‘As a mum I’ve spent my life protecting her; I just couldn’t fix this though’

It is important to acknowledge everybody who is affected by the loss of a baby. Amanda Addy shares her beautiful and heartbreaking account of stillbirth from a grandmother’s perspective.

Amanda and Avery

Tommy’s guest blog, 10/05/2017, by Amanda Addy

Nicole Addy got in touch with Tommy’s earlier this year to share her story of stillbirth and help other parents going through similar experiences.

‘If I’ve learnt one thing since it happened,  it’s that I have so many people in my network of work colleagues, family and friends who have been through  the pain of pregnancy loss, but I never knew about it because they were too scared to speak out – like it’s a taboo subject – and I’m on a mission to change that.’

Nicole and her fiancé Steven lost their baby girl Avery last October after Nicole’s placenta malfunctioned at 28 weeks.

Recently Nicole asked her mum Amanda to write a guest blog on her website, My Little Birdy Told Me.

At Tommy’s we know just how hard baby loss is for the entire family.

Amanda has written a powerful piece about the experience of ‘watching her baby lose her baby.’

Amanda opens her blog by describing how close she and Nicole have always been. Nicole was Amanda’s first born when she was 18 years old and had been in an abusive relationship.

‘I had no money, no job, I had nothing….except for Nicole. This precious little girl was my responsibility and all I knew was I wanted to be a good mum and give her the best I could.’

Nicole told her mum that she and Steven had begun to try for a baby.

‘When Nicole got pregnant I was so happy for them and for me as I was going to be a grandma and I was really excited at the prospect – and so excited for them as they wanted it so much. Over the coming weeks I got great pleasure in watching Nicole enjoy her pregnancy and grow in size. She was even more beautiful when pregnant.’

Nicole’s pregnancy progressed without a problem until 28 weeks when Amanda received an unexpected phone call at 11.15pm.

‘Mother’s instinct but I knew that something was seriously wrong. Nicole had been so tired in the last few weeks due to the pregnancy and her job, and she was normally in bed by 8pm! Why was she ringing?? My heart sank……I answered the phone: “hey Nic….” All that was at the end of the phone was tears…..a heart wrenching sobbing. I couldn’t get any words out of her. I think I started shouting a little at her to tell me what was wrong. It hit me like a thunderbolt. “She’s dead mum”.’

Amanda describes the feeling or confusion and disorientation after being told that Avery’s heart had stopped beating.

Nicole and Steven went straight back to their home from the hospital and Amanda paced around her house for the rest of the night in tears.

‘So many emotions were running through my body – How, why, but most of all my biggest emotion was pain for Nicole. I knew what being a mum meant to her and I knew this was going to change my little girl forever and that broke my heart. How would she deal with this…’

The next morning Amanda went to Nicole and Steven’s house to help support the two of them. She tried to hold in her tears and be strong.

Nicole had been too distressed to pack anything for the hospital so Amanda went to the supermarket.

‘As I walked into Tesco I swear every aisle had baby items in them – nappies, formula, clothes. It made it all seem real at that point. Reality set in half way down an aisle and I set off crying. People were starting to stare and I thought I should get out of there. There was a costa in Tesco so I sat and had a drink, still sobbing, but trying to pull it back together, I couldn’t go back like this! I was frightened of what would unfold over the next few days. An event that we would never forget and change us all in different ways.’

After arriving at the hospital Nicole, Steven and Amanda were shown through to a room where Nicole was induced.

‘It was very surreal and sombre and all I remember thinking is oh my god I can’t believe how strong they are both being. But my fear was that really it hadn’t sunk in yet and when it does then it’s going to be bad….very bad.’

At around 8 o’clock the next morning Nicole was taken to the delivery room.

‘Nicole was now feeling the full throws of labour and was using the gas and air to cope. She was doing amazing. I was so proud of her, and at the same time still so frightened of what was about to happen and how she was going to be when Avery eventually came into the world. This is not how it was supposed to be.’

Later, one of the midwives wheeled a cot in. Steven asked Amanda to ensure it was kept out of sight as he didn’t want Nicole to be scared.

‘He was doing such an amazing job of getting her through this and it was evident to everyone in that room how much in love they were. And that broke my heart. This should be such a special moment in their lives. The birth of their first child, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. It was so unfair. I remember Steve telling Nicole how much he loved her and that he was so proud of her – I had to leave the room at that point as the tears started to flow uncontrollably.’

At around 10.30am Avery was born.

‘Nicole was ok. She was so strong and at one point said to me “oh for god sake mum stop crying!!” Typical Nic……trying to hold the fort even after all she was going through.’

Avery was swaddled and taken away to another room while Nicole was taken through to theatre to have her placenta removed as it had was stuck.

