Marjorie and Alex

‘I blamed myself then’

Marjorie’s full interview

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0.00 I was full term with Alexis. I never saw her. I never held her. And that’s all I know about her.

0.14 And when was Alexis born?

0.18 She was born on the 15th April 1963.

0.24 Tell me a bit about briefly when you met Alex and when you got married?

0.32 We both worked at the same company – it’s better known now as [name removed] – lots of people would know [name removed]. He worked in the drawing office; I worked in the wage office. We met and he was due to start his National Service, so at 12 months later we got married and… And then, after nearly two years, I found out I was pregnant with Alexis.

1.06 And what was your pregnancy like?

1.09 It was trouble free. It was trouble free right until the very end. In those days they was asking new mothers to have their babies at home – and my mother had a bit of a horrendous time when she had me so she was a bit worried about that. So they arranged for me to go in a nursing home, it’s called [name removed] and… You only went there to book in and then your own doctor took care of you until the end of your pregnancy and… They didn’t have what they’ve got today – you know they’d no scans; nothing. And I just thought everything was normal. But obviously it wasn’t right; it wasn’t normal right from the start, but I didn’t know that. The afterbirth was over the neck of the womb. I know though, I had what they used to call then toxemia, it’s now known as pre-eclampsia. I had them both together – so obviously she didn’t stand a chance.

2.27 So you had no notion at all about these complications?

2.30 No. None at all, no. Apart from about four days before I had her when it all started to show. I started to swell up and because it was so near Easter, mum said to me, I think you should make an appointment. Let the doctor have a look at you because, you know, if you’re feeling poorly over Easter you might not be able to see your doctor. So I did. I went along and said I was worried about… I felt as though I was puffing up and swelling up. He said to me, can you still see your feet? I said, yeah. He said, well, you’re alright. Nothing else was done. And then after a couple of days that was when it all happened. And it was all too late. She’d possibly gone the day before, I don’t know, but that was how you, you know… it was the norm in those days. Nothing like it is today. No blood pressure taken, no ultra scans or anything. Just this cold trumpet they used to put on your tummy to listen to the heartbeat. And that was it.

3.53 Did you have any understanding of stillbirth?

3.58 No. No. I never… I never remember any of me friends having stillbirths or anything, no, no. Perhaps I lived a bit of a sheltered life because obviously it’s been going on since time began, but no. I’d no idea, no.

4.19 Tell me what happened when you went into labour.

4.24 It was all back pain. I was in agony with my back. And then eventually I started to bleed and it was in the middle of the night and Alec, he phoned the doctor. We didn’t know what else to do and he did come; he came immediately and he, he did make a reference to he didn’t think the baby was alive. And he rang for an ambulance and I was taken to [name removed] and… But nobody there said to me the baby was dead. And… of course I had to give birth to her and I was haemorrhaging.  I was haemorrhaging terribly and they had to start then and give me blood transfusion and… I was left in a room for quite a while on my own.

5.29 And then I remember them bringing, the doctor bringing in students and I remember him saying, you might never see this again. And I thought he meant me. But he didn’t, I think it was because of the two things that was going wrong with me: the afterbirth was all breaking away and me high blood pressure with the – not toxemia – the preeclampsia now, you know. But nobody talked to me. Nobody told me what was going on and eventually Alec came back. He’d gone home. And I don’t know whether they rang him or he rang the hospital to see what was going on and they asked him if he would come back right away; which he did. And… he, he you know, he didn’t know his self, you know, what was happening. He knew the baby was dead but… then his concern was for me because I was haemorrhaging so much.

6.37 But still they didn’t talk to him and say, well, we’ll do this. We’ll do that. Nothing was said. Till eventually they moved me then into a labour ward – which is nothing like they are today. There was another girl in the next bed. She was in labour and just a curtain between us.  And then they asked Alec to go. And eventually, you know, I gave birth to her and… oh, they all came in when that was happening, you know. And then as I was giving birth to her I started to fit and… they put Alexis in a bucket with a lid on; an enamel bucket. I can still hear that lid clanging on – and that was it. Didn’t see her. Didn’t get a glance of her, nothing. Nobody said anything to me. I think I had to ask what it was because there’s no scans in those days to tell you whether it was a girl or a boy. And I had to say, you know… you’ve had a daughter they said. That was it.

7.56 Do you remember what you felt? It must have been such an extraordinary experience.

8.04 It all felt so unreal. That’s how it felt really; as though was it happening… you know? I couldn’t believe the coldness of everybody towards me. Nobody, apart from the actual midwife that had been with me while I was in labour, who was absolutely lovely she was, she was an Australian girl. None of the others, the doctors, none of them, even spoke to me to me. It was though I might as well have been dead along with her for the attention that I got. It was just unbelievable. And, and it’s so wrong because you never forget that. You never forget the coldness of them. If it had only been an odd word they’d have said of comfort to you, it would have made such a difference – but they didn’t.

9.02 Do you remember delivering Alexis?

9.06 Yes. Yes, I do. Yeah. I had back labour – with all the pain was in my back – so it really… it was very painful. I don’t remember them giving me anything… to help me in any way with the pain. I don’t know whether they did in those days. Whether there was any pethidine or gas and… there was no gas and air when I had Alexis. It was just a matter of… just going from one stage to another stage until it was over. And… yes, I do remember. And, you know, I remember them pulling her away and then they put her in the bucket.

