Sophie | Stillbirth & Us | Our Story of Baby Loss

Sophie | Stillbirth & Us | Our Story of Baby Loss
I’ve never written down Sophie’s story until now. I’ve had the post title ‘Sophie’ in my draft posts for a long time. I did write the post ‘February 1st‘ which included our only photo of my pregnancy with Sophie. I’ve written about how I felt about her anniversary/birthday, how it feels to be an angel mummy – especially when people don’t know you are one.
I’ve not written Sophie’s story. Why? To be honest I’m not sure. Yes it is upsetting, yes it hurts, although time is a great healer. Mainly though it is because I feel guilty. I feel guilty about decisions we made after we lost her. That’s not to say they were the wrong decisions, but it doesn’t make me feel any less guilty. Why now? I felt the time is right, and October is Pregnancy and Infant loss awareness month. I am 1 in 4. It is taboo subject –  I know this as i remember the stares, the whispers and the gossip after I lost Sophie.
(Picture credit – Google)
I found out I was pregnant with Sophie in September 2011. Izzie was was around 18 months old. We had decided to try for another baby, as we had fallen pregnant immediately with Izzie but you never know if you will fall quickly again, if at all. I remember ringing my mum and dad who were on holiday in Cyprus at the time to tell them. We were over the moon. I was around 4 weeks pregnant when I found out – I hadn’t skipped a period, I just felt pregnant. The test was a resounding positive. As soon as I passed the date my period was due, the morning sickness started like clockwork. I had been really sick with Izzie so was expecting it. I had only gone back to work 1 day a week after having Izzie so it wasn’t so bad to cope with, and when I was at work, I was right next to the toilet anyway.
Around 8 weeks, I had a small bleed. I panicked. I hadn’t bled at all with Izzie and managed to get myself in a state. The midwife, who I had just booked in with (my midwife from the latter stages of my pregnancy with Izzie) was great and arranged for me to visit the early pregnancy unit at GWH, Swindon.
I was scared going into the scan, but so incredibly relieved when they showed my the little bean and a  heart beat. I was advised to take it easy, which I did and everything progressed as normal.
My 12 week scan arrived and again, measurements were perfect and the little bean continued to progress. The lady doing the scan advised I had an anterior placenta (where the placenta is at the front) and after googling this I wasn’t worried  – I did note that I may not feel the kicks as early though. My due date was 25th May 2012.
My community midwife who was amazing unfortunately became quite poorly and took time off. Because of this I saw a different midwife at each appointment and my care probably wasn’t as consistent as it could’ve been. Also because this was my second pregnancy, the visits were less frequent. I had normal GTT due to my suspected diabetes during Izzie’s pregnancy and otherwise everything was ticking along nicely – bar the sickness.
At Christmas we had this photo taken of the three of us and our bump – my only photo of Sophie’s pregnancy and you can’t even see the bump!
My 20 week scan rolled around early January, and as I had expected I hadn’t felt as many kicks, but had felt fluttery movement. At the scan, the baby was quiet. We were there a while as they couldn’t get the measurements and they made me drink ice water to try and encourage some wriggling. They were unable to tell us the sex, as although they managed to get the measurements (which were spot on) baby wasn’t wriggling enough and had their legs closed.
I was gutted – I was so desperate to find out what we were having, and so talked Ell into letting me book a private gender scan for the next day. I was convinced it was a boy, as in my family, everyone seemed to have a girl and then a boy. We had even ordered two lots of nursery bedding and curtains – one pink and one blue.
That Friday we took Izzie with us back to Swindon, to a private scanning clinic, and waited. When they finally called us in, we were scanned by a lovely lady called Katie. She told us we were expecting a girl. We were totally surprised –  I was estatic, as having two little girls would’ve been my childhood dream – dressing them in matching outfits, doing their hair. We went straight out and bought her loads of clothes and a memory box. I sent back the blue nursery bedding, and we got straight on with decorating the smaller room pink, and hanging up all her clothes. I was so excited and so keen to get it all ready. Looking back now, I don’t know why I was so eager. I had my hospital bags packed, we had discussed names  – I loved Phoebe or Ava and I was only just 21 weeks.
