My story – Stacey Ellen Molloy
From loss to Trustee.
I was meant to be heading to my baby shower on the day we found out we had lost Harry. Ironically, it was Remembrance Day. I didn’t think that would mean I’d be having to remember my boy though, not on the day we were meant to be celebrating him making it into the world in just over 8 weeks time.
My partner, Andrew, was staying at home to decorate Harry’s nursery while I’d begun the day feeling a little bit of back pain but that was nothing out of the ordinary for me at the time, so I said goodbye to my fiancé and headed off to my baby shower with my mum and dad who had come to pick me up so I could go. We headed off to Manchester and the further we got from home, the more uncomfortable I felt. That small bit of back pain was getting so much worse and I really didn’t know what to make of it.
I remember by the time we got to my parent’s house, I was feeling really unwell and I just went straight to the bathroom as I was feeling really nauseated too. The familiar sensation I’d felt when I had my glucose blood tests started to happen and I just needed someone to help me. I screamed for my mum because I was scared of passing out and hurting Harry in the process. Of course, he would have been protected, but I wasn’t really thinking straight at the time. Thankfully, my mum came and caught me in time for when I did pass out, but I was starting to panic a little as the pain in my back was getting worse and I didn’t have a clue what was going on, I just knew something wasn’t right.
I remember, my mum kept saying to me that I needed to get better and quick because I couldn’t not attend my own baby shower. My dad was a heck of a lot more sympathetic though as he could see how much I was struggling. He told me to call Andrew and tell him I wasn’t feeling well. We both thought I could have been in labour or something, we had no idea as we’d never experienced it. All I knew was that I had never been in so much pain and I could barely move, lie down or sit still. Andrew told me to call the hospital right away and I told him I didn’t have my white book with me so please could he send me the numbers and he did.
It took me a while to ring them because I genuinely thought “It’s got to pass soon, the pain isn’t supposed to be constant is it?” Then, I finally picked up the courage to call antenatal triage and they told me from the symptoms I was describing, it sounded like it could be a UTI made worse by my having IC. Looking back, I wish it would have been that as it would have meant that Harry would still be here with us, but it wasn’t, it was much more serious. We wouldn’t find that out until that evening though.
I told my mum over the phone (I’d already made her go to the shower as people were arriving) I was too unwell to go to the shower and my dad agreed, he said he was going to take me home there and then to get to my appointment. I remember being silent the whole car ride home as I was just in so much pain and just trying to concentrate on feeling Harry move, but it had been an hour or so since I’d last felt him move. I didn’t know if it was just because I was in so much pain that I just wasn’t able to feel him or what, but I was starting to panic. I remembering looking over at my dad a couple of times in the car and he just looked grey with this panicked look on his face. I’ve never seen him look like that, not even when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but he just focused on getting me home.
It was the shortest drive I think we’ve ever had back to Accrington. My dad helped me out of the car and held me up as we made our way to my front door. I had never been so happy to be back home in my life. I just wanted to be with Andrew and for him to tell me everything was going to be okay. I remember walking in the door, him covered in paint from decorating and his face just dropped. I don’t think he had any idea just how poorly I was feeling at that point. He and my dad exchanged some hushed and worried words while I made my way very slowly to the bathroom again as I just felt so sick.
My dad came to give me a hug, despite being in the bathroom, and told me to be careful and listen to Andrew and try to get something to eat and drink when I could.
Andrew just looked terrified and asked me to call the triage again, so I did. They didn’t really tell us much different apart from that I had to take some paracetamol, like they thought it was going to help. I did as I was told, but it didn’t help at all. Andrew made me some toast and got me some water. I had a small nibble of toast and sipped as much of the water as I could but I ended up feeding the toast to Sophie, my border collie.
It was about an hour before we were meant to go to the hospital for our triage appointment and I started to feel really cold and I just couldn’t stop shivering or get warm at all. Andrew covered me up to try and keep Harry and me warm but at that point, I was just crying and screaming with the pain. It was just getting worse and it wasn’t letting up. I remember just before we left I told Andrew “I haven’t felt Harry move for ages. If something has happened, it’s all my fault”.
After hearing that, Andrew told me we were going to set off for the hospital and we made our way to Lancashire Women and Newborn Centre. We finally got to triage and I vaguely remember talking to another mum in the lift on the way up and just telling her how poorly I felt. She was off to birth suite to be induced or something, I think? I can’t really remember much. All I remember from that point is pain.
We got in and the midwives looked really concerned right away. They started doing tests, asking for this sample, blood samples and all sorts. All Andrew and I were thinking though was making sure Harry was okay. I remember, I kept saying “I don’t care about me, please just make sure Harry is okay”.
