October 9th-15th is Baby Loss Awareness Week. Throughout the week bereaved parents, family and friends will commemorate the all-too-brief lives of their babies, knowing that thousands of other families elsewhere in the world will be doing the same. One in four women lose a baby during pregnancy, at, during or after birth.
Nearly 8 years ago, I had my beautiful new baby girl asleep in my arms and I was online, catching up with a bunch of other women who had also just had their baby, or were due to give birth, during November 2007.
We’d all known each other for 8-or-so months, “speaking” many times a day. We had ‘met’ online on a (now-defunct) website with forums for pregnant women to, frankly, be awful and hormonal together.
Real life marriages and friendships were protected by this special place where we could share the maddest, baddest and saddest things we were feeling as our bodies raged with hormones and we lost sight of our feet.
However hysterical and unreasonable our feelings were, we knew we would get a resounding “ME TOO!” from these other random women from all over the country and all walks of life who shared the simple bond that we were all there-or-thereabouts the same amount of insane and pregnant.
That’s a very strong thing to bond over: we’ve shared things that we’ve never told anyone else. Many of the November 2007 crew are still beloved friends now, in real life as well as online, many of our children are friends too.
As you can perhaps imagine, over the course of our pregnancies, our numbers dwindled a little along the way: early miscarriages, the discovery of abnormalities that were too severe and led to awful decisions about termination. It just pulled us all closer.
I know we all still remember those babies, named and unnamed.
And now it was November, and we were beyond all that. We were at the bundles of joy, sniffing newborns heads stage; an extended hiatus of happiness before we all hunkered down to commiserate the super sore nipples and the sleepless nights.
Every day came the announcement of twinges, followed by the expectant silence, then the news of another gorgeous boy or girl joining our endless celebrations. We cooed over the first pictures, applauded the final name decisions, gasped at the weights and the lengths of labours. We were happier and closer than ever.
Then, one of our November babies died.
Mira arrived as a beautiful, perfect, healthy baby girl, looking to be as bright and gorgeous as her Mummy, Charlotte – a simply cracking, funny, healthy, lovely first-time Mum-to-be, wonderfully in love with her partner Mo and a pillar of our group – it was almost the perfect picture.
Other than just as she went into labour, Charlotte was hit with a terrible throat infection, and so she was understandably feeling really exhausted and run down…
She developed a tiny cold sore on her bottom lip when Mira was 3 days old. It disappeared almost overnight and she didn’t think anything more of it. Then when Mira was 8 days old, she became a bit restless and difficult to feed…
“We took her to the GP twice, and she was also seen by a midwife and an on-call doctor in the two days before she died. Her symptoms were so non-descript that nobody knew what was making her so poorly.
She had a low temperature, her eye was a bit sticky, and she wasn’t interested in feeding. She was just so peaceful and sleepy all the time.
She had no marks, blemishes or lesions on her, definitely nothing that would have made anyone think that she was being attacked by the cold sore virus – it was just quietly working its way through her little body with no outwardly noticeable signs.
She took a turn for the worse in the evening of 27th November, and we rushed her to hospital, where she stopped breathing. The doctors tried to save her, but by then the virus had overwhelmed her tiny body and they had no idea what had made her so ill.
She lost her fight at 4.20am on November 28th, 2007 – just 10 short days after she’d made such a long-awaited entrance into the world.
The post mortem results came back as herpes simplex virus 1 – the cold sore virus. Up to 85 per cent of adults have this virus, and it’s harmless in adults.
As it was my first ever cold sore, I had no antibodies to pass on to Mira, so her tiny body was unprotected. It was just incredibly bad luck that my first ever infection coincided with the birth, and I unknowingly transmitted the virus to Mira in the first few days of her life.
I read so much when I was pregnant, but had never seen anything at all about the dangers of this type of simple condition. This is why we want to raise awareness and increase public knowledge.
It’s too late for Mira, but I just want nobody else to go through the devastation that we went through at losing our beautiful 10 day old daughter, and the pain that we’ll carry around in our shattered hearts forever.
Please, just help us by passing this information on to anyone you know who it may help – pregnant women, family members of newborn babies, health professionals (we were surprised at how little was known about this even by some of the top medical experts we have been in contact with since losing Mira).”
It’s not just a mother’s kiss that can kill, it is anyone who visits a newborn baby. It’s not just a death sentence, but for those babies who survive, it can mean acute lifelong disabilities, liver damage and severe brain damage caused by meningoencephalitis. This is entirely preventable if you would share this story and encourage others to do so too.
All of us November 2007 mummies had read so much about pregnancy, birth, looking after a newborn, many had children already, and none of us had heard of this.
If you read this and think “wow, I didn’t know about that either”, I’m glad that now you do, but that’s not enough: please make the effort to tell at least one other person and ask them to do so too.
For once, you’re not being asked for money, you’re not even really being asked for much of your time… you are being asked to honour the memory of a beautiful baby girl who needn’t have lost her life if enough people had spread a similar story and her wonderful Mum who, despite the incredible unimaginable pain, has worked hard to share Mira’s story ever since.
The work involved is huge. Last year less than a week after the anniversary of Mira’s death, the Daily Mail again featured another baby girl who died, kissed and killed by a visitor with a cold sore.
Maybe her efforts are starting to make a difference – a similar story featured in the Daily Mail just a couple of weeks ago but with a happier ending – the mum got her baby to hospital quickly as she had heard about the dangers of cold sores from a friend:
“I know this sounds like I am scaremongering but if my friend had not told me about this my baby girl could have been very seriously ill.”
Thank goodness someone took the time to listen or read and pass the message on. Please do the same. We all remember Mira every time we see a rainbow, perhaps now you might too. It only takes a moment to remember a kiss.
It’s impossible to imagine how hard this was for Charlotte to do… so please help make it worthwhile.