I will never forget Easter Monday 2007 when that little blue line confirmed my suspicions.
My husband and I were over the moon that we were expecting a baby so soon after starting trying and excitedly began talking about everything that was to come. It was a nervous excitement as we were aware of the huge changes ahead in our lives with the imminent arrival of a new baby and some of the pit falls that may lie ahead during the pregnancy but we could never have been prepared for what was to happen.
Working at a children's hospital I was all too aware of some of the problems faced by some babies and their parents and this added to some of the nervous expectation during pregnancy. I followed the rules, no soft cheeses or cured meats or too much tuna not to mention the rest and my husband kept a close eye on this, as he became head chef and carer at home.
A week after the test showed positive the nausea and sickness started. It is a sign of a healthy pregnancy I was told over and over again by everyone I met, which gave me some comfort as I stood over the toilet bowl for the twentieth time on some days. I felt dreadful but I was happy that it was just one of those things that meant our baby was doing well.
I have been troubled with urine infections for the past few years so I was closely monitored for signs of infection and sure enough as my pregnancy bible predicted the occurrence of urine infections increased in pregnancy. I was told not to worry and was started on a course of preventative antibiotics.
After my 20 week scan I started to relax a little and stopped ending every sentence about the baby with 'all being well'. The scan had shown a perfect little one and although my husband and I wanted to know whether we were having a boy or a girl our little angel lay in such a way that there was no way we could see. Typical we thought as by now our little one was proving to be quite a little character. If music with a beat came on I felt frantic movement inside and every time my husband went to feel the definite kicking it disappeared without trace. I could set my watch by the movement at 9pm and 4am along with the heartburn at 10.30pm and if I tried to do anything energetic it was not long before I would be sick. This little one was very much present in our lives.
The first weekend of August I thought things were looking better still as the nausea seemed better I had not been sick and had even managed to socialise without trouble. At last I thought things are settling down. On Monday morning things did not feel quite as good I had thrown up a few times before I had got to work and I just felt a bit off colour. I thought I had just overdone it at the weekend but as I felt unwell I thought I would contact the midwife after work for advice and carried on with my job. At lunchtime I felt a strange sensation and mild cramping in my stomach and then I bled. I tried not to panic as I headed to meet my husband at the maternity unit. No one seemed too concerned when I arrived and this helped me to relax but unfortunately this was misplaced hope.
After I was examined I could tell by the doctors face that it was not good news. She told me that I was already 3 cm dilated and as I had signs of an infection they could not stop labour if it happened. However there was a hope if the infection was cleared and I did not progress that I could have a cervical stitch and give our little one a few more precious weeks inside.
I had a comfortable but worrying night on strict bed rest and was started on IV antibiotics the next morning. As the day wore on I had an increasing number of period like cramps and at 6pm my waters broke. At 23 weeks pregnant I knew things did not look good but hoped for that miracle that sometimes happens. Jake Marshall Lidstone was born just before midnight on the 7th of August. His heartbeat was strong when he was born and he made a gasp for air but despite help from the neonatal team he was unable to keep his heart rate high enough and the team felt intubation would not be successful. Jake was handed to his dad who held him as he passed away and who saw his heart stop beating shortly after midnight on the 8th august.
Life has not been the same for us since and some days seem much harder than others. We were very lucky to have a specialist bereavement team to hand and the chaplain at the hospital was a SANDS Officer herself. This meant we were given time to spend with Jake, a memory box and space in a recognised bereavement room. We held a funeral for Jake where we were able to say our goodbyes and we will always hold our memories of him very close to our hearts. I vowed we would make every moment count and make sure the memory of Jake was as positive as possible, which is not always easy but we try. On Mother's Day this year, which I found particularly poignant, I ran the Liverpool half marathon in memory of Jake to raise awareness and funds for Sands. I was very aware that before August I had not known that Sands existed but in the last seven months I am not sure what I would have done without the specialist support that they offer.
Jake Marshall may have only been in our arms for a short time but he will be in our hearts forever.
A big thank you to Jake's mum Claire for sharing her story with us.
If you would like further information and/or support, please visit the SANDS website.