Maria is a long-term supporter of Tommy’s and a member of our Fundraising Board. She has raised an amazing £12k for Tommy's through running a half marathon, and her husband Ben has given talks for us at various Clubs, raising both awareness and much needed funds.
Marina and husband Ben are parents to Ludo and Lona. Their son Willem was stillborn in August 2014.
This is Marina's story
'I just couldn’t believe it had happened to me.'
I was 33 weeks pregnant when I suddenly fell ill. At the hospital I started bleeding heavily so I was rushed in for an emergency caesarean. Our son was stillborn.
Initially I was in shock and very ill, I’d suffered a placenta abruption and haemorrhaged which was terrifying. I met our son, held him but I was feeling very numb. It was three or four days later that the tears came.
Though I was grateful to be alive for my two children, it was incredibly sad, the realisation that the baby we’d prepared for was never coming home.
It’s important to talk and cry, I became really good at it.
Not talking about something you wish hadn’t happened doesn’t make it go away. As a society we tend to not talk about the rubbish things in life but they still happen, and burying them away makes them more difficult to deal with.
I found every time I acknowledged I’d had a baby who was stillborn it helped my brain start to accept what had happened.
Talking was also good for our children because they felt they could ask questions.
You are going through a tough thing, don’t be afraid to talk about it.
Counselling was the most important thing I did.
I’d advise anyone going through baby loss to seek professional help. I saw a bereavement counsellor, it didn’t lessen my emotions but really helped me to understand them.
It also revealed things I’d never have got to one my own, like not being able to cry in front of the children. If you don’t cry, it’s like telling them they can’t either.
It’s helped to cultivate an honesty with my children, we can have all manner of difficult conversations because we had the most difficult one.
You need to answer children’s questions because ignoring their emotions makes things worse, it’s not easy but probably the most important thing you can do.
When you lose a baby you don’t want them to be forgotten and talking about them is the most important thing. My children know they had a brother that’s not with us but they can mention him and that’s important for all of us.
I felt guilty telling people.
I remember one school mum asking if I’d had my baby, when I told her, ‘No, my baby died. He was stillborn.’ she went white and I sort of supported her. I felt awful but that’s ridiculous, just a month after my baby died I’m feeling guilty for ruining this woman’s morning.
Guilt was difficult but you’ve got to be honest because the more we have this conversation, the better society will become at dealing with it.
Before my loss, I probably didn’t support friends who were experiencing something similar, in the right way and I feel a bit ashamed.
Sometimes people say the worst things but I found that could be quite empowering because you think you’ll be upset but then you step away and feel sorry for them.
Some people don’t know what to say, they might just give you a hug but that was really helpful, just knowing they cared. I found that even when people struggled, the fact they wanted to help was a comfort.
You don’t need to say anything because nothing you say will make it better. They aren’t expecting you to fix it, you can’t.
The worst thing you can do is not acknowledge the loss at all. Say anything, even if it’s the wrong thing, when people said nothing it felt like they didn’t care.
Social media can be both a positive and negative.
It’s a form of self-publishing, giving people a voice, the opportunity to be brutally honest about their experiences which can be so helpful to others. In that way social media is a brilliant resource but filters on Instagram put a veneer on life which isn’t realistic. There’s often a different story behind the photo.
Don’t get het up about this perfection thing, don’t be afraid to put something on Instagram that shows your day has actually been rubbish, life has its ups and downs.
Grief affects you in ways you can’t anticipate and the balance shifts.
I found exercising really cathartic, an opportunity to have a bit of head space and try to make sense of my thoughts. It also releases the endorphins and makes you feel good about yourself.
Just don’t feel you’re not coping just because you feel tearful and sad, every one of us does.
There are days, weeks, even months where I just feel blue. The anniversary of Willem’s death is a bleak time and I accept that, but then sometimes I’ll just wake up and feel sad. When that happens, I cry, take myself off for a walk and just cry.
It’s not weakness, don’t be afraid of it, and if you can’t shift the sadness, be honest, chat with a friend and tell them you feel useless, teary and weak and that may well make you feel a bit better.
Talking is therapy in itself, often sharing what seems to be a weakness makes you feel much stronger.
With all three pregnancies I didn’t tell people until after 12 weeks in case we lost the baby.
Prior to Ludo I’d had a miscarriage and it was difficult because I wanted to explain why I was feeling so awful but couldn’t.
We’d invited friends over for dinner after our 12 week scan so we could tell them we were pregnant but the scan showed the baby was dead and I was very sad.
We thought about cancelling but decided to go ahead. I told people I’d had a miscarriage and it really was an evening of warmth, friends and love.
Experiencing loss at different stages has altered my view. I think we should be more honest when we tell people we’re pregnant. I think it’s worth telling people before 12 weeks if you want to because, if you were to have a miscarriage, you need the support of friends and family. I think being more open about it is good for us.
Losing our son brought Ben and I closer together.
I had a real respect for how he coped in a crisis. I loved that, occasionally, I’d just cry and he knew he didn’t have to say anything, he’d just cuddle me.
Ben was in Canada when he got a call to say I was in hospital, then another saying he needed to come home. Just before he boarded the plane he was told our baby hadn’t survived and they weren’t sure whether I would survive. He had an eight hour flight, not knowing.
Maybe when something is nearly taken away you realise how lucky you are.
I’m lucky I’ve got Ben and two amazing children.
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