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Losing a baby at 20-24 weeks of pregnancy

Talking to family and friends after losing a baby

Parents often described how the loss of their baby had a major impact on their relationships, with family and friends as well as with their partner.
Parents talked about how the loss affected their family and friends. Losing the baby had a wide impact. Many described feeling strongly supported, Emily remembered, “lots of kindness… it renews your faith in human beings sometimes.”
 

Joelle and Adam described the support of some amazing friends.

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Joelle and Adam described the support of some amazing friends.

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We saw family and some amazing friends. Like because a couple of my school friends just asked the right questions. I don't know how. Don't know how they did it. But like one of my friends came over, and was like, "Have you got any pictures of him?" And I said to her, "You don't want to see a picture." And she was like, "No, I do." And that made so much of a difference. Just asking. And I was like "No, you - you don't want to see a picture of a dead baby." But just asking was amazing. And asking questions that you would have asked a mother who had a child at home who was alive. Like, "How much did he weigh?" "What name did you give him?" "Tell me what happened." And just letting me say - But enough people asking me, that I could give information. So, that - And I think that made a huge - like a huge difference. When we were in hospital, we'd sort of said "Well, who do we tell?" And our general rule was the people who we're very close to, who were sort of the bridesmaids and groomsmen from our wedding, we'll tell sort of straight away. And everyone else we'll kind of - who came to the wedding, we'll filter the information through over the next few days. And if they didn't come to our wedding, they're clearly not close enough friends, so we're not going to tell them. And I don't really believe in putting everything on Facebook, so I hadn't put that I was pregnant on Facebook, and I wasn't about to announce it to the rest of the world. But all of the friends who we told were amazing. Like the house was covered in flowers. Cards from people. Even like my friends who are pregnant, who I was really nervous about telling - because actually I think it was worse for them than it was for me. In Judaism there's a thing where if someone dies, you bring over food. So, again, like a couple of people just brought over food. And it made such a difference. And I'd never understood it before. Like we've always been in households where someone's died, and I - "Why do you take over food?" And now it's like I didn't have to worry about Adam eating, because I knew there was food in the fridge. 
However many parents felt that while friends and family wanted to offer support they didn’t always know how to do it, and that “no one knows what to say to you”. Some parents felt that family and friends didn’t talk about the loss because they were embarrassed or thought it would upset them. But the lack of talking was upsetting in itself. Vikki felt “they don't want to offend you or upset you. But actually by not doing anything, that is offending and upsetting me”.
 

Kirsty strongly felt she often didn’t speak in full detail about her loss because she didn’t want to upset friends and family.

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Kirsty strongly felt she often didn’t speak in full detail about her loss because she didn’t want to upset friends and family.

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I would say that even though you didn't manage to bring anybody home, they existed. And you should remember them. And you should talk about them. And do what's right for you. As I say, we remember our Rebecca at Christmas, we remember her on our anniversary. And we have our tree. I would certainly say that the hardest thing - and they will have gone through it - is to - is to not take them home.

And yeah, I just think just remember them. Just - They're not something to be swept under the carpet. And if I'm, if I'm honest - reflecting back, I made far too many people feel comfortable. For their sake. And I didn't want to upset them. So I never really spoke in full detail about it.

I never - I never really went into what happened, particularly. And as I say, I think now, looking back, it didn't do us any favours, putting on this brave face. Because people just knew that we were going to get up and get on with it. And there are some times when I don't want to get up and get on with it. But that's what's expected of me, because that's what we did from day one.
Some found that family and friends didn’t engage with them in the way they expected. Kirsty “wasn't prepared for how little people would speak”. Emily’s feelings were hurt when friends didn’t want to see the photos of her baby, as they were very meaningful to her. Some parents felt that friends and family thought they were “making a massive deal out of this” and wanted them to “move on” more quickly. Mike felt that “Everyone's so sorry for you, when they hear about it. But then … everyone's forgotten about it, in a way”.
 

Lindsay felt no-one knew what to say to her.

Lindsay felt no-one knew what to say to her.

Age at interview: 35
Sex: Female
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And, and I think like one of the things that I really struggled with is that everyone tries to be very well-meaning, and everyone tries to , yeah, be there for you. As they would, you know. But actually, it's - very rarely is it very helpful [laugh]. And the best thing you can do is just be there, and hold the tissues, and not say anything, other than "Yeah, it's really awful. Yeah, that does - it is really awful." [Laugh]. Because people try and relate it to something that's happened to them. 

And I had lots of people saying "You need to get back to work. You need to distract yourself." "You need to - yeah, it is really bad, but at least you've got [my son]." Yes, I'm very thankful that I have [my son], but - and I've now learned to say, "Well which one of your children could you live without? Would the other one be enough for, that if you lost one, it wouldn't matter anymore?" [Laugh]. But at the time, you just sort of sit there thinking 'well no, no, no - Henry was alive, he was a person, and he needs to be validated'. And by the fact that people around you try and gloss over it - because it is such an awkward conversation, no one knows what to say to you. But the fact that they try and dismiss it, or dismiss your feelings, makes you feel that you're just - yeah, making a mountain out of a molehill and should just snap out of it, and carry on. Which is what I tried to do. I went back to work after five weeks, and I sat crying at my laptop for six months, really. And luckily, work are amazing, and were very supportive. And just pretended that they didn't notice that I was crying and not doing anything. And, you know, they were lovely. 
 