First, they did a doppler and they couldn’t find his heartbeat. We had a little false hope as they found mine and thought it was his for a second and then realised, it was just me. The relief that flooded through my body when I heard it was immeasurable. Then I had that relief snatched away in the same instant only to be replaced with fear. I was terrified that the worst had happened. They did a scan right after the doppler and they still couldn’t find Harry’s heartbeat. That fear was just getting worse and eating me up. I think I knew that the worst had happened, but I still had a shred of hope that I was wrong.
When they weren’t able to find the heartbeat that second time, they said they were going to get a consultant to do the ultrasound as it might have been a problem with the machine. I was so hoping they were right. We then got moved on to birth suite. I remember just saying that he had to be as resilient I had been. My mum had gone skiing when she was pregnant with me (early on, she didn’t know, don’t worry) and nearly broke every bone in her body, but I was here, so Harry would be too.
Then they introduced me to the consultant who was going to do my final ultrasound. I’d met her only a few weeks before for one of my growth scans. I remembered how lovely she was and it made me feel more comfortable knowing the person who was doing the scan. I remember laying down and having the gel put on my stomach, grabbing Andrew’s hand and closing my eyes. If I didn’t look, then maybe they could find the heartbeat… I did open my eyes though and I wished I hadn’t as I saw one of the midwives silently wiping away a tear from her face. I ignored it and closed my eyes again. Then we heard the words that we had been dreading hearing. “I’m really sorry, but there’s no heartbeat, your baby has died”.
My world just crumbled, how could he be gone? We didn’t have much time left and we were meant to be having him in just over eight weeks… 31+4 weeks and he was gone. I just started sobbing and saying no and asking why had this happened. That’s when we started to find out why it had happened. My results were starting to come back in from all the different tests and things weren’t looking too good for me either.
We were told that we’d need to induce me that night so I could give birth to Harry. He was breech, but they were still going to deliver him that night and we were given time to talk to one another and tell our families what was going on. All I really remember saying from that point on was “Sorry” and asking “why?” Very loudly. I just didn’t understand why my boy was being taken from me.
Our families arrived and the results properly started coming in. As well as being told I had preeclampsia, I’d developed Sepsis, though they didn’t know why at that point, but they had to start antibiotics right away. I’d been on gas and air for the intense pain for a while when I found that out. My mum and Jade, my cousin, both started sobbing straight away when they heard that word. Sepsis had taken the life of my Auntie Debbie only a year before. In that moment though I remember thinking “I can’t believe how much I’ve just upset them” rather than worrying about the fact that I had a life threatening condition.
Things continued to get worse from that point on. They’d given me the medication to start my labour and then I’d started bleeding heavily afterwards. I remember crying in the bathroom when I was trying to get changed into my hospital gown and the midwife taking care of me, Debbie, coming in and hugging me close. She did that a lot that night and it helped more than she will ever know. Then I was laid back down on the bed and people were talking and moving all around me but all I could think of was the pain, it was excruciating and I couldn’t think straight. Then they came and gave me more meds and needed to take some blood. They spent an hour and a half trying to find a vein to get blood from and then realised that they weren’t able to. The head anaesthetist then just decided they were going to take blood from the big vein on my left arm and they managed to get just what they needed for the tests, but the bruise that came up started right away and was just awful. I couldn’t bear to look at it.
They found they couldn’t get blood from me because there was internal bleeding somewhere and judging by how long it took them to get a sample from me, it was pretty bad. That’s what had caused the sepsis to develop. I had major internal bleeding on top of everything else. I just remember Andrew holding me and talking to me and reminding me to keep using my gas and air. The observations were getting closer and closer together from the doctors until they decided that was it, they needed me to sign a form and have an emergency c-section to deliver Harry. I remember in my delirious state that I thought “Maybe if they deliver him sooner, he might be okay” I think I had forgotten that he was gone at that point. That was probably because if they didn’t do anything then, within 30 minutes, I would have been gone too. I found that out once I was given my discharge notes.
The last thing I remember is being wheeled down to the theatre with Debbie talking to me all the way there and then the bright lights of the theatre before everything went dark. Next thing I remember is waking up in a small ward called the close observation ward with lots of people asking me how I felt. I remember telling them that my back wasn’t hurting anymore, which was a relief. Then I asked, straight away, “Where’s Harry?” I was smiling because I’d forgotten that he was gone. Debbie asked me if I wanted to see him and I remember thinking to myself “What is she on about, of course I want to see him” I was so looking forward to seeing him and then they wheeled him in, covered up in the cold cot. Everything came crashing back because I’d remembered. Andrew didn’t know if he could handle seeing Harry at the time but I didn’t understand why until he had been brought in. I remember being told I could hold him if I wanted to and I did. Andrew warned me I wouldn’t remember because of all the medication and everything else I was on to keep me alive, but I had to and I am so glad I did.