9.59 As a mother what did that feel like?

10.05 Because it was me first baby I really didn’t know what to expect. You know, I thought is this what happens to everybody when they have a baby? Although the ones that live obviously you get to hold them – I didn’t. But there were so many round the bed, I don’t know what they were all doing when I think back. I think there was a bit of a crisis at that point and it, you know it… so many came in. I don’t know what I was thinking in the end. I just thought perhaps this is what they do. And that was it…

10.55 I did think of the girl in the next bed. To me that was horrendous, even for her. They didn’t seem to bother about things like that even then, you know. And then, after they’d taken her away and they’d sorted me out a bit, they just left me. They just went out and, and they left me. And eventually another doctor came and said, they would have to take me back into theatre because I needed stitching. And then they just eventually took me in there and stitched me up and… And then it was a bit more trauma: they put me in a ward with a girl that already had her baby. And I just felt that was cruel. I did ask could I not be put in a ward on my own, he just said no. And it just seemed to go from, from one thing to another. There was… In those days they only liked your husband to visit you, so you didn’t have a lot of visitors either; although my mum did come in to see me. But… not like today you know where they can have family come in and see you and all the rest of it. No, there was none of that.

12.26 And then again they had matrons in those days that ruled with a rod of iron. And probably be very good at her job but she was very cold – a very cold person. Nobody ever said to me, why it had happened, what had caused it – you know, no reassurance… you know, that this won’t happen again or anything like that. And then… on the Wednesday, it was always a… the visitors could come in an afternoon, but of course Alec was at work, so mum came. And the girl in the bed opposite that had got her baby – I was having to have another transfusion – and she drew the curtains round the bed ‘cause she said her husband didn’t like the sight of blood. So I’d been lying there for two or three hours just looking at the curtains. Mum went mad. Who’s done this? I said, well, you know, her husband don’t like blood. She said, oh, I’m not having this. And pulled them back. And, and then it was just a matter of, you know, getting time over to get well enough to go home, because I couldn’t wait to go home then…

14.00 What was it like for you having had a baby but having no baby? Did anybody talk to you at all about what had happened?

14.11 Nobody. Nobody told me what had happened and how it happens or why it happened, nobody. Nobody. So then I blamed myself then. I thought I’d done something wrong. There wasn’t even the books in those day to, to read on like there is for, you know, today when you’re having your first baby you can go out and buy a book and it tells you this stage, shows you a little diagram and that – there wasn’t things like that and… No, not really. I don’t think they even told Alex how it had happened.

15.00 Tell me more about blaming yourself.

15.04 Because I didn’t really know what had happened and why it had happened, I just thought I’d done something wrong. And then I started to think, well, perhaps I can’t have babies? You know, perhaps there’s something wrong with me? And… didn’t really see a lot of doctors while I was in there – it was just mainly the nursing staff and this matron who was very unapproachable. And so I, sort of, went home not knowing, what had happened and why it had happened, because nobody explained anything. And you feel inferior. You know that… I mean even in those days young girls was having babies and, and giving them up for adoption and, you know, and I thought well… you know, I’m 23 and yet young girls of 16 can have babies, there must be something wrong with me. And I really did think it was that, that you know, maybe I wouldn’t have any more babies.

16.20 And… and then I had to face it then when I got home and that was hard. Because I found that girls I was pregnant with at the same time – when I did start to go out – they would cross over, because they didn’t know what to say to me. And… and the doctor came and he said, he came in – and he was quite a caustic speaking man – right, he said, so what they done with you? So, I told him briefly I’d, I’d had to have all these transfusions etcetera. And he said, oh, right. Well, think yourself lucky you’re not dead along with your baby. And me mum was there and me mum said to him, get out. Get out and don’t come back. Because then again I started to think that was my fault. In a, in a way he was saying, well, you know, you’re lucky you’re here. It’s your fault. And I couldn’t get that out my head that I’d done something that had caused it.

17.40 So then I had to find a new doctor – which I did, and he was such a lovely doctor. He was so different and, and he talked to me. You know, he tried to explain to me that no, it wasn’t your fault. These things do happen, but they don’t happen thankfully that often. And obviously you’ve never come to face it before and, and it’s very hard. And… and then he…  I had a midwife came in to look after me as well and apparently she’d delivered most babies in, in the village over the years and she was very well thought of and she was… she said to me, don’t try for a baby for 12 months. Let your body get over it. She said, and you will have another baby, I’m sure you will. And I did what she told me. I waited 12 months and I had no trouble; and I started with Jane – but was traumatised through the pregnancy. I never enjoyed any of me pregnancies: frightened to death of it. Going to the end and it all going wrong. I’ve never seen any of my grandchildren born – I couldn’t sit in a room in case it all went wrong at the end. So really it spoils you for life: and all because you’re not treated right. And I’m sure that should never happen now.

19.27 Can I ask you how you grieved when you came home after Alexis?

19.35 I didn’t talk about it. I’ve never talked about it. People round here never knew it had happened to me – until that went in the paper. I didn’t talk to the girls about it a lot; so consequently they didn’t know much about it. But I couldn’t. I’d nothing I could tell them really – I didn’t know where she was. I knew Alec had to go and register the baby and… you know, I, I must have said to him, what are they going to do with her? And he, he just said, well, you know, they’re going to have her buried. And then we went to the hospital at one point and asked where she was and they just said, she’s been buried somewhere in Stockport in one of the cemeteries. So no internet then. You couldn’t go on any internet. And then, you know, I’d started to have more… you know, more children and it got, you know, one day we will find her. Till the day came that we did go and look for her.

20.56 He went… we went to the big crematorium in Stockport and they sent us to the Central library. They said everything was on microfilm and we looked through it and we found two burials around the, the time Alexis would have been taken there. And one was on the… she was born on the 15th, there was just this one buried on the 17th – a girl of 31 she was. And underneath it, it said stillborn. So I knew they’d put a stillborn in the grave. And that’s when we went back to the cemetery and I seen a different lady and she said, oh did you not… did they not get the little book out for you? We could have… We have a little book for all the stillborn babies. I said, no. She said, well then, I’ll get it. And she brought it and it was there and she gave us a grave number.

