Little Alexander has kept us going

Alexander has helped Jennifer and Brian get through the loss of their baby
Alexander has helped Jennifer and Brian get through the loss of their baby
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Falkirk Herald reporter Jennifer Marjoribanks shares her moving story of why September 11 will now be forever linked with her own personal tragedy

September 11 is a date ingrained on the minds of people the world over and linked with tragedy and horror.

When I was pregnant last year, with a due date of mid-September, I was adamant that I didn’t want my child to be born on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist atrocity.

Little did I know the day would become synonymous with my own personal tragedy.

I was fed up. I’d already had two instances of false labour and spent a good few nights in Forth Valley Royal Hospital.

When the pains returned, my husband Brian and I headed back to Larbert with overnight bag packed, determined that this time we wouldn’t be returning home without our baby.

When we arrived at the hospital the triage midwife strapped me on to the monitor to check for the baby’s heartbeat.

She seemed to be having a bit of difficulty and, although she said she was convinced she’d heard it, decided to order a scan to make sure.

“I don’t think any of us will sleep tonight if we don’t,” she quipped.

In the meantime she examined me and declared I was not in labour. Disappointed, Brian texted my parents to say we would be heading home.

Then the registrar arrived to carry out the scan.

After a few minutes, she still seemed to be searching and I asked if there was a problem.

She paused for a moment before answering: “We just seem to be having a little trouble finding the heartbeat.”

I knew instantly that my baby was dead. Even when a baby is just a few millimetres in size, scanners can find the heartbeat almost instantly.

I just remember screaming for my baby. If ever there was a moment where you wished something was all just a bad dream, this was it.

The registrar wasn’t able to confirm the news and said we would have to return in the morning to have a scan with a consultant. Her tone of voice though didn’t leave us with any doubt that it was all over.

Everyone who hears the story is shocked that we were sent away from the hospital but all I wanted to do was get away from that place, to my own home and to my little boy, Alexander, who was 20 months old at the time.

Going home, however, also meant we had to break the news to my parents.

Telling my mum and dad was one of the worst moments for me in this whole tragedy. I felt like I saw my mum’s heart break in front of me. They were grieving on two levels – for the grandchild they would never have and for their daughter.

We sat up most of that night and, when Alexander stirred at around 3 a.m., rather than putting him straight back to bed as normal, we brought him downstairs where he ran around the coffee table munching chocolate mice.

This was to become a regular theme throughout the whole trauma – even when we were in the depths of despair, his little life was still going on and we had to keep going for him. He will never know what a blessing he has been.

The next day we returned to Forth Valley Royal where it was confirmed that our baby had died. My waters were broken and I was put on a drip to induce labour.

Twelve hours later at 11.13 p.m. on Monday, September 12, five days before his due date, I gave birth to Andrew, who weighed 9lb 2oz.

“It’s a boy,” said the midwife. I’ll never forget the flatness of her voice, so at odds with the words she was speaking and the way they are normally heard by delighted mummies.

Andrew was absolutely perfect – and we would later learn that, had he been born 24 hours earlier, he would have been fine.

He looked just like his big brother. Even now when Alexander is sleeping I can see Andrew in him.

We held him and wrapped him in the shawl my mum had lovingly made for him. After saying our goodbyes he was taken away and sent for a post mortem.

As Brian and I left the hospital, we were given a beautiful memory box, containing pictures, hand and footprints and a lock of his hair.

In the days that followed I did things that I never thought I could possibly be capable of. I chose readings, flowers and music for my baby’s funeral. I went shopping to buy him an outfit to be cremated in because he was too big to fit into any of the baby clothes I had bought in advance.

I faced my two nieces who had had to deal with the news that their long-awaited cousin was now a star up in heaven. I sat next to my husband with his tiny white coffin over our knees as we travelled to Falkirk Crematorium, and held Brian’s hand as he carried our boy down the aisle – he said I had carried Andrew for nine months and he wanted to be the one to carry his son to his final resting place.

The support we have received from family and friends has been phenomenal. Our living room was bursting with flowers and we had so many lovely cards and messages from people, many of whom shared their own personal tales.

Brian has been truly amazing throughout the past five months, and I’m so glad every day that I have had him, and our gorgeous giggling toddler to get me through this hell.

Stillbirth is something which is very much not talked about – and yet the number of people who have been affected by it is surprisingly high. According to Sands, the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society, 17 babies die in the womb or shortly after birth every day.

I felt it my duty as a journalist to share my experience with anyone else who may have gone through what I did. If reading this helps just one person then the tears spent writing it will be worth it.

In around half of all cases, stillbirths are unexplained. Andrew’s post mortem showed that there had been a problem with the umbilical cord which had caused him to bleed into me. For us it was important that there was something to explain what had happened, but it wasn’t something which we or anyone else could have prevented. Like being struck by lightning the consultant said.

From the moment this waking nightmare started Brian and I have been determined that we will come out of it stronger. We have already raised £400 for Sands through raffles at Christmas – and Brian and five friends will be taking part in the Edinburgh Marathon in May.

Although we haven’t had any direct contact with Sands, we received a lot of their literature in hospital, and they also fund the memory boxes which are given to bereaved parents.

Our own box is such a treasured possession, and I am so glad I have these momentos. Hopefully the money raised will continue the excellent work, including the research done by Sands, because, as lovely as it is, no mummy should ever have to leave hospital with a box instead of a baby.

Brian and Jennifer are raising money for Sands in Andrew’s memory. If you would like to make a donation, go to www.justgiving.com/babyandrew.