When he went back to work David was angered by someone asking if “Are you over it yet?”

When he went back to work David was angered by someone asking if “Are you over it yet?”

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David: And Elaine - Then we had to get back to normality. I think I went back to work, just a week later. Or a few days later. Was that a week? And Elaine went back to what she did. And that was it. And I remember going back to work. And they're very good, work. And I was working for [company name] at the time. And they sent flowers. You know, card of condolence. Which was lovely of them. [dealing with tissues] I was at work. My first day at work. And I remember, I went to my desk. And I was an IT analyst there, we had a team of analysts. And there was the guy, senior guy, who must have been then as old as I am now - about 60.

Elaine: [laughing]

David: Senior guy. And he said to me - I sat down and was getting my - trying to catch up with my emails. He said to me, "Are you over it yet?" And I thought - I thought [laugh] - If I hadn't have restrained myself, I probably would have smacked - done something I regretted. 

David: Like my football team had just lost the cup final, "Are you over it yet?" And I looked at him and I said, "You don't know what you're talking about." And I just went out for a coffee. If I'd stayed there, I would have - as I said - done something I would have regretted. 

But there was a lot of other people who were sympathetic, but this guy was lucky he didn't lose a few teeth. But it would have been worth it - if I'd have lost my job, it would have been worth it. But I couldn't believe someone's insensitivity. I think it took someone else to actually tell him what happened. 

But I'm not sure if he did know what happened, I can't believe - And he did apologise, but that sticks with me. That one thing sticks with me, about work.
Isolation

For some parents the lack of helpful support led to a feeling of isolation from friends and family because “they just didn’t get it”. They talked about losing a wide circle of friends and close contact with family. Vikki felt the impact of not just losing her baby but also losing her friends as “you really see who is there for you and who isn’t”.
 

Courtney felt she lost so many friends because they didn’t know what to say to her.

Courtney felt she lost so many friends because they didn’t know what to say to her.

Age at interview: 30
Sex: Female
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You lose so many friends. You absolutely lose so many friends.

I can't tell you how many friends I've lost. Had a massive friend, friend base. Like easily I would meet up with people, ten – or ten people, like a weekend, or go out for lunches and stuff like that. This happens, no one contacts you. Whether it be because they don't know what to say to you?

Yeah.

Or, or they're - they're just a bit like, like 'ooh, I don't want to upset them', or something like that. But at the end of the day, who cares? If they're your friend, just - all you've got to do is text once, and just say 'I'm thinking of you'. Do you know? Or a couple of months later, say like 'I'm still thinking of you', and stuff like that. 

But people don't. And then you end up really re-evaluating the people in your life. Because you think well, what's important? And some people who you just walk past and go "You're alright?" And you're not really good friends with anyway, but you make that extra effort because you think you should, you don't. Because you think 'ooh, I'm not wasting my life, which is so precious and important, in trying to give you energy that you don't need - because you're not there for me, don't need to be there for you, let's just leave it at that'. And that happened with so many people. People that I thought were best friends, and really close, you know? And would never - wouldn't even come to see me. Wouldn't even ring me. Hadn't even rang me up within months. People that I worked with - because I had to go straight back to work - didn't come up to me, within two months of me having to go there on a daily basis, and go to me, "What happened?" Do you know what I mean? Like, "How are you doing?" You know? They all just ignore you, flat out. 
Parents often felt this lack of helpful support was because most people had no experience or knowledge of baby loss, particularly this early in pregnancy. Kelly wrote to her work colleagues and talked to friends and family about how she felt and how she wanted to talk about her baby. She felt increasing their knowledge helped improve her relationships with them. Parents often felt they experienced more support from friends and family who had personally experienced the loss of a baby, or they sought support from and friendship with people they met through baby loss support groups. After the loss of their baby, parents were often told stories by friends and family of baby loss that they weren’t previously aware of.
 

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.

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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. 
 

Helen found the only people who really understood her grief were those who had also experienced loss.

Helen found the only people who really understood her grief were those who had also experienced loss.

Age at interview: 43
Sex: Female
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Because I think going through something like that - my Mum didn't get it, she'd never lost a baby at that age. My husband tried as far as he could to get it. My sister didn't get it. Nobody got it. The only people who got it, as far as I was concerned at that time, were people who'd been through it, had lost a baby either at term or certainly beyond twenty weeks.

