40 stories for #Sands40
40 stories for #Sands40, | 3 July 2018

As part of Sands 40th anniversary this year, we will share 40 stories by 40 parents, family members and friends affected by the death of a baby. Starting during Sands Awareness Month and our #FindingTheWords campaign, we aim to show the sheer number of people who are affected by the tragedy of a baby’s death, help other bereaved parents to understand they are not alone and raise awareness of the issues surrounding stillbirth and neonatal death. Visit our 40 stories for #Sands40 to view other blogs in the series.

In February 2015 I gave birth to my second born, a beautiful son Freddie, by emergency C-section after suffering with placental abruption at just over 28 weeks.

At two-and-half-days-old Freddie lost his battle through severe prematurity and took his last breaths in his big sister’s arms.

Thanks to ‘The Butterfly Suite’ on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) ward and the support of his assigned nurse, my family and I were able to say our goodbyes at our own pace in peace and quiet.

We were able to bathe him and dress him and as a family we were given the chance to be there for him as best and as much as we could. I kept him with me after family had left for the whole evening just holding him, making sure he knew how loved he was.

He was so tiny at 1lb 15oz but so formed and beautiful. The reality had hit that this was it, I had done all I could and although my heart was breaking for me and my family I knew that this was the only way for him and the best way.

But thanks to the NICU nurses and all the doctors involved I now have all the memories possible to carry on with. And I am so grateful for those opportunities that were given to us as without them I don’t know if I would be able to cope with the next journey thrown at me.

In January 2016 I gave birth to my third child, a boy, Liam. He was born sleeping at 33 weeks. After experiencing reduced movements and pain, I was admitted to hospital and told that there was no heartbeat.

The doctor knew me and my history very well and I could see she was welling up, but I had gone numb. I waited until later on that evening to have a C-section. 

My sister sat by side holding my hand the whole time through surgery. I could see her eyes watering and I was still numb. Once Liam had arrived I couldn’t hold him because I was scared I might hurt him. My big sister was there to give him his first cuddle and he looked so beautiful. He was pink! I couldn’t believe that he was already gone.

He looked perfect and it hurt so much to think my daughter had to say goodbye to yet another baby brother. 

We were taken to recovery where family were welcome to visit at any time and my daughter Lilly-May was once again given the chance to say goodbye. The midwives and nurses looked in awe upon this little seven-year-old girl wanting cuddles and kisses with her brother.

And that’s when it hit me. Just because he wasn’t alive it didn’t mean we couldn’t be there for him in the way we would have been, had things been OK. We took photos, had cuddles, bathed and dressed him and then just had him with us.

It was about a year after Liam’s death that I came to Sands.  I hit a very low point and began attending bereavement support meetings. It was through Sands and their support that I realised I hadn’t let myself grieve for my losses.

I was too busy protecting my daughter from her losses and she was already so strong she needed her mummy to grieve to enable me to be her mummy again. I did grieve and Sands enabled me to do that in a positive way that has now given me hope for the future. 

When people ask me how many children I have, I always say three. They are all my babies, here or not. Sands have given me the strength to be proud of ALL of my children.

15 babies die before, during or shortly after birth every day in the UK. We want to reduce this number, but we need your help. Support Sands now to help ensure a bereaved parent doesn't have to cope alone. Thank you.  

Picture: Elizabeth Kitchin's baby son, Liam
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