Four couples on the agony of losing their babies and saying their heartbreaking goodbyes too soon

WALKING out of the maternity ward doors, Harri Gravelle sobbed as she watched her husband carrying their son's empty car seat.

Just hours earlier she had been gazing into newborn baby Rupert's big blue eyes, but minutes after his arrival he had to be rushed from the room.

Tragically, he had suffered cardiac arrest and despite every effort by medics, he died in Harri's arms – just 23 hours after he was born.

The 35-year-old said: "I held him while they took the tubes away and I felt his last breath on my cheek. It was like a little kiss goodbye.”

Harri and her husband Richard are among thousands of people who endure the heartbreaking loss of a baby every year in the UK.

Along with three other parents, they have bravely opened up about their devastating experience as part of Baby Loss Awareness week.

It's estimated that there are around 250,000 miscarriages every year and 11,000 emergency admissions for ectopic pregnancies.

In 2018 alone, there were a staggering 2,958 stillbirths in the UK, as well as a devastating 2,131 neonatal deaths.

Yet many couples feel they can't or shouldn't talk about it.


Made in Chelsea's Binky Felstead this week opened up about her devastating miscarriage at 12 weeks in an attempt to break the stigma.

The mum-of-one told fans doctors couldn't find her baby's heartbeat after unexpected bleeding at 12 weeks.

Sharing her experience on Instagram, she said: "When speaking to a few close friends about our situation, we learned that some of them too have had miscarriages in the past. I asked them why they’ve never said anything, and they just said they felt they couldn't, or shouldn’t talk about it. Almost like it’s a taboo subject, which is heartbreaking."

It comes after Chrissy Teigen and her husband, singer John Legend, tragically lost their baby son Jack.

The model, 34, shared a stream of heart-rending photos of their final moments as they grieved together on Instagram.

Jane Brewin, chief executive at baby charity Tommy’s, said: “Baby loss at any stage in pregnancy is one of the most devastating experiences any family can go through – and it really can happen to any family, but the persistent taboo means it’s rarely discussed despite affecting so many.

“This can lead to isolation for people already struggling with unimaginable grief.

"Baby Loss Awareness Week is an important moment for everyone to come together in remembrance and know they are not alone.

“Every baby lost is one too many, but this is often still just seen as ‘one of those things’.

"That’s why it’s vital we break the silence and improve care to make pregnancy safer for all.

"It’s unacceptable that whether you lose a baby during pregnancy or birth can depend on who you are and where you live.”

'We managed to fill the short life he had with love'

Harri and Richard Gravelle, from Hawkley, Hampshire, had been trying for a baby for five years before successfully conceiving Rupert through IVF.

When he arrived on March 2, 2016, he weighed 8lbs 9oz and Harri, who runs a head hunting business, says they were "over the moon".

“He was beautiful, with blue eyes and dark hair,” she said.

But within moments a team of medics came rushing into the room and their bubble burst.

Harri said: "I was still on a high from the labour, and my initial thought was that he’d be back in a minute.

“Some of the staff looked upset, and they told me our little boy was very sick,” she said. “He’d had a cardiac arrest.”

Doctors fought for more than 23 hours to save baby Rupert until there was nothing more they could do.

Harri said: “We managed to fill the short life he had with love."

But their grief was only amplified when they were forced to register his birth and death at the same time.

“We did things that seem unimaginable even now,” she said.

“We had to register his birth and death at the same time, and there was a post mortem, too.

"We found out his death was caused by an infection which led to congenital pneumonia.”

After months of dealing with their grief, the pair opted for another round of IVF.


Harri said: “I found out I was pregnant with twins, but we lost one early on.

“I tried my best to focus on the other baby, determined to get through it.”

Following Rupert’s death, doctors scheduled Harri for an early caesarean.

“We knew what happened with Rupert wasn’t a hereditary condition and that a C-section could help avoid the problem,” she said.

On April 11 2017, baby Felix arrived safely weighing 6lbs 7oz.

Harri, who shares her experiences on her Instagram, said: “Becoming a mum has been wonderful.

"When you have to try as hard as we have to get your baby, you don’t take things for granted. He’s a brilliant little boy.”

While the couple were delighted with their son, they wanted Felix to have a sibling and so tried IVF again last year.

“We’d hoped we could make it work again, but at 19 weeks, on February 14, we lost our baby, a little boy,” says Harri. “We called him Valentine Rupert.”

Now, to remember the sons she lost, Harri has written a children’s book, Kidnapped by Grandma and Grandpa, featuring their names, with 10 per cent of profits going to Tommy’s.

Richard, 37, said: “Everyone going through this has their own journey to take.

"It’s not easy to scoop yourself up and motivate yourself to go for it again, but luckily Harri and I were able to do that and Felix was the result.

“Awareness of baby loss is so important, and being able to reach out and put your arm around other people going through it is something Harri and I want to do, because it can feel like you’re on your own when you’re definitely not.

“Unfortunately, we’re all human and these things happen sadly, but research into the causes of baby loss and finding new ways to prevent it, is crucial.”

 

'We were able to care for our baby girl for two days before we laid her to rest'

THROUGHOUT her pregnancy last year, Deborah Meyer-Lewis and her husband Ben believed everything was fine.

On their due date back in February the couple, from Borehamwood, Herts, attended a routine appointment where they heard their baby’s heartbeat.

But just a day later, Deborah, 37, grew anxious when she couldn’t feel her baby move.

“I tried eating to stimulate the baby,” she recalls. “But the longer it went on the more nervous I became.”

That evening the couple went to hospital where medics broke the heart-wrenching news their child had died.

“It was the worst moment of our lives,” says Ben, 35, who works for a mental health charity.

“Deborah let out a scream because we went from believing everything was fine to finding out our baby had gone.”

“It was like a dream,” adds Deborah, who works for the National Lottery Community Fund.

“That night I even convinced myself I could feel her moving.”

Two days later, on February 15, Deborah gave birth to their daughter.

“It was horrendous,” she says. “You have the trauma of birth, but your baby is gone.”

For the next two days, Deborah and Ben stayed in hospital with their daughter, Yaeli.

“She weighed 5lbs 3oz and she was beautiful,” says Deborah. “Over those days I was able to read her a story and dress her. I wrote her a letter, and that time meant a lot.”

Since then the couple, who have raised £8,000 for charities including Tommy’s, have attended bereavement counselling, something they say has been a huge help.

“I still cry a lot, but Ben has been incredible,” says Deborah, who also writes a blog called Mummy To An Angel.

“There have been really difficult moments to get through.

“I’ve had people remarking that I don’t have children, or telling me I’ll be a mum one day.

"But I feel I already am a mother. I have a baby. I felt her moving for months and I gave birth to her.

“We hope to have another baby one day, but I’ll still think of Yaeli and I’ll still cry for the birthdays she should have had.

"She may not be here, but I’ll always be her mum.”

'I'd lost the baby two weeks earlier… all that time I'd been imagining our lives together'

FOR Louisa Gale, becoming a mum was a life-long dream.

So when she and partner Seb Vennard prepared to move into their first home back in 2018, thoughts turned to starting a family.

“I was over the moon when I got pregnant,” says Louisa, from Bristol.

But nine weeks in, Louisa suffered a small bleed and arranged a scan for the next day.

“I wasn’t in any pain and the bleeding was light, so I hoped for the best,” she said. “But they told me there was no heartbeat.”

Louisa, 25, was told she had suffered a "missed miscarriage", something she said she had never heard of.

“I’d lost the baby two weeks earlier, and all that time I’d continued imagining the life we’d have together.”

As she struggled with her grief, Louisa fell pregnant again but around six weeks in, she noticed bleeding once again.


Louisa, who works in childcare, said: “I went for several scans, and the heartbeat was still there."

But just a day after a scan showed the baby appeared well, Louisa lost her second child when she was almost seven weeks pregnant.

“It was New Year’s Eve, so we started 2019 grieving for a second time,” she said.

The couple decided to take a break from trying and process their grief.

Louisa said: “For some reason I’d been quite naïve and hadn’t considered that a miscarriage would lead to such a deep sense of grief.”

Later in 2019, the couple tried again and Louisa fell pregnant.

“This time I had an instinct it was going to be OK,” she said. “But when I started to bleed again we feared the worst.

“Then I remembered something I’d read about the PRISM trial carried out by Tommy’s, which was about giving progesterone to women who bleed in pregnancy, and I begged to get it."

The doctors agreed and within a day or two, Louisa's bleeding stopped – and baby was Ollie was born in March this year.

“All mums think their baby’s the best, but Ollie is phenomenal,” says Louisa.

“He’s beautiful, he sleeps and we’ve got an incredibly close bond.

“I still think of the babies we lost, and we sometimes talk about how we could have had a two-year-old by now, but we’re so glad we carried on and got the treatment we needed to have our little boy.”

Seb, 28, who works as a retail manger, said: “Both me and Louisa were in complete shock when we miscarried.

“I felt completely helpless as there was nothing I could do to help other than just support Louisa in whatever way she needed me.

"Oliver is our absolute world and has completely changed our lives, but we often talk about the ‘what ifs’.

"I don’t think you ever stop grieving for what you lost, you just learn to adapt and move forward.”

'Going through baby loss in lockdown was even more lonely and now I suffer PTSD'

AIMEE Leversidge and her husband Ben were desperate to give their four-year-old son Ezra a baby brother or sister.

But the couple, who live just outside Sheffield, sadly lost their second baby as a result of an ectopic pregnancy – just as the country went into lockdown.

“We’d tried for a while,” says Aimee, 31. “So we were delighted when we found out I was pregnant.”

But at seven weeks, Aimee suffered severe stomach cramps and was advised to keep an eye on her pain.

A few days later, things became dramatically worse.

“On this particular night, my husband was sleeping in a different room with a cough, and I woke in the early hours, dizzy and clammy and I staggered to the bathroom,” she said. “I felt I needed to be sick.”

Aimee believes she passed out two or three times overnight, and Ben found her collapsed on the floor of their bedroom the next morning.

“I begged my husband to sort Ezra out because I didn’t want him to see his mummy like that,” she said.

He rang 111 and an ambulance arrived 30 minutes later.

Aimee added: “It was March 26, so lockdown had started a few days earlier and I had to go to hospital alone.

"Ezra came out as they were taking me down the stairs and I gave him a kiss goodbye. He thought it was cool I was going in an ambulance.”

When she got to hospital, Aimee's situation appeared to be more serious than she first thought and she heard medics say she needed to go to theatre.

She said: “A nurse held my hand and asked if I knew what was happening.

"I did. I knew I’d lost my baby.”

One of Aimee’s fallopian tubes had ruptured as a result of an ectopic pregnancy.

“I was told if it had gone on any longer I might not have survived, and that terrified me,” she says.

“I was devastated to lose my baby and horrified that my little boy could have been left without his mum.”

Reeling from her ordeal, Aimee spent a week in hospital without a single visitor because of Covid restrictions, and was later diagnosed with PTSD.

“I’ve had counselling for months, as well as support from the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust,” she says.

“It’s a work in progress, but I feel stronger now and if I could offer advice to people it’s to listen to your body.

"Keep on pushing, asking for help and shouting if you have to.

"If I can help any other women get help earlier than I did, I’ll take that as some form of therapy.”

Ben, 32, a director of an interior fit out company, said: “The whole thing has been tough, although in many ways it was much tougher for Aimee of course.

"As a man, you’re not really supposed to get upset, but it’s been a really sad thing to deal with.

“At the time it was hard to understand exactly what was going on, especially because I wasn’t able to go to hospital with her because of the restrictions.

"When I got a call to say she was getting rushed to theatre, a million things went through my mind.

“But as time has gone on, we’ve been here to look after each other, and all we can do is try to be strong as a family and Aimee has been brilliant.”

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