Loss

Lets Break The Silence

I was under no illusion when I decided to write about Alex and our life after losing him that it would not be to everyone’s taste. Us British do not like talk of death and grief, we prefer a stiff upper lip over tears and emotion. I was recently told by a friend that someone who had read my blog had commented that it was morbid, and despite being prepared for negative comments, I have to admit that it bothered me. Morbid felt like a strong word and I felt that familiar feeling of shame after hearing it. And then I got frustrated, frustrated with our society and its ignorance of stillbirth and frustrated at its willingness to turn the other cheek because talking of a baby dying makes us feel uncomfortable. So in light of that, I thought I would write a blog on why I feel talking about Alex is so important.

Morbid is defined as an abnormal and unhealthy interest in disturbing and unpleasant subjects such as death. And that is the basis of why the word bothered me so much. My interest in Alex is not at all abnormal and unhealthy, my interest is exactly the same as any other mother has in their child, it is healthy, natural and fierce. I cannot help that Alex’s story centres around his death and I cannot help that this makes people feel uncomfortable. And yet because of that, over and over again families of stillborn babies are ostracised and ignored by society. I’ve always said that I wouldn’t wish losing a child on my worst enemy and its true, I honestly wouldn’t. The pain is indescribable. But there is the odd occasion where I just wish that people could walk a mile in our shoes to have a better understanding of what its like. Hopefully then they would see that the stigma and taboo surrounding child loss is a constant battle for us. Losing a child is painful enough without having to put the feelings of the masses before our own.

And yet it is hard to blame people for their ignorance when the media and government do so little to light the way and open up the conversation around stillbirth. The BBC recently declined to show Still Loved, a documentary showing peoples experiences after losing a baby, as it was deemed to be too upsetting. It was then shown in selected cinemas around the UK but some of those also declined as ‘who would want to see that?’ 1 in every 200 babies are born still. 10 babies a day! This is not something that should be easy to ignore, we need to talk about it, we need to educate ourselves and we need to get better at supporting those 10 parents who lost a baby today. As parents to stillborn babies one of our biggest fears is that our children will be forgotten. The only way to stop that is by talking and people need to understand that this is totally normal.

By myself and other parent sharing our babies stories there are so many amazing things which can be achieved. The first has to be more funding of research into miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death. This area is massively underfunded by the government and that means that the all-important research into preventing so many babies dying is simply not happening. Only by talking and getting the issue out there will we be able to accomplish this goal.

By opening up the conversation around stillbirth, family and friends will hopefully have a better understanding of how to support parents grieving for their baby. Everyone grieves differently but having more awareness of grief and its different forms will allow families to grieve in whatever way they need to and not feel judged. Parents themselves will also know that what they are going through is normal. When we lost Alex I had no idea that what I was feeling was so common following a stillbirth. It is totally normal to feel angry, ashamed, confused, lonely and guilty as well as being desperately sad, it is normal for your arms to physically ache for your baby. Reading other peoples experiences of stillbirth and seeing that they felt the same things as me helped me not feel so alone. Those stories filled the gap and answered the questions that my family and friends couldn’t.

And lastly, I have found that by talking openly about Alex we are creating new, positive and exciting memories in his name. I have had a couple of friends come to me in recent months wanting to do things to raise money in memory of Alex for charities like 4Louis, SANDS and Tommy’s (I will post details of these on the blog as soon as I have them) These wonderful events not only help these incredible charities but they will give us an easier way to bring Alex into a conversation. It will always begin with “we are doing this because our son was born sleeping” but hopefully when coupled with a charity event people will find it more palatable.

I will never apologise for speaking out and telling Alex’s story. The silence needs to be broken and how can we do that if we conform and stay silent? I made Alex a promise before I left him in the hospital, and that was that I would always speak about him, I would never be ashamed and I would never let him be forgotten. I intend to keep my promise and by speaking about him I intend to make the noise that he never had the opportunity to make.

