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Sam

Age at interview: 26
Brief Outline: Sam was 21 when she became pregnant for the first time. Her 20 week scan identified that her baby had a severe congenital anomaly. She gave birth to her son early knowing he would not survive. He was born showing no signs of life.
Background: Sam is in a relationship but lives on her own. She is 26 and works as a retail assistant.

More about me...

Sam’s first pregnancy seemed to be progressing well. However during a routine scan at 20 weeks a severe problem was noticed. Her baby’s bones had not developed properly meaning he would only live a short time after birth. Sam and her partner took the decision to induce labour and give birth to her baby, knowing he would not survive. Sam was on a ward with pregnant women and babies nearby, which she and her partner found it really difficult. Her son Alfie was born showing no signs of life. A midwife stayed with Sam through her labour and Sam found her kindness made the best of the difficult experience. Although Sam and her partner were very anxious about seeing their baby. Seeing photos of him really helped and they decided to see and hold him. They spent a lot of time with their son at the hospital over the next few days. 

Sam worked as a nursery nurse and she returned to work after 10 days of sick leave. But she then took additional time off sick as she found it so hard to care for other people’s babies and not be able to care for her own. Sam and her partner decided to have an autopsy to understand more about why their baby had died. The autopsy confirmed the problem with her baby’s skeleton and Sam was told this was unlikely to affect a future pregnancy. However at the time of the interview despite this reassurance Sam is very anxious about becoming pregnant in the future. Sam has found counselling extremely helpful. She finds it particularly hard when friends and family don’t talk to her about her son. Sam has now changed her job and works in retail.
 

Sam clearly remembered “every single step” of the day she found out her baby had a severe anomaly.

Sam clearly remembered “every single step” of the day she found out her baby had a severe anomaly.

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So, yeah. I - We, we got quite excited about it. I remember my twelve week scan and everything was perfect. There was no abnormalities or anything. And you know, the twenty week scan we just thought 'oh yeah, we'll go, we'll get checked, and everything will be okay'. And [sigh], it's scary, because I remember every single step of that day. I remember sitting on the bus going there. And my manager had messaged me saying "We really need you to come in as soon as possible, because we're - you know, we're really short-staffed, such and such has rang in sick." So I was like 'okay, I'll just get it done'. You know, we were almost rushing through it because of that. We were the first people in. So we went in. And it was a - it was a nurse that was doing it. Was it a nurse? It wasn't who was supposed to be doing it, anyway. It was someone different. And she scanned, and - you know - she was lovely. She was talking to us, and she - And then she went " I'm just going to go and, go and get someone." And when she was out of the room, my partner at the time just went "Something's wrong. Something's really wrong." And I was like "No, no - it'll be fine. She's just getting a second opinion." You know? 

I mean, I worked with children at the time, so it was common practice for me to go and get someone else just to have a look, and then they go "No, it's fine - don't worry about it." So, So I - you know - I was like "No, it's fine." And then we - we sat there and waited for someone else, someone more superior to come in. And she had a look, and she went "Okay, I'm just going to have quite an in-depth look." And she said "I'm just going to - just going to focus on this for a minute." And that was fine. The other nurse was talking to us and everything. And she went "Right, I do think there's some abnormalities, and I think we need to - need to get you in to see a doctor, a consultant, as soon as possible." And as stupid as it sounds, my first thought was work, 'oh my god, I need to get to work'. And I don't know if that was just my mind trying to distract me from it. And I burst into tears, and I was like "No, I can't stay - I need to go to work, I need to go to work." And the nurse, the - the more superior nurse, the one that came in second, she went "No, we're going to ring your manager and tell your manager you're not going to be in today." And she actually took me to the office and said "No, we're going to - you know - I'll speak to her if you don't want to." And I was like "She's not going to like this, you know." And I was more worried about that than I was with what was actually going on.

And I always kick myself for that afterwards, but I know that that was my way of taking some control from the situation [laughing]. And she was lovely. She spoke to my manager and said, "Sam won't be in today. She needs to go and see a consultant, I don't know how long it's going to take - she could be here until six o'clock this evening."
 

