I would just like to let you know a little about Jessica. When we found out I was pregnant we were very happy and surprised as I had not long had treatment for cancerous cells in my cervix. We already had a 2yr old called Amelia and could not wait for them to be playing and fighting together. I always wanted a big family and she was going to be our little miracle.
I had a perfect pregnancy other than the usual complaints. At 36 weeks we did have a bit of a scare as the midwife thought she was breech so we bundled up to the hospital to have a scan. All turned out to be fine, she had either flipped in the time it took to get there or the midwife was wrong.
The doctor told me to see someone at the GP surgery the next week just to make sure she hadn’t moved again. A week later I saw one of the doctors at the surgery and all was fine, that was the last evertime we heard her heartbeat.
At 38+5 weeks, on 19th July 2007, I went to see the midwife and she could no longer find her heartbeat. She was not my normal midwife and had not been working in the community long and for some reason I found myself feeling sorry for her. Her appointments had been running late (I went in nearly half an hour after my appointment time) and there were lots of ladies needing to be seen so, although she was adamant to stay with me while I waited for a lift to the hospital, one of the receptionist kept me company in one of the doctors rooms that wasn’t being used.
My lift finally arrived, after what felt like an age, and I met Graham up at the hospital where I had two scans on two different machines. I kept imagining that it was all a dream and I swear I saw a flicker of a heartbeat on the screen but my eyes must have been deceiving me. The consultant confirmed that our baby had died and went through what would happen next. They gave me tablets to induce labor and sent me home.
I remember sitting in my front room, with a blur of people round me, still feeling her move but the doctor had already warned me that I may feel some movements as she “sloshed” in the fluid. It was then that made me think I had to change my mindset. For the last 8 months I had thought I would be going home with a baby, but now I wasn’t, I felt like I had to detach myself.
I tried not to “love” my belly, as I had been, to get used to the idea. It was as if I were fighting myself against something so natural and it hurt like hell.
The next day I sorted my hospital bag, as I knew I wouldn’t be needing everything in it, it shrunk considerably in size. Graham had already moved the crib out of our bedroom and there was a gaping hole where it was as well as in my bag and heart.
We headed back to the hospital that afternoon, as I hadn’t gone into labour I needed to take more tablets.
At 3am on Saturday morning I started to have contractions, by 7am they were 5mins apart so again we headed to the hospital.
As I walked into the labour ward and I felt like everyone was staring at me with pity. It was the most horrible feeling ever, I just wanted to scream and shout but I don’t know what. Once I got settled and booked in the contractions slowed down so we went for a walk and had some breakfast.
The day progressed slowly as I wondered what my baby would look like and how we were going to explain to Amelia that we could not bring the sibling home that she was so looking forward to meeting.
Looking back now, I don’t remember much about the labour. I’m not sure if that is to do with the fact I was heavily dosed on morphine or the fact our brains can “forget” bad experiences.
Finally, at 39 weeks gestation, on 21st July 2007 at 9:01pm Jessica Lillie Grace was born weighing 6lb 13ozs. She looked perfect, everything was there, fingers and toes; she was the spitting image of her sister. The only thing that was different was there was no crying, the one thing we had longed to hear for 9 months.
We had cuddles, got her dressed and took pictures. The midwife took a lock of hair and done prints of her hands and feet for us. I had to stay in hospital that night as my temperature had spiked, all I wanted to do was go home and curl up in my own bed.
We had a full post mortem done, as there were no outward signs as to why she died. Both Graham and myself had blood tests also, but nothing came up. It was, and still is; very hard to accept that we will never know why she died.
We opted for Jessica’s ashes to be buried at a beautiful place called Olney Green Burial Ground, just outside of Milton Keynes. Instead of a headstone you have a tree, we chose an Oak tree for her. In years from now it will be a huge coppice full of wonderful wildlife. It is a lovely place to visit and we feel instantly calmed when we go there.
After the funeral was over we wanted to “getaway from it all”. We tried to find somewhere that catered for bereaved families of babies to only find places that were for children and their families, who suffered life limiting and life threatening diseases. With stillbirth rates sticking for the last 25 yrs at around 5.4 stillbirths to every 1000 live births in the UK, making us the third highest out of 35 established countries, we were quite surprised by this.
Needless to say we didn’t find anywhere and we didn’t go away. We both have very supportive families, and my mum also suffered a stillbirth in 1980 so knew how I felt. There was no bereavement midwife in our local hospital at the time, however the midwife who delivered Jess did, a year later, go on to be given to role. She was amazing and was on the other end of the phone if I ever needed her. As the grief started to subside I started to think of all those families who didn’t have support like us.
The Jessica Sherman Foundation was born, We want to help other parents, their friends and families, give them somewhere to go and stay, where counselling is on offer if wanted. There will also be a memorial garden and day centre. This is the charity’s main aim and will probably take us a while to achieve so, to help now, we have other aims we also follow:
– comfort and support anyone affected by early mis-carriage, medical termination, stillbirth, neo-natal death or thedeath of a baby up to 1yr old with monthly support gatherings.
– raise much needed funds for research in the hope of reducing stillbirths.
– support hospitals and health professionals by holding education days/workshops and funding bereavement suites and specialist equipment.
– raise awareness of stillbirth and neo-natal death.
For more info on TJSF please visit our FB page or our website www.tjsf.co.uk or you can contact us by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org