Sophie and Ed’s first baby, Martha, was born in a critical condition and she passed away in Sophie’s arms at 5-days-old on 26 May 2015.
The couple’s first baby, Martha, was born in a critical condition, having been deprived of oxygen due to a concealed placental abruption, and she passed away in Sophie’s arms at 5-days-old on 26 May 2015 in the Special Care Baby Unit at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. They were transferred to Helen & Douglas House that same evening where they were looked after as a family for a few peaceful days, giving them the chance to spend precious time together and to say goodbye.
Ed and Sophie stayed in one of the family flats during their stay. Ed said: ‘Martha was taken to the air-conditioned room, with a special cot. Obviously, unless you have had the experience of spending a few days with a dead child it is difficult to imagine it, but we did feel very, very, excited to see her every morning. It was massively important to have that. We had a strong sensation that she was looking after us. Especially after she died, the machine was off her, she no longer had a tube. She was very dignified at that point and she did look very beautiful and perfect and it did feel like she was looking after us.’
Sophie said: ‘Being in such a comfortable but protected environment we could come to terms with what had happened, but at the same time she was still there. It was incredibly comforting to sit there quietly and be able to chat to her and hold her and just get used to it. I think if we hadn’t had that it would be such a sudden end. We would have come home without a baby and that would have been it. That transition was so valuable.’
The couple were offered bereavement support while they were staying at Helen House and were supported by the team when they went home. Sophie explained: ‘When you are in a situation like that, when you are so tired, when you are so emotionally drained, someone offering you support, is so important.’
Sophie continued to see one of the Helen & Douglas House counsellors on a regular basis for a year-and-a-half after the couple’s bereavement. ‘It has made such a difference having that ongoing support. It has been really important to me to come back to this place and make time to talk about that. We know how we stand, what our position is, we are open about how we feel about it. We talk about it even now.’
Ed said: ‘One day unexpectedly you might get knocked over by a wave and you won’t see it coming and when you do you will be so grateful that there is a place like Helen & Douglas House in your home city. For me it has turned a sad story into a week of sheer happiness. So it has given me nothing but happy memories of my time with Martha. Coming here made us feel like two parents with a daughter.’
‘The memory of Martha shouldn’t be spoiled with the sadness. It was the most dignified and respectful thing to have happened to Martha. She wasn’t just a dead baby, she was a person. So it was absolutely vital.’
Sophie said: ‘Helen & Douglas House just changes lives on so many different levels. Even in the midst of a really tragic experience it can be turned around in a place like this.’