I first met Mel & Mark (fondly known as Fred by all his family and friends) back in 2013 when I photographed their wedding in King’s Lynn, Norfolk. The day was full of fun, laughter, family and friends and the gorgeous sunshine yellow, sunflowers and feel good vibe stays with me as such an incredible day. Then last year I was delighted to have an email letting me know they were expecting their first child with a due date and a request for newborn pictures. Such lovely news and I always love the opportunity to catch up with former wedding couples and see how their new journey has been since their wedding. Then I heard the devastating news. I don’t think I will ever forget it. I remember I was on my way to a spa for the day on my birthday and Mel’s friend Kate called me to let me know the incredibly sad news that their baby had died. I stopped on the side of the road and while trying to process the news, talked to Kate and cried at the same time. its one of those situations where regardless if you know the family well or not, your heart is in your mouth. That stays with me as it feels unbelievable these things can still happen with modern medical science but also because you can not physically or emotionally understand what a couple will be going through. Its one of those situations that never really gets spoken about and you don’t hear of it because couples don’t really talk about it. As a result, I knew I really wanted to give a voice to stillbirth, for it not to be a taboo subject and that for some couples, telling their story can help.
In April of 2015 we were over the moon to be expecting our 1st child. After being together 20 years, finding our ‘forever home’ and finally getting married it was all that we wanted after trying to conceive for around 4 years. Friends and Family were so excited and as our baby was due on 1st December, everyone was even more excited for a Christmas baby. The pregnancy was perfect and I was classed as a low risk pregnancy and so my care was just midwife led and the only hospital appointments I had were for my 2 routine scans and a growth scan at 36 weeks. There was a concern that baby was getting too big, however, this was not the case and I was told that baby was fine.
On 10th December 2015, 9 days overdue, at a routine midwife appointment our world came crashing down. My midwife was unable to detect our baby’s heartbeat and I was advised to go straight to hospital and after a few scans was told the devastating news that my baby had died. It took a long time for me to come to terms with this and although we had been at the hospital for several hours I could not cry. It was as if none of it was real and it was some horrible nightmare that I would wake up from. This sort of thing doesn’t happen at this stage of pregnancy, I kept telling myself. I had no issues throughout and so why had this happened to us?
I was given termination drugs and sent home for 2 days when I was then to go back to hospital to give birth to my baby. This seemed the cruellest of things to do, but looking back I can fully understand why this process is practised, but at the time, the last thing I wanted to do was wait. The next few days were a bit of a blur with lack of sleep and loss of appetite. I had to repack my hospital bag for baby for one, for just myself, in a house surrounded by things ready for our new arrival and Christmas.
On the 12th December 2015 I returned to hospital where the induction process was started. The staff on the Central Delivery Suite at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital were amazing. I had my own room and was allowed my Mum and also my best friend with me throughout the process. It was a long 2 days but eventually on 14th December 2015 at 14:24 my beautiful baby boy Jack Alexander Allen was born. He was perfect and a good weight of 7lb 5oz, although I was later told he would have weighed more than this. Jack stayed with us overnight in a cot beside my bed and we said our goodbyes the following afternoon. In the time that we had with Jack we were given a keepsake box where the staff helped us to do prints of his hands and feet and also a cast of them. They cut some of his hair for me to keep, which I wear around my neck in a locket. That time was so short but so precious to us and we were able to take photographs and have visitors to see us and Jack. Coming home to an empty house, empty handed was the worst so close to Christmas and we now had a funeral to arrange to say bye to our beautiful angel.
At the time I was in hospital, they were refurbishing the birthing pools and so the room I had was very basic and Mark, my Mum and Friend spent 2 days sitting and sleeping on just a plastic chair. It was very clinical and not at all homely. These are things I did not think about until I got home and so started to see what Bereavement facilities other delivery suites around the country had. With this in mind, we did not hesitate for donations from Jack’s funeral to go to the delivery suite as a thank you for looking after us and more importantly him.