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Rachel & Alex x

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Loss

Alex’s Birth Story

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I’ve been thinking a lot over the past week about how I am going to write Alex’s birth story. I’ve found it difficult to write, myself and Rob (my husband) have talked it over many times and the truth of it is, there are parts that neither of us can remember. The only thing I can put this down to is the complete and utter shock we felt at the time. It makes me feel so sad now, I feel disappointed with myself, I want to remember everything no matter how much it hurts to think back on. We don’t have a lifetime of happy memories to block out the bits we would rather not remember. But I’ve come to the conclusion that the shock and its effects on us are just a part of Alex’s story too.

 

My pregnancy with Alex was uneventful as far as pregnancy’s go. I already have two children and I enjoyed this pregnancy with the laid-back attitude that comes from having been there and done that. Both of my boys were way too comfy and were ten days overdue before I finally went into labour and Alex was exactly the same. I was eight days over and starting to feel fed up when I finally went into labour. I actually considered myself lucky at the time that he hadn’t kept me waiting quite as long as his older brothers.

 

Early labour started on Sunday, finally the baby we had waited so long to meet would soon be in our arms, I couldn’t wait to see the reactions of his older brothers William & Thomas. In bed that evening I timed the contractions trying to keep quiet and allow Rob to get some sleep; knowing only too well the sleep deprivation that comes with a newborn. By the time morning came I knew I was getting to the point where we should go to the hospital, we rang my Mom to come and look after the boys and put our carefully packed hospital bag in the car along with Alex’s car seat.

 

I was bouncing on a birthing ball when the midwife came in and sat down to ask me the usual questions. How often are the contractions? How long are they lasting? Are baby’s movements ok?

 

I stuttered.

 

I didn’t know. I had been concentrating so much on breathing through the contractions I hadn’t noticed Alex’s movements. Despite this the midwife didn’t outwardly show any concern and I didn’t feel any. In our excitement, I hadn’t eaten or drank anything that morning so we decided on some tea and toast and hopefully we would have felt Alex again by the time she came back.

 

When she did come back I was desperate to say he was wiggling as normal but the truth was I still hadn’t felt anything at all other than contractions. A second midwife listened to Alex with a pinard, she seemed to hear a heartbeat and we both felt Alex kick which reassured me that everything was fine. The midwife in charge then listened with a doppler and after a lot of trying she couldn’t find a heartbeat. I feel so naïve looking back, I was totally oblivious to what had happened. Surely I should have known that something was wrong. Stillbirth was so far from my mind at that moment, it wasn’t even a possibility. After two scans with different scanners we were finally given those words. The words that no parent ever wants to hear. The words which broke our hearts and forever changed our lives. The words which sealed our entrance into the club that nobody wants to be in.

 

“I’m really sorry but your baby has died”

 

I remember the complete disbelief so clearly. What do you mean he’s died? No, he hasn’t. Get him out! Save him! You hear amazing stories of babies defying the odds all the time, Alex was a perfectly healthy, full term baby, I was sure they could do something. There wasn’t. Alex was gone and there was nothing they could do. I was in a room full of people and all I wanted was to be alone with Rob, I needed the labour to stop; I needed time to process what I had just been told.

 

There was no stopping though, we were taken off the labour ward, away from the healthy crying babies and into the Willow Suite to deliver our sleeping baby. I’ve had two babies without an epidural before and it wasn’t on my well-prepared birth plan this time either. I begged for it. I didn’t want to feel the pain. The shock and grief felt more than I could bear without the pain of labour added into the mix.. But it was too late, Alex was born before I could have an epidural. Looking back now I’m so glad that I didn’t get chance. I felt Alex being born in the exact same way I had felt his brothers before him and he deserved that. He didn’t deserve to be blocked out.