You know, whereas my Mum and my sister and my friends wanted to know - they wanted to help, and they wanted to support, but they didn't know what questions to ask, they didn't know - Well, and also sometimes I didn't want to talk about them. I just wanted them to get it. I wanted them to read my mind. Whereas the women that had been through it, could read my mind because they'd been there, done it. You know? Might be a completely different reason why they lost. But they knew what it was like to be having conversations like that with NHS professionals, which you don't want to be doing.
Parents often found it extremely difficult when close friends and family were pregnant or had small children. It was particularly hard for parents who were expecting their baby at the same time as their sister or brother or a close family friend. Sarah felt the loss of her son and her nephew growing up together as cousins. Some parents found friends and family were too scared to tell them they were pregnant and avoided talking about it. Some parents tried to “learn to celebrate with people, at the same time as feeling loss” by meeting up or talking to close friends and family with babies. Sharon found it hard because her sister-in-law had children at the same time that Sharon’s experienced the loss of her three babies, and so her husband’s mum “got the grandchildren that she wanted, and my babies were just, just seemed insignificant”.
 

Carly really appreciated it when people were sensitive about telling her they were pregnant.

Carly really appreciated it when people were sensitive about telling her they were pregnant.

Age at interview: 30
Sex: Female
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Some people were very sensitive toward our situation, when they found out they were pregnant. Obviously we're all late twenties, early thirties, all the people we hang around with, so everyone's having kids. And quite a few people found out they were pregnant, and some people were really sensitive, and came over and they would sit us down and say, you know, "This is going to be hard, but we wanted to tell you ourselves." And some people weren't so sensitive. And I found that really tough, you know, when people were insensitive towards what had happened.

I still struggle like with that now. I don't like pregnancy announcements when it comes from nowhere. You know, like I like - I like to be alone, when I find out. Because sometimes my reaction might be to burst into tears.

So, telling me like one on one is - it's better than, you know, finding out another way.

I had Facebook, and I had to delete everybody who was pregnant. Or had just had a baby. Or was a grandmother who'd just had a grandkid. Like I just had to get rid of it all, because I couldn't - I just couldn't cope with having it pop up, like unexpectedly on me. It just felt like someone was kicking me in the stomach, whenever I'd hear about - you know - someone having a baby. And all I could think was why my baby? You know? Why is everybody else having a baby, but my baby died? Like it, it just felt so cruel. And just unfair. It still feels like that now. Like I still feel like it, like it's unfair. But I've come to terms with it a bit more. But in the early days, that was rough. I didn't like going out. Just I didn't know if I'd bump into someone who was pregnant, or see someone with a newborn. Boys were not as bad, but girls I couldn't - couldn't deal with it at all. 

So I sort of - I lost a lot of confidence, even just going out. Like going out anywhere was like a chore. Like at first I needed someone with me all the time. I just didn't want to be alone. So it took quite a long time like for me to build up the confidence even just to go out. Even going to the GP was tough at first. But eventually it got better. I'm still not that - . I don't think I'm back to a hundred percent where I was before she died. 

Like I'm not keen on big crowds. And I find it easier to be around people who already know. 
 

Liz asked her close friend to bring her new born baby to visit her to help her try and get used to being around other babies.

Liz asked her close friend to bring her new born baby to visit her to help her try and get used to being around other babies.

Age at interview: 40
Sex: Female
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I just needed to talk. And a friend, very good friend of mine who happens to be a midwife was expecting a baby. Probably - He was born a fortnight before I lost the twins. So I'd not seen him before I lost the twins. I was in hospital when she had him. And I spoke to her. And she was coming round, because her parents lived near mine. So she was in the area. And she said she'd like to come and see me. You know, but she said, "I'll come on my own." I said, "No." I said, "Please will you bring little one?" And she's like, "Really?" I said, "Yeah." And without saying to her, 'I need to see him, please do bring him', I - you know - I sort of danced around it a bit and said, "I'd really like -." And I did want to see the baby.

And I don't think - Most people I've spoken to about this have not really got it. I don't think even my Mum really got this. She says I'm brave, but she doesn't really get that I needed to hold another baby, to know that I could [laugh].

Just to know that I wasn't going to break down every time I saw a baby. And actually, I did. She came, he was beautiful, he was only two, three weeks old. And I held the baby, and I was genuinely - in my heart, I knew I was genuinely pleased for her. It was her third. Genuinely pleased for her beautiful baby. I still could be happy for somebody else, and not let my distress and upset cloud my emotions for other people. That was my problem, my issue, my whatever was going on. It didn't stop me being happy for somebody else. That was really - again, something I didn't - you know - I wasn't expecting. But, that separation of what's happening to other people and what's happened to me, I was quite keen that I didn't want to be miserable or feel miserable about other people's circumstances just because of what I was going through. So, I. You know, I told her to "Please bring baby." And she did. And, yeah. I held him. I think I probably broke down afterwards, after she'd gone. And my Mum picked me up, but - caught me, picked me up.
Parents we spoke to also talked about the impact of their loss on their relationship with their parents, as they were missing out on being grandparents to their child. Elaine and Emily both felt they were letting down their parents-in-law because they couldn’t provide them with a grandchild.
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