'I can never forgive myself for not seeing my son and holding him close to me'
Earlier this month the Indie marked Baby Loss Awareness Week (Oct 9-15) with a poster front page and a four-page special inside featuring the personal stories of four women who had suffered the tragedy of baby deaths.
Their moving accounts prompted Joe Connolly, a 74-year-old Bishop's Stortford grandfather, to share his own in the Indie – and now his story has in turn motivated 66-year-old Lesley Searle, of Oaklands Park in Stortford, to talk about Simon David, the baby that she and husband Simon lost 40 years ago...
My husband Simon and I met in 1971, when we were 17, at the Rovers Folk Club held at the former Boar's Head pub in Windhill, Bishop's Stortford. We were married at Elsenham church in 1975 and subsequently moved to St Albans due to work.
We were thrilled to be expecting our first baby in September 1979. Pregnant women used to wear voluminous dresses and I couldn’t wait to wear one and show off my bump, of which I was so proud.
However, when I was 27 weeks' pregnant I didn’t think that the baby had moved much. I had a doctor’s appointment on the Monday and told the GP. As I had a hospital appointment on the Wednesday I was told to wait and see what they said.
They tried to find a heartbeat but couldn’t. I was told that my baby had died.
I was sent home and told to come back to the hospital on the Friday to be induced. I couldn’t believe it – I naively thought they would just take it away, not have to give birth to a dead baby.
I remember walking round Marks and Spencer to look for a couple of new nightdresses to take to the hospital. I looked pregnant but my baby was dead and still inside me.
We duly went to hospital and I was put on a ward just round the corner from the nursery, where the newborn babies were crying. I I wasn’t to get to hear mine. I was induced but didn’t give birth until the Sunday at about 9.20pm.
We had been asked if we wanted to see our baby but we both said no. I was terrified as I didn’t realise he would look like a proper baby, just smaller.
When the baby was born I remember the midwife saying "Oh, it’s a perfect baby boy."
I can never forgive myself for not seeing my son and holding him close to me. I have felt so guilty ever since – we both have.
I was moved to a side ward for the night then allowed home the next day. I was given tablets to dry up my milk; I didn’t realise nature could be so cruel and that my body would continue to produce milk even when my baby had died inside me. It flowed profusely for a few days after.
I came home empty inside and with empty arms. Simon thought he had done the right thing by clearing the nursery of everything. I was so upset.
Because our son was born just before 28 weeks we had no funeral, nothing at all.
We blanked it out for many years and it wasn’t really spoken of and life went on.
I had a miscarriage a year or two later and we went on to have three beautiful daughters (with another miscarriage in between). We now have three wonderful grandsons, a beautiful granddaughter and another grandchild on the way.
Our son would have been 40 this year. We never gave him a name or rarely mentioned him until we renewed our wedding vows on our 25th anniversary.
I have lived with the guilt and regret at not seeing our baby and still cry and grieve for him.
Many years ago I spoke to someone who had lost a baby at term. She said to me: "Well, your baby was only 28 weeks mine, was at term." I know she was grieving, but those words have stayed with me ever since and really hurt. If you lose a baby at 18 weeks, 28 weeks or 38 weeks it is still heartbreaking.
We are now 66 but over the years the pain of losing our baby has become greater, not easier. Perhaps if we had a birth or death certificate and had held him it would be slightly easier. I am so glad that hospitals treat the loss of a baby or child so differently these days, although it will always be painful.
Life is good and I wouldn’t swap our family, but there is a gap where our son should be.
I think we didn’t speak of him for many years because the pain was unbearable.
This is for the son we would never know, but Simon David, you have never been forgotten. You are in our thoughts always. Mummy has written this with tears streaming down her face. We miss you.
More by this authorPaul Winspear