We were so overwhelmed by the love and support we got from our friends, family and work colleagues and when Adrian Flux mentioned a fundraising event in memory of Jack I just cried. He touched so many hearts and I wanted people to know about my baby and my experience. Adrian Flux contacted local companies and insurers to donate prizes to be raffled, held bake days, dress down days and a close friend of mine done a mud assault course to raise funds and whatever money was raised Adrian Flux matched it!!! In total an amazing £9,800 was raised!!!!!
Whilst the fundraising event was happening, I learnt of a local lady called Theresa McGrath who was an ex-midwife who now had a charity for babies that had been lost. When Adrian Flux asked me where we wanted the money to go, Theresa was on my list. Unfortunately, the hospital had stopped Theresa doing her work there shortly before I had Jack but I learned about the work she does from a friend who had lost her little one due to a late miscarriage. Theresa takes photographs of the baby and family, makes keepsakes and supplies clothing for very tiny premature babies that have passed. As well as all of this she offers support to the parents and family. All of this whilst still working as a care assistant and looking after her own family!!
Money was also donated to the bereavement facilities on the delivery suite at the hospital. They now have a bereavement room for families to use but this is still very clinical and is still located on the ward and so not ideal. I have been to visit this new room and have been in contact with the senior midwives there, sending them photos and ideas of how this room can be improved and made more homely.
When you are pregnant you are always warned of the risks of miscarriage in early pregnancies but no one highlights late miscarriages and stillbirths. As a developed country we have one of the highest rates of these 2. It is something that is not talked about, but it is so much more common than you think. So many people have contacted me sharing their experiences and I have also made some good friends of other Mums that have experienced this horror. My mother in law suffered the same thing at full term 30 years previous and it is something she had never spoken of before, but with what had happened to Jack she opened up. I have since learnt that around the time of my mother in law losing her baby, that mothers did not even get to hold or see their baby. They were just taken away, with the parents not knowing where they were buried and the burials were often done by the hospital in mass graves. It has been very much a ‘taboo subject’ over previous years and that needs to change. Mothers to be need to be aware of these dangers and need to be better educated about the dangers in late pregnancy. Mothers, regardless of how low risk they are, also need to have more checks and scans at later stages of pregnancy, if I had been given this, our beautiful boy may have been with us now. This is something that I know organisations like Sands have been trying to get the government to enforce.
I am so proud of our beautiful baby and do not hide away from the fact that he is our son. I love to talk about him and he will always be such a huge part of our family. Talking about him has helped my grieving process and in time I would like to help other mothers who have experienced this horror.
We are now delighted to be expecting our ‘Rainbow Baby’ in April and that baby will always know that they have a big brother in heaven and he will also be a massive part of their lives. I would like to think that they will continue to celebrate his life when we have gone and so his memory will always live on.
Mel has spoke here about the amount of money Adrian Flux raised, which was such an incredible amount. The main fundraising came via a charity raffle where local businesses and insurers donated prizes. People were asked to sell tickets across the various different parts of the business at East Winch and HIC (another company Adrian Flux owns in Hertfordshire). The tickets were sold at £1 per ticket and with the end result being 3800 tickets sold – Adrian Flux as a company then generously matched the ticket sales so there were £7600 in the charity pot.
In addition to this Adrian Flux did Bake Days, which raised £423.65, a Charity Sweepstake, which raised £100 and every Friday is a charity dress down day where staff pay £1 to wear what they like. In addition, two members of staff, Hayley Sanctuary and James Woodhouse completed the Tough Mudder Challenge, which raised in excess of £100. In total over £9000 was raised with £4000 going to Theresa McGrath who is the founder of Theresa’s Tiny Treasures and the other £5000+ going to the QEH NHS Charitable Funds Office so that other couples and families have access to a bereavement room at the hospital.
The very small contribution that Summer Love Photography made was a voucher for the raffle of a full lifestyle shoot. It was an honour to photograph Gavin & Jenny who won the shoot as part of this.
I have a voucher all packaged up and ready to send to Adrian Flux again this year, who are doing another Charity Event this year. If you would like to contribute as a business, or buying a raffle ticket, or any other way, please do get in touch with – Adrian Flux