David’s full interview
0.00 I’m David… the father of Jannah who was born on the 17th of March, 2015. She was born on forty-one weeks; so she was born asleep and she’s my daughter.
00.19 Tell me a little bit about how you and Rabia met.
0.25 Rabia I met in London in a convention which was a Muslim convention – with arts and crafts and intellectual… lectures and things along those lines. And, she was writing an article for a company – for a magazine – and it was about people coming to Islam. And it was… my brother and I were there, and they asked, and they requested that we would be part of that, that feature in the magazine. And that’s what she did. She came and interviewed us and… took pictures of us, which were in the magazine there. And then since then we got to know each other and over the years – year or so – then we married in 2008. It was quite a while ago now… as it’s 2017, so it’s coming up to our 10 year anniversary which is good. But, yeah…
1.26 And what was your attitude to starting a family?
1.31 Oh… I don’t think that I ever thought about starting a family. It was, it was like I always wanted children, I wanted to have a family and things, but I don’t think I actually sat down and said, let’s start a family. So, it was more to do with when we were settled, when we had things in place. It sort of just… I wouldn’t say… I don’t like the term: it just happened – because it didn’t, but it was not a thing that was… I was pondering about for a long time to be able to say, I want to start a family at this time and be… be married at this time, have a baby by this time, done this at this part of my life… I’m not that sort of person who would do that. I’m sort of a, sort of a free-flower through life. So, when it happens it happens. And, yeah, without contemplating and pondering over things too much… sort of come through. But, yes…
2.25 Tell me about Rabia’s pregnancy with Jannah.
2.31 Oh… Rabia’s pregnancy was very exciting at the beginning actually. Rabia was very… well, all through the pregnancy, I wouldn’t say just at the beginning of it – very excited. Rabia read a lot. She read so much about pregnancy and what it… what it does to her as a woman and where it changes her and then also about all the effects of different things, different types of labours and different types of pregnancies as well – at certain stages and things like that – through the pregnancy, what’s happening to the baby, how it’s developing.
3.01 So yeah Rabia was very much… delved into the understanding of it and really understood the… the concept of pregnancy more than actually just being pregnant and going with the flow. She really read up on it, studied it, and understood it… Myself, I was sort of just the person supporting that and going along with her ideas and the things that she wanted to do was as – as she would be the one giving birth, so… if she wanted to do it in a certain way, supported that way and I allowed her to go along with that. And yeah, so it was a, it was exciting time for both of us. We both starting a new journey in our lives – so it was exciting time. So yeah, the pregnancy itself was, was brilliant. I used to come home and feel the baby kick and… feel Jannah kick and… sort of, she sort of knew that I was there indirectly. Rabia used to say, when you used to come home and you start talking and… she would get excited, she would start kicking more things like that, so…
3.59 Yeah, it was quite… it was quite an exciting time that we knew that… well, as we all thought, that you have a, a great ending to every story, but it’s not always the case. But… yeah, it was that time where that excitement and you’re just waiting really. It’s a waiting period and you’re just going and you see Rabia of course developing in pregnancy, so you’re knowing that the baby is becoming bigger and stronger and, you know, so… and going to her appointments and coming back and having great, great advice from the doctors and also that they’re saying that everything’s okay, so you’re still… very, very happy with like everything’s going along as it should be. But yeah… and also going to the appointments myself – along with Rabia – and talking to the doctors and, and the consultants, midwives and things like that – that they were, they were happy with the whole process that was happening, so…
4.55 It was quite a… quite like a way of thinking that it’s all happening and it’s gonna be… it’s all happening and… we’re gonna have a new, new stage in our life what’s gonna happen. So the pregnancy was like a building, like a foundation of a new stage of your life what was about to start. So, yeah, it was a… it was interesting time, it was an interesting time. Learnt a lot – things that I didn’t know about pregnancy. I learnt a lot. I’m sure most men do, they learn a lot more about the woman – not just sort of like the biology of it all, but also the mental state and things like that, so… So yeah, it’s… it was interesting.
5.42 Tell me about the antenatal care that you… that Rabia received during the pregnancy.
5.48 Rabia herself, she believed… not that she believed, she actually felt that she was being supported by some of the midwives and not being supported by others – because they did encourage, of course, to have her birth in a hospital, which is… I wouldn’t deny that it’s, that it’s got its pros, but it also has it cons as well – pros and cons – because Rabia wanted to have a home birth. So, some of the midwives were really encouraging – to say that this is, that this is… I wouldn’t say it’s the norm, but it’s, it’s your choice and you are allowed to choose as you wish to have your baby.
6.28 But some of the midwives were quite… say discouraging, but there were more to motivate to say, let’s have this in a hospital. You’ve got medical care straightaway… as it happens if anything was to go wrong. And that gave a little bit of worry and anxiety to Rabia, that maybe something could go wrong, so you start to rethink about why you’re doing what you’re doing, and it was really… in two minds of where she wanted to be when she gave birth.
7.04 But the midwives would then come to assess the, assess the flat that we were living in to see if it was… suitable to have a home birth, as well, and… Even with that, we had to check if, had to check where the joints were in the, in the flat, so that the, it would take the weight of the pool, sort of thing. So it… so it was more, it’s not just, I want a home birth and it’s going to happen like that – because we was on a the first floor flat,w e had to make sure that it… it was going to be able to hold that much water – it’s quite a lot of water that you have in one of those birthing pools. And it was situated in a place where there, if there was any complications that Rabia and baby could… could exit the building quite easily with an ambulance and… ambulance staff to be able to get up and down the stairs and things like that.
7.54 So the assessment… that scares you off a little bit to think that we’ve got to be all assessed just to have what we want. Instead of like, if we were outside of the books and we just done it all on our own, we’d never have any of that sort of assessment. So, you feel like they sort of put that more pressure… you feel you’re putting that pressure on you to say have it in a hospital – you don’t want to go through all of this and people coming in assessing your house, and assessing your flat… And how are we going to do this? And, how are we going to do that to be able to make you both safe?
8.23 So you always put that… the line was that, we’ve got to make sure you’re both safe. Where the… which is the pros of being in a hospital – you’re most likely going to be safe. You’ve got all the staff around you. But the cons of that was that the mentality of Rabia – that she really wanted something. And for her to give labour, if she was in a better state – a better mental state – during her labour, the labour would be a lot more… easier – in inverted commas – as it’s never easy but… But yes, she would’ve… I feel like the, the midwives gave us a lot of support – some ways – and then a lot of doubt in other ways: what are we… are you sure what you, are you sure you’re doing the right thing? Made you think over and over again. And then, that puts a lot of doubt into – are we doing the right thing? Even if… even if you’re fixated on, this is the way that we’re going to do it, because we had… we was talking to doulas as well, so and… They’ve had home births and they were speaking… talking about home births how it’s not a lot difference if you’re two minutes away from a hospital, you know…because we lived very close to a hospital as well.
9.33 So it was… it wasn’t so, so the midwives… I’d say, the care which I saw myself at the beginning of the pregnancy – and during the pregnancy – was fairly good. Rabia used to go to quite a few of her appointments on her own at the beginning, so I didn’t get to see a lot because I was working. I was unable to attend appointments. But… she would come back sometimes and she’d be upset about the way they’ve spoke to her and she did actually at one point complain about one of the midwives in particular that she didn’t want to see her again, because she felt that her views weren’t being heard by the midwife, and it was all one way that, no, you’ve got to do it at home, you’ve got… sorry, you’ve got to do it at the hospital. And, it’s not advisable for you to do it in a one bed flat above a shop type thing…
10.23 So… yeah, she felt discouraged by some of them. And she did come home and she… that would make her distressed about the… the actual… while she’s… and in the state of being pregnant and thinking about, where do I go? What do I do? When you have to start putting things together was, was quite difficult but… for her – mentally. But, there’s, there’s also a complication in the sense that we were not in a certain catchment area for a different hospital where we wanted our baby to be born, if it was to be born in a hospital.
10.57 So, we had midwife appointments in one hospital and also had midwife appointments in another hospital – the one that we wanted to have as our choice, if we were to have a baby in hospital. So, there were notes in each… at each hospital regarding Rabia’s pregnancy. Which I found was a bit… and they wouldn’t share each others notes, which was a bit… odd because it wasn’t… They used to have two different – as most of you know – when you have a blue book, so your pregnancy book… you have two different ones for each hospital. So, a lot of information could have… may have been – if it was shared – they may have been able to, may have been able to keep more track of what was going on, instead of going over things over and over again. Rabia would have to repeat herself to different midwives because of the different districts that we were in, so…
11.55 Yeah, that, at… at that point, that’s when Rabia was deciding, okay, I need to… I want a homebirth. I’m going ahead with a home birth, but I need to have a backup if it’s not going to happen. And I want to be at a certain hospital, so I want to go there for my appointments. And, I don’t think that was very encouraged by the midwives locally – for our local hospital – that they were like… I don’t know if it was, if it’s the way that the districts work and things like that… but it has more to do with that you don’t fall under this hospital, so we can’t really advise you of what that hospital is going to tell you. It’s not like a full guideline of how every single hospital works – every midwife works in the same thing, so…
12.43 So, yeah, so Rabia – clearly a little bit anxious with things like that – she wasn’t sure what was happening because of these notes – and ones advising one, and one advising another because she had different appointments in different places. And I’m sure… and reading now – with our second son – reading through a lot more than notes myself about different ethoses in the hospitals; like the one that we went to was more – where our second, where my son was born – it was more to do with the well-being of the mother and her mental state and it was all about how she wanted to do things. Where it was more to do with the other ethos of the first hospital which – closest to us – was that it was more around the baby and making sure the baby’s safe and not really about the mother’s health – about the mental health – and how she felt about being there. So there are two different ethos within the, within the hospitals.
13.40 So, this is quite confusing when you’re going through a pregnancy and you’re, you’re saying… one’s telling you… no, we’re really looking out for your baby. And the other one’s telling you, we’re really looking out for the, the wellbeing of the mother – ‘cause they believe in the mother. If the mother’s wellbeing is good then the, the delivery and the pregnancy, the whole… becomes a lot more – not just enjoyable – but more actual connecting to the baby and things like that. So, it… it was interesting to see both sides but, but it’s very confusing if you are split between that – which happened with us. It was quite confusing at that time, so… what was going to happen.
14.22 At that time, what did you know about stillbirth?
14.27 At that time, I’d not known anything about it. I… indirectly, when I say that I didn’t know anything about it, I did know about it, but I didn’t think that’s… it’s common. As it is – it’s not as common – but it’s common, you think of… Because I’d started a role in my job and my manager, at that time, he had had a stillborn as well, so we knew of… I knew of it, but I didn’t understand it or… know… know that, the… intrinsic details of what a stillborn is, really. You know, what is a stillborn? You know, still today I always think, what is a miscarriage and what is a stillborn? And how far along do you have to be before one gets classed as one or one gets classed as another? When it’s… the outcome is pretty similar, so…
15.17 It’s, it’s… it’s not really promoted – or I wouldn’t say promoted… it’s a bit, a bit… but, not promoted in the sense of, of talked about in detail of what a stillborn is. ‘Cause my… as I said, my manager had a stillborn before and… that’s all I knew. He had a stillborn baby. I didn’t know what a stillborn baby meant, you know? So… and he was carrying on, he was doing his job, he was having a career, he had other children… so, I thought, I don’t really know what that means to have a stillborn you know. And… so, it wasn’t…
15.58 And the midwives never spoke about it, when we were going into any of our appointments. Never spoke about stillbirth, that it was… you were always worried up to your 12 weeks about being miscarriages, but everyone… sort of knows about a miscarriages, but still… stillbirth, I can’t recall at all being in any of those midwife appointments that they ever said even the word stillbirth, so… So, yeah, it wasn’t… I never knew anything about it. I’m not sure if Rabia did, because she read a lot more than what I did about pregnancy and outcomes and things like that. But, I had not known about it.
16.36 And even within… family members who have had stillborn babies. When it happened to us with Jannah, then you hear all the stories a lot more afterwards: that this person in the family had a stillborn as well, this person in the family… But it was never heard of to me when I was growing up. I never heard of it. So, it’s like, it’s not spoken about within families, for – families or communities – for some reason… whichever those reasons are, because they will start to come out afterwards, so… it’s a…
17.09 I have a friend also who had… whose had twins that were stillborn, as well, but… and he’s similar to my age. And it was… But even he has never spoke to me about it. I just know, because I know his, his twins are buried next to where my daughter is. So it’s… but he never actually has, has had a conversation with me about stillbirth or anything like that, so it’s… And, so, it’s a bit of an odd thing that. You don’t know about something that’s happening on – I wouldn’t say a regular basis – but it’s happening daily in the country, in Britain, so, you do think that… why don’t people know about something that’s happening daily… you know?
17.55 And… and when you start to, when it happens you know… when, when it happened to us, that we found that our next door neighbour to my parents – I was staying at my parents afterwards, after the funeral. I was staying at my parents to gather myself and have a bit more of a family sort of time together – and found that our next door neighbour, they had a stillborn baby as well and he’s buried next to my daughter, Jannah, as well. So, they are both buried next to each other, but I never knew anything about it – that they’d had theirs and they’re buried next door to each other, and we’re living next door to each other, which is just as… bizarre really, to not know anything about it. But then you find out that they’re… both the babies are sleeping, sort of sleeping in their graves together. It’s a… it’s bit of an odd thing that you would never know… that you never knew anything about it.
18.54 So, yeah… my knowledge about stillbirth, wasn’t… was never even in my, on my radar. I didn’t know that this even happens, you know. It’s very, it’s like, you know, you get pregnant, you have a baby. And, and, and of course looking at our families, Rabia… Rabia’s family and myself, we have siblings, so you have all the children – they’ve all had their pregnancies. Yes, they may have had miscarriages or things, but, but, never in the family but… when they’ve been pregnant, most of it, most of the outcome has always been a child, you know. It’s very, very… for us to even think that, why would our pregnancy be any different? Other siblings have all gone through it. They’ve all had babies. Why would ours be any different?
19.48 Yeah, so… it’s… I don’t think… to some extent, I don’t think anyone ever goes into a pregnancy thinking that they’re going to have a stillbirth. But the knowledge of what is a stillbirth, or what could happen at the end of a pregnancy was never discussed during any of our, our midwives appointments, so… So, it’s something that I feel like does need to be spoken about and… and not just dropped on you, like a, like a big heavy rock right at the end of it all; saying this is what stillbirth’s all about.
20.24 Well, I didn’t know anything about that before. I could have prepared myself a little better. Because when you start to see the statistics of how much, how many stillborns there are every year, you know, you could fall into that statistic, and you want to know, what do I do when you… when that happens? So, yeah, it’s… it’s one of those things that, I wouldn’t say it needs to be promoted to scare or give any anxiety to women during their pregnancies, but I do think it needs to be discussed at some point during your… during the pregnancy, that not all babies come out… perfectly formed – number one – and not all alive. It’s a, it’s a…
21.09 In Jannah’s pregnancy, when did you realise that something was wrong?
21.17 We never actually thought that anything was wrong during the whole pregnancy, because… Jannah was kicking every single day. Rabia had movements every single day through the whole pregnancy. She went overdue by a week – so she was at 41 weeks – and she was still kicking even the day before she was born she was still kicking. The midwives came and checked her. She still had a heartbeat, still active and Rabia was in labour at that point and she was still active… Jannah was still active and things.
