Heather & Julie’s Story

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Forever Stars Trustees Heather and Julie

“After getting married in July 2014 we soon started the process of IVF.  As a same-sex couple, we knew it was going to be a long and expensive process to get pregnant but we were lucky enough to now have this option available to us. I have always wanted children but when I was younger I didn’t know if this would happen because I was gay and Julie being older never thought she would have children.

After lots of tests, scans and waiting we finally got a donor in May 2015, which was both exciting and nerve-wracking, and had to decide if he was right for us after being given a brief description of his features and occupation.  After saying yes and then more waiting we were we able to start the daily injections and tablets to stimulate my ovaries and prepare my body for egg collection, a process in which as many eggs are collected before they are fertilised. This happened in July 2015 when we were lucky to get 10 eggs, 9 of which fertilised. The best embryo was put back on 5th August 2015 and 5 surviving embryos were frozen and stored to use at a later date.

Another 2 weeks of waiting and we were ready to do a pregnancy test which was another exciting and nerve wrecking time. It was positive, our first attempt at IVF had worked, we couldn’t believe it.

The next 8 3/4 months of pregnancy were perfect, no morning sickness or feeling poorly, all the scans were fine and our little girl, Alex, was growing nicely. A 4D scan gave us a glimpse of what she might look like as we saw her move, wave and open her eyes. Little did we know that this would be the only time we saw her eyes open.

On April 13th 2016, after going to bed with a little one kicking away, we woke up to stillness.  Each morning Julie would put her hands on my tummy and Alex would wriggle and move about but this morning she didn’t.  We thought it was a little odd so I had a bath which would normally get her moving, and I thought it had worked as I felt her bottom move under my ribs.  Julie went to work and I rested. Throughout the day ate skittle, chocolate, drank caffeine coke and coffee and thought I felt her move, but things still weren’t right. I phoned the midwives late that afternoon and they told me to go to the hospital.

We arrived about half 6 and were soon having a scan which lasted 25 minutes with 2 scanners, 2 midwives and a doctor where we were told “I’m sorry there’s no heartbeat” words which are haunting to this day.

The rest is a bit of a blur with people coming in to tell us what was going to happen but we went home about midnight and were told to go back the following evening to be induced. It finally hit me when I was getting ready for bed that night as I looked down and saw my bump in the skin knowing she was in my tummy but dead.

We went to the labour ward on Thursday 14th April and were taken to a room that was bare, with no baby related material but that was still within earshot of other women giving birth. One solace was that our midwife from the night before had swapped her rota so that she could be with us and deliver Alex. It was a small thing for her but meant so much to us that we didn’t have to explain anything and it made all the difference in a horrible situation.

We were induced shortly after arriving and our beautiful daughter Alexandra Jayne Ivy was born at 5.40 at 39 weeks weighing 7.lb2. this was the happiest and most heartbreaking moment of our lives. Alex was taken and dressed the outfit we had chosen for her to go home in and we spent about 11 hours in the room with her. In the room, we weren’t able to cuddle properly as a family or hold her together but we made memories and took lots of photographs of her.

The post-mortem results showed that Alex had died because of an immature placenta, which occurred at the end of pregnancy and can be caused by obesity, excessive weight gain in pregnancy and diabetes, none of which related to me. So although we know the reasons why it is still unknown why it happened to us.

A week or so after we had Alex a number of friends and family asked if we had seen that they were opening a stillbirth unit at QMC and although it was a kick in the teeth that it was opening 2 weeks after we had Alex we were pleased that it was because it was needed. This was the first time that we had heard of Forever Stars. A charity that we became trustees of at the start of this year.

At Alex’s funeral, we asked for donations and gave half to Forever stars and half to Sands. Then in August we did the Big Fun Run at Colwick park and raised over £1200 for Sands. I ran the robin hood half marathon this September for forever stars just 5 months after having our second little girl. We have also worked with the local pub to put on a number of events for forever stars.

The talk about them tea parties are essential in raising awareness of stillbirths and how common they are. It is only when it has happened to you that you realise how common they are.  After we had Alex and we walking to others we found a number of people that had lost their children years ago but they don’t talk about it because of the taboo of talking about it. I think that people who haven’t  had a stillbirth don’t like to talk about it because they don’t know how to deal with it and people who have had a stillbirth want to talk about it but don’t feel like they can because they are worried about the reaction of others.”

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Forever Stars is committed to working in partnership with all our corporate support partners and as a charity, we focus on supporting families in the Nottingham and East Midlands area.