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Sharon

Age at interview: 45
Brief Outline: Sharon’s three sons were all stillborn between 19 and 22 weeks of pregnancy.
Background: Sharon is married and is a university tutor in marketing. She has given birth to three sons.

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Following a history of fertility issues and unsuccessful IVF, Sharon aged 32 had just started a new relationship when she unexpectedly got pregnant. Everything was going well with her pregnancy until at 19 weeks, she had a bleed. On arriving at hospital she was completely shocked to be told her waters had broken. The midwives could not find a heartbeat and her baby Sam was stillborn after a lengthy labour. Sharon found it very hard to cope after the death of her son and left her high-pressure job to train as a teacher. 

Two years later Sharon found out she was pregnant again with her son Joseph. At 20 weeks of pregnancy Sharon started to dilate and was given an emergency stitch to try to delay the birth of her baby. After a few days contractions started. The doctor explained that because her baby was going to be born so early they would not be able to resuscitate him. Joseph was stillborn. Sharon found this experience very different as she held her son and he was kept with them all of the time she remained in hospital. She found it particularly touching that the consultant talked to her baby and said sorry to him for not being able to save his life. As she tried to recover from her experience, Sharon found counselling very helpful along with caring for her new rescue dog. She also helped to set up a group for other parents who had experienced the loss of their baby.

Sharon then decided to undergo IVF. After one cycle, she miscarried just a few days after becoming pregnant. Sharon tried a second IVF cycle and got pregnant again aged 39. She had a stitch put in again at 14 weeks and a birth plan was put in place to deliver the baby at 29 weeks of pregnancy. Unfortunately again at 21 weeks Sharon started experiencing contractions and her son Isaac was stillborn. This time, being able to take Isaac home from the hospital and spend time with him had a positive impact on Sharon’s experience. Sharon suffered post-traumatic shock after the birth of Isaac. Following an unsuccessful experience of surrogacy, her consultant offered her a new treatment to try and prevent Sharon going into labour so early in pregnancy but Sharon and her partner decided not to try to have another baby. 
 

Sharon’s midwife made the special arrangements so she could talk her baby home for a few days. This was incredibly important as she had had to leave her two previous sons at the hospital.

Sharon’s midwife made the special arrangements so she could talk her baby home for a few days. This was incredibly important as she had had to leave her two previous sons at the hospital.

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A nurse came to see us and said "What, what would you -." I can't remember how she phrased it, but she said, "If you could do anything differently this time, what would it be? What can we do?" And I said, "Well, I'm going to leave hospital again without my baby." And she went away, and then she came back about a couple of hours later, and said "You're not going to leave hospital without your baby." She said, "We've got special permission that your baby's going home with you." And they had to - we got a letter from the police, which they got - they got two consultants' signatures, and she said, "He's going home." And they - The next day, they put him in the basket that he was already in, and dressed him. And then they took him, like he was a normal baby, out of that hospital, through the main doors, with us. They put him in the car, ensured there was a seatbelt around him, and we drove home. And we knew we had a few days, that's all we had. So we came home. And we were told that we needed to introduce him to the dog, and we needed people to come and see us. So friends came and visited, just like he was a baby.

They were - they were very geared up for the fact that they carried our baby out of hospital, like they would any other baby. They carried him to the car, and they strapped him in, as if he was alive. He's a baby. So I didn't leave that hospital without my baby, I left with my baby this time, to bring him home. 

Mmm. And that meant a huge amount.

It meant a huge amount. But the fact that they did that - We would never have asked for that. The fact that they knew that they could do that, and they knew that they'd have to get certificates, and they knew they'd have to get signatures, but they were willing to do that. They didn't get our hopes up, but they said "Would you like that, if it's possible?" And then they came and said, "It's possible, and we've got the signatures. And we've got -." They already had the thing from the police. And I just thought that was -

For me, they were making sure that I wasn't going through the same experience again.
 

Sharon felt she couldn’t cope in her high pressured job and decided she needed a break.

Sharon felt she couldn’t cope in her high pressured job and decided she needed a break.

