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Personal Stories

Gemma's Story: My Angel Gabriel

I remember hearing about a girl having a stillborn baby when I was at school, but never knew what it meant or even thought it would happen to me.

First Job

Starting my first full time job at 17 was exciting, a big company and some big responsibilities. Just had to get though a scary operation to remove my tonsils first. I had two weeks holiday for the op and to get back to full health, they prescribed a week’s course of antibiotics. A month later I realised I was late, I did a test with my mum.

I remember opening the door crying, she didn’t even have to look at the test to know the result. I knew she was disappointed in me, me and Mike had struggled from the get go and I knew if I kept it he wouldn’t stick around. I have a decision to make, everyone was so supportive. Even though I really hated the thought of going to the clinic, I knew it was the only choice. No one apart from me wanted to keep it.


My dad came with me to the first appointment; you have to be assessed before they allow you to abort a baby. I was so scared. They were happy with the reasons why and all they needed to do is scan my belly to see how far gone I was.

The only word I remember hearing is ‘ectopic pregnancy’ and asking my dad to take me home. He roughly knew what it meant and said the baby was growing in my in my fallopian tube, that it was dangerous for me and the baby. I went from scared to terrified in one afternoon.

Later that night I started bleeding heavily, me and Mike rushed to the hospital. We were zipped through A & E to the early pregnancy unit and they scanned me straight away. It was confirmed I was losing my baby. I was sent home, not knowing if I was just loosing my baby or if my body was still at risk.

My Rod

After that I had to sort out long term precautions as Mike hated the thought of children, and I couldn’t go through that again. The Implanon now named the Nexplanon is a small rod inserted in the arm and was very new at the time. I had the 3 year rod fitted and I was told it would work straight away and there’s a high chance of no periods for the whole term.

My 18th birthday was so exciting I was able to go out and drink, we had a weekend in London planned. The Lion King, shopping, sightseeing and a lot of drinking. My first New Years Eve out in a nightclub wasn’t so great we fell out over some girl, I was smashed and we were having a real trouble with trust. I was determined to make this a good year though.

A New Year

The first few months I was working hard and felling like a proper woman, my girl body was gone I was gaining a bit more weight than wanted but it was ok. It’s what happens over winter. The only downside was a constant feeling of bloating and being slightly uncomfortable every now and then.

Butterflies are still the only way I can describe the feeling, or even like a washing machine in the pit of your stomach whooshing around. I would have to almost sit in the middle of Sainsbury’s when the feelings took over. I thought I had a mild form of IBS as my mum suffers and all the signs led to that, my belly was bloated and uncomfortable. I would sit in the smoking room at work with other colleagues taking about the IBS I had self diagnosed myself.

Then the need for chocolate éclairs and battered sausages every day, it was like an obsession. I remember one Sunday night, Mike driving all over Swindon to find somewhere, anywhere that sold a big greasy battered sausage.

02 March 2007

The pain started first then the bleeding. I had the day off work; I thought I was getting my period which was ok as I knew I could. I knew the risks with having the rod fitted, that I could have a period the whole 3 years or on and off or no period at all.

The pain doubled I was in agony and decided to go to A & E just to be safe. My mum and Mike were there with me, the pain was making me pace and squat about. I felt so odd and knew something was seriously wrong. They took a sample of my blood to see what was happening, the result I was pregnant.

We were sent in shock to the Early Pregnancy Unit, the scan was uncomfortable. Mike was at my side but I couldn’t look at what was going on in my belly knowing his feelings. The scan showed a baby 19-20 weeks with a heartbeat. They sent me home saying the pain and bleeding can be normal, and I was to decide what to do with regards to carrying on with the pregnancy or not.

We were all dumbfounded; 19 – 20 weeks I couldn’t even comprehend what that meant. That night me Mike and his brother went for a drink, we didn’t tell him about what we had found out. I think we were both trying to figure it out first, but the shock was unbelievable.

I realized why my clothes weren’t fitting; I had forced myself into jeans and tops for months. Why I had been feeling these odd sensations in my belly, then the realization of a person was growing inside me right then and there. We didn’t discuss what to do; I think we both wanted to sleep on the thought.

03 March 2007

The pain woke me the sudden rush of the most extreme pain; I had no idea what was happening just that I needed an ambulance. I sat up in bed and a feeling of release swept over me, water was everywhere. I shouted for Mike to leave the room as I knew something terrible was happening and to hurry and get an ambulance. We both didn’t have a clue what was happening.

I needed to push, I could see feet and then an overwhelming feeling took over me. I knew I had to get the baby out; it didn’t cross my mind why. It was a case of me or the baby. I place my hand around the feet and pulled while pushing. Mike walked in and said the ambulance was on its way, by this point I had pulled out the most beautiful boy. Before I had a chance to react, Mike grabbed him and took him downstairs.

The ambulance arrived and in a blur I was in the van on gas and air, still not really sure what had just happened. The feeling of not being able to move due to the straps and ongoing contractions was horrible. I remember the feeling of the afterbirth and not being able to move, but the ambulance staff being adamant I was wrong and that was still to happen when we got to the hospital.