 

Alexander Robert Anthony Maguire was born at 10.58am on Monday 7th November 2016 weighing a chunky 8lb 10oz. Alex’s arrival into the world was quiet. I think a part of me still thought they had got it wrong, I hoped that there would be a miracle, so I stayed silent waiting for him to cry. I think we all did. He was everything I imagined him to be. A beautiful button nose, perfect kissy lips, lots of dark hair and delicate long fingers. I thought maybe there would be some undetected defect which would explain what had happened but there was nothing. He just looked asleep, which cruelly made it seem even more possible that he might cry. I loved him, rocked him, kissed his nose and patted his little bum in the way only a mother can but he was still gone.

 

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And with that realisation my thoughts went wild. Why? How? Should I have known that something was wrong? Could I have prevented it? Should the midwife have picked something up when I saw her two days earlier. Should the sonographer have seen something on the scan we had a week earlier? Did I do something to cause this? If I’d come to hospital earlier would they have found that he was struggling? When did he pass away? Did the first midwife really hear a heartbeat and feel a kick? Did he suffer?

 

I find this one hardest parts of Alex being stillborn, the never-ending questions, the guilt, the blame, the unknown and the unanswerable.

 

But despite all of this, I am so proud to be Alex’s Mommy. Once I emerged from those early days of complete despair I began to see that Alex’s life would change us all for the better. Something good and bright had to come out of the complete darkness we felt after his death. And to show how proud I am, I talk, and I have told Alex’s story to anyone who will listen. Most of the time their reactions are caring and sympathetic but I often get the impression that they think I am just an unlucky statistic to have experienced something with such small odds. Sadly, that would also have been my reaction before Alex. Little did I know that 3600 babies are stillborn every year in the UK, 10 babies a day! We have one of the highest stillbirth rates in the developed world and the West Midlands, where we live, has one of the highest stillbirth rates in the country.

 

I feel completely deceived. If we have one of the highest rates then why don’t we all know about it? Why isn’t it advertised and talked about? Why aren’t Phil & Holly talking about it on This Morning and Loose Women debating it at lunchtime? Why is there so little research into why this is happening? As expectant mothers, we are told so much about cot death and yet it is far less common than stillbirth. I hope that talking about Alex and sharing his story will not only help other families through their grief but also that my voice will join lots of others who are speaking out and trying to raise awareness with the hope that the government will fund much needed research into stillbirth.

 

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Loss

How It All Started

Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog. I would like to use my first post to tell you a little about our beautiful Alex and why I am doing this. We have just returned from a family holiday to Crete and in my quiet moments I have read, as i often do, other blogs detailing peoples experiences surrounding stillbirth. People writing about their lives following the devastating loss of a child has been one of the most important things for me following our own loss. It helped me to feel less alone, it helped me to realise that my feelings were normal and most of all it helped me to see that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel. I began to see that the hurt from Alex will never go away and we will always feel his loss deeply but the pain will become less acute in time and we will be able to find a new normal where we feel fulfilled by life again.

I have often thought that I would like to write about Alex and how we have all coped following his birth with the hope that we can help other people dealing with child loss. Alex made me realise that I can, and I should do more. I should push myself, I should challenge myself and I should (cliche I know) live life to the fullest. Life is short and I now not only live life for myself but I live it for Alex. So why not? If I can help one person drowning in the rough seas of grief following stillbirth then this will all have been worth it.

Alexander Robert Anthony Maguire made us wait, he was 8 days overdue and I was starting to get really snappy at the ‘isn’t baby here yet?’ questions. He finally decided to make an appearance at 10.58am on Monday 7th November 2016. He was 8lb 10oz and perfect in every single way. The only difference was that Alex never cried, he never opened his beautiful eyes, he never snuggled into me for his first feed, he never wrapped his long fingers around mine and he never got to come home with us. As our third baby Alex’s pregnancy was a breeze, after all I had been there and done that twice already. After two low risk pregnancies and straight forward births prior to Alex there was no need to think that this time would be any different. I used to get comments on what a natural mother I was and how I made it look so easy, it would be easy again, surely. Little did we know what life had in store for us all.

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Rachel & Alex xx