22.06 We went to look for it and couldn’t find it, because there was no stone; it was just grass. And I said to Alec, I’ll have to go home. I said, I could be walking on her… where’s, where’s the grave? Me thinking that everybody was put in a proper grave, you know? But no, there was no stone or anything. And eventually I did ask if I could put something on. They said no. The grave belongs to somebody, it’s registered to somebody; you can put flowers on but no you can’t put anything else on. So for a while I, I just bought something that you could stick in the grass and put flowers on and then I got a bit… a bit angry about it and I thought, no. She’s having a proper pot on it… And I went into the village here, to the… where they make them and I’ve had a proper stone flowerpot put with her name put on it. And I just feel if they do say anything to me, I can only say, well, I’m sorry, but I didn’t ask you to put her in here.

23.20 Because, just over the other side is where all the babies are buried. And that haunts me: to think that she was just put in a grave with somebody that I don’t know who it was.  And then I’m told, no, you can’t put anything on the grave and… It’s as though it, it didn’t, she didn’t belong to us. She was just taken away and they took over and that was it. And I just hope and pray it never happens to anybody else, because it’s one of the cruellest things you can do to a… a couple. Because Alec was just as affected as I was. I mean now, I know I can go there and put flowers on for her but… it’s not the same.

24.17 Can I take you back to being back at home after giving birth to Alexis; did you and Alex grieve in different ways?

24.33 I think he must have found me very hard to talk to at the time. Alec’s far more emotional than I am… I tend to just… not talk about it. Alec can get very angry over situations you know. And I think he felt a lot of anger that I wasn’t looked after. And… and then of course you know, the fact that they… they were allowed to – even though it was your baby – just take them and put them in somebody else’s coffin. I never knew they could do that, but obviously they can – they could. And… it must have taken a while for people to get it changed – perhaps I should have, I should have gone along with them and, and done something? – but course by then I was, you know, adding to me family and… and I’ve got quite big gaps between my girls in their ages, you know, so… By the time we found her the girls were growing up, you know. And yes they go – they go to the cemetery now – but they don’t talk to me about it a lot because they’ve nothing to talk about really, you know. I’ve no picture to show them or anything. But I’m so glad for people these days that things have changed. And I do think any nursing staff should take into account how traumatising it is for those people that have had a stillbirth and to talk them about it, and not just leave them in the dark.

26.48 When did you name Alexis and how did you mark special days like her birthday and death day?

26.58 Well, when I was, when I was pregnant – because there was no scans to tell you if you’re having a girl or a boy – and you’d come to choose names, we’d said Jane for a girl. But when she was born and Alex said he had to go and register her, he said, what shall I call her?  I said, don’t call her Jane. I might have a Jane one day. So he chose her name and he called her Alexis. Now because I didn’t talk about her, I never called her by her name. Now when I spoke about it to the papers, in years to come, I didn’t, I didn’t say she was called Alexis – so they thought she was unnamed, but she wasn’t. And even members of the family never asked me if she had a name. One of my sister-in-laws, when I said we’d called her Alexis, turned round and said, that’s a lad’s name. I said, no. I said, Jane went to school with a girl called Alexis. So I said, no. She’s called Alexis, mainly after her dad.

28.22 So it’s only since I’ve found her and the girls refer to her now as Alexis, you know… have you been to the cemetery to Alexis? They’ll say, you know… But even members of the family – apart from me mum and Alec, and I had a very dear friend Jean, who I’d been friends with all my life – did they ever talk to me about her. Nobody else did. It was as though I’d never had her. And lots of people I knew didn’t know I’d had a stillbirth. Especially when I moved here. I never told anybody. And course when it went… the article went in the paper, people would say, I never knew you’d another baby Marjorie… you know. Because in a way I felt inadequate. How could I talk about a, a baby that I, I didn’t know where she was?

29.27 So I just didn’t say anything and… I think I did tell you the story about the girl in the next bed. Now she talks to me about her. And I see her. I always go to see her once a week, because she’s recently lost her husband and… she’s been a true friend. And… possibly talked, talked to me more about her than anybody – apart from Alec – because she was there when it happened. And she said even she was traumatised when she realised they’d put her in a bucket. I mean that was wrong. That she should be in that room when that was happening. It wasn’t right… but there you go.

30.32 How important do you think it is to be able to talk about it?

30.37 It’s very important, I think. And I think that is why I’m like I am now…  I do think counselling – especially with somebody that you don’t know – can open up a lot of things for you and… and help you. Because as I say when I was having Jane I was… I didn’t enjoy my pregnancy at all. And the doctor I was under at [name removed] – he’d been there years – and he was just lovely. And he knew that I was frightened and he kept reassuring me you know: come on it’s not going to happen this time and… and all the rest of it and… there you go. Then I had Jill and I was just the same as having her. And then when I was having Amy – I was nearly 40 – and I remember, I remember, asking somebody at the hospital was I going to have a scan – ‘cause the scans was just coming out then, you know.  And he said to me, what do you want a scan for? I said, well, I am nearly 40.  He said, well nothing’s going to happen. You’ve got to forget that now. She’ll be fine.  And then right at the end my blood pressure shot up and right away they kept me; they kept me that day. And I had her the following morning. So how different in those years; it had changed with just an indication that things could have started to go a bit wrong and… she was delivered and she was absolutely fine.

32.34 What do you think the impact of Alexis has been on you and Alex and your family?

32.44 I don’t think it’s made any difference with Alec and I – because I can always talk to him. I can always talk to Alec and he’d say to me, don’t be silly. You couldn’t, you couldn’t stop that happening, you know. But, no I don’t think it’s had any affect on us in that sense because he loves his girls, Alec. And he’d have loved Alexis. He just likes children, full stop. And… no, because he’s very protective in that way – and quite emotional as you know. But, no, he’s been good really. He’s been very good.

