Wednesday, 25 July 2012

An opportunity to raise awareness...

Last week our local paper ran a story about Daisy and about my blog.  They gave me the opportunity to thank all my readers for their support and kindness during what has been a very sorrowful time for myself and my family.

Following on from that article, to my surprise the story about Daisy popped up everywhere in all the major newspapers, from The Sun, to the Daily Record, to the Scotsman.  I was bewildered by all the media attention that the story was getting.

The next thing I knew, I was being inundated with media requests for interviews; one reporter even arrived at my front door to try to talk to me about Daisy and the story of my blog.  The story was everywhere and I was feeling more than a little overwhelmed by all this attention from the media.

I decided to contact Sands, the stillbirth & neonatal death charity, for some advice on how to handle the situation.

The Press Officer at Sands couldn't have been more helpful and was a great support to me, taking care of all enquiries on my behalf and giving me advice on how best to take things forward.

We had no interest in "selling our story" to a newspaper or magazine; but we did see that there was an opportunity here, on the back of the attention that Daisy's story was getting, to highlight the very important issue of stillbirth and neonatal death and the work carried out by Sands.  As well as providing support to parents and families affected by the loss of a baby, Sands is also campaigning for more research to be carried out into the cause of these deaths, so that the numbers of babies' lives lost each year in the UK can be reduced.

Grazia magazine work closely with Sands to highlight the Why 17? campaign and to raise awareness of the number of babies who die every year in the UK as a result of stillbirth or neonatal death.  Grazia are urging the government to put more funding into researching the cause of these baby losses and how they might be reduced. 

Grazia was one of the magazines to contact me to see if I would consider sharing my experience with them, to pay tribute to Daisy and to share my ordeal with a view to helping others.  As I was already aware of the work they do with Sands, we decided that this was an opportunity to raise awareness of the issue of stillbirth and neonatal death and the work of the charity.  Grazia had also offered to make a financial donation to Sands in return for publishing the story about Daisy. 

My husband and I discussed this, and we spoke at length with the press office at Sands.  We decided that this opportunity to raise awareness was one we wanted to make the most of.  So this week Grazia will be carrying out a telephone interview with me to find out more about Daisy's story, about me and about my blog, in order to feature the story in a future issue of Grazia magazine.

We cannot bring Daisy back; but hopefully by sharing her story, I can do as much as I can to raise awareness of the issues and of the support available to parents and their families after the loss of a baby.  When Daisy died we felt so alone, so isolated - like we were the only family to ever go through this.  I now know that sadly 17 families, in the UK alone, go through the same traumatic experience every day.

From this point forward I am to commited to doing everything I can to support the work of the Sands charity, in memory of my beautiful little baby girl, Daisy.

Thank you for reading and for your continued support.

Best Wishes
Debbie



Monday, 23 July 2012

Thank you for your support and kindness...

I have been blown away by all the messages of support and kindness that have been sent to me in the days since Daisy's death.  It is so touching that you have taken the time to leave comments here on my blog, to send messages via Twitter and to send emails to me.  I'd love to be able to reply to each one of you individually.  It means a lot to me that you have passed on your condolences at such a heartbreaking time for us.  Thank you.

For all of the readers of my blog who have recently visited from Brazil - muito obrigado.  I don't speak Portuguese but I translated each of your comments so I could read them.  Your heartfelt messages of kindness were so nice to read and meant a lot to me.

When Daisy died, we felt so alone.  We felt that no-one understood what we were going through; we didn't know anyone, hadn't heard of anyone, who had been affected by the loss of a baby.  Now, through the comments and messages we have received, I know that we are not alone.  It is heartbreaking to read that so many other families have experienced similar loss in their lives.

I was reading on the Sands (Stillbirth & Neonatal Death Charity) website - http://www.uk-sands.org/ - that 17 babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth every day in the UK.  Every day.  I was astounded.  Until our recent experience I had no idea that stillbirth and neonatal loss figures were so high.  In the UK alone, 17 families will have their lives shattered in the same way as we have - every single day.  This shocked me to the core.  That's the loss of 6,500 babies every year in the UK.  And these heartbreaking figures don't take into account the number of babies who are lost through miscarriage.
Did you know that stillbirth in the UK is 10 times more common than cot death?  I couldn't believe it either.  I was unaware that so many babies still died in our modern times. 

