When Isabella first passed, it felt ok to talk about her a lot to others. But as time has passed, my husband Adrian and I have found people are not as comfortable bringing Isabella up in conversation. And then we also don’t want to burden others with our sadness or bring them down, so we often keep our sadness to ourselves and each other.
It was May 2021 when I noticed a change in my 30-week pregnancy.
My baby’s movements had reduced during the day, but I had an antenatal appointment already booked for that evening, which seemed like ideal timing.
I later went to the appointment, and I held my breath as the obstetrician wrapped me in the heartbeat monitor as he listened to our little girl, who we later named Isabella Ivy Tikvah.
And there it was – a strong heartbeat. I was overcome with relief. Everything sounded fine and I could return to being excited about Isabella’s arrival in a few weeks’ time. I couldn’t wait for her to meet her big brother Blake, our beautiful two-year-old son.
Because of this ‘all clear’, I didn’t feel like I should mention the reduced movement I’d experienced, as I was worried I would appear overly anxious. I didn’t want the doctor or nurse to think I was a ‘complainer’ or overthinking things, which looking back is just so silly. I would 1000% rather be seen as a complainer and have a healthy baby than risk losing my baby over it – an important message for other expecting mothers, too, I believe.
Of course, we don’t know if it would have saved her if I had spoken up, but not saying anything remains my biggest regret, because the very next day, Isabella was born sleeping.
Still today, we have no conclusive answer about why Isabella died, but it is suspected to be issues with the cord and placenta leading to loss of blood flow. But we don’t know.
It was an utterly heartbreaking time for us all, and now, five months on, we find ourselves in Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month (PAIL) – our first as a family who has directly experienced the sadness and pain of stillbirth.
I know the theme of PAIL is silence, and reflecting on that has certainly made me aware of just how present silence is when it comes to losing a much loved and wanted baby.
At first, for me, it was my silence when I didn’t mention the reduced movements with my doctor. I kept silent, and I so wish I didn’t.
Then, it is the silence that stays with us as time moves forward. When Isabella first passed, it felt ok to talk about her a lot to others. But as time has passed, my husband Adrian and I have found people are not as comfortable bringing Isabella up in conversation. And then we also don’t want to burden others with our sadness or bring them down, so we often keep our sadness to ourselves and each other.
I believe that PAIL is an important way that we as a nation can begin to break this silence. As Isabella was born sleeping, only a handful of close family members were able to see her before she was buried, so it is so important to us to have an opportunity to keep her memory alive and let the rest of the world know she existed.
When I think of Isabella today, these quotes come into my mind:
“An angel from the book of life wrote down our baby’s birth. Then whispered as he closed the book ‘too beautiful for earth’.”
“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”
October 15 is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
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This year to acknowledge International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day we are sharing the moments of silence affecting bereaved parents to encourage conversation about pregnancy and infant loss for the month of October.