33.36 And how have things changed since you have somewhere to go and visit her?

33.46 It’s changed, but it haunts me… Alec’s been the last couple of times on his own. Just grass. It’s just… you wouldn’t think anything was there. You know, the girls have put little things on, little angels, and nobody’s ever said take them off – because I don’t think they probably know, the gardeners and that that do the graves. They don’t know that it’s not the owners that are putting these things on. It’s the likes of us, who’ve only just found out our baby’s in there somewhere. I know it sounds silly but we’ve always took the dog with us when we’ve gone, and he lies at the foot where I imagine she is and he won’t get up. I’ve got picture of him somewhere – of him lying there and me saying, come on, come on, and… and he just looks at you. He won’t get up – as though he senses, probably because we’re upset and all the rest of it, I don’t know. He just sits there.

35.10 When you walk on where there’s graves and got no… nothing round… it’s very spongy. Oh its… I don’t know, it just haunts me. I don’t think I’d feel quite the same if it, it had a proper edge to it and a headstone – even if there’s somebody else’s name on it – than it’s just grass. It hasn’t even got a, you know, how you get a, a mound; it’s just flat. So… it was just, it just felt like a, you know, another nail in the coffin really when I found out she was buried in that, and… You know, I’ve had letters from people since, you know, and they’ve said when they’ve found where their babies have been – possibly like smaller cemeteries than what Alexis is in – and they’ve put things like a cross for them and… but I can’t even do that. So say, I have put this… we have put this proper, this proper flower thing on with her name and just the date she was born, you know, but nobody’s said move it, you know. But I don’t think there’s probably any family left that own the grave, you know, because if the deeds are somewhere then, that’s it isn’t it?

36.47 What would you like people to know about stillbirth?

36.57 I’d like them to know that whoever’s giving birth to that baby, there is nothing they can do. There’s nothing they can do to stop it. And just to talk about it afterwards and not do what I did and shut it away, because it doesn’t help. Because it’s always there – it never goes away. Because it’s even affected me now with my own daughters, when they’ve had babies. I’ve not been able to go in the labour ward with them. I mean luckily their husbands have, have looked after them and, and their sisters have been there. And they’ve never asked me ‘cause they know why I don’t want to be there – because I’m a wreck and all the time they’re in labour, I am an absolute wreck.

37.54 And four years ago this Christmas, and me granddaughter was pregnant and she got preeclampsia and, yeah, they knew about it and they treated her and… she had the baby and the baby was fine. But… oh, I couldn’t sleep. I thought she’s… it’s all going to happen again. But you see things have changed as regards… once they find preeclampsia coming on, they can do something about it and not let it… I mean, I think sometimes it does progress and it does still happen obviously, but they can do more now than they could then and… that’s a blessing in itself. But I do think talking about it right from day one helps – and it’s something I didn’t do. And it’s just scarred me for life.

39.04 What would you like to say to clinical staff or what advice would you like to give to clinical staff caring for parents who have or who had a stillbirth?

39.19 To be very caring with them because what’s happened to them will stay with them for the rest of their life. Reassure them that what has happened is not their fault: it’s nature. And talk to them. Ask them how they feel. Don’t just come in, do what you’ve got to do and go out. I know they’re all busy, I know they’ve a lot to do, but just five minutes of their time would be a great help and a great healer. So because they never talked to me, I never talked to anybody else. And I’ve carried it now for… what… what would she be now – I was 23, I’m 76 and I still find it hard to talk about. So I do think the clinical staff… don’t expect the doctors to come in – I know they’re very busy, but I do think a nurse could spare five minutes and just talk to them.

40.37 And please don’t put them in a ward with another new, newborn baby. That, was the cruelest part, I thought. That baby cried like they all cry, and the girl herself, I think, was very embarrassed. ‘Cause she used to say to me, I’m sorry she’s crying and I used to say, it’s alright. She’s got to cry. And it couldn’t have been easy for her, you know. And… yeah, they’ve got to be a bit more caring and try and… just help them through those first few days and… I mean, it doesn’t happen today – putting them in somebody else’s grave – ‘cause I was going to say and never withhold where they’ve put them.

41.42 Just thank… very thankful that there are people like Sands and… that, you know, are there for them to go and talk to now. That must be a great help. But there wasn’t anything like that then. And when I was leaving the hospital I was told by the matron to go home and just get on with it; forget about it. And you can’t do that. And that’s how they treated you so… Never let that slip back to anything like that again.

42.26 What difference has it made to you knowing where Alexis is buried and how has it affected you?

42.35 It gave me closure because for all those years I hadn’t a clue where she was. I have to say when the man from the cemetery pointed at this patch of grass, I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. And I thought, I can’t believe she’s under that. But as time’s gone on now, I realise that I’ve got somewhere I can go and I know she’s there. I can put flowers on her grave. And when it’s her birthday and it’s Christmas we always go at Christmas and put something a bit Christmassy on her grave. And… and I also think of the girl that she’s buried with because I’ve been going there now all these years and nobody else has ever been. So that 31 year old lady that she was buried with she’s still having flowers put on her as well; it’s not just Alexis.

43.48 There are times when I still get terribly upset that she’s where she is, but it’s give closure and… it’s stopped me from feeling too… as guilty as I did – because I didn’t know where she was. So I find it a little bit easier to talk about it, because I felt very inadequate that I didn’t know where my baby was. And that’s what that did to me all those years ago by people – the way they treated you made you feel, yeah, inadequate. You weren’t a mother. What mother don’t know where her baby is? So you don’t talk about it and you bottle it up.

