Parents share the pain and agony of losing a baby

Baby loss is something that happens to one in four couples who get pregnant – but there is still a taboo around the subject.

Often people don’t know what to say or feel the parents wouldn’t want to talk about it, in fear they may get upset.

But many parents of angel babies urge anyone who is a friend or family member of someone who has experienced a loss, to not be afraid to talk about their child.

To mark the end of Baby Loss Awareness Week (BLAW), a national campaign which aims to raise awareness about pregnancy and baby death in the UK, PlymouthLive has spoken to families who have sadly lost a baby.

Little Things & Co and Ava’s Fund are both charities which support families going through a stillbirth.

For more information on Little Things & Co, or to access their resources and baby loss support, visit their website.

For more information on Ava’s Fund, visit their Facebook page, here.

Please note some people may find content in this article distressing.

PlymouthLive has also set up a memorial list for angel babies, here.

If you would like your child’s name to be added, please get in touch via email at katie.timms@reachplc.com.

Reuben Carter Stoneman

Reuben Carter Stoneman
(Image: Danielle Stoneman)

Danielle Stoneman has bravely shared her story after losing her baby boy.

The 40-year-old gave birth to Reuben on September 3, 2015 and he devastatingly lost his life the following day.

Danielle had placenta previa during her pregnancy, which she says was the “start of Reuben’s problems”.

“It erupted and I was loosing blood heavily which led to him having  no  brain activity and having organ failure and fitting constantly,” she said.

“On day two, he had a massive brain hemorrhage, which the doctors said he was in more pain and he wasn’t alive. Iit was only the life support machine keeping him going so they turned the machines off.

“He didn’t take a breathe it all happened so fast.”

Danielle Stoneman and her family visiting Reuben’s grave
(Image: Danielle Stoneman)

Danielle believes there is not enough help or support around problems during pregnancy.

“When Reuben died, I hit rock bottom,” she said.

“I had no interest in anything and to be honest I can now see I neglected my daughter’s needs she was only 12 at the time.

“I was selfish but Reuben was the most important thing to me, I wanted to be with him and protect him. I hated it when I had to leave hospital without him.”

Danielle said she does not want Reuben Carter Stoneman to be forgotten
(Image: Danielle Stoneman)

Danielle raised enough money for a bench at the Ford Cemetery baby pot by selling the things she had bought for him at a pop-up shop at the Lord Louis pub.

“I also sold all Reuben’s baby things as it was no use to me and we then succeeded in getting the bench,” she said.

“Five years on and he’s still very important to me and my children.

“I don’t want Reuben to be forgotten.”

Danielle’s daughter, Courtney, is now 17 and she has a rainbow baby, Fletcher Jay-Carter, who is three.

The family visit Reuben’s grave weekly.

“Fletcher loves washing his brothers headstone, we call it giving him a bath,” Danielle said.

” I don’t think there is enough support out there for families and especially children that lose a baby it’s very sad.  

“I have found since losing Reuben people only look at it as I have two children but I don’t I have three. 

“My advice for other families who have a friend or daughter who suffers a loss is, ‘it’s nice to talk about our child that dies’.

“We don’t want to forget them. Remember the special days like their birthday and the day they were buried.”

Ashton Sole

Ashton and his identical twin brother, Jayden
(Image: Vicky Sole)

Vicky Sole gave birth to identical twins in 2007, Ashton and Jayden.

Heartbreakingly, six-and-a-half weeks after their birth, on October 21, 2007, Ashton died from sudden infant death syndrome [SIDS].

“I’ll never be the same,” Vicky said.

“The way I felt is unexplainable, numb, lost, a range of different emotions but I had to stay strong for his twin brother.

“There wasn’t much support 13 year ago and the risks of certain items wasn’t as clear as now and still things are changing.”

Vicky explained that Ashton is always remembered and a candle is lit for him on his and Jayden’s birthday and the day he passed away.

She advises talking to friends, family or “even strangers”.

“Don’t keep the pain locked in,” she said.

“Try seeking support, talk to family, friends, even strangers. Anyone you feel comfortable to talk to.”

McKenzie Lee-Roy Edgar

Debra Eyres and her family visiting baby McKenzie’s grave
(Image: Debra Eyres)

At 20 years old, Debra Eyres experienced the worst pain in the world.

On October 31, 2012, at 33 weeks pregnant Debra was told she had lost her baby boy, Mckenzie Lee-Roy Edgar.

Debra, now 33, feels that “there was nothing” in regards to awareness around baby loss and still feels that today, there is more that could be done.

“I felt absolutely numb,” she said.

“I was only 20 at the time and it was my first child. Hearing the words ‘there is no heartbeat, sorry,’ is just the worst. Your heart sinks and you just want the world to swallow you up.

“It wasn’t until two years later that I received any help or support around losing my son.”

Debra has since had four other children, Clayton, seven, Skyla, five, Wyatt, two and one-year-old Ashleigh.

Video Loading

“They weren’t born when I lost McKenzie, but I have explained to them that they have an older brother,” she said.

Clayton, Skyla and Wyatt know he’s in the sky and they visit his grave. Skyla looks out the window every night up at the sky and says goodnight to McKenzie before she goes to bed.”

Debra advises parents to access any help and support that is made available to them.

“Don’t go through it on your own,” she said.

“Access any help available and talk about the loss, so many parents don’t talk about their babies when they lose them. They are still your child you should be able to tall about them.”

Stories of baby loss

Debra has urged friends and family to not “be afraid to mention the child’s name”.

“It’s a comfort sometimes knowing people want to talk and remember your child”, she added.

Debra also feels there is a lack of support for men.

“The fathers should also be supported and thought about in the same way a mother is during a loss,” she said.

“It is their child too, they may not have carried the child but they also created that baby. They do not need to feel that they have to be strong for the mother, they are both dealing with the loss and have the right to the same support.”

Ava Hollie Williams

Sophia Williams with her daughter Ava who was stillborn
Sophia Williams with her daughter Ava who was stillborn

The following text has been written by Sophia Williams, who set up Ava’s Fund  with her husband Gareth, after the stillbirth of their daughter.

My name is Sophia, I’m 31 and I have three beautiful living children, but I have been pregnant eight times.

Five of those pregnancies have ended in heartbreak. This isn’t rare.

According to Tommy’s, ‘1 in every 250 pregnancies ends in a stillbirth’.

That’s eight babies every day. Also according to Tommy’s, ‘An estimated 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage’.

When I was 23 I fell pregnant with my first daughter, Hollie.

Although engaged to her father with a date set for our wedding the following year, finding out I had fallen pregnant with her so quickly was quite a shock, but one of the best shocks we’ve ever had. I took her whole pregnancy for granted.

I was very lucky in the sense that everything went well and she was born healthy.

Hollie fundraising with her parents for Ava’s Fund
(Image: Sophia Williams)

When Hollie turned one, my husband and I decided to start trying for baby number two. We fell pregnant fairly quickly, but sadly miscarried our baby just days before the 12 week scan.

We were in Disneyland Paris at the time the miscarriage began, it was my 26th birthday. Returning to England and going to hospital, the miscarriage was confirmed.

I was told by the sonographer that it was ‘just one of those things’

To my husband and I, the ‘it’ being just one of those things was our baby. The sibling who would have been close in age to Hollie.

We went on to have another miscarriage before falling pregnant with our second daughter, Ava.

Ava’s pregnancy went perfectly, up until the last few weeks when I had a couple of concerns. I went into hospital twice with reduced movements in the last few weeks of pregnancy and both times I was told everything was ok.

I remember feeling like I was worrying needlessly, feeling that I had wasted valuable time of the midwives who’d seen me. Especially when one of them told me my baby was probably reserving energy for birth (something she should have never said as a baby’s movements shouldn’t slow down).

Three days later I returned to hospital and heard the words ‘I’m so sorry, there’s no heartbeat’.

Sophia Williams with rainbow baby Lowen
(Image: Penny Cross / Plymouth Live)

My husband and I went from all the excitement which comes with waiting to welcome a new baby, to packing things away and planning a funeral

We went on to suffer a further two miscarriages, before falling pregnant with our first son in 2018 and our second son in 2019.

Both of our sons were born healthy, but their pregnancies were filled with anxiety and flashbacks to heartbreaking memories.

I’ve had counselling and during their pregnancies I had the perinatal mental health team on board.

Hollie, without even realising has been our rock throughout it all.

If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know where I’d be right now.

Stay in the know

It’s currently estimated that a huge proportion of stillbirths in the UK could be avoided through better care, education and awareness.

Charities such as Tommy’s are working tirelessly to carry out research into the causes and prevention of baby loss.

Shortly after Ava was born, my husband and I set up Ava’s Fund to help raise awareness of and reduce stillbirth rates across the South West.

We have gone on to raise thousands of pounds and the money has been used for specialist bereavement care and stillbirth prevention training days at Derriford Hospital and we’ve funded 20,000 Mama Academy wallets to help provide those going through pregnancy with important information which helps keep mum and baby safe.

Leighton Harding

Claire Harding has since suffered anxiety and PTSD after a stillbirth and miscarriage
(Image: Claire Harding)

“You will smile again and the sun will shine.”

Those are the words of Claire Harding, a woman who has experienced the worst pain a mother could ever imagine.

She was once swallowed by “unrelenting grief” and even questioned “what kind of a mother” she was after her first child, a baby boy, was stillborn at 39 weeks and one day.

Claire and her husband later lost another baby, their third child, at 12 weeks.

“We have no idea if (the) baby was a boy or girl as the body mysteriously disappeared. Everything else I caught in my hands,” she said.

Claire has since suffered anxiety and PTSD – she’s now sharing her story to raise awareness and reduce the stigma around baby loss, for Baby Loss Awareness week.

She has also urged people to “drop the clichés”, such as ‘appreciating’ the children she has.

“There is something about the grief of child loss that is like no other. You have not only lost a beautiful baby but every first and milestone in their life,” she said.

“All of that has gone in one moment. A mash up of unrelenting grief, shock, disbelief, anger and guilt that you couldn’t save your own child.”

But Claire wants parents to know that despite the pain, there are days where the “sun shines”.

“Your child existed and was real, no matter when they passed. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,” the brave 37-year-old said.

‘You won’t have a cloudless sky anymore but the sun will shine’

“Whatever you feel and whatever you do will be right for you. Support is getting better so please don’t be afraid to ask and suffer in silence.”

Claire’s first child, Leighton, was stillborn just six days before Prince George was born, which meant she and her husband had to “endure the heavy publicity” surrounding the Royal birth.

At the time, the pair lived in Exeter and earlier in her pregnancy she experienced a “severe stabbing pain” under her ribs, but was told it was “perfectly normal for pregnancy”.

Claire, from Plympton, said there was awareness and information on reduced movements and stillbirth back in 2013, but there is much more available today, with folders given to expectant mothers.

Claire with two-year-old Lewis and six-year-old Faith
(Image: Katie Timms/Plymouth Live)

“I did raise concerns as I was told I had high blood pressure and my hands and feet were swollen,” she said.

“I experienced a severe stabbing pain under my ribs but was told all of these were perfectly normal for pregnancy.

“We were living in Exeter at the time and I made a call to the out of hours team and I was told that it was perfectly normal and ‘I’m not coming out for that’ by the on duty midwife.

“I remember those words as clear as day and made to feel my worries held no validity or importance.

‘Although Leighton passed weeks later, the experience made me feel that I was a burden to the midwife team to keep asking.’

“At the time there was information and apps explaining reduced movements and even more so now.

“What there isn’t a lot of information on is an increase in movements, something I learnt with my son. He was going crazy one day, like a washing machine on spin.

“I felt the need to check with my midwife as it was nearly 50 plus movements in a very short space of time. She got me to go to Derriford as too many movements can also be an indication of a possible problem. Thankfully all was ok but this was something I did not know about.”

In 2013, Claire said she was given six sessions of counselling, only for mothers.

She was then told by the counsellor that she “had no idea” what Claire was going through and felt there was a lack of support being provided.

“My doctor at the time had nothing to give to me to help me and nowhere he could refer me to unless I was prepared to pay,” she said.

“Unfortunately £50 an hour was way beyond what we could afford.”

(Image: Katie Timms/Plymouth Live)

Claire said she felt her second pregnancy, with her now six-year-old daughter Faith, was “heavily monitored”.

“I was met with more sympathy,” she said.

“I could call in to be checked out whenever I needed to but nothing more to support me through six months of daily worry.

“Faith is named as my husband would try to keep optimistic and tell me to ‘keep the Faith’.”

She said she “couldn’t have asked for better support” during her fourth pregnancy, with her now two-year-old son, Lewis.

“When I fell pregnant with my son, my amazing midwife referred me to the Perinatal Mental Health team at Tamar Folk children’s centre.

“I couldn’t ask for better support and understanding and nothing was trivial to them. I wasn’t a nuisance and they made me realise that my anxieties and fears were justified and mattered.

“Together with a fantastic midwife who actually understood my fears, we made it through.

“Now I have regular sessions with Pregnancy Crisis Care in Kinterbury Street and they have really helped me un-pick through years of grief.  I just wish I had heard of them or been directed to them a long time ago.”

Claire has told Faith about her brother Leighton and each year they celebrate his birthday as a family, with Faith choosing his birthday cake.

“Faith knows Leighton is an angel,” Claire said.

‘She came to her own conclusions that Leighton lives with Father Christmas and helps to deliver her Christmas presents’

“Because that is when you see angels, at Christmas.

“We know he’s been around as he leaves a feather from one of his wings on Faith’s bed.”

Claire said it “felt very unnatural” to arrange a funeral for Leighton, which is required by law for any baby over 27 weeks gestation.

“I remember being asked what music I would like,” she said.

“Where do you even begin? We chose the theme song to the film Gladiator as it something Leighton used to respond to during pregnancy.

“I have never been able to bring myself to watch that film since. With a stillbirth and a miscarriage I suffered with anxiety and PTSD.”

Stillbirth and baby loss is something that many relatives and friends find difficult to talk about.

“Please, please, please avoid using clichés,” she said.

“We don’t care if it’s ‘nature’s way’ or ‘god’s will’. We do appreciate the children we have, if we are lucky to have them.

“They are not in the best place as far as we are concerned… The best place is in their mother’s arms.

“And yes they really were a baby. Please avoid using them as they really don’t help.

“Just sit with us and listen to us. Give us tissues, tea, coffee, space, love or anything else we need. Just please no cliches.”

Little Things & Co offers practical and emotional support to anyone who has suffered the loss of a baby or young child, and recently launched Little Rainbows.

For more information on Little Things & Co, or to access their resources and baby loss support, visit their website.

Plymouth Live