: And they just, "Going to the toilet - and always, you know, go to the toilet in a bowl. You know, one of those paper sick bowls, whatever - poo bowls. And then always check, to make sure that there's nothing in there. And then just put it on the side." So, that was your job, wasn't it. I mean, you were amazing, because you stayed by my side the whole time. And you know, I've heard stories in - since then, of women being on their own in the toilet, where they've just not known what to do with it when it's come out. And they've either flushed it down the loo, or they've put it in the sanitary thing by the side of them. And then they've had massive regrets. So, Arthur didn't come out in the bathroom.

Iain: Mmm.

Michelle: But you, you sort of lovingly kept an eye on what was coming out, didn't you.

Iain: Mmm. Mmm.

Michelle: And I remember that being quite a fearful time. And I was really ill. I got really bad diarrhoea, didn't I, from the induction. 

Iain: Mmm. Mmm.

Michelle: And then we were just on our own, weren't we. And I felt really violently sick. And I was sick. And at the same time as I was sick, the baby came out. And I didn't see it. But you did.

Iain: Yeah. I saw the umbilical cord. I guessed, because I didn't know. Because obviously the cord's a lot thinner and tinier. 

So sort of saw this thread hanging, and I thought 'right'. So I pressed the buzzer, and no one came. So I had to go out and leave you alone. I had to go out and try and get someone's attention, and ask for help.

Michelle: And that's not what you'd normally do, is it, as a person, so.

Iain: It was just irritating. You know, when you have a birth, you have several people not leaving you alone, and then when you have another birth that isn't a live baby, they're not interested. You know, for whatever - busy elsewhere, I guess. But it was hard work all day, getting any attention, really.

And then, you know, obviously at the moment of - And you know, okay I've [sigh]. I don't know how to put this. Whether it helped or not. But I'd been at every other birth. So I'd at least become an expert on how she gives birth. So at least I was confident with what she was going through, even though you'd got to go through all that, which is hard anyway with a live birth at the end. You know, that's hard work, keeping you going, supporting you, and - you know - making sure you pull through, for a live birth. Knowing at the end of it you're not going to get a baby is - you know, knowing that's what you're going through, to - It's even harder. So, but to be doing it with zero - pretty much zero support, you know, in a room on our own - you know - that was quite hard work. And then to have to go and try and grab some attention at the end, "Could you help us find out if this is what we think it is?" You know? [Laugh]. It wasn't ideal.
 

Michelle and Iain were anxious about how their baby would look but seeing him was a “life-changing moment”.

Michelle and Iain were anxious about how their baby would look but seeing him was a “life-changing moment”.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Iain: And you have no idea. We had no idea what was going to come out, and how we're going to feel, and. You know, I was saying - you know - I think, you know, seeing Arthur as a - you know - this little foetus in a cardboard tray, which wasn't the best. But you know, seeing him or her - you don't really know - that was probably a life-changing moment. You know? 

Probably changed my perspective on a lot of things. You know? Seeing this incredible creation, you know, lying there, that hadn't fully formed but was still - you know - to me, a full human being. How are you supposed to know how you're going to feel about that before it's even –

Michelle: Right.

Iain: You know, I though [laugh] - you know - so we're doing our best. 

Michelle: Yeah.

Iain: Having conversations as much as we could. Trying to work out what, what we were going to do. So, and - But with no - Again, with no one else there sort of talking us through it or anything, it was just here's some information, and she had to carry on with her job, probably [laugh], go and be somewhere else.
 

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.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
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.
 

When Michelle had her first period it triggered a physical memory of her loss.

When Michelle had her first period it triggered a physical memory of her loss.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Michelle: Sometimes it's helpful to be told that when you have a period after you've had a miscarriage, how the smells can trigger. So, no one told me that. So, the first time I had a period, I sat on the loo - the smells were just exactly the same as the day that I gave birth to Arthur. 

Iain: Mmm.

Michelle: And in some ways that was really comforting, because it was a memory of 'no wonder it hurts, because I gave birth to a baby' memory.

Iain: Mmm.

Michelle: But the other thing was actually quite shocking.

Iain: Mmm.

Michelle: Because it just took me back there, like in an instant. Put my knickers down, pfft, I'm there. So, to have things like that said to you. That you know, when you have a period, you'll have mixed emotions, but just to be aware the smell was very similar. Really simple to say. 
 

Iain found it really helpful when people acknowledged not only that he was supporting Michelle but also how badly affected he was too.

Iain found it really helpful when people acknowledged not only that he was supporting Michelle but also how badly affected he was too.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Iain: Yeah, I think - I often refer to this as kind of like a fluke. But it was just simple things, like you know, I happened - you know. We talked about the friends who'd been involved in Miscarriage Association, they both came round. And he looked at me in the eye, and said - you know, talked to me individually, as though my feelings mattered. And you know, tried to get me to see that yes, I'm supporting Michelle, but I have to work through my own grief as well.

So you know, he kind of eyeballed me [laugh], you know, and made sure I understood that, and gave me a leaflet about what - from the Miscarriage Association, about how men go through this. So [clears throat], that was helpful. And then again, you know, the fluke that there was this pilot men's group that started up and I'd been invited to go along. And suddenly I was in a room full of blokes who were talking about miscarriage. You know, that was a fluke, but it really helped. 

Michelle: Mmm.

Iain: So, so right at the beginning I wasn't given the option of silence [laugh] and brooding away myself. You know? So that was a good thing. And because - you know, I - A lot of things I did, I had to tell people I wasn't coming that day [laugh]. You know, like I think I was due to do an assembly, or a - or a lesson at a school, you know. And I had to phone and say "I can't come." So kind of everyone knew.

Michelle: Yeah.

Iain: Which was really helpful, actually. You know? So, I - the next time I turned up at school, you know, there was one teacher that made sure she gave me time before I started my lesson, so she could see how I was. You know? That sort of thing. So, yeah. So I think just a) people acknowledging what we've been through, but also acknowledging - I want them to acknowledge that I'm supporting Michelle, and that's not easy. But I also want them to acknowledge that I've been through something too.

And I had that. You know. It really was - And that, listening to other people's experiences, that's quite a fluke, actually. [laugh] You know? So I'm, you know - since then, you know, offered to other blokes - you know - that I can go for a walk with them if that helps. And that, that's helped some of them - you know - to sort of know that they can talk about it from their perspective, and it's okay. It's not being selfish. You know? It's not detracting from what they're trying to do supporting their wives, but they - they need to process it as well. So, I - I was just lucky that I had people doing that with me, so. 
 

Michelle and Iain found many people sought them out to talk about their own loss.

Michelle and Iain found many people sought them out to talk about their own loss.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Michelle: And then to be honest, you know - we had some really good friends that came round and talked to us. Our friends who'd had their own miscarriages were brilliant. They came and sat with us. 

Iain: Well –

Michelle: One of my friends came in, and just went straight to you, and gave you a gift, and asked how you were.

Iain: Yeah. Mmm.

Michelle: Which I thought was brilliant.

Iain: We had a massive amount of support. 

On the other hand - you know, we also had a lot of people tell us their own stories. It was [laughing] not what we expected, was it. But we became a magnet for other people who'd suffered, you know? So, just found myself listening to other people's stories for the next few weeks, didn't we. There was so many people came to visit us, but then they'd never shared their own story, so there they were telling [laughing] - And sometimes you felt like, you know, did they want to hear our story? But it was more like - actually, you realise it's - You realise that, you know, being emotional about it is okay. 
 

Iain remembered very clearly going home to tell his older children about their loss.

Iain remembered very clearly going home to tell his older children about their loss.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Michelle: We went home, picked the kids up. And then that's the time where you get very emotional isn't it, about having to tell the children.

Iain: Mmm. Mmm. So, yeah. So obviously they're - obvious to say they're a big factor. But even the practical side of it, they're a big factor. Like we'd had to ask for babysitters to look after them. I mean, having to look after four kids isn't everybody's cup of tea [laughing]. So we'd had to, you know. So even talking through what was going to happen next, our thoughts are - right, this hospital was 45 minutes away from home, so we'd - you know - what childcare can we have, and how - And so those arrangements - even at that initial stage, are really important. You know, so any error in your hospital's delivery of what's going to happen next actually has a big impact on us, because we were trying to work out how to sort that out. But then obviously the emotional point of view as a family, it's the bit I always choke up on.

Michelle: So we picked them up, didn't we, from our friends. And we went back to our house. And then we just sat them down really formally, didn't we, in the lounge. 

Iain: [laughing] Yeah.

Michelle: And you know, this is the story we sort of remember. It's a really big memory.

Iain: Mmm.

Michelle: And it's like a memory that our children know we'll share.

Because, you know, Iain just said to them, "Look, we've got some really sad news, you know - the baby's died. And Mummy's got to go back into hospital to give birth to the baby."

Iain: Mmm. Mmm.

Michelle: And they were really silent and quiet. I mean, they were like between 2 and 7, the four of them. So, very young. But really seemed to understand. Obviously they'd seen the scan, as well. 

Iain: Mmm.

Michelle: And then I said, you know - or you said - "So, Grandma's coming to stay and look after you." And they just got really excited.

Iain: [laughing]

Michelle: Jumped up, and ran round the lounge, going "Grandma's coming, Grandma's coming, Grandma's coming!"

Iain: Mmm.

Michelle: And even now, [our son] - he's 20 - said "Oh, we'd still do that, if Grandma's coming now." [Laughing].

[Laughing.]

Michelle: You know? So it was that, it was that lovely childlike emotions, where they can go from really feeling it, to then moving on to being happy.

Iain: Mmm.

Michelle: And then they felt it again later, so. 

Iain: Mmm. Quite a bit of - you know - had to keep going over it, really, as it sunk in. I remember at bed time, "So there won't be a baby to cuddle?" You know? And I said, "No, there won't be a baby to cuddle."

That's when you realise that it's not just a loss of - 'just' is a stupid word to use, but you know - you've lost a baby, but you've lost everyone's expectations. You know, all the life you were expecting.
 

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.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
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.
 

Michelle became a doula to support other mothers who were going through a similar experience.

Text only
Read below

Michelle became a doula to support other mothers who were going through a similar experience.

HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
But yeah, knowing that emotional support in those moments can just make the birth a really positive experience, and you're still left without a baby alive at the end. But you aren't then getting over a traumatic experience as well. And you know, those that I've supported have had really beautiful, actually quite healing, births. When maybe they've had traumatic births before.

So I really want to try and raise awareness, and somehow get this to be more of a norm. But neither of us are very PR people, are we, we're more just - we just get on and support people, so. 

I don't know if I am The Voice [laughing]. But it's definitely something that I am really passionate about, to try and get that message out there somehow. Yeah. So. And I do - I do, you know - When I'm running the support group, I do have those moments where I think okay, am I that woman that can't let go, whose identity is all built round Arthur dying? But I don't think I am. I think yes, that's organically grown, and I'm supporting people. But actually the positive of it is that I've got a lot of wisdom, and I've heard a lot of stories.

And actually it's not all about my story, this is about a lot of women coming through those doors who are hurting, who've been told really crass things. You know, been told they should be getting over it after three weeks. And don't get maternity leave, don't get maternity pay, because their baby was born two days before the cut-off point. You know? Things like that, that just make me so angry. And I know care has improved since we had Arthur, but I'm not sure in the gynae area those twenty to twenty four weeks has improved to the right standard that it has maybe for stillbirth.

So, yeah. Feel a bit - still a bit of advocate for that, really.
Previous Page
Next Page