44.38 I think it’s one of the cruelest things they ever did to people – because it didn’t just happen to me – I’ve got letters there that it’s happened exactly the same to others that have never been able to find where their babies are. And you think it’s only you, until people write and tell you their experiences. And it was just the normal thing. I think animals were treated differently than they, what they treated you when you had a stillborn baby then. Just so cruel.

45.19 And you mentioned about being able to mark Christmas and her birthday now; how has that changed how you did celebrate a special day for her before?

45.33 The only way we could celebrate and remember her was to put flowers in the house – and we also have a little patch on the back garden that we’d made. And it’s a little tiny statue of a newborn baby. And we would, we’ve always… she’s got a rose tree on it and flowers round it. And as the seasons change we change the flowers around it. But now we know where she is then we go to the cemetery and put flowers on. Alec always takes the grass clippers to clip the grass back and just tidy it up a bit. And the girls will come along and they’ll stick things in the grass and… And I’m saying, oh, you can’t put too much on. Who says we can’t? [laughs] ‘Cause they don’t see it like I see it. They’d have had another sister only for that – so they take their bits and pieces and they put their, their bits on for her. But we still have the little plot outside in the back garden for her as well. So, that was all we could do: just to look through the window and think, that’s Alexis out… you know. But now we can go to the cemetery and put flowers on her and know that yeah, she is, she is in there. And it helps.

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Alex’s full interview

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0.00 She died at birth. Erm… well it just, it just happened and I think we were very naive at the time. We just took what we were told to do and carried on, carried on life like, you know. Yes the baby’s been disposed of and we never saw her. And I suppose we were greatly upset at the time, but we just took it as read, as that what’s happened, and we carried on with our lives, you know. And within the next few years we had another two daughters, so she faded. She faded from memory in a sense and it wasn’t until, well we’d had a third daughter, Amy some years later that we decided we’d do something about it: we’d find out where she was.

0.56 Tell me about when you met Marjorie and when you got married.

1.01 Well, we both worked at the same engineering works, asked her out one day and that went from there. But shortly afterwards I was called up to do my National Service and somehow or other, we got married while I was in the army. I was stationed at Lincoln then and then shortly after the wedding, I was stationed… I was sent abroad to Germany and I was there for the next 15, 16 months.

1.30 I saw her once – I managed to get a leave once in that time – and then… all the, all the lads in my unit clubbed up to buy me the air ticket. And Marjorie paid ‘em back later on, so… And then when I came out of course I had to get a job which I did. I went to visit my sisters, I’d not seen for two years, that lived down south. And then along came Alexis. Erm… and the, and the, the pregnancy was quite normal like, you know. It wasn’t until she practically – Marjorie will tell you in greater detail like, you know, but – practically she got to hospital that all things started to go wrong. She had this pre-eclampsia, and loosing blood etcetera and that you know. And then next minute she wasn’t with us. Err… I don’t know I must have been a bit dumbfounded at the time. I can’t remember my feelings; can’t remember my feelings whether I was dead upset or what? I must have been. But I can’t remember now you know. Must have just walked away from the hospital and, and took it all in.

2.44 Tell me, tell me about being in the hospital. Marjorie went into labour naturally?

2.49 Yes, yes.

2.50 Tell me about that.

2.52 It’s all a bit… like I say, I just went to visit her and realised that something was wrong. And of course they didn’t let you be with your wife too much then, sort of thing, like, you know. I wasn’t… I wasn’t there when the baby was born. I didn’t know about it until afterwards, like, you know. Err… which was a bit different when she had the other two girls – or three girls – because I was there all the time, you know. But that, it just occurred and I don’t know, I don’t know. I suppose Marjorie was obviously very, very upset, but I think we just accepted how things were like. You know, she’d just lost her baby. Come back home. Carry on, you know.

3.34 Tell me about what it was like when you went into the labour room and were with Marjorie after Alexis had been born.

3.43 Just shocked, I think, that’s all I can remember really. I didn’t… I can’t remember much about it, you know. Just, just dumbfounded that it, it happened and so unexpected and… Marjorie was so distressed. And of course, there were, you know, she…  like I says, giving her a blood transfusion and that, and erm… I presume – I know it sounds awful – I presume she was stopped in that night and I went… I came home. And I visited her again the following day when she was ready to come out etcetera, you know. It’s all a bit of a blur really like, you know. Perhaps it was the shock of the event that has maybe like – I haven’t got a good memory. I have not got a good memory, like Marjorie has, over things in the past. So maybe I just shut it out in a sense like, you know, like. It’s happened and that’s it. It sounds a bit callous I know, but… that’s what happened, yeah.

4.42 Tell me about… how did you find out that Alexis had died?

4.47 Well only when I went to see Marjorie and she, she told me. I don’t remember any staff mention anything. It was just what’s happened? What are you doing? What happened? Where is she? And all that like, you know. Like I say… it must have really shocked me and blanked it out… I just couldn’t… you know, I was so upset for her – for myself and for Marjorie obviously but… It’s just… it happened, her baby died and like I say probably too naive at the time like you know, to realise how big event it was.

5.25 Did Marjorie tell you how she’d been told?

5.31 Erm… I can’t remember too clear about that. Like I say, Marjorie will tell you, you know, in more detail like than I could what was said between the doctors etcetera. She’s got a tale there for you. But no, I can’t remember too much about that, really – what she actually said to me at the time. She was just obviously so upset. Couldn’t get it out, what had happened. Couldn’t understand what had happened, really like, you know. So… we just, we just carried on. Life carried on afterwards, till she got over it, which I don’t think… well obviously, you don’t get over it like, you know. But we had to do. We had to do. And then of course a couple of years later Jane came along, which takes it all off, takes the edge off, the feelings like, you know; a new daughter, a new baby… yeah.

