My baby's death was preventable, but that doesn't mean it was my fault

Deborah is 37 and lives in Borehamwood with her caring and supportive husband Ben. Their baby Yaeli was sadly stillborn at 40 weeks + 1 day after Deborah noticed reduced movements.

We were over the moon when we found out I was pregnant in June 2019 after 10 months of trying to conceive. It was a low risk pregnancy, which I sailed through, and on my due date we were told baby and I were doing well. 

Heartbreak and precious memories

But the next day, after feeling reduced movement, we went to the hospital - and our world was crushed when we found out that our baby had died. 2 days passed and, after a short but horrific labour, I gave birth: a beautiful baby girl weighing 5lb 3 ounces.

We named her Yaeli, after watching ‘When Heroes Fly’ on Netflix; our favourite girl’s name. One of its meanings is ‘to ascend’ which now felt very apt.

She was truly beautiful, with red lips and a nose just like mine, and cute little ears like my husband’s.

We spent 2 days together in the hospital, cocooned in our little bubble that was the ‘butterfly room’. We held her, I changed her and sang to her, we introduced her to close family, and we read her a story. These are memories I will forever cherish.

It wasn’t my fault

I felt a lot of guilt and regret at first about Yaeli’s death - whether I could have prevented it - but I was told that everything was fine with my urine, my blood pressure, the heartbeat, all of it.

Even if I felt a tiny bit less movement right at the end of pregnancy, I never really worried, as I thought it was just baby getting ready to come. I never even thought to check Tommy’s website; that was a place I’d heard of, but I thought it was just for people who’d had issues with their pregnancy.

It will take time to be able to live with the fact Yaeli’s death was preventable, but I can now accept it wasn’t my fault, and we are passionate about making it less likely that other families will experience this heartbreak.

Mistakes were made

I had the same midwife all through pregnancy and she was lovely. But sadly, mistakes were made towards the end of my pregnancy when measuring my bump to check my baby’s development. I thought plotting growth using a tape measure seemed silly, and my midwife and the trainee always got different readings, but I trusted the system and that they’d tell me if anything wasn’t right.

Those mistakes resulted in 2 missed opportunities to send me for urgent scans, which would have shown that Yaeli wasn’t growing properly. The hospital admitted that if these scans had happened, my care may have been different - yet they say they could not have prevented the outcome. Does that make sense to you? No, me neither.

Go with your gut

My advice to anyone with a seemingly low risk pregnancy is to go with your gut. If you feel any aspect of your care might be ‘off’ then ask questions, ask for a second opinion, ask for scans.

Don’t be afraid to ask. It could be the difference between life and death for your precious baby.  

I emailed Jane Brewin (Tommy’s CEO) with my questions about stillbirth and she took the time to speak to me. I asked her what she thought of NHS care for pregnant women who are deemed 'low risk', and she said many stillbirths are sadly preventable and that’s what Tommy’s is trying to achieve.

When I told Jane that Yaeli was just 5lb3 at birth, she said it sounded as though she hadn’t been growing properly. It felt so nice to be heard and understood after conflicting information from the hospital and post-mortem.

Living with loss

I started a blog in May 2020 to raise awareness of stillbirth among the non-baby loss community and support others if I can; I hope you join me on my journey in motherhood.

In July, I found out I was pregnant again, only to have a miscarriage the following week. I found myself feeling ‘lucky’ that it happened at 5 weeks - crazy thinking. 

Yaeli’s footprints will continue to have imprints.

My husband Ben will be running a marathon on 13 September 2020, fundraising in memory of our Yaeli for Tommy’s and other causes close to our heart. If you are able to, please help us smash our target and continue Yaeli's legacy.