Sands have launched a campaign to raise awareness of this devastating loss called the Why 17? campaign.  You can read more about this campaign here - http://www.why17.org/.  Sands are working hard to raise awareness of stillbirth and neonatal loss - here's a summary of the Campaign Aims from the website:
Through the Why17? campaign all of us here at Sands hope to raise awareness of the issues surrounding baby loss and to initiate a public debate about stillbirth and neonatal death. We will be urging all those interested parties to join with us to develop a national strategy to reduce the rates of baby loss.

What we at Sands want to see:
  • Increased public awareness of how many stillbirths and neonatal deaths there are in the UK.
  • Recognition that stillbirth and neonatal death is a national problem and not just one of those things.
  • A national strategy to reduce the number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths in the UK.
  • Funding for more research to improve understanding of why stillbirths and neonatal deaths happen and to identify high risk pregnancies and develop effective interventions.
Through the Why17? campaign, we are working with government and health bodies to create a national strategy for reducing the number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths in the UK.
Thank you for sharing your stories of your own baby losses, whether it be through miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal loss.  Or indeed loss of a baby or child at any age.  It has given me comfort that we are not alone in this.  Many of you have suggested links to helpful and supportive websites which may be of use to other families going through a similar pain and loss.  If you have found any sites on your travels that you found useful and would like to share them, please leave a comment below and I will compile a "Links" page on the menu above, keeping everything together.  I haven't had the time to look through all your suggestions as yet but from my own viewpoint I have found other blogs written by bereaved parents to be supportive at this devastating time.

Best Wishes
Debbie

Friday, 20 July 2012

Saying goodbye to Daisy

Yesterday our family and friends gathered together with us to say our goodbyes to our beautiful baby, Daisy.

I had been dreading the day of the funeral; all morning yesterday I felt sick and unwell.  I didn't want to go.  I didn't want to see the tiny coffin holding Daisy's little body.  I didn't want to feel the anguish and pain as we said our goodbyes.  I wanted to hide at home.

But I knew I had to go and my husband assured me, "we'll get through it together.  I'll be right by your side".

And get through it, we did.  The service was beautiful; the words meant so much to us.  We'd chosen the songs to play and the readings.  During the moment of reflection we listened to "Somewhere over the Rainbow".  I hope that's where little Daisy is now.

Everyone we know and love had gathered to support us in this sad, sad occasion.  We are so lucky to have such a supportive network of family and friends around us.  We cried; we talked about Daisy.  We shared her little life with others.

There's some relief now that the formalities of the funeral are behind us after waiting over two weeks for it to happen.

Now we can remember Daisy in our hearts; she will never be forgotten.  Our darling baby girl.

Debbie

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Letter to Daisy: A little bit of normal

Dear Daisy

Two weeks ago today you were born.  I've already written about the moment you came into the world.  I want to write about the day you were here; the 29 hours you spent with us.  But I'm not ready yet.  I want to tell your story; to make it real, tangible, for everyone who reads my blog and my letters to you.  But I'm not ready to do it today.  The pain of the memory is too fresh and too raw right now.  We'll talk about it another time.

Yesterday I tried to bring a little bit of normal into our day.

For the first time in what seems like weeks, we had a dry day.  It wasn't sunny or warm, but at least it was dry.  So, Lizzie and I went to the park.  A little bit of normal.

She took her scooter and whizzed along the pavement.  When we got there, she ran around.  She went on the swings.  I pushed her on the roundabout.  She climbed up the tower and flew down the slide - again and again.  She made friends with the other girls there.  A little bit of normal.

I sat on a bench and watched her play.  My little girl, Lizzie.  Your big sister.

She's growing up so fast.

We got home and Lizzie played outside in the garden.  She blew bubbles and I got my camera out to take pictures.  She posed and smiled and pulled crazy faces.  A little bit of normal.


