“And that’s why Petals can be such a huge support. Counsellors are trained to really listen and empathise and give you that safe space to talk about anything and everything without any judgement. It also helps you to unjumble the complex emotions that surround life after baby loss. Losing a child is such a lonely experience but charities like Petals act as that helping hand, guiding you through the darkness to hopefully a happier chapter in life. It’s not about moving on but about moving forwards and your baby will forever be a part of your loving family.”
In July 2020, after a low-risk and healthy pregnancy, my husband and I had our world turned upside down when our perfect daughter, Cora, died just 24 hours old due to a complication in labour. She was resuscitated after birth and spent one day in NICU before she couldn’t fight any longer; we held her in our arms as she took her last breath and we said goodbye forever.
We’d entered the hospital on that day, 10 days overdue and so excited to start our new life with our baby, but left only 48 hours with empty arms, broken hearts and no understanding of what had gone so wrong.
I’d always wanted a home birth and as my pregnancy was low-risk, this is what we’d excitedly planned for. It’s hard to tell a positive birth story when it ends in one of the worst ways but the majority of my labour really was such a calm and positive experience. I laboured at home for 14 hours and had been pushing in the pool for a while, feeling so confident that we were about to meet our baby. It turns out, I wasn’t fully dilated and after discovering my cervix was now swollen, we decided to head to hospital. After I was given an epidural, it all seemed to go wrong so quickly. baby’s heartbeat dropped, came back, then dropped again, and the room filled with people as I was rushed off for an emergency C-section. I was told, due to the urgency of the situation, that I’d be put to sleep but just before everything went black, I remember the panic in the midwife’s voice as she shouted to someone else that she couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat.
The 24 hours we got to spend with Cora in the NICU were so heart-breaking yet special. Everyone must think it about their baby but she really was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen – a chubby 8lbs 8 girl with a full head of black hair and rosebud lips.
After we said our heart-breaking goodbye to her, we spent another day and night together in the hospital, along with some family members who were able to visit, making memories to last us a lifetime.
Many months after her death, we found out that there had been an issue with the placenta which would have occurred very late in pregnancy and would have made her extra vulnerable during labour. That, along with mistakes made by the hospital resulted in her being starved of oxygen during labour.
It’s been just over a year since Cora died. Does it get better? Yes and no. I think, once the shock and numbness eventually wears off, you become better at living with and coping with the grief. Other emotions, such as joy and happiness can be welcomed back into your life but the grief never disappears. In the early days, I was so desperate to be ‘fixed’ and to make the pain go away. I spent hours searching the internet, looking for other people in my situation and I soon realised that while there were things I could do to help heal, there is no fixing a broken heart. From my online searching, I came across the wonderful charity, Petals.
We started having regular counselling sessions over zoom with Petals 6 months after Cora died and It’s really helped to provide us with a safe space to talk about Cora and life without her. The flexibility of when we need these sessions has also been invaluable – sometimes I feel the need for them every 2 weeks, sometimes I feel a month between a session is needed. They initially start with 6 sessions but as we got pregnant during this time period, we were offered sessions until baby #2 arrives which has been such a huge support for us – pregnancy after loss is so difficult. My husband has attended a number of these with me which has also helped with our understanding of each other’s grief. We have a very open and supportive relationship (which has only got stronger since Cora died) and have no issues with communication, but counselling somehow manages to bring to the surface memories/discussions that you perhaps wouldn’t talk about without a trained counsellor there to facilitate.
I think one of the hardest things about coping with baby loss are the misconceptions and lack of understanding from our society, and also from our loved ones. I feel grateful, on the whole, that I have such loving friends and family who listen and support us as much as they can. Do they understand? No, I don’t think you can ever fully understand unless you’ve lost a child of your own. Loved ones want nothing more than for you to be happy and the way we’ve been taught to do that is to ‘be positive’ and ‘move on’. This doesn’t work with baby loss. And that’s why Petals can be such a huge support. Counsellors are trained to really listen and empathise and give you that safe space to talk about anything and everything without any judgement. It also helps you to unjumble the complex emotions that surround life after baby loss. Losing a child is such a lonely experience but charities like Petals act as that helping hand, guiding you through the darkness to hopefully a happier chapter in life. It’s not about moving on but about moving forwards and your baby will forever be a part of your loving family. I believe the more we talk about baby loss, the more understanding and acceptance our society will gain which will hopefully lead to bereaved parents feeling better supported and understood.
If anyone would like to connect, you can find me on Instagram @han_sinnott