Pregnant mum snapped last ever picture with dying baby – look at them now
Setting my mobile phone camera on timer, I wiped my red rimmed eyes and forced a smile as I turned to show my baby bump to the camera.
‘You don’t have to do this,’ my partner Jason sniffed.
But as much as it hurt, I wanted to. I needed something that I could treasure when we mourned our loss over the coming months.
I was already a mum to Oliver, seven and Holly, four, when I fell pregnant in January 2016. But my excitement was mixed with trepidation. For while getting pregnant has always been easy for me, being able to carry a successful pregnancy was a different story.
After my fifth miscarriage in late 2015, Jason and I decided to give it one more go to have our longed-for third child, and just a few weeks later, I discovered I was pregnant again.
It was early days, but I had such a good feeling about this little life growing inside me.
‘It just feels right this time,’ I told Jason.
Classed as a high-risk pregnancy because of my history, I was put on aspirin and progesterone pessaries daily.
‘Just hold on in there,’ I begged the tiny life growing onside me.
And at six weeks, a reassurance scan at Thameside Hospital showed that they’d listened.
‘Your baby and body are doing exactly what they should be,’ the midwife smiled.
Only then, just three weeks later, I woke from a short nap to find myself bleeding heavily.
‘It’s happening again!’ I wailed, as once again my world came crashing down around me.
We rushed to hospital expecting the worst but a scan revealed our perfect baby wiggling away.
‘The left side of the membranes has a subchorionic hematoma – a collection of blood between the membranes and uterine wall,’ the doctor explained.
My heart sank as he told us it mean that our baby had a 50/50 chance of either the haematoma resolving…or the pregnancy ending in miscarriage.
‘You need to take things easy,’ he told me.
I nodded. Anything to save my baby.
Still, the next three weeks were spent with trips in and out of hospital due to more bleeding. While my baby was still clinging to life, the haematoma was growing. Things didn’t look hopeful.
Then at 13 weeks I had a huge gush of blood and was admitted to hospital. I lost over two pints of blood in less than an hour along with huge blood clots.
‘Surely this is the end?’ I sobbed to Jason.
But yet again a scan revealed our strong little baby carrying on as if nothing was happening.
‘I bet it’s a boy,’ my consultant said. ‘They always cause the most trouble!’
I managed a smile.
It was decided I would be on complete bed rest with only toilet and shower privileges for the rest of the pregnancy. With two other children to look after it wasn’t ideal, but Jason took time off from his IT job to help and my mum Karen chipped in, too. I was still bleeding every day but only lightly and regular scans showed no other issues.
Then, at weeks 16, the bleeding stopped and a 3D scan revealed we were indeed having a boy.
‘Oliver will be delighted!’ I laughed.
It felt like a new start. Especially as we were about to move into a new house, too. We breathed a sigh of relief and looked forward to the rest of the pregnancy going smoothly.
But just two weeks on, the day after we moved in, I woke up feeling all hot and flustered.
‘What’s wrong?’ Jason asked, concerned.
I didn’t know. Suddenly, I felt a painful twinge low down in my stomach. I got up to go to the bathroom and felt a small gush down below. I expected it to be blood but it wasn’t … I just knew something was wrong I walked to the antenatal unit to get checked out.
Sitting on the bed waiting to be examined, the midwife and doctor were asking about the fluid I had lost.
‘Hopefully you’ll just have wet yourself,’ the midwife soothed.
But minutes later, my waters fully broke.
I knew for sure that this time we would lose our little man. It was only 18 weeks. Far too soon.
‘I’m so sorry, the doctor said. ‘But it’s so early there’s nothing we can do.’
Doctors warned I would go into labour within 48 hours — and deliver a stillborn baby as he was too young to survive. Because he was below the 24-week threshold, my son would receive no medical help.
It was all so much tragedy to take in. Nothing can prepare you for having to say goodbye to your baby. We just clung to each other and cried.
We were left to have a little time alone whilst they arranged for me to be taken to the maternity ward.
‘I can’t bear the thought that tomorrow we’ll lose him and it’ll be like he was never here at all,’ I sobbed.
That’s when I came up with the idea of using my mobile phone to take ‘the last ever picture’ of us together.
‘It’s a great idea,’ Jason agreed as he put his arms around my tummy as if to give our little man one final cuddle.
We’d been told that labour would start naturally but after a full night on the delivery ward, nothing happened.
The next morning a scan reveled her baby’s heart was still bearing despite baby having barely any fluid around him.
‘So there’s a chance he’ll live then?’ I asked.
‘It’s a less than one per cent chance,’ the doctor said. ‘Which is why we would suggest a termination.’
