Losing a baby to stillbirth is one of the most heartbreaking things a couple can go through and Laura Dove and her husband were devastated when their second son Joseph was stillborn at full term. Laura suffered a total of 15 miscarriages, battled depression and saw the breakdown of her marriage. However, 10 years on from when she lost Joseph, Laura has a new husband and has gone on to have three more healthy children.
She tells AASMA DAY her story and how you can be happy again after a tragedy, even though there will always be a part of the family missing.
Deeply sceptical of psychics and clairvoyants, Laura Dove didn’t believe there was any truth in people claiming to have extra sensory powers.
When her friend enthused about an amazing psychic she had seen and urged her to see her, Laura went along out of sheer curiosity, never expecting to hear something momentous.
“You’re pregnant with a little boy,” the psychic told a bewildered Laura.
“No, I’m not”, Laura, who was on the pill at the time, replied. “But I had a baby girl three months ago.”
“Yes, you’re pregnant with a little boy now”, the psychic insisted. “Joseph has sent him for you.”
A stunned Laura looked at the psychic in disbelief. Joseph was her second son who was stillborn at full term in July 2006 and losing him felt like her world had ended.
To further add to Laura’s incredulity, the psychic told Laura she could see a little boy standing next to her and that he was holding an elephant.
Laura, now 36, explains: “We had put a stuffed toy elephant in the coffin with Joseph. Only me and my ex-husband Steven knew this.
“The psychic told me Joseph was always around me and that was very nice to hear.”
When Laura got home, the psychic’s pregnancy prediction played on her mind and even though she didn’t think there was any truth in it, she decided to do a pregnancy test.
Laura recalls: “I was so shocked when the pregnancy test turned out positive.
“The psychic was also correct in her prediction that we’d have a little boy. We named him Harrison Joseph because Joseph sent him to us.
“Harrison is now two and I truly believe he is heaven sent.”
Harrison’s birth completed Laura’s family and brought her new happiness following years of heartache after the tragedy of losing Joseph.
This July would have been Joseph’s 10th birthday and Laura says although the pain of losing her baby will never go away, she has come through the other side and wants people to know it is possible to find happiness again after such a heartbreaking tragedy.
Laura, who lives in Euxton, near Chorley, had suffered a few miscarriages before the birth of her eldest son Lewis, who is now 12.
Then on Christmas Eve 2005, Laura and her husband discovered she was pregnant with their second baby and were elated.
Laura remembers: “We were both so happy and I was convinced it was a boy.
“As I had suffered miscarriages previously, we had early scans and we saw the baby’s heartbeat at six weeks and nine weeks before our 12-week scan.”
Laura admits after she passed the 12-week scan, she relaxed as the miscarriages had all been before this point.
She explains: “I was 26 at the time and naive. None of my friends had children and I did not know anything about stillbirth. It was something people didn’t talk about.”
The couple had their 20-week scan and, from 28 weeks of pregnancy, Laura began seeing midwives regularly.
She recalls: “They kept saying I was measuring small and I did not really have a bump or get very big.
“But I didn’t get unduly worried as I wasn’t very big with Lewis and I had regular growth scans which showed everything was fine.
“I was having scans every two weeks and Joseph’s heartbeat was being monitored twice a week so I was in the best of hands.”
When Laura was 30 weeks pregnant with Joseph, the couple had a 4D scan done privately – something she is now immensely grateful for.
Laura says: “At the time, we just thought it would be a lovely thing to do.
“In hindsight, we are so glad we had the 4D scan of Joseph done as we now have a DVD of him sucking his thumb, opening his eyes and moving around as a fully formed baby.”
It was when Laura was 36 weeks pregnant that the couple’s turmoil began.
It was the day before Laura was due to go in for her next monitoring of the baby’s heart that she remembers feeling a strange movement.
She explains: “It was like Joseph was struggling and fighting and his kicks were erratic and then just stopped.
“After that, I felt movement, but it was not like kicks, but just movement so I thought everything was okay.”
The following day, Laura went to have the baby’s heart monitored and her husband waited in the car as it usually only took a few minutes.
Laura remembers: “The midwife hooked me up, but she could not find the baby’s heartbeat.
“But neither of us were concerned at this point as we just thought he had moved to a different position.
“However, when the midwife still couldn’t find the heartbeat, she went to get a doctor and they still couldn’t find it.
“I started to get panicky and they ran out to get my husband.
“We waited to have a scan and, by this point, I was hysterical.”
Laura had the scan and the couple were given the devastating news that their baby had died in the womb.
Recalling that heartbreaking moment, Laura says: “We both just felt numb.
“I could not believe it and thought they had got it wrong. I kept telling them I had felt the baby move.
