After a fabulous wedding day, an amazing honeymoon and eventually moving in to our first home at the end of a long period of restoration, falling pregnant was the final piece to our puzzle. We felt blessed.
However, our dreams were shattered on 20th October 2010 when our baby boy, Solomon, was stillborn. At 34 weeks, I started to experience a gradual worsening abdominal pain followed by severe diarrhoea and vomiting. It led doctors to believe that I had a bad case of gastroenteritis, as Solomon looked perfectly happy and well positioned with a strong heartbeat. Whilst healthcare professionals had no intention of delivering our baby that night, they administered a steroid injection for the respiratory system and a shot of pethidine for the pain.
It soon became clear, though, that something else was going wrong, and we watched with anxiety and then horror as Soloman’s heart rate gradually decelerated. With no sign of recovery, I was rushed to theatre for an emergency caesarean leaving my husband, Simon, all alone in an empty room.
Being told what had happened to our son when I came round from the anaesthetic was the hardest thing, I hope I will ever have to hear, and the hardest thing Simon will ever have to say. We are learning to live with grief in a way that still enables us to function ‘normally’, but we know the pain of our loss will never disappear. Although, as positive people, we want Solomon’s life to have a positive effect on both us and on others.
The hospital took his footprints and gave us a Sands’ memory box with two teddies inside. One we could leave with Solomon and one that we could take home. These help us to feel closer to him and are items we will cherish forever.
A post-mortem didn’t find a cause of death, which made things worse. Simon and I decided to get away to help us find peace and grieve properly. Two months spent travelling around Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand was our gift from Solomon. The perspective we have gained from our travels combined with the lessons that we have learned in his passing have shaped us to become better people.
Six months later, I fell pregnant again. I was thrilled but scared too. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing another baby. In 2011, I gave birth to a healthy boy, Lenny, and we have since gone on to have Arlo. My boys mean everything to me.
Not a day goes by where I don’t think about Solomon. Every day, we continue to find comfort in the knowledge that all he knew was love. His passing has given me this desire and passion to help make a difference in any way I can. We don’t want any parents to have to go through what we have been through. I threw myself into fundraising for Sands with the aim of helping to fund a bereavement suite at our local hospital by raising £22,000.
However, not knowing why Solomon died was having a great impact on me as a mother, an employee, and on my emotional state. Sometimes, even ten years later, it would just hit me in the middle of a supermarket.
We had so many unanswered questions. The review summary we received initially was just written in medical jargon, we didn’t know what any of it meant. Sadly, we never did get to find out what happened, but I know that would have made such a difference, not only to me and Simon, but also so that lessons could be learnt by professionals. I am now determined to use my voice to create a legacy in Solomon’s name to make sure that other families know that they have a right to be heard, and that clinicians should engage them in the review process to understand why their baby died.
I know my story isn’t unique, and I know the harm of not knowing what caused the death of your baby when it is completely unexpected and unexplained, can have on you. That’s why when I was asked by Sands if I would share my story on film to be used in their Parent and Engagement Review Training for Healthcare Professionals, I was thrilled.
It’s clear that reviews into why babies die are so important. Not only does it help parents make sense of what happened and move forward, it also helps healthcare services to identify any improvements that can be made to make care safer and ultimately save babies’ lives.
I hope that by sharing our story, we will play a small part, in memory of Solomon, to improve outcomes for other parents and families. I think I would find a lot of comfort knowing that if his death could have been prevented, changes are in place to improve care for future parents, and sadly if it cannot be avoided, bereavement care is in place to support those parents.