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And I took three weeks off work, and then went back to work. Just very much of 'well it's happened', and - and I went back to work. And I struggled with it. And for the probably the next [sigh] twelve months, I - the feelings of the gap and the loss actually seemed to get worse. To the point that I couldn't cope with work. I threw myself into work but then couldn't cope. And I remember driving down the motorway thinking 'this has got to stop, somehow this has got to stop'. And, and thinking that how could I stop this? And I thought 'this, this is - this is wrong'. And I didn't really have any help. And then I, yeah. So then after that I decided I couldn't really cope. I had a very high pressured job. And I gave up my job to do teacher training, because I just felt I needed a break. 
 

Sharon’s husband found it hard when he was asked whether he had children.

Sharon’s husband found it hard when he was asked whether he had children.

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So if somebody says to me, "Have you got children?" I say "No." If somebody says that to [my husband], he stops. And, and then he says no. But he used to get upset and say to me, "I am a parent, I'm just not a practising one." And he felt that by saying no, it was denying his children. So he really struggled. And he has really, really struggled with it. 
 

Sharon described how her husband was asked why he needed time off work after the loss of their baby.

Sharon described how her husband was asked why he needed time off work after the loss of their baby.

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I think [my husband] suffered because he was trying to look after me. Because I'd gone through the physical trauma as well. Everybody was concerned what was happening to me. And [my husband] was - grief was delayed. So when [my husband]'s grief started to come out, there was nothing available for him. He did end up getting counselling in the end. He did have counselling. But when I lost the first baby and I had three weeks off work, [my husband] asked for some time off work and was told, "Why do you need time off work?" And wasn't given it. The other times, the GP gave us - gave [my husband] the time off. But I think, everything's focusing on the mother. When actually, the father's got two jobs to do. He's lost his child. But he's also seeing that somebody he loves very much is going through so much pain. And you don't often feel that when you're the one going through it. So [my husband] took a lot longer to recover. 
 

Sharon was asked by the chaplain if she would get involved in setting up a local parents’ bereavement group.

Sharon was asked by the chaplain if she would get involved in setting up a local parents’ bereavement group.

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And eventually I chose to stop seeing the counsellor at the Pregnancy Awareness. And the hospital chaplain asked me would I get involved in setting up a group for bereaved parents. Which I did. And we raised money for the hospital. And we went back to the [bereavement suite name]. And we had photos in the garden. And we met a lovely group of parents who had been through the same hospital, who the chaplain put in touch with each other. And then for about eighteen months, we ran a pregnancy loss, a baby loss group. And we became really good friends, and we'd go out together, and. And all our lives took a different path. But we always came back to each other whenever something happened. And even now, unfortunately one of them's husband died, and we - all the pregnancy - were at that funeral, even though we hadn't seem them for so long. Some of them have children. Some of them didn't. 
 

Sharon explored adoption and surrogacy after the loss of their third child.

Sharon explored adoption and surrogacy after the loss of their third child.

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And then we looked at surrogacy. And we got a surrogate. And then she didn't get pregnant. She went for IVF, she didn't get pregnant. [my husband] took that badly. For me, it was what I needed, to shut the door. The very next day that she told me that she wasn't pregnant, I moved on with my career. And I said, "I'm going to go and do something else." So I moved on. Shut the door. And I rarely - it doesn't interfere with my daily life now. I don't regret having the boys, because I think what every parent wants is for a child never to suffer. And I just think those boys could have suffered. So they never did. [my husband] still struggles. He struggles at their birthday, he struggles at Christmas. I don't, now. I used to not - It affected my relationship with friends who had children, I couldn't go near them. Friends didn't tell me they were pregnant. I shut myself off from a lot of situations. I just couldn't stand it. And I had some students in my class that were pregnant, and I couldn't stand it. But then I look now, and I have bottled - put it all together as an experience. But [my husband] - So if somebody says to me, "Have you got children?" I say "No." If somebody says that to [my husband], he stops. And, and then he says no. But he, he - he used to get upset and say to me, "I am a parent, I'm just not a practising one." And he felt that by saying no, it was denying his children. So he really struggled. And he has really, really struggled with it. But we've both come to terms with it.
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