Saturday, 21 October 2017

Silent agony of couples who suffer stillbirths

FOR expectant parents, little could be more devastating than the loss of a baby.

FOR expectant parents, little could be more devastating than the loss of a baby.

No one knows this better than Lisa Dipper, who gave birth to two stillborn baby girls in the space of seven months.

Mrs Dipper, who lives with her husband Nick in Highmoor, gave birth to their first child, Eden Scarlet, on July 15, 2013 and their second daughter, Hope, on February 28 last year.

Both babies were stillborn with no medical explanation.

Now the couple’s loss has inspired them to raise funds and awareness for a support group that helps grieving parents like them who don’t know where to turn.



Mrs Dipper, 33, has already raised £625 for the Willows Support Group and has a target of £5,000.

The group was formed in 2008 by parents who had all lost babies before, during or shortly after birth.

It was launched with the support of the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading and helped more than 55 families in the area last year.

Mrs Dipper learned about the group two months after the loss of her second child.

She said: “Although stillbirth is more common than you might think, there is very little support out there when you need it.

“We discovered the Willows, which is made up of a small number of people who have been through the same thing. They have been a great support to us.

“Some months you don’t feel like going to the group sessions and other times you can’t wait to go — that’s the beauty of it.

“It’s there if you want it and it’s about the comfort of talking to someone who has been through the same thing as you.”

The group meets once a month and offers an email service for parents who don’t feel ready to attend group sessions. It also raises money for a dedicated room for stillborn babies at the Royal Berks and provides items for parents to take home as memorials.

Mrs Dipper was nearly eight months pregnant with Eden when she went for a routine check-up with her doctor and was told her baby had no heartbeat.

She was rushed to hospital, where the worst was confirmed — Eden had died. Two days later, Mrs Dipper gave birth.

“It was the most horrific thing that you can ever imagine,” she said. “It’s the type of thing you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.

“You think you’ve gone through pain in your life but nothing can ever compare to the despair that you feel.

“I was in labour for about 29 hours, which is not the easiest thing when you have got no result at the end.”

The couple held a funeral for Eden and soon afterwards Mrs Dipper became pregnant with Hope.

She was about five-and-a-half months pregnant when, once again, she went for a routine check-up and discovered her unborn baby had no heartbeat.

This time, she was rushed to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

Mrs Dipper said: “We had the best medical care and the same thing happened again.

“I kind of knew when I was at home the night before and when I went to the doctors in the morning I was sent straight to hospital.”

She says that her and Nick’s world has been turned upside down and that their daily lives continue to be a struggle.

“It changes you completely as a person,” she said. “Your whole life will never be the same.

“One thing you have to accept is that it will follow you around in your head and it never goes away. You don’t know when you’re going to have a good day or a bad day.

“Your life changes but whether it’s five months on or five years you are still struggling with it.

“I didn’t know how many times a baby should kick. They ask ‘are you feeling normal movement?’ Well, what’s that? I’d never had a baby before. Parents who have lost children can say, ‘she liked horse riding’ or ‘her favourite colour was pink’ and remember their first day at school. I can’t do any of that.

“Certain times of the year take you back 10 steps. You think you’re getting somewhere and then you’re taken back. Christmas is a hard one because it’s not how you planned it.

“Hopefully one day there might be a light at the end of the tunnel but, for me, having another baby isn’t going to bring back the two that I should have here.”

One in 200 babies in the UK is stillborn — about 4,000 each year — and there is often no explanation as to the cause.

Mrs Dipper said: “I’m quite a rare case to have had two stillbirths with no reason.

“They have tested both of us as much as medical research extends. We just have to accept and live with the fact that we will never have an answer as to why.”

Mrs and Mrs Dipper have lived in Highmoor for three years and were married in June.

She is originally from Huddersfield and moved south six years ago. She met her 46-year-old husband, a project manager in London, when they both lived in Colnbrook, near Slough.

The Willows Support Group has also provided memory cards to store photographs and memory boxes filled with items such as inkless wipes for their babies’ hand and footprints.

Mrs Dipper said: “Luckily, Nick and I have a strong and fantastic relationship and I dread to think what people who have no support go through.

“But you deal with it on your own because, as fantastic and supportive as your family and friends are, as time passes they have one normal conversation with you and then think you’re okay.

“My doctor has been fantastic but after a certain amount of time there’s nothing they can do for you. I remember thinking, ‘I’m cracking up here. I need somewhere to go’.

“That’s why the support group is only for parents, rather than grandparents or friends, because it’s very difficult to imagine if you haven’t been through it.”

The couple have kept all the clothes and toys they bought for Eden and Hope and the babies’ cots remain in the bedrooms of their house.

“We do as much as we can to remember them,” said Mrs Dipper. “It’s just so difficult knowing they should be here and they are not.

“For me, I suppose I have got a little comfort in the fact that they are together somewhere. Without my memory boxes I don’t know where I’d be.”

Mrs Dipper says that raising awareness about stillbirths is not easy.

She said: “It’s a very difficult subject and nobody wants to talk about it but people need to be made aware of it.

“One in 200 babies is stillborn and there are a lot of parents out there who are not getting any support.

“I want to raise awareness because I don’t want anybody to feel as lonely and on their own as I did and that there’s no help out there when there is. I’ve made it my mission to do as much as I can.”

To make a donation, visit mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/ lisadipper1

For more information about the Willows Support Group, email thewillowroom@hotmail.co.uk or visit www.thewillowroom.org.uk

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