Fear and anxiety surrounding pregnancy and childbirth is called tokophobia and often affects those who have experienced traumatic births or suffered the heartache of losing a baby.
Alison Baker suffered the tragedy of losing her first daughter Macy soon after birth, which resulted in her experiencing a lot of anxiety during the pregnancy and birth of her second daughter Pippa.
She tells AASMA DAY her story and how Pippa has brought happiness back into their life, although they will never forget Macy
‘It was the darkest time of our life. I could never imagine ever feeling happy again.”
Alison Baker and partner Chad Battersby, a tree surgeon with his own business, were thrilled when they discovered they were expecting a baby together and were full of excitement at the prospect of parenthood.
Alison, 32, a family lawyer, recalls: “Macy was planned and we got pregnant very quickly and I remember being super excited about it all.
“It was a pretty straightforward pregnancy and everything went smoothly.”
The couple, who live in Cleveleys, were told at a scan that Alison had a low lying placenta, but that it was quite common and nothing to worry about.
Alison had a couple of bleeds and medics decided to deliver her baby by emergency Caesarean Section at 33 weeks and two days.
Macy Wren Battersby was born on April 15 2015 at 4.44am and to her parents’ utter devastation and disbelief, she died just one hour and 46 minutes later at 6.30am.
Her eyes filling with tears at the bleak memory, Alison says: “She was a perfectly well baby. There was no indication anything was wrong.
“It was totally heartbreaking for both of us.”
Numb with grief, Alison describes how she struggled to cope and was gripped with anxiety and a whirlwind of emotions.
Alison explains: “I had never been through anything so traumatic before.
“I really tried my best to hold myself together in public but when I got home, I would sob and sob and sob.
“It was horrible. I did not realise I could cry like that.
“I also felt anger. I hated my own body and was angry at it and blamed my body and felt I was a failure.
“You feel like you have failed at something everybody else seems to do so easily.
“You are constantly thinking: ‘What if?’ and want to turn back time and do things differently.
“Even though there is nothing I could have done differently, I kept thinking if I had the benefit of hindsight there might have been or I would think: ‘What if she was delivered a day early?’
“For quite a while afterwards, I could never imagine ever feeling happy again or laughing or smiling again. I remember thinking: ‘I wish someone would tell me when I will feel better.’
“I did not really want to see anyone apart from immediate family as I found it too nerve-wracking as I did not feel able to talk about it.
“I developed anxiety and would feel panicked if I was going from one place to another.
“It was difficult for both myself and Chad. We were both grieving.
“We supported each other and that brought us closer. There is no one else in the world I shared that with.”
Alison admits that while she was going through that dark time, she found it difficult seeing women who were pregnant.
Alison says: “I did not like to see anyone pregnant or with a newborn as I felt envious of them.
“But as well as feeling envious of them, I felt frightened for them as I did not want the same thing to happen to them and I knew things could go wrong.”
Alison and Chad saw a counsellor for a while to help with their grief and Alison remembers her telling them: ‘You will either sleep too much or not at all.’
Alison says: “We both slept heavily. I wanted each day to go quickly and I did not want to be awake and thinking about it.
“But the next morning, I would wake up and remember it all again.”
Alison recalls feeling like she really wanted a baby and felt ready to be a mum. But she says: “I wanted Macy. I did not want another baby.
“It took us a few months to get our heads around this.”
Alison says she eventually reached a point where she could contemplate trying for another baby.
Alison explains: “I realised I could not change things and bring Macy back, but I could change not having children at all.
“We had lots of tests to see if it was anything genetic that had caused Macy’s death. When it was confirmed it was not anything genetic, we decided we would like to try again.”
Alison recalls how getting pregnant was then constantly on her mind and she became anxious as this time it seemed to take longer.
The couple discovered Alison was pregnant two weeks before Macy’s first birthday.
Alison remembers: “It was very bittersweet. It felt very scary and I did not dare imagine we would end up having a baby.
“People would tell me to try and enjoy the pregnancy. But I could not enjoy it as I did not want to lose another baby.