6.33 When Jane came along were you worried that the same thing might happen again?

6.40 Marjorie might have been but I don’t think I was; I was just so glad like, you know. And everything seemed to be going well… well, Alexis wasn’t till the last minute. But no, I don’t think I worried in that, that respect. No, I just… I just took it was going to be alright. She was going to be born alright – and she was, you know, yeah. Yes. Yeah.

7.01 Can I take you back to Alexis’s birth? Tell me what it was like leaving the hospital, coming home and not, not having a baby after Marjorie had been pregnant.

7.13 Oh it was. Yes, it must have been awful. Sorry, it must have been awful. Didn’t know what to think. Didn’t know why it had happened. Wasn’t medically minded, it, you know she’d just gone and that was it and… Didn’t even realise Marjorie was that bad at the… the way it turned out –  this preeclampsia and that – I didn’t realise that…  you could be so ill like that and things could happen like that. Like I say, I hadn’t got a great idea what was going on. And it was such a shock, such a shock to realise we’d lost her… It was all a bit of a blur really, if I’m honest. We… I just accepted it for what it was and took it all in and that was it, like carried on, you know.

8.06 Did anybody explain anything to you or talk to you about it?

8.15 No. No, can’t say they did, no… Something might have been said to Marjorie in the, in the hospital but not to me, certainly. No, I was just, just the husband and that was it. [laughs] Yeah. No, nothing was said at all, no explanation. They must have told us that they’d deposited her body in a bucket and that and she’d be buried with somebody but… it was just too awful to think about like that, at the time. We didn’t get a chance to see her, hold her, bury her or anything like that, you know. Yeah.

8.52 Did you ever think about what you might have to do in terms of registering her death or…?

9.02 Well, yes, I suppose I did at the time. I suppose we had to do something like that but… it all just happened; it all just took its course, natural course… I must have felt bad about it and… wondered why it had happened but… well, if we had to register etcetera, etcetera in the normal way, we just did it and that was it like, you know. Yeah… So long ago, really, I’m sorry to say that it has slight blurred with time like, you know what we did then, you know. But I mostly carried on as normal, that’s all I can think.

9.49 Do you remember grieving for Alexis?

9.54 Oh, I must have done. Yeah, I must have done – more so these days. I don’t know why but as it’s… as time’s gone on I miss her… But I don’t think, I don’t think I was very tearful at the time. I’ve altered in my ways I think over the years and – more emotional now than I was then. Like I say I was probably a bit naive. And I was upset but I don’t think I, I don’t think I cried a lot or really got, you know… really,really upset me, no.

10.36 And when you say you got more emotional, can you tell me about the feelings that you have now?

10.45  Err… I can soon cry at things, erm… How can I say err… football matches or things that happen at, like, experiences like, you know? I can soon fill up and get worried and emotional like, you know. I think of all my daughters and they’ve you know they’ve all had illnesses in different ways and I get very upset about that. Our Jane’s got rheumatoid arthritis and God knows how she’s going to finish up and I get upset over like that you know. Like I am now – I don’t know, I don’t know why I am now… but I just think about Alexis, what would she be like now you know? Would she be married with a family? And… just can’t believe that she’s not with us, she’s just… She’s there as a daughter just like the other three are… And I have a, a lovely granddaughter – she’s nearly 30 now. She’s had her ups and downs in life but she’s, she’s like our fourth daughter now, you know; we look after her and see her and that. She’s sort of taken over Alexis’s role in a sense. So we’re, we’re glad of that like, you know, that we’ve got four, if you understand me.

12.25 Do you think that when you were going back to work, did people talk to you and understand what you’d been through?

12.35 No, I think they… when they were told probably, they, they were sympathetic at the time, but it didn’t… it wasn’t lasting. I can’t really remember any of me, any of me mates being too enthusiastic about it – probably said sorry, or something like that ,when I told them. But it didn’t linger like, you know. They… just life like, it happens and that’s it, you know. So there was none, there was none, none of that at work, no.

13.13 And tell me about your decision to have more children; was that, was that easy?

13.19 Oh I didn’t think it – losing Alexis – stopped us thinking about having children like and… like all kids they come along naturally like, you know. And we were very, very pleased. You know, we wanted to replace her obviously, you know. We couldn’t go out without having children and when we knew Marjorie was pregnant with Jane – well, we were over the moon like, you know.  Very, very chuffed. And Jill four years later. And then ten years later Amy came along! So, you know, we’d more than made up for it, I think, like, you know. Yes, we always wanted children, a family… Yeah, very pleased about it. And they’ve been wonderful ever since.

14.08 And tell me about how that made you feel about Alexis – going on to have another family.

14.17 Oh, like I say we just wanted children, wanted… you know, we just couldn’t not have any more. Erm… seems such a shame that everything was going alright till the very end with Alexis, so why not have another?  So we were a bit apprehensive – with Jane coming along – but no it was fine. It was fine. Erm… things happen naturally don’t they and that, that was it.

14.53 Did you feel that you were treated differently with the other pregnancies? Were you more involved? Were there, was there more information?

15.07 I wouldn’t like to say really. Obviously, we… she… the antenatal classes etcetra and all that, we picked up things but, no… I don’t think… I don’t think things altered, seem to alter too, too much. They just carried on, it was as though it was the same thing over again but everything turned out right in the end this time. And, certainly I was never counselled about anything. Marjorie might have been when she visited the doctor or, or things like that, but certainly nothing was ever said to me. So we just hope everything turned out alright and it did.

