Like many others in my position, I questioned myself – was it something I had done?

Hayley and Martin from West Yorkshire fell pregnant with their first child, Ike, in February 2019. Sadly, their son was stillborn at 26 weeks. Hayley and Martin never found out the cause of Ike’s death, making it even harder to come to terms with their loss. This is their story.

My husband Martin and I had been together for 12 years before the time was right to start trying for a baby. My mum has a rare form of Motor Neurone Disease, but for years her consultants had been unable to find the genetic cause of her illness. We held off trying to have a family of our own in case I had inherited the condition. Luckily, after years of waiting for test results, we were told that my mum’s illness was not hereditary. We began trying to conceive and felt so lucky to fall pregnant within a few months.

A mix of emotions 

I’m a very anxious person and spent the first 12 weeks of my pregnancy constantly worrying about miscarrying. I had a small bleed at around 6 weeks which didn’t help my nerves. When we reached the 12-week scan and saw that our baby, Ike, was fine, I relaxed a little. When we sailed through the 20-week scan as well, I finally let myself believe that we would be taking home a healthy baby. Everything you hear about pregnancy leads you to believe that after that magic 20-week mark, you are in the ‘safe zone’. We started planning our future with our son, buying clothes and baby items like a cot and pram. It was very exciting.

Devastating news

After 26 weeks of a completely normal pregnancy, I realised I hadn’t felt Ike move for some time, and also began experiencing cramps. I know how much of a worrier I am, so when I went to the hospital to get checked, I expected to be told everything was fine and to stop being so anxious. I even went to the hospital alone.

It therefore came as a huge shock to be told that Ike had already died. I just remember screaming ‘why’ at the consultant. Sadly, this question was never answered. Even after receiving the post-mortem results, we still don’t know why Ike died. Like many others in my position, I questioned myself – was it something I had done?

Spending time with our son

What happened afterwards is a bit of a blur, but I remember the intense fear I felt knowing that I would have to give birth to my dead son. Martin and the midwives were amazing when I went back to the hospital to deliver my baby.

Once my contractions started, I went into autopilot. I almost forgot that Ike had died, and just did what I had to do to give birth to him. Once he was born and I held him in my arms, I felt pure love for him. We were allowed to spend a couple of days with him at the hospital, and the midwives treated him just like a live baby, which meant so much to us. When the time came to leave Ike at the hospital, it was hard to bear. We held a small funeral for him 2 weeks later, and I will never forget leaving him in his tiny coffin at the crematorium. 

Our respect for Tommy's 

Since Ike’s death, I have requested that I be referred to Professor Alex Heazell at Tommy’s, to ask more questions about stillbirth in general, about Ike’s death specifically, and how we can best welcome Ike’s sibling into the world safely in the future. If we are lucky enough to fall pregnant again, I hope that I can be looked after by Tommy’s doctors in the Rainbow Clinic.

Before Ike, I had no idea that a woman could have a normal, healthy pregnancy, and look after herself really well, yet still lose her baby 6 months into the pregnancy for no known reason. I have since met many women who have lost their babies even later into their pregnancies, who have also never found out the cause. I find it shocking that research into stillbirth remains so underfunded nationally.

Tommy’s means so much to me as I respect the fact that they are doing real, impactful research to help parents like us, and are trying so hard to find out why babies die before they are born. It is therefore my privilege to be running the 2020 Manchester Marathon in April to fundraise for Tommy's. It will be my first marathon, and I know that Ike will be with me every step of the way.

If you would like to join Hayley in running for Tommy's, you can sign up for a race here.