“But they explained that what I had felt was the baby moving in the fluid.
“Words cannot describe how devastating it was for us.
“We had done up the nursery in preparation for Joseph’s arrival and had bought everything for him.
“Our eldest son Lewis was only two and was expecting a new baby brother to come home soon.”
Laura had not even considered she would still have to give birth to Joseph but medics explained it was the best way as a Caesarean Section would hold risks for her.
Laura was induced and had to go through the traumatic experience of giving birth to a stillborn Joseph.
Laura remembers: “It was awful and the labour lasted 36 hours even though my eldest was born in 11 minutes.
“It was horrific. I was emotional anyway and I could hear other babies crying next door as I was in the maternity unit and the walls weren’t soundproofed.
“Joseph was born weighing 5lb and he was 48cm long. He had jet black hair and looked just like my eldest and was perfect.
“The first question I asked was: ‘Is he alive?’ I was still holding on to the hope it was all a mistake.
“But they told me that sadly he wasn’t.”
Laura confesses at first she was scared to hold Joseph as she had never seen a dead person before and was fearful.
She says: “Then I held Joseph and he wasn’t a dead person. He was my baby.
“We spent 24 hours with him and bathed him, dressed him, cuddled him and talked to him and told him about his brother Lewis.
“We also cut off a lock of his hair to keep.
“We tried to give him as much as we could in that short space of time.
“After that, it was devastating as other parents were taking their newborn babies home.
“But we went home empty handed and had to plan a funeral.”
Joseph’s funeral was held a week later and Laura says it felt like they were on autopilot.
She says: “We were still very young and did not have a clue how to handle it. Everything seemed to happen so quickly.
“Doctors told us there was no reason or cause and that it was just ‘one of those things.’
“Not having a cause made it even harder to accept. It just seemed so wrong.
“For us, it was not ‘one of those things.’ It was utterly devastating.”
After a year, the couple tried again for a baby and suffered a few more miscarriages before 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Ultimately, the heartache proved too much and their marriage crumbled.
Laura explains: “Joseph’s death and all the miscarriages made being together too hard.
“I became very depressed and shut everyone out, which also contributed to our marriage breakdown.
“It is very difficult to get over a tragedy like that and we ended up splitting up and divorcing.
“I was single again at 28 and thought I would never have another baby.
“I tried to make a life for myself with Lewis and trained as a teaching assistant.”
Laura then met Gareth who she went to high school with and they had a lot of mutual friends.
Laura says: “Gareth asked me on a date and three months later, we moved in together. After another three months, we were engaged.”
Laura and Gareth started trying for a baby but Laura suffered more miscarriages. She had 15 miscarriages in total. Laura says: “I had undergone so many tests to find out why I was miscarrying but doctors couldn’t get to the bottom of it.
“Then I saw another specialist who did lots of tests and genetic testing and suggested that next time I became pregnant, to inject myself with clexane, a blood thinner.”
Laura injected herself as instructed while she was pregnant with Eva and remembers it was a traumatic pregnancy as she was haunted by what had happened before.
She explains: “It was the worst pregnancy and I was convinced she would die. I would not even buy a babygro before Eva was born.
“They induced me at 35 weeks and Eva was born perfect.”
Just six months later, Laura became pregnant with Megan, who was born at 35 weeks, and three months later is when the psychic revealed Laura was pregnant with Harrison.
Harrison was also born at 35 weeks but, as he was born, he stopped breathing and turned blue.
Laura recalls: “I was so frightened Harrison would die and thought we’d tempted fate too many times.
“However, they resuscitated him and he spent two weeks on the neonatal unit before coming home and was absolutely fine.”
Laura and her ex-husband were supported massively by the charity SANDS, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity.
Joseph’s birthday is always a difficult time for Laura, but his 10th birthday seemed an even more momentous milestone and she decided she wanted to give something back to SANDS and celebrate that, although Joseph is not with them, he has left a huge impact on so many people.
Laura has organised a fundraising evening in Joseph’s honour.
Laura, mum to Lewis, 12, Eva, four, Megan, three and Harrison, two, says: “We have been very lucky with our family after the tragedy of losing Joseph.
“My ex-husband Steven also re-married and now has a little boy who is two so it feels like we have all ended up where we are meant to be.
“However, there is always a part of our family missing and I wanted to do something to make Joseph proud. “I want to show people you can be happy again after such a tragedy even though you never get over losing your baby.”
l The SANDS Summer Soiree will be held at Charnock Richard Football Club on Saturday July 16 at 7pm.
The event will include food, music and a raffle. Tickets are £10 and are available from the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/events/244671569204347/ or from Laura on: 07929 645250.
There is also a just giving page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/joseph2006