writer & housewife blogging about life



Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Baby Loss Awareness Month: Isla's Journey.

Baby Loss Awareness, Still Birth Story, Premature Babies, Twins, IVF Struggle, Prague Clinic
Ashely with first born daughter Esme.
Ashley and Mitchell Simons had been struggling to fall pregnant. Tests later confirmed that unfortunately both had fertility issues and after having tried and failed fertility medication they decided the best option for them was to try and conceive via IVF.

It wasn't an easy journey and despite undergoing three rounds of IVF treatment on the NHS, sadly each proved unsuccessful including one resulting in miscarriage.

Despite the heartbreak and tears, once they were ready Ashley and Mitchell looked into going private. Upon research, Ashley realised it might be a better option for them to go abroad and soon found a clinic that stood out to her.

''I contacted about 8 clinics in Prague only to have three replies'' explained Ashley. ''One reply stood out, from a lady called Anna. She was compassionate and understanding and I immediately felt a connection'' With help from parents and with the prospect of also treating the trip as an overdue honeymoon, the couple set off on the start of a journey that would change their lives forever.

After an amazing trip of shopping, site seeing and sunbathing the couple headed home with 2 embryos on board and a further 8 in the freezer to use at a later date should they need to. Once again came the long two week wait they were so familiar with and despite not having any symptoms Ashleys pregnancy test came back positive. After a worrying start, everything turned out OK and Ashley was indeed pregnant - with twins!

Sadly, at 24 weeks after many bleeds and illnesses Ashley went into premature labour. ''At 3am I woke to pains, never imagining I was in labour I went to the bathroom and as I stood up I felt a pressure below and immediately put my hand there.''

Ashley was taken to hospital in an ambulance and immediately met with the neonatal teams and emergency doctors who tried to stop the labour. Despite their efforts the labour couldn't be stopped and at 7.16pm on the 20th January 2018, Esme Sarka Simons was stillborn weighing just 670g. ''She was the most beautiful and perfect little girl'' remembers Ashley. At 8.20pm Isla Lenka Simons arrived weighing just 655g and was immediately taken to NICU to be cared for.

As soon as she was born, Esme was taken away to be resuscitated. Ashleys mother instinct told her that Esme had already gone but after five minutes of trying to save her, doctors sadly confirmed her suspicions.

Ashley believes Esme saved her sister the night she was born. ''She had broken out of the waters from the back and pretty much planted herself in the birth canal while I was given a whole load of drugs to help make them stronger. She had a heartbeat right up to the last second when I gave birth to her.'' Two minutes from having the relevant drugs needed to help the babies, Esme started to appear meaning she would have barely absorbed what had been administered, unlike Isla who was born an hour later.

Baby Loss Awareness, Still Birth Story, Premature Babies, Twins, IVF Struggle, Prague Clinic
Meeting Isla.
After the births, Esme was cleaned up, dressed and placed in Moses basket. After taking a photo, Ashley held her daughter and told her how proud she was of her for fighting to survive and for helping her sister to live. The nurses asked if they wanted to take her hand and footprints. ''I was too scared to but I trusted the midwives completely and asked them to do it and talk to her like she was still here, which they did.''

The family were moved to the 'Forget Me Not' suite, a room set up by a bereaved mother for parents after a loss or to deliver babies that have already passed away in the womb. Esme was with them the entire night and they were able to cuddle her and change her if they wanted. ''It was so nice to be able to have one night with her beside us. I kept staring at her willing her to wake up, wanting to cry but knowing I had to be strong.''

At midnight, Ashley and Mitchell were told they could visit Isla in NICU and Ashleys first thoughts were who would stay with Esme. ''One of the midwives offered to sit and read to her while we were downstairs, it seems surreal but was such a beautiful gesture.'' she remembers. Isla was quickly transferred to the Royal London Hospital where she spent the next five months and as time passed Ashley learned to help with Islas care.

The morning after the births, once showering and dressed, Ashley held Esme for the last time. As she looked out of the window, holding her first born child it started to snow. As a fan of 'Frozen' Ashley started to sing 'Do you wanna build a snowman'. When the time came to leave they asked that Esme be taken out first so that it didn't feel as though they had left her alone in the room. Esme was taken to the mortuary and while the couple were allowed to visit her whenever they wished, they chose to remember her as she was in their arms.

Ashley was given support from the bereavement midwife although at that time her main focus was on Isla . The family were also given a memory box with a birth certificate (not an official one) as well as other keepsakes including her handprints and footprints.

Esmes funeral was on 5th February 2018. She was entitled to a 'still' birth certificate however had she been born a day earlier would not have been given one. On the day of her funeral it snowed again. ''It was a perfect day and the snow was her way of saying she was here.'' Says Ashley. ''It has snowed on some of our hardest days with Isla and I always felt it would be OK as Esme was with us.'' After Esme's funeral they built a snowman as a memorial for her.

Fast forward to the 7th July 2018 Isla was back in her local hospital in Basildon, Essex, where they were all looked after by a superb team they now consider extended family thanks to the tears, frustration and laughter they all went through together. At 138 days old the couple were finally able to take Isla home with oxygen support.

Since being home the couple have been through more ups and downs and Ashley was diagnosed with PTSD after everything she had been through. ''But I am determined not to give up. Isla never has so why should I?'' Despite their traumatic journey together Ashley and Mitchell were determined something good would come from their heartache. ''We have channeled our energies into helping others; we set up our own Facebook pages and websites as well as starting charity work to help other parents. There's no stopping us now!''

The couple have called their page 'Islas journey' and help others who are going through a similar experience. They have created various different care packages to help parents during their most worrying time so that the parents can focus on their baby and not worry about the little things they need.

''Our aim is to support others and make them aware they're not alone.'' Ashley explained.

So what does the future hold for the Simons family? ''We have 8 embryos left in the freezer in Prague and we hope to use them in the future, although not all of them!'' Ashley also stated she was apprehensive about having 2 transferred this time as she doesn't want the risk of history repeating itself. ''Until then we are happy to try the natural way, see if we could be blessed with another little miracle. Apparently it happens a lot after IVF but for now we are excited to watch Isla grow and develop into the little superstar she is proving to be.''

Baby Loss Awareness, Still Birth Story, Premature Babies, Twins, IVF Struggle, Prague Clinic
Ashley with Isla aged 9 months. 

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