On the 22nd of March 2012 I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Tilly Grace. She lived for 30 days. 5 of those were spent at home with us and the rest in Hospital. She spent most of her short life on a ventilator in paediatric intensive care, where she died on the 24th of April after her ventilator was withdrawn. Tilly had early infantile epileptic encephalopathy and her outlook was very poor, she was unable to maintain her own ventilation and was heavily medicated for seizures, with limited brain activity.
But here’s the thing, Tilly was not a miscarriage, she was not still born, she was not even a neonatal death. She was an infant death. These terms are defined. There are charities and support for different types of loss. Yet somehow, when you give birth to an apparently healthy baby who later dies, you get lost.
In the early hours of the 25th of April my husband and I left the hospital without our baby. We had to go home and tell our three and a half year old that her sister had died, that she would not be coming home again. I had to tell a midwife who called to see ‘how things were’ that I was organising a funeral’. I had to attend a postnatal check up on my own and tell the GP that my baby had died. And the week before Tilly’s first birthday, I had the results of her new born blood spot test through the post. Not one health professional got in contact with me. Not one health professional offered any support. Once I left that hospital we were on our own.
When I look back, I wonder how we got though those early days, weeks and months, but we did. It’s appalling that there is such limited provision to support parents and families after the loss of a baby, and that there is such a difference across regions. I was lucky to have a supportive network and over the months I was able to find coping mechanisms, but I can see how easily it could have been very different. No one family should feel alone and unsupported after losing a child.
I am about to embark on a career that will allow me to support women and families in many ways, including when they lose a baby. I endeavour to do my best so that no women has to explain why she hasn’t got her baby at her postnatal check, to ensure that I do the communicating and that she accesses the right support. Something positive out of something devastating. Knowing that my experience has shaped me but it doesn’t define me, that I live to make both my girls proud.
Kate’s Story from Tilly’s Marathon
Thank you for joining us on this awareness series.
Thank you to Warren, Marissa, Beth, Kate and John for letting me include your beautiful babies.