Tragedy that no mum should have to en­dure

Text­book preg­nancy ended in un­be­liev­able pain and sor­row

East Kilbride News - - HEARTBREAK - NIKI TEN­NANT

To bring to a close this

year’s Baby Loss Aware­ness Week, be­reaved par­ents, fam­i­lies and friends around the world will to­mor­row light a can­dle to com­mem­o­rate ba­bies who died too soon.

In the sec­ond part of our fea­ture to mark the week in which to re­mem­ber pre­cious lit­tle lives that have been lost, we meet South La­nark­shire mum, Char­lene, who will al­ways carry in her heart love for her lost daugh­ter, Francesca.

Dot­ing mum Char le ne Espie brought two beau­ti­ful ba­bies into the world –but when peo­ple gush over her 18-mon­thold son with his tum­bling, golden curls, whilst barely ac­knowl­edg­ing his big sis­ter, it breaks her heart.

Deep down, Char­lene knows that rather than say the wrong thing, some de­cide it’s safer to say noth­ing at all about her daugh­ter, Francesca Alexis John­ston, who was born on Fe­bru­ary 8, 2018.

And they’d rather not look at the pho­to­graphs of Francesca in the fam­ily home, to which Char­lene and part­ner Steven John­ston’s son, Leo, points when asked: “Where’s your big sis­ter?”

With her bed­room dec­o­rated in all shades of pink, and baby shower gifts adding to her grow­ing col­lec­tion, ex­pect ant par­ents Char­lene and Steven couldn’t have been more ex­cited about the ar­rival of their longed­for daugh­ter as her due date ap­proached.

But hav­ing car­ried Francesca dur­ing a text­book preg­nancy, Char le new as to face what no mother should ever have to en­dure.

She had togo through the emo­tional and phys­i­cal trauma of de­liv­er­ing what she’d been told would be a dead baby.

“We were never re­ally baby peo­ple, be­fore ,” ex­plained Char le ne ,36.“But when I fell preg­nant with the wee one, ev­ery­thing changed in­stantly. She was the miss­ing piece we didn’t re­alise we had been miss­ing.

“I re­mem­ber Steven and me be­ing so com­pletely happy at ever y scan, when we got to see her wee out­line on the screen and to know she was per­fectly happy and healthy in mummy’s tummy.

“We loved see­ing her so much, we even paid for ex­tra scans pri­vately as we just couldn’t wait to meet her. We moved from our flat into a lovely home with a gar­den where we could pic­ture her run­ning around.

“We promised that we would bring her up a po­lite, car­ing and lov­ing lit­tle girl who wasn’t spoiled, but truth be told we would have given her any­thing she wanted, as she had us wrapped around her tiny fin­gers from the day those blue lines ap­peared on the test.”

Like any first-time mum, and es­pe­cially one who was over­due, Char­lene had so many ques­tions and anx­i­eties.

When her mid wife failed to re­turn a few of her calls, she sought re­as­sur­ance from a mid­wife su­per­vi­sor.

“Through rou­tine ques­tions, it was noted that move­ments had slowed,” said Char­lene.

“That was nor­mal for Francesca through­out the preg­nancy, though. There was never a pat­tern. I as­sumed it was nor­mal. She sug­gested I go and get checked. So, I got my wee case and went to Wishaw triage.

“They kept me on the mon­i­tor for four hours. Never once did it cross my mind that some­thing would have gone wrong.”

A doc­tor who was called to pro­vide a sec­ond opinion dis­missed the er­ratic re­sults as baby hic­cups, and s he was ad­vised to go home.

But overnight, pain in her back be­came ex­cru­ci­at­ing.

Within three hours, Char­lene was back in hos­pi­tal. Af­ter a scan, t he room filled with doc­tors – one of whom told the cou­ple, in a matter-of-fact way, that there was no heart­beat and their baby was dead.

“I was in labour. Her wee bag was there with her lit­tle clothes. What just hap­pened to our lives, there?” said Char­lene, who was ad­vised that a nat­u­ral de­liver y rather than a sec­tion would be the safest op­tion for her.

“How could it be that we had to say good­bye be­fore we even had a chance to say hello? All of a sud­den, it was all taken from us in a cruel twist of fate. It is the cru­ellest thing any­body can go through. It was dark­ness for Steven, as well.

“How could they pos­si­bly crush my heart and say: ‘Up you go to the labour suite’?”

“A mid­wife said: ‘God will make it quick and will not make you suf­fer any more than you have to.’ How much more suf­fer­ing can there pos­si­bly be as a mum? If my baby is dead, I don’t want to be here either.

