The story behind Memories from Isla

Our