A week later Ell was due to go and work in London – they were decorating a flat for a local client and staying up there whilst they were doing it. He had only been gone a couple of days when I came down with the flu. I know a lot of the time people say they have the flu, and it isn’t really the flu, just a bad cold, but I had never had anything like this before. My mum regularly popped round with soup and paracetamol, and checked in on me, but I was mainly on my own with a 21 month old, who was everywhere and wouldn’t sit still. My temperature was sky high and I remember sitting at the bottom of the stairs (as our hallway is always freezing cold) as it was the only place I was comfortable. As ill as I felt, our little girl was wriggling about quite happily. Ell returned home on the friday and by that point I was feeling much better, although still not 100%.
The Tuesday of the week before we lost Sophie I had another midwife appointment. When I arrived it was a nightmare from start to finish. There was another locum midwife, who was unable to log onto the computer system, and by the time she did, she was running really late. I mentioned baby wasn’t as active as I was expecting  – Izzie was such a wriggle – she reminded me about the anterior placenta. She had a feel of my tummy and noted I wasn’t measuring as big as I should be – I mentioned that Izzie was 5lb 14oz at a week and a half late and she said I probably just had smaller babies. I also mentioned about the flu I had had and she scolded me for not having the flu jab – I retaliated that I hadn’t even been offered it. She was in such a rush that she didn’t even get the doppler out, and I wasn’t in the best mood after the appointment being late and then the chastising over the flu jab and so I didn’t even think about it – I was happy just to get out of there.
To this day, I wish to god I had asked for the doppler. I’m not sure if it would’ve made a difference but I guess I will never know.
That Friday night I remember mentioning to Ell I was worried, I hadn’t felt much movement. We got out my home doppler and I thought I could hear a heartbeat but I kept losing it. I decided to have a warm bath to see if that would get her wriggling and a can of ice cold coke.
Whilst in the bath I remember a huge movement – it was almost painful – it reminded me of when someone flops over in bed. In the moment it reassured me. Looking back now I’m almost convinced this was when she passed away – it was like it was her last fight.
The weekend passed and although I didn’t feel movement that big one friday had reassured me – or I was in denial. I think probably the latter. I also said to Ell my tummy seemed smaller – like my bump was really low and squishy. When Sophie was born there were no waters – they asked me if I had felt them leaking but I hadn’t – I also wonder if they went in the bath with that big movement.
Ell went to work on monday morning and I decided to get the doppler back out. I couldn’t find any heartbeat. I rang him in state and he said he was coming home and to ring Swindon Maternity. I couldn’t get through. I ended up ringing the community midwives in Stroud and they told me come down straight away (it was a half hour drive). I rang my mum at work to say I was worried and she offered to come home and have Izzie, but I said we would take her and I’d let her know how we got on. At this point I was still in denial.
We got to Stroud and they took us into this room, which weirdly I remember had no windows. I don’t honestly think I could set foot in that room again in my life. They had no luck with their doppler either. They didn’t have an ultrasound scanner, but one of the midwives suggested this old portable scanner they had on site. It was the worst quality, but they could see there was no heartbeat.
I don’t really remember the next few minutes – I remember shouting ‘no, no’, and ‘we’ve already painted her nursery pink’ (as if that would change anything) and that my hospital bags were all packed. Poor Izzie didn’t have a clue what was going on – luckily she was little enough she doesn’t remember. I sat there sobbing and dazed whilst they rang Swindon and arranged for me to go straight there. We got in the car and I rang my mum again, breaking down and telling her she had to have Izzie. We met her at her work in Tetbury and I just cried and cried. I couldn’t even speak. I felt like I had let everyone down. My job was to grow this baby and I had failed.
When we arrived at Swindon, we got to the Day Assessment ward and Nicky, a lovely midwife who I knew and who and delivered Izzie was expecting us – she was amazing. She came into the scanning room with us. We walked in the room, and Katie, the scanner from the private clinic was there. I felt sick. They scanned me and confirmed the worst. Our baby had no heartbeat. They took some measurements and I remember them discussing how she was small for gestation. I was 23+6.