“With Francesca’s birth, it was quite hor­rific. I got re­ally ill dur­ing labour. I don’t know if my body just shut down. I lost a lot of blood and had trans­fu­sions. My body was in ab­so­lute tat­ters. In­stead of com­ing home with a baby, I came home with a bag of pills.”

A dev­as­tated Steven helped to bath his baby daugh­ter, who’d weighed 8lb 11oz, dress her and take the pic­tures they will trea­sure for­ever as she lay in a cot be­side her bro­ken mum for three days.

“When your fam­ily are com­ing into see your baby, it’ s not as you’ d imag­ined. She wasn’ t go­ing to open her eyes for them,” con­tin­ued Char­lene, whose rel­a­tives at­tended a bless­ing or­gan­ised by a be­reave­ment nurse.

“I felt I had let ev­ery­body down, be­cause they’d been so ex­cited

about this wee one. Steven had thought we’d be go­ing home as a com­plete fam­ily. In­stead, he had lost his daugh­ter, and I wasn’t do­ing too well.

“No­body knew what to say. As lovely as ev­ery­body was, there was no-one to help me men­tally and phys­i­cally.

“There were no vis­its from the com­mu­nity mid­wife. I thought I must not matter any more. I put a lot of blame on my­self. My fam­ily told me I needed to see some­one to get help. But I thought I kind of de­served to be in pain and left alone. I felt so lonely with­out my baby.”

The re­sults of a post mortem

re­vealed that the ma­tur­ing of the pla­centa had con­trib­uted to Francesca’s death.

The con­sul­tant who de­liv­ered those re­sults with tears run­ning down his face promised to help them through when they felt ready to have an­other child.

And even though they were not in his district, he was true to his word when Char­lene dis­cov­ered she was car­ry­ing her sec­ond baby – a son whose due date was Fe­bru­ary 8, Francesca’s birth­day.

The con­sul­tant, him­self a fa­ther-of-three, scanned Char­lene ever y week and, 37 weeks into the preg­nancy, per­formed the Ce­sare an surgery that would bring Leo into the world.

“We thought Leo wasn’t go­ing to get here, either. He is our mir­a­cle ,” said Char le ne, who lights up when she talks of her boy.

“He’s hys­ter­i­cal, a wee char­ac­ter with such a good sense of hu­mour for a wee baby. He has mas­sive blond, ringlet curls and blight blue eyes, and he’s the dou­ble of his sis­ter.

“I hope t hat one day when he is old enough, he will re­alise what a spe­cial lit­tle baby he is and how much he means to so many peo­ple, just the way his big sis­ter does, too.”

Char le ne has man­aged the grief of los­ing Francesca through writ­ing blog st hat help other par­ents who’ve lost lit­tle ones too soon. She also helps to make mem­ory boxes for char­ity Simba –the ben­e­fi­ciary of the £3500 Steven has raised by tak­ing part in Tough Mud­der and the Kilt­walk in mem­ory of Francesca.

To those other par­ents, Char le ne says :“You feel like you are never, ever go­ing to get through that pain, the hor­ri­ble dark­ness, the shock, all this grief. It is a brain fog you will have for a very long time.

“We are liv­ing proof that there will be bet­ter days. It’s not al­ways go­ing to be just as dark and you’ll find ways to cope so that it will not al­ways con­sume you. You’ll also find ways to make sure your wee one is al­ways in­volved as part of the fam­ily.

“Just be­cause they are not there in per­son, they will al­ways be there in your me­mories and the way you talk about them with their sib­lings.

“Francesca was a baby. She won’ t be de­fined as sim­ply an­other statis­tic or still­birth. She was our baby and she has a very big fam­ily who love her very, very much.”

Visit www.sim­bachar­ uk for more in­for­ma­tion on the char­ity.

How could it be that we had to say good­bye be­fore we even had a chance to say hello?

Me­mories Char­lene takes new­born Leo to visit his big sis­ter’s trib­ute on the tree of tran­quil­lity

Trib­ute Francesca’s leaf from the Simba Tree of Tran­quil­ity

Giv­ing back Simba Steven has raised £3500 for char­ity

Fundraiser Dad Steven raises char­ity cash in Francesca’s mem­ory

In safe hands Dad Steven heads home from hos­pi­tal with baby son, Leo

That’s my boy Mum Char­lene and lit­tle Leo

Per­fect Baby Francesca’s tiny lit­tle hands

Blue-eyed boy Mir­a­cle baby Leo

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