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We feel your pain, Gary

As Gary Barlow and wife Dawn come to terms with the tragic loss of their baby daughter Poppy, a |mum and a dad from Northern Ireland tell Stephanie Bell how they coped with the trauma of stillbirth.

Gary Barlow and his wife Dawn were said to be “in pieces” over the loss of their little girl Poppy who was stillborn on Saturday. The pair broke the news in a statement when they also revealed they are now planning a “beautiful funeral” for their daughter.

The couple — who have three children Daniel (11), Emily (nine), and Daisy (three) — revealed in April this year that they were excited to be expecting another girl.

Dawn had just two weeks of her pregnancy to go when Poppy was tragically delivered stillborn in London last Saturday.

In their statement the couple asked for privacy to mourn their little girl, saying: “Dawn and I are devastated to announce that we’ve lost our baby.

“Poppy Barlow was delivered stillborn on August 4 in London. Our focus now is giving her a beautiful funeral and loving our three children with all our hearts. We’d ask at this painful time that our privacy be respected.”

It is now uncertain whether Gary will appear at the Olympic closing ceremony this Sunday.

The devastation of stillbirth is something which two families in Northern Ireland suffer every week. It is only those families who know the true extent of the Barlow’s pain as they face up to burying the little girl they should have been bringing home from hospital.

Today a local mum and dad who each had a daughter stillborn give an insight into the trauma which follows.

‘The hardest part is no one can answer why it happened’

Joanne Wylie (29), a staff nurse in Craigavon Hospital, and her husband Alan (37), a baker, lost their daughter Amy on August 16, 2010 when Joanne was 37 weeks pregnant. The couple who live in Portadown have two other children, Dylan (six) and Adam, five months. Joanne says:

We heard the tragic news about Gary Barlow and of course we know the pain he and his wife and family are going through and know just how hard a time this is for them.

My pregnancy was going well and I had no reason for concern. Then one day I wasn’t feeling any movement and I decided to take myself up to the hospital.

The midwife scanned me and immediately called the doctor who told me my baby had died as they couldn’t detect a heartbeat.

They arranged for me to come back the next morning to be induced and give birth. I just felt numb, I suppose I was in shock and didn’t take it in straightaway.

I went home and packed my bag and the next morning Alan and I went up to the hospital.

It was horrific giving birth. Amy was born at 9.20am and weighed 6lb 2oz. She was perfect and looked just like she was sleeping.

We spent until the next day at lunchtime with her. The midwife took pictures of us with her and we have her little foot print and hand print.

But instead of taking our baby home, we were planning a funeral. I had everything ready — the nursery, her pram bought and at that stage in your pregnancy you just aren’t expecting anything to go wrong.

I had carried Amy for nine months and felt her kick and hiccup and had that special bond. To push her out and see her so perfect and then to hold her and know she isn’t breathing was horrific.

She was my wee daughter and every girl wants her daughter. The undertaker came and put her in a pram and wheeled her down to the morgue.

We buried her on the Wednesday. It was just horrendous. The funeral was surreal.

You are still sore and producing breast milk and your body is still feeling the effects of giving birth and you have no baby.

To this day I am still asking why and no one has been able to give us a reason and that is the hardest part. The post mortem came back with no explanation.

We had Dylan at home and he got us up in the morning and kept us going. I think if we hadn’t have had him it would have been even harder.

The wee pet is still asking so many questions about Amy and why she didn’t breathe. We don’t want him to forget her but we don’t want him to dwell on it either.

I had two friends who had babies within two weeks of losing Amy and it is so hard, especially with her anniversary coming up next week and knowing they will be celebrating their second birthdays.

My pregnancy with Adam was just terrible. I got loads of extra scans to help reassure me but I worried the whole time and was conscious of every little movement. They induced me at 37 weeks and it wasn’t until he came out crying that I accepted everything was going to be all right.

Amy is in my thoughts every minute of every day. I still ask why. I never drank or smoked and had a healthy pregnancy and my baby was stillborn and it seems so unfair that we lost our wee girl.

People avoid you because they don’t know what to say to you and they cross the street before they will speak to you.

I would prefer if they talked to me about her. I love to talk about her and show people her wee photo, she was so beautiful and she was a wee person in her own right. Life goes on and you have to get on with it but it is a really terrible pain.”