We spent 3 days on the close observation ward and I was still really poorly, but I had him with me all the time because of the cold cot. I didn’t know who had provided it, but I was just happy to have him with me at the time. Once I was finally unhooked from all the machines (there were so many) I was able to head to the “Serenity suite” the suite used by bereaved parents in the hospital. There were two, but the other one, the butterfly suite, was sadly in use too. I had been told that there was a suite for Andrew, Harry and me to use once I was feeling a little better, but I had no idea it would be like our own little home for a few days. I was still being closely monitored in there, but it was so much nicer in there. I felt like we had a little bubble of safety, it was just nice to be in there with him. Friends and family kept visiting and I remember telling them all to leave us alone for just a day. They were taking precious time away from us and our boy and I knew our time with him was limited before he had to go for his post mortem.
When I was feeling better, Andrew and our bereavement midwife, Louise, started telling me all about the room and the memory boxes and the clothes and blanket and everything that Harry had at the time. I was too poorly to even think about it, but when we had the day to ourselves, we looked through the memory box and started to make memories with Harry that we didn’t even think were possible. The charity that had provided the box was called “Friends of Serenity” set up when the founder, Jo, lost her first little boy, Luke, and she didn’t have any of the comforts we had. She and her charity made sure that we did though.
I remember we left the hospital without Harry, but we were able to take our memory box with us. I remember going through stuff in the hospital and at home too. It was just so comforting. Harry’s funeral wasn’t until 11th December 2017 and all we had was time so we spent that time making arrangements for his funeral, making sure that we could give him the best possible sendoff there was, as it was now the only event we were ever going to get to plan for Harry. We decided that we had to do one thing while we were waiting though and that was message Friends of Serenity to say thank you for all they had done for us, I remember Jo messaging me and talking to me. She was so kind and sweet and supportive. I remember after talking to her, we decided that we didn’t want flowers, we would rather people make a donation to Friends of Serenity instead so they could help other parents going through the same.
That support was never ending and we were so grateful! We attended a memory box making session where we met another bereaved mum who was helping to decorate the box. She was expecting again and it shocked me at first but then I felt that small bit of hope again. We made the boxes and I was asking so many questions to the other mum. I think she might have felt a little bombarded, but it was really soon for us and I just wanted to know how they’d coped after losing their first too. She was so kind and she kept in touch with me after that and introduced me to another bereaved mum who was also expecting. I remember them asking me how I felt at the time, if I minded them both being pregnant. I thought about it and I really didn’t. I was just happy for them and hopeful for me. I didn’t know when I had gone to meet them both for food and a catch up that I was actually a week pregnant with our rainbow baby.
I didn’t find that out though until the 19th May 2018 the day before we were doing the fun run that Jo had organised for what would have been Luke’s 5th birthday. I remember, after using all the tips from the other bereaved mum on conception that it might work eventually, but I had stopped hoping after all the negative tests. I just missed Harry and I was desperate to have another little person in my arms. We took the test after my basal body thermometer told us to and the result was positive. We were both really surprised, terrified and excited. Harry was going to have a little sibling, we hoped. That day was meant to be all about Harry for us and us doing the run in his memory, but it became more of a jog for me (Andrew’s orders) and doing things in his memory. So many kind people had sponsored us and we managed to help raise a decent amount for Friends of Serenity. We still didn’t feel like it was enough to say thank you though.
We decided to tell Jo and our bereavement midwife and a few family members and friends, but we didn’t really tell anyone else, we didn’t want to have to go through telling everyone again if we lost again so we waited, I pretty much became a hermit unless we were helping out Friends of Serenity by covering events at the hospital or just generally being there for appointments. I felt like I may as well have moved in, I was there that much! (I did for 3 weeks) Between all those appointments and helping out with different things to keep busy, Jo said that she wanted to make myself and Andrew trustees. I remember saying “You don’t need to do that, we just want to help with all you did for us”. Jo was a woman of her word though and did make us trustees later that year. We felt so honoured to be a part of the charity that brought us time and memories with Harry that we never thought we were going to get.
Even right to the end of our pregnancy with our rainbow, we had continued support from Jo and all the midwives at the hospital. We did end up getting poorly again with preeclampsia at week 38 but they got to Harry’s baby brother just in time. We had only gone in for a blood pressure check and 2 hours later, we were holding him in our arms, our Noah.
Though I wish we had all met under different circumstances, I feel so lucky and honoured to have Friends of Serenity and our fellow trustees in our lives. I feel like things would have been so different for us than they are now, without them and their positivity and guidance. Jo and the team go above and beyond every day to help parents like us and now FoS is actively working to prevent loss by funding equipment in the rainbow clinic, funding scanners and making the rooms on birth suite more comfortable for parents in general.
FoS truly are amazing and I will forever be grateful that they want me and Andrew to be a part of their team. It doesn’t matter how much we do to help with stuff though, it will never, ever be enough to say thank you for what Jo and the team did for us. They gave us time with our boy and everything we have to remember him by. They made us what we are now and I don’t think there are ever going to be enough words to say thank you.