I fell into a circle that I struggled to get out of. It was a constant need to remember Matilda, but also to create a rainbow to fill the horrible void her loss had left behind.

Behind every family is an individual story

No journey to parenthood is ever the same. Parents who experience pregnancy after the loss of a baby are faced with nine months of anxiety, challenge and uncertainty. Through our Rainbow Project, we want those families to know that we understand. Sarah tells us her story.

On the 10th September 2016, I woke with pains in my stomach. I was 27 weeks pregnant, and up until then everything had been fine, or so I thought. I was a first time Mum, so everything was new to me. I didn’t know how much or how little my daughter should have been kicking, and it was only after we lost her, that I realised something had been wrong for a long time.

We went to the hospital that evening where they used the foetal doppler … nothing. “Oh, it’s probably just because she’s little,” I knew it wasn’t. The midwife fetched a doctor, and that’s when I heard those dreaded words… “there’s no heartbeat…” “and we need to get you into theatre now.”

I was suffering from an invisible placental abruption. The pain I had been feeling was the pain of me suffering from massive internal bleeding.

What felt like hours later, I was wheeled to a little room, my husband was to the left of me, his face red from crying. My daughter was to my right, in a cuddle cot. My perfect, tiny daughter. Matilda.

A month later was her funeral, and then we had a consultant’s appointment to discuss what had happened with Matilda, and what would be the plan for future pregnancies.

6 weeks after her birth, I went to the GP for my post c-section checkup … he asked me where my baby was. I had to explain. He asked me questions about what had happened. I had to explain. All the while thinking, “why couldn’t you read my notes?”

There wouldn't be a rainbow without the rain

We started trying for our rainbow baby around 3 months after we lost Matilda, and each month that we didn’t get pregnant I fell apart. My husband would come home from work to find me in a crumpled heap on the floor, or to find that I hadn’t actually got out of bed that day. I was terrified of going to the doctors because I was sure they’d put me on medication, and I didn't want to be on medication whilst trying to conceive. I didn’t think about the amount I was overeating and how much weight I had put on too. The only thing that broke me out of that circle was throwing myself into work. I started my own business, and the very month I opened the doors, was the month I got pregnant.

A huge wave of emotion hit me; utter elation at the thought of a Rainbow, utter panic at the thought of another loss.

The plan was in place - 75mg of aspirin daily, extra scans from 20 weeks, consultant-led care, extra midwife appointments, blood-flow scans … but nothing prepares you for the words from medical professionals: “so, is this your first child?”

You close your eyes, take a deep breath, all the while thinking, “please just take an extra few seconds to read my notes. Please read above where it says previous pregnancy RIP. So delicately, yet clinically, put by my midwife who had been there throughout it all with Matilda.

I had all the scans, I had all the extra blood-flow checks, consultant’s appointments and midwife appointments, I took all the extra supplements. I developed gestational diabetes, so I was even meticulous with my diet.

Henry was born at 36 weeks on 29th March 2018.

He is a beautiful blonde-haired boy, who is so perfect in every way, yet he will never be/see or meet his sister. He knows who she is, he kisses the monkey teddy her ashes are in every night, but he will never get to kiss her. To hug her. To hold her hand when he’s/she’s scared or dress in a suit for her graduation, wedding, 50th birthday party; only for her angelversary each year.

Movement matters

When I was pregnant with Matilda, I was completely unaware of movements, and what was considered ‘normal’

The midwives always said, as long as she was kicking, then that was okay. I now realise (mostly from my rainbow pregnancy) that her movements were not normal. I believe she may have been struggling to stay with us for a while, and I was blissfully unaware.

Between Matilda’s and Henry’s pregnancies, I researched everything. That's how I came across Kicks Count, by buying a Kicks Count Wristband. I was able to track Henry’s movements with ease.

I went into hospital twice with Henry for reduced movements. Both times I was told by the midwife, when I phoned, to lie on my left, and drink something cold. Both times I politely declined and told them I was coming into hospital. Something I wish I had done with Matilda, as this story could have been very different had I gone into the hospital that morning, instead of the evening.

Both times, as soon as I was hooked up to the monitor, Henry started doing somersaults. Regardless, I didn’t regret going in, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Behind the smile is a broken heart

During my rainbow pregnancy, I never once felt reassured that this time it would be alright. I had no counselling, I had no mental health support.

I didn’t receive any counselling between Matilda and Henry, but I also can’t say I was brave enough to take the first steps to get help either.

We are fighting a daily battle to not let the memory of our gorgeous daughter fade, but for it to also not overshadow our beautiful rainbow – it’s a battle that some days we win, and some days we lose. I don’t know if we’ll ever find a balance, but what I do know is that he will always know about his big sister, and I will always write her name in cards to other people.

Fast forward to now: My husband and I are ready (if that's truly possible) to try again. We have moved to a completely different county and therefore NHS Trust. We no longer have the safety blanket of the plan that was put in place in Essex, instead we have the hurdle of a whole new hospital and team. I am utterly petrified.

I have just started counselling through a self-referral a few months before Matilda’s 3rd angelversary when I was feeling particularly low. It took 5 months to get a space with a psychological wellbeing practitioner, and we have just started the process of learning whether cognitive behavioural therapy will work for me. In the 5 months of waiting, I managed to get myself into a better place anyway, but we will see how it goes.

The Kicks Count Rainbow Project is important because ...

I fell into a circle that I struggled to get out of. It was a constant need to remember Matilda, but also to create a rainbow to fill the horrible void her loss had left behind. I think what you do is amazing. Being pregnant with a rainbow is utterly petrifying, any bit of help/support and guidance is gratefully received.