In 2012 Daniel and I were really happy, not the happiness you get from buying something new, or a holiday, but a really deep content happiness. In just a few weeks we would be welcoming our daughter, Octavia, into the world and we would be a family.
Everything was ready for her, we had moved into a bigger flat, the nursery was set up ready and waiting, she already had more clothes than me, nappies and baby wash were in the changing table, we had done tours of the local maternity ward and we had even made sure to go to a baby first aid course. We were not taking any chances with our little one! All we could do now was wait.
It had been an easy pregnancy despite the first four months being blighted by morning sickness twenty four hours a day, but I admit I had anxieties. I constantly counted the kicks and no movement for more than a few minutes would have me panicking. But my midwives and doctor assured me that after three months it was rare for anything to go wrong and not to worry, and so by the last weeks of my pregnancies I brushed any worries aside and told myself not to be silly everything would be fine. I was further reassured by the midwife's appointment, a few days before I entered the thirty seventh week of the pregnancy, when we had listened to our baby’s strong little heartbeat. Still when I woke up on the morning the pregnancy turned 37 weeks I was very happy, we were full term now, we had made it and nothing could go wrong. Now it was just a question of when Octavia would make her arrival.
That day started out a perfectly normal day. I was on maternity leave so could just potter around and take it easy. But then it got to mid afternoon and it suddenly hit me, I hadn’t felt any kicks for a couple of hours. It was so unusual for me to not notice this for so long that I thought I might have just not been paying proper attention, and I decided just to keep an eye on it for the next couple of hours but was not too worried. By the time Daniel came home from work she still hadn’t moved so I called the maternity ward and they said to pop in. We got there and were able to go straight to a room and chatted away to the midwives about how I was going to feel a real idiot as no doubt this is when she would start bouncing about. Except she didn’t. She didn’t start moving when the trainee midwife listened for her heartbeat and we all heard only silence, nor did she start moving when the second midwife tried to find her heartbeat only to find silence. She was still and silent when the senior midwife came in and tried to find her heartbeat. The only noise when the senior midwife said she was going to get the consultant was me chattering away about how sorry I was for taking up their time whilst I guiltily thought about how nice it was we were getting an extra scan, the worries that had plagued me for the previous nine months suddenly and strangely absent. The silence continued as the consultant scanned me. And it continued. It was not broken by the sudden sound of a healthy heartbeat and a sigh of relief, it was broken by the consultant turning and saying “No, there's no heartbeat”. And everything stopped, my baby had gone and there was nothing that could be done. No emergency calls to be made, no rush down to surgery, no urgency. She had already gone and there was nothing, not one thing we or anyone else could do about it.
About Octavia’s Trust
In the hours, days and weeks after our world stopped we existed, we didn’t live. We got by moment by moment holding out for the time when we could start to live day by day. We were bereft. Bereft of our child, bereft of hope, bereft of a reason why, and bereft of the security each and every one of us carries that these things just don’t happen to us. Until of course the day that it does happen to us. I had had no risk factors, I had attended all my appointments, and followed all the advice and everything had been going well. It just seemed impossible that this had actually happened to us, to Octavia. But it had and as we found out it is all too common. Out of every one hundred pregnancies one baby will either be stillborn, that is die after 24 weeks of pregnancy, or will die shortly after birth. That’s nearly seventeen a day. Just in the UK alone. And of course that doesn’t included babies who die due to late stage miscarriage an equally traumatic event. The numbers are staggering, yet until it happens to you they don’t seem real. It is almost like a terrible secret society keeps. Research into cot deaths managed to cut the number of victims down from three thousand a year to three hundred per year, still a devastating number but a huge decrease nonetheless. Yet stillbirths remain stubbornly high. We don’t accept this and society shouldn’t either. So in Octavia’s honour we decided to set up Octavia’s Trust, a charitable organisation that will provide bursaries for postgraduate students researching the causes and prevention of stillbirths and late stage miscarriages.
Society needs this research, it needs scientists to undertake this research and it needs doctors who are educated in stillbirth. Yet to become a doctor or a scientist is a hugely expensive undertaking, and it is young adults who are having to find tens of thousands of pounds to educate themselves. So we want to provide bursaries to encourage students to specialize in this field and to undertake research that forms part of a bigger project. We are starting out relatively small with bursaries of £2500, however this is enough to make a significant difference to whether or not a potential researcher undertakes a postgraduate degree. Although we have started out small we would love it if this charity became really successful and we were able to fund entire research projects, but we need your help.