Published on 11 October 2019
When Carina Neeves went to hospital to deliver her baby, she never dreamed she would be returning home without her.
But that’s exactly what happened, after baby Florence tragically died. Carina and partner Mark had to come home empty-handed, to a cot Florence would never sleep in and clothes laid out ready that she would never wear.
The couple, who live in Broadstairs, are sharing their story to mark Baby Loss Awareness Week, and are determined that Florence’s memory will live on and she will remain an integral part of their family.
As well as raising £15,500 for baby loss charity Tommy’s, Carina supports other parents who have lost a child via social media and worked with East Kent Hospitals Trust to improve care for other women and babies.
Carina, 37, said: “People say once you get to 12 weeks pregnant then you’re past the risky stage and everything will be fine.
“But I was almost 41 weeks pregnant and I wasn’t fine. Since Florence died I’ve spoken to so many other parents with similar stories, and if I can help them then I’ve achieved my aim.
“People say I’m strong but I’m not – I’m just doing it for Florence. I use social media to celebrate Florence but also to reach out to bereaved mothers to support them, and that helps me too.”
The pregnancy was low risk, although the midwife detected some growth issues when Carina was 33 weeks pregnant and organised extra scans and checks.
The conclusion was that Florence was just a smaller baby and no one was concerned. Sadly Carina’s placenta had started to fail but it was totally undetectable during the pregnancy.
Carina said: “When I found out she had died it was all such a blur. They kept checking and scanning but she had gone.
“They moved me to the bereavement suite and Florence was born at 5.47pm on 26 April 2018. She was absolutely perfect; there was nothing wrong with her at all.”
The grieving couple had Florence baptised in hospital, and she was able to stay with Carina in the bereavement suite, in a special cool cot, for a few days while medics stabilised her blood pressure.
But then the day came when they had to go home – without Florence.
Carina said: “I remember going to the nursery, and it was all ready for her, and thinking ‘what do I do now?’
“It was such a lonely time. There was the physical part of having given birth and having no baby, and that was hard, but the grief was hardest.”
After leaving hospital, Carina found services did not seem to be joined up, and she was contacted for appointments for her baby and asked about her at a post-natal check.
She wrote to consultants at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital, setting out her experiences, and was invited to a meeting to discuss everything.
She said: “They were brilliant. They went through everything and explained what had happened – my placenta had stopped working; it had slowed down then failed and it’s totally undetectable until you do a post-mortem.
“They worked hard to develop the services to improve care for women in the future and two specialist bereavement midwives were recruited.
“That’s exactly what I wanted – to know that Florence would help to change things and help other people in the future.”
Carina and Mark went on to have a miscarriage, but became proud parents to Reuben in August this year. He was delivered by planned caesarean section, by one of the consultants who had helped the couple after Florence’s death.
Carina said: “It was a very different experience with Reuben. I was so anxious and towards the end it got harder and harder but they were brilliant.
“The whole team came in to the operating theatre for the surgery; midwives, consultants, everyone.
“They still message to see how I am doing and it was lovely to see how pleased they were for us. Everyone was genuinely heartbroken for us when we lost Florence.
“It is lovely to have Reuben but it brings home all the things we didn’t have with Florence. I feel robbed of my little princess but I know she and my dad are looking after him.
“We have always believed that after a storm, rainbows appear, and so we never gave up hope.”