My son’s father already had a child of his own, and 8yo boy, named Kaiden. Clarke was my first pregnancy, and we were so excited to grow our family. From my teenage years I’d been told I wouldn’t be able to conceive because I have a bicornuate uterus and I had struggled with ovulation for many years. So, to be able to take a pregnancy test that came up positive was amazing. Seeing my body change was overwhelming and surreal – an experience I never thought I’d be lucky enough to have.
I’d expected my pregnancy to be difficult because of this, and that’s what happened. My journey with Clarke become more difficult from around 14 weeks. That’s when we found he was not growing at the rate he should have been. I had an amniocentesis, which had come back with positive news that Clarke would simply be a small baby.
Then my belly stopped growing and I couldn’t feel or experience the gestational milestones I should have experienced. I had a scan at 19 weeks 6 days, and it showed Clarke had Absent end-diastolic flow (AEDF) and Maternal Vascular Malperfusion (MVM), which were incompatible with life. Clarke was, for lack of better words, being 'starved’ from my placenta. He wasn’t going to survive much further into the pregnancy.
We had to make the decision to terminate the pregnancy. At 20 weeks and 6 days our baby boy Clarke Oliver Jade Hesling was born on 16th April 2021.
Clarke made me work during the labouring process, it was the most sombre and heart-breaking experience, but I had his father Matthew, who supported every emotion and decision.
I now have my Clarke at home with me, in his special Urn. A part of Clarke also travels with me in the pendant I wear. We’re together, always.
Losing a baby is difficult for everyone. Losing a baby because of a termination for medical reasons is even more isolating as terminations are still not openly discussed and so many parents carry guilt and fear. Clarke’s father went into the Hospital’s PLS Waiting Room, and found pamphlets, highlighting services and groups available to TFMR and PLS families.
The time at home, being alone in my thoughts after my delivery, was extremely difficult. I’d never felt so isolated. Yet, I pushed myself to reach out, joining online forums and video groups. I knew the journey was going to be challenging, so in my mind, I wanted to get ahead of it. I wanted to wrap myself in supports, preparing to weather the storm with support behind me.
I made slow adjustments back to every day living. I would read a page or two in a book or make the bed - small, yet meaningful steps and forward thinking. I started writing letters in my phone, allowing my anger and heartbreak to come out.
One of the benefits I never take for granted was the connection I felt joining Red Nose's peer support groups. I felt understood in my anger, heartache, distress, irritability etc. Other women and families had acknowledged everything I was saying. I felt less alone and more understood than ever during those moments.
I was lucky to connect with other bereaved families through this tragic outcome and that has brought me a feeling of overwhelming peace. Life will never be the same, but Clarke has given me a new perspective that informs every decision and connection I make. I’ve changed and I’ve accepted that is OK.
Red Nose Day is special for bereaved parents because it enables us to embrace a moment of joy and pleasure in the memory of our babies who were gone too soon. I hope this Red Nose Day other families like mine will feel confident to acknowledge their losses and connect with others to find the support they need.