On Friday 12th April our worlds were flipped upside down after receiving the news that no parent should ever have to hear. Jason and I were expecting our first child and on this day were 24 weeks + 5 days pregnant with our little girl (although we decided not to find out her gender prior to this). I had gotten used to her movements from around 18 weeks and would usually expect a little wriggle last thing at night and first thing in the mornings. I work at this particular hospital so when Friday morning came around I woke up at the usual time of 5.30am and started to carry out my normal routine. Except this morning there was no movement. To cut a long story short, I presented to the delivery suite with reduced movements and a midwife used a doppler to check the baby's heartbeat.
I sent a text to Jason earlier that day to inform him of my concerns, but we kind of reassured each other that the baby was just a little more chilled out today so I said I'd contact him once I'd returned back to work. Little did I know I wasn't going to be returning that day, or the next. This is when our worst fears became reality.
With just myself and a midwife present, the only sound that echoed throughout the whole room was my own heartbeat that was being picked up by the doppler. I can't remember how long this period of 'trying to find a heartbeat' lasted for. It felt like hours but in reality it was just a few minutes. I heard the words 'I won't put you through this stress any longer, I'll find a doctor to get the ultrasound'. For around 5 minutes I lay alone on a delivery suite bed, in scrubs because my usual work tunic no longer fit, next to an empty baby's cot, staring at the clock as the sound of my own heart beat increasing became more profound in the moments that I waited for that doctor to come and confirm that I had in fact lost my baby.
The next 72 hours were amongst the worst hours of our entire lives, but filled with various emotions that simply cannot be explained in just a few sentences. The pain we felt during this time both physically and mentally is something we truly would never wish upon anyone - I feel so strongly about this. However, unfortunately, the topic of miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death is still very much a taboo subject and even worse than this is the fact that it is a lot more common than we imagine. Every day in the UK, 17 babies are stillborn and a total of 1 in every 4 women will experience the heart-wrenching loss of a baby. Whilst it is a topic very sensitive to the world for fear of it happening and the unwillingness to ever accept we could be one of those 4 couples, it is an incredibly lonely experience for the unfortunate ones among us that belong to this club. Therefore this fundraising is not only to raise money, but raise awareness and help tackle the taboo of baby loss. It is not meant to instil fear or anxiety but open up the conversation so that less people feel 'ashamed' that they haven't returned home with a baby in their arms.
The fundraising aspect of Maddison's movement is to raise as little or as much money as possible to help future families in this unfortunate situation get the memories they deserve with their little ones. The NNUH is undergoing development of a specific bereavement room that is clinically set up on the delivery suite, and extra funds are needed to allow furnishings and equipment which will turn this area into a homely environment and a safe space to allow the induction, labouring and delivering to take place away from the main areas, whereby reminders of healthy births may cause additional trauma for grieving parents who are about to undergo the delivery of a stillborn. This is not the only benefit that this room will provide - it will also allow those parents and their families to spend as little or as much time as they wish in the hours/days that follow the birth, with their child and give them the only chance they will ever have to create memories, make hand and footprints, cuddle and kiss their babies, even bring siblings or grandparents along to meet them. We were fortunate enough to have been given a room (although this did require certain equipment to be removed in order not to upset us), to spend as little or as long as we needed in following Maddison's birth, which played such a vital part in our acceptance and acute grief, knowing we at least spent the time we could as a family, something we are so grateful for. Had this delivery suite been busier that day than it was, or a pull-out bed not have been available for Jason, this opportunity may not have been so easily available for us, therefore knowing there will be a specific room dedicated to those in this situation is a step forward in helping just a fraction with the pain that is felt at this time.
Any donations no matter how small or efforts of fundraising towards this will be hugely appreciated, for we know exactly how beneficial this really is. Once the room is ready for use, any extra funds will remain within the baby bereavement charity (separate from the main hospital) which will help circulate the services that are so vital for these families. However, if this is not possible, then I ask you all to find the time to have a conversation/read a book/reach out to someone who may have experienced it and to help us keep our little Maddison's memory alive through simple conversation.
Thank you, Ashleigh & Jason.