We got to A & E my Mum, Dad and brother were there crying and trying to comfort me and themselves. Then it hit me, I was empty. I had a little boy growing inside me, and now he was in a cardboard sick bowl. They transferred me to the maternity ward, I had my own room. It’s all quite a blur, it felt like I was in there for days but I don’t think it was.

I was on my own, Mike and my Mum had gone to sort out the house. I had ruined the mattress and things had to be cleaned up, my Dad took Aidan somewhere, shopping I think. I wanted my son; the nurses were very kind in doing a few photos of him and his hand and footprints.

The hospital priest came round to pray with me, I don’t remember paying much attention to anything. A lot had to be sorted before the baby’s body and myself could be released; his funeral, who the funeral directors would be, when and where it would be.

I had one very precious moment with him, I asked to see him, they warned me about what he may look like and I didn’t care I just wanted to be near him. The basket was white; a white knitted blanket covered his body. His beautiful button nose caught my eye first, and then his long pianist fingers with the smallest of nails I have ever seen.

I held the basket tightly to my chest, wishing I would wake up. I knew I had to let him go back with the nurses as everyone was due to come back and I wasn’t sure how they would feel seeing him. I got the impression my Dad didn’t want my Mum or my brother to see the baby at all. And Mike, well I knew he didn’t even want to name him and that he wouldn’t have wanted him anyway.

I felt very alone, lost and dazed. Had this really happened.

Your Funeral

I had only been to one before my son’s and that was my Great-Granddad, we decided it was only going to be us at his blessing and everyone could lay flowers after. We were then to meet Mike’s best mate, brother and my Mum for a drink after.

The funeral directors were great, he had a lovely free coffin, and we were able to see him before the day. We wrote separate letters to him that were private from each other and a little teddy for company. The wreath was perfect white and blue, it all felt very surreal, he was laid to rest in the baby area of Witworth Road Cemetery.

The evening was very sad; they were all very supportive and caring. Even though no-one had any idea he was growing inside me, we were all morning the loss of him. It was either the loss of blood, the lack of food and sleep or the amount of drink to remove the pain but I passed out so the evening ended very quickly.

Back to Life

Work were great to begin with, my team were very sad for me and so supportive. It didn’t stop people from making their own assumptions as to why I was off and only coming in to speak to HR or my manager.

It got difficult before I started back. A lady had stopped me and asked “have you been naughty and is that the reason you’re seeing HR”, implying I had done something wrong. I flipped, how dare she accuses me of something when I was really going through such a traumatic loss. But I know it wasn’t her fault, she wasn’t to have known the real reason.

My first week back was hard, so many condolences and questions. I wanted to stick a sign on my head so I didn’t have to answer the same tiresome questions. I was still bleeding heavily, and someone noticed a blotch on my tights. That’s when I broke, it was too much too soon, I knew any more time off and they would be less caring but it was no good, I had to go off sick again.

The more time off the worse I felt about going back, I felt house bound and not the person I was. I felt like babies were everywhere and mine was so far away. Then the day came when someone at work was expecting, it felt like a massive knife in the back. Like a vicious direct attack at me.

The doctors were unhelpful, they wouldn’t prescribe me with anything to help me sleep or any anti-depressants. They suggested counselling but I needed something to numb the pain. I couldn’t speak to Mike about it; I knew how he felt and that closed us off from each other.

But I gave him a name in my head, Gabriel; he was my angel after all.


Three years down the line I was so depressed I drank myself stupid and tried to take my own life. If my best friend hadn’t have come round, I think I would have been successful, I just wanted him back and if that meant being with him I was willing to do whatever it took.

She made me realise that Mike in his own way was suppressing my feelings for my son, and I needed to do something about it. I Googled stillbirth and came across a charity called SANDS they help people come to terms with their loss.

I knew Mike wouldn’t be up for going to speak to people and that I had to do this for myself. I decided to go to one of their monthly meetings on my own. I sat in the car outside the centre for what seemed a lifetime, deciding whether or not to go in. Walking through I had all these eyes on me, was it that obvious I was new I thought. I sat down and they all seemed not sure what to say or do with me. I think someone said hi, and I just ran out crying.

A lady followed me to the loos and introduced herself as Cathy she told me about her son Adam he was a few months older than Gabriel. But I felt able to tell her my story and to rejoin the group. Within no time at all I felt a part of something, and able to call him Gabriel felt amazing.

I left my first meeting very emotional but like a huge weight had lifted, I had said his name out loud and I was finally able to be proud of him and felt empowered to do so. Mike wasn’t so keen on the idea; I think he was happier not to have the ‘awkward’ conversations. But I now felt able to accept Gabriel into my life.

In one meeting I knew I wanted his feet tattooed onto mine and that I wanted to do it on his anniversary, that I wanted people to call him Gabriel and that maybe things would have to change to do so.

Time goes by

As the years pass me by I wonder what kind of person he would be, his interests. Every year feels a bit harder as he would be a proper little person now, with inspirations and dreams.

Every milestone makes me think of him, my birthday, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Halloween, start of school year, his due date, and his anniversary. The year is full of reminders of what I have lost and will never regain. Another child will not be Gabriel. Another year will not be a little closer to moving on.

I had to fight so hard to make him a part of my life, and will continue to keep him a part of me.

I don’t expect people to understand and fully comprehend what I have been through. I would just like people to know he will always be a part of me, and I will always find it hard to bear.

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