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Vikki

Age at interview: 33
Brief Outline: Vikki was 32 and in her third pregnancy she discovered at the 20 week scan that her baby had no heartbeat and had died. She gave birth a few days later. Vikki was 34 weeks pregnant with her fourth child at the interview.
Background: Vikki lives with her partner and has had three children and at the time of interview she was 34 weeks pregnant with her fourth child. She previously worked as a legal secretary.

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Vikki became pregnant for the third time, when her two daughters were 4 and 2 years old. Everything was progressing well at the 12 week scan, but at the 20 week scan Vikki discovered her baby did not have a heartbeat and she was told her baby had died. She found it was particularly difficult leaving the hospital and going home to tell her other children. Vikki returned to hospital two days later to be induced and gave birth in a bereavement suite. She found the midwives were particularly caring during the birth but she felt her care after the birth to be poor. Vikki had no follow-up appointment with a midwife after the death of her baby and had to wait over two months for her baby’s funeral to be organised. 

Vikki found support from a friend who had also lost a baby at a similar time. She introduced her to Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, which Vikki has found to be very helpful. Vikki and her partner decided to have a full post mortem to try and understand why their baby had died. But the appointment with the consultant to discuss this results was really rushed and unhelpful. Vikki found it hard not knowing the sex of her baby until seven weeks after her birth. Finding out her baby was a girl and naming her Rosie helped her start to come to terms with her loss, and she then felt ready to arrange her funeral. Vikki has found some counselling helpful but feels she would benefit from talking more.        
     
At the time of the interview, Vikki was pregnant for the fourth time, and although the pregnancy is progressing well she was finding it stressful and is terrified of there being something wrong.
 

Vikki had felt everything was going well and to plan, as with her two previous pregnancies.

Vikki had felt everything was going well and to plan, as with her two previous pregnancies.

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So we took a pregnancy test at New Year’s Eve, and at the stroke of midnight we found out that it was pregnant. And it was brilliant. We were over the moon. Everything seemed to be going to plan, as it had with the other two pregnancies. We had a twelve week scan, it all looked perfect. The Down's screening come back clear. So we were quite excited. And the girls - both our daughters - knew about the pregnancy then, and we said to them we've got a baby in the belly, and you need to be careful around Mummy, and. They got excited about it, and wanted to know what I was having, and how long they had to wait until the baby came.
 

Vikki described her world falling apart when the sonographer couldn’t find her baby’s heartbeat.

Vikki described her world falling apart when the sonographer couldn’t find her baby’s heartbeat.

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And we went in for the scan, got called in. And I laid down, and they put the jelly on my belly, and got the, the scanner out. And then I remember [my husband] seeing the baby on the screen and saying "Oh look, it's all curled up in a ball, it must be really cosy." And then the sonographer couldn't find the heartbeat. And it just - My world just kind of fell apart there and then. And she left the room and said she needed to get a doctor to just confirm it. So the doctor came through. Scanned over, and said, "No, I’m really sorry, there is no heartbeat." And then at that point I knew I'd have to deliver this baby. There was no other way, I would have to deliver the baby.
 

Vikki felt unprepared as she couldn’t find any information about what it might be like to give birth to a baby that had already died.

Vikki felt unprepared as she couldn’t find any information about what it might be like to give birth to a baby that had already died.

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I'd been on Google a lot [laugh] since I had found out that she'd died, and. Trying to find out what would happen next was really difficult, because nobody really puts it out there, that - you know - after twenty weeks, if you lose a baby you have to give birth. I think it's after fourteen weeks, even. But nobody ever describes a labour of a stillborn. And nobody describes how quickly it's going to happen. I mean, I know it's different with everybody, but just having a little bit of information. And there was nothing. 
 

Vikki spent time with her baby on her own as her partner didn’t feel he wanted to see her.

Vikki spent time with her baby on her own as her partner didn’t feel he wanted to see her.

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Yeah. And they left us. After I'd given birth, they left us for a while, quite a while, on our own, in the room. And then they came back and asked if I wanted to see her. And I did. But my partner didn't. So he walked out of the room. So I got a little bit of time with her on my own. And they brought the footprint and handprint back, and said, "Take your time. You can stay as long as you like in this room." I think they even brought lunch through for us. And we eventually left about three o'clock in the afternoon. 

Yeah, they brought her through in a tiny little basket. She was very small. They covered up her head. I remember they covered her head up. Her face was showing. But because her head - the skull bones aren't correctly formed at that stage of pregnancy. Because they only become more rounded I think a lot later on. So they didn't want to distress me, so they put a hat on her, and put a little blanket over her. And the midwife stayed with me, by my side. And asked if I wanted a little bit of time alone. And I said "Yeah, I would." 
 
 

Vikki described her daughter’s funeral. She appreciated candles being lit at the service for her older daughters who couldn’t be there.

Vikki described her daughter’s funeral. She appreciated candles being lit at the service for her older daughters who couldn’t be there.

