Page last updated at 01:34 GMT, Tuesday, 7 June 2005 02:34 UK

The anguish of losing a baby

By Margaret Ryan
BBC News

Isabella Grace
Isabella Grace was born in October
Every day 10 babies are stillborn in the UK and most stillbirths are currently classified as unexplained, according to the charity SANDS, the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society.

This week (4-11 June) SANDS is seeking to raise awareness of the families who have lost a baby.

A year and a half ago my husband and I kissed our first baby daughter Eleanor goodbye, left her in a hospital cot and walked off the labour ward with empty arms.

YOUR EXPERIENCES
I was left in a side room in A&E for 10 hours on the day it happened
Susan, London

I had miscarried at five months. Now we have a seven-month-old daughter Isabella Grace.

When we lost Eleanor we wanted to know why it had happened but we may never know. The day after a normal second scan, my waters broke but I didn't lose the baby.

I was kept in hospital and given antibiotics but each day told the prognosis was poor given that I was still only 20 weeks pregnant.

If I managed not to miscarry and the pregnancy continued, the baby was unlikely to survive outside the womb because my membranes had ruptured before its lungs had time to develop.

Without fluid to support a growing baby, it was highly likely its limbs would not have room to grow safely.

A fortnight later I miscarried at just under 22 weeks pregnant.

Miscarriage is a misnomer. It is too neat and clinical. Many may not understand the pain and grief of losing a child that has not gone full term.

Others may not believe that the foetus is a child at that stage of pregnancy.

But fortunately the staff at Hillingdon Hospital, in west London, were sensitive to our loss and beliefs and we were able to spend time with our daughter to say goodbye in a dignified way.

Miscarriage common

It was suggested that I may have an "incompetent cervix" - a not very reassuring medical term which means the cervix opens earlier than it should.

When I became pregnant again I had a stitch put in at three months as a precautionary measure.

It gave me a confidence to believe that this time the outcome would be different.

Once we were past the stage when we lost Eleanor I did believe that we would have a healthy baby.

Nothing prepared me for my own individual and overwhelming feelings of loss

The stitch was taken out at 37 weeks. I had expected that labour would follow shortly afterwards but I had another month to wait to meet my baby, suggesting that I did not have an incompetent cervix.

Afterwards many people said "it's very common" to have a miscarriage but nothing prepared me for my own individual and overwhelming feelings of loss - both physical and emotional.

Having milk come in for a baby that was no longer there was unbearable at a time when my husband and I were grieving the loss of a much-wanted child.

No matter how much we had tried to temper our excitement about the pregnancy we had started planning for her arrival from the moment we knew about her.

The pregnancy books do not tend to dwell long on serious complications, miscarriage or the aftermath but I know at the time I wanted to hear about others who had been through a similar situation.

Most of all I wanted to hear positive stories of couples who had gone on to have a healthy child.

On 22 October last year Isabella Grace was born at Hillingdon Hospital weighing 8lb 5oz.

She is in no way a replacement for Eleanor. She is already very much an individual.

When she had us up in the night in the early days I reminded myself how lucky we were that this time round we left the same hospital with a beautiful daughter. We are counting our blessings.

If you have been affected by the stillbirth or death of a baby the SANDS helpline number is 020 7436 5881. The website is http://www.uk-sands.org/



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