On the day that my daughter, May, was born during the spring of 2012, my husband Simon and I held her in our arms and were relieved and happy that she was safe. We were elated – even though there was a part of me that was still grieving for our daughter, Rose, who had been stillborn a year before.
I met Simon in 2007 in New York. Three years later, at the age of 40, I was pregnant and had moved to London. I had a totally normal pregnancy and kept thinking how lucky I was.
Our baby, a girl, was two weeks overdue, so one night I had a hot bath and rolled around on a ball in an attempt to bring on labour. It came on very fast, but I sensed that something was wrong and called an ambulance.
When the medics arrived I was in agony, and asked them not to touch me. Once I said that, they were legally required not to touch me at all. I had to walk down the stairs, which was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
When we got to the hospital, there was a delay finding the birthing centre. By then the baby was in distress, but we didn’t know – there was no neonatal heart monitor in the ambulance. It was too late for a caesarean, so they delivered her with forceps. I kept calling out, ‘Where’s my baby?’ No one looked me in the eye. Then Simon told me she hadn’t made it: the cord was wrapped around her neck three times.
We named her Rose. I put her lifeless body on my breast, praying that I could bring her back to life. I remember thinking this kind of thing doesn’t happen these days – but it does. Eleven newborn babies die on average every day in the UK, so I’m pleased that the Government has now promised independent reviews for all cases.
My perception of reality shifted into a more spiritual place after Rose died. The first thing we did was listen to recordings by Thich Nat Hahn, a Buddhist monk who talks about ‘the conditions of happiness’; I wanted to be open to feeling gratitude for being alive. That’s literally how I survived.
A man who makes picture frames for the National Gallery made Rose a casket of exquisite beauty, for her cremation. He refused to be paid.
Friends, family and strangers treated us with love, respect and kindness, even if they didn’t always know exactly what to say
We contacted the neonatal charity Sands and a woman came to see us, which helped, as she had been through the same thing. They also arranged for us to have a memory box, with a lock of Rose’s hair and her foot print. Friends, family and strangers treated us with love, respect and kindness, even if they didn’t always know exactly what to say.
We had decided straight away that we would try for another baby, and I conceived three months later. I had to harass the hospital to schedule a meeting for some kind of resolution. When we finally met, they said they would use some of our recommendations for the training of ambulance crews.
I went into labour with May on the same day and at the same hour, one year later, as I had with Rose, but May was born by caesarean because I was too scared to have a natural birth. I’ve told May she is connected to her sister. She’s five now, but she understands.
As told to Kate Morris
For support, visit uk-sands.org
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