Birth Diaries: 'I Was 11 Days Overdue When I Found Out My Baby Had No Heartbeat'

"In what felt like the world’s worst circumstances, I had a lovely labour."

Warning: This piece covers the story of a woman’s experience of stillbirth – including a photo – which may be triggering for some readers.

In HuffPost Birth Diaries we hear the extraordinary stories of the everyday miracle of birth. This week, Libby Martin-Gazzard, 28, shares her story. If you’d like to share yours, email amy.packham@huffpost.com.

My pregnancy was wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed every part of it – and it went swimmingly. Textbook, you could say. We did loads of fun things to celebrate our unborn baby, like having a gender reveal with our whole family and a big baby shower with loads of games.

Beatrice was due mid December, and I desperately wanted her to arrive before Christmas, so when I went overdue it did cause some anxiety – but I wasn’t worried about my baby’s welfare at this point.

My contractions started 11 days after my due date, on Boxing Day. I waited until they were strong, lasting longer than 30 seconds and one minute apart, before calling the hospital as we’d been instructed.

The first thing they do when you go into hospital is listen to your baby’s heartbeat to see how they’re getting on. But they couldn’t find one.

The candle Libby and Rob light to remember their daughter, Beatrice.
LibbyMartin
The candle Libby and Rob light to remember their daughter, Beatrice.

We immediately knew something was wrong and started to panic, but staff tried to calm us down, getting another monitor to check, and calling for a doctor. Heartbreakingly, minutes later, it was confirmed that our baby had died.

I was completely broken – it honestly felt like a nightmare. I was heartbroken for my partner, Rob, who I had only seen cry once in our eight-year relationship prior to this day. And immediately I felt guilty about how this was going to affect my family – it had been a really tough year with the death of my grandfather, and the promise of my baby had kept everyone going. I knew they would be crushed. Even though there was nothing I could’ve done, I felt responsible. It was the worst moment of my life.

We didn’t have long to process the information before they told me they needed to break my waters to encourage labour to progress quicker. I asked for a Caesarean because I thought it would be easier, but I’m so glad now that they persuaded me to give birth to her vaginally – as I always intended to.

In what felt like the world’s worst circumstances, I had a lovely labour.

We had arrived at hospital around 8.30am, and I went through eight hours of it. It was heartbreaking, empowering, and heartbreaking again – all at the same time. I had gas and air throughout and don’t actually remember feeling any pain at all. Beatrice was born sleeping at 4.30pm that day.

I was broken and in love, but held it together. I had to have a spinal injection and operation to manually remove the placenta following Beatrice’s birth, which left me sleepy for a while immediately after – and gave Rob some quality time alone with his daughter.

I remember the 24 hours that followed vividly. Our families and the wonderful midwives looked after us exceptionally well. We cuddled Beatrice and took photos of everyone with her; we had a blessing and we bathed and changed her; we took prints of her hands and feet and cut a curl of hair. I kept looking at her in the bed next to me and thinking about how amazing it was that I had made her, and how proud I was.

When I awoke from naps, I would see her and forget for a minute that she wasn’t alive. Most of the family went home at night but our mothers insisted on staying with us, so we didn’t have any alone time until everyone left at 3pm the following day.

As the door closed behind the family and we were left alone, that’s when I cried. Apart from during labour, I don’t think I had shed a tear. I knew this was the only time I would spend with Beatrice so I had just kept smiling, probably wanting to not worry the family or make anyone even more upset.

But, once they’d all gone, the three of us – Rob, Beatrice, and I – cuddled and sobbed together for a while before taking some more photos and then laying her to rest. The midwives wanted us to stay another night but we decided we had done everything we could and we were only prolonging the inevitable.

We laid her in a little box and put her blanket and her teddy with her and then, alongside our midwives, walked to the chapel of rest – Rob carried Beatrice – and left her there.

Libby, Rob and Beatrice.
LibbyMartin
Libby, Rob and Beatrice.

When we returned to the hospital room, we became very practical, gathering our things and tidying. It was then we decided to put out a status to let everyone know what had happened, as we were getting excited messages from people about our baby. We both wrote something and, together, combined the two to put out a joint statement from both our Facebook accounts with a black and white picture of the three of us. The love and support we were sent in the minutes and hours that followed immediately boosted us.

It was a surreal time. We didn’t have a clue where to go or what to do so we just took it a minute at a time. At this point, we didn’t want to go home, but couldn’t face family so we went out for dinner. The only people we wanted to see were our niece and nephew – who at this point were in bed – so we stayed with my sister that night and were awoken with cuddles from them, two innocent children who just wanted to play. And then we took every day as it came.

Saying hello and goodbye to Beatrice at the same time was the hardest thing, but we took comfort in the fact that she felt no pain. She only ever experienced undying love.

As told to Amy Packham.

For more information and support on baby loss, visit Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity.

Libby and Rob welcomed their second child – a son named Rupert – on 1 May 2019.