This Baby Loss Awareness Week (9-15 October), a bereaved mum from Stourbridge is sharing her heart-breaking story of baby loss, in the hope it inspires others to support grieving parents at Birmingham Women’s Hospital. 

The hospital boasts the busiest single site maternity unit in the UK, birthing approximately 8,200 babies a year. Unfortunately, 2,000 families experience loss at the hospital every year, which is why Birmingham Women’s Hospital Charity is fundraising to bring Woodland House, a brand-new, purpose-built bereavement centre, to the site. It’s something Sami Nordhoff feels she would have benefited from, when she had her own tragic experience.

When Sami discovered she was pregnant, she and her partner, Brandon, were excited, but apprehensive. Their first pregnancy three years earlier had ended in miscarriage at seven weeks and Sami had worried about what this meant for the future. It was a nervy first few weeks for the couple and then, at her 12 week scan, the sonographer noticed that the baby’s bladder looked a little enlarged. Unsure of how serious the issue was, she was referred to Birmingham Women’s Hospital’s specialist Fetal Medicine team.   

After a few weeks of monitoring the problem, doctors determined the baby had LUTO (lower urinary tract obstruction). A blockage in the baby’s bladder meant it couldn’t release fluids and therefore wasn’t taking on enough fluid either. That could eventually lead to the baby’s bladder rupturing. The doctors were honest with the couple that their baby’s chances of survival were slim.

It was devastating news for Sami and Brandon. Sami said: “It was hard for us to take in, it just didn’t seem real. We were offered a medical termination, but we didn’t want to give up on our baby. If there was even the smallest chance it could survive, we had to take it.”

Sami was told she’d have to have a caesarean section and at 37 weeks she went into hospital, convincing herself everything would be fine. Their baby daughter, Pip, was born at 11am, and as she was, she let out a little cry. Upon hearing her, a huge wave of relief washed over Sami, but then she saw the staff look at one another. Pip quickly was intubated and taken down to NICU. Soon after, the news came – there was nothing more that could be done to save her. Heartbroken, Sami asked to be taken to her. Little Pip lived for just five hours and 36 minutes.

Now Sami wants to support other parents and families who have tragically lost a baby and has pledged her support to Birmingham Women’s Hospital Charity, which is on a mission to raise the next £1m for its Woodland House Appeal, which will allow it to break ground on its standalone bereavement centre for families experiencing pregnancy and baby loss.

Space within Birmingham Women’s Hospital is limited and as such heart-breaking conversations currently take place in rooms and locations that don’t reflect the significance of a family’s loss. Patients often speak of feeling rushed and of having ‘nowhere to go’ after receiving devastating news.

Woodland House will be the first of its kind in a hospital setting and has been designed following patient feedback, which advocated the need for a standalone facility that was quiet and private.

The new centre will boast bespoke counselling rooms, a private garden, a large communal lounge area for support groups, and a family room with its own private access and garden, as well as a small, sensitive mortuary. Crucially, the centre will feature separate and private access, meaning there’s no chance of running into pregnant families – something that would’ve made a massive difference to Sami’s experience.

In the short time Pip was alive, the couple were able to hold her, their family was able to meet her and make precious memories. After she passed, the couple were able to spend the night with her. They washed and dressed her, held her and took pictures with her. It’s this time with their baby that Sami and Brandon cherish most. However, eventually, the couple knew it was time to leave her, and when they walked out of the Abby Suite – the hospital’s bereavement suite – their protective bubble burst.

Sami said: “I could hear babies crying all around me. When I passed a pregnant mum, I had to keep my eyes down. I was carrying a memory box, while others were carrying their baby.

“I was so apprehensive going back to the hospital for my follow up appointments. It’s somewhere I’ve received bad news, after bad news, so having Woodland House will remove that anxiety and trauma. It’ll be somewhere you’ll walk into, where other people know exactly what you’re going through, reassuring you that you’re not alone.”

Woodland House will set a new standard of care for families experiencing pregnancy or baby loss. Find out more and help to make Woodland House a reality by visiting the Woodland House section.

Read Sami’s full story here.