Kimberley & Matt have been married since 2017 and have three beautiful children aged 13, 10 & 3.
In 2019 Kimberley fell pregnant with her 4th child which ended in a late miscarriage. This is the story of her 4th pregnancy and what happened next.
Can you tell us your story?
I found out I was expecting just before Christmas in 2019, I was absolutely elated as we had wanted and hoped for a fourth child. I fell ill with what I assumed was a common cold/flu in January and it would not budge and was progressively getting worse. I was given three courses of antibiotics and by late February I felt like myself again but was very worried about the baby. I had my 12 week scan which confirmed the baby was healthy and ok. At 16 weeks we decided to pay for a private scan as a reassurance scan and had a harmony test to just ensure all was well. The results came back that I was having a little girl, a perfectly healthy little girl. So I was beyond relieved and happy and we announced to our friends & family that we were having a baby. I became a little concerned that I hadn’t felt any movement in between this time and called the midwife who explained that it can take up to 21 weeks before you feel movement so I was coming up to my 20 week scan and was looking forward to that for the reassurance.
On the 20 April, I woke up excited as I had my 20 week scan, we were in the middle of another lockdown so my husband could not come with me so I went on my own. I was called into the room by the sonographer and laid on the table. The room was silent, I could see my baby on the monitor but thought she was sleeping. It went eerily quiet and the sonographer asked the question “Do you have other children?” at the time I became a little worried thinking they had found something wrong with the baby so I asked the question, is there something wrong? It was then they told me that they could not detect a heartbeat. Another sonographer was brought in for a second opinion and they confirmed that my baby had died.
It was in that moment that my world fell apart, I felt completely crushed and it is something that is soul destroying and will stay with me for the rest of my life.
I was taken to a room which all seems a bit of a blur now, people talking to me yet not being able to comprehend or understand what they were saying. I was being spoken to and began to be induced at my request for this to take place immediately and I called my husband to break the terrible news. The next day I packed a bag and went to the Princess Alexandra Hospital and was admitted to their Start Bereavement room. This was the room where I would be delivering my little girl, the thought of labouring for anyone is filled with anxiety but knowing you will be delivering your baby who has died well it takes a thousand strengths and anyone who has lived through the rawness of bereavement will feel broken into a million pieces but will also know they have the strength of a lion because you have to mentally & physical prepare yourself for the unthinkable.
I was induced on 20 April and my labour did not kick in until 22 April, I was so petrified of what was about to happen, what I was about to see, I had two panic attacks, one when my waters broke and one as I was delivering. It was after a 7 hour labour that I delivered my little girl Angel-Rose. At first I couldn’t look at her, I did not want to see her, I did not want to believe this was really happening to me. I was also drained & exhausted from the labour so my husband stepped in like a true hero and the perfect dad that he is, he stayed by her side until I had the strength to face reality.
After an hour or two I saw my little girl, Angel-Rose. She was a perfectly formed tiny little human and I fell in love instantly, I held her and never wanted to let her go. I stayed with her for a further 24 hours, and those memories will forever be so precious to me.
Three months later, Angel-Rose’s death came back cause of death unknown. She was perfectly healthy and I was given the odds of 1 in 200,000. One thing a mother can sometimes cling on to is the thought of getting answers, but that is rarely the case so they also need to prepare that you may not get the closure you so desperately want.
How did you come to Petals?
When I talk to people about my experience, the hardest part for me was leaving my baby at the hospital. No one ever wants to say goodbye, especially to a tiny baby so delicate, so small and you their parent, their protector leaving them and saying goodbye and walking away broke me.
We were leaving the hospital not with a baby, but a cardboard box which was a box of memories we made whilst in the hospital with our little girl, but it wasn’t our baby.
When I was home, I kept reliving the whole experience again and again and again and it felt so traumatic. Then because my little girl was born at 20 weeks she is classed as a late miscarriage, not a stillbirth. So, at that point I had only been signed off work for two weeks, a week in hospital and a week to recover. Then I was straight back to work and this being in the middle of lockdown I was working from home full time, juggling 3 children whilst grieving. I became so overwhelmed and so emotionally detached that I did not want to see or speak to anyone. I just wanted to lay in bed and cry, but I never really had the chance to grieve and I just had to keep pretending everything was normal to do my job, to ensure the kids were ok and happy. However, I was very emotional, exhausted and drained, I could not sleep, and I felt irritable and frustrated and angry all the time.
After speaking with my husband, I reached out to my GP to explain what I was feeling, having clearly not looked at my notes his response was “its lockdown everyone is feeling like this at the moment take some time off”. This infuriated me as I wanted to scream, I lost my baby, my baby died…but I didn’t, I just hung up.