‘But there’s still a chance?’ I repeated.
‘Well, technically…’ he continued.
‘I’m not doing it,’ I said. How could I when my son was giving us every sign that he wanted to live?
That night, still in hospital, I found a charity on Facebook that offered a glimmer of hope. It known as
We’d spent the evening frantically searching for advice from parents in the same situation and was directed to a Facebook page of a charity Little Heartbeats which focused on pre-term premature rupture of membranes (PPROM) awareness.
The charity’s motto was, “where there are heartbeats there is hope”. It summed up everything we believed: that our little boy had a heartbeat so we had hope and chose to continue with the pregnancy.
I got talking to Ciara who started Little Heartbeats after losing her daughter. She was so supportive. Until then, I thought there was no hope, as that is what I had been told by the doctors, but suddenly I was hearing from women who had first-hand experience of the condition telling me not to give up. I knew who I was going to believe.Once I knew there was a chance, I could never give up on my son.
I was kept in hospital for another two days on antibiotics and discharged with the plan of weekly scans and blood tests and to try to get to viability (24 weeks) – or told to return when labour did start. But deep down, all I was thinking about was making sure I did what PPROM advised.
Back home I was logging in to Facebook daily for help and support, hoping I was proving the medics wrong. I followed the advice on the site to a T, getting lots of bed rest, drinking lots of water to build up the fluid around the baby, disinfecting the toilet seat, taking lots of vitamins and being alert to symptoms that might indicate infection.
Following the advice, my baby held on. He had fought so hard we decided to give him a real warrior’s name and at 20 weeks decided on Leo after King Leonidas of Sparta. I was jubilant when he proved all the doubters wrong by getting to 24 weeks – a date at which he was classed as viable.
Now the hospital agreed to give him steroids for his lungs to make them stronger. It was still very early but I finally dared to think that this could actually happen.
I began bleeding again at at 25 weeks and at 26 weeks started having contractions. I was told that doctors would not try to stop the labour and was admitted to the maternity ward again. Luckily the contractions stopped and Leo was still doing great.
I spent the next week in hospital and was finally allowed back home. Within a day I was back on the ward with suspected infection, my consultant arranged a tour of NICU for the following week and I was to stay in hospital until delivery.
I had more steroids and antibiotics and a week later things were looking good but Leo’s heart rate kept dipping and there were talks of a C-section if this continued.
Then, at 28 weeks I had a sore stomach which turned to cramp like pain. Then they became more regular and more painful – too painful to ignore.
The midwives tried to tell me I just had a water infection but my consultant took one look and knew this was labour.
‘There’s no stopping it now,’ he said.
I was blue-lighted in an ambulance to Bolton Royal Hospital with a level 3 NICU and by 3am the next morning my contractions were every 4 minutes and I was 4cm dilated.
Leo was on his way.
In the end, he was delivered naturally, weighing a tiny 2lb 6oz. I didn’t even get to see him. He was placed straight into a plastic sandwich bag to preserve his body temperature and rushed to NICU where medics sent hours battling to save him.
Three hours later we were called into the NICU to meet him for the first time. I was apprehensive but excited, too.
But it wasn’t good news. Leo’s little body was purple and grey, and we were once again told to prepare for goodbye as his lungs were failing.
‘Do you want us to continue to try and save him?’ the doctors asked.
I nodded. Leo had made it so far we couldn’t give up on him now.
‘Come on little man, you can do this,’ told him.
We took his tiny hand and foot prints as a momento should the worst happen – but to everyone’s astonishment Leo began to improve and just three days later, he was off the ventilator.Knowing he was taking those breaths for himself was more than I could have hoped for.We were the happiest, proudest parents in the world.
‘Told you he was a fighter,’ I told the consultant.
‘He certainly lives up to his warrior name,’ he agreed.
Over the coming weeks, Leo survived so many blood transfusions and infections we lost count. It was a long journey, but finally, at 75 days old – 11 days before his due date of 7 October – he was discharged weighing 6lb and breathing independently. It was such a milestone.
As I carried him into our new house, it finally felt like home.
Now 7 months on, Leo is still a bit small for his age, wearing age 3-6 month clothes, but otherwise, he’s absolutely perfect. His older siblings adore him and we can’t imagine life without him.
We said goodbye to Leo so many times that it’s hard to believe he is really here. I still have to pinch myself sometimes. He is an absolute joy. All parents think their kids are miracles, but Leo really is.
If I hadn’t had the support and information from little heartbeats I wonder if things would have been different… quite possibly.
I really can’t thank them enough. They saved both of us, really. For more information about PPROM please visit www.little-heartbeats.org.uk <http://www.little-heartbeats.org.uk/>