There wasn't a breath of wind.  It was so still, the bubbles hung in the air for what seemed like an eternity.  I thought at the time that the bubbles reminded me of myself as I am feeling right now.  Moving - just.  Moving, but in slow motion.  Suspended in time, like time has been slowed down almost to a stop.


In the afternoon we did some baking.  Baking is normal in our house.  Lizzie licked the spoon, the bowl and the beaters.  Another little bit of normal.

(Well, admittedly it was Dad who did the baking.  I simply supervised.  Not quite normal!)

We had homemade pizza for tea - another little bit of normal.

Maybe that's how things need to be from now on, Daisy.  We start by introducing little bits of normal into our day, and then more bits of normal, until our days are the normal again.  I'm not sure that normal will ever be the same as the normal it was before; life has been irrevocably changed as a result of what has happened. But maybe we can accept the new normal in our lives and find ways to enjoy these normal moments.

I hope so, Daisy.

Lots of Love
Mummy






Monday, 16 July 2012

Letter to Daisy: Nine months with you

Dear Daisy

You only had one day together with us all in this world; but I had nine months with you.

During our honeymoon last year Dad and I decided we would have a baby together.  When we got home, we started trying soon after and we were so lucky - I fell pregnant straight away!  That positive pregnancy test after just a few weeks was so exciting.  Dad said, "it's meant to be".  He was excited too.

We didn't tell anyone; it was our secret for now.  I remember when the date came for the first scan and we saw you on the monitor for the first time; you were real!  A grainy image on the screen of the growing life inside of me.  Dad and I were holding hands as the sonographer ran the device over my tummy.  You were bobbing around in there and just starting to take shape.  Our little baby.

We shared the news with family and friends and everyone was delighted for us.  The days and weeks flew by and my body changed shape to accommodate you growing inside of me.  At my check ups I heard your heartbeat; strong.  You were healthy and growing and changing rapidly in your safe cocoon.

By the time we reached the halfway point, 20 weeks, I had started to feel you moving inside me.  Tiny, fluttering feelings of movement.  A daily reminder of the life I was growing, the baby that Dad and I had created.  You.

You got stronger and stronger and I grew and grew.  I delighted in the movements you made.  I'd lie for hours with my hands on my belly and feel your movements through the skin.  I felt like I was connecting with you.  Dad would ask, "what are you doing?!" and I would answer, "oh, just feeling the baby!" - in bed at night I'd lie still and smile as I felt you wriggling around.  Dad would place his hand on my tummy too and feel your movements.

I stroked my belly absent-mindedly throughout the day.  I always had my hands on my tummy, feeling you move.  I loved that feeling.  You were always very active and strong inside me.  As I sat at my desk at work, or in meetings, I loved to feel you move around.  I was so aware of you, all the time - my little baby, growing each day.

When my maternity leave started my routine changed.  I indulged in all my favourite things; I pottered around at home, I walked Lizzie to school, I cooked and I baked, I spent time with friends, I wandered round the shops.   All this time you were there, with me.  I carried you around in my belly and knew it wouldn't be for much longer - we'd meet you soon.  These were such happy days.  Full of life, anticipation, excitement, happiness.  I was so happy.

I told Dad that when you arrived and I'd no longer have you inside me, I'd miss having you in there.  I'd feel empty without a baby in my belly after nine months of growing and nurturing you.  Oh, how right I'd turn out to be but for all the saddest of reasons.

I miss you, Daisy.  You were only here in this world for a day; but you were here for nine months for me.  You were real to me for the nine months before you arrived in the world.  You were a part of me for nine months; and now you're gone.  I feel empty, literally.  There's a space inside of me where you once were and now you're not.  And you're not here with us either.

I miss you, Daisy.  I'm empty without you.

Lots of Love
Mummy

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Letter to Daisy: I feel so sad today

Dear Daisy

I feel so sad today.

I woke up at 2am and I was crying before I was even fully awake.  I couldn't stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks.  I tried to cry quietly; but Dad could feel the sobs I was trying to swallow back down and he woke up too.  He held me in his arms while I cried.

