Carolyn's daughter Rebecca was sadly stillborn in June 2002. Here, Carolyn tells her story and explains why she’s supporting Sands’ Christmas appeal.

Rebecca was stillborn at 38 weeks in June 2002 due to a massive placental abruption.  On the Thursday before she died my midwife noted that Rebecca was small for gestational age and arranged for a follow-up ultrasound scan the following Wednesday.  Monday was a Bank Holiday and the Tuesday was an additional holiday due to the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.  Sadly, Rebecca didn’t survive through to the Wednesday and I went into hospital with reduced movement where it was confirmed that she’d died.  Following a somewhat traumatic delivery she was born silently just after 11pm on Tuesday 4th June.

I found out about Sands from one of the leaflets I was given, but didn’t really resonate with me at the time.  I didn’t feel able to call the Helpline; I just didn’t know what to say to anyone. Eventually I resurrected my local Sands Group with some other bereaved mums. In October I went to the Sands AGM and in December I attended the Sands annual Lights of Love service, which I try to attend every year. The support I’ve received from Sands over the years, whether directly or indirectly has been invaluable.  At times quite literally a lifeline.  Sands has become my voice when I was unable to speak.

We now remember Rebecca every Christmas in a number of ways. We have several tree decorations that either have her name on them, or have been chosen for her over the years.  We have a large ‘little girl’ china angel figurine that was bought in her memory about ten years ago.  We always buy a ‘Daughter’ and ‘Sister’ Christmas card.  Our two sons are able to write a message in the card should they wish.  We visit her headstone either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and take cards and decorate her stone.  We take with us a small Christmas tree that one of the boys is gifted after they’ve visited Santa.  We used to have a specially made ink stamp with her name on that I’d use to include her on our Christmas cards we sent out.  I tend not to send cards now a days, and instead donate the money in her memory in a more appropriate way. This year we’re buying a gift in Rebecca’s memory for a little girl who has lost everything in a house fire. 

The advice I would give to newly bereaved families would be this: Break with tradition.  Do whatever you want to do or feel comfortable with.  Don’t feel pressured to commit to every invitation, or even any invitation you are given.  It’s OK just to be however you need to be to get through.

I support Sands’ Star on our Tree campaign because I think it’s so important to help people, however recently or long ago their baby died, to feel less isolated and more connected.  When your baby dies you can feel so alone, so lost, not knowing what to do, how to be or even if you will ever survive.  Seeing what others do, how they’ve coped and manage to live through this unimaginable tragedy is priceless.  For me, most of our Christmas is focussed on our two boys, so it’s great to have something just about our daughter, Rebecca.