Stillbirth: One mum shares her heartbreaking story of losing her first child

Stillbirth, Lianne Docherty

by Judy Vickers |
Published on

According to the NHS there are more than 3,600 stillbirths in the UK every year. Here, mum Lianne Docherty, shares her stillbirth story with Judy Vickers...

When Lara was born, we couldn’t wait to put out a message to tell our friends and family that she had arrived – her exact birth time and, of course, her weight. OK, she wasn’t alive, but like any other parent, I was still so proud that we had our little girl.

I think it’s hard to understand that if you haven’t experienced a stillbirth. When visitors came, I was desperate to show them photographs of her. One of my greatest regrets was that she was dressed soon after she was born - I would have loved to have seen her wee bum and little feet, and have had time to explore her before we had to say goodbye.

Lianne and David started trying for a child soon after their wedding (Credit: Lianne Docherty) ©Lianne

David – who like me is a primary school teacher – and I married in 2010, and started trying for a family quite quickly. I had a textbook pregnancy, but at 34 weeks we went out to our local gala day in Bathgate. We had a great time bumping into people we hadn’t seen for ages, but coming home I was so tired and felt like my mind was playing tricks on me – was the baby moving or not?

On the Monday I called my midwife. I was only really calling for reassurance, so was a little surprised when she sent me to our local hospital, St John’s in Livingston. At this point I was sure the hospital staff were just going to tell me not to worry and send me on my way, but instead they hooked me up to a monitor. Relief washed over me when we heard a heartbeat… but then the nurses told me that was mine.

That’s when it hit; when I realised our daughter had passed. Strangely I wasn’t hysterical, I was just numb. Even when they told us she had died two days earlier.

I was so naïve; I thought I would have a C-section, but instead I was given medication to bring on labour and told to come back in two days. I don’t remember a lot of the labour. Because our baby had already passed, I could have all the pain relief I wanted and I was just like a rag doll.

Stillbirth, Lianne Docherty
Lianne wishes she'd had more time with her daughter (Credit: Lianne Docherty) ©Lianne Docherty

Lara was born on June 9, 2011, at 1.30am. Everyone spent time with her, including both sets of grandparents – she was the first grandchild for both sides. Then we had to make the horrible decision to say goodbye and go home without her.

Two weeks later, we had a big funeral. I stood in the house on the morning and made all the sandwiches for people coming back; looking back I wonder how I managed to do that, but I wanted the best for her. David carried her coffin and we both lowered her down with the ropes.

Lianne credits SANDS with saving her life (Credit: Lianne Docherty) ©Lianne

When you have a stillbirth, you lose who you are as a person. There I was on maternity leave with no baby. I didn’t see the point in being here if she wasn’t. Then I called SANDS Lothians, our local neonatal and stillbirth charity. I would be dead if I hadn’t made that phone call. It’s why I work as a befriender for the charity now – nothing compares to talking to someone who has been through it themselves.

For weeks I’d been blaming myself – had I overdone it at the gala day? But Lara’s post-mortem came back as inconclusive, as a lot stillbirth post-mortems do.

Four months later I was pregnant again. I didn’t want to replace Lara – she will always be a part of our family – but you are a mum and you are desperate to have a child in your arms.

David and Lianne now have three children (Credit: Lianne Docherty) ©Lianne

We have three children now; Eilidh is four, Alannah is three and Callan is six months. It’s made David and I stronger, which I’m grateful for – a lot of marriages don’t survive a stillbirth.

And while everyone thinks children are precious, I think we realise that all the more.

**If you are struggling to cope following a stillbirth or neonatal death, you can contact SANDS, here. **

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