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Basically, the - We decided we didn't want the girls to go, it's a bit of a traumatic experience when they're only - they were four and two at the time. So we carried on like normal. The oldest one went to nursery, the youngest one we dropped at a friend's house early in the morning. We didn't want a big, big funeral. We just wanted our parents there. We've both got sisters, me and my partner - partner's got two sisters, one lives up in [city] and the other one in [county]. So it would have been a bit out of the way. They both offered to come, I believe. And my sister offered to come as well. But we said, "No, we'll just keep it just to our parents, we don't want a big affair." So, the funeral director had phoned me previously and said, "You can get in the car with Rosie, or you can meet us at the funeral place, crematorium." And I said I wanted to go with her, because it was her final journey, and I felt like it was my duty to kind of be there. But my partner said he wanted to drive there separately. And I was like "That's absolutely fine, you don't want to be in the car." So, yeah. The funeral director come and knocked on the door, and - I remember he was shaking. And he was quite young. And I was like "Don't worry, it's going to be fine." I was kind of reassuring him, rather than the other way around. And he took me out to see her, and I noticed they spelt her name wrong. On her coffin. Tiny little white coffin. And I put my little flower arrangement that I got on there as well. And I just pointed out the name was wrong [laugh]. And I remember being devastated. But they hyphenated her surname, and I didn't realise that that's what they do, because I'm not married to my partner. So they had to put both our surnames on there. But I didn't - I wasn't forewarned about that. So I was just sitting in the car thinking 'oh my god, this has gone really wrong already'. But yeah, that - that drive to the crematorium - it's quite a way, it's about twenty, twenty five minute drive anyway, so. 

Sat in the back, and think things over. And hope that no one's looking at you, and wondering what's going on in that car over there because it's a bit different. 

And you were on your own?

Yeah.

Okay.

Yeah. so, get there. And my partner followed the car anyway, so he was there as well. Got out. Met up with both our parents and said we were going in. So we did. We went in. And [sigh] it was a celebrant that done the ceremony. And the nicest thing was that he offered to light a candle for both of our two girls anyway, and said that they couldn't be here today, but they would be if they could. Lit candles for them. That was lovely. And then we just went through the service. And, and just walking out. And not having - not having like all the flowers and the pomp and ceremony that you get at a normal funeral. We asked for the curtains to stay open after the - before we left, anyway. So we walked out, and that was it, the last time we see her was there. I don't like the idea of the curtains closing anyway, because that's very final. So we walked out, and there were no flowers. Because we'd said to our friends and family we'd rather donations be given to Sands, because they'd been so helpful for me in the meantime. So there was just a little name plaque. And that was sad. It was sad. And I kind of regret that now, I wish there'd been more, but. You can't go back and do it again. So, yeah. And I remember we went out for lunch afterwards with my partner's parents, because they come over from [county], so it was quite a journey just to come for a funeral. So we took our youngest one out to lunch with us. And then carried on like a normal day. It was very strange. But I'll never forget it, it'll always be in my head. And we got a leaflet of the service from the celebrant as well, and that's gone in the memory box. And we can look back at that, and some of the poems he said, and the different songs that are always going to trigger in my head now, and yeah. That, that's really hard actually. You need to think hard about the songs. Because if you get anything too popular, you're always going to hear it, and it'll - it's a trigger, it really is a trigger. And I've been to memorial services from Sands before, for just a baby memorial service. And one of our funeral songs is the one that they play every time. And it breaks my heart hearing that song now, it - it just brings back the memory of the funeral, and what had happened. So I wish I'd chosen a bit more carefully, a bit of a different song. But I didn't think about that at the time. I just thought it was a lovely song.
 

Vikki felt pressured by her manager about returning to work and ended up leaving her job.

Vikki felt pressured by her manager about returning to work and ended up leaving her job.

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And then I remember phoning her after I found out that there was no heartbeat, and saying "I won't be in work. This is what's going to happen. I'm going to give birth. And then I'm not going to come back. I'll be in touch with you." And she insisted on phoning me every single week. It was a Monday morning thing. She'd phone me every Monday morning. We'd be on the phone for about half an hour to an hour, just talking about what had happened with regards to the funeral arrangements and everything. Because I'd said to her at that point that I want to have the funeral first, and then I'll come back to work. And, yeah. I remember - every week, I'd dread that phone call. And she'd be asking for my certificates to be - my signed-off certificate from the doctor to be sent in, my sick note to be sent in. And that's fine. But I remember kind of her pressing, "When are you going to come back? When are you going to come back?" And eventually I think I went back July. Realising that I'd need to change my hours, if I was going to be able to do the school run. And not having anybody else available to do it. We'd worked out that my partner's work said that he could work from home on the two days that I'd need to work, and he could take my eldest daughter into work, into school. Which is fine. And then I'd need to leave work early to go and pick her up. And they wouldn't change my hours. They wouldn't agree to change my hours to the ones that I needed. Which I found very unfair [laugh]. So I said I had to leave. They didn't leave me with any choice, other than to do that. I was very bitter about it all, very angry. And angry because I shouldn't have been in that position in the first place, but angry because they weren't that flexible.
 

