“I was carrying a memory box, while others were carrying their baby.”

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. But the couple were ecstatic to receive such happy news.

Understandably, those first few early weeks were nervy, but an early, private scan, helped to put their minds at rest. At their 12 week scan however, the sonographer noticed that the baby’s bladder looked a little enlarged. Unsure of how serious the issue was, the couple were referred to Birmingham Women’s Hospital’s specialist Fetal Medicine team.    

Doctors considered what the problem could be. There was the chance it could be LUTO (lower urinary tract obstruction) and, as the weeks passed, it became clearer that that was the case. The 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.”

As the pregnancy progressed, Sami was seen more and more frequently and eventually every week. She was booked in for a caesarean section at 37 weeks. Sami tried to mentally prepare herself: “I convinced myself everything would be fine; that the baby would go into neonatal intensive care (NICU) for a few weeks, and then to Birmingham Children’s Hospital for further treatment. I got my bag ready, with the baby’s clothes, and was set to go.”    

On the day, Sami and Brandon went down to theatre, with their family waiting in the recovery room. 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, so the doctors could work to save her. Brandon followed the doctors, while Sami waited in the theatre. A midwife held her hand tightly, trying to offer her some comfort. Soon after, the news came – there was nothing that could be done to save Pip. Heartbroken, Sami asked to be taken to her.

Pip lived for five hours and 36 minutes. During that time, the couple held her, their family was able to meet her and make precious memories. The hospital chaplain even came to give her a blessing. Sami said: “I was utterly heartbroken. She was perfect, with 10 perfect little toes. I kept hoping the doctors would tell me they’d got it wrong, that everything would be OK.”

The couple were able to spend the night with baby Pip. 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. 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.”

When complete, Woodland House will provide a safe haven for our bereaved couples, away from the hustle and bustle of the main hospital, and with private access. With a sympathetic setting that will honour their loss, families will be able to spend time with their baby, in privacy, without the worry of running into other pregnant families.

Sami said: “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.”