Sam described how a midwife took photos of her baby to help her decide whether she wanted to see and hold him.

Sam described how a midwife took photos of her baby to help her decide whether she wanted to see and hold him.

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Well, we'd - We'd decided we didn't want to see him straight away.

We wanted to see photos. Because it - We didn't know what to expect. And it's easier to forget a photo than it is something you've actually lived. So we said, "We don't, we don't want to - we don't want to see him. But we would really like to see some photos." And so [nurse], bless her, she - Even though she'd finished work, she - We - She took some photos. And then they couldn't find a printer, and they were running round. You know, I think 45 minutes to an hour later, she came back with these photos, and she was like, you know, "Here you go." And showed us the photos. And she was like "He's, he's beautiful." And so we looked at the photos, and then were like, "Yeah. We would like to see him." And so they brought him in a little - in a little basket, with a blanket over him. And [laugh] my - My partner at the time had a beanie hat on, that him and [nurse] had joked about. And she'd managed to find a little blue hat for him, that she'd put on for him. So when he came in, he was in his basket, and had his little hat on, and. And she said, like "If you want to see him, just ask." You know. Because we didn't want to keep him in the room with us, we wanted him to be kept - to be kept safe, and everything. And so I think - I think we saw, saw him five or six times throughout the next few days.

But yeah, he - My, my Mum and my partner's Mum also saw him on their own, in a side room. Before we'd seen him. Because we were adamant we didn't want to see him yet. 

And we said "Yes, fine - if they, if they want to see him." So, they - they saw him in another room. And it was, yeah. I don't - I think for me, the hardest part was not knowing what to expect. And I don't think - I don't think you can even tell someone what to expect. Because even if someone had told me what to expect, I wouldn't have believed them. 

In terms of seeing him?

Seeing him. The whole experience. You can't -

Mmm. The birth as well?

Yeah. I don't think you can describe that to someone accurately enough for it to be, to turn out exactly how you've said. I think that's - That's a big part of it. Yeah. And even - Even friends I know that have had more than one loss have said, you know, that it's not the same between one and the other. They're always very different experiences.
 

Sam found returning to work at a nursery extremely stressful.

Sam found returning to work at a nursery extremely stressful.

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In fact, I went back to work. And I remember, I walked in to - Because like I said, I worked with children. And I was based in the baby room. And I'd said to my manager, "I really don't think I can face that." And then she went, "Oh, it's alright." The person that did like the secretarial jobs, she was off. So she said, "You can do that for the week, and - you know - ease yourself in." And I was like 'okay'. And.

How long was this after? 

This was a week and a half. Because I was off from the Wednesday, and I got a two week sick note. But I actually went back on the Monday. So it's - yeah, about a week and a half. And so I went back in. And on the Monday, she got me to deliver papers into the baby room, which I literally just opened the door and dumped them on the side. On the Tuesday she asked me if I could cover lunches in there. And I was like "Oh, I really don't know how I feel about it." But she'd never had children herself, so I don't think quite got what it was that I was feeling.

And made me do lunches in there. And she's not the sort of person that you could say no to. And I - you know. Half an hour doesn't seem like a very long time, but when you've got screaming babies all around you, and you haven't got your own, it was actually the hardest thing I ever did. And. Looking back now, I'm quite proud I made it through the half an hour. I did make it through. And then it was like every day she was asking me to do a little bit more. By the time I got to the Thursday, I was a complete emotional wreck. I was bursting into tears constantly. And she couldn't - she couldn't fathom why. She did not - she was so disconnected from it, she didn't understand it. And I - On the Thursday night, I barely slept. And my Mum rang. My Mum rang in on the Friday and said, "Sam will not be coming to work, she will be getting a sick note. If I'd have known you were going to put her back in the baby room, she wouldn't have been coming back anyway." But mainly because my partner had rang my Mum and said, "This is what's happening. And Sam won't ring in sick tomorrow, so you need to do it for her, because I'm already at work." Because he - He started work before I did, so he knew that I'd just go to work. And my Mum did.
 

