Oct 112017

HeatherJane Coombs – SANDS

In 2004, I thought after your 12 week scan you were home and dry in your pregnancy and you just waited for the little of bundle of joy to join you. How naïve was I! I had heard of stillbirth and babies dying but only from soap operas, it didn’t happen in real life to normal people… Did it?

On the 1 September 2004 I realised that yes stillbirth DOES happen to normal people like myself when I was told at 10.31pm that my son Xander had died inside of me due to a placenta abruption. I wasn’t sure how I expected him to come out, but to then realise I was going to have to give birth to a baby that would never cry broke me in two.

I was in labour for the next 2 days and finally gave birth at 2.43pm to a gorgeous (yes I’m biased, but he was) 5lb 5.5oz baby boy who we named Xander Dangerfield Coombs. I can tell you every single detail of the time spent in that room waiting to give birth, even how uncomfortable the bed was and the posters of babies on the wall. That first night I heard 7 babies being born and knowing my baby would never cry like their babies was torture.

When I was told my baby had no heart beat and then the news that he had died, it was a student midwife who held my hand and cried with me. Her compassion stays with me.  My midwife Cath who was there for the days of my labour and helped me through some tough hours is on a pedestal and will always remain Queen of Midwives to me, she was amazing.  I also know that her shift finished at 2pm on that Wednesday, but she was still there looking after her “poppet” as she referred to Xander and me until gone 9pm when I left.  She dressed him, talked to him and gave us the time to be with him, whilst still being there when we needed something, she was amazing.  I am in awe of a midwife who can deal so lovingly and perfectly with a family in heartbreak and then go next door to a family whose lives have changed in another way differently to ours.

Through my work with Sands (Stillbirth and neonatal death charity), first as a volunteer and then as an employee I have heard so many stories and met so many health professionals, some good and some not so good.  When I was asked to join the National Stillbirth Working Group I was both elated and scared!  My work back ground was a team leader in a call centre and my first few meetings I felt like I was a rabbit caught in the head lights, I was just waiting for someone to tell me I was an imposter and ask me what I was doing there.  The medical talk went right over my head, and often I went home with lots of notes so that I could google what words meant so I could understand what the conversation was about. I would like to think that over time though I have started contributing as the voice of the parents and made a small difference within the group.

Being part of the launch of the Safer Pregnancy Wales Campaign and fortunate enough to be able to share Xander with everyone was amazing and the partnership between Sands and the Maternity Network/1000 Lives Improvement seems to have gone from strength to strength, the upcoming launch of the Pathway being even more exciting.  When we start seeing the stillbirth rates reduce as they did in Scotland then that will really be amazing. His feet may have been small, but Xander’s foot print gets deeper with time.

We will be joining in raising awareness during baby loss awareness week. For more details of events please go to http://www.babyloss-awareness.org