My husband Jake and I had been together for 12 years, married for 2, when we decided to start a family. We were overjoyed (and nervous) to find out we got pregnant quickly. My pregnancy was low risk, and everything was ‘normal’ throughout.  I am a dentist and was worried about COVID whilst working. Therefore, I decided to take maternity two months early to be safe. Unfortunately, I caught COVID 2 weeks before I was meant to start maternity. My symptoms were mild, and I generally felt okay.

The day after I finished isolation, I realised that the baby’s movements aren’t very strong, but he had quiet days before. At this point I didn’t even think about COVID affecting anything, probably as I’d not heard that it could. My husband was out at a Christmas party that evening and when he returned after midnight, I felt a kick. I now know this kick was Jacob’s last. I believe Jacob waited for his daddy to come home to give one final kick for daddy.

The next morning I didn’t feel Jacob at all, so we went to hospital. Jake wasn’t allowed in with me due to COVID. Two midwives tried to find the heartbeat with a doppler, but both couldn’t. Then they took me to the ultrasound room where two doctors were checking the baby. I was still blissfully unaware what was happening; weirdly I still wasn’t worried. The senior doctor then said to me, “Unfortunately there is no heartbeat”.  I was in such shock and didn’t understand what was happening. My husband was called up and the doctor told him that our baby had died. They gave us a few minutes alone, but I just wanted to know what’s next and how to end this nightmare. I didn’t realise that the nightmare never ends when your baby dies.

Next a consultant came to confirm that Jacob had died. She said they have seen COVID causing pregnancy loss like this. I took a pill, which was meant to start the induction process. We were told to return two days later to give birth, but no other information. We hadn’t yet been to any antenatal classes, so I had no idea what to expect. In my head I was about to go into a horror film where I am giving birth to death. I was terrified I would also die because why not, my baby just died so I felt that I can easily die too.

The next two days were a blur. We told our friends and families. Everyone was heartbroken. That first night I couldn’t sleep and started googling ‘what happens when your baby dies inside you’. That’s when I learnt I am a having a stillborn. I came across the Tommy’s baby loss charity website and read everything about stillbirth. It finally all hit me, and the uncontrollable crying started.

On Tuesday 14th December 2021, we went to hospital and were put in a room called the butterfly suite. Around 5pm I had the first pessary, by which point I was already having regular cramps. By 8pm it became unbearable, and I got gas and air and then an epidural. I had the second pessary, and it all got a bit blurry from now.

My parents arrived around now, and it all happened so quickly. Suddenly I felt my waters break, next I felt something was coming, I pushed once, and Jacob was born at 10:33 pm. I feel like Jacob wanted to help his mummy so made birth quick and easy-ish for me. He was born at 31+2 weeks pregnant, weighing 1550g (3 pounds, 6 ounces) and he was 45cm in length.

Jake and I were worried that Jacob may have already deteriorated inside me having died a few days earlier, but the midwife said, “He’s perfect”. Jacob was wrapped in a personalised blanket which we brought with us, and then placed in my arms. I was in awe of him. I couldn’t believe this was my baby boy. I didn’t know what to do or say, all I could do was stare at my perfect sleeping angel.

At one point the midwife said, “Oops he’s done a little poo”. For a millisecond I thought they had gotten it wrong, and Jacob was alive. I put a diaper on Jacob, which was the first time I had ever put a diaper on a baby. I was really nervous and also scared that I would damage him. We then dressed Jacob in a newborn babygro, which was too big for him, so we rolled up the sleeves.

We spent a few hours that night with Jacob and then more the following day. We took lots of photos and videos, which are all so precious to me. We got a Simba memory box, which helped us make lots of memories with him like hand and footprints and taking a lock of his hair. A priest came and did a blessing. Those hours with Jacob are the most precious time in my entire life. I now look back at my birthing and hospital experience with joy as that’s the days I met Jacob and spent time with him.

Leaving Jacob behind felt so wrong. Instead of carrying my baby out of the hospital, I was clutching his memory box. Walking outside the hospital into the ‘real’ world felt wrong too. I thought how can people’s lives just continue when my whole life has shattered.

The next few days were a blur. I still had a postpartum body, but no baby. I visited Jacob at the mortuary a few times, however he started deteriorating, so had to make the devastating decision to stop going. I loved these visits as I got to hold him, read to him and sing to him, just more memories with my precious Jacob.

The funeral was 6 weeks after his birth. We only had closest family. The funeral felt so final, but I was happy to finally lay Jacob to rest and have a place to visit him. Now, one of my ways of mothering Jacob is by taking care of his grave.

We had a full postmortem for Jacob as we wanted to know exactly what happened to him. Jacob was perfect and healthy in every way. However, COVID got into my placenta and caused an immune reaction called CHI (chronic histiocytic intervillositis). The CHI caused my placenta to not function properly and basically cut off blood supply to Jacob. I feel guilty that my body could not protect him from COVID. COVID getting into the placenta like this is very rare, which is why it is not talked about maybe. I wish I’d known it was a possibility as I may have come in sooner. The doctors say that it’s unlikely we could have saved Jacob because it cannot be picked up on scans. I will always wonder though.

Since Jacob died, my love for him grows daily. I have his momentos all around the house and in jewellery I wear. I love being reminded of him and I am proud to be his mummy. Jacob will forever be missing from our family photos and events, but he is our firstborn child and a cherished member of our family. We will always wonder what Jacob would have grown up to be like. Instead, our baby lives in Heaven watching over us. I want to keep Jacob’s memory alive by always talking about him and by fundraising in his honour. He will forever be in our minds and hearts, and we will grieve him forever because we will love him forever.

We are currently pregnant with our rainbow baby. We are cautiously hopeful for a different outcome, but it is hard to truly believe we will have a living child. This rainbow is a light at the end of this dark tunnel. This baby will never replace Jacob but is already helping us heal a little.

What I have learned is to not assume you know what others are thinking. I kept thinking people will think I should just move on and get over it, but I never got any signs of this. I assumed people judged me for doing things after Jacob died, for example getting pregnant so soon after or how I am dealing with my grief through sharing my story. But most people just genuinely care about you and are heartbroken for you.

For anyone going through something similar, I would say it’s ok to feel whatever you are feeling. Try not to be too hard on yourself and feel guilty about things. Try to be kind to yourself and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do things because you think you should. There are no ‘shoulds’ when grieving, just do what the heart needs. The grief never goes away, but you learn to live with it. It becomes familiar and for me anyway my grief is my love for Jacob, so I carry it with pride now.

Our precious son Jacob, we hold you in our hearts until we will hold you in heaven.

Jessica x

Instagram~ @journeyforjacob

Our fundraising page for Tommy’s baby loss charity