We got taken to a private room where Nicky explained what would happen, they would give me some medicine to make my body realise it had to go into labour. I would then come back the following evening for them to induce labour. Lots of things were explained to us, but to be honest I didn’t take any of it in.
We got home and I just felt empty. I went in the pink nursery and saw all the pink clothes, the car seat, the packed hospital bags and I couldn’t bear to look at it. I had to do something, so I made Ell get down suitcases and help me pack everything away.  When we finished I moved a load of Izzie’s toys in there just so it didn’t look so empty.
I went to bed and stayed there until the following afternoon when I had to get ready to go back to the hospital.  Ell or my mum had rang one of our close friends and asked him to let our other friends know – I couldn’t face talking to anyone and mum had rang to let my work know I wouldn’t be in the next day.
We got back to the hospital that evening after my mum picked up Izzie  – she was so excited to go to Nannys for a sleepover. I cried when she left. She had never been away from me overnight before. I don’t think I have ever felt more alone in that moment even though Ell was with me.
At the hospital we were put in a side room, where a lovely midwife (sister) called Carol (she would later be my community midwife with Mason). who I had met during my labour with Izzie came along to see us and check me over. She was amazing – she let me cry, she didn’t judge me when I got a weird cases of giggles after the gas and air, and she even got Ell a bed.
She confirmed there were no waters left and gave me a pessary to try and kick start labour. It did – a while later I started having contractions and Carol gave me the gas and air.
My labour progressed really quickly and painfully. I got whisked down to the delivery suite and not long later Sophie was born after a couple of pushes. She was born just after midnight on the day that I would’ve been 24 weeks pregnant (otherwise known as viability day – when if a baby was born prematurely, medical professionals would intervene to save them if born after 24 weeks).
Here is the hard part for me to admit. I had asked the midwife not to see her. I knew she had stopped growing, and it had been mentioned to me that she had probably passed away days before, so chances were she wouldn’t look like you would expect a baby to look – without being graphic, the blood starts to drain away from them and they can be quite purply looking.
I’ve never been good with anything or anyone who is deceased – the thought literally makes me sick – I even feel faint if I see a dead animal on the side of the road – when our fish died I covered the tank with a towel until Ell got home and he could flush it away.
The midwife was lovely and draped me up so I wouldn’t see anything and they took her away to clean her up and take photos. The midwife did mention to me that I had made the right decision not to see her – it was clear she had been gone a while. I also had this huge fear she would look just like Izzie and every time I looked at her, I would see Sophie. All the staff at Swindon were amazing. I was very lucky to have had a very quick labour and I’m really thankful for this.
We had a lot of paperwork to fill in – we had to decide whether we wanted a private funeral or whether we were happy for her to be cremated with other babies. This is another thing I feel so incredibly guilty about. I didn’t want a funeral – I didn’t want to upset anyone anymore, and I definitely didn’t want to upset Izzie. I just couldn’t do it. We decided to have Sophie cremated with the other babies  – this gave me a huge amount of comfort that she wouldn’t be on her own. We gave her a small teddy and a photo of the three us  – ‘that pregnant photo’ above. The hospital said they would give is a memory box with her foot and handprints and the photos in, but I couldn’t face looking at it. To this day it is still stored in Swindon Hospital. We made our own memory box (the one we bought after our scan) of her 3d and other scan photos and some bits and pieces we had bought for her. One day I might feel I want to see those photos and prints but it hasn’t felt right as yet. I have this image of my perfect baby girl in my head – the midwife told us she had huge hands and feet (just like her siblings) – and I don’t want to ruin it. We had to make a decision on a post mortem – which we decided to go for – I needed answers and I wanted to know if something would affect any future pregnancies. We had to give our baby a name for the paperwork. I chose Sophie – I have no idea why – it wasn’t even a name that we had discussed using. The worst part was being stuck on the delivery ward where you could hear women labouring and babies crying.
(Edit: I found out today that Swindon SANDS opened their bereavement suite at GWH – this is amazing and invaluable for parents to spend time with their baby in a peaceful environment. The link to the article is here)
Leaving the hospital, was maybe one of the worst moments of my life – you expect to walk out of the delivery ward, after full blown labour, with a baby. All I could think was how long it would be until I was this far into a pregnancy again. I was so indescribably glad to have Izzie to go home to – I can’t imagine the pain of those who leave the hospital with empty arms and have no other children. Izzie was the one who kept me going.
I spent a couple of days in bed. I cried, I grieved, I got angry and so did Ell. I tried to do it away from Izzie. One moment I remember clearly is the doorbell ringing when Ell had popped to the shop. It was lady from down the road who had accidentally received a bouquet of sympathy flowers that was meant for me. I thanked her for dropping them round and she commented how lovely the flowers were, and that I was a very lucky girl. I nodded, shut the door and sank to the floor and howled.
I know at the time a lot of people were worried about me – about how well I coped. I think everyone expected me to have a breakdown later on, as I sucked it up and got on with it. I think to most people I seemed so hard but it was my way of coping. I had another child, who needed her mama. Izzie dragged me through those dark days, along with family and friends, and especially online friends (shout out to the FA and Mayflowers ladies).  I needed something positive to cling to and so we booked a holiday for later on in the year with friends – again it seems hard when I look back now but I needed it.
Six weeks later, mid March 2012 we returned to Swindon to see the consultant, Dr N, who was the best (she looked after me through my pregnancies with Ollie and Mason too). She informed us of Sophie’s post mortem results which didn’t show anything. I was relieved that there wasn’t any huge problem that might affect any future pregnancies but we didn’t really get any answers. Dr N said it was highly likely that my flu had caused a problem but there was no way to really tell. She also gave us the go ahead to try for another baby (I was so desperate to be pregnant again) but I had to take low dose aspirin as soon as I found out I was pregnant.
(*Ollie was conceived very soon after – I found out I was pregnant on the 27th April 2012 and my pregnancy kept me going – I had something to focus on, and I was incredibly positive throughout my pregnancy – I had to be*)
So there it is – Sophie’s story. I have regrets – I’m sure most people who have been through the loss of a child have. Mainly not realising about having a flu jab – but my care was so random due to not having a regular midwife, it got missed. My other regret was Sophie’s cremation. We didn’t know that we had options  – we let the hospital cremate her and scatter her ashes. I wish we had had a private cremation and had her ashes back. I wish she had somewhere that I could’ve scattered them, with her name, that we could visit and lay flowers on her birthday. I’m sure that this can be done and I’m going to look into getting something for my little girl. I don’t have the first clue where to start though. Because she was born at 24 weeks but they discovered she had passed away at 23+5 we don’t have a death certificate. If anyone can point me in the right direction, please get in touch.
There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think about Sophie. As the kids have got older we have told them all about her. I am so grateful for our rainbow baby Ollie, who without Sophie wouldn’t be here. She is part of Ollie’s story. In her memory in November 2013, along with some of the great lads from Didmarton Football Club we raised over £700 for Swindon SANDS, an amazing charity that supports local parents through the loss of their baby – they also provide the memory boxes for parents I mentioned earlier.

 

I would like Sophie’s legacy to serve as a reminder also to monitor your babies movement. Awareness of this is key – throughout my pregnancies with Ollie and Mason I was so vigilant about monitoring their movements. Click here for more info. Also if you can, have a flu jab. I hope this post also may help someone who is going through what we did – I am also a living reminder that there are rainbows after HUGE storms – and proof that you can go on to have a healthy baby/babies after a stillbirth. Also please believe me when I say time IS a great healer  – you will never forget but it WILL get easier. I found the time when all the children her age were getting their school place letters awful. However, I love quote on the Swindon SANDS homepage:
Stillborn, Still Remembered, Still Loved
Sophie Brushneen – 1st February 2012
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