15.53 Would you have liked counselling?

15.57 No, I don’t think so; no I don’t think so. I knew, I knew me own mind and what was going on and I don’t think it would have helped. I can’t see what they could have said that would have made anything any better. These things occur and you’ve got to get on with them. So no, I don’t think anybody talking to me would have helped in any way, not with me… no.

16.25 Did you tell your daughters about Alexis?

16.33 I don’t think we really mentioned her until they were growing up – not when they were little. And it was mentioned, but I think it just passed all their heads in a way. They didn’t, they couldn’t envisage that their mum had had a baby and lost it – I don’t think. And it wasn’t until they were, they were quite old that we mentioned it more, went into more detail… And then it came – when we eventually found where Alexis was buried – that’s when they took more notice and of course they were a lot older then and knew what we were talking about. And they were quite upset. And didn’t realise… what we’d gone through – or what Marjorie had gone through. And obviously they were quite sympathetic and they still are. They still are. But I don’t honestly think they realise they’ve had another sister.

17.35 You know, there’s just the three of them and… I don’t think they can take it in, that they really had another sister, all that long ago. It’s something that happened so long ago. They, they weren’t there at the time, obviously and… like I say, it wasn’t mentioned for a long, long time. We never mentioned it for a long, long time because three girls were growing up… everything you know, it was all lost in the past – you know, in the mist of time, Alexis. We did try to find out from the hospital… some details but came to nothing, until this Daily Mail thing came up and I wrote to them about it. Until then though, they’d not really bothered, never asked us any questions and that, you know. So they just accepted it more as they grew older.

18.31 Tell me about the Daily Mail experience and how the whole situation came about – you finding Alexis.

18.40 Well, it was due to Amanda Holden losing her baby and the news of it in the paper. And Bel Mooney wrote an article more or less mirroring our experiences and I thought…  I just thought I’d write and let everybody know what, what had happened in those days and still going on at the time. And then we were contacted by Daily Mail, and this lady came along – and she was very good. She helped up to discover where Alexis was buried. Very, very good – can’t thank her enough for that. And it went from the articles in the paper to finding her and… we’re very grateful and I’m glad I know where she is now, although not in the best circumstances. We can’t mark her grave. We can’t dig her out. And so we just go to where we think she is and… and leave it at that, leave it at that.

19.54 Tell me about how you did find her grave.

19.58 Well, it was the investigation by the Daily Mail lady that did it… We helped her all we could; we went to the offices and obviously told them the dates when it… Alexis had passed on and all the details we could like that. They looked in their records and the hospital records and eventually found the, the dates coincided with her passing on and this lady that was… she was buried in, coffin she was buried in. And… they couldn’t think could it have been anything else or anyone else. And they did have the site of this grave marked, and we went and located it, and there was nothing to mark it – it was just a bare patch. And, and that was it really, I mean, you wouldn’t have known, you wouldn’t have known she was down there – but because of the rules of burial and everything we can’t do anything about it; only put flowers there you know. But it was really down to the Daily Mail that they found the location of Alexis. Yeah, yeah. We feel better for it, like knowing where she is like now. Yeah.

21.17 And tell me about visiting the grave for the first time.

21.22 It was surreal, really. We couldn’t believe it because it was such a bare patch, nothing to look at, or… couldn’t imagine that she was down there. Marjorie gets very upset, she won’t visit her same as I do. You know, I’ll go anytime, but Marjorie has to steel herself to go. And, mainly we go when it’s her birthday. We do go other times obviously but we mainly go when it’s her birthday and… We have marked it more – the site and nobody’s ever told us, done anything about it, the authorities… so… It’s very emotional, very emotional… but we know where she is and… that’s, that’s good enough for us, like, you know. We’re very grateful that we’ve found her now.

22.30 How much time passed from her being buried to you discovering where the grave was?

22.38 Well, that was 1963 when she died and it’s… so four or five years ago… so that’s, well, you know, what was that 2011 maybe ‘12? Or before that? Yeah… ‘12. Something like that in that area; I just can’t remember… So that’s 40, 50 years isn’t it, in between? Yeah. I must say we didn’t spend loads of time trying to locate her but  – because I say, like family life, crowded in. But we did, we did try several times and couldn’t, couldn’t find anything about her location, until all these letters were published in the Mail, and they came along and helped us to do it. But yes, quite a long time, quite a long time elapsed before we found her or found any details. Too long really but she’s, she’s there; we know where she is now, you know.

23.52 Can you describe the emotions you feel now that you have found her?

23.55 Well very upset. I know it happened a long time ago, but I still get upset… Err… I’d… I’d just like to know what she looked like. What she would have been like… sorry.

24.37 Tell me about how your treatment has affected you and how attitudes have changed from the ‘60s to now.

24.47 Well at the time it happened with Alexis it was just awful to think that she was tossed away, there was no counselling, you couldn’t see her, we were just left to – on our own – to grieve. Nothing was ever done to help us. And although we had another baby in the ‘60s, because she survived, that was different obviously.  But there was… very annoyed there was no help at the time. And although she did die – couldn’t bring her back – it was just the aftermath that annoyed us. Just left us to it – as I’ve stated in my letter to the paper. And when the other babies come along, came along, because they were born all right, the treatment was fine. We just had them and brought them home as normal. Nothing like, nothing like Alexis’s time. You just felt you’d… that was it, you know; yeah, go. That’s all I can think of really.

26.01 When you say it was ‘just go’ – can you explain that a bit? You mentioned you said it was’ just go’ after Alexis was born; can you tell me more about that?

26.16 Well, I suppose the staff at the time said to… baby had gone … how they disposed of her. Marjorie was very ill – having blood transfusions – but that was it, like. You have to go home now… Your wife’s still in bed; leave her now, like; go home and then come back and take her home whenever, whenever. Nobody seem to accept what they’d done was… upset us in any way like, you know. As far as I can remember at the time; just go and get on with it… yeah.