There's a knot in my stomach and my heart feels heavy.  I'm dragging my grief around with me like a stone.  A sour taste rises up in my throat and I have to choke it back down.  The blood rushes to my head and I hear it pounding in my ears.  I exhale slowly to focus my breathing and control the anguish that at times threatens to consume me.

I feel so sad today.

The temptation is there to lock myself away in my room and cry and cry and sob and wail.  To be alone and wallow in sadness and grief.  My despair is overwhelming.  And there's the loneliness; at times I feel so alone.  Like I'm the only one feeling how I am feeling, like no-one can possibly understand how I am feeling.

I feel so sad today.

But then the house starts to stir; the children wake up and then the flurry of activity that is the day begins.  Breakfast needs made; washing needs to be hung out; children need to get dressed; teeth need brushed; attention needs to be given.  The distractions begin.  I'd promised we'd play with plasticine today; the box has already been looked out by Lizzie and is waiting patiently on the chair beside me.

I bury my sadness to be indulged in another time.  I am needed at home.  I wipe away my tears and prepare myself to face the day.

Let's just get through today.

Lots of Love
Mummy

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Letter to Daisy: Your big sister's anticipation

Dear Daisy

Everyone was looking forward to you coming, but no-one anticipated your arrival more than your big sister, Lizzie.

She was the first person that I told about my pregnancy, following my first scan.  We hadn't wanted to tell anyone about the baby until we had the scan and knew that you were growing safely inside me.  So Auntie Heather looked after Lizzie whilst we were at the hospital, thinking we were going Christmas shopping - unknowing that we would come home with such exciting news!

We got back to Auntie Heather's house and I sat Lizzie down and said we had something to tell her.  I said that the doctor had looked in Mummy's tummy and found a baby growing in there!  Her eyes widened in surprise and she threw her arms round me and gave me a big hug.  I showed her your scan picture.  She was going to be your big sister!


She was convinced from the start that you would be a baby girl.  She desperately wanted a little sister!  We tried to warn her, prepare her, that you might be a boy - that we'd have to wait and see - but she insisted all along that you would turn out to be a little girl.

Over the next six months her excitement grew and she delighted in my changing body and my blossoming bump as you grew inside me.

She loved to lie on the bed beside me and listen to you through my belly.  She insisted she could hear you breathing!  She loved to feel your movements; she felt you kick long before Dad was sure he could feel those first tiny flutters of you.  She loved to watch you kicking and getting stronger.  She laughed when you had hiccups.  You often reacted to her voice as she talked to you, sang to you - Lizzie loved to feel you wriggling around in response to the things she said and her touch through my skin.


One day Lizzie accompanied me to my check-up with the midwife at the surgery.  The midwife let Lizzie use the handheld device to find your heartbeat.  There you were, strong and healthy.  Lizzie was so happy!  She helped the midwife to measure my bump and to take my blood pressure.  She was such a good helper and took great care of me whilst I was pregnant.

She massaged my feet when they were sore; she rubbed my back when it ached; she came in the bath with me and used body scrub on my shoulders to relieve my aches and pains.  She applied tummy cream to my growing bump to keep it smooth and soft.


For some reason she insisted on saying "preg-mint" instead of "pregnant" - no matter how many times we corrected her!

When I started maternity leave, Lizzie was so proud to have me taking her to school and collecting her each day.  She told everyone about you; your due date, how my pregnancy was going; how I was feeling; how she had been helping.  She was so proud to have a pregnant mummy and to be a big sister to you soon.  When the due date came and went, she told everyone that you were overdue, and by how many days.  She knew your arrival was imminent; the excitement was building and everything we did was centred around the build-up to you being born.

Lizzie was with me when my contractions started.

She was watching TV and I was snoozing on the couch beside her.  A contraction woke me up and I knew that you were coming.

I knew I had to get organised at this point so I made Lizzie's tea (fish fingers, of course!) and phoned Granny to come and keep us company whilst we waited on Dad getting home.

Lizzie had asked me before how I would know when the baby was coming, and I had explained that when I started to get a sore tummy that would let us know.  As I stood at the kitchen sink, holding on to the worktop and waiting for a contraction to pass, Lizzie came in.  She noticed what was happening and said excitedly, "is this the sore tummies starting now?" - I explained that yes, you were on your way - she was ecstatic!

