“Life just carried on around us”

Michelle and Matthew Smith were overjoyed when they found out they were expecting their second child. Their three-year-old son, Thomas, would become a big brother and after a plain sailing first pregnancy, Michelle had no reason to expect anything less this time. Even after a worrying few days, after the couple was told their baby could have Down’s Syndrome, the tests came back clear and Michelle cast it to the back of her mind as she settled back in to pregnant life.

Michelle returned to hospital for her 20-week-scan and she was elated to learn that she was having another healthy, bouncing baby boy, but two weeks later she started feeling unwell with lower back pain.  Doctors suspected a water infection, so armed with antibiotics and feeling her baby kick away, Michelle followed the doctor’s orders to take it easy. That same weekend however, at just 22-weeks-pregnant Michelle was in the bathroom when she felt her waters break.

Michelle was blue-lighted to hospital where she was monitored overnight, hoping that the baby would hold on, but tragically the next morning she received the devastating news that her baby had no heartbeat.

Still in shock, Michelle and her husband were moved to a delivery room to start her induction. “As I sat there taking the tablet that would send me into labour, all I could focus on were the sounds and screams of the other women on the ward, women who were having their babies,” Michelle said. “I couldn’t bear it, so I went home to be with Matthew and Thomas until I was closer to labour.”

When Michelle’s contractions began, she returned to the hospital’s maternity ward, where after an excruciating labour, she gave birth to her baby boy, Ethan. He weighed just one and a half pounds.

“After Ethan was born we were moved into the Abby Suite where we were able to be together with our baby boy. The time we spent together making our memory box with Ethan was so precious and the midwives were just incredible, even taking photos of us as a family – something we would never have thought of.”

“Although we were so grateful that there was that private space for us, we just felt so isolated and claustrophobic. Even though we could get some fresh air in the small courtyard if we wanted, we were still in the middle of a busy maternity hospital with life just carrying on around us.  Being there just felt like a massive slap in the face.”

The thought of running into someone she may know in the hospital filled Michelle with dread, so she stayed hidden away in the Abby suite. “I felt trapped and leaving our room just didn’t feel like an option. I didn’t want to see anyone at all.”

After two days in the Abby Suite, Michelle and Matthew said goodbye to Ethan and decided to go home. “We left the hospital by a quieter route, but it was impossible to ignore the reminders that we were leaving without Ethan.”

 Michelle continues: “Our aftercare from the hospital was absolutely incredible but having to return to the very place your whole world fell apart, and relive those awful memories of losing your baby, just rubbed salt in such a sore wound. I can see how having Woodland House and being able to bypass other people, corridors and sounds that trigger those anxieties will make the world of difference to grieving families.”

Woodland House will have a private family room and outdoor area, as well as a private and sensitive mortuary, giving our families the chance to spend precious time with their loved ones in comfort and serenity.   With its own private access, separate from the main hospital, our parents will be able to return to visit their baby or for bereavement support sessions without the distress of retracing their heartbreaking steps and memories.