Sands meetings were incredibly important to Vikki. They gave her time every month to talk about her baby.

Sands meetings were incredibly important to Vikki. They gave her time every month to talk about her baby.

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Those meetings are - I've actually classed them as my heroin. I need those meetings. It's like two hours once a month I get to talk about my baby. My baby that was stillborn. She was stillborn. I don't mention her name to many people, but I like talking about her, and about my feelings, in them sessions. So in a way, that is my counselling. And everyone feels the same, I think, to a certain extent. That, you know, that time does slow down for them, and life carries on for everyone else, and it's not fair. I think we all feel the same. So, trying to work through that on a grand scale, it's quite difficult trying to persuade everyone that - you know - you feel the same as me. You're not isolated, you're not on your own. And that's - that's the one thing actually that made me need to go, because I did feel so isolated. And so alone. And so that nobody really understood at all what was going on. But they did. These people get me. They understand. They've been there, they've done it. And a lot of their cases are a lot more tragic than mine, and they've gone a lot further in pregnancy than I did, but they still accept that actually - you know - I went through something similar to them, I still lost a baby. And grief is grief. It doesn't matter if your baby died at eight weeks or sixteen weeks, or thirty six weeks - you know - you still lost a baby. And as soon as you get the pregnancy test, you assume you're going to have that baby. And you think about their first birthday, and their first step, and when they're going to get their teeth, and their first words, and everything. And yeah, it's not just because I lost a baby at twenty one weeks, it's because I lost a baby. Full stop. And that's nice, that everybody can be in the same boat.

I shouldn't have to be in this position, I shouldn't have to have lost a baby. I don't want to be friends with these people because we've got dead babies in common, that's not a nice thing to have in common with someone. But these are the nicest people I've ever met, that I've never wanted to meet. It's really strange. It's like bad things don't happen to bad people, do they, they happen to good people. And they're just everyday people. And it's sad that we've all got that in common. I don't want that in common with them.
 

Vikki’s older daughters were both excited about the pregnancy and telling them there wouldn't be a brother or sister was extremely upsetting.

Vikki’s older daughters were both excited about the pregnancy and telling them there wouldn't be a brother or sister was extremely upsetting.

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So we took a pregnancy test at New Year’s Eve, and at the stroke of midnight we found out that it was pregnant. And it was brilliant. We were over the moon. Everything seemed to be going to plan, as it had with the other two pregnancies. We had a twelve week scan, it all looked perfect. The Down's screening come back clear. So we were quite excited. And the girls - both our daughters - knew about the pregnancy then, and we said to them we've got a baby in the belly, and you need to be careful around Mummy, and. They got excited about it, and wanted to know what I was having, and how long they had to wait until the baby came. And dates were always quite - strangely important. I don't know why. It's just one of them things that come up. We got the letter through for the twenty week scan, which happened to be on my partner's birthday. So, but I remember waking up on the day of the scan, sitting in bed with the presents and cards, and the girls were on the bed with us, and we were opening everything, and. Luckily we'd decided to give the girls over to my Mum while we went to the scan on our own. 

We went to my Mum's house, to pick up the girls. And my Mum answered the door, and she had this big smile on her face, and she said "So?" And I said, "No, the baby's gone." And she didn't kind of understand what I was saying then. And I remember walking into the kitchen, and my Dad walked out, because I think he kind of understood a bit better, and he walked out. He didn't want to see me upset. So he walked out. And the girls come through, and we had to tell them then, you know, there is no baby. And there won't be a brother or sister for you. And kind of shattering their world. It wasn't, it wasn't nice. They didn't really understand it still. And we took them home. Brought them back here. And we tried to carry on, for them. So I remember the oldest one went to nursery the next day. And we'd asked if my Mum could have them while I went into hospital. 
 

Vikki described how she couldn’t believe she was going to have a baby until she walked out of the hospital with them in her arms.

Vikki described how she couldn’t believe she was going to have a baby until she walked out of the hospital with them in her arms.

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I'm in denial. I've just put on a bit of weight. I look down and I don't see a bump, I just see fat again [laugh]. Yeah. I can't get excited about it. I won't believe I'm going to have a baby at the end of it until I walk out of that hospital with the car seat and they're here. I - every scan is torture. Every midwife appointment - I see my midwife every week because of it. I'm terrified. Every week I sit there and I panic. I persuade myself I've got all kind of conditions now [laugh]. I haven't. But yeah, it's going really well - the pregnancy is going well. The baby's breech, and it's big, but it's going well. And the baby's growing. And the consultant that I'm seeing is wonderful. And it's at the same hospital. Because better the devil you know. 
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