Speaking to my bereavement midwife I remember her talking to me about Petals, a charity I had never ever heard of before and I decided to reach out to them, and they were incredible. Within the space of 3 weeks they had set me up with 6 1-hour sessions of counselling.
What has been your experience of counselling?
I had never had counselling before; I think there is a stigma around counselling that if you have it then you have mental health issues. However I think wellbeing is such a huge factor in peoples agenda that it was something that I wanted to explore, I wanted to reach out to get help navigating my grief and to almost comprehend in my head what has happened and almost have confirmation that what I was feeling was normal.
Firstly, my counsellor was almost like having a chat with a friend, non-judgemental, empathetic, caring and just what I needed. She was almost a sounding board that wasn’t someone I knew, someone I could talk about freely about the was I was feeling, talk about why I was angry, why I was frustrated and why I felt that this was so unbelievably unfair and if I wanted to cry I could, if I wanted to vent my anger I could. Having a counsellor enabled me to be very expressive about my feelings, which in turn encouraged me to be more expressive and communicate my feelings to my husband and my children.
It helps me articulate that the shock, anger, resistance, acceptance & healing was all stages of my grief.
Counselling didn’t take my sadness away, but it helped me navigate my grief and grow from it and it was a great support mechanism when I needed it the most.
What did you struggle with the most?
I felt like a failure, I felt so guilty, I felt isolated and the constant question why me? Why my baby?
I felt lost and alone, you have this whole future mapped out in front of you and suddenly that is robbed from you. So you have all these milestones you need to get through.
The whole experience to a point haunted me, I relived it every day, flashbacks of the scan, the delivery, the rawness of feelings and emotions, anxiety & fear is just through the roof.
How did your family and friends support you?
What was really hard is we had limited support due to Covid and lockdown so was incredibly difficult with little support. However our friends and family were obviously broken for us and we were inundated with cards, flowers and thoughtful gifts that really touched our hearts.
I think the biggest support probably would have been some respite, I could have quite easily laid in bed for weeks in a dark room but I had to get up and I had to live and that strength come from my husband and my kids who were so unbelievably strong and brave at that time and the wonderful friends & family we have.
Was there anything in your care pathway that you felt could have been different?
Well, I could not fault the care I received in the hospital, the midwifes and the care I received.
However I do wish that my midwife appointments prior to this could have been face to face but in the current climate with COVID I do not fault them having to do telephone consultations. I do wish my cold/flu was investigated at the beginning of the year as it was confirmed through blood tests that I had contracted COVID whether it would have made a difference I do not know, but maybe the right medication could have been administered.
GP’s need to be more empathetic to the needs of both men & women following baby loss to ensure they have the right support and guidance.
One thing that stands out to me is that I think it is awful for mums who labour & deliver a baby don’t have any formalised agreed time off. That their baby is not recognised as a stillborn and we have to refer to our child as a late miscarriage. No matter the gestation of a baby loss the pain is unbearable and all loss matters. However, I do think that women who deliver a baby and hold their baby should be given the dignity of recognising their birth and their baby be registered as a stillbirth.
What does your future look like?
If you had asked me this question back in April last year my response would have been very bleak and pessimistic. I am not going to sit here and say I still don’t have days where I feel overwhelmed with sadness or don’t have a little cry, because I do. However, my daughter Angel-Rose has given me a new lease of life because she has given me a new perspective on life, a complete review of my priorities and purpose. I have done a lot of fundraising in her name, I am supporting midwife training by telling my story and I want to help and support in any way I can to any other families struggling with loss and if my story can help then I will continue to tell it. My daughter has taught me life is so precious and one thing of comfort someone said to me is my baby was never cold, never hungry, never knew fear and only ever knew love and that’s a great comfort to me. She was only here for a short time but was so loved and will continue to be loved and part of our family forever.
What does Petals mean to you?
Reaching out is never an easy task and when I reached out to Petals the response was so prompt and straight forward, then actually having the counselling, knowing that you had this support was reassuring. It meant so much I donated £500 to the charity because I thought if I can help just one other mum then that would give me some comfort. Petals is a charity but it is a charity you probably don’t, wont hear about unless you have suffered the unthinkable, unimaginable so it almost becomes a community who want to support and be there at a time when you need it the most.
My own GP did not think to offer me counselling or any additional support, so having charities that parents can reach out to in their darkest hour, to get counselling that is at no cost, that can help you navigate your grief and give you some comfort is something I will be forever grateful for.