When he was delivered, there was no movement, no cry

The Powsneys were in the care of Professor Alex Heazell at the Tommy’s Rainbow Clinic after their baby Joshua was stillborn in 2014. Adam reflects on his grief over the past 10 years.
10 years on

It's now been 10 years since Adam's son Joshua was sadly stillborn. Adam reflects on his journey and what has changed over the last decade:

The grief

My grief has changed over the last 10 years. Whereas my grief 10 years ago was acute and raw, I now have 10 years’ worth of learning under my belt, helping to understand myself, my needs, when I need to care for my own needs, and being able to channel my feelings that can come from annual bereavement anniversaries, or everyday unexpected triggers etc.

We honour Joshua by keeping his memory alive. Our children have one of Joshua’s teddy bears each which they call special ted. Both children are named after him. 

My wife and I strive to be better people, parents and harder workers in his memory and reflect back at our lives pre-Joshua and post-Joshua to see the positives that have come from his blessing and life.

Speaking to others

I do speak to loved ones about my loss, more recently than I did initially. I tend to talk to colleagues or associates more about my loss though. I feel comfier speaking to those less close because it tends to be easier to talk about my own experiences rather than causing more trauma for family. 

My message to other dads going through loss is: nothing will ever replace your child, and no therapy will ever reduce your hurt but talking to people, or finding “your way” to channel the energy in a positive manner either for yourself, your family, or others can provide you with a drive through some dark moments. Your lost child’s legacy can help others.

Thanking Tommy's 

The Rainbow Clinic was fantastic. They treated me as an equal and cared for me as a father. 

During both pregnancies I wanted to be there as much as possible, during scans, during conversations about planning their births, during their births and after their births. 

The staff were phenomenal and allowed me to help my wife, staying overnight with her, doing the feeds and nappies after the births. Their care gave my wife and I a drive to channel our energy into improving maternity and paternity care for all families. 

They brought both our children safely into this world for us and quite literally held our hands as they did so."

Following the tragic stillbirth of their son Joshua in 2014, Adam and Hayley Powsney decided to go to St Mary's Hospital in Manchester, where they met Tommy's Dr Alex Heazell and his team at the Rainbow clinic. Adam says that the care they received helped them lay their 'demons to rest'.

They had their beautiful rainbow baby Edie in 2015 and have recently welcomed their newest arrival, George Joshua Powsney.

I couldn’t wait to be a dad, it was my dream. I lost my own father when I was 22 and I just wanted to do what he’d done, to be as good a dad as he was.

We started trying in May 2013 and by August we were pregnant and over the moon.

Hayley suffered repeated water infections so we had a reassurance scan at nine weeks and I was so happy I actually gave the sonographer a hug. We told Hayley’s parents and my mum and they were so excited to be expecting their first grandchild.

I got an app that tracks your baby’s progress as it grows from the size of a peanut, to an olive and beyond. As a dad-to-be you don’t feel the kicks, so the app and the scans meant so much…it was my contact with our baby.

Our 12 week scan was fine, then, after our 20 week scan, he started kicking and it was lovely, it made it feel so much more real. I got to work on the nursery, it was what I could do for our little one.

We just never thought pregnancy could go wrong.

Then Hayley’s waters broke early at 33.5 weeks at 5am. We raced straight to the hospital where the consultant told us our baby was in breech position and his head was engaged. He said we’d have to have a c-section.

We were both scared. Hayley kept saying ‘it’s too early’. I felt sick but tried to stay calm.

A shift change meant a new consultant and, without any further assessments, she told Hayley a vaginal delivery would be less risky.

We had just minutes to decide and, tragically, we took the consultant’s advice. Had we made a different decision our son would still be alive.

Watching Hayley in pain made me feel so helpless but, eventually, the consultant returned with over a dozen trainee doctors, one of whom delivered our son Joshua Jeffrey at 12.24.

There was no cry from our baby

He came out bottom first, his legs kicking but, by the time he was fully delivered, there was no movement, no cry.

They tried to resuscitate him for 40 minutes. I held Hayley’s hand so tight and whispered, ‘Don’t look’ as I prayed to my dad, to anyone else I could think of.

Then the words, 'I’m sorry, we tried'.

They handed him to us and he was beautiful. Chubby cheeks, a pouty mouth and my curly hair. We both held him for an age in the delivery room, then went to another room where we dressed him and spent the day together.

I remember walking down the corridor to meet the three expectant grandparents. In seconds they went from the highest of highs to a crushing low as I sobbed, shook my head and told them Joshua had passed away.

I was angry, hurt and frustrated

Afterwards Hayley’s dad and my best friend, a solicitor, met with the consultant and asked if a c-section would mean our son would still be alive. She said he would.

We now know the consultant stopped monitoring Joshua’s heart rate for 24 minutes and he suffocated to death. We know that they put the wrong IV line in to resuscitate him. We’re not doctors so we put our trust in the medical professionals and it was tragically misplaced.

The hardest thing for us is that they gave us a choice. Hayley felt her decision to deliver naturally had killed her son.

Our loss affected us differently. Hayley didn’t want to leave the house or see anyone but I couldn’t stay indoors. I was so angry, hurt and frustrated.

All I wanted to do was protect my wife and son, and I’d not been able to.

We weren’t offered any counselling and had no communication from the hospital beyond a letter to my solicitor friend saying they accepted no responsibility for Joshua’s death. This fuelled our anger and spurred us to take a legal route. They’ve since admitted some liability for our loss.

We were desperate to be parents

Given we knew we’d had a perfectly healthy son, and were both desperate to be parents, we started trying again in April 2014 and by June we were pregnant again. We were thrilled and not unduly worried about the pregnancy. We knew the delivery would be the greatest source of anxiety and fear.

We needed to plan and our first decision was choosing St Mary’s Hospital. We didn’t learn about the Rainbow Clinic until our first appointment where we met Professor Alexander Heazell, possibly the best thing that ever happened for us.

I feel emotional just thinking about everything he did for us, his kindness and total understanding of what we’d suffered and how we felt.

We had regular scans and saw him every month from 16 to 33 weeks, then every two weeks after that. He could see our anxiety building as our due date approached and offered to deliver our baby himself.

He did everything to make sure we were OK

He held our hands throughout the process and did everything possible to make us comfortable.

Our planned c-section was booked in for February, three days before the year anniversary of Joshua’s death, Dr Heazell didn’t want us in hospital for that, again that was so considerate.

I know they say hearing your baby cry for the first time is the best moment of your life, well it was better than that. Edie was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, covered in gunk but still the most beautiful thing ever.

Telling our parents she’d arrived was incredible. We all cried and it was like we were putting demons to rest.

Nothing will ever replace our son. We took his handprints and footprints which we had made into jewellery which we both wear every day, but Edie’s arrival gave us our first real sense of joy and peace since we’d lost Joshua.

Tommy’s and the Rainbow Clinic are so vital for families like us. The level of care is incredible and they do everything in their power to support and reassure you.

They literally got us through one of the toughest times of our lives.

If you are interested in the work of our Manchester Centre and Rainbow Clinic, you can read more about the team and their work here.

An update

Since Adam told his story, he and wife Hayley have welcomed baby George, also born via planned c-section, performed by Prof Heazell.