40 stories for #Sands40
40 stories for #Sands40, | 8 August 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.

I lost my first child, a girl, when I was seven months pregnant in 1962 and I was 18 years old. I am now 74 years old. 

This was a traumatic emotional experience. I was in labour for many, many hours totally exhausted.

In later stages of giving birth the midwife was shouting in my face, that I was not trying hard enough! Later, still shouting, she slapped me across the face. I was crying, but no one came to my aid to comfort me. 

The baby eventually was delivered, and then taken away immediately. After asking where the baby was. I was told the baby was dead. No comfort or sympathy was given. I was distraught. Husbands at that time were not allowed at the hospital.

Later I was put in a maternity ward with loads of mothers and babies, and expected to get on with it. My husband came at visiting time. We were both crying for the loss of our child and there was no privacy at all. I cried for the next two days non-stop.

I was called into the ward sister’s office and she told me “to stop all these histrionics.”

I was told I was young and plenty of time to have more children and to go back to the ward and behave myself, as I was upsetting the other mothers. My mental health was in tatters.

The next day, my husband and mother came to sign me out. Otherwise I had told my husband I would walk out by myself if they didn’t. We needed my mother to do this because I was not 21 years old.

There was no one to talk to or help in those times. My mental health and depression was a nightmare. 

I was lucky to have two other children born alive; again at seven months gestation. 

I lost another child at seven months. The pain that followed was as bad as the first. Staff would not tell me the sex of the baby.

I never got over their loss, but had to learn to cope and move on with my life.

I always talked about the babies with my other children as they grew up.  They were never forgotten. 

I also did the same with my six grandchildren. We would light candles in their memory and say prayers together, this for me was so important. A statement I suppose that the babies entered this world in their own right. They did exist; if only for a short time.

I know that nowadays there is a lot more help for mothers in the same position.  But, their pain and anguish is no less; and need ongoing support.

Life does go on! My niece lost her first born full term, 14 years ago as the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. She was supported by her hospital, has a photo of Louie’s footprints and a lock of hair.

She suffered greatly with the pain of losing her precious son. She now has four healthy children. As a family they talk about Louie all the time and they celebrate his birthday with a little party with the children. Also at Christmas time the children make a little something to hang on the tree in his memory.

This, I think is the way forward. There is light at the end of the long dark tunnel.

Maureen Mulhaney

Picture: Maureen Mulhaney. 

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. 

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