THIRTY-FIVE weeks into what was a perfect pregnancy Lauren Millar’s world fell apart when doctors could not find a heartbeat for her baby daughter, Grace.
And almost two years on from that horrendous day in the then 19-year-old’s life Lauren is campaigning for more research and information on stillbirth.
Lauren’s daughter baby Grace was stillborn on October 20, 2009.
“It was a perfect pregnancy, everything had went so well,” the 21-year-old told the Times.
“Grace was always a very active baby, she loved music and going to the cinema and would kick all the time. I knew what she was going to be like, you just knew her personality so well, I fell in love with her right from the very beginning.
“The whole family were so happy. We had got the nursery all ready, bought all her clothes and toys and were ready to welcome her into our family.
“I had planned her whole future out - not for one second did I think that she would never get a chance to play with her toys or wear her clothes.”
Lauren continued: “When one day I didn’t feel her move I knew there was something just not right.
“In the hospital I lay on the bed and waited for the reassurance of hearing my baby’s heartbeat during the scan, but all I heard was silence and when the doctor said she couldn’t find it, my world fell apart - it was the worst day of my life.”
The following day Lauren was induced and had to go through almost 12 hours of labour in the Maternity Unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.
Lauren continued: “No-one tells you what to expect, you are told you have to go through labour and birth and all the pain but you don’t know what that means and at the end your baby is taken away from you.
“I was in a Delivery Room in the Maternity Ward which is designed so you can’t hear other babies being born. But I could still hear one or two, which was horrible, hearing cries of other babies but not mine.
“It’s the exact same labour as any other baby except it is much harder as the baby is not moving and helping you and you have to do it all yourself. It was so traumatic - there was no other way to do it - it really was just horrific.
“But when Grace was born she was just perfect, like any other newborn baby.”
Following the birth, Lauren and her family spent three days with Grace, who was christened by her grandfather, before the funeral service. An examination of the placenta showed that it was too small to provide the vital lifeline between mother and daughter.
Lauren went on: “We were lucky we got the days with Grace when she was born and a lot of people got to meet her and we got lots of pictures, but it was never enough.
“Birth is supposed to be a happy time and no one wants to think about death, but there needs to be more openness about it.”
Lauren has campaigned and raised funds for stillbirth charity Sands and has also taken part in an exhibition by photographer, John Kemp. His work, entitled 17, highlights the number of women who give birth each and every day to stillborn babies or who have children who die soon after birth.
Lauren continued: “The matter needs to be highlighted and we need to have specially trained doctors and midwives who can spot the warning signs.
“It is happening so much and if maybe I had been aware of it, things might have been different.
“I was not in the high risk category for childbirth and never thought there would have been a problem and many other pregnant mothers might feel the same, but, if there was more awareness of stillbirth, it could make a real difference.
“With Grace the placenta was too small, which is something that is never monitored during the entire pregnancy. If that is discovered early then babies can be saved.”
Lauren, who works at a Ballyclare estate agents, added: “People have said to me would you not try for another one but that doesn’t bring back Grace, that’s the one you want. It is not as easy as people may think, you are always in fear it might happen again.
“It will be Grace’s second birthday this October, but it still feels like yesterday, it doesn’t get any easier.
“Grace had the most beautiful hands that gripped round your fingers when you held them. To us Grace was not dead, she was alive to us for those three days and I will cherish that time for the rest of my life.”