21.52 So, we never even… we never thought that anything was wrong and even when we phoned the hospital to say, actually we’re going to come into hospital. Because the midwives came – can’t remember if they came that night, or the night before – and they gave Rabia an assessment and they said, literally, take painkillers. You’re going to go into labour soon. And just try and rest and sleep and gain your energy because once you’re in labour you going to need your energy. So… and take warm baths and things like that. Just relax… and before… sort of the calm before the storm, type thing.
22.29 But we never had any indication that anything was ever wrong, until when we arrived at the hospital… Rabia described her symptoms over the phone to the midwife and we arrived – they said make your way in when you can. There was no like urgency to say, get in now. We really need to see you or… said… we’re sending an ambulance to you, or anything like that. It was make your way in, when you can. And, so Rabia made her way in – well, we both made our way in – to the… to the hospital. And then, they assessed Rabia, literally as she walked through the door. And they were… that’s when you saw a little bit like, we need to get you assessed more quickly now.
23.16 But there was no indication that anything was wrong… just that you are literally in stages of labour – like last stages of labour – that I’m surprised… they even said to her, we’re surprised you even walked, came in to the hospital, because she was in the very last stages of labour at that time. So, they did the check… as we literally went into the room to be checked and they did a scan. They said… they couldn’t hear… they had the monitor on – just the heart – and they couldn’t hear the heartbeat. They said that… they were feeling around, they couldn’t feel baby moving.
23.48 And then they put the heart scan… they done an ultrasound scan and they said, they couldn’t hear the heartbeat at all. So they said… then they came, went away, they came back with a consultant at that point and they checked again. And they didn’t hear a heartbeat or anything like that. Then they just said to us that… your baby’s gone. And we just sort of sat there for a moment thinking… what does that actually mean? You know, it’s a bit of a… shock. But since Rabia was in labour, labour just continued. So you didn’t really have a moment to think. It wasn’t like, in the sense that you sat back and you thought what’s happening? But there… Rabia was in labour and she gave birth very quickly as well.
24.35 And so, it was… it sort of took your mind off what was actually happening, because the whole of labour’s going on. But I just remember them saying that, you know, you’re going to have to give birth. And we knew that baby was already passed away by then. So… and what was odd was that they said to us that she was passed away, you know, within an hour or so before – or whichever – it was quite soon. ‘Cause they said the colour of her and all that sort of thing with Jannah was that she was quite recent… that it happened, so… So, it was… in two minds, you sort of think, wow, what about if we did this? And what about if we did that? Because it was so close, you know, to the end, but…
25.25 And then you realise… we spoke to some of the consultants and they were talking about scans and they were saying that if we were to give you a scan now and you walked… and he gave an example, if I give you an MRI… sorry, an ECG now, and it’s all fine, you walk out into the car park and you have a heart attack. ‘Cause it just gives you a snapshot of that five minutes, it doesn’t mean… So they were saying that whatever you, we did five minutes ago and the baby’s fine, doesn’t mean the baby is going to be fine five minutes later. It’s just the way life is. Life comes and goes very quickly. And, so it was quite reassuring in that sense, to me, to say that, you know, it didn’t matter what we did because it would have been fine an hour ago. Even if the midwife came to our house an hour ago – it’s fine… or two hours ago – it’s fine, you know… in that period.
26.16 So there would have been no urgency to push us to go to a hospital or… or start labour or induce anything… or anything, because they were quite happy that she was, Rabia was going along fine with the pregnancy and the labour and everything, so… So, yeah… it was… quite… surreal to actually hear that… first of all not to hear a heartbeat, you know. And they were checking… and you could sort of still see in the faces of the midwives when they were doing the scan that… Then they looked at each other to think… we need somebody, then they just said to us, we need to get somebody else. Then the Consultant came and did the same thing… that… you knew it wasn’t fine at that point. And… that was the point, when… I think, even Rabia… because Rabia was in the state of labour at that point – that I actually said to her, I was the one that actually said to her, that she’s gone…because I don’t think really…
21.16 I don’t know how much Rabia was really with the… with whole what was going on with the doctors and all that sort of thing, because she was in a state of labour, so… And I said to her, she’s gone. You know, and we have to… and now you’re going to have to give birth, sort of thing, so… Yeah, it’s a… bit of a surreal… feeling and understanding and… that was a bit… a bit odd with it all really. It’s just like an odd moment like the world sort of like just goes really slow for a while and you don’t really know what’s happening, you know, sort of a… yeah. One of those times I think that you can’t really… you ever forget. It’s that actual moment that you can never really forget… It’s that when she’s, when she just about to be there, but she’s not… you know, that sort of thing. Yeah… yeah…
28.12 Do you remember meeting Jannah for the first time?
28.17 Yes, I do actually, yeah. Jannah came out, it was like, no one… I had this sort of under… weird thing going on, that if she’s passed away, it’s probably that she’s going to be born, but she’s not going to be a baby. She’s going to be something else, or… in the sense of she’s going to be deformed, is it gonna… You don’t know. I was thinking I don’t know what’s going to happen in the sense… you know, there’s… why… because we, they didn’t… all they said that there’s no heartbeat. So they don’t know why she had passed away, you know. Was it that she… her lungs didn’t develop correctly? Was it because of a… any water on the brain… or anything like that? We didn’t know at that point, you don’t know.
28.57 So when they said that there’s no heartbeat, I’m, I was thinking that… when she was – when Rabia was giving birth – that what is the baby going to look like? Because, I don’t actually know… ‘cause I never… ‘cause I had no prior knowledge to what a stillborn is, I was just thinking that maybe she’s not fully deformed… fully formed. So that’s maybe a reason or something like that.
29.24 So it was… when I first saw her – and I saw that she was fully formed – she was just normal and she just looked asleep, as any other baby that I’d seen when I’d visited people in hospital. My nephews and nieces being born and seeing them in the hospital – just looked exactly like them. When I went to visit and their babies asleep in their crib, next to them… looks exactly the same. And you’re thinking, so what happened, you know? She just looks like any other baby that was born. So, what really happened? It was… yeah…
29.55 But I remember seeing her, I held her – I don’t think we even washed her properly, just picked her up and… It was like, just holding her and talking to her and things like that. But yeah, it was, it was actually a… a happy slash sad moment – because you’re meeting your daughter for the first time after nine months. But, of course, it’s a very sad moment as well. But you’re sort of happy that you’ve met… got to… and I did… remember, I remember… we made a little video clip and I remember saying that she made a journey into this world just so we could see her; now she’s gone, you know. And being of religious faith, I was saying, you know, we loved her, but God loved her more, so he kept her with…
30.41 So we got… but we were lucky that we got to see her. So, yeah, I remember making a little… we were given an opportunity to actually to see her and experience her, because her life was 41 weeks, you know, so… and we… myself, I, you know, accept that, you know, through… I think that’s one of the things that we have in a lot of different cultures and different religious backgrounds and things like that, that how do you deal with this? You know, do you use religion as your coping mechanism? Do you use… do you use… people, people of no faith, are they using… other substances? Or some people become depressed, or on drug… like go onto drugs, some people and they go to… any other means to try to cope with this – to look for a coping mechanism, you know… I was talking…
31.40 We go to a memorial every year for the children and we’re… I was talking to the leader of that faith and they were, they were saying that it’s a fine line – some people reject faith straight away and say, how can God do this to a child? And others become stronger in their belief that, you know… because the belief that they have… if, if I didn’t believe in the hereafter that means I’m never going to see my child again – the one that was born which was meant to be with me. I’m never going to see that child again, so… they… if I didn’t believe. So they become stronger in their belief – to say that I am going to see my child again. And that’s my belief in God, so, you know. I become stronger in faith – whichever those faiths may be, but… So, I was talking to the, the leader of that congregation and they were, they gave that sort of advice – some people go one way or the other – but I think it’s more to do with the mental health of the person that they are… they’re, they’e looking for something to fulfill that void that’s just happened. And a lot of things are knee jerk reactions – especially at the beginning of any sort of devastation – that you react in a certain way.
32.53 But yeah, over the time, when I saw her, hugged her, held her and… remember talking to her a lot… I was with her for two days in the hospital, which I would say then the hospital were absolutely amazing, what they did. And then, they had their own bereavement suite, so you had your own… own time and I things just with the baby. And… that was one thing really what really came to me, I never… I didn’t let her – didn’t let Jannah be on her own at any moment. I wanted someone always with her, even though I knew she had gone. But I always felt that she, she had the right to always be like still loved for those days. You know, still like to be hugged and kissed and whatever and not left alone, like a baby sort of thing…so a… a baby on it’s own, sort of thing.
33.46 So yeah, so, we… the hospital were very good that we had… they allowed family members to come well outside of… coming and going literally all through the night. We had… we had quite a big extended family, so they were coming and going – some were travelling from long distances to come and see us and things so… The hospital was really good with that and we got to spend some really good quality time with Jannah before they released us and things… but yeah. It was, it was amazing surreal thing to see a child being born, but then on the other hand, you don’t really know how to deal with it.
34.24 ‘Cause I remember then I made a phone call to my parents and to Rabia’s parents. And my father was like… he couldn’t really believe what happened, really. He thought that probably he misheard or something over the phone, but he came to the hospital. The same with Rabia’s parents as well. They both made their way to the hospital. And, I remember Rabia’s – one of Rabia’s family members – coming in, saying to the midwife, can’t you do anything? As if like, it’s not real, you know. You must be able to fix this problem. Like most people would think that… you should be able to fix problems. But yeah, so…
35.03 That time being, being with, being with Jannah, it’s sort of, it’s a hard one, because I don’t know if it says, when you do the burial that it gives closure. I don’t know if it does, because you had… that strong memory of the baby for three or four days with you, so, it’s not really closing anything. It’s still there, that memory’s still there. So, being with her and seeing her and all that sort of thing and having that smell… of her, her own smell, sort of thing, is something that you can’t take away. You know, you can smell things and you think that reminds me of her or… or things like that. So… so, yeah, seeing her for the first time or… I recall it, as if it was yesterday type thing and it’s been two years – over two years now. But… and she just… just normal, just like a normal baby. So, it’s, it was like surreal to understand that, why is she not alive if she’s normal?
36.11 She wasn’t deformed and she wasn’t… actually there wasn’t anything… was… not developed, like her lungs had developed, her brain had developed… everything had developed, so… Yeah, it was, it was very odd to see a baby there, laying there but not doing anything. You know, it was a bit of a shock, but it was still your baby. You still treated it as your baby – and still do to today, she’s still my daughter and, and yeah… it was a bit surreal.
36.39 You said you made a video clip and that family members came. How else did you spend that time with Jannah?
36.46 We took a lot of pictures… which was very good by the… I think it happens on all wards, I’m not sure. But they have a photographer on, on, on hand for the babies to… well, the newborn babies and the couples and things. So, we had a photographer there who came and took pictures the next day. Rabia and I, Rabia and I, of course, spent the most time with Jannah. In, in the evenings when people weren’t around – especially on the second day. The first day everybody came to see us, on second day they came, but they came in like the visiting hours, so you had your own sort of time as well. Because that was one thing which was really good with the, with the hospital was that they had… in that bereavement suite it was a double bed, so I could stay as well. And, it was like us three sleeping together. We all slept together in the bed and things like that, so… It was quite nice to… to have her with us as part of our family. You know, she made it part of our family. So we spent a lot of quality time with her here… We, we talked to her, made lots of videos, lots of photography and tried to keep as much memory of her as I could. Because, I know that… it’s quite easily forgotten. Little things about someone, say… so, yeah try to. One thing, was a really… I don’t know if it’s odd or not, but I looked at every little part of her… right down to between her toes and everything, you know… so that I knew that she was all there sort of thing, it was like a… so I wouldn’t want to forget something… that sort of thing… yeah…
38.47 Do you remember being offered a post-mortem?
38.51 Yes, we was offered a post-mortem, but it was something that we declined, not just on religious grounds but we declined that… she was perfect. She didn’t need to be opened or looked at in any… by anyone else, you know. She’d… for me it was like, the outcome is the outcome. It doesn’t… if you told me, you know, her lungs didn’t develop properly or her brain… this happened or any part of her organs, major organs were not working correctly, it didn’t change the outcome of what happened to my baby that day. And, when they went away and they did the tests on the placenta and they said they couldn’t find anything and they’d really… the doctors at that point, they did say it’s unexplained. We don’t know. The only way we may have some indication if we give a post-mortem. But, for me, it’s was like, why do I need to put my baby through that, you know… to, understand it? I know that research can be made and it may even prevent babies – stillborn babies – in the future. But… so, it’s a difficult one… but at that point, it was more to do with that: I looked at my baby and thought, I can’t let them do that to my baby. I can’t let them. To be fair, I was a bit, a bit… very possessive anyway of my baby, so… our baby Jannah… so, I didn’t want… things happening to her. I didn’t want… I wanted her to be dressed in certain… and so we dressed her and, and looked at… cleaned her and really looked after her and stuff like that. So, and I treated her as if she was alive.
40.43 So, I thought, I don’t want these people touching her and that. They like, in a sense of… like doing any sort of operation to sort of to look what were the fault in her, really. And probably that was one of the things: I didn’t want him to find a fault in her, as well. Say, oh, she had this problem. When she was perfect to me… you know, so that sort of thing. I think that was a part of it as well. But, Rabia and I did discuss it and say… but we did come to it that we didn’t want them to actually do anything with, with her and just let her rest, as she was born, sort of thing. You know she came peacefully and you should leave peacefully, really. So, that was the outcome. But, yes, we was offered a post-mortem which we declined. But we did ask for all other tests to be done – on the placenta, on the… blood tests and all these sort of things – to see as much as they could do, to help or, yeah, to have any sort of… medical research into how these things happen. Just so we tried to support that as much as we could.
42.00 How do you feel about the decision that you made about the post-mortem now?
42.04 I still stand by it. I still believe it was the right thing to do, because of… because of the way, like I, as I said earlier that, you know, she came perfectly and I wanted her to leave in that same way. I didn’t want her to have any sort of operation, you know, when… but I like… I still stand by that. And I still think that’s good that we can… that you can have that choice of not having a post-mortem, as well. Because I know that it can be quite pushed upon you to really want to find out why… want to find out why, you want to find out why, you know… and this… and, that was one thing with the hospital, they never, never… they gave us the opportunity I think twice – or three times – I think they did ask again… twice, I think. I can’t remember exactly, but I know they asked more than once.
42.58 But still today I still stand by that. I’m very happy that she didn’t… she never had to go through any of that. She was at peace when she was born and she was buried at peace, sort of thing, so, yeah, I do believe that. I stand by what I, what we did at the time – we both chose to do that. But, you know, saying that, I commend those people that do help to try to prevent this happening anywhere else. It’s not my way… it’s right… you know, it is right for me, but it doesn’t mean it’s right for everybody else, so…
43.37 So, yeah, the post-mortem… the thing I got from the not having a post-mortem was that what the doctors actually said to us, that it’s such a small percentage of them finding out exactly what happened. It’s a bit of this, could be the problem… this could have been the issue or the most that I think we were told afterwards – when we both, when we declined it – that, that a lot of them come back inconclusive anyway. So, that, now, even still encouraged me, that she didn’t need to go through that, if, if the high percentage of them that come back are quite inconclusive as we were told afterwards by some of the midwives that… that it’s not always… We can’t, we can’t guarantee, you’d say, this is gonna… this was the reason, so it won’t happen again to you, so… yeah, I still… that’s the way I feel about it now: that did the right thing at that time and… I haven’t really thought a lot about it to be fair… about the post-mortem and being asked it.