‘Our feelings of loss will never go away’

Julieanne Williams (28) and her husband Christopher (27) from Newtownards lost their little girl Cara Rose on May 13, 2008 when Julieanne was 36 weeks pregnant. The couple, who have since had two other girls, Christina Maria (three) and Dreanna (two), now run a charity in their daughter’s memory The Cara Rose Trust to support other people who have been through the ordeal of stillbirth. Chris says:

When Julieanne was 36 weeks pregnant we went to the hospital for a check-up and were told that the placenta was more mature than the child and that Julieanne would need steroid injections.

We came back to the hospital for the next two days so that she could have the injections.

She was then booked in for another scan a few days later and at the scan they asked if she had felt the baby move.

She told them that she had felt her kick the night before and that’s when they broke the news that there was no heartbeat and the baby was dead.

It was a terrible moment. We were both stunned and Julieanne was in bits.

I was concerned about her as she would be more timid than me and I just knew I had to find the strength from somewhere for both of us. But I did go into the corner of the room and cry on my own.

I did feel as a father my feelings were not taken into account as there were three medical people in the room and no one spoke to me.

I think because Julieanne was so distraught I tried to suppress my emotions to support her. I worried about our family and I couldn’t help thinking about our daughter and what should have been. Silly things like her first day at school and her first birthday were going through my mind. They were now all taken away from us.

We were able to bring her home and she was in our bedroom for two days when we read to her and talked to her and created our own memories.

We just feel that people need to realise these babies are people, they are daughters and sons and they do need to be remembered.

Everything feels surreal for a long time, seeing her wee clothes, organising a funeral and her wee white coffin. It’s like you go into a different state of spirituality. I’ve never been diagnosed with a serious disease, but I imagine it’s a similar feeling when suddenly you appreciate the smaller things that matter to you.

When Julieanne gave birth she was put in a side ward in the maternity unit which was really tough.

One of things we are campaigning for with the Cara Rose Trust is for a special clinic for people who have experienced stillbirth so that they don’t have the added trauma of seeing others celebrate the birth of their new babies.

We also want to provide support for fathers who we feel are often left out.

Women do have a harder time than men both physically and emotionally because they are the ones who have carried the baby and then had to push the baby out.

It’s bad enough having to look at a dead body in a coffin, never mind having to push your dead baby out of your body.

But men are involved, too, and we feel there isn’t any support for them which we are trying to ad

dress. We want to let fathers know it is ok to talk about their feelings and that it is not silly or unmanly to cry.

Setting up the trust was our way of using what we have been through to help others.

We have already sent a package of bracelets to Gary Barlow and while we know how much pain he must be in, we hope that because this has happened to another high profile person it will help put the spotlight on stillbirths.

Even now it is still a taboo subject. People don’t want to talk about it and we need to be talking about it and the fact that two families here will face it every week.

The Government needs to fund research to find out why it is happening which is something we are also campaigning for. With Cara Rose we were not given a reason.

The trust also runs a monthly support group and we hope to launch a befriending service but we need volunteers and we desperately need funds.

We are also the only local charity to give free memorial stones to families.

Our long-term aim is to set up clinics for people with high-risk pregnancies and also to have people who have found out their baby is going to be born asleep to be transported to our clinic so that they can be looked after by fully-trained midwives, nurses and counsellors.

I don’t think our feelings of loss for Cara will ever go away and even now four years on are quite raw.

We know what Gary Barlow and his wife Dawn are going through and the fact that people are talking about it is a positive thing as it is something which no one seems to care about unless it happens to them.”

For help and advice contact The Cara Rose Trust, tel 028 91 229826 or SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death), tel: 07740 993 450

Every parent’s nightmare ...

  • A total of 17 babies die every day in the UK (11 are stillbirths, six are neonatal deaths) over 6,500 baby deaths a year — the equivalent of 16 jumbo jets crashing every year with no survivors.
  • Two babies every week are stillborn in Northern Ireland.
  • Ten times more babies are stillborn than die of cot death every year.
  • The stillbirth rate has remained almost unchanged for the past 10 years. (CMACE)
  • For over half of all stillbirths the cause remains unexplained. These babies are born perfectly formed, with no clear reason why they died.
  • One in every 200 babies is stillborn in the UK
  • The majority of unexplained stillbirths are in pregnancies that were previously considered quite low risk.
  • Stillbirth is when a baby is born dead after 24 completed weeks of pregnancy
  • A neonatal death is when a baby is born alive but dies within the first 28 days of life

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