Simon and Sally (daughter Hope was stillborn)
Sally: We had a perfectly normal textbook healthy pregnancy from day one right till the very end. I was about one day past my due date and I’d gone into labour normally and naturally at home, everything was progressing well, we went to the hospital and they said that I wasn’t far enough progressed to stay in hospital, to go home and wait a couple more days and we did and then a couple of days later is when I noticed that the baby had stopped moving. So we went back into hospital for what was a routine check-up that day anyway and told us that the baby had no heartbeat.
Kelly and Gavin (daughter Alexandra was stillborn)
Gavin: Kel was getting a bit bigger than she should’ve and we had some tests and she was getting more fluid in the womb, we had some more tests.
Kelly: I was huge, it was growing, the fluid was just getting massive so I started having monitoring and it was flagged something might be wrong with the baby.
Gavin: Then a couple of days later we found out the results of the test and we entered this world where the doctor sat us down and talked us through what was happening and then they used the phrase ‘the baby’s got a condition that’s incompatible with life’ and it was just this is the word you had to think what does that mean?
Kelly: They didn’t say ‘Your baby is going to die’, they said ‘Incompatible with life’ and there was just so much information and I think I just didn’t understand, sort of ‘What do you mean?’
Sally: And then sort of being put into a room then with counsellors and other doctors coming in and people talking at you and telling you what’s going to happen next and you don’t even know where you are and all of a sudden you’re being talked through funeral options and having to make phone calls to our family who think we’re ringing to tell them the baby’s being born because of course they all know I’m in labour and past my due date, and then Simon’s having to tell them ‘No, this has happened, you’d better come to the hospital’. I think when a stillbirth happens, even though it’s very common, no one thinks it’s going to happen to them and no one knows how common it is until it happens to them.
Kelly: At that stage we were told that she would probably be born alive and that they would palliate her.
Gavin: We went into hospital to get induced and during the birth Kel haemorrhaged and had a code pink and all the people came rushing in and Alexandra died during the birth, and it was also about saving mum as well.
Sally: The next day I still had to deliver the baby.
Simon: Yeah, we went home that night after learning that Hope had died and spent a very long night together.
Sally: At home, yeah.
Simon: And went in the next day.
Sally: Yeah, I was admitted at 8am the next morning to be induced. Even though I was sort of already in labour, I think the shock had probably just stopped my labour. So I was induced the next morning and gave birth at 4:30 that day, so laboured quite normally and gave birth at 4:30 to an 8 pound otherwise perfectly healthy and normal baby. So I still, in that first week, was still a regular postpartum mother except no baby to care for.
Gavin: The hospital, they let us stay as long as we wanted and they gave us a quiet room down the end and it’s pretty horrible hearing the other babies cry, but they just let us stay and they were mostly great, just looking after us and giving us as much time as possible.
Kelly: They were, they were wonderful. But it’s very hard to be in a maternity ward, a little room down the end with this beautiful little baby and not being able to take her home and to hear all the babies crying and laughter; it was very distressing and very, very sad and very hard to leave the hospital.
Yasna Meldrum (maternal and child health nurse, counsellor): The birth notice that is generated after the birth of all babies, whether they’re born alive or whether they’re stillborn, that will still be generated. So out in the community the maternal child health nurse will know that there is a mother who has given birth and that her baby has not survived so that when the follow-up is done, the nurse is quite aware of what’s gone on with that family. So the phone call will still occur about offering a home visit to follow-up. Some nurses in their practice will offer further follow-up visits as well for the mother, especially at that 2-3 month period when perhaps that really acute period is over and it’s like ‘Well where to from here? This is where I’m feeling, I’m really needing to talk with somebody now’ and that initial shock, that initial denial is over and the reality of the whole grief is really there. so just checking in, ‘How are you? What supports are you requiring at the moment? How are things going at home? Can I link you in with some support groups in the community?’ because sometimes planting the seeds is important and when you’ve gone it’s like ‘Mm, I didn’t think there were support groups out there’ or ‘Maybe I actually really am needing some support. I think I do want to take up that offer’.