44.47 What was it like leaving the hospital for the last time?
44.55 This was… I had called one of my friends to come and… come and collect us from the hospital. And, he was very good. He sort of supported all the way through – right through to the burial and everything like that, so… a very good friend of ours’. He came, and I remember, we was in the room and were packing up our bags and, and we were sort of going to take her with us – take Jannah with us. But, we were all going straight to, straight to the mosque from there.
45.30 And… it was odd because we didn’t want to go… we didn’t leave out the main entrance that you come in – because we didn’t want to go through the ward of all the babies… it was more to Rabia didn’t really want to do that, but I, I understood that it’s not, not easy to go and see all those babies and dads carrying… their babies out of there – because usually if the wife has just given birth the dads were carrying out the car seat sort of thing – where we didn’t have that and…
45.58 So… it was… it actually sort of hit me the day before the actual leaving the hospital – ‘cause then I had to go and… we signed the birth certificate and I had to go and get a death certificate and my friend who was there, who were also… helping out with all the funeral arrangements and everything like that. And… and it was good to have that support that I could phone him and they just organised everything. I didn’t have to go and do a lot for the funeral – they organised everything. But the only thing I did have to do was go and get death certificate and that was very difficult to go and sign a death certificate for your baby that was just born yesterday… it was quite difficult… that was one, probably one of the most difficult things that I think I have ever done – to go and get a birth certificate in one hand, a death certificate in the other and then go and actually pick a plot where I wanted her to be buried.
46.54 That was quite difficult… so to say, that’s where I want her to lay. That was quite a difficult time, but, yeah… So that was the day before. So we were preparing ourself for that. So I had to go and get a certificate – ‘cause you had to have all the paperwork before you left the hospital. So… so yeah, it’s, it was, it was like the day before… so, I remember, we packed up everything and we said, we don’t want to go out the front door… the main entrance, where all the, where all the pregnant women are coming in and all the babies are going out with their new parents… where all the new babies are going out with their parents and things and so… They just, they actually made it so that we could leave through a side door, sort of out to car park out the back where the staff are – usually park their cars and things like that – staff car park. And we went through there. So the midwife’s actually guiding my friend to where to park – which was really good and handy… and they like collaborated with him so that we didn’t have to really get involved with any of that. There were very good, the midwives, with stuff like that, so that we left the hospital.
47.59 Anyway, it, it was actually the morning – really early in the morning – birds were singing, I remember that. Rabia was already awake. That was our last night with her, so we knew that we’d be leaving. And I don’t think Rabia could sleep very well because of that. And… I remember waking up and she, she was holding Jannah and she was just crying and talking to her and… things like that, you know… because that was just our time – ‘cause no one else was there and that was our last morning that I remember, yeah… we both, all three of us are a family, that was the last time we were going to be a family, you know, because we were going to bury that afternoon.
48.47 So… it was a bit surreal to think that that’s the last time, I’m actually going to sort of hold you, as a family – us three as a family are going to be together, you know, so yeah it was a… That last day was a bit… but then it became hectic after that, it became like, okay, we’ve got to do stuff and you just keep going. So it was… that was just that time when we were just alone, all three of us, you start to think about it all. But after that you, yeah…the day became quite quick, so you didn’t really think about, actually leaving the hospital now. You just remember that time that it was the last time that we’ll be together. So, yeah, it’s… that was a sort of one, quite a crazy day… quite a… day… to think that… not the actual leaving the hospital, but the last time that you were all going to be together… it was a bit like…
49.45 Tell me about going on to the funeral and what the funeral was like.
49.50 In our culture… in our faith – not culture… in our faith that we go… we wash the body of the deceased – whoever they may be. So, we took Jannah straight to the local mosque and we – Rabia and I – we had lots of people there waiting… family members and friends and everything were all waiting at the mosque. But we got to the, we got to the mosque and we took Jannah… Rabia and I took Jannah to the place where they wash the, the bodies there. And the washing of the body is just in a sense of… literally just… essentially is just giving baby the shower really, just having a shower to make sure that, the… in the belief that… she, she’s going to now meet her creator, that she’s going to be ready. She’s going to be all clean and it’ll be all pure and we wipe… wrap them in… white cloth – shroud them – so that they’re like pure, as if they come… when they come into the world they were wrapped in, not always wrapped in white towels, but it is that sort of image that they came in like and that they leave in the same way as you come in, sort of thing, so… Being there and actually doing the washing, another time that I actually wanted to see every inch of what, what she looked like all clean and washed and everything like that – just after her shower.
51.30 And… yeah, it’s, it’s quite surreal. And then we was like thinking, we, we want to keep something of her, so we… remember cutting a little lock of hair at that point and the clothes that she was wearing and all that sort of stuff, so we kept it all together, so… Yeah, she… that point was when we went to… that, so that was the first point, when we left the hospital we went to the mosque and we saw a lot of people first – just as were coming out of the car- and then went into the place of washing. And then we washed her, and then after that we had a small ceremony in the mosque. And then from there, we drove to the graveyard and we had… generally, it was just… just family members – we sort of kept it quite quiet. But there were many others around us – some of my close friends and some of Rabia’s close friends as well were there. And, yeah, then we both… when we arrived at the graveyard… and one of my friends who was… he had… he was organising the actual area of burial and things like that. So, Rabia and I as a last time, we sat in the back of the car together with, with Jannah in her crib – she had her crib there and we were just talking to her and things like that. ‘Cause we knew that this was the actual, very, very last time we’d be together… and, yeah, so…
53.10 We spoke to her a lot in the car, we took quite a long time actually… just being in the back of the car talking to Jannah and talking to each other and just holding each other. And then, we both got out the car, of course, and then we walked up to the grave, where she was buried. And we did a prayer – we did a final prayer there with her in front of us – then we did the Muslim ritual prayer… we did the funeral prayer. And then, Rabia and I, actually took one each… handle of the basket – of the Moses basket – and walked to the grave itself. And, then I actually stood in the grave and took it, put her down.
54.02 Yeah, it was quite – well, then it becomes quite… once I had done that… came out of the grave itself… and we started filling in all the earth and things like that. It didn’t seem like a sad time. Which was a bit odd. Once I’d done that, it didn’t seem sad after that. It felt like, okay, she’s resting now. That’s her place. And that was it really. It was quite a… it was quite a… a sort of odd time after that, you know… so, yeah… sort of just made a congregational supplication to God about, you know, asking him to be, keeping her… keep her happy and things like that – that sort of thing. So, so, yeah… it was… it was bit of an odd time. I wouldn’t say like it was a closure, because it wasn’t. But it was just like, okay, now that’s where she is – that’s her place, you know, yeah, so… yeah…
55.18 And, you know, Rabia and I have different sort of… I think everybody does. It’s not about being a couple, it’s about being individuals. I’m going to grieve in a different way Rabia was going to grieve. It doesn’t matter if you’re both grieving over the same thing, you’re still going to have different way of grieving. And still today, after two years, I still visit her grave every weekend.
55.53 In what ways is Rabia’s grieving different to yours?
56.00 I’d say like… she… she has this thing that she doesn’t need to be there to see Jannah, where she is – like going to her grave or anything. And, I completely understand that, because I don’t believe, to some extent, that me going there is anything for her, it’s more to do for me. But we do have the belief in Islam that we have five stages of life: we have before conception – we say the heavenly life; and the time of the… life in the womb, life… and then life of what we live today – as adults, growing up, as children to adults to old age. And then we have the life of the grave, and you have the life of the Day Of Judgment – where you go to heaven or hell and all that sort of thing.
56.54 So we have these five stages. So I say that she’s in… she’s alive in her grave, you know. So this is a concept that we have so… I go there because that’s where she’s alive, you know. But, a concept in Islam that, you know, we have spirits – internally we’re a spirit – so, they can… spirits can visit their parents and things like that. It’s just, it’s just the body that encases the soul. So, once the body is, is gone, the soul is free. So… so we say that… I think, I think, I don’t know, but I think that’s what Rabia believes that she doesn’t need to be at the grave because the soul is free. Where I, I have the same concept – I understand that and believe it – but it is for me to go to the grave. It’s for my own personal thing. It’s not about where she is spiritually or not spiritually or whatever. It’s more for me to go there. And when I go there, I talk to her as if she’s alive, yeah. Yeah, so I sort of tell her all my day-to-day stuff – probably she gets bored, but there we go [laughs]. Yeah, but Rabia is… Rabia has her day-to-day stuff as well. So we both support each other, in our different ways of dealing with it…
58.21 Did… can… after the funeral, tell me about those first few weeks and days back at home.
58.35 Ah, those times were… wow, there were those times were like as if… nothing really… if something happened… you don’t even know what was happening. It was a bit bizarre, because we went and stayed at Rabia’s parents house for a few weeks, yeah. I actually had to call my manager to say that I’m not going to go back to work for a while ‘cause this happened and… well, to be fair, actually it was a bit of an odd one in that I actually phoned into my employer and spoke to the director – the one that I worked closely with – and I said, this is happened, but don’t tell anybody. I didn’t want anybody to know for some reason – even though my manager had had a stillborn; he may have been able even to talk to me or whatever.
59.23 But it’s really odd, I didn’t want anybody to know – until I told them. I didn’t want it to go through a third… like second hand, sort of thing, because I didn’t want it to become… I think it was for two reasons: that when you work with people – I’d worked for that company for nine years – your work colleagues become very close to you, because you are with them longer than you are usually even at home. In a sense that you’re there for eight hours, but you’re actually awake for eight hours, and you’re talking to them. When you come home, you’ve eaten, you’re sleeping and you’ve not really got that same relationship, so… I think it was more to do with that I didn’t want them to start calling me, bombarding me, coming around and wanting to see me. I just wanted my own time. I wanted to be away from all of that, so… I think that was one of the reasons why I told him not to tell anybody that this had happened…. one of the major reasons, I think.
1.00.17 But, we went off then, yes, to, to Rabia’s parent’s house and we stayed there and… it was, I remember not eating for quite a long time, actually – eating properly. And they used to always say, no, you got to eat; just eat. I never really wanted to eat properly and I still… I didn’t sleep very much. I remember being awake most of the nights and… That time at the beginning, I was awake like just on my own – just me and Jannah… really. And, I used to put Jannah’s blanket over me because I could smell her… So, yes, I used to do that and… So, Rabia would be asleep in the bed and I’d be sort of sitting there and we… I’d be reciting the Qur’an through the night.
1.01.22 And that’s another thing as well that… reciting the Qur’an is a coping mechanism for yourself, you know… or any holy scripture – or whatever you do, whatever… if you talk, you just have a little conversation. It’s a mechanism to cope yourself, because indirectly the babies are pure, they’ve got no… reason to need a blessing or need anything, you know, from any of the parents or any thing like that or anybody because they’re already… they, they’re already pure – if you want to put it in those words, but it’s like… they, they are free from any of… anything. So they don’t need anything from you indirectly, like they of course… they still… want the love of their parents – that’s, that’s, that’s, that’s a given – but it’s more to do with a lot of the coping mechanisms, that come into play… usually from the surroundings where you are.
1.02.25 So you may use – like myself – I was using the Qur’an; to recite it all the time it gave me comfort, you know. And, there’s… Rabia was doing it in her own way; she was talking and whatever she was doing her own thing. At that time it was more supporting each other, of course. And people wanted us to go out and sort of start to move about a bit because we were… it was a good while – I think it was a week – I don’t think we even left the house for a week.
1.03.00 We never left the house. I think I went first, to go to a shop to get general grocery sort of stuff. That was the sort of time that I went outside… but yeah, it was just that sort of… that time was just, just for Rabia and I really to connect a bit more and sort of understand what had happened, really. Yeah, that, that’s the bit I remember afterwards, after… that was straight after the burial. So, yeah, it’s a… it’s, it’s something that, it became like a, one of those sort of things, well, that, it became… a time that you don’t forget, but you… it’s a time that just went… seemed to be really slow for the next two weeks, it went really slow.
1.03.59 Time was slow… days were so long and it felt like everything was so long and so slow, but, yeah, it was… and I just remember that I had to call in work every week after that to see when I’d be ready to go back. And there’s no real answer to – when you’re ready, you know? And then, then they ask you to come in, to sort of just discuss it, because you may… you know, you may… they maybe to help you in any way – or whichever. But you just felt like you didn’t really… well, I, myself, I didn’t really care too much about working. I didn’t really care too much about anything at that point, so…
1.04.42 So yeah, it was a bit of… sort of, and talking about stillbirth that I don’t think employers, and HR departments – or X, Y or Z sort of departments wherever you work – they don’t understand it so they don’t… because it’s not talked about, at all. So they don’t know what is… where do we go with this? Is is, is it a grievance? Or are you just give two weeks off work and that’s it? You know? ‘Cause that’s what most people have – is this agreement that, that… grandpa passed away and then they get two weeks off work. They don’t really… because they don’t know a lot about stillbirth, that they don’t know the effects of that… what happens as a… as… to your family now… your family, you know, you and your… your, your wife and yourself are going to have baby and it doesn’t happen. They don’t know the outcomes of all those sort of things… because they’re not discussed.
1.05.40 So, yeah, after that period, just felt… I felt like, I really can’t be bothered to even go back to work, I don’t know about actually keep phoning in telling them that I’m not ready, I’m not ready or whatever… you know. Because, I started to feel like, okay, I’ve been off for two weeks now. They, they, they must want me back now. They must want me to come back…. you know, so I went back to work after that. But I remember going back to work and, as I said, before I went back, I spoke to my director – same guy – and, I said, I want to see everybody in an office – so I told them all at once. I don’t have to tell everybody 10 times what has happened, because people would be coming to you.
1.06.21 I asked for everybody to be there as I came in that morning – ‘cause I came in later. And I said, if they could all be there so that I wouldn’t have to explain it again and again, really. And I told them what it was – what had happened and everything – and, I was still… I was there for about two weeks… three weeks – I can’t remember exactly – and then… because – and it’s not anything against them – but they were inquisitive: What happened? And… wanted to delve into it… because it’d not really been spoken about, I don’t think. Even with the… even with the people that I worked with… a stillbirth wasn’t – even knowing my manager had one – but it wasn’t actually openly spoken about what had happened and everything… but…
1.07.10 I was, I felt like they were asking so many questions regularly… so regularly that I didn’t really want to be part of that anymore, sort of thing. So, after, yeah, after nine years I just handed my notice in and left my job. I had nowhere to go; no other job or anything. I said, I can’t, I can’t do this, do this anymore – in the sense of just sitting at my desk… what I’ve been… I think it, it really made me evaluate, re-evaluate what I was doing. I thought I have been here for nine years, sitting at this – I wouldn’t say exactly the same desk – but sitting at this desk, doing this work. I thought, I don’t want to do that anymore, you know. My priorities have changed. Life is a lot shorter. My daughter only had 41 weeks of life. I’m thinking, you know, I could have the next 40 weeks of life and then die myself, so…
1.08.01 I was thinking, life is so fragile, life is so short that I felt, I want to start afresh. I want to get out of here. And I remember reading in one of the… as we left the hospital, they gave us a pack from Sands and… I’m re-reading a book – oh, I forgot what title of that book was, what they gave us, but – and it had about looking for the new norm… being the new norm; making your life normal again and, you know, just trying to find what that normal is. And, I think, leaving my job that’s what I was doing. I wanted to start afresh. I wanted a new normal. I wanted like… the place I work at now was going to be – the next place I work at – was going to be my normal. But, what was, what actually happened was that I handed my notice in and I didn’t know what that normal was.
1.08.55 So, I was like five months or something without work. So, it was like… quite… sitting, like just literally sitting at home thinking, I don’t know what my normal is? I don’t know… where do I go with this, this new normal that I’m trying to find? I don’t know. Do I want to stay in the same field that I work in? Do I want to go and do something new? You know, I just wasn’t sure where I was going, you know. And five months later, I’d sort of… I think it was more to do with… I didn’t actually – which was odd – I didn’t actually want to see any… any of my friends, or anyone.
1.09.32 I was live… I lived with my parents at that time, but I didn’t want to see anybody. So, yeah, I didn’t see many of my friends. I sort of cut off from a lot of my friends at that time. It wasn’t to do with my friends, it was just me. I just wanted to be on my own. I didn’t want to go out. And, it’s really odd – I didn’t really want to leave the house, in case I saw my friends – ‘cause we lived in quite a close knit community. I didn’t want to see them. I didn’t want to see anybody. So, it’s like five months of really just being indoors and… thinking about what I want to do.
1.10.04 So, it was… it was a bit of an… five months… like a hole in, a hole in my life where I just wanted to be alone. I really just wanted to be alone. Really did not want to see anybody – or even think about going out for a job interview… even to go, to go and speak to new people. I just really didn’t want to. I really didn’t have the motivation to speak to people… about anything – not just about stillbirth – but about anything. So, yeah, it was a… a bit of an odd time when we left. And, what happened after the funeral was… yeah, that we went on to sort of develop into something new. Rabia got a new job – so she had a new, new something to keep her busy with, you know, physically busy with – and of course mentally, it was still there, always.
1.10.56 Always there in your mind what had happened and things… that you know, it was a… it was, it was just a time where, myself, I didn’t really know where I was or what I was doing. And I think sort of, two years later, I’m still in that same sort of state. I remember having a conversation with Rabia recently, saying that I don’t really have any motivation to do anything. Like, I don’t have any… in the sense of, I, I don’t have any motivation to… to… have any sort of hobby anymore. It’s not like, I don’t really have any… I just sort of go to work, do my work, you know, and come home be with my family and that’s it, sort of thing.
1.11.36 I don’t really have any motivation to go out, talk to people, get new friends or… even to reconnect to a lot of my old friends. I just don’t have really that motivation in me anymore to actually go and see them and be around them. And, it’s not them, it’s more me – that I just don’t want that. You know, it’s a, yeah… yeah, so it’s, it’s still today – two years later – that, that sort of thing still goes on. You know, it’s still… it never leaves you, even now I’ve got a son: I enjoy him, I play with him constantly, but it’s, it’s changed me a lot that… Jannah changed me a lot the, the outlook on life is that you don’t really want to be around people. And it’s not them people, but it’s to be around any sort of person, that isn’t really… not sort of… they don’t… not that they don’t have an… it’s like they don’t have an understanding of life. It’s like they’re just doing their day to day… cogs in the world, sort of thing, and they’re just going round and around and you think, but, you know, life is so short, why do you want to keep doing that? Why don’t you want to actually go out and do something and get something done? Instead of… But, when I’m with those sort of people, that are not like that, they’re quite happy with it, they take routine stuff – I feel like I can’t be around you because I need something else. I need to know that, that life is social. We’ve got to keep going; got to keep doing something. Yeah…
1.13.14 Do you think the people you were in touch with, your family and… the people you were in touch with. How did they respond to Jannah’s death and to the changes in you?
1.13.28 I think some of them – well, I’d say all of them – none, none, none of them knew how, how to react to what had happened really – if I was to be truthful about it. No, but I would say I don’t think I would have been, as well – if it had happened to one of my friends. I don’t think I was prepared; I wasn’t well equipped to be able to support anybody through that, ‘cause I knew nothing about it – and like them, like all of them – all my friends – they know nothing about stillbirth. So they don’t know what happens to the couple afterwards; what sort of mental state they’re in or anything like that… or what they need and what they don’t need, and what they want to hear and what they don’t want to hear, and… they don’t know. So it’s not any fault of them. It’s more to do with… the fault really that stillbirth is not discussed, really. And it’s not just about saying, you could have a stillborn baby at the end of this pregnancy. It’s about actually, what are the experiences of those people that have had a stillborn? And, what do you know, of what happens to those people afterwards? It’s not just, okay, the baby passed away; you buried your baby. But what actually happens to those people? You know, they are people and you know… what is their mental state? How did they cope with it? How did they get through it? And what things to say and what not to say, sort of thing.
1.14.56 And, I’ve been there many times – and still to today people will say, wait until you have a daughter, you will know. They went… because they’ve had a daughter and they’re thinking about certain things and you know the way a son is – they know that I’ve got a son, you know – but they’ll say, wait until you have a daughter then you’ll know what, what I’m talking about, sort of thing. And I think, I have got a daughter. And, I may not understand it in the same way you do – because you’ve got a child that’s grown up with you, sort of… you’ve grown up with… a child’s grown up now and you’ve seen a development in that child.
1.15.29 But, it’s just that sort of comment; the sort of thing that you think, that’s something you don’t want to hear. But they don’t… I don’t think anyone says it in a malicious way. It’s just that, that’s the way they, they see it. They see… whatever they see, they say. So they say, if they see you’ve a son, they think that you haven’t got a daughter, ‘cause where would that daughter be? Or, even if they know, but they’re not thinking, because they’re looking… they know that you had a stillborn daughter, but they’re looking and saying, that’s your family now. You know, you’ve got a son and a husband – or a wife – and that’s it. So, these… comments, it’s like slip of the tongue type things… some people do actually correct it afterwards. I’ve had some colleagues, work colleagues and friends and people like that… say look… correct it afterwards, but…
1.16.17 I think those people that I was connected with just really just didn’t understand stillbirth, but I don’t blame them because I didn’t either, you know, until it happened to me. I had no understanding, no, no… no even thought that this can happen. I know, I know that women have miscarriages, but I, still to today… of course a miscarriage is different to a stillborn, but I don’t know their mental state… what, what they actually go through ‘cause I haven’t… it’s not openly advertised mental issues anyway. Full stop. Whatever that mental issue is. If it’s to do with a, you know, any sort of… if it’s grief or it’s… any sort of bipolar, or… I don’t know what they’re really going through. Okay, I know the word bipolar, but what does… I don’t know exactly what that means in that person. What does that really do to that person? What do what do they think everyday? What do they want to hear and what don’t they want to hear and…? I don’t know myself, so, yeah… So, I can’t say that my friends and the people around me didn’t know… didn’t support me, because they supported me in what they knew and they didn’t know anything about stillbirth… yeah…
1.17.32 But my, of course both of our parents – Rabia’s parents and my parents – both supported us a lot at that time. We both lived, literally lived in their house for – both of their houses really – for like six months after the birth, because we never went back to our flat. That was one thing, where we was going to have the home birth. Straight… we never actually went back to that flat after. I had to go back to like finalise – because we was renting the property – so, to give back the keys and move all the stuff out and things like that.
1.18.06 But, I never, we never slept there at night after that. That was it. Once we came out the hospital – Rabia never went back to the flat, at all, to my knowledge now. But, I went back and just done a tidy up sort of thing, but… So, we stayed with my, my parents and Rabia parents for that good six months or more afterwards, just to re-gather ourselves, I think, more than anything else. Just to, just… where did we want to live? What did we want out of life again really? Just reassessing everything that we’ve, we’ve done and what we’re doing. And do we want to continue doing that or do we want to do something new, you know? It was… yeah, that time…
1.18.50 And of course, our friends being around is… some of them were very supportive, some of them didn’t really have much contact with me. They didn’t push to have contact. I’m sure they were all waiting for me to say, okay, come and see me now. I’m okay, you know, you can come and… But, so a lot of them stayed away as well, like that. And, yeah it’s, I don’t… have a… have anything against those sort of people that don’t know, because I still… or the people that do know… it’s about, about stillbirth, I mean. It’s more to do with, with myself and how I dealt with them really; I didn’t want to see a lot of people. And still today, I sort of, still have this thing now, I don’t, don’t really want to be around a lot of people – there’s only a select few that I still talk to on a daily basis sort of thing, or weekly basis, so… yeah…
1.19.53 Were you offered support or counselling after, after Jannah’s death?
1.20.00 I was – I believe I was; I can’t recall a 100 percent, but… Rabia was given it at the hospital closer to her mum’s, and… I’m fairly sure they did offer it to me because… ‘cause I remember I went twice – to two – but it was joint – Rabia and I went together. And they asked, you know, would you like to come together or would you like to have it separately? I do remember that and… And that was at the point when I said, I don’t need it, I don’t want it. You can go on your own. I said to Rabia, if you want to go you can go. So, I never… I was offered it, but I never took it up. Other than those two times, I just went to go along to support… I thought the… my understanding was that Rabia is going to have the counselling – I’m just there to support her. But it was more to do with counselling between both of us really – the counsellor talked to both of us. But after two sessions, when she said, would you like to continue like this or would you like to…? And, I thought okay, I can let Rabia continue – that’s what she wants to do. So, yes they offered it to me. I never took it up at all and maybe because I was, I don’t know, it was a, a few things… reasons why… I’d done voluntary counselling for three years, before I met Rabia, with youth, as well. And, I don’t know why, but I felt that, yes, it did help – the youth – for that time… they helped. Many, many people were doing counselling. We did it over the telephone like a… like a Childline type thing.
1.21.35 But, I remember doing it for three years and I had the same clients and they were still talking about the same issues. So, either I wasn’t a very good counsellor, or… it needed more than just talking to somebody. It needed… and that’s what I feel with counselling itself, that you need someone to give you ideas of how to overcome something, instead of saying, how would you feel if you did this, this…? And then you’re… I don’t really know. I don’t know how to feel about it. I want someone to really guide me. And that was something that I felt with counselling, was that, if you didn’t give them alternative coping mechanisms… then it was like you’ll just keep going over the same thing until… because they haven’t coped with it.
1.22.22 So, from my sort of training that I did as a counsellor – and also working for three years as a counsellor – I felt like I haven’t learnt the coping mechanisms to give to somebody – in my role that I was doing. And when I sat in those few sessions with Rabia, I felt like the counsellor wasn’t giving us coping mechanisms to understand that. You know, they were saying, what did you do last week to cope with this? And Rabia started to write a journal – that was off of her own initiative more than the actual counsellor giving her a coping mechanism, with understanding what’s going on and how she can remember stuff and things like that. How she was going to deal with things. So myself personally, I felt… I feel – I haven’t met all… every single counsellor in the world, to know that that’s how they all work – but when I felt that counselling sessions were not for me because they weren’t giving me any coping mechanism… like, what, what, how do I get over this? And, tell me… sort of thing. I need to know, without trying to make me go away and start thinking about it and pondering, how do I deal with my own life? – sort of thing. So, yes, I was offered it, but it wasn’t, I, I don’t know if it’s… all… I don’t know if it’s men are not really into counselling? I don’t know. I’m not an expert in studies of understanding if men do, do more counselling than women or not, but it seems like there’s just sort of a group of people that I grew up with, and the people around me, counselling is not really spoken about as a guy.
1.23.55 You don’t say, oh, I’m going to counselling on a Thursday. I can’t meet you, or something. It’s not one of those sort of… doesn’t even come into your vocabulary really, as a guy, that, I’m going to counselling. It’s not really something that – especially amongst my, my group of friends – never even think about even saying it. It’s not that… there is, that is a shame of it, or anything, it’s just that you never hear it. Just never hear someone say… I’ve never had – still to today even – I’ve never had a guy say to me, I’m going to counselling. You know, I can’t meet you on this day, because I’m going to counselling. It’s never, I’ve never heard it. I don’t know if it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. But, you know… I never heard it… I don’t think it’s a big part of men’s psyche to go to counselling.
1.24.42 How do you mark anniversaries or specific dates?
1.24.49 Well, its… I always go to see Jannah every weekend – or try to anyway. So it’s, it’s still… still quite raw in the sense that I feel like she’s still there. But, when it comes to her birthday, I remember the very first year that I went, and I was thinking, I’ve come to see my daughter at a graveyard for her birthday. Where a lot of my friends and families and… they’ve had their first birthday parties for their children with a cake and party and all that sort of thing. And I’m coming and singing Happy Birthday to a grave, you know. So, it really… still today – second birthday just went recently – I went there and sang Happy Birthday to her and… things like that… something that… no one else is there with you. It’s not a big fanfare of a big celebration and all that sort of thing, so, yeah, it’s a… I go and I visit the grave and I sing Happy Birthday to her every year and – for the last two years, so, yeah, it’s… it’s just something… it’s not the norm, you know. You don’t expect to be going to say, sing Happy Birthday to your daughter at a graveyard, you know, so, yeah… Yeah, it’s… that’s the way I mark an anniversary for her, and… But, I know… my wife does it differently. And my, my, well, my sister, she’s very good with that. She goes and she puts a birthday balloon there and… and writes… gets her children to write messages to her: birthday messages and things. And my father always goes every year as well on her birthday. My father’s very much into wanting to get us to do something, but we… I do things individually… we do it quite individually, but I know that my father, I think, would like us all to be there to celebrate or to have a sort of family moment with her really for her birthday, but…
1.26.43 I think, I, I celebrate it quite solitary – on my own and… and Rabia does her own thing. But, yeah, I go to the graveyard for her birthday and sing Happy Birthday and that’s not something you would ever expect to be doing – in your life – to go to a graveyard and sing Happy Birthday to your daughter, you know. And I don’t think a lot… people don’t see this – this is the sort of thing that people don’t see. They see you getting on with your life, and you’re going to work, and you’re coming home, and you’re with your children and – your other children that you’ve got, you know – but when they sat down and had birthdays with their children, they had the big party and the presents and the cake and all that sort of thing. They don’t realise, they don’t see the other side of that, when a still… a parent of a stillborn baby, what they do on that birthday and how they deal with that. So that’s the way I do it – that’s the way that I, I mark the anniversary of her birth.
1.27.38 And there’s also… there’s a grave of a little girl not far from… but I think she was a little bit older, she was about three when she passed away. I see the parents going there and they’re having picnics on Sundays, you know, and people… other people don’t see that. They just see these people, see these parents still living their life daily and… but they don’t see the side where there visiting a graveyard for their child. To be with their child they’ve got to visit a graveyard sort of thing, on a physical… yeah, physical level.
1.28.13 They will go to a graveyard where the people who have your living children, you just don’t think about it; it’s not in your psyche to think about that. So, to understand it, it needs to be talked about a lot more, to sort of understand what really happens with the aftermath – as I spoke about earlier. The aftermath of it is not just, okay, she’s passed away. It’s all the other things… that she’s born, she would be going to school at this age, she would be, you know, all these different markers through your life. What you do, when, when a baby is born and living, that you think, okay, first day at school, you’ve got a picture of them in their school uniform. That’s not going to happen to my… to my daughter. It’s not going to be something, but it doesn’t mean that when she hits the age of five and she meant to go to school – or whichever age it is – I’m not going to be thinking about that. And thinking, you know, she should be wearing a little school uniform, going to school, you know. So, all these different things – the way that we mark anniversaries – these, these are not, not spoken about and… it’s all hidden. It seems like it’s all hidden, ‘cause everyone does do it… differently… but, yeah.
1.29.25 Tell me about, thinking about… trying for another baby.
1.29.34 Thing was, as I said about Jannah, we never planned anything and we didn’t… and I don’t like the term planned. But we never thought… I never thought about it; I never pondered over it. I just let life go as it goes. And we had… so… oh, I can’t even remember how long after it was now. But it wasn’t too long after… then… then Rabia conceived. But… it wasn’t really like, let’s have another baby. It wasn’t like let’s just make this… let’s have another baby and this might help us. Or, this is the right thing to do right now for both of us. It was never like that. It was a bit… yeah… It was a bit… odd to think that’s what we’re going to do.
1.30.28 It was just like… just, just lived life and it came about, in that sense that, you know, okay, we’re having a baby now. It was more to do like… come along like that. I always remember when Rabia told me that she was pregnant… it was in London. She had just come – I’m not sure – I think she’d just come out of a counselling session, I think, and I went to meet her. I remember we went to Hampstead Heath then. And she told me in Hampstead Heath, that she’s pregnant again.
1.31.00 So, it wasn’t about, yeah, thinking let’s start, let’s have another baby. It was never like that. It was – I don’t even think we had a conversation about it, to be fair – I don’t think it actually even went… it never went through my mind, ah, let’s have another baby. I was always like, free will. If it happens, it happens. I’m not really… I’m not really saying we must have it and… you know, because I know that, that it can become quite… it can make you quite anxious if it doesn’t happen when you start thinking I want a baby, I want a baby, it doesn’t happen. I’ve never had that sort of thing in me, the, that I’ve got to… it’s got to happen and things like that. So, so I’ve never really thought about it, to say, let’s start a… let’s start again and have another go, really.
1.31.54 What was that subsequent pregnancy like?
1.31.58 That pregnancy was… because it was consultant led and the new company that I was working for now – that, the one I work for now – I’d told them everything that had happened. And I was actually quite detailed of what happened, so they all knew that this is what happened to me and this is how, you know, I felt afterwards and things, so… give them knowledge of… I did think that if it was to happen again, they would understand it, you know, so that I wasn’t pressurised to come back to work quickly or, or anything like that. So I, I, I did go into quite a lot of detail with them – what stillbirth is and what the effects of it are. So, when Rabia became pregnant and I told my manager… that, I actually said to them, you know, we will be consultant led and we have a lot more appointments than what we used… what you generally would have, let’s say… as the first pregnancy or a normal pregnancy, if you want to put that in inverted commas.
1.33.14 So, the pregnancy itself… so it started like that so… So, we went to quite a few appointments – I can’t actually remember how many, because it was quite a few going backwards and forwards. Then we went and the pregnancy, yeah, it all went… all went along fine – as it was before – our son was kicking like mad. She felt them every day. But, the consultants were very much, were very… much, you do what you want. And we’re just here to facilitate that labour – that, that pregnancy and that labour and… we will support whatever decisions you have. It was very much…
1.33.58 And one thing, we saw the same consultant, which was good. So, they knew your story. It wasn’t seeing lots of different doctors or different midwives and things like that. And… yeah, the second pregnancy seemed to just run smooth… as you go through just as normal. But, in my mind, I was like, the… what can, what can be the worst outcome? There’s not, even if the, the baby is going to be stillborn again, I’ve been there; I’ve done it, sort of thing. It can’t be anything worse than that now. So, it’s either going to be the same, as before, or it’s going to be better, it can’t be worse. So, sort of, you’re in more of like a joyful state and that, that you know that it can’t get any worse, you know, than what you’ve experienced, because it’s just gonna… you’re just gonna know, okay, this is, this is what happens. I understand it now. This is what happens now. You can have a stillborn baby and this will happen and that will happen, ‘cause I’ve been through it.
1.35.28 And… so yeah, I was more… I was relaxed with that, as well… knowing that I can’t do anything. And that was one thing with the first pregnancy as well, that, afterwards like I’ve come to understand, that you can’t do anything. You… in that sense, like when the doctor said that, you know, we could have done the scan five minutes ago and baby was fine. Five minutes later, she’s not fine – meaning that we… you couldn’t do anything, you know. And, in the same way, through the second pregnancy, I had the same sort of thing. I can’t determine the outcome what’s going to happen through that pregnancy… I can’t say this is going to happen, because it’s not… it doesn’t happen… well, it doesn’t work like that. You don’t get pregnant and this… the real shock of life is that you can’t determine what’s going to happen in the future, you know, you can… nine months down the line is a long period.
1.36.10 So, you can be, like what happened with Jannah, we had nine months of a great pregnancy and then the outcome well as it was. But, in the same way, with the second pregnancy, I had the same sort of thing… as I’ve now… accepted, the will that I can’t do anything. There’s no point me sitting there worrying about it every day, because I can’t do anything anyway to change it. I can’t change anything, myself. So through that pregnancy, I… I wouldn’t… I’d say that I was a lot more, a lot more… wanting to be involved in the pregnancy – because I felt like if that is, is, if that is is the baby’s life, I want to know that life, in those 40 weeks or whatever – or how many weeks it is. You know, where, with Jannah, I don’t think I was that involved in, during the whole pregnancy of actually… feeling all her kicks and all that sort of thing.
1.37.22 And, how… what was it like when Adam was born?
1.37.31 When Adam was born, it was… we went to the… it, it was quite surreal as well, because I remember, we went into the hospital and, and they put us on to the labour ward… and Jannah was born in Room D, and Adam, was born in Room E – literally the room next door – so we walked past Room D, to go into Room E, sort of thing, so… And they all looked the same, every single room, looks the same as well. So, it was quite… thinking, we’re back in, we’re, we’re in the same place we were like, however many months or so it was before – a year or so… whatever it was. So, yeah, it was a bit… walking past that room, and I remember when he was born and he was… he…
1.38.22 Well, during the actual labour, he was very, very active. And they put the monitor on him and he kept, literally, kept moving so much, that they couldn’t actually… So, you’d be, we’d be watching… I’d be watching the machine and it would just go off – the heartbeat would go off – because he’d moved. And I’d be running out telling them that it’s gone off, you know, because you, I didn’t know. And then they’ll say, don’t worry. It’s all right, we just need to move it… and things like that. But, yeah, during that time, but we had… we had two midwives that stayed with us all the way through, which were the same ones who stayed from, right from… and then they went off, had their break, then came back, sort of thing. But they were through it – though the whole labour. And ‘cause it was happening in the early hours of the morning – so it was overnight it started – so, so they did have a shift change, but these two stayed. It was quite good that they actually stayed with us, all the way through.
1.39.21 I don’t know if it’s because of what had happened with Jannah that they actually decided to do that, I’m not sure. But, we did have these two in particular – these two great midwives – helped us, but… Yes, when he… yeah, sorry, so, the heartbeat kept coming off the machine, regularly like, so I was really anxious at that point… you know, it keeps stopping… is the heartbeat stopping or… what’s happening, sort of thing? So, so, yeah, it was… until they actually fixed a monitor, so they could monitor the heartbeat properly – so it wouldn’t keep coming off – it was a bit anxious time, that sort of thing…
1.40.01 But… when he was born… he didn’t cry. He didn’t do any… and he just… he didn’t even have his eyes open really, for a little second… he didn’t have… and I said, is he ok? Because I didn’t hear a sound and I thought, it’s exactly how Jannah was born – without a sound. And they said, yeah, he’s just… he’s just been through a bit of a journey at the moment, he just wants a bit of time to himself… they were saying – I remember the midwives saying, he just wants a little moment to himself and then… he still didn’t cry, which was really odd.
1.40.34 I picked him up when he wasn’t crying but… or anything. And, then he just sneezed on me. Got all his mucous out. And then I passed him over to Rabia – but he still didn’t cry. He still didn’t make a noise, you know. And I thought… so that did give me sort of flashbacks, in the sense that, he was born exactly as Jannah was born – he didn’t make a sound and we just picked him up and… that sort of thing. And, you know, it was only later, that you just – it must have been, I don’t know, five minutes later or something – and he makes little whine sounds, sort of thing.
1.41.07 But he was very, very, very quiet, when, when he was born. He was very calm and didn’t really make a lot of noise. But, yeah, it was… But seeing him, I was thinking, that is exactly the same as Jannah – because he’s not making a sound. And he looked exactly like Jannah too, so it just flashback to all of that came back, sort of thing. And, then I remember saying to the midwife afterwards – it was like the next morning or something – do you know that my daughter was born in the room just next door, but we didn’t have the same outcome, you know. It just showed that… we say that the… we have this belief that you know the Angel of Death Comes to take your soul. I said the Angel of Death came to the take the soul in that room of my baby, but this one it didn’t. So, I was saying in there, and it’s literally just a wall apart from each room. I remember saying to the midwife, yeah, that, you know, we had… we had one… well, I said, I had the saddest moment of my life in the room next door, now one of the most joyful times of my life in the room here.
1.42.17 So, now the hospital itself is this, ia a, sort of… you, you haven’t got a bad taste in your mouth about the hospital, because… even when because of Jannah, because you had a son born there as well – in the next room. But, you do sort of have a, that’s where my daughter was born as well… and she wasn’t. So, it’s a bit of an emotional mix, which is quite difficult, so… You do, you do, I think like that, that it’s quite, wow, you know, how can it be so… how can the outcomes be so different? How can they? I don’t understand that – pregnancies were both exactly the same – how did, how was the outcome so different? You know, one being in one room and one being in another, literally… and, yeah, it’s just a… odd, odd feeling.
1.43.13 You’ve talked a little bit about this, but what do you think it’s important for people to know about stillbirth?
1.43 20 Firstly, that it happens. Number one, that stillborn… stillbirth happens and it’s real, you know. It’s not something that used to happen to your great-grandparents, you know, it will happen to your grandparents and their, their generation and it wasn’t spoken about. It still happens through till today. Yeah, and… once it happens… to somebody their life is changed dramatically and it never goes back to the way that it was. So, the thing that I want people to sort of understand is more to do with the mental state afterwards of the parents and not to allow it to be… be forgotten.
1.44.10 Like, okay, the baby’s… that happened four years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago – as if it’s been and gone now. Because the mental state of that person and their life is changed, as I said, and never goes back to as it was. That person’s changed. So, 10 years down the line, that person has got a, a point where they changed – that they always refer back to a reference point – that’s when I changed. So, I’ll tell you that, it’s more to do with, yes, that happened. It may have happened 10 years ago, but their mental state is still… it… it’s not the same as what it was before.
1.44.51 And… I’d like it so that people actually understood the aftermath of it, as well… not just the actual, this could happen to you. The baby passes away, you bury your baby and that’s it. You know, it’s all over with. It’s not. It carries with you for the rest of your life – that, that moment… that… of, that news that your baby’s not alive carries with you for the… to I’d say probably till the day you die. So, I would say, you know, people need to know that the mental state of people – as through this interview, I’ve, you know, brings back a lot and you start to talk about things and… but people think… it hasn’t gone away.
1.45.44 It’s still as raw as it was two years ago. And, one thing I would say that it’s quite good… I’m seeing many documentaries now with this involved, stillbirth being involved and… some soaps have even had them and… had stillbirth written into their script and things like that. So, it is being spoken about, but it’s just not being spoken about enough, really. And, I think even things when it is being spoken about, it’s just being spoken about that it happens – not the actual aftermath. And I feel that the aftermath bit needs to be highlighted a lot more as well.
1.46.31 Is there anything that you’re particularly proud of or that you regret?
1.46.40 I wouldn’t say I’m proud or regret anything really, but I’d say I’m proud that I am her father – I’m Jannah’s father and I’ll always be her father. And, I’d like say to that I’m more proud that I can actually talk about it and tell people about it as well. It has… and also meeting with others that have been through it. That’s one thing I’d say I’m proud to be part of… would say, I’m not proud to be part of it, but, but being part of that community of stillbirth fathers or stillbirth parents, that we can support each other and talk to each other as much as it’s not still widespread – you still don’t meet up with these people all the time. And when you do, you don’t really talk about… you still don’t talk about, oh, and this happened and that happened… every time you meet. But you just know that you’ve got a sort of a common connection with each other that this is why you’re, you are friends, or colleagues, or whichever.
1.47.42 So… I’d say that I’m proud, and having my new son as well, that she’s not forgotten; Jannah’s not forgotten with it all. Because that’s one thing I, I have with my, my father. He’s very… he still to this day, he still goes and sees Jannah every week as well, my father does – on a very regular basis. And, he never lets that be forgotten either. In the house, he has a picture of her and all the grandchildren – makes it part of it and makes her part of that thing that it was… so it’s never forgotten. And, I’m proud that, you know, that she’s not forgotten. But, I’d like it so that I could actually do something in her name, to make it more proud that she is my daughter, and, and things like that.
1.48.36 But, yeah, I’m not… I don’t regret anything that happened. What happened has happened. So, yeah, I wouldn’t regret anything that happened. I don’t feel like… there’s anything that we could have done to do anything to stop the… stop the outcome. The outcome is the outcome, really.
1.49.02 Is there anything you’d like to pass on to other bereaved parents, from your experience?
1.49.07 I’d like to say that they… that life goes on and your routine goes on. You… That’s one thing that I tried to understand at one point was that, do I really want to get up for work tomorrow and go on, go to work for eight hours, come home, pay the bills and do the same thing day in day out, until I’m 65 or something? Do I want to do that? But because of what’s happened, do I want to do that because of what has happened? I’ve re-evaluate my life and… I want… should I be doing that? But I’d say that those parts of your life are just your day-to-day life. It’s not your inside… it’s your outward life, as we would say. It’s your outward life – it’s your things that you have to do daily, you have to eat, you have to sleep, you have to do all these sorts of things. That’s your daily life, but internally, that is the person who you are.
1.50.09 So when you have your time with your daughter or your, or your loved one that passed away… your child – that is really you, that one there. The other stuff is just… you have to do that to live, to survive. And, so don’t feel like you’ve got… that you’re giving up on that day-to-day living, because… and while you’re doing that day-to-day living, don’t feel guilty that you’re forgetting about the baby that you’ve lost, because there’s two sides of your life and one of them, one of them is that you have to survive. And the other one is your mental side, which… your spititual internal side, that you have to deal with yourself, and be with yourself, and to develop yourself, you know.
1.50.54 So that was one thing that I would advise, is ‘cause I felt like I went through that in five months thinking, I don’t want to do anything now. I want to give up going to work, I want to give up… But then you realise that, that’s not what, what… that event of your baby passing away should do to you. It shouldn’t kill you as well. You know, you shouldn’t die – physically die – with them. Internally you may die with them. You feel like you’ve got nothing left to live for, type thing. But it doesn’t mean that… you can’t get up and get your daily routine. But one thing I would say is that’s going to happen to you at your time – at your right time.
1.51.36 You know, it took me five months, but maybe – to actually go out and start looking for work and stuff like that – maybe you have your own time, your own period and there is no right way; theirs is no wrong way. It’s individuals and we all do things differently. So… tat’s sort of advice that I would like to say that, and, and don’t feel that because it’s been so many years, that you have to brush it under the carpet now. You know, because some people still think – people that it hasn’t happened to – they’ll think, why’s this person still bringing that up ten years down the line? It’s happened now. What can you do about it? So…
1.52.24 Yeah, it’s something that I’d… just encourage people that, you know, it doesn’t mean that if they’re not physically there, it does not mean they’re not spiritually or – whichever you want to describe it as – still in touch with you. Yeah. Because they are always your child; they’re still there – in whichever form you feel that they are there – they are still your child and… then you will deal with that in the way that’s best for you. There isn’t the right or wrong way of dealing with it.
1.53.01 Is there anything else you’d like to say that you haven’t had an opportunity to?
1.53.08 Firstly, I would like to thank the hospitals, I think, for what they did, they did. And one thing I’d say is a local charity that we’re a part of – we’re with Sands – and there are others as well, but I’d say get involved in those, those groups, because those groups, those people, that are part of those groups that have been through it, they understand you. No one else will understand that aftermath like what they understand it. There’s will be different, but they’ll understand you better than the person it hasn’t happened to. So, I’d say, get involved in those things, meet up with them.
1.53.48 And, you know, I’m of, of a Muslim faith, but we go to the yearly memorial, which is in a church, and we do the… every year we go there and they read out the names of the babies and… because the thing that links you together, it doesn’t matter if it’s a faith or… is that it’s humanity that links you… that their baby passed away and people are remembering them. And those people that are remembering your child have gone through it as well. So, that day, when we go there, and we go to the memorial thing, that they, they understand what you’re going through. And some of them…some of the, yeah… we’ve got some colleagues there that, 12 years down the line, they’ve got twelve year old kids and they’re still coming.
1.54.29 There was one that was like 25… she was an elderly, a more middle aged lady. She said, my son would have been 25 today, or something. You know, it’s, it’s an ongoing thing. But get involved in those things because those are the people that will support you, yeah, like in the sense of, if you’re into… needing someone to actually talk to, those are the people that you want to be talking to. That’s one of the things that I said to, to Rabia at the time, I’d felt the counsellor – because she had not been through it – how can she tell me what I’m feeling, because she’s never been through that, you know? So, these people do know. They have been through it. So, I would say, join those groups and get in touch with those groups and… because they will support you.
Rabia’s full interview
0.00 My name is Rabia, I’m Jannah’s mother. She was born two years ago – 2015 – on the 17th of March. She weighed seven pounds nine and she was born at 41 weeks of the pregnancy… naturally… Yep.
0.23 Can you tell me how you and David met?
0.28 David and I met in London. We were… it was a good nine years ago, now. It was an Expo at Alexandra Palace – it was an art exhibition. And, I used to work for a magazine at the time. And he came and approached our table and he was flicking through magazines and my editor was sort of getting annoyed with him [laughs] and… but we got talking and arranged to meet and then from then on we sort of knew each other for a few weeks and months and then stayed in touch… and yeah, our relationship developed and we got married a year later.
1.14 Can you tell me what was your attitude to starting a family?
1.20 Well, in my family… the ladies do get married young and they have children quite young. So, my sister had gotten married when she was 19. And I’d seen, from her experience, that, you know, it was quite full on having children. It changed everything, for her; so in lots of ways – good ways and challenging ways. So, I felt like I really wanted to finish everything I could before I started a family. And that was something that we talked about before we even got married – David and myself. So I went… I wanted to do my postgraduate degree, I wanted to travel. We went and lived in Damascus for a while and I stayed with my brother in Egypt; I had a job there, in Cairo. Then after all of that, we started talking about it. So, I was about twenty eight when we started talking about starting a family.
2.26 Can you tell me about your pregnancy?
2.31 My pregnancy was really normal. It was… it was… yeah, very textbook, to be honest. So everything was developing fine – all my numbers were great, I was a good weight, age… I exercised regularly, my diet was good – so, I felt like all of my appointments were very short and precise. The one thing that we had discussed – David and myself – was that we didn’t want to use any ultrasound scanning or even doppler machines, unless there was a need to – unless the professionals were concerned about the baby’s growth. So, I didn’t find out the baby’s gender, I didn’t hear the baby’s heartbeat, any of those things. But there was no, there’s no worry. Some, some of the doctors… one of the doctors did try hard to convince me to have an ultrasound scan, but I wasn’t really convinced that there was a reason to… I think I was trying to… approach the pregnancy very naturally and… organically. I was reading a lot of different natural birthing books and my sister had given birth at home – three times – one of my sisters. So I’d bought a birth pool and… I was geared up for, you know, having a very natural birth and a very natural experience and not letting anybody intervene too much in that.
4.17 How do you feel about that decision now?
4.24 I think that I did the best with the information I had. There is… I feel nowadays there’s a… possibly because there was a very clinical approach towards birth in the seventies – or the sixties – now in Britain I feel like there’s a real movement away from that – almost an extreme movement away from it – where a lot of books are published, a lot of women talk about this very romantic experience of pregnancy and birth and being a mother, where it’s all natural and everything’s fine and, you know, you need a doula and, you don’t really need a midwife, and doctors shouldn’t really be in the room and…
5.10 I was reading a book that’s really made popular by quite a few people, by a midwife – it was something about natural birthing – and she had her own clinic. And she, she, she talked about lots of different techniques to use whilst giving birth: laughter and, you know, movement and things like that. And I, I would say that a lot of that information was important and useful. And I attended classes – which was really brilliant – it was like yoga and hypnobirthing combined. That really empowered me with lots of information about birth and about pain… painkillers, and endorphins, and labour, and how to use your breathing, and… I think that helped me a lot in giving birth, but then again, I feel like I wasn’t living in the here and now, in really listening and understanding how my hospital approached women – because they really do put the mother first.
6.15 Where… I, I kept being told, I felt – by the doula, by a private midwife that I’d met – that hospitals are terrible places for giving birth and it’s all about getting you out on time and, you know, intervening as, as quickly as possible because they don’t feel like you’re able to give birth on your own, and you won’t be calm and collected and relaxed, where you would be in your home.
6.40 Where, I found that actually, I felt more reassured having people around… who I felt would be able to help me, assist me in, in a situation that you’re, you know, you’re experiencing for the first time. Why not… you know, you can quite easily have your hand held through it by someone who’s seen it many times before. Why resist that? I feel, I feel like… I, I don’t regret my decisions because, as I said, I feel like I did the best with what I knew. And you can’t know everything. But I would say to any young person, not to intellectualise your own birth too much. It is just an experience like any physical experience in your life… doesn’t have to be specifically painful – or wonderful – it is just what it is. You have to just go through it.
7.46 What did you know about stillbirth at that time?
7.53 I didn’t know a lot about stillbirth, I must say. Even though I had heard about it – I knew it was something… when I found out I was expecting one of my friends did tell me that one in four pregnancies ends before term. And my cousin, I knew my cousin in India she had had a stillborn baby boy. And then had another son, who’s living and then another stillbirth. So, I, I, you know, I had heard of it. But, I don’t… I had never realised that it could happen so late. For me, I was overdue, really.
8.36 And… after the first three… you know, you’re warned quite a lot. For the first trimester, you don’t tell anyone and it’s very likely that this could happen… But even when David and I had actually talked about… a family, I knew the rates of miscarriage and, you know, I knew people in my family had had miscarriages, but that had never happened really late, so… I had said to David that, you know, I don’t want to start… thinking about family too late because we don’t know… you know, we could lose children, we don’t know.
9.17 But still in that, in having said that, I had only thought about miscarriage… early miscarriages, not stillbirth. So even when, to the point when… I was told that my child wasn’t living and I would have… I, I was so confused about what happens now – do I still give birth? What? Because everything I had read up to then was about, you know, the… the… having good care for the baby, what should be done for the baby, and placental… you know, cord clamping and all the chemicals in your body that would affect the child after birth. Once I knew the baby had passed away, I thought, okay, now what happens? I don’t… I’m not prepared for this. But even things like naming the baby after the… after they’ve been delivered, burying the baby – all of those things I had obviously never thought about and I just didn’t know that you did that. You named the child, even that… you would take photos or anything… sentimental in that way. I’d, I’ve never really been bereaved either – with anyone close to me – so that was a new experience too.
10.33 Going back to your pregnancy with Jannah. When did you realise that something was wrong?
10.42 Right at the end, so… it was when I was in labour. My, my due date came and I started feeling something. So, I was very aware of not wasting anyone’s time. I think it was you know like in TV programs you see women being… coming to the hospital and then they’re being checked and and then midwives say, oh, no, no, no… you know, it’s just a false alarm. Go back home. And I really didn’t want to be one of those women – for some reason. I’d had it in my head. I’m not going to waste anybody’s time. I’m going to do this right.
11.21 So I laboured at home. And it was very painful and… when the midwives checked me – they’d come from a nearby hospital because I was planning a homebirth. They checked me and said the baby was back to back, and that I needed to rest because it could go on for a really long time. Take some paracetamol. And so I was doing lots of different manoeuvres, movements and things to try and turn the baby.
11.56 The next day I actually had an induction booked. But, I called and cancelled because I knew I was in labour and I thought, oh, I don’t need to be induced which… I did struggle with later because I thought, I should have gone to the hospital. They would have looked at me and known something was wrong. But, the day after that, my waters broke and they were coloured. And that’s really when I knew something was not right. But still, even then, in my mind, I could not imagine anything so terrible being wrong. I knew the waters coloured. Called the midwife. She said, okay. Come in. She wasn’t alarmed or anything… but we got a taxi, you know. We didn’t know to call an ambulance or anything like that, so took time to get to the hospital. And then when we got there they did a scan… yeah.
12.56 How were you told that Jannah had died?
13.03 It… I was told that Jannah had died very… in a very, in a very… good way – now that I look at it. So, I had come in with David and my waters were coloured so they asked me to show them. They laid me down and they said that they were going to do a scan. We had resisted ultrasound scans anyway, so David asked… you know, at that moment, is it really necessary? And they said yes. Sonographer came in. She looked for a very long time. And then went and got another doctor. She has, she had said to me that I can’t find a heartbeat but we, we need to find another doctor to confirm. And I just thought, okay, there’s just something wrong with the equipment. But when the other doctor was looking around for a really long time as well, then she looked me in the eye and said it to me. She said that we can’t find a heartbeat.
14.06 And I still felt like… ah, there must be… still there must be something wrong. But, she looked at me with such… you know, grief and sadness and everyone was looking at me like that. She said, we’ll give you a moment. And left the room. So I just looked at David and he said, you understand don’t you? And I still didn’t really understand. And I just thought still there’s something wrong with the machine. And he said that means that the baby died. So… yeah, that’s how I was told. It was good that they gave us a moment, I think.
14.47 What happened next?
14.50 The clinicians came in, the midwives came in. I was… still in labour, so… my whole birth plan that was in my mind, just… I didn’t know what to do now. So I said, do I still have to give birth? And they said, yes. And the best thing for me, because… I was… the contractions were still very… quick. They said, we’ll have a look. And when they did they could see the baby’s head. So they said, it’s time to push. And that was it. Within the hour she was born.
15.40 Do you remember… did you have any time before Jannah was born, to think, or to, to, to prepare in any way?
15.53 Not really, no. I think it was just because of the stage that it was at, you know, I’d been in labour for a few days at home. I was so tired – and not just that, I think I kept on thinking once the baby is born, we’ll see. I was just so confused, you know, that… they’re telling me the baby’s passed away, but how is that possible? How is that possible? Because I could feel her moving so recently, so… and it still, it still felt like I could… it was one of those confusing things. One of the doctors told me later that because you’re in labour and you’re contracting it does feel like the baby’s still moving. Yeah, I think I just, in my mind, it just did not occur to me that that could actually happen.
16.47 Tell me about meeting Jannah for the first time.
17.03 My… because my waters were coloured, there’s this strange smell after she was born. And it must have been the meconium in the water. But… my initial feeling – although I wanted to see her. They told me that it was a girl and I was so happy that it was a girl. I had a baby girl. And… you know, I wanted skin-to-skin. So she was born and I held her very quickly, but I was strangely aware that she’d died and we didn’t know why she died and what substance had… killed her, to be honest, so I was wary of even kissing her.
17.54 Where David was very different. He kissed her and everything, but I was reluctant. Even though I cuddled her very closely, I just didn’t want to… I just thought, well, I don’t know where this came from, what happened so… It was a lovely experience though and I’ve got some wonderful photos of the moment she was born… and she’s in my arms and she’s very warm.
18.25 Tell me about the care you were offered and the attitude of the staff, at that time.
18.37 The midwife… she was just brilliant. We had a student midwife as well – so it was the main midwife and a student midwife. The student midwife cried… in that room, at that moment. I didn’t… I wasn’t aware of it. David told me later. She just went into a corner and just cried and I asked her, have you seen this before?. She said not at this stage. And I think that’s why it was so overwhelming for her. And I felt sorry for her because she was so young – just a young student really. And she said, why are you thinking about me? You know, you should be thinking about yourself.
19.31 And they were brilliant. The midwives that I met – even in the days later – that I… you know, when I was alone in the room with the baby. Everyone was… from people from my family were running around trying to organise things – David was getting the death certificate, or my mum was outside trying to arrange a funeral – and I was just sometimes completely on my own. So when a, when a midwife would come in, I’d just ask her to sit down with me and talk. And they were brilliant.
20.00 There was one doctor however when they, you know when they come around to introduce themselves because they’re starting their shift. So there was one male doctor who came in and introduced himself… it was early in the morning and he had not… he didn’t really have anything to do with my case or anything, he hadn’t looked after me during the pregnancy. But, I was very calm and I asked him… he, he said, you know, do you have any questions? And I asked, why do you think something like this happened?
20.35 And he said, we really don’t know at this stage. It’s very common to not have any answers… any clear answers. But there’s one thing that did stay in my mind. It didn’t affect me as much as it did with David, but he, as a doctor, was very curious about why we’d chosen not to have ultrasound scans. And he took that moment to ask me – which I feel was the wrong moment. I understand that he was just curious though. But… it had been our decision and at that moment we were so engulfed in what… you know, all of our confusion and our questions that… because he said that – because he asked, why did you choose not to have a scan? – it almost felt like blame. But I, I understood it because I’d been explaining it to all the midwives and doctors that I’d met. David found it much harder. But I explained – the best I could – and he left. After that I did ask the midwife if I would have to see him again because I didn’t want to. And she understood… that.
21.58 How do you feel now about the time that you had together?
22.12 I’m very grateful for the decisions that were made around me, because I was in no state really to decide half the things that were being thrown at me. For example, when she was born… the moment I was… whilst I was pushing and trying to give birth, I was thinking what do I tell my mum? What am I going to tell my mum? It’s hard enough to understand myself that baby’s not going to be here but… my mum was looking forward to this baby. You know, this was her grandchild, and how do we… how does this work now? When David and I and Jannah were together and the midwife took a photo of us – which was really nice of her – I said to David, look, you tell your dad and my dad, and ask them both to tell everyone else in the family – in each family. And… he did that and, you know, the families did come to see us and see the baby and they also asked us if we wanted photos. David decided yes, we want the photographer to come and take pictures – which I probably wouldn’t have decided.
23.27 But I’m really glad that we did do that and the grandparents were there. As well as that, they offered us a cold cot to be in the room with us. What’s really sad is that they have a bereavement…. not… sorry, they have a, a room, I’ve forgotten what they’re called, you know for… a special room for children who are going to be stillborn or miscarried. What’s it called?
24.01 Is it… a bereavement suite?
24.03 A bereavement suite, exactly! But that was being used at the time. There was another couple who’d lost a child – so I was in a normal labour room. I could still hear babies crying and women giving birth. And I… you know, it was just so sad at that same time there was another couple in the bereavement suite, so we couldn’t be moved. I had to stay in that labour room. And because of that they used… there was a cold cot that, you know… I could put Jannah in. She could stay with me in that room overnight. And that was really lovely. It was really special. Because when she was born I just didn’t know either or what happened. Where do they go you know? Is the option that they go…? David was saying I don’t want her to be taken to another room. And, should we take her home or…you know? But I, I really didn’t want to take her home because I’d been in labour at home and I had a lot of anxiety about that place we were living in anyway.
25.04 And it was comfortable in the hospital – again, I felt this reassurance that we had people looking after us. So, we spent about two, three days in that labour room and I’m really grateful for that. It was… they looked off first really well. They… allowed me to have as much time as I needed with my baby, and hold her and… they fed me and fed David as well. They were really kind to us.
25.32 Do you remember being offered a post-mortem?
25.35 Yes – which I didn’t really know a lot about – but David was really strong about not going down that route. He just kept saying to me, I don’t want the baby to be cut open. I don’t want them to cut my baby. And we, in our faith, bury our children… bury our… dead very quickly. So we were – almost immediately after getting the death certificate – talking about the funeral, and when it would be, and where to bury her, and… I really wanted to be there, but I was quite dehydrated and the midwives were telling me I need to drink more water, and they wouldn’t let me go until… I’d had this test, and that thing, so… The funeral was set for the Thursday – she was born on the Tuesday – and… it was done very quickly. It was all done very fast – which is a good thing, I think.
26.58 Can you tell me a little bit more about the funeral?
27.04 It was again something that I would never be able to do on my own. Thankfully other people arranged and helped us a lot in those few days. So the… nearby mosque… they… brought… they had a representative come to the hospital. They had a really beautiful Moses basket which I’d never bought – I didn’t buy too many things, even during my pregnancy. You know, it was really nice to see a Moses basket. So… he… even held the baby, took the baby. He was very respectful, took us to the mosque and we did the ritual washing – myself and my husband – myself and David. We clothed her in some white linen and then we went to the central mosque, and lots of people came to see us, and we did a small prayer.
28.17 Even David’s family – who are not Muslim – they were there as well. And everyone hugged me. Everyone was crying. We went… drove to the burial ground and… David led everyone in another prayer. And then we both, each of us took a handle of the Moses basket – myself and David – and took her to the site. And I kissed her finally and David put her inside. And then they covered… everybody took a handful of earth and… began to bury her.
28.59 How do you feel about that day now?
29.05 It’s a significant day… in my life… certainly. I was… whilst she was being buried, I was holding my father’s hand in one hand and my mum’s in the other. And I know that I’m always going to remember that. And when everyone had finished, and they’d turned away and they were walking away, I didn’t really know what to do with myself, at that point because… she’d been growing inside me all those months and when she was around… when she was there – that morning of the funeral, in the hospital, I just didn’t want to let her go. I remember sitting in the hospital… and feeling like I could walk around, I could leave this room and nobody would know and I would just keep her with me. But she was getting so cold and blue over those days and it was just necessary for, for her to go back into the ground.
30.20 So I knew it was inevitable and it was coming. But when we’d done it and I was the last person there, my father in law, David’s father said to me, now you need to go and get better because she’s going to need her mum. And that was… one of the most special things that I think he said to me because… I obviously wasn’t thinking about myself and my health and… I’d been going through quite a few shocks that day, shivering and… afterwards when we got…when I went back to my mum’s house, I did collapse, and I think it must have been just the shock of the whole day. But once it was done… a massive weight did lift. It felt like a really sad part had been completed and… the wound had closed. And so healing could start. But, a very, very challenging day. A very challenging day, definitely.
31.42 Going back to the hospital, tell me about leaving the hospital for the last time.
31.52 I had never seen how people leave the hospital with their baby with balloons and things like that. I have since, seen that. And obviously with my new baby I’ve experienced it too – how everybody looks at you, and they’re in awe, and this new life is with you, and you’re going out the hospital doors. But at the time, I remember the midwives talking, the midwives talking to David and the representative from the mosque saying that maybe we should go out the back. And I fully, I didn’t fully comprehend why. But I can understand now.
32.35 So, I was in a wheelchair. The student midwife, that I spoke of earlier, she was wheeling me down… out the back entrance, with David. And Jannah was in the Moses basket on my lap. But I was very proud of her. I was still proud of my beautiful baby, I… not that I wanted to show her off, but… to me she was perfect. She was perfectly formed. And she was mine.
33.15 But only when we go outside and we got in the car, it really dawned on me… that we have to go and wash her and bury her. And it wasn’t normal. That’s not the way it was. Usually you get your child ready for school or nursery, you bathe them – it’s very special. And I was getting her ready to go in the ground. It was just strange. The day was strange.
33.59 Tell me about those first few weeks and days back home without her.
34.08 I really didn’t want to go back to our apartment… our flat, so I was at my mother’s house, in London… where I was… surrounded by my family – my, my brother and my sister and the nephews and nieces, and everything that was familiar, you know, around my mom’s house. All the trees… it’s, it’s very quiet there. I just didn’t want to be on my own. And I really didn’t want to go back to that flat, because I’d been in labour – and not just that my birth pool was there and a, the little crib was there and… I’d made this hanging mobile and it was just, it just, the whole thing filled… was filled with disappointment, to me, in my mind.
35.07 So, the following weeks I didn’t… again, I, I asked all my family to, not to leave me alone. Just let… just be with me. Someone should be with me. And my sister’s little girl – she was four at the time – and she didn’t fully comprehend what had happened, but she was at the funeral. She was so excited about having a baby cousin. The concept of death was really strange for her – and it still is – when she remembers Jannah.
35.45 But at the time she had a little doctors set – which was really cute – and so she would come and say, I’m going to make you feel better. And check me, and pretend to do an operation on me and make me feel better. And that was lovely, just to have her come every so often. And my mum was brilliant. My parents were grieving themselves but they’d stay up with me if I needed someone to be there.
36.15 It was another strange part of the process – clinically, I’d say – because while I was pregnant with Jannah I was between two hospitals and I had a consultant look at me from one hospital, but midwives from another. And now I was in London, I had a midwife coming from the local hospital, who hadn’t, had nothing to do with me for the whole thing, so… it was… it was good to talk to her, but it was very disjointed. I mean… the one thing that really… I, I understand about, you know, budget problems and, and just the way the system works, but one thing that happened during the whole pregnancy was I didn’t see the same midwife twice, through any appointment. I saw different… I was… different midwives – from different teams quite often – which I really wanted to avoid… subsequently.
37.31 When you left the hospital were you given any medication or do you recall any, any sort of clinical or medical intervention at that point?
37.42 I had had stitches. So, and not just that, one of the midwives checked me and said that I had a divarication of the rectus abdominis – so that’s a slight gap between my muscles. I was given a bit of advice about that and… you know, not trying to exercise too much, too quickly. I wasn’t given… I did have some medication, I think, painkillers probably. But again I had… because I had collapsed the day of the funeral and… something was feeling wrong in the next few days. And David was so paranoid at that point he took me to the local hospital. We went to A and E, and then… went to triage. They gave me an ECG. There was nothing wrong though.
38.44 So I just went back home. They did check… but the midwife did come and check me after that. I was fine. I think I was fine. She did check my stitches and things like that. Everything was fine… I think. It’s just I need to talk.
39.03 Were you offered any counselling or support?
39.11 From the, the hospital where I gave birth they didn’t have any counselling. They did have a bereavement midwife who later on did contact me. The local hospital in London, they had a counselling service. So the midwife who was seeing me, she gave me a leaflet and told me to call and she said, you know, they’re really good and they can even help David. So I did make an appointment. I did have full counselling there. It was in the… you know, labour ward and midwifery area, so I did have to see quite a few pregnant women during my counselling. And it was a strange experience but it was, it was what was offered to me and I’m grateful that I did it.
40.04 How did you and David grieve?
40.10 Even now I can see that we both grieve very differently. I’ve always been a people pleaser, I think. And up to that point there had been so much that I’d held inside that it… losing Jannah churned up a lot of things where I felt that decisions do just get made around me and I don’t voice what I need to. And I need to speak up more. Even in the day… the weeks and months afterwards, people in my life were making decisions for me. People that I had called friends were telling me to move on, and have another baby, and not to think too much. And I realised that… I needed to put my own needs and voice first, and if these people didn’t understand they weren’t really friends. And so I had to make some very hard decisions then too, about who I opened up to, who I was vulnerable to and… who was really there to support me. Some people turned away and they couldn’t cope with seeing me, even, at say, a wedding or in a public place. And that was really hard for me.
41.50 With… along with that, I’d… I also decided to go on an interview. Two months after giving birth, I started a new job, full time. And for me it was great. It was… I was commuting all the way through Hampshire. It was an incredible train journey in the morning what… looking at fields and I could cry as much as I wanted and I’d get to an office and I’d do my work – around people that didn’t know anything about what I’d been through – and I could come home.
42.26 Where David gave his notice in and stayed at home… and didn’t meet people for five months, really. He drove me to the train station in the mornings, but… I, I, I just… it was great for me to just be around something new – and not be around children. What’s great about the office was there were no children there. But that had its own struggle too. There was a lady who was on maternity leave and she came to visit with her baby. And I was… I remember sitting there just holding in a lot of pain because I didn’t want to hold her child. I didn’t want to see her child. But thankfully she was not there for very long; she left in the afternoon. But then, in the next few days, I realised that I was going there and just pretending that everything was normal and nobody knew what was wrong and I was holding it in until I came home and then crying. So someone did say to me, you need to talk to someone at work. Tell one person at least. So I did. One of my colleagues then told me that she… her mother had lost a few, a few babies – so her siblings, who would be her siblings really. And it… that did take a weight off too.
44.04 Can you tell me a little bit more about telling family, in the first instanc,e and telling friends? You mentioned about some people not coping. Can you tell me about other experiences, with regard to telling people what had happened?
44.25 It’s so unexpected losing a child that… when… what I felt was the best way to do it with our families – because we both have quite large families – was to tell the fathers, they would tell the mums, and then all the brothers and sisters – and they would take care of the little ones. Something did go slightly wrong with my side, when… one of my sisters didn’t find out at the same time as the others. And that really hindered her grief. She found that really hard. She felt left out. To the point where weeks later she was complaining to me about how she’d found out. And she had a lot of pain around that.
45.33 It’s, it’s an odd thing. David wrote something really beautiful about losing Jannah. He said… he wrote a message that was sent to a lot of our friends, via, via mobile, saying that we we’re very grateful that she’d been with us for as long as she had and God in his great infinite, infinite wisdom had taken her. It was not bitter and it was not… you know, complaining. He was… he, he had just written a really honest… message about what happened. But, some people read it and didn’t understand that she had died – well, they read it too fast and immediately wrote their congratulations. One, one, one friend of mine read part of it and it’s, you know, when it said that we’d had a baby girl, she started jump… she told me she was jumping up and down and she read the rest of it and then she started crying.
46.57 So… it’s, it’s a, it’s a difficult thing – telling people is very difficult, I think. And not just that I think people… people’s reactions are really hard to take as well. They… they have no idea what to do and what to say. And some people can say, just blurt something out really… that is just completely uncalled for… that they just have never been in that situation, most likely. At the time though, it’s, it’s… you’re, you’re so full of emotions, that it’s not easy to take that.
47.40 I remember the day of the funeral, one of the girls that I knew she… when she saw me, I was with Jannah, I was going to go to the area to wash her. I wasn’t prepared to see anyone at that point. But she opened my car door and quickly, just you know, ah, Rabia, how are you? And I thought, well, that’s a silly question. Why would you ask me how I am? And then she said, you should be resting and you should be looking after yourself, and like… I know that she meant well and she just didn’t know what to say. Again she just blurting out something, but in my mind I thought, don’t you realise what we’re doing here today? I can’t think about me right now, we’ve got a really important job to do. That affected me, with her, and we no longer speak.
48.42 Not only because of that, but afterwards she just didn’t know how to cope. She, she tried to bake me a cake – and things like that – and come and see me, but she didn’t know how to cope… and cried a lot. She cried a lot in front of me – which… she’s younger than me and I just felt like, this is not what I need right now. I need some space. Where another, another person that I knew, she would refuse to cry in front of me, and thought strength was the best thing. And again, like I said, she said to me, to move on, not think about it. Have you thought about taking the midwives to court… and that kind of thing. And I thought… why do you keep telling me to do that? I don’t really want to do that. I just want to grieve and… I felt like I wasn’t allowed to be devastated. And I had to go on and have another child – in her eyes. And again, with her, we no longer speak.
49.51 And I’ve… since then had a lot of bitterness in my heart. But I’ve forgiven everyone, because I know that nobody was malicious, nobody was trying to blame me, or make me feel worse. That’s just… an accident that happened as a result of the things they said. But, when you’re in that moment, you don’t need that. And in the future – when I think about the future – the kind of support I’m going to need in my life – through any challenging situation or any tragedy – those people aren’t the best to have around. And that’s one of the biggest things that I’ve learned: just pruning my social circle.
50.50 How do you remember Jannah now?
51.05 David and I have very different approaches: he likes to look at her photos and he goes to the grave quite a lot. I don’t like going very much. I have been… and… I have planted a few things over her grave. But… I like to write, so I write poetry or I started a blog. Sometimes I draw pictures for her… But there’s nothing else so tangible really. I used to knit – when I was pregnant – so I knitted quite a few things. Some of them I’ve used since then, some of them I’ve put away.
52.21 But I think I’m not as attached to the physicality of her existence. Where David likes to look through her old things… I remember moments and things that – while I was pregnant more, I’d say. So, when I’m at my mum’s house, say a shop that I went to, when I was… when I was pregnant, I was with my mum, and we were looking at things, that will bring some kind of peace to, to me – or a park that I walked in. Something during that pregnancy because it was before that grief – it was… when I was a bit more naïve, I’d say… and hopeful. So, it’s a very different time. But it’s nice to remember that. But I think I do that more from going back to those places. Yeah.
54.34 Do you mark anniversaries or significant dates?
53.45 I’m very aware of the day that she was born, because it was… because it’s spring time and it’s when the trees are in… are blossoming. And I remember the first anniversary – just before the first anniversary – thinking is it going to be like this every time? Every spring, am I going to feel this way? When it’s such a nice time, when you think about birth and new life and… it’s usually so positive.
54.23 The first anniversary I did go to the grave, but since then I’ve regretted it, because people have used her grave – in some ways to do nice things for me – so they’ve left things there, notes and flowers and teddy bears and things. But it’s also a way of trying to tell me that they’re still thinking about me, if I’ve stopped talking to them or distanced myself from them. So that very first anniversary, a few of the girls that I knew had left a plaque and a few notes for me – written to me… which I can see is, is a nice thing to do, but at the time, I didn’t want to know them. I didn’t want to think about them. It wasn’t about them.
55.24 And I, I really don’t want to make it something that’s in the year, because David and his family like to visit her grave on her birthday. I don’t really want to make it like that every single year. I’d rather not think about it, or do something completely different, or do something positive. So for example, the year that she passed away, because I was expecting to have a baby on our anniversary – our wedding anniversary in August – I thought I’ve got to do something completely different. We… I booked myself and David on… a hot air balloon flight, which was really lovely. Even though I was still in pain from giving birth and all of that. It was such a positive experience. It was, you know, a different experience. And I would rather do something like that, than… you know, be sorrowful. Yeah.
56.43 How did you feel about getting pregnant again and having more children?
56.52 Initially I thought, oh, that’s it. I’m never going to have children again. I, I don’t want to have children, because it could happen again. And not just that, my… speaking to my consultant afterwards, we’d never found a reason. We didn’t have a post-mortem, of course, but other than that, they had done some tests on the placenta and nothing was found. And she… there was nothing wrong with her, when you looked at her… the umbilical cord hadn’t… not caused any problems. The placenta was okay. She was good a good weight, a good size. There was no real, you know, glaringly obvious reason that something would have gone wrong. And I delivered her fine as well. So, I was so scared… there was no sign either. You know, there’s no preparation that something would go wrong – and right at the end as well. For things to just go so wrong. I couldn’t face that again.
58.02 Not just that but a few people had started to say to me, next time you should have a c-section. And, it made me so angry because for one thing it was almost a given that, of course, we would have more children, but also that…well, you wouldn’t want to deliver normally. And I just… I,I had to tell everyone, don’t talk to me about it. I don’t want to talk about it. I’m not having children.
58.37 Then my nephew who was nine at the time… I was laying on the sofa at my mum’s house and he was playing football in that room. And we were just talking, and he said… he was talking about all the children in our family – my sister’s children and my brother’s children – his cousins and who they all looked like, that kind of thing. And he is one of four, so he said, I think Mamu – my brother – he’s going to have another two, because he’s only got two. And… because you have to have four, don’t you? And I said, no, you don’t. But, then he started talking about Jannah and he said, she looked like you and she looked like her dad. And it was so natural the way he talked about her. She was his cousin and he had held her in the hospital. And I thought, it’s so simple for him to think about her having siblings or each of us having a large family.
59.50 There’s not all this thinking… there’s not this over thinking about it – that while this could happen, and that could happen, and there’s this anxiety and that… for him it was just lots and lots of little children. And that little conversation opened me up – slightly – to the idea that actually one day I might be all right. And it doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen again. Look at how many children we have in the family – we have so many. And yes, there’s been losses, but otherwise… mostly you, you are expecting a baby and there is a baby.
1.00.33 I think with myself it was my very first experience of the whole journey, so it really tainted any idea I had of a normal pregnancy and normal birth. It was, I think five months later, after giving birth to Jannah, I started thinking about it again. I thought, I really need to hold a baby. I need to hold my baby. Because I’d felt so much like, oh, I’m not destined to be a mother. There’s something, something must be wrong with me, that I’m not allowed to have this experience, where so many people do. And so many people do without wanting it – they’re blessed with a child. And how is that possible? We, we wanted a child for… you know, and we would have loved our child, but she was taken. So yeah, that five months later I thought, I shouldn’t take that, take the possibility away from myself. And then it happened.
1.01.44 Tell me about your subsequent pregnancy.
1.01.54 It was a very different set-up the next time. So I was working. And, David and I were living with his parents at the time. We’d moved, we’d moved everything out of our flat. I was determined to do things properly, where I felt that… my first pregnancy had taken me quite unaware. I wasn’t prepared – financially, or physically, or mentally – to… you know, that I was going to be a mother and… we would have to have lots of changes in our life. This time I thought okay, now I’m going to go to all the classes, I’m going to… buy things that I want to buy – really live this experience fully. And it’s going to be completely positive. And I didn’t realise how that masked my anxiety so much.
1.03.07 I was so terrified of anything going wrong that I had to… almost comfort myself with, well, no you’re going to buy a lovely blanket. And you’re going to have… you know… a lovely nursery and… things are going to be fine. It’s going to be fine. Definitely going to be fine. But really I was scared, really scared. And I didn’t tell anyone – I didn’t want to tell anybody until really late. So, I did tell my mother – after three months. And then David’s parents as well. But I didn’t want to tell anyone else. We asked both sets of grandparents not to tell any of the siblings or any of the children – we didn’t want to disappoint anyone again.
1.04.11 And even at work I didn’t tell anybody until I… it was really too obvious. I had talked to HR – about my maternity leave – but other than them, I didn’t talk to any colleagues about it. It meant that I wanted to be near the hospital. I didn’t want to have the same experience of different people taking care of me. So we moved close to the hospital. We left behind a community that had seen us go through that whole experience and that was important to me because I felt really let down. And it felt like a new fresh start for us.
1.05.14 Maybe I was creating distance from the experience of stillbirth, as well, because nobody in our new… town knew about what had happened. My neighbors didn’t know. They thought, oh, look, they… they’re going to have a baby and they were giving us lots of advice and people were… and I was going to NCT classes, talking to other parents – who were completely naive about what they were going to go through – what labour was like. And I just kept myself quiet – didn’t talk to anyone about it. Held it in. Because I didn’t really know what to say, as well. In our community, it’s not talked of very much: stillbirth. So it’s almost a non-experience – a ghost experience – that I’d felt like was wrong. It’s taboo to talk about it.
1.06.29 So, when I was pregnant again, I wanted to feel like the baby’s going to come, and it’s going to be fine. And we’re going to be a little family – because we’re not really, right now. And it’s taken us in a, in a completely different direction. Where now I can look at it and think, that was an experience. And actually that whole romantic idea of: smiling mum, smiling dad, smiling children – that doesn’t exist, anywhere. Everybody has their own journey towards being a family, everybody has money problems and worries and, you know, tension and… mine, my story just happened to have a child… a bereavement for us, initially.
1.07.42 In terms of the clinical care you were offered by the hospital, can you tell me about that?
1.07.49 The clinical care that I had was, was brilliant. It was… we had… it was consultant-led from the beginning. And the doctor that I saw made it clear that I would not be able to have the baby in the midwife-led unit. That made me quite upset, but… so I cried a lot that day, but I really… you know, I know that that’s the most sensible option of course, because… given my history. But it did make me feel a bit defective, in some way. The… so I, I did see the same midwife again… this time – which was really nice. And I had increased appointments with her. She made it clear that I could see her more often.
1.08.42 I was also really – the anxiety had taken hold of me. I couldn’t sleep very much at night. So the first time I did see my local midwife – in the, in the GP’s… at the GP’s – I cried a lot and I said um… I’m afraid that someone’s going to take my baby away. And she was very supportive. She did talk to me about breastfeeding and how that would make my relationship with the baby really strong and nobody could intervene in that. She also talked about counselling – and so did my GP. So I was referred to a service called Talk Plus and I had sessions that really helped me – a lot. Because there was a distance between myself and David during that period and I didn’t know why.
1.09.51 I felt like he was going to take my baby. It’s completely irrational. But it was, you know, tiny little things that had built up in my mind that something was going to… another decision was going to be taken that was not mine. I had some sessions after my rainbow baby was born – after Adam was born. Because then again, I was having some huge emotions about being afraid myself not being able to give him what he needed.
1.10.40 I have a really brilliant friend, who’s a clinical psychologist in London, and she helped me a lot as well. She helped us both, to be honest. And even now she’s there when I need to talk to her. So when Adam was born and I was all… you know, I was at home and I couldn’t talk to anyone, I didn’t have any one on call… I call, I called her. And she took me through it. She said, these thoughts that you have in your mind they… they’re like clouds they just need to pass. You don’t need to grip hold of them… all the time.
1.11.25 I had a lot of anxiety about who would hold the baby as well. And where I would take him – physically, geographically. Could I take him out to that place or that place that…where I’d been with Jannah or where I felt I’d grieved so much? The previous town that we used to live in – I didn’t want to take him there. But my counsellor helped me see that gentle little baby steps can alleviate all the fears that you have. Your anxiety can dissipate when you just step slightly towards it.
1.12.16 So, I didn’t have to do anything drastic, but going out and meeting my father-in-law, my mother-in-law, with Adam, that was a possibility. I could do that. And then the next time, go out into the street. And then the next time, do something more. Every time I took a little step it meant that the fear became smaller. I wasn’t giving it… I wasn’t fuelling it. It wasn’t just going round and round in my mind. And I was getting better and people were being very positive around me that I was a good mother, and I could do it.
1.13.09 And eventually… David and I got talking more about why I felt that way? Why, why this distance had come? And how we could prevent it. And that honesty was so important – and it is so important to our family now – that we have a real connection because of this experience we’ve been through together.
1.13.51 Can you tell me a little bit more about how the experience has affected you as a person as a mum… you know, you as Rabia today?
1.14.15 I look back at myself before it happened and I think that I allowed too much to happen without my… without my… intention, without my wanting it to happen – in my life generally, I mean. I didn’t… even though I’ve made choices, I felt that I’ve always wanted to… I’ve wanted people to really be happy as well. Wanted to please other people. I think that’s common with young women anyway. But… it, it taught me that whatever decisions you do make in your life, you’re, you’re the one that ultimately lives with them. Nobody else is there to experience that pain or that joy with you – not even your husband. Even though David is grieving he didn’t go through the hormonal, chemical, physical, you know, experience of giving birth, with me. He was there – he was witnessing it, observing it, but he wasn’t doing it – I was. So the experience I had of that and everything after that – in recovery, in, you know, my new baby, and breastfeeding, and things like that – is just something that you alone experience.
1.15.51 So you have to be happy with your own choices. I’ve become far more vocal – far more vocal – with what I want, and how I want it done, and what I want from my life. I want to live really, you know, fully now. I want to not hold back with anything that I’m intending to do or hoping to do and I’m less… cautious, I’d say. I’m much more… alert, I think. Losing someone teaches you that life is short, of course, and also that you have no control over death. It can come… at any time. So the things that are precious to you, are far more precious. Time with your family, or with the people that you love, is that much sweeter. And… wasting time with things that don’t mean much to you – or people that don’t mean much to you – it’s not worth it.
1.17.22 What do you think it’s important for people to know and understand about the experience of stillbirth?
1.17.45 I think that people need to know how devastating it is – for everyone involved – not just the mother. Everyone… even, even the young… my, my nephews and nieces, who are expecting to have a little cousin, they’re devastated in their young lives. And you can’t see that all the time. You know… crying is not the only way that people grieve. And, it’s not a bad thing to talk about it. It’s… in, in my community, especially, I feel like we don’t talk about losing a baby, losing babies specifically – though it’s very common. It’s really common in the… in Asian and black communities, women are more likely to have a stillborn baby – forty percent more likely – but we really don’t talk about it.
1.19.01 And with our faith, even though we have an acceptance of, you know, God’s will, it doesn’t mean that we’re unable to support each other through a very difficult experience. Or even ask questions about how to prevent things happening in future. There’s nothing wrong with that. I think that too often a woman who loses a baby, because it’s a baby, it’s somehow acceptable that something must have gone wrong, and… that’s the way it was meant to be. Yet, with other types of death it’s not considered that way. We do think that there’s something that could… that… could have prevented – perhaps not the death, but the way it was done, the way things happened, or the way that the person was cared for. And, not only that, I think, again with, with a baby, it’s… if you’re able to have more children, for some reason people think that that’s a panacea or a… a way to get busy again. Way to move on.
1.20.38 But again, it… I feel like its… you know, you need to, you need people to know that it’s okay to be devastated. You’ve lost a child. It’s not…just because you don’t see the baby doesn’t mean that they didn’t exist. You know, they did exist, there’s…. For myself, I know that there’s a grave. But, you know, my cousin in India, when she lost her child – it’s a very different culture there, women don’t go to graves – and where I was allowed to wash my baby and take her myself, my cousin couldn’t do that. So her… the baby’s granddad took the baby on a bicycle to the graveyard and buried the baby. And that’s what happened. My, my sister’s husband is from Bosnia and he told us they, they wouldn’t… in their, in their culture they don’t let the mother see the baby, after the baby’s born. And they also take the baby away.
1.21.57 I’m glad that my experience, my upbringing and my experience, and my ability to talk about it is there. And I can communicate how I feel and let it out, but I feel like, I feel too often that women are not allowed to do that. If they don’t want to that’s something different – that’s fine as well – but if you do, you shouldn’t be held back.
1.22.28 Is there anything that you’re particularly proud of, or you regret?
1.22.46 I’m glad that I took part, the… NHS England did a study, where they contacted different mothers who had varying experiences – not only stillborn babies – but women who’d had difficult labour, labours and… mental problems, as well, after giving birth. And we were all divided into groups. And it just so happened that I was in a group where I was the only one that had lost a baby everyone else had, had different experiences. One lady had PTSD and she… it had, even though her baby had lived, she’d lost a lot of blood during the labour – her husband was a doctor – and she, she still suffered from it and it led to the breakdown of their relationship even. And I was still grieving in that… at that time. It was very soon after I’d lost Jannah and it was eye opening for me. These women were struggling, even though they had their babies, they were alive, they also had experiences that were not romantic, you see… and… I’m glad that I took part in that.
1.24.25 I, I needed… I felt like something needed to change – something really needed to change. I was so not prepared for the idea that, wow, we have such a high rate of stillbirth in this country. I wrote to my MP, I even wrote to Prince Charles and… I’m glad I did it, because I don’t think I would ever do that again – about anything – but at the time I was fuelled by this anger… yeah.
1.25.02 Is there anything you’d like to pass on to other parents or families who find themselves in this situation?
1.25.26 Being able to talk about your feelings – and voice them – it frames and articulates your experience. But not just talking about it: if you draw something, or if you, you know, take photos or you paint something, or collage… doing something creative or even physical with your grief, it helps you heal. It does help me heal. And I think doing it collectively is even better.
1.26.05 I remember saying to David, you know, the day after Jannah was born, that I don’t ever want to have a situation where we can’t talk about her. Where we are afraid of each other, or incapable of expressing something. Because it comes and goes, the way that you feel. Your emotions are important and expressing them to the people that know you and love you is important. They want to know as well, they want to know how to help. So, you should never be held back by that.
1.26.44 Sometimes you just want someone to listen, and that’s fine too. You don’t have to say anything. You don’t have to, you know, pick the right words that are going to just take away the pain that’s not necessarily something that’s going to happen. Some of the best support is just someone there next to you. Not saying anything, just hearing you.
Jannah was born on the 17th March 2015 at 41 weeks. She weighed 7lbs 9ozs. Jannah means ‘garden’ in Arabic, and refers to the garden of Paradise.
Rabia and David’s story
Rabia (31) and David (35) were married for six years before Rabia became pregnant with their first child in 2014. Rabia wanted to finish her post-graduate studies, work and travel before having children and David was happy that ‘when it happens – it happens’.
The couple wanted to have as natural a birth as possible with very little intervention throughout the pregnancy. Rabia was planning a home birth. She went into labour naturally the day before she was booked to be induced. The labour lasted several days and was slow; the baby was in a back to back position. Rabia went to hospital after her waters broke and she saw meconium in them.
Arriving at the hospital Rabia was in established labour. Following a scan she and David were told that there was no heartbeat. Rabia continued to labour and Jannah was stillborn soon afterwards on the 17th March 2015 at 41 weeks of pregnancy. She weighed 7lbs and 9ozs.
Since the birth of Jannah, Rabia and David have had another child, Adam, who at the time of interview was seven months old.
Read Rabia’s blog