“I felt very anxious and nervous and was panicking every day.
“If you dared let yourself get excited, you would chastise yourself. It is like you are letting yourself in for another fall.
“I was very careful during my first pregnancy and was the same again and did nothing to risk the baby.”
Laughing ruefully, Alison adds: “I should have been paying rent to the hospital as I was in there once or twice a week and all the midwives knew me.
“They monitored me more regularly and I had a lot of scans.
“They tried to put me at ease but I knew anything could happen and did not take anything for granted.
“Every appointment, I was a bag of nerves.”
Pippa Autumn Battersby was born on November 15 2016 by planned Caesarean Section as Alison did not want to take any risks.
Alison recalls: “Pippa was born weighing 5lbs 12oz and was healthy and well.
“Her birth was very emotional.
“When Pippa was born and I heard her crying, I remember shouting: ‘Give her to me!’ like a nutter.
“As soon as they did, I felt better because I did not get to do that with Macy.
“I was so happy but I remember saying to Chad: ‘Why could this not have happened the first time so Pippa could have a big sister and we would have both of them now?’
“Throughout my pregnancy with Pippa, I felt guilty for Macy as I knew we would potentially have a baby who would have everything in life Macy was supposed to have.
“Some people think that when you have another baby, it will replace the baby you lost.
“But that is not the case. You can never replace the baby you lost.
“I still think about Macy every day and we will never forget her.”
Alison‘s advice to anyone going through the same thing is to voice their fears to health professionals and not to feel like there is a stigma.
She says: “I never used to go to the doctors before this happened and I used to be conscious of wasting people’s time.
“But if you have been through something like this, there is no one more deserving of the service so don’t be afraid to use it.”
Pippa will be celebrating her first birthday this week and Alison says she has brought so much joy into their lives.
She says: “Pippa is brilliant and has given us our life back.
“I thought I would never be happy again but she has brought happiness back into our life.
“We love Pippa so much but we also love Macy and will never forget her.
“When you lose a baby, people are scared to speak to you about it as they don’t want to upset you.
“But one of the nicest things people can do is remind you that they remember her.
“One of the biggest fears is that people will forget her but we will never forget Macy.
“My advice to anyone who has friends this has happened to is to not fear reminding them that you remember their baby.
“It is like a little gift when you remember.”
Tokophobia is anxiety surrounding pregnancy and childbirth and leading Lancashire medical negligence specialist Diane Rostron says it should receive more support.
Official figures show 14 per cent of women suffer with this anxiety around the world with some women avoiding pregnancy altogether or even terminating pregnancies due to the debilitating fear of giving birth.
Diane Rostron, a specialist medical negligence solicitor with more than 20 years experience, says: “I work with families who have experienced traumatic births and their newborn has been significantly injured because of medical errors.
“Incidents like this can leave a lifetime mark and devastate lives.
“Some of my clients have understandably been very fearful of having more children as a result of being let down during a time when they are the most vulnerable.
“Many however, successfully go on to complete their families with the right support around them.
“There should be an increased spotlight on the issue to allow women who are affected to talk freely about their fears and gain the support they need from health workers, counsellors and other specialists to allow them to move beyond what is a very debilitating and very real anxiety.
“News from the Royal College of Midwives in August that it would no longer tell women that they should try to have their baby without medical intervention is a move in the right direction providing pregnant women with options that work for them.
“There is no shame in opting for having a baby by Caesarean Section for example, if this is the right decision for the individual and their child.
“More needs to be done to highlight the organisations and support available to those who have this condition to allow them to go on to have healthy, happy pregnancies and births – they don’t have to suffer in silence.”
Diane Rostron is a leading medical negligence solicitor specialising in birth trauma and birth injuries.
Securing a number of high profile multi-million-pound compensation settlements for families who have been injured as a result of medical negligence, she works with a team of medical and legal specialists to support families in these circumstances.
n To make an enquiry following an incident of trauma or injury suffered during childbirth, contact Diane Rostron’s team for a free initial consultation on 01253 766 559 or visit www.dianerostron.co.uk