Shazia and Omar

‘I think that experience has made me a better person’

Shazia’s full interview

Click on the orange timecode reference (e.g. 0.00) to skip to that part of the interview.

0.00 His full name is Mohammed Omar Ansari – my husband’s name in the middle. Mohammed was born on the 4th of May 2010 at three fifteen in the morning and he was 27 weeks gestation.

0.19 And tell me about you and Omar – how you met him when you got married.

0.25 Me and Omar, we met in 2005. We were introduced through family and… we spent some time getting to know each other, talking on the phone. We went out a few times. And then we decided that we would like to get married to each other because… we liked each other. And, in fact our first date was at Alton Towers – no, not Alton Towers, sorry – he took me to Madame Tussauds. That was the first time we actually went out anywhere. We were both fasting as well – it was the month of Ramadan, so we couldn’t go for lunch or coffee or anything. So he took me there. And then, yeah, the following year we got married in 2006… um and yeah…

1.12. And what was your attitude to starting a family?

1.16 So, I was actually studying for my ACCA when I first got married so I wanted to complete my exams. We’d got our own property and had our own place. And then, once I’d finished my exams, I think that Summer felt like the right time to start. And we were thinking about it and then I… you know, I think we started trying, and basically, before we knew it we were pregnant and we didn’t have any issues or problems or we weren’t trying for too long.

1.44 In fact, I actually… I keep a diary and… I kept a diary. I sort of wrote down a few things after Mohammed was born and… just to keep the basic details. And I was just reading through that in fact – and just reading the entry when I found out that I was pregnant. Omar had actually lost his, his job that week – a few weeks before. He’d, he’d then found a job and we were out celebrating – went out for a Chinese. And when we came back I did a test because I was a week overdue. And to my astonishment I saw that I was pregnant and… we both obviously were overjoyed. And I remember running, driving to Tesco to get some more tests just to confirm, and drinking a litre of water when I came home. But then obviously all the tests were negative because I’d completely diluted… what I was testing! So, yeah, we were really excited, happy and it felt like the right time for us – in terms of where we were in our life and… um, yeah.

2.49Tell me about the pregnancy with Mohammed.

2.53 So, the… I guess the first sort of thing I remember is when we went to our 12 week scan, they actually dated us back a couple of weeks and said we weren’t actually 12 or 13 weeks, we were 10 or 11 weeks… which didn’t really, I mean we didn’t think anything of it. I mean, I know they redate things. And I remember going to the scan with my husband – at the time we were at [name of hospital removed] Hospital – because we were living in North London. And I remember in the scan, we saw the baby – we didn’t know at that point whether it was a girl or a boy, obviously at 12 weeks you don’t know – was kick… you could see the legs going, like kicking really, like really… well, just kicking the legs a lot. And so you both just laughed that there’s a footballer in there. And that’s like the first ever memory I have or the first thing I remember us commenting on and being really excited about.

3.48 And then – because my husband had got a new job – we then relocated down to South London and we’d bought a property, but because there were six months to go, for things to go through, we were actually living with my mother at the time. So then the local hospital we went to was [name of hospital removed] Hospital – so then I had my subsequent 20 week scan there, and… Around that time my husband was away for a long weekend – he went to a wedding in Germany – and I was at a wedding here, in South London, with my mum. And I remember being at a wedding function and there was just a lot of pressure down below and I was around 20 weeks and it just really freaked me out. My mum could see I was really upset as well. So you know she always believes in just if there’s something wrong, just go to the hospital. So she took me straightaway – I remember it was Saturday evening, so the hospital was really quiet – and they did an internal examination and the lady said, no. Everything seems OK. It’s probably just the baby moving around that you’re feeling that pressure. So after that, didn’t really think anything of it.

4.47 And then, I remember going in around 23 or 24 weeks for just a check-up with a midwife and they do something where they check the… the length of the bump with a… with a special or a tape measure. And that was basically showing the gestational age to be a little lower than it should be. So, the midwife could see I was a little nervous, so she was like, okay, I’ll send you for a scan. So they sent us for a scan – this is around 23, 24 weeks – and they measured us and they basically said everything looks okay. It’s a little bit underweight to where it should be. But come back in two weeks and we’ll, we’ll, we’ll rescan you. And we basically never got to that second scan in two weeks time, because in the middle he passed away and… that’s when I had to go through the delivery and everything.

5.44 What, what… tell me, what did you know about stillbirth at that time?

5.52 I’ve, I’d never heard of it. I’d never heard of… I mean… so I know a family member whose children have died, but literally, they were born and then passed away within a few hours. I… and then… actually, there was another family member – a few years before – roughly my age, from my husband’s side of the family, she had… I think that’s the first time I’d actually heard of it… where she… her baby had died and she had to deliver and… But again, I didn’t know that that was named stillbirth. I didn’t know. And, yeah… so, I didn’t know anything about stillbirths to be honest.

6.33 And… after you… well, tell me about realizing that something was wrong.

6.40 Okay. I can remember that as clear as day. So, it was a Wednesday – in the weekdays – I was at work and… it was a Wednesday or a Thursday. It was Wednesday or Thursday, I was at work. We were sat in a boardroom and there was a meeting with our, our team. And, I remember feeling a, a pinch or something, in my bump, on the right-hand side. And I remember… it, I mean… it was significant enough for me to sort of go, ouch. And my boss looked over at me and said, are you okay? And then it just passed, so I said, I’m absolutely fine.

7.18 So, this was Thursday; then Friday, I realised that I hadn’t really felt the baby move at all or kick at all. And it was in the back of my mind. And I spoke to a colleague about it, and she said, just see how it goes. And then I remember in the evening going to the cinema with my husband, and the next morning – on the Saturday – we’re still staying at my mum’s house – my mum wasn’t there, she went out for something – I remember waking up and I remember frying… some food for our builders. So the house we’d bought, we were having some work done there, so I was frying something for them that they wanted to eat. And so I said, so… And my husband went out for something, so I said, okay, you get back, and then we’ll go out – and first we’ll go to the hospital because I’d called the hospital and said I hadn’t really felt any movement. I just thought I’m going to go in, they’re going to listen to the heartbeat and everything’s going to be fine.

8.04 So when I called the hospital in the morning – on Saturday morning – when I told them what I’d, you know… what it was… in terms of the fact that I hadn’t felt anything in the last 24 hours – or I thought I hadn’t – she said, well, come in straightaway. So then I waited for my husband to come back. We went to the hospital – this is at [name of hospital removed] Hospital – we went to the delivery ward – because it was a Saturday so that was the only place that was open – and they took me into a side room where they do the checks when you come in. And so my husband was there with me and she’s trying to look for the heartbeat and she couldn’t find it. So obviously we didn’t think at that point there was anything. Then she went to get another monitor. And that didn’t work. And then we had to wait what felt like a lifetime, to wait for a consultant who was on call to come in for them to do a scan.

8.54 And then there were two of these ladies who were there and when they did the scan they basically confirmed that… Mohammed… that there was no heartbeat, and Mohammed had passed away. And I remember sitting up and just howling out and crying and my husband obviously was there next to me. And then obviously we’d alerted our families, so both our mothers came. My grandma came. My husband’s cousin came and… By this time, then we’re back on the ward in a side room and just, obviously, just in shock. And… I was just really upset about how my husband was going to cope… I remember… so as soon as… so again sorry, back to the scan, where they’d scanned; I remember sitting up and I was like, okay, so, you know, what does this mean? And obviously he wasn’t there anymore and… I mean, I obviously didn’t think about it. My initial thought was, okay, I’m going to have a caesarian – they are going to take the baby out.

9.49 And then the next shock – after knowing that, you know, the baby is not there and your whole world has just gone upside down – they said that I’d have to deliver the baby and that for me was just, I mean I just couldn’t get my head around that. I just didn’t understand how I would be able to deliver a baby that’s actually not alive anymore, and how mentally and physically I’m going to go through that.

10.13 Anyway they sent us back to the ward, I’m in the room, my family’s there, and… Actually before we went for the scan, we went in the side room and my grandma and my mum were there. And my grandma was sat there and she was doing prayers and rubbing my tummy and just – before they’d confirmed actually that the baby had passed – she was just willing, you know, willing it to not be, not be that, you know… for it to not be that result. But then we went to the have the scan and they did say that and we came back and obviously then I really, you know… I was told I have to deliver and that’s… I remember being really upset about that fact – that I’m going to have to deliver this baby and actually go through labour and… I remember telling my mum and she was like she couldn’t believe it either.

10.59 And then obviously we sort of calmed down a bit, then just my mum was left, the other family members went. They gave me a, a tablet to take, and this was a Saturday morning, and they said to come back on Monday morning – which was a Bank Holiday – to come back and start the process, really… yeah. And they, they sent us home. And that Saturday was just the most horrendous day just having to pass these 48 hours.

11.30 And I remember my uncle – who I’m extremely close to – my mum’s brother and his wife came round and I remember just hugging my uncle and just crying a lot, and just saying I, I can’t go through this. And he was just giving me words of strength to say you can get through it. And, you know, they’d actually also… they have two boys but they had initially struggled to have, you know, children and… He, he gave me his example and said, look, you know, it took us a long time but we’re there now, and it will happen for you, and don’t worry. And, you know, I still remember him hugging me. We were in the in the hallway, because his boys were with my aunt inside, and he didn’t want me… he didn’t want, obviously, we didn’t want them to see me upset.

12.16 And I, I, I remember going to have a shower and I just felt like I didn’t want to touch my bump. And I don’t understand why I didn’t want to touch it or hug it or hold it, just… I think at that point I just wanted to just get through to the other side. Because I knew that whoever was in there, he wasn’t – or they weren’t – actually going to be with us – or they weren’t with us anymore – and that just made it really difficult… um… so, yeah…

12.47 Do you remember what you felt when you were told that Mohammed had died?

12.53 I felt like… literally our whole world had been turned upside down. We thought we were going to walk out of there one day with a baby, and the fact that that wasn’t going to happen, I just… I was in shock. I just couldn’t believe that this was happening to me.

13.09 And because we… had… because… so we found out and then you have to go through a process, you know… like, instantly – in terms of them giving you a tablet, then coming back after 48 hours, and then them giving you a pessary, and then waiting for the contractions to start. So you just have to go through a whole, you know, process that… and you just feel like you’re being, you’re like gliding through that or your… like someone is basically taking you through that process. It’s strange, you feel like you’re not necessarily there and somebody else is doing all of this for you and helping you through and you’re just… you’re physically there but you’re not mentally there. And mentally I did, I didn’t know where I was. So yeah…

13.55 You mentioned being sent home after you’d been given the news. Can you just tell me about that time? What did you do?

14.03 So we went back to my mother’s house – me and my husband – and… so this was on the Saturday, and on the Sunday some close family came to visit and… I remember just being at home with my husband. I remember having a shower. And I remember then waking up on the Monday and being at the hospital by the time that they said. I just have that memory of being with my uncle and him consoling me. I don’t remember much else and… possibly that’s, that’s my mind trying to protect me from those memories which are painful, possibly.

14.46 Tell me about going back into hospital. How did.. .prepared did you feel for what was going to happen?

14.53 I… I think because my husband and my mum were both there, I felt they were giving me strength. And they, you know, I, I actually remember… so at [name of hospital removed] there’s a room called the Lilac Ward, and that’s the room that you go to to deliver the baby. And it’s completely… well, it’s in the corridor from… it’s sort of down the corridor from where you deliver normally, but it’s, it’s, you know…  they, they’ve, they’ve tried to keep it quite separate. I remember walking into that room, looking out the window and just being really upset and crying and just saying to my mum, I can’t believe I’m here. We should have been taking a baby home. I don’t think I can, I can do this.

15.37 But, but there was a strength in me and I think I was getting that from my husband and my mum. And I also think from my faith – that’s what was giving me the strength to go through this. And it just felt like as if somebody was carrying me through that or God was carrying me through that. And, you know, that’s how I managed to get up in the morning and walk to the… and get to the hospital and do this thing that we had to do – which is just the most difficult thing that I’ve ever done in my life. Definitely one of the most difficult experiences I ever had in my life.

16.14 Would you like to say a little bit more about your faith and how that helped you?

16.20 Yes, I would. So, in our faith… So, after Mohammed was born, they gave us the option of either having him cremated which the hospital could organise, or we could bury him if we wanted to. And, we had an Imam look into, into that, and that was possible for us to have him, him buried. So we did have a burial for him, and as hard as that was going through that – and even thinking about it today it’s really hard – I think it was the right thing for us to do because that gave us… some peace, I think. And also, it gave an opportunity for our family members to be there for us as well.

17.11 And then also afterwards. So, afterwards, once, you know, my husband took some time off, he was at home with me, my mum took some time off. But then obviously, eventually they both had to go back to work, so when I was at home by myself I ended up having… six months off work – because he was delivered after 24 weeks gestation, you’re entitled to that. So, you know, my work were very good with that as well. And, I just remember being at home and just being lost, and really upset, and crying, and… I remember, you know, praying, and reading, and, you know, doing my prayers and that is what did… that’s a big part of what got through me that, of, of, of what… that’s a big part of what got me through that difficult time: my mum, my husband and my faith.

18.07 Can I just take you back? You were talking about going back into the hospital. Can you tell me about the labour and giving birth to Mohammed?

18.21 So… we were assigned a midwife – who was really sensitive and really nice – and… she explained that I would be given a pessary, which I was. And, so we got there on a Monday around lunchtime, and then they gave me a pessary, and then by the evening the contractions had, I… you know, started coming, but they’d also given me morphine. I think even before the contractions are really, really painful – I don’t remember painful contractions actually, because I know what painful contractions are having had three children and hardly having, having any pain relief.

19.04 They’d given me morphine I think to, to help me through, and maybe to numb me a little bit. And I remember my grandma and my great aunt came. So there was obviously a room with a bed and a bathroom and there was also – attached to that – like a sitting room with a sofa. So, that evening we had, you know, those two people there. And, I remember being on this morphine which had spaced me out a little bit, and I remember talking to my grandma and saying something like, you know this is probably the best thing for him, maybe he would have… no, I obviously didn’t know whether I was having a boy or a girl, but just saying that, you know, God is going to help me through this and, and… and there’s probably a reason behind this and I just need to believe that, and… yeah…

20.02 I remember those close family members being there. Then my mother in law came as well – obviously she wanted to be there as well – to help us and support us. But then, they… then the three of them left – so my great aunt and my grandmother and my mother-in-law left – and then my mum and my husband were there. And, they sort of took turns so… and then I was feeling the contractions and they were holding my hand and helping me through, and… I would be in and out of sleep, and this sort of took us into the early hours, of then Tuesday morning – so around midnight, one o’clock.

20.35 And then actually when… Mohammed was about to come, my husband was asleep… it was his turn to have a nap. So my mum went and woke him up and he came in and, and obviously I delivered him and… I still remember the sensation of him coming out, which is – again it’s, it’s probably a very small thing, but I still remember it and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. He just slipped out – he slid out. It wasn’t. I didn’t have to push him or anything. He was 830 grams, so just two pounds I guess.

21.09 And… and then I remember as soon as I’d delivered him, I vomited as well, twice, having had McDonald’s the evening before. And then they… they took him away straightaway. I don’t remember him… seeing him straightaway. They took him away. They dressed him and then they brought him back, and that’s when I held him. And I’m really glad I got the opportunity to do that. And, and they took photographs for us and she printed them off straightaway and gave them back to us. And she did some hand and footprints for him and all of these things I cherish now and I’m really glad that they did them for us, because I wasn’t even thinking about them.

21.58 If it was a normal delivery, I would have had my camera charged and my, my phone would have been there as well. My mum would have been taking pictures and, you know, we would all have been. But, because this was such a different situation, those things didn’t come into my mind, but I’m really glad that the hospital thought about those things, because I cherish those things. And even though it can be painful to look at the photographs – I still do.

22.20 There’s one of me, my husband and, and Mohammed and, you know, you could… I was just looking at that actually earlier, and just the look on our faces it’s quite different to… obviously, the, the… you know, when we’ve had our other daughters who are with us. But I will cherish that photograph forever. And one day, I am going to tell my daughters about him, because he, he is our first-born. He is our son. And he is extremely important to us – and always will be. And he’s buried in… in a graveyard… near us and we have a headstone for him now that has his name on it.

23.03 And one day, when my girls are old enough to understand, and… to understand this – and when they’re ready for it – I, I will tell them. Because he, he is a part of our family. And, and there are lots of things I can tell them about him, just from the pregnancy. You know, those six months, where he was inside me and I was pregnant with him and, and how everybody felt about him, and… There’s lots of things to tell them and… You know, the first time I told everybody that I was… I mean, because this was the first pregnancy, I have all those memories of telling each person individually that we were pregnant and their reactions. And, and then my, my aunt – who I’m extremely close to – my uncle’s wife, who I mentioned earlier, I remember she bought a little outfit for him. It was a grey one – because we didn’t know whether we were having a girl or a boy. And then, I, you know, I put that on my, on each of my girls when they were born, because it just had special memories for me. So there’s lots that I can share with them about him and, yeah… sorry I forget your question…

24.18 I’m going to take you back again, if that’s okay? We were talking about… you know, you remembering him being born. Can you remember what you felt when you, you met him for the first time and held him?

24.35 I… yes, I do. I remember thinking that he looks like my husband. And there was a resemblance to my husband and I remember thinking that. And I remember that he had long, thin feet – and I’ve got quite long, fair feet. So we… automatically made a resemblance to myself. And he also had long thin fingers – and my husband’s fingers are slightly tubbier so [laughs]… So he had my hands and feet and he resembled my husband and that was, that was the first thing I remember. Yeah…

25.13 And do you remember your emotions about meeting him?

25.19 My emotions? I think I was overwhelmed with… holding our first-born and just… I think extremely – sad doesn’t even describe the feeling – just… couldn’t believe that this child was not with us. And just, I guess, not willing him to be with us, but just wishing that he really was – but obviously he wasn’t – and trying to, trying to cherish that moment, because I was never going to have that moment again, to hold him and be that close to him. And… and afterwards I remember thinking, I wish he, I could… I could have held with him for a bit longer.

26.05 I remember thinking, I wish he could have been with, like with us for, for a few more minutes. And I don’t remember how long I did hold him for, but I just wish it was, it was longer. But, you know, I could have sat there all night holding him, but eventually he would have had to go. So…

26.24You mentioned about wanting to hold him for longer. Just tell me about the time you did spend with him and how much control you felt about what you wanted and what happened?

26.37 So, he was passed over to me and I was holding him, and… I think me and my husband spoke about how he looked like him and how his feet and hands resembled mine. And, I think because I was in, I was still in, in a shock. I was still in shock at that point – and I think for the whole week maybe – or for the whole three, four days I was – so, I was just again, I was just doing or, I, I was being led by the midwife. So, I… even though I can be quite vocal, and I, I know what I want in life generally. My husband would say I’m quite militant in certain things and, you know… but, I… in that situation, I wasn’t myself; I was just being led by other people. Not being told what to do, but they were sort of guiding me through because, I… in a way, I guess, I felt a little bit like… a zombie, if you want, just, just following things through and being led by people because I wasn’t… I, I wasn’t in control of the situation.

27.44 And, yeah, I mean… at that point, when he was with me, I, I didn’t say I want to hold him for longer. It was just time for him, you know, to go. And I remember him being wheeled away on the trolley that she brought him in after she dressed him. But, I mean thinking… so, so it’s not as if I wanted to hold him for longer and for him to be there for longer, but… but afterwards when I think about it, maybe… I wish that we had taken a camera and I wish that we had our own pictures. And I wish, I now wish that I’d had a picture with my mum as well, because she was there through the delivery. I wish there was one of me, my mum and my son. But then you think about these things afterwards because when you’re in that situation, at the time, you have… your emotions take over so much that your brain doesn’t necessarily work how it usually does.

28.43 And once he’d been taken, did, did you see him again? Did you stay in the hospital? What happened?

28.50 I stayed in the hospital and then I was discharged on the Tuesday. But I, no, I didn’t see him again. I didn’t see him again. I didn’t ask to see him again. But I do, I do cherish the memory of when we were with him and it was… So, he was born. He was taken away. He was brought back dressed to us. And, and that time that my husband and I did have with him, I think was a very special time, and…

29.26 I… so I don’t regret not seeing him again – to be honest. Because the emotions and things we had at that point, we were, we were ready to see him, but maybe afterwards it would have been difficult. And I don’t know whether me and my… I don’t know whether my husband could have coped with seeing him, him again. I’m not sure – or me for that matter. Because then, because then the morphine had worn off, and then reality hits in that now we need to think about the funeral. So maybe it was a good idea not to have seen him again.

30.02 Tell me about the attitudes of the staff who looked after you. What… how, how did you feel that you were dealt with?

30.11 I think the staff were amazing. There were three midwives who we dealt with. The one in the middle, [name of midwife removed] is the one who delivered our baby. And I… and then the, the, the midwife who discharged me, I specifically remember. She was a… she appreciated the fact and understood the fact that, that we were… that we were Muslim. And, in our religion [coughs] excuse me. In our religion we do funerals as soon as possible. So she understood and appreciated that fact and she tried to push everything through very quickly for us, so we could have his funeral as soon as possible.

30.59 Were you offered a post-mortem?

31.02 Yes, we were. Yes, we were, and we decided to go for it because… we wanted to know… what, obviously, what the reason was. And then whether it might impact on subsequent pregnancies or trying to have a baby. So we did have a post-mortem. But we didn’t make a big deal about it. We didn’t tell family members – unless they were extremely close – because again that is something that can be frowned on within our culture. And I think possibly within our religion as well. But we think that… but, but we thought that we needed to have that done.

31.43 Can you just… tell me a bit more about… you were saying that in your culture that having a post-mortem would have been frowned upon. Can you explain that?

31.52 I think the reason is, is because within our religion I’m not sure whether… as, as far as I know, I don’t think you are allowed to have a post-mortem. It, it can… and that’s why I think we thought it would be frowned upon. But, again… we wanted to be private about that because it was quite personal. So we were… yeah.

32.19 And what was it like getting the result of that post-mortem? Did you find reassurance in that?

32.28 The results of the postmortem… so, up until that point the, the, the care that we had at the hospital and everything was very good. And then, one of the doctors who’d confirmed and done the scan and said that Mohammed had passed away… we had a meeting with her and there was some… I remember… I don’t remember exactly what it was, but there was some miscommunication about what the reason possibly could have been. And then… and then there was a consultant who we dealt with, and the midwife who works with him – for bereaved parents. And… we, we dealt with them; we had a meeting with them. And at that meeting they confirmed that basically there wasn’t anything that the post-mortem showed that could have been a solid reason why Mohammed had passed. But having examined the placenta and the umbilical cord, they had found that there were blood clots in the umbilical cord. So there… so that could have been the reason why Mohammed had passed.

33.35 And then… they sent me for various tests to see whether I’d possibly had an infection. But again that came back negative as well. And then, when I was pregnant with my… in my subsequent pregnancy with Zara – so my second pregnancy – they… I went for some blood tests and they basically found that I have something called Factor V Leiden, and I have it from one parent. It’s, it’s basically hereditary. What that means is, if you have Factor V Leiden, basically… there’s more… you have more chances of having a blood clot – and especially in pregnancy when everything slows down a bit more. So then they put me on aspirin through my pregnancy to basically thin my blood. And then, and then… So, so given that I have Factor V Leiden, and then also given that they found blood clots in the umbilical cord, there, there could have been a link there, and that could have been the reason why Mohammed did pass. But we don’t have a concrete answer. So then in… in subsequent pregnancies, I have been on aspirin through the whole pregnancy and I’ve also taken Fragmin for six weeks after delivering the baby just to thin the blood again as your body recovers from having gone through labour.

35.05 What was it like leaving hospital after Mohammed had been born? And what was it like being back at home?

35.17 I… okay, so again, I think it’s, it’s… there’s something my mind has done, which is blocked out the memory of leaving the hospital. I remember the next day: so I remember being in bed having delivered Mohammed, and the next morning my aunt coming to visit and saying, you know, that we’re thinking of you and be strong. And my uncle didn’t come, but she was like he’s, you know, really upset for you, and thinking of you, and, and we’re praying for you. And, I remember that.

35.47 I don’t actually remember leaving the hospital – which again is strange because I, I have a habit of remembering things: dates, times. But again, I think it’s something my mind has done, is blocked out that memory of leaving the hospital, empty-handed. And I remember going back to my mother’s house, and my husband was with me and he… we were both staying there, and I remember family being around, so his – my husband’s – mother came round and his cousin and… I remember us having a meal together and… I remember I was just really… I wanted my husband to be with me all the time. I was, I didn’t want him to go anywhere; I just felt like I needed him to be there with me 24/7.

36.31 I remember the next day, my best friend coming and she stayed with me for the next two days and she just sat on the floor next to me while I was lying down. I remember being in a lot of physical pain actually. I was in quite a bit of physical pain. I remember the midwife coming – or health visitor – and saying, obviously I… my milk was coming in, so she’d given me like, you know, tips on how to deal with that. And, I was in a lot of physical pain having gone through the delivery and just being on… I remember being on a lot of painkillers… after Mohammed.

37.15 What was it like with your milk coming in?

37.20 Just uncomfortable, and I remember just being really sad, and crying a lot, and just being upset that this – obviously this is happening for a reason – but this just… this shouldn’t be happening. And, yeah… just being really upset about it.

37.40You mentioned, you mentioned family members and you mentioned your best friend coming round. Can you just tell me what it was like telling people and what people’s attitude was to you?

37.56 I would say people that came round to the house almost immediately – or saw me in the next few days – were those who were very close to me. So, they just let me talk and they listened to me.

38.10 And that’s what I want – that’s all I wanted to do. I wanted to talk. I just wanted someone to listen to me. I, I didn’t necessarily want words of condolence or… I just wanted to talk and share my experience, and for them to understand – or just listen. That’s all. That’s all I wanted. And that’s why it was important to be surrounded by… close family or friends who, you know I was really close to. Unfortunately, both of my brothers were not there at the time: one was in America and one was studying at university away. So, unfortunately they weren’t with me which… again that would have been a really good support as well. I get… especially from my husband who was basically… So I was at home lying on a bed, my mum was with me and he was trying to organise the funeral and he had to go to… get the birth… the death certificate and register the death and then go to… the, the mosque and speak to the… Imam and… and then organise the burial.

39.19 So he had to do all of that which… there was… a, we have a, a family friend, who’s quite elderly, and he’s a, he’s an Imam and he, he did, he offered to go with my husband and do all of the thing, which I’m very appreciative of. But, obviously if one of our siblings had been there, that would have been extra support and help for him. But it was the weekdays, everybody was working, my brother’s weren’t there, so, so yeah… it was a tough week.

39.51 And did you feel at any time that, that there was a sort of religious or cultural belief that meant that you felt, that you were meant to accept it when in fact it’s a very hard thing to accept?

40.08 In terms of… that… I mean I had to accept it regardless, because it’s happened. And I was saying to my husband, just last night, yes, I’ve… you know, we’ve accepted it – you do. But I, I still sometimes question it. And I think, why? Why us? Why him? And then, and then, I was saying to my husband, so I think those things and then within a couple of seconds, you know – I don’t force myself – just thoughts that come into my mind, the next thought is, well, he could have been unwell. Maybe God saved us from burying him three, four years later once we’d spent time with him? Maybe he was saving us from that pain – which possibly could have been more? Maybe he could have been really unwell and just been in hospital and never come home – and he saved us from those weeks or months of being in hospital with him? So, we really don’t know. So then, so those things, so those thoughts come into my mind… you know, well almost as soon as I question it, those thoughts come in and that’s where I get the patience from, I think.

41.17 There’s something in our language which you call a sabr – which is patience. And, and if someone dies – or something bad happens – then, you know, we say to each other, may God give you sabr. May God, may God give you patience. And I think that’s what that is. That is, the… you know, that is the sabr, that’s coming into my mind and into my heart and giving me patience to cope with and accept this reality of what has happened. And, yes…

41.51 How did you and Omar grieve for Mohammed?

41.58 So, we… I remember… being at my mum’s and then, and then we’d just bought a house, and the work had been done, so then we eventually had to move into our new house and sort of tried to keep ourselves busy with things and, and we’d had him buried… we’ve had him buried. And again, the decision of deciding where, and how to do that: there was the option of having him buried with other babies or small children – and so we decided to do that; that just felt like the right thing for us to do. And we would go to his grave, and lay flowers, and say prayers and, and that really helped.

42.45 And, I remember going with my mum and we took some, some pots and, and, we took some sort of flowers and put those there. I would go and water those. And, again I… I think I speak to the most… I mean initially I spoke the most about it to my mum and, and Omar – because I felt like they understood. And they were there to listen and talk about it and… or to my aunt, as well, and my best friend. And I think talking about it to those people really helped. And also I had counselling which I was offered when I… before I left the hospital after having had him. And I remember my mum encouraging me to do that. And I think that was invaluable in helping me to come to terms with… and again, that just allowed me to talk through everything. My emotions – obviously I felt angry at times and it just helped me to channel all of that through in a positive way.

43.54 And because I wasn’t working, I think I used to go maybe once a week? I probably had about 10 or 12 sessions and Omar had a few sessions as well, only a couple. And I think that really helped us – really, really helped us through. And just talking about it and just… I don’t know, just trying to find our way. Trying to build our new house. I remember sitting on the bottom of the stairs one day and – this is before we’d got pregnant again – and just saying to my husband, what are we going to do with this four bedroom, massive house when we have no children? And, you know, that was… there were some very dark times in the following year – definitely in the next few months – that were really hard. But, yeah, those two people got me through… they really did.

44.51 Can you tell me about Mohammed’s funeral?

44.57 Mohammed’s funeral… It was the day… it was Friday; it was the Friday following, so… I think possibly the 10th of May or the 9th of May. And there was an election, and someone came into power that day. I can’t remember the exact details. And, I remember going to [name of mosque removed] mosque and… so there’s something that we do in our religion, it’s called a Ghusal – it’s when you give the deceased a bath. So, if it’s a female, then women do it; if it’s a male, then men do it – and again, close family members. And, so they… I’ve never done it myself, but as far as I know, you… I presume there’s some sort of bath and… like bathtub, kind of thing, and you… there’s a sheet over them, so obviously all very respectful. And there’s water flowing, and… so, you know, it’s very respectful, but it’s just paying your last respects to them and giving them a bath before they are buried. So, my husband did that with his, with his cousin, who we’re very close to. And, I wasn’t there for that, because they did it in the men’s section. And then they wrapped him in, in a sheet and they put him in his coffin and, and then… they closed the coffin and then they bought the coffin in to where I was and where the rest of the family were.

46.33 And I remember I was stood next to my uncle – who I’m very close to – and they brought the coffin in and I just turned, I just turned around because I just couldn’t, I just couldn’t look at it. Just the thought of a baby being in a coffin, and the size of the coffin being really small and… just knowing that my son is in there, that just… I just couldn’t look at it. I just turned my back to it. And my uncle was, was saying to me, you need to look at this. You need to, you need to look at this to make… you know, it’s going to help you. And, and I did turn around and I remember just squeezing his hand and he was just holding me up and… That was extremely, extremely difficult – actually seeing his coffin. Didn’t see his face, but saw his coffin.

47.18 And then… and then from, from the mosque we then had to travel to the, the… graveyard. And, I remember, I was really anxious about where his, his coffin was going to be? How it was going to travel? And I remember being really anxious about that, and I spoke to my uncle about that – and both of my uncles were there – and… and then there was also the Imam with us and… and he said, no don’t worry. We’re gonna… we’re gonna… someone’s going to sit in the back of the car with the coffin and that will be fine. And… then I remember going to the mosque. I remember going to the graveyard and they, they buried him. And again, close family members were there. And I remember, he was buried and there was a tree… a blossom tree next to him. And because it was May, the sun was shining and, I remember, stood next to a family member, and just commenting how, you know, he’s under a beautiful tree and the sun is shining for him today. And then we went to my grandmother’s… back to my grandmother’s house and I said to my grandmother, you know, I’d like there to be some prayers for him.

48.26 So again, close family friends and members came back, and I remember sitting down on the sofa downstairs where there were other family… other like family friends and, and I started to get really upset. So someone said, I’ll take her upstairs. So I went upstairs, I was lying in my grandma’s bed and sort of, family, sort of, would, would just pop their head round and give their condolence and, yeah….

48.52 And… I think I fell asleep for a while and my husband would come and go. And then in the evening my friends all came to see me and… yeah, so again, just being surrounded by a caring family and friends made a big difference. And I’m very grateful for having that day where we did have a funeral, and we did have close family and friends there. Then we had an extended family and friends come to the house and sort of pay their respects and acknowledge the fact that… my son had died – and that was really important. And I really appreciate that my grandma and my mother organised that for me.

49.35 Again something that I couldn’t do, but just the way our community works. You know, if, if someone, if someone’s in trouble, if someone dies or someone passes, if someone is not well, everyone just comes flooding down. And, that was, again, really invaluable to me and very important to me and I’m really glad that, that did happen. And everyone paid their respects to our son who was not going to be with us anymore, and acknowledged that, you know, he, he was someone.

50.12 How did you feel about getting pregnant again?

50.17 So initially we were waiting for the report, for the results of the post-mortem report and to have the meeting with the consultants and… and we’d had… I think we’d done that by the summer. So obviously we…. Mohammed was born in May and I think by June, July we’d had the result and spoken to them and they’d given us the all clear and… and I remember me and my husband decided just to go on a holiday, just to go away. And we did, around June, July time, I think. We went to… we went to Turkey and just spent some time there.

50.56 And… then we came back and it was my Thirtieth and, you know, I, I wanted to celebrate that. And I had three different parties and, you know, I enjoyed it. I, I wasn’t, I wasn’t necessarily mourning him – you know Mohammed not being there – to the extent where I didn’t want to celebrate at all. I was getting on with my life. There were, was a family wedding and I was getting involved in that and… And I think eventually just, we started trying, I would say maybe around Christmas, you know? The new year maybe?

51.36 And, and then I was, obviously I was worried, but because we’d been given the all clear – or we had, you know, we had been told that we don’t think there was anything for you to worry about – you should try for another baby. So then we were. And… so, I wasn’t worried or anxious about trying, I guess once I was pregnant, that’s when the worry and the anxiousness started. And, and again invaluable having a dedicated consultant midwife and sonographer. And… they gave… so the meeting that we… the consultant that we had the meeting with and the midwife…she said to me as soon as you’re pregnant, just contact me. She’d given me her number, her email and said, you know, go through your GP or just contact me directly.

52.27 And so… so Mohammed passed in May 2010 and then in February 2011, I fell pregnant again – with my daughter, Zara. And as soon as I found out I, I called [name of midwife removed] and she sent me a letter and said, come in. And she said this is going to be the team. So [name of midwife removed] is the, the midwife, the… the midwife I would see and Doctor [name of doctor removed]. And I would see Doctor [name of doctor removed] every month and… I would have a scan every month and… I was also entitled to have a scan whenever I felt uneasy or uncomfortable. And they said, you basically call in and say you’re a Teardrop Mum – and they’ll know what that means – and you can come in for a scan – a reassurance scan – whenever you want.

53.21 I had quite a few scans in the beginning – just because I was anxious – even before 10 weeks, just to confirm the, the pregnancy was there, then how it was progressing. I probably had about three or four even before 10 weeks. And yeah, having that dedicated team of three people, was, was invaluable and so important. And, it just really helped in giving me the reassurance to know that I’m in the care of people who know what I’ve been through and they’re completely fully aware of my history, and so… you know, they’re going to get me through this – if this is meant to happen. And they did.

54.03 You’ve gone on to have three more children were all the pregnancies the same? Were you treated the same and did you feel the same?

54.16 I would say my first one is – at Zara’s time – it was more comprehensive. So that’s when I had more blood tests as soon as, you know, they found out I was pregnant. The consultant sent me for additional blood tests and that’s when they found I have Factor V Leiden, and that’s when they put me on aspirin. And then, they also sent me for a GTT – gestational diabetes… no sorry, for a glucose tolerance test – to see if I had gestational diabetes.  Which thankfully I didn’t have in any of my pregnancies, but they sent me twice: once towards the beginning – before 20 weeks – and then one around 24 weeks, I think, which came back negative every time. So that was in Zara’s pregnancy.

55.07 And then again, in my second… in my third pregnancy with my second daughter, again I was under the same consultant, same midwife, same everything. And… I would say in my fourth pregnancy with my third daughter – which, who I just had last year – I felt like the care had changed a little bit. And I think that’s because there’s more pressure on the NHS and I’ve just seen that -obviously having had… three subsequent pregnancies after the stillbirth within five years.

55.40 I could just see that, you know, there was… I mean… there wasn’t necessarily much difference to my care, but for example in the first two I would see Doctor [name of doctor removed] more. And then in the fourth one, he’s obviously trained up more consultants who can deal with these cases, so I would see a different consultant every time almost, because he was busy elsewhere, I assume. But I had the same continuity, the same team, which was invaluable.

56.08 And emotionally did it get any easier with each subsequent pregnancy, or does the long tale of stillbirth, you know, continue for you?

56.21 I would say Zara’s – my first pregnancy after Mohammed – which Zara’s pregnancy, I was very anxious throughout, because it was my first experience of being pregnant again after Mohammed. The second, the third pregnancy with my second daughter, I guess, I think I was the most calm in that one. And then I would say the most difficult one, I think, in terms of emotions, would be my last pregnancy, which obviously is… is, was six years on after having my stillbirth. But, it could possibly have been because during my pregnancy, Mohammed’s birthday – or anniversary – passed in the middle and I was very, very anxious around that time, extremely anxious.


57.09 And then obviously around the 27 week mark every… during every pregnancy, I would be very anxious. But I was, I think, I was the most emotionally upset in my last pregnancy. I found it really, really difficult. Just anxious about what might happen. Just thinking a lot about Mohammed and the time he passed. So, they say time is a healer. I, I think it is because I think in terms of personally my experience, I get… I’m so busy now with my three daughters that, you know, time… you, you, you just busy yourself with what you’re doing. But, but when I start thinking about him I get really upset. And… so I don’t necessarily think as time goes on and you do get pregnant, it becomes any easier… I don’t… that hasn’t happened to me. My last one was the most difficult and it was six years on. So…

58.11 You mentioned passing the anniversary of Mohammed’s death during a subsequent pregnancy. How, how do you and Omar mark Mohammed’s birthday or other special days associated with him?

58.26 So my husband takes the day off, and we go to his grave, and we pray, and we lay flowers. And then – for the last couple of years – we try to do something nice with our daughters, to try and celebrate that he was our son and is our son. So we try and do it in a positive way. And actually, funnily enough, this year I feel like I’m ready to do something to – around his birthday, in his name – do something to raise money to give to Sands and also to the neonatal… to the neonatal unit, at [name of hospital removed] to mark his birthday / anniversary. And I feel like now I’m ready to do that. Up until this point I haven’t felt ready to do that, but now I feel like I want to do something. So we’re planning on doing some sort of bake sale at my husband’s work, just to like kick things off, and then take it from there.

59.24 In what way would you say that Mohammed has affected your, your life and your relationship with Omar?

59.38 I think Mohammed… the fact that Mohammed was a part of our life and is no longer with us has made me more sensitive towards other people’s losses possibly? Because I think, in terms of losing people that are close to you, up until that point, Mohammed was the closest I’ve ever lost. And I think now, if I know of someone who’s lost anyone, or has had a death in the family, or… then I guess I can appreciate their loss, because of what I’ve been through.

1.00.27 In terms of my relationship with my husband, I think it’s… I, I would say it has made us stronger. And, you know, after he did pass, it did make us stronger. He, you know, is extremely caring and loving and, and he was very sensitive towards me wanting to talk about Mohammed – then he would listen. And I think, from his point of view, I think his way of coping is not talking about it. And I think initially we, we may have struggled with that, with each other, but just talking about that and about him has helped us you know through and just… I guess sharing that pain with him has made us a close couple as well. Yeah.

1.01.19 Is there anything that you feel particularly proud of during the time that you were with Mohammed – either in the pregnancy or after the birth? And is there anything particularly that you regret?

1.01.37 Particularly proud of…? I… I guess I’m… I’m really grateful that my mum and my husband were there in the delivery with me. And my husband was there and he, I think, he felt the pain as much as I did. And… I’m glad that we have that relationship and that he was sensitive to the fact that I did need to think… like talk about things – even though, even though he didn’t. And I’m proud that we have that relationship.

1.01.11 Is there anything I regret? I don’t think there is anything that I regret. I mean things panned out as they were meant to. I don’t think I could have done or said anything differently and things would have turned out different. So I don’t feel like I have any regrets.

1.02.35 Is there anything that you would like to pass on to other bereaved parents?

1.02.45 I think if you’re going through this, I – from my personal experience – I think counselling really helps. It really helped me just to talk – and that’s all… that’s all I did. I just talked and someone listened to me. They weren’t giving me advice or telling me how to feel. They were just listening. And… if somebody is going through this – and things happen really fast once you do find out, that you’ve… you know, this is what’s happened to you – I would say maybe think about something special you might want to do, while you have the opportunity, once your baby’s been delivered. For example, photographs or handprints or, or taking a special something for them to have or dressing them in something that, that you’ve already bought, or someone’s knitted, or has sentimental value, you know, something like that. And I would say – another thing I would say – I… is, is maybe write down all the memories that you do have of the pregnancy – the positive ones – up until that point, because it’s a nice thing to possibly look back on and to possibly share with any future children that you may have.

1.04.05 And because I’ve done that and then I know that when I do eventually tell my daughters about him, eventually, one day – I don’t, I don’t know when that might be – I can share those memories with them; because as much as I’d like to remember that I’ll never forget anything about him, you do. And the fact that I’ve written them down, is, is nice for me to share with them.

1.04.30 Is there anything you’d like to add or you feel that I haven’t asked you?

1.04.46 I think I just want to add to that the care that I’ve received from the hospital following the stillbirth with the continuity of the consultant, midwife and sonographer, is just, has been completely just invaluable. And I will always appreciate that because getting through any sub… or coming through with a positive result in any subsequent pregnancies – as, as well as it being obviously a predominantly physical thing – you have to mentally get through those things as well.

1.05.19 And nine months is a long time to get through and… for you to be anxious about. And having that continuity of care from those three key people is something that’s really, really important to get you through those nine months and hopefully to a positive result.


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Omar’s full interview

Click on the orange timecode reference (e.g. 0.00) to skip to that part of the interview.

0.00 < Long time ago now… So in traditional Pakistani… roles, we were introduced to each other. It turned out that our families knew each other back in the day and had lost touch. But… yes, so what happens is first my mum went and approved everything. Then the next weekend I went and was like, yeah, this could work.  And then we started talking and courting and… yeah, it was a… it was a… it was a nice romance.

0.42 How long was your courtship?

0:45 About year and a half two years I think – from introduction to marriage, yeah.

0.53 And what was your attitude to starting a family?

0.58  Um, we got married pretty young… on purpose because we wanted to enjoy ourselves first. So, we were married about five years before we… well, four years before we actually started trying. But, you know, having discussed it, children were always on the agenda. It was a case of let’s have some fun, let’s build a house – or rather get a property – etcetera, etcetera, and we were at the right stage to start trying.

1.29 And tell me about the pregnancy with Mohammed.

1.35 I remember when she told me… in fact I’d just, I’d just gotten a new job that day – or that week – and we actually went out to celebrate, it was a weekday. And she came back and I think she did a test and sort of came back with a… a very weird look on her face – I wasn’t sure if something was wrong or right or whatever and… and it was just like, wow. A new job and big change there and an even bigger change with… a… with a… an addition on the way.

2.11 And what do you remember about the pregnancy?

2.17 I remember thinking about… how things are going to change. If I’m honest, I was, I was a bit laid back – not really knowing what to expect. I wasn’t one of those fussers or whatever. Shazia does enough fussing for the both of us. So, it was… we were… loads of other things going on because I’d gotten a new job. We were moving from North London to South London – so there was loads going on with that. Getting a house. At the time, we were living with Shazia’s mum, so it was a bit of upheaval. And, if I’m honest for me, the pregnancy sort of… was something that was happening in the background with everything else that was going on.

3.08 But to be honest that’s how we tend to work is… you know, we’ve got, we’ve got X amount of things to deal with. I pick up… what suits me type of thing and Shazia picks up what suits her. And I think we work well together that way.

3.27 And… do you remember anything about the antenatal care? Did you go along to appointments?

3.34 Had we started? I think… we had started. If I’m honest, I totally remember the second pregnancy’s antenatal, but not necessarily the first.

3.50 And what did you know about stillbirth at that time?

3.56 Pretty much nothing. It’s not something you’d think about. Obviously, you know, they’d talked about doing the… well, now I can’t even remember what the names are, but the, the injections at a certain stage just to make sure there’s no Down’s syndrome and things like that. You, sort of, think about it then. But, you know, it was not anything I’d ever considered at all.

4.21 And… tell me about… what happened when you realised that something was wrong. And how did you find that out?

4.32 So, I’d been away with work for a couple of days… come back and it was the weekend, and Shazia was just, had just sort of said she hadn’t felt some movement. And I, being honest, was not too unduly concerned and just assumed it was normal given our first pregnancy etcetera and, for peace of mind, I remember we just thought, well, let’s go and have a scan. And… and even during that first… well, it wasn’t even a scan, it’s when they sort of listen into the heartbeat. They picked up a heartbeat and I relaxed. And then, we sort of realised that was Shazia’s heartbeat, not the baby’s…

5.18 And then you start to worry; but again, you know, you sort of think, well, you know, I’m sure everything’s okay; so fine, we’ll just wait for a scan. And it was when we were watching the scan that you… we couldn’t pick up a fetal heartbeat – that’s when, you know, you sort of think, oh my God. This, this can’t be happening. And it was at that point where was it… everything just sort of stopped.

5.49 And when the sonographer finished and, sort of, you know… Shazia was quite distraught, I still… I guess I was in a little bit of shock. And she just sort of said, look, I can’t pick up a heartbeat – and I guess they have to do this. They… she said, I’ll have to get someone more senior to check. And you… and that sort of gives you a glimmer of hope. Which thinking about it now, in… in hindsight… I’d rather have just been told, unfortunately this has happened. But apparently, they’re not allowed to or whatever… So, it just sort of prolonged the agony, if I’m honest.

6.37 Then I just remember ringing Shazia’s mum and my mum – in floods of tears – and just saying, look, this has happened. Can you please come here now? And… and within the hour or so – I mean my mum was all the way in North London at the time – but she got there within couple of hours. Shazia’s mum wasn’t far. She got there in half an hour and… and, yeah, it was like… you don’t really comprehend why this has happened to us. It just – astonishment I suppose, is, is probably the right word. It was… yeah, everything just stopped.

7.28 Do you remember actually how you were told that Mohammed had died?

7.35 It was, as I said… so a more senior doctor came and sort of said, yeah, unfortunately there’s no heartbeat and… and… I can’t remember exactly what was said, but that was sort of first final… that, yeah, the baby has passed away.

8.01 And you mentioned in a way that you would have liked to have known that straightaway. Once you were told, what did you, you feel?

8.15 Oh, just obvious sadness, anger… disbelief – still, I think – certainly for me was that I just don’t understand how this has happened. And again sort of Shazia, remember Shazia straight away sort of just saying, what did I do that, that’s caused this? And obviously at that time you know that you… there’s no medical answers. It’s just a case of you know…

8.50 Then I suppose the next thing we remember was – and again this is not something you think about – is that you realize that Shazia would have to deliver the baby. And again, that’s just such another massive shock where you are thinking, how the hell are we going to manage this between us?

9.10 But, I have to say that it was at that point where, where the… consultant – who I think we were speaking to at that time who was working – was… was very good and very explanatory. And, I’ll be honest, I can’t remember the detail, but they did take us through step by step how things would go, what would happen. And… and then the next thing I sort of remember is just sort of coming home.

9.43You mentioned coming home, what did you do in the time between coming home and going back into the hospital? Do you remember what you did, what you felt?

9.58 It was… obviously, we have a big extended family, so news started spreading. To be honest I was mostly on the phone… with people’s commiserations, well wishes etcetera. I think it was only one or two days… Obviously rang into work; work were very understanding and just said take as long as you like… need, so… as did Shazia. I’d say, I’d say I’d started to deal with some grief at that time.

10.42 Also started thinking about you know… certainly, I think it matures you a bit. I mean I was 29 at the time, maybe. And you know sort of started to get my head round a little bit, how to do a Muslim burial – which you know I had never really dealt with, ever. And there was a few practical things: you know, stuff like death certificates and all that sort of stuff. That started dawning on me.

11.13 I had a lot of help from one of Shazia’s family friends, who’d, who is a, a scholar – an Islamic scholar. And again, you know, he’d, he sort of helped me just step by step, taught me a few things that I just didn’t know… I’m jumping ahead a bit here but… again, it’s, it’s a bit blurry for me, if I’m honest. Then the next thing I remember is actually go to the hospital for the delivery.

11.47 Tell me about that. Tell me going… about going back in to hospital. How did… prepared did you feel for what was gonna happen?

11.56 Reasonably, I’d say. As I say, they, they had explained in, in quite a bit of detail what would happen. Obviously, it was, it was an induced labour. I, I had no idea what to expect during that… you know, obviously this is the first labour I’d seen. How prepared did I feel? I suppose it was a case of… there’s… can’t really prepare that much for your first, first labour being induced or not, so… it was a learning curve. And as I… again, just sort of thinking about just watching Shazia go through that, knowing that you know there’s, there’s… not anything on the other side. That was really tough.

13.06 Can you tell me about the labour?

13.14 It was… well, what helped, given the circumstances, I think, was they were able to give Shazia morphine. So having been through three labours since, makes a lot of difference – and she doesn’t do epidurals. So… it was… I suppose again, at that time, you sort of, I’d almost forgotten – not forgotten – but put to the back of my mind the reason we were there. It was more of a case of just supporting her through this, this tough and painful time. And… and that’s what I sort of focused on. And, you know, given, given the three since we’ve had – it was a lot shorter. But nonetheless, it was, it was… a tough experience.

14.13 You mentioned about there being ‘nothing on the other side’. Can you tell me about… at the birth and, and meeting Mohammed for the first time?

14.26 So obviously, I remember Mohammed being born. And I must say at this stage, the, the midwifes that were with us were absolutely phenomenal. Really understanding and… and meeting him for the first time, stuff that I remember, looking at his feet and thinking he, he had Shazia’s feet. He looked like me… It was better than I thought it would be, I guess – having not thought about it too much, about what it would be like. I actually remember asking the consultant some questions around what would the baby look like and so forth, you know, given what’s happened, and would there be – not deformities, but you know… and, and being reassured that actually the baby would just look like a very small baby. And that’s exactly what Mohammed looked like.

15.34 And it was, it was, it was surreal. A little… it was tranquil – is a better word – when, when the nurse bought Mohammed out dressed, you know with a few, with a few, with a hat on and stuff like that and… And Shazia’s mum was with us at that time as well – at my request. And it was like, three, four in the morning or whatever it was. And there’s a few pictures and what have you… it was… nice is not the right word, but… I’m glad we got to see him. And there’s, there’s a memory there that, that we saw our first child.

16.21 Were you able to hold him?

16.23 Yes. In… well, I think I held the… not quite the pillow – whatever he was on there. I did held him. I held him then. And then… I bathed him for the funeral which, which you do in, in Muslim culture. So… and that was just me and him, and a priest. That was the… that was the time I guess it was just us two.

16.59 And, and what was that like?

17.03 That was the toughest part of all of this for me. That’s where, you know, you’re sort of passed the birth and, and it’s the day of the burial and the funeral and… It’s, it’s a duty that you need to do… you know, it…  At that time, I guess, religion sort of took on a different aspect for me as well. And it was this grief that actually cemented my religion a little bit, whereas I was quite neutral previously.

17.42 But as I say maturing and going through that experience; learning what, what you do when, when it’s your responsibility for the funeral, so to speak… But yeah, that, that point where, where bathing him… that was the point where I was close to totally breaking down, I must say… But I soldiered through – for want of a better phrase. It was… that, that, as I say, was the toughest time for me, personally.

18.32 Just taking you back to the time that Mohammed was born, can you… just tell me a little bit more about the time that you spent with him?

18.44 Um, so the nurse bought him out. And again, I sort of go back to this sort of tranquil time, where it was just Shazia’s mum, me and Shazia. It was… I can’t think of the right word, but… it, it wasn’t bad. I found it… needed and it was, you know, you sort of… I hadn’t, again, not really thought about what it would be like. But, as I say, it was better than… I think I was expecting it to be, having not really thought that, you know, would it be horrific? And, and it wasn’t, it was almost the opposite. It was important, I think, because it… it did enable a memory to be formed which, which we still hold onto now. And, you know, I can remember the room – I think they call it the Lilac Suite at [name of hospital removed] Hospital. And… it was… it’s, it’s something, I think, we needed to do. And I’m glad we did it.

20.12 You made a reference to… I think photos or… can you tell me about what they did in the hospital and how important it is to have those memories?

20.28 At the time, I was, I was not sure about it, but it was a case of, well, if Shazia wanted to do it then I wasn’t going to oppose it. But, you know, they offered… they offered a photo service. There was a few other things which I forget that, that was on offer – again just to enable some keepsakes and so forth… And, for now, in retrospect, it was something that I’m really glad we did because it is, you know – and we haven’t really talked about it but – once, once the girls are older, I think, I think we will sort of talk about Mohammed and… and say, you know, that you had a brother and what have you. And if they want to, once they’re old enough, you know, we’ll let them see, see the photos.

21.30 Tell me about the, the care that you were offered – you said it was exemplary, but what was it that that was so good and that helped you so much?

21.42 I think just the level of understanding and, and support that is available – that was available at the time. The sensitivity… the aid, help, just, you know… and.. and since then, obviously, you know, we’ve had much more positive experiences. Especially as it was our first birth, as well. And you, you’re in a place where you, know you, don’t know what’s left or right, up or down. It’s… it’s just, you need people to just sort of hold your hand through things – and that’s exactly what they did.

22.32 And then afterwards the, the offer of… I’ve forgotten the word…

22.44 Counselling?

22.44 Counselling. Exactly! Which, which I’ll be honest, I, I, I think I went to one or two sessions and… that helped me make peace with it. Shazia needed more – which was absolutely fine. And, and we, you know, we had I think, two or one as a couple, and then I had one on my own. And that just enabled me to, to get back into… and I think by that time we’ve had quite a bit of medical reasons back – or not, as the case was – but we’d gotten to a place where we’d really… you know, we’d been told that, unfortunately it was one of those things.

23.36 And again that at that time you start to… afterwards it dawns on you, well, does that mean we can’t have children? And again, that’s a thought that, that I’d… I’d never want to think about again – or anybody. For, you know, just the desperation to, to have a child and thinking about what if there’s something really wrong that you can’t. That was creating – certainly in my mind – which I didn’t really talk to Shazia about… because it felt as if I was moving on, thinking about the future, whereas she was still dealing with Mohammed’s death. But as, as, sort of, the consultancy care – which again was exemplary – post… after the post-mortem and what have you. And just sort of being told that actually we couldn’t really find what was wrong.

24.39 But, there’s no reason you can’t have children. So, you know… at… I questioned a lot – well, if there is nothing wrong then why has this happened? However, I did hang on to that there’s no reason we can’t have children. And, and I think that that helped to get through it all as well.

25.04 And was that something that you were able to explore in your counseling?

25.11 Yes, to a certain degree. What I… again, it’s quite blurry now. What I remember about counselling was… once counselling had started, I’d actually gone back to work… and was distracted… and obviously work was crazy, so, it, it kept me distracted. I was, I was… of course I was there for Shazia, but I do remember the sort of counsellor saying, you know, almost something that I was thinking but not saying was, well, I’m almost over it and Shazia wasn’t. So, it really helped me understand her state of mind – which again was very important. Because initially I was… I suppose it was just a case of I was in a different place to her. And the counseling helped… confirm that. Therefore we were able to help each other more. Whereas had we not had it, it was just… we were poles apart – certainly in thinking. And that’s not a good place to be.

26.34 Can you tell me more about that? Do you think that, that was a difference in the way that maybe you know, men and women grieve or… you know, how much… how different is it do you think for the father?

26.52 I think it’s on a case-by-case basis, but whether it’s me, or whether it’s because I’m male? I don’t know. I think our relationship has always been that I’m the more practical one. And about me getting on and getting stuff done, whereas Shazia does everything else – and the two work quite well together. And I think that’s what happened when we were sort of, dealing with, with the grieving process. As I say, I had gone back to work. I’d, I’d… I feel like I’d matured – as I said earlier – around dealing with the burial and the practical things around the death certificate. I’d engrossed myself in the house. Our house was almost ready. So, I’d totally taken all of that stuff over. And, and I suppose I’d… my thinking was, well look, this has happened. It’s an awful thing. We’re still together. We’ve, we’ve gotten through it – as far as I was concerned. Let’s start looking towards the future. Let’s get, let’s move into our new house that we’d worked really hard on. I, I was six months into a new job that was going quite well. Let’s, let’s look to the future; whereas Shazia just wasn’t ready to do that. And it was the counselling that helped me understand that. So, as I say, without it, we would have been in, in a much worse place as a couple.

28.35 Can I take you back to something you referred to – the post-mortem? Do you remember being offered a post-mortem? And tell me about the decision to have one.

28.48 I do. Religious aspects come into that, come into play then as well. The stricter Muslims don’t do post-mortems and just accept it as the will of God. I wasn’t ready to do that. As I say, I was thinking about the future and thinking, well, if this has happened and… we need to find out the reason, because does it affect future children? Is there, is there some medicine, you know… could this have been avoided? That’s the other thing – and again thinking about future pregnancies. So for me, it was, yes straightaway. And I think Shazia was on the same page as well, because we were desperate to know what happened. So, it was, it was a, it was an easier decision.

29.48 You mentioned earlier about bathing Mohammed for the funeral. Can you tell me about the funeral?

30.01 Again, it was… just snippets that I just remember was gathering at Shazia’s gran’s house in the morning… and, and family starting to turn up there. And just… I personally was quite distraught at that time. Again having never done this before, let alone being… being the father of, of… of the deceased. Also, at that time my dad was very ill and was in the hospital. And actually during that week he came close to death. So, it was just… albeit this happened a few days after Mohammed’s burial.

30.52 But… so that was in the back of my mind – that my dad’s not here because he was in hospital. Then I remember going to the mosque. And sort of during, during the bathing part autopilot sort of took over: just taking instructions from the priest about how to do it properly. And once it was all done and Mohamed was… clean and in his bed, that’s when I broke down and… and just a lot of emotion came out.

31.36 It was men only which, which was quite nice. I didn’t really want to do that in front of Shazia – although it has happened since, but you know… it’s not that I’m uncomfortable, I just knew that she was in… she was also in the same place and watching someone you love sort of totally break down is difficult, so… But again, sort of going through that process, you know, can I say it’s made me better in certain aspects? I’d say yes. Having done it a few times, a few more times since then. It’s just life’s experiences, you know, but… Afterwards you sort of think, well, you know, you’re not a kid anymore. And this is what life throws at you. So… Then moving on, I remember during the burial it was… a case of, you know, that’s, that’s our son sleeping in there… Yeah…

32.56 What was it… like telling other people and, you know, having to deal with people’s reactions to that?

33.11 I found it impossible to do. To be honest, that was something that the family did… was, you know, my mum, Shazia’s mum, was sort of phoning round close family to say this had happened. And initially I remember sort of I’d… I’d, we’d said to them, look, we don’t want to talk to anybody. And we’re getting a few texts just to, to you know, people’s genuine commiserations. As it branched out from there I’d… you know, one thing I remember is sort of… people at work. I’d, I’d gone back to work. I went to a trade show and bumped into people that I don’t see regularly and, you know, they’re like, whoa, are you a daddy yet? And sort of, sort of saying, no, unfortunately it went the other way. That was… as a… do you become a bit numb maybe? I’m not sure. You know, it wasn’t a case that, that I was crying or anything but… I suppose you almost get used to it.

34.35 But, yeah, it’s, it’s another difficult part of something where you’re trying to move on and people are still finding out, and then having to go through, you know – with people that you get along with – around, you know, well, what happened? And trying to explain, well, nobody really knows. And trying to put a positive spin on it around, well, it just means that we can. You know, we’re recommended to – that there’s nothing wrong and we, and we should. There’s no reason we can’t have children in the future etcetera.

35.11 It got a bit monogamous and having to repeat the same thing to different people, when I was just like, right, it’s time to draw a line and get positive. That… and if you’re in that frame of mind is… you find it difficult having to go back.

35.37 With hindsight is there anything that you think might have made that time – that period -easier?

35.54 Probably nothing major. I suppose that, that, that one point – which I mentioned previously – around it would have been better if we were just told that Mohammed’s died, rather than having to wait another two, three hours while another scan is done by a senior consultant. Maybe – I mean, I don’t know whether that’s protocol and something that they have to do – but, you know, that, that could have been improved possibly where… I’d, I’d rather have just been told there and then. Apart from that, I’d say no – I’ve got no complaints against the… hospital and, and you know the advice and the guidance and support that we received there. If anything, it was, it was just what we needed and since then we’ve supported the neonatal department a lot with charity and what have you because, you know, we have a personal link now to that place.

37.07 I think… I meant more in terms of telling people and, you know, at work, or people you hadn’t seen for a while. Is there anything with hindsight that could have made that process easier for you?

37.37 I mean, I’m not quite sure what else we would actually do aside from… I mean, you know, again, sort of, when it happened I phoned my boss and, and within a few days, you know, a bouquet of flowers arrived and a card arrived from work – signed by all the colleagues and all that. So, so everybody knew that that you meet regularly. I don’t really see how you can tell people that you don’t meet regularly who aren’t necessarily in touch with, you know. Sort of, so, that example I gave, that was an external supplier who wouldn’t necessarily speak to anybody at work. You know they only deal with me, so, probably not, I’d say.

38.26 Did anybody say anything to you that was particularly helpful? Or that struck a chord in the opposite direction?

38.36 Yeah, I mean, you know, it’s a case of look… with the religious aspect in it and, and I think – this is certainly what our thinking has been – is that, you know, did it happen for the best? You know, who knows maybe Mohammed wasn’t that well? Was he going to have a nice life? And all of that sort of stuff. And, you know, did God do something for the better for us? I’d like to believe so -especially because there was, as I say, no other medical reason that they could find for Mohammed dying.

39.25 So, yeah, you know, certainly a few of my elders sort of saying that and me actually listening to it and that did sort of sit, sit in my… and put a positive aspect on something so horrific. So, yeah, you know, that’s where family is very important and… and the support of my mum, Shazia’s mum during that time and just listening to them around these things did definitely did help.

40.01 And often fathers talk about feeling excluded from the situation or the care seems to all go to a mother. How included did you feel in everything?

40.15 Quite a bit, I, I must say. As I say, the counselling was… the counsellor was sort of saying, look if you need to talk any more, if you need any more support, just say. But I’d managed to get to a place where I was content and therefore I certainly didn’t feel excluded from anything. Me and Shazia have always worked as a team anyway. And, and again the counselling sort of helped me understand that she needed more time to deal with it, and, and again, we established some of that she needs to do on her own. So it was a case of… just being there was enough and… in our culture the father takes a more… pronounced role in… stuff like the funeral and all that sort of stuff – so that was all me anyway. So, no, I didn’t feel excluded.

41.36 How do you remember Mohammed now in terms of special days, anniversaries?

41.45 On his birthday – which we still call it call it that – we, we go to the, the… the cemetery. On Eid – which is a religious festival – I, I’ll be honest, I didn’t go last time, but previous to that I’ve gone by myself, the children don’t go yet. Every so often we’ll, we’ll talk about – and, and obviously in light of this we talked to quite about… quite a lot about it last night – around what the dynamic of the house would have been like had he, had he still been with us? I personally every so often just remember… holding him. Not very regularly now, I must say, but every so often it will just pop, pop, pop into my head. But, you know, now the memories are not painful. They’re memories of him which if… when you think about it is a, is a positive thing.

43.16 How did you feel about him getting pregnant again and having more children?

43.26 Anxious – certainly the first one. Zara’s pregnancy was a tough time for me. I took it a lot more seriously, for want of a better phrase – not that I didn’t take Mohammed’s pregnancy seriously, but just was a lot more concerned. And in each of the three pregnancies we’ve had since then, you know, up until 26, 27 weeks – which is where we got to with Mohammed – those have been quite tough times. And, and, you know, you worry and… And every time we do a scan there’s just a split second where – until you see the fetal heartbeat… you’re just like, it can’t happen again type thing.

44.24 However, touch wood, thank God each of the pregnancies – last one got a little ropey, but not too bad – have actually gone very well. And again, I must sort of say the, the, the consistency we’ve had with the consultant and the same sonographer and so forth have been godsends.

44.50 So each of the pregnancies was – subsequent pregnancies – were different in terms of the way that you felt about them?

45.00 Yeah, as I say, you know, I’d started… just so anxious from the start up until – and you know once you hit the milestones and all that. Whereas it wasn’t like that at all with Mohammed. So 12 weeks, you know, you sort of, right, that’s done now. We’ve just got to, you know, worry and just trying to keep Shazia wrapped up in cotton wool and that sort of stuff. Certainly, Zara’s time – the first pregnancy after Mohammed – all the way through, that was an anxious time.

45.34 I suppose I relaxed a little bit more with the subsequent two. You know, having been through Zara’s, being more anxious, but you know, you… I think I relaxed more – although we sort of still did exactly the same things and… and, you know, touch wood there was nothing wrong. But once we’d gotten the first one out of the way, it, it became a bit more… enjoyable, I suppose. And yeah, to, you know… having been through that – I don’t know if Shazia mentioned – but apparently I should be a midwife because of, of how good I am during that labour time, so… I was told that every time! So…

46.28 Tell me more about that.

46.31 Just… in the first one, I remember we had, we had… a midwife and a trainee and they’re, and they’re like… they’re like… and I remember the midwife sort of saying, you really should come and join us. The second one, not so much, but the third one, she was like, well, you’re doing my job for me. I don’t need to come in anymore – because she was obviously looking at other women on the ward.

47.01 And I actually remember just sort of… in Haya’s time, Sila’s time, she sort of saying just keep talking to her because you calm her. And, and it’s not something I’ve thought about previously, but I suppose I did. And, yeah, you know, just on a bit of air and gas, she’d, she’d gotten through – gotten through all three labors.

47.25 Tell me really in the light of that, how you feel that… you know Mohammed has affected your life and your relationship.

47.39 My life, I’d say, as I say, it, it matured me – a lot – from and… you know, and actually thinking about it now, I’m sure, had Mohammed sort of stayed with us, that matures you anyway, when you’ve got, you know, a little person who totally depends on you for everything, living with you. It’s a case of… appreciating the girls so much and being so thankful that we’ve got three, three. You know, and I remember, we were we were at a religious gathering at, at my cousin’s house – not too long ago – and just sitting around talking about this and God and… and, and just you know. And, and I was asked sort of just what… put a statement out there to, to say… well, you know, in your belief. And I thought about it and said – and this is genuinely the case – my belief in God was cemented when we lost one child but then having been blessed with three. So, you know, it’s… for… now my thinking is whatever reason that happened, it did. However the reward is, is the three beautiful girls we’ve got now. So, I’m not bitter about that happening. Sad and hurt and, you know, yes; but not bitter.

49.22 What do you think is important for people to know about stillbirth?

49.32 I suppose a bit more preparation when people do get pregnant. I don’t think it was talked about enough, thinking about it – or maybe I just wasn’t listening, because I was certainly in that mind frame of, well, it can’t happen to us; so I’m not even going to think about it. If and when it does happen, you know… how to get through it… and stuff that like what we’re doing now was something that, when Shazia told me about it, I was really supportive of because… if sharing experiences can help, it’d be easier for – especially people where it’s happened to them in their first pregnancy. Not to say that, you know, it’s not as devastating on your second, third, fourth, but…

50.36 When it’s your first one, it… and you’ve not been through that process at all of, of a proper pregnancy… Just acknowledging it, I suppose, that it can happen. Is, is, is, I think, a first important step because we didn’t – or I certainly didn’t.

50.07 I was going to ask you whether you… there was anything during the whole period of Mohammed’s pregnancy and his stillbirth, whether there was anything particularly that you’re proud of and anything that you particularly regret?

51.32 I obviously regret that it happened, at all. I regret now that I… I had a very nonchalant attitude towards the pregnancy, because it was some… you know… a stillbirth just wasn’t on the radar. And, you know, thinking about it, even if it was, would it have made a difference? Possibly? We’ll never know, I guess. Something that I’m proud of… is that, is that me and Shazia made it through it and you know, having seen some… really, really low, low time to where we are now – that gives me pride. Dealing with it on, on various levels makes me slightly proud – of myself. And as I say, I think that experience has made me better, better person just… not sure what the right phrase is, but, better. And, I suppose, that gives me some pride.

52.59 I… you have touched on some things, but I also wondered specifically whether there’s anything you’d like to pass on to other bereaved parents? Any advice? Any insight?

53.15 Have a network of people around you, because – be it family, friends whatever – that is just such a help. Try not to be alone too much. Sometimes you have to, but being alone too much, I think, can just send you on a spiral that you don’t want to be on. And, and, you know, if available, do use any of the facilities and the support that is offered from, from the hospitals and, and everything else out there because it really does help… and without it, I don’t know where we would have been. So, yeah… And, you know, if, if and when… children do come, then that blessing and, and that feeling – having lost out the first time – is, is second to none.



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Baby Mohammed

Mohammed was stillborn at 3:15 am on 4th May 2010 at 27 weeks gestation. At the 12 week scan it was noted that he was small for gestational age. This was picked up again at a routine check-up at 24 weeks. Shazia was sent to be scanned. It was arranged that she should have a follow-up scan a couple of weeks later. Mohammed died before that follow-up appointment.

Shazia and Omar’s story

Shazia (36) an accountant and Omar (37) a business development director were introduced by their families in 2005 and married a year later. The couple moved to South London during their first pregnancy.

At their 12 week scan – which took place where they were living previously – they were told that their baby was small for gestational age. At this point they were not unduly worried. By the time of the anomaly scan, at around 20 weeks, they were living in South London. It was around that time, whilst attending a family wedding, that Shazia felt ‘a lot of pressure down below’. She went to the local hospital where she was reassured that all was well with her pregnancy.

When Shazia was 24 weeks pregnant, at a routine check-up, the midwife expressed concern that the baby was showing small so she sent her for a scan. Shazia was told to come back for a follow-up scan a fortnight later. Before this follow-up appointment Shazia telephoned the hospital because she felt her baby wasn’t moving. She and Omar were told to come in. At the hospital they were told that their baby had died. Mohammed Omar was stillborn in May 2010 at 27 weeks gestation.

The post-mortem revealed no conclusive reason as to why Mohammed had died, but some blood clots on the umbilical cord were noted. It was not until she was pregnant with her second child, Zara, that Shazia discovered she has a hereditary condition called Factor V Leiden, which can cause blood clots – especially in pregnancy. Shazia has been prescribed aspirin during all her subsequent pregnancies and a drug called Fragmin for six weeks afterwards, to thin her blood. At the time of interview Shazia and Omar had recently had their fourth child, Sila, who was seven months old.