Sam found counselling extremely helpful and looked forward to her sessions.

Sam found counselling extremely helpful and looked forward to her sessions.

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And, oh my counsellor was amazing. She was my fairy godmother. And [laughing] I. Yeah. I remember the first time I went, actually. And it wasn't my counsellor that I saw, it was just for like introduction - an introduction one. And I took my partner at the time with me. And he - because he was adamant he didn't want counselling, and he didn't want anything, he was going to survive. And, but I made him come with me to this first one. And we were sat there, and you know, they're asking about our experience and everything. And I think that was the first time actually that I realised I needed counselling. Because I couldn't talk about it. I couldn't - I was a complete mess in there. And - And I'm not like that generally. I can talk about quite difficult subjects without, without getting too emotional. So I think that was the point when I realised actually - you know – help, help would be good [laughing]. And the following week, I went back. And I actually went - I actually went for quite a long time, on and off. I think it was three, three or four years in total, that I went. 

But I didn't only discuss Alfie. There was a lot going on that led from that. To do with my family, and my own personal experiences. So I think Alfie was a starting point for me, to actually improve myself in general, not just because of, because of this. So, yeah. So yeah, I went for quite a while. And my counsellor was amazing. I loved going to see her every Friday. I looked forward to it, [laughing] to be honest.

What made her so special?

I think because we - It was, it was very - very relaxed. And I mean, sometimes it would just feel like you were meeting up with a friend for coffee. It wasn't - you know - 'we're going in and we're going to talk about this'. You know, because I have had friends that have had bad experiences with counselling, because they felt very forced into talking about certain, certain subjects. And my counsellor, [counsellor’s name], she was brilliant. She - I'd just go in there, and she'd say, "So, how are you feeling today?" And it would just start the conversation. There was no, there was no awkwardness. There was no - I never felt like I needed to explain myself to her.
 

Sands supported Sam hugely through her loss but she felt much more aware of things that can go wrong in pregnancy.

Sands supported Sam hugely through her loss but she felt much more aware of things that can go wrong in pregnancy.

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And also, once - once you meet people that - I mean, now I'll go to a local Sands - Well, it's not local any more, but. To the [local] Sands group. Because I started going there when I still lived in [town]. And you meet people that have got totally different experiences to you. 

And actually, it's - It almost makes it harder, because you know how many things can go wrong. Not just this one thing. Actually, even if you get past that twenty week scan, you've still got this to worry about, and you've still got that to worry about. So it actually makes it more stressful [laugh] if you do get pregnant. So, yeah. I think there's too many ifs and buts for me to risk it, at the moment.
 

Becoming pregnant again scared Sam because of the risk of losing another baby and she didn’t want to feel like she was replacing her son.

Becoming pregnant again scared Sam because of the risk of losing another baby and she didn’t want to feel like she was replacing her son.

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Yeah. And it scares the life out of me [laugh]. I've thought about it a few times. My, my ex wanted to have a baby straight away. And I definitely didn't. I - For me, that was too much like replacing him. Now, it's entirely different, just in the fact that I don't - I don't ever want to experience that again, because for me - I never say never. Because hopefully one day I will change my mind. But right now, I still feel very much like that's the only thing I've ever experienced with Alfie, and I don't want to take that away. Not yet. So, so yeah. I think as it stands at the moment, no - it's not something that I'd ever, that I really want to think about. It's too scary [laugh]. Too scary.

Scary that, the same -

The same would happen. Although the doctors think that it was a sporadic case. I still - I don't - I don't trust it. I can't. I just can't risk it. And, and also for selfish reasons. The fact that - I don't want to, I don't want to worry for nine months that something's going to go wrong. And also, once - once you meet people that - I mean, now I'll go to a local Sands - Well, it's not local any more, but. To the [local] Sands group. Because I started going there when I still lived in [town]. And you meet people that have got totally different experiences to you.
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