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'We lost our baby Isabella but she will always be our daughter', say parents hoping to break taboo of stillbirth

By Ann W Schmidt

Published 06/10/2016

Richard and Siobhan Cadwallader with their precious album of Isabella
Richard and Siobhan Cadwallader with their precious album of Isabella
Richard and Siobhan Cadwallader with Harry, and Isla, and a photo album of Isabella

Like most parents, Richard and Siobhan Cadwallader talk a lot about their children, including their third - a baby girl who was stillborn.

Isabella Grace Cadwallader was born on June 25 last year and even though she was stillborn, her parents want to remind people that she was their child.

"Isabella was our daughter. She was a baby. She was very much alive. I felt her inside me, I could feel her move.

" I had that bond with her, but unfortunately she passed away," Siobhan said.

"We want people to know that she was a person and she very much is our daughter. She will always be our daughter."

Siobhan (29) and Richard (35) live in Lisburn and both work in supported living, helping adults with learning disabilities. In December 2014, they found out Siobhan was pregnant.

"We were a bit surprised, but happy surprised," Siobhan said.

The couple already had two children, Isla, who is now four and Harry, who is three.

With her first two pregnancies Siobhan had some issues with morning sickness and high blood pressure, but with Isabella, her blood pressure was fine and everything seemed okay. But at 35 weeks Siobhan woke up feeling strange.

"I woke up at 5 o'clock that morning. I was really unsettled. I just realised that I hadn't felt her move," she explained.

The couple decided she should get checked at the Ulster Hospital. At first, when the scan didn't pick up a heartbeat, Siobhan thought Isabella was in a weird position. But when they did a second scan, Siobhan said there was nothing on the screen.

"I just remember the doctor's face. The colour just drained out of her… That was when we knew she was gone. It was awful."

Another consultant came in to discuss how they were going to deliver the baby and doctors agreed to give Siobhan a caesarean the next day. At first she didn't want to wait, but she later realised it was the right thing.

"It's not even that we were able to come to terms, because it was months before we could come to terms, but it was just to be with our family," she added.

The Ulster Hospital's bereavement midwife talked them through the next steps. After Isabella was delivered, they would be staying in a bereavement suite as opposed to the maternity ward and they would be allowed to keep Isabella with them for as long as they wanted.

Before the delivery, Siobhan said she thought it was odd that she was allowed to keep Isabella.

"But when she was born it was the most natural thing in the world to have her. She lay beside me in that wee cot for two nights… I think that was a great comfort, just to have her there and hold her," Siobhan said.

Siobhan and Richard's parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles also came to visit, just like when they came to visit Harry and Isla when they were born.

"Isabella was our baby and she was our daughter and she was a granddaughter and niece," explained Siobhan. But they couldn't be with her long.

"We had two days which should have been a lifetime. Two days with her and that was it. There was never going to be enough time to have with her."

When Isabella was born, she had no physical signs that something was wrong. Doctors later found she had died from foetal-haemorrhaging, something that would not have been found unless doctors were looking for it during the pregnancy.

After their two days with Isabella, the Cadwalladers and their family held a funeral for her, but coping has not been easy.

"I don't think it's anything you can really get over," Richard said.

Having Harry and Isla has helped.

"The kids have made us have to get on every day," Siobhan added. "I think if Isabella had been our first baby, it would have been a very different experience because our grief could have much more easily consumed us. We've had to try and fight it for the kids."

Richard and Siobhan have also been involved in a focus group at the Ulster Hospital called Forget Me Not, which was set up for parents who experience miscarriages, stillbirths or the death of their child.

Being involved with Forget Me Not has helped Richard and Siobhan by giving them a place to be the parents of Isabella.

"We don't get to do much mummy-daddy stuff," Richard said. "But now with Forget Me Not I get to do it as her dad."

This year, for Isabella's first birthday, Richard and Siobhan held a family fun morning to raise money for the Forget Me Not focus group. In total they raised £3,072 and they will be presenting the money next week for Baby Loss Awareness Week.

Because stillbirths are considered taboo, the Cadwalladers understand why people feel uncomfortable mentioning Isabella.

But Siobhan said it is more helpful for them to talk about Isabella.

"People's silence breaks our hearts more... We want to talk about her," she added.

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