Real Life A rainbow after a storm
After her baby died, Natasha Wilson was lost in grief. Then she met Torz Russell. Together, the new friends have found the strength to carry on...
There’s the word ‘orphan’ for a child who has lost a parent, and ‘widow’ or ‘widower’ for someone who has lost a spouse. How do you describe a person who loses their child?
The fact is you can’t. It’s an indescribable situation, filled with unimaginable pain, and one that I found myself in.
Until then, my husband Ben and I had lived a blissful life. After meeting in 2008, by October 2009 I was pregnant.
By now, we were living together in Swindon, along with my son, Tyler, then three, from a previous relationship. Tyler and Ben’s little boy, Oliver, who was the same age, were both so excited to become big brothers. When Isabelle was born in July 2010 they adored her.
Four years later, Ben and I got married and a month on I fell pregnant again. When we found out we were having another girl, we were ecstatic.
Everything was progressing well, but at 30 weeks I started suffering with severe lower back pains. A scan at the hospital revealed I was in early labour. It was halted with medication, but the doctor explained the baby was breech.
‘It makes a premature birth all the more risky,’ he said. ‘When you eventually go into labour again we’ll need to deliver by Caesarean, or we can turn the baby manually.’
The latter, a procedure called an ECV, sounded like a safer option.
So, six weeks later, I went back to hospital for the procedure. I was alone as Ben had been held up at his job as a builder.
As the doctor began to manipulate my bump by pushing her hands over my belly the pain quickly became excruciating. After 45 minutes, my body was in agony, but thankfully the baby had turned.
When I left the hospital, my ribs were so sore I struggled to walk. And worryingly, I hadn’t felt my baby move since the procedure. I told myself it was probably just the muscle relaxants I’d been given. But by 10pm the baby still hadn’t kicked. I decided to go to the hospital while Ben stayed at home with Tyler, then eight, and Isabelle, four. Oliver, eight, was with his mum. I told myself it would be OK. But when the nurse struggled to find a heartbeat and went to get a doctor, I started to panic.
After a few minutes, the doctor pointed to the motionless image of my baby’s heart on the screen. ‘I’m afraid there is no heartbeat,’ he said gently. ‘Your baby has died.’ I tried to speak, but my voice broke. My baby was dead. The beautiful, little life inside me was gone.
When I phoned Ben, I couldn’t hold it together. ‘She’s gone, Ben, our baby has died,’ I wept. He was just as distraught, and after rushing to my bedside, we held each other desperately, united in grief.
But then there was more terrible news. The midwife explained I needed to be induced as soon as possible. It felt so cruel, that I’d have to give birth to my baby, knowing she would never take a breath.
But of course there was no option, I had to deliver my precious little girl.
The next morning, I was given my first round of induction tablets. A day later, on 5 March 2015, with Ben by my side, our baby girl was born. When she finally
‘I craved a baby To nurture’
arrived, her silence was deafening.
I’ve never experienced heartbreak quite like cradling my newborn baby after 36 weeks of pregnancy, knowing she’d never open her eyes. Ben and I were bereft. We called her Rebecca, a name Tyler first suggested. After a day together, a midwife carried Rebecca down to the mortuary. I was discharged that night. But nearly every day for the next three weeks, I visited Rebecca – singing and reading to her.
Ben threw himself back into work as a way of coping, but I struggled to function. I was on maternity leave from my job as a support worker at a refuge, but I didn’t have a baby to care for. It was devastating.
In the same week we buried Rebecca, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, but I refused to take any antidepressants. Why did I deserve to be happy when my baby wasn’t here? Ten weeks on, the post-mortem results confirmed Rebecca’s death was due to complications that arose during the ECV. Although grief and anger ripped through me, I still felt strongly that I wanted to have another baby. It wasn’t a case of replacing Rebecca, or forgetting her, but my body craved a baby to nurture. Ben wasn’t so sure it was a good idea.
But, in May 2015, I fell pregnant. By now, I’d started going to group therapy sessions with Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal charity. Slowly, they helped me to process and accept my grief. And when I miscarried in June, they were a fantastic support to me.
Gradually, life fell into a calmer rhythm. So when I became pregnant in October 2015, I felt more in control of my emotions.
Still, anxiety loomed over me like a cloud and, with every passing milestone, I felt guiltier, like I was leaving Rebecca behind.
Even when baby Ella was born in June 2016, my grief for Rebecca didn’t leave me. Yes, I adored my new daughter. But she could never replace Rebecca.
Through a support group run by Sands, I met a woman named Torz Russell. She’d lost her son, Dylan, when he was born at 36 weeks in 2015. She now had baby Lewi, who’d arrived just five days after Ella.
Meeting for the first time at a local café, I’d never felt more in sync with another mother. She understood what I’d been through. The truth is, the grief for your lost baby doesn’t leave when you have a rainbow baby – a baby born following the loss of an infant. As I watch Ella grow and develop, it’s incredibly bittersweet.
But, in Torz, I’ve found the friend I needed. Together, we can talk about our lost babies without fear of judgement.
We are mothers united, not just in our grief but also in our gratitude and strength for the second chances we’ve been given.
Torz russell, 29, says... after my son Dylan died, it was hard to explain why I needed to be a mum so soon after my loss. so when I met natasha, it felt like a blessing. I think most mothers experience a maze of emotions when they have their rainbow babies. watching lewi and ella grow up without their angel siblings is beyond difficult. natasha stops me from sinking under and helps me to celebrate our angels, rebecca and Dylan, together.
Baby Ella (above and right with mum Natasha)
Rainbow babies Lewi and Ella now
Natasha with Ella and Torz with Lewi