‘She looked absolutely perfect – I’ll never forget pain of losing my baby girl’

‘She looked absolutely perfect – I’ll never forget pain of losing my baby girl’

The roads were empty as Tanya Duman drove to hospital through the early hours of a snowy New Year's Day. At 38 weeks pregnant – and already a mother of three children – Tanya was used to the boisterous rhythm of an unborn baby so close to its due date. 

When she realised she hadn't felt any movements for several hours, Tanya, now 41, decided not to leave things to chance.

"My husband Mark was asleep, as were our other children but I just couldn't settle," recalls Tanya. "I just wanted the baby – who we already knew was a girl – to move.

"I'd tried a few things like drinking cold water and putting the radio to my stomach but there was still no response. So I decided I needed to be checked out – for peace of mind."

Tanya, a portrait photographer, had been at the hospital only 24 hours earlier, suffering from stomach pains but she was told everything was fine.

"I didn't even take an overnight bag with me because I assumed I'd be home again in hours. If anything, the kids would be disappointed if I came home before the baby was born. They were so, so excited about their new baby sister. We all were."

Tragically, it never happened. On arrival at hospital, scans revealed that there was no heartbeat. Within half an hour Tanya was being induced, preparing to give birth to the little girl she knew she would never bring home to her siblings or her father.

"So many things were going through my mind," says Tanya slowly.

"I kept thinking, 'This can't be. I don't understand.' But the practical side of me just thought I need to deliver this baby, to see her, to mourn her. It was just so surreal, so silent. I just wanted it to end."

It did when Tanya delivered her six-and-a-half pound baby, so utterly perfect save for the umbilical cord which had knotted around her foot – a freak occurrence known as a cord accident which cut off her blood supply.

Although the cause of her baby's death appeared to be clear, Tanya yesterday welcomed the proposal by ministers to hold inquests into fullterm stillbirths, of which there are about 3,200 a year in Britain.

The cause is unknown in about 60 per cent of cases. Fewer than a dozen are the subject of an inquest, the others are investigated within the hospital, raising fears of a cover-up.

Research has suggested that many may be due to inadequate care which would be revealed by an inquest.

It is too late for Tanya's baby.

"We named her Na'ama, just as we intended to do – it's Hebrew for pleasant – and I held her for 40 minutes while she was still warm.

"I couldn't stop sobbing and kept thinking, 'This is such a shame'. Apart from her little foot, which had gone blue where the circulation had been lost, she was so perfect.

"The delicate structure of her ears, the fringes of her lashes, those tiny little fingers. And yet they would never be used."

Ten years on from that day indelicate hospital and today Tanya's Manchester home teems with signs of a busy household.

The fridge door is crammed with pictures, there's a chart on the wall tracking treats and screen time, while a line of trainers marshalled together in descending order of size reflect a football-mad of her those tiny would household.

When people ask her how many children Tanya has, what does she say?

"I tell them five," she says, smiling with pride. They are: Malka, 19; Yonah, 17; Doniel, 14; Tal, nine and Sara, seven. "But when people ask how many babies I've had, then the answer is six."

She makes such a seemingly bald statement knowing people are likely to ask the ages of her children and that she will have to reveal she gave birth to a baby who had already died.

But with a natural warmth and bright clear smile, it's obvious that Tanya is a woman who wants to reach out to people, especially other mothers who have experienced stillbirth. She is talking about her experience for the first time to strip the subject of its taboo status.

Tanya is also passionate about a need for greater understanding of the emotional toll it takes – no matter how many children you have.

"When I lost Na'ama, I got so many well-meaning messages from people saying, 'At least you've got three healthy children', or 'Count your blessings' or pointing out that I could still have another baby," Tanya says.

"And they were right. But what we have to do is make the stillbirth itself a conversation, to encourage people to understand what happens when you lose a baby this way. That's a separate conversation from what may or may not happen in the future."

Stillbirth is defined as a baby that dies in the womb after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Before then it is classed as a miscarriage. Yet even though stillbirths are 10 times more common than cot deaths, they are rarely spoken about.

"What's more, a common misconception is that stillbirths happen because of a developmental or genetic problem," says Jenni Byrom, a Birmingham-based consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician.

"Yet with six in 10 stillborn babies, the cause of death is not known.

"A lot of people find it hard to talk to those who have been through this experience. They feel embarrassed and don't know what to say. Even more so, I think, than when people have had a miscarriage."

This was certainly Tanya's experience. Friends felt they should keep their babies away from her for fear of causing further upset.

"I didn't want them to do that, they didn't need to," she says. "I wasn't any less happy for them to have their babies. These are things we need to explain.

"I can be completely by myself in Tesco and suddenly think, 'My baby died, and here I am in Tesco, and I can't believe it.' That comes from within, so people shouldn't feel they can't make an approach. They are almost relieved when they find out you have other children or are planning to have more as it helps their narrative. But we should be open about stillbirth itself. Or the issue of having more children."

There is no guidance about the optimal waiting time between a stillbirth and trying to fall pregnant again.

When it came to having more children, Tanya was resolute and fell pregnant within three months of losing Na'ama.

However, when she discovered that her baby was due a year to the day since she lost her little daughter, she asked to be induced. "I absolutely fell in love with Tal when he arrived," she says.

"He helped me heal so much. But I still had a longing for a daughter. Not to replace Na'ama but because I had seen a glimpse of her.

"When Sara was born I mourned Na'ama's loss even more but celebrated that there would be more of us who would have loved her."

Today Tanya surrounds herself with children, not only her own but because a key part of her photography work is commissioned portraits of parents and children.

"Why are stillbirths still happening in modern, 21st-century Britain when we have managed to address so many other things?

"I have a memory box with Na'ama's hand prints. Or I could go to the grave but I think of her as a living thing. We need to get people to understand that so we can take the taboo away from stillbirth.

"I'll talk and, believe me, I will always want to listen."

Source: Read Full Article