Amanda asked Nicole and Steven if they would be ok with her going to see Avery. Nicole initially did not want to see Avery but was happy for Amanda to.

‘I peered over the cot and there was a little face peeping out. She had a little woolly hat on and a pink cardigan. She was perfect and beautiful and looked as though she was sleeping peacefully. I picked her up and kissed her on the nose. She looked like Nicole and it brought me back to the moment Nic was born and first placed in my arms. But this was very different. The midwives left me for a while and I sat down with her. Cradling her in my arms. My tears started to drop on to her and I had to get some tissue to dry her face.’

Amanda mourned for Nicole and Steven, and also for the future with her granddaughter that she had lost.

‘I whispered to Avery that I loved herand that she was wanted so much. I told her how special her mummy was and that she was going to have to look down on her mummy and look after her. After a while the midwives came back in for her. I didn’t want to let her go. I broke down and said to Nicole’s midwife Stef that this was so unfair.’

On her way back to Nicole Amanda met Steven in the corridor and he broke down in her arms, heartbroken and exhausted by all they had been through.

‘I went back into the room and climbed into bed next to my little girl. I wrapped my arms around her and just held her. I wished there was something I could do to make this all go away. For me this was the hardest thing. Not being able to change it or make it better. As a mum I’ve spent my life protecting her. When she has a problem.… I fix it!! I just couldn’t fix this though.’

Steven later went to meet Avery and described how special it was to Nicole who changed her mind about meeting Avery. Later on that night Nicole went to meet her baby girl.

‘I stayed around when Nic met Avery in case she needed me. Nicole and Avery were left alone, just mother and daughter. Nic already had a bond with Avery as she had carried her for 7 months and I was trying to imagine how Nicole was feeling finally meeting her daughter that had been inside her for the last 7 months. I was a bit numb by then and overwhelmed by everything that had happened in the last 24 hours. I thought they needed to be alone now and I left them at around 9pm to go home and let them be a family for the short time they had with Avery. I cried all the way home.’

Over the next few days Amanda was there for Nicole and Steven as they made the plans and decision that no new parents should have to make.

If you or someone you love has lost a baby and needs support through these days and decisions, take a look at our support page for after a stillbirth.

Amanda helped Steven move all of Avery’s belongings out of their flat and store them at hers to avoid upsetting Nicole further.

‘When I got home, Chris my husband had bought some boxes to put all her belongings in. We started to pack the boxes with Avery's clothes. I broke down. There were so many beautiful things, and I was imagining Avery in them, and thinking how we would have been sat together reading her Disney books when she came for a girly weekend with Grandma. All these little reminders were too painful and Chris had to finish off the packing and hide it all in the loft. There they will stay and hopefully in the not too distant future can be used with Nic and Stevens future children.’

It has been eight months since Nicole, Steven and Amanda had to say goodbye to Avery and have their lives changed so immeasurably.

For Amanda, the shock of what has happened to her family has given her a different perspective on life.

‘When I’m having a bad day at work, I remind myself that actually no……nothing will ever compare to the pain and stress of losing Avery. Watching Nicole battle through her emotions and learning to deal with her death has left me the proudest mum on earth. Nicole never ceases to amaze me and I wonder where she gets her strength from. If I had to sum up the experience in one word it would be HELPLESS. That’s how I felt and continue to feel sometimes when Nicole is having a down day, I am unable to help her through her grief. I’ve never experienced losing a child. I feel helpless as I can’t help my daughter come to terms with it or suggest ways that might help because I have no idea how she must feel. And this feeling is alien to me. All I can do is be there for her.’

Her advice for other grandparents experiencing this pain is to take everything one day at a time.

We want to say thank you to Amanda for sharing her experiencing and highlighting another way that the loss of a baby can impact on a family.

Tommy’s are committed to ending this heartbreak for families in the UK.

Nicole and Steven had Avery’s post-mortem at Tommy’s Rainbow Clinic in Manchester. Clinical Director Dr Alex Heazell was able to tell them that Avery passed peacefully away due to a placenta malfunction.

They have a plan in place with the rainbow clinic to prevent this happening again in future pregnancies.

More Information

Nicole got in touch with Tommy’s earlier this year to share her story. You can read about her journey from losing Avery to Tommy’s Rainbow Clinic. You can also head to My Little Birdy Told Me for more blog posts from Nicole.

At Tommy’s we understand how devastating stillbirth is and how it can affect the entire family. If you or a loved one needs support, take a look at our information pages on stillbirth.

If you’re interested in the work of Tommy’s Rainbow Clinic or Placenta Clinic, you can take a look at our Manchester Stillbirth Research Centre for more information.

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