27.00 How do you think Alexis… having Alexis has affected your family?

27.10 No, I can’t think that she’s affected the family too much. Like I say they’ve grown up and accepted it with… sorry. Had another child. But it was too far away for them to take it in, I think. So, I don’t think she’s… only to, only to Marjorie and myself has, has we been affected – not the girls now, our daughters now. I don’t think they think too much of it – unless it’s mentioned. They’re sorry for us, and what happened like, but then, you know, life goes on, like. You know, they’ve got their own lives and we just carry on and it’s not really… it’s not really talked about until it comes round to her birthday or some such thing like this – like this meeting today. Only in my mind and Marjorie’s mind does it affect, affected us, you know… but not family-wise. I don’t even think that… My dad was alive at the time – but not my mum and not Marjorie’s mum – so nothing was mentioned much in the, in the wider family like, you know. It was just, oh, Marjorie’s lost a baby. And that was it, yeah… no. Very sorry and all that, but that soon faded… yeah.

28.47 You mentioned about you and Marjorie being affected; can you tell me what you think the long-term affect has been on you and Marjorie?

29.00 Difficult to say, really. I think it affected Marjorie more, because she was at home and could think about it more. I, I went to work and that took my mind off it and I suppose I had other interests and that and it didn’t, didn’t really intrude on my feelings at the time too much, I don’t think. Just accepted it as it happened. But probably Marjorie really worried about it more; was maybe frightened of having another one, but we went ahead. But I think it was probably Marjorie who was more affected than I was, you know. I could go to work and take it out my mind and she’d be at home. She didn’t work after that, I don’t think… no, she didn’t, no, not at the time. So she’d be at home – maybe brooding about it. Obviously, wondering why it had happened and everything. So I think it probably affected Marjorie far more than it did me. But I don’t think it, you know, affected our lives greatly. We just got on with things you know. She was doing the housework or shopping, and I was working and there you are – so it was.

30.28 Did you and Marjorie ever talk about it?

30.34 Now that’s difficult to remember. Obviously at the time we must have done; obviously must have talked over it and that and…  but no it’s not, it’s occurred more in these last few years talking about and… than it did at the time. As I say, the family grew and that was all taken… our time was all taken up with that, so I suppose we forgot it – Alexis in a way, for quite a while… just too busy doing other things. So, I don’t think it was ever mentioned between us, quite a lot. Maybe, maybe when her birthday date came round, something like that, but… otherwise no, didn’t talk about it until we got… well, when after Amy was born and she was growing up; it was probably in them later years – in the ‘80s, ‘90s maybe we thought more about it, you know. But no, sorry to say maybe we talked about it soon after she died but not often later, no.

31.55 What did you know about stillbirth at the time of Alexis’s birth and, and what do you know now?

32.03 I was completely ignorant, I think. Completely ignorant, you know. Well, I, I can’t say I’m much  au fait with things now – only what I read, I don’t let it…. it doesn’t mither me or anything. I’m upset when I read about it all and that. But… no, I think I was quite ignorant at the time, things could happen like that in birth and… I never thought much about it in the future, only like I say in articles. Take notice of what’s been said or what’s happened to anybody, but otherwise… no, no doesn’t… affected me. You know, I am upset at the time – over, over certain individuals what’s happened to them and that – but then something else happens and takes over.

32.54 Do you have something that you would like people to know about stillbirth?

33.03 No I can’t say… Erm… just… well, you have to accept it at the time I would say, you know.  You can’t worry too much about it, you’ve got to think about your own health etcetera – like we were told, get on with it. And you have to do, you have to do, you know… it’s very upsetting, but you’ve got to get on with your life after and not worry too much about it and hope things turn out better.

33.36 And if you could pass on some advice or support to bereaved parents now, what would you say to them?

33.45 Well, just what I’ve, just what I’ve said really… don’t get… well, you must be upset, you must be upset, everybody’s different, but… It’s very difficult to think of anything nice to say. It’s happened, you’ve got to accept it and carry on.

34.11 Is there anything else you’d like to tell me about your particular story with Alexis?

34.18 No, no, I think I’ve… I’ve said enough. Like I say, I’ve not got – I’ve never had a very good memory and it’s so long ago, it seems awful to say that things have faded – memories have faded and… I’m so upset that I haven’t got her… so upset… but… just wish to God we had her. And we haven’t.


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Baby Alexis

Alexis was stillborn on the 15th April 1963 at term. Marjorie was affected by pre-eclampsia at the end of her pregnancy; she, nor her husband, Alex were allowed to see or hold Alexis. They had to ask the nurse to tell them the sex of their baby. Marjorie says that Alexis’ date of birth and her gestation are all she really knows about her daughter.

Marjorie and Alex’s story

Alex (78) and Marjorie (76) met when they both worked at the same engineering works in 1960. Shortly afterwards, Alex was called up to do his National Service. The couple married while he was in the army the following year. Two years later, when Marjorie was 23, she fell pregnant with their first child, Alexis.

Marjorie’s pregnancy was seemingly trouble free. Antenatal care in the 1960s did not include ultrasound scans, so Marjorie was unaware that she had placenta praevia and had developed pre-eclampsia during the pregnancy. Four days before her due date Marjorie became very swollen and after a difficult labour Alexis was stillborn. Alexis was then put in a bucket and taken away. Marjorie and Alex never got to meet or hold Alexis. The couple were told that she would be buried in the coffin of a woman who had recently died at the same hospital. It took Marjorie and Alex almost 50 years to discover where she had been buried. They visited her grave for the first time in 2011.

Alex and Marjorie went on to have three more daughters, Jane, Jill and Amy. At the time of the interview they also had 8 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren.