BABY LOSS AWARENESS WEEK

‘Like Chrissy Teigen I took photos of the babies I lost – without them it’s almost as if they never existed’

Katie Bonful, 31, from Kent experienced two miscarriages at 17 weeks, and praises Teigen for having the courage to share her images online and help mothers like her

Monday 12 October 2020 10:10
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Katie Bonful with her first son
Katie Bonful with her first son

Baby Loss Awareness Week runs from 9-15 October 2020 and aims to raise awareness about pregnancy and baby loss in the UK. One in four women will lose a baby during pregnancy or birth.

When I heard that Chrissy Teigen and John Legend had lost their baby, my heart broke for them. In that moment, I did not see them as celebrities, but as parents going through the most traumatic ordeal. As I looked at the pictures Teigen posted on Instagram, I wept – because I could see myself in that picture, and it brought back painful memories.

I experienced two consecutive second-trimester miscarriages – they occurred on the same day, one year apart. Around five weeks into both pregnancies, I had some light bleeding, but when checked by the doctor they reassured me that it was nothing to worry about as it can be normal early in pregnancy. Sadly, 17 weeks into both pregnancies, the worst happened.

I lost my first baby boy on 9 March 2017 and exactly a year later, on 9 March 2018, I lost another. Both pregnancies ended at the same hospital, in the same hospital room, where I had to go through the same excruciating pain of childbirth but with no baby to bring home.

I was even looked after by the same nurses, who unfortunately remembered me from the year before. To say I was heartbroken was an understatement. 

For that moment we felt like a family, I even smiled in some of the pictures…

I remember the first time the nurse asked me if I wanted to see my baby, I was in shock as I did not think that I would be able to see the child I had just lost. A part of me did not want to see my son, as I felt so guilty that my body had failed him, and so I stayed silent. Thankfully, my husband said yes. The nurse brought my baby to me in a little knitted basket, and as soon as I saw him, my heart filled with incredible sadness but also immense love. 

The few hours I spent with my firstborn son is a time I will always be grateful for, and one which I wish I could have again. The nurse took pictures of us in the hospital – my husband, our son and me – and for that moment we felt like a family. I even smiled in some of the pictures, as I wanted to have some sort of happy memories to look back on. Little did I know that I would have to do this all again a year later with my second son.

I did not share these precious images online at the time – unlike Teigen who shared them with her millions of social media followers – afraid of what people would think, as there is so much stigma surrounding baby loss. But taking the pictures really helped to celebrate my sons, and to bring validation that they even existed. 

Without my pictures, it’s almost as if the babies do not exist, as the trauma of losing them doesn’t allow my brain to remember them. However, when I look at my pictures, I feel close to them. I remember them just as they were – which, to me, is perfect, my perfect little boys that I would give anything just to hold one more time. 

Katie with her second son

Those two years will always be difficult years for me. I battled depression, suicidal thoughts, loneliness and anger as to why my babies kept dying and yet everyone around me seemed to get pregnant and have their healthy babies. The thought of getting pregnant again filled me with so much fear as I could not bear to lose another baby.

I did contemplate going for adoption but then something within me said, no, one day you will bring a baby home alive. So, we kept trying. 

My husband and I found out we were expecting again in August 2018. I was happy but terrified. This time, I was advised to have a cervical stitch, in order to hopefully keep my baby inside and prevent premature labour. I had weekly scans all throughout my pregnancy and around four months in, I was put on bed rest.

Every day was a struggle, but I tried to stay positive and have faith that this time things would be different. On 13 April 2019, my beautiful baby boy was born, Maximus, my rainbow after the storm.

I will always be grateful for my boys, my two precious babies in heaven and the one in my arms here on Earth

Losing a child is not easy; in fact, it is the most painful thing I have ever experienced. A part of me will always be missing. And yet the babies that I lost have helped to give me a newfound perspective: that life is to be lived and it truly is a gift. I will always be grateful for my boys, my two precious babies in heaven and the one in my arms here on earth. If you have ever experienced the loss of a child, please know that you will experience dark days, but you will also experience good days, and both are okay. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to feel; that way the healing process can begin. 

As painful as it was to see Teigen’s pictures, I was also in awe of her decision to share them with the world – and the baby loss community applauds her for doing so. All mothers should be able to celebrate their children, whether they are alive or not, in whatever capacity helps them to deal with their grief.

Often there is so much noise and jubilation when it comes to pregnancy announcements online. However, when it comes to baby loss, there is so much silence. This silence has a negative effect on the mother who has lost her baby. Grief is the price we pay for love and talking about our angel babies is a way we celebrate our little ones who ran ahead.

Tommy’s midwives provide information and support for bereaved families and expectant parents struggling with pregnancy after loss. For support from Tommy’s midwives call 0800 014 7800 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm), or email midwife@tommys.org.

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