She ran upstairs for some body lotion and then she massaged my lower back each time I had a contraction.  She didn't really know what was happening, but she knew you were coming.  This was it!  Six months of anticipation for her - from the moment we told her about you, to this moment - your impending arrival.

When Dad came home, Granny took Lizzie away to spend the night at her house.  I kissed Lizzie goodbye and knew the next time I saw her I'd have you beside me, my beautiful baby to share with her.  I was as excited as she was - our eagerly anticipated baby was on the way.

You were on your way.  Our beautiful baby.  Our beautiful little girl.

Lots of Love
Mummy





Friday, 13 July 2012

Letter to Daisy: The moment you came into the world

Dear Daisy

The first thing I thought about when I woke up this morning was the moment you came into the world and I saw you for the first time.

You were born on 3 July.  We missed the exact time you were born in all the flurry of activity when you arrived, but the consensus was 00.33 hours.

I was overjoyed to see you being held up by the midwife, Claire - she told us you were a girl and I felt so, so happy.  Secretly Dad and I had hoped that you would be a girl.  Your big sister Lizzie was desperate for a little sister and here you were.  I was delighted that I had grown a little girl in my tummy for 9 months and given Lizzie the little sister she was so hopeful for.

I watched as the other midwife, Adele, dried you and wrapped you in a towel.  I knew they were going to take you away to be checked over; when my waters were broken and the meconium was discovered, the midwives had let me know that you would need to be looked at by the baby doctors.  So I wasn't worried.  Adele whisked you out of the room and handed you over to the neonatal team to be taken to the Special Care Baby Unit.  I wasn't overly concerned.  I thought they would take you there for the once over and bring you back to me.  I thought we would have all the time in the world for kisses and cuddles once you had been looked at and checked over.

Dad and I looked at each other and smiled and kissed each other.  We were so happy.  Dad said to me "you did great, baby".  He was so proud of me for bringing you into the world.  I was so proud of myself for pushing you out of me and bringing you here safely.  I was relieved that I had coped with the pain of the labour and that you had arrived.

My beautiful baby girl.  Our beautiful baby girl.

We'd had your name picked from very early on in my pregnancy.  We both loved the name - Daisy.  Such a happy, pretty name for a little girl.

After the mechanics of the final stage of labour and birth had been taken care of, I was lying in the bed in the delivery room and Dad and I were holding hands.  We were discussing your middle name and what it should be.  We'd originally chosen Catherine as a middle name; but now that seemed too formal for such a happy and carefree name as Daisy.  So I suggested Kate instead.  Daisy Kate.  And so Daisy Kate it was.

A nurse from the Baby Unit had brought us a picture of you.  You had a small tube in your nose and a monitor on each hand.  Your eyes were open and your skin looked pink and soft.  Your hair was dark; like mine.  I couldn't wait to see you and hold you.

Dad got to go and see you in the Baby Unit.  He was gone for what felt like forever; perhaps it was only 20 minutes in reality - I'm not too sure.  I still had the effects of diamorphine in my system.  When he came back he was smiling from ear to ear.  He said you were beautiful.  I knew you would be.

I felt well enough to have a shower and get my nightie on.  You had decided to come into the world so quickly, I was still wearing my blue maternity top from earlier - I didn't have a chance to change!  So I showered and got dressed and Claire said she would take me to see you in the Baby Unit.  I remember feeling surprisingly well; despite the physical experience I had been through, I felt so happy.  Euphoric!  Maybe it was the combination of the painkilling drugs and the happiness of bringing you here.  But I remember feeling so happy at that moment in time.  You were here.

Seeing you in the Special Care Baby Unit didn't alarm me.  I knew that babies who had been born with meconium in the waters sometimes needed help at the start.  So although you were hooked up to a couple of monitors I wasn't overly concerned or worried.  You were sleeping.  What struck me was how much you looked like your sister when she was first born.  Amazing!  I was amazed.  Here you were; a part of me; a part of Dad; a part of your sister; a part of your brother.  The missing piece in our family jigsaw, linking us all together.

I was taken to the ward and I went to sleep.  You weren't beside me but I knew that you were here and you were safe.  Dad went home and he went to sleep.  He knew we were both in the hospital and we were safe.

I'll never forget those few happy hours where everything was ok and happy and the future was bright.

Lots of Love
Mummy




Thursday, 12 July 2012

A heartbreaking task - choosing clothes for Daisy

We're still waiting on a date for Daisy's funeral; this cannot be arranged until Daisy is returned to the funeral home following the post-mortem in Edinburgh.  Until then, we have the prospect of the upcoming funeral hanging over us like a black cloud.

We wanted to choose an outfit for Daisy to wear in her coffin and our daughter helped us with this heartbreaking task.  We hadn't wanted to know the sex of our baby until the birth, so the clothing we had bought was just in white.  We hadn't bought a lot of clothing for the baby as we were waiting to find out if we'd need pink or blue, but I had bought enough vests and sleepsuits for my hospital bag - so it was from this bundle of white baby clothing that we made our selection.

Chosen for Daisy was little white vest with a bunny and a bear on the front; a pair of white scratch mittens; a white hat with the word "tiny" on it; and a white sleepsuit with a picture of a mummy zebra and a baby zebra, and the words "mummy and me".  I carefully folded each of these precious little items and placed them in a bag along with a tiny size 1 newborn nappy.

As well as the clothes for Daisy we decided to enclose a letter and a photograph for her coffin.  Our daughter wrote the letter and I took it to the stationery shop in the town to have it photocopied so we could keep a copy in Daisy's memory box.  She also chose a photograph to include.  She picked one of our wedding photographs of the four of us; me, my husband, my daughter and my stepson.  We're all smiling and laughing and celebrating a happy day.  My daughter said it would show Daisy how happy we are as a family.

At this moment in time I can't ever imagine being happy again.

Today we handed Daisy's clothes into the funeral home.  As I handed over the bag to the funeral director I felt a physical wrench in my stomach as it hit me that I would never get the chance to dress my baby.  My beautiful baby girl that I grew in my belly for nine months and brought into the world.

I broke down and cried in the car before we set back off for home.

Thank you all for reading and for all your kind and thoughtful comments; it is a great source of comfort to me.

Best Wishes
Debbie




Wednesday, 11 July 2012

To blog or not to blog?

Thank you for all your kind comments on my blog post yesterday.  It's very comforting to hear from others - even complete strangers - at such a time of sadness and loss.

At the moment I am simply concentrating on getting through one day, one task at a time.

I have been thinking about my blog and and about all the things I love to write about - my family, my home, cooking and baking, gluten-free living, saving money... and for now I can't imagine ever feeling able to take pleasure from those simple things again.  I am hoping that with time, these things will filter back into my routine and bring me enjoyment once more.

So what I am deliberating is whether to hang off from blogging until my posts reflect all the "normal" things I've written about in the past - I'm assuming that readers of my blog follow because they enjoy reading about the things I write about - or whether to continue writing through this time of deep sorrow and grief.  I wonder if writing about how I am feeling, and the challenges I face each day, might be helpful to me in some way?  I have never experienced pain and grief at this level before.  However, I do not want to put off my readers by writing about such sad times and feelings of despair and loss.

Any thoughts?

Best Wishes
Debbie




Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The saddest of news - the loss of our baby.

Our beautiful baby girl arrived on Tuesday 3 July at 0.33am after keeping us waiting 9 days over my due date.  We called her Daisy.

The delivery went quickly and smoothly following a straightforward pregnancy.  However, at birth Daisy was showing signs of being poorly and was transferred to the Special Care Baby Unit for some help.

Sadly her condition worsened very rapidly.  The doctors were unable to save her and she passed away on Wednesday 4 July at 5.25am.

Words cannot express how devastated and heartbroken we are feeling.  This is the saddest and darkest time of our lives.

We are taking strength from the support and kindness of others around us at this incredibly difficult time.

Thank you to all of you who sent messages asking how things are.  I'm very sad to be sharing such upsetting news.

Debbie