‘The cruellest thing’ - Brave Norfolk women open up about pregnancy loss as charity opens new centre
PUBLISHED: 11:46 08 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:52 08 March 2019
Three Norfolk women have told their heartbreaking stories of pregnancy loss to help up the profile of a county charity as it opens a new centre.
Tara Graham, Lauren Willmott, and Sarah Chapman, all gave their accounts at the TimeNorfolk annual evening event, held last week.
Currently the charity has one centre on Catton Grove Road in Norwich, which provides free and confidential support to anyone who has been through pregnancy loss.
But it was revealed that thanks to funding from The Tampon Tax Community Fund, Dreams and Visions and help from the Paul Basham Charitable Trust, a new centre will open in Great Yarmouth next month.
Ms Graham, 39 and from Great Yarmouth, fell pregnant in January 2015 and at 20 weeks found out she was due to have a little girl.
But in late October, she realised she had not felt her baby move.
She had a bath, a common way to make a baby move, but when that did not work she went to the hospital.
She said: “The midwife put the monitor on my body and there was no heartbeat. I remember her face, it was white. She didn’t know what to say to me but I knew. She got the consultant who said ‘I’m sorry, you’ve lost your baby’. I started to shout at my partner ‘you need to do something’.”
Ms Graham had to go back on her due date to be induced for labour. She named her little girl Darcy and was told there was no reason for her stillbirth.
“To leave a hospital without a baby is the cruellest thing,” she said. “ We didn’t get offered any help or counselling. Dealing with it took over my life.”
She heard about TimeNorfolk at a meeting with a group who had experienced loss in their lives, and said: “It’s great to hear that TimeNorfolk will be in Great Yarmouth soon, there is such a need for it there.”
For Mrs Chapman, from King’s Lynn, she was told her pregnancy was low risk and “perfect”.
And when the 34-year-old had contractions and 40 weeks and five days, she was told to stay at home during the early labour.
But when she said she was not sure about the baby’s movement, she was told to go to the hospital.
The midwife put a monitor onto her body but there was no sound, however was told not to worry.
“Next, the doctor came in and also said don’t worry,” she said.
“After a minute or so, she looked at me with the kindest, loveliest eyes and said ‘I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat’. My dreams were shattered, then I had to call my family around the world.
“They were expecting me to say whether it was a boy or girl, but I had to shatter their dreams too.“
The couple went home and when the labour progressed, they drove back to the hospital.
“We had a little girl and they asked me if I wanted skin to skin, I said no. When we were ready, the midwife gave Eliza Jane to her daddy.
“He looked at her and fell head over heels for our little girl. I looked at her and so did I. We were in love with Eliza Jane, she didn’t have to scream or cry.”
The couple spent time with their baby and had castings made of her hands and feet, photographs with family and a naming ceremony with a chaplain.
“We walked out of that hospital with a bag,” she said. “We had to leave our baby there. How would we survive this? We were ready to bring her home.”
At the hospital, they heard about TimeNorfolk and were put in touch with the charity.
Just a week after Eliza’s death, Eliza’s father Liam lost his mum too.
Mrs Chapman said: “The sessions with our counsellor included Liam’s mum. The sessions taught us about the five stages of grief, they helped us so much at the start of pregnancy loss. We will continue to share our story because we want others to know that you can survive stillbirth and even continue to have joy in your hearts.”
While for Mrs Willmott, her experience with TimeNorfolk led to a new job, as she has been made the fundraising, marketing and communications officer at the charity.
Mrs Willmott, from Eastgate, and her husband decided they wanted to have another baby, having already had two daughters.
And at 13 weeks pregnant and close to the three month scan, they were planning how to tell their two girls about the new baby.
But that morning, the 38-year-old experienced some pink staining so she called the midwife for reassurance and was sent for an early scan.
She said: “I hoped I was worrying needlessly and I would be sending friends photos of the scan, the waiting was awful, I went into the room shaking.”
The scan showed no signs of a baby, just a pregnancy sac. She had suffered a missed miscarriage and while she had lost the baby very early on, her body had not yet realised.
“I couldn’t get my head around the fact there was nothing there, I had names for that ‘nothing’ and I loved that ‘nothing’,” she said.
“I needed to be there for my family but my feelings were overwhelming. I didn’t know where to turn so I searched online and found TimeNorfolk. Following a phone call I went to meet them and I was paired with Vicky.
“Vicky quickly identified that my happy mask was fragile and each week I was able to let go of all my pain in that room. She took the pressure off me and helped me find positives in an awful situation.
“She taught me how to look after myself and because of her my family have the proper me back. Our lost baby has become part of our story and the experience with TimeNorfolk has made us more resilient against other obstacles.”
TimeNorfolk started over 20 years ago but has recently experienced a huge increase in the need for its service.
“In the last two to three years, our numbers of clients have grown by 65pc,” said director Lesley Bradfield.
“We are the only service in Norfolk that provides what we do and it’s free. Baby loss is not the taboo subject it was years ago.”
TimeNorfolk practitioners meet clients on a one to one basis or in small groups and offer help and support to the wider family as well.
“We support the young girl who doesn’t know what to do if she finds she is pregnant to the older woman who has had her family and then finds out she is pregnant,” Mrs Bradfield said.
“We support women who have had several losses and then find they are pregnant. Every day they think, am I going to lose this baby? We’re passionate in Norfolk, we want a service that anyone can come to, whether a parent, grandparent or other family member, they can come.”
Counselling is not the only service offered at TimeNorfolk, in October 2018, the charity ran a baby loss awareness day which was attended by 75 health professionals. Each year there is a Doorway of Hope service at Norwich Cathedral.
And other services include working the student midwives at the University of East Anglia to give training and working with hospitals.
The new Great Yarmouth centre will be based at the Priory, adjacent to the Minster.
To find out more visit www.timenorfolk.org.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The helpline for anyone who has suffered a pregnancy loss is 03333058552 or 01603 927487.