Death then life

Harri, 35, runs her own business and wrote a children’s book in memory of her son Rupert - who tragically died within a day of being born due to a bacterial infection.

I started trying to get pregnant when I was 26, naively thinking we’d have a baby very quickly because I was young. Nothing happened. After 4 years of endless painful tests, several courses of ovulation medication and an operation terrifyingly named ‘ovarian drilling’, my fertility was deemed ‘unexplained’.

The lack of answers was perhaps one of the most frustrating parts of this whole process. 

When I turned 30, we could have IVF on the NHS. This made me nervous - to me, it was our last resort; what if it failed? And when our first round did fail, I was worried about trying again, raising the stakes further… but we did, and it worked. I felt like the luckiest woman alive.

The baby we longed for

At 7 weeks pregnant, I suffered a catastrophic bleed, an ambulance was called, and they said I had miscarried. My clinic asked to scan me the next day to confirm the loss - and to my overwhelming surprise, the baby was still there, with a nice strong heartbeat. 

The rest of the pregnancy was thankfully uneventful. I was delighted to go into natural labour at 39 weeks, and after 38 hours of pain and exhaustion, my beautiful baby Rupert was born in a burst of sunshine at 4:22pm on the cloudy afternoon of 2 March 2016. He was so beautiful, and his little soul brought the most all-consuming sense of calm. 

Here was the little life I would pour all that love into, after all those years of longing for a child.

Just 40 minutes later, he had a cardiac arrest. Doctors were stunned; they had never seen such a healthy baby become so ill so quickly. He spent the next 22 hours with every blinking machine saying he should not still be alive, but he kept fighting. When he died in my arms, at 3:30pm on 3 March 2016, I was irreversibly changed forever.

Finding answers and moving forward

After the post-mortem, we were told that he had likely been killed by a bacterial infection called Ureaplasma that got into the birth canal after my waters had broken. We were assured that a c-section could have prevented his death, so it would be safe if we had another child. 

After 5 dark months for my body to complete the obligatory 3 cycles for us to be allowed to attempt IVF again, we were back at the clinic. This time they put 2 embryos back in, and at 6 weeks we were congratulated on having become pregnant with twins. At 7 weeks, however, one of them stopped growing. 

I was determined not to start this pregnancy with a sense of grief; we had enough of that already.

I focused my energy and hope on the baby who was still growing - but in hindsight, I was still very much in shock for the rest of the pregnancy. Just 13 months after Rupert’s death, our second son Felix Rupert was born on 11 April 2017.

Parenting our rainbow while remembering our angel

3 years on, my rainbow baby has given me so much joy, and I feel privileged to have the honour of raising him and bringing him into the great wide world. But Rupert’s calm presence stays with me, and he’s taught me far more than I ever could have taught him in a lifetime of motherhood. 

My loss has taught me so much about gratitude and patience; I have learned to put aside fear and insecurities.

I wanted to do something to celebrate his short life and what he brought to the world, so I wrote a children’s book called ‘Kidnapped by Grandma and Grandpa’ featuring him as the central character. I’m donating 10% of the profits to Tommy’s, to create a legacy for him, to save other babies.

We decided to have IVF again, to try and give Felix a sibling, but tragically I lost our third son at 19 weeks - on 14 February, so his name is Valentine Rupert. This all happened just days before my book was going to print, and I managed to work his name into the story too, as a small tribute to my second angel baby. 

We’ve since found out the same infection which killed Rupert had torn Valentine’s gestational sac, meaning he could not survive; I’m now working with an amazing consultant who is an expert on it, campaigning to raise awareness of this bacteria and bring testing into the NHS. I’ve also started a blog (@rainbow_mum_life on Instagram) to share my journey, document campaign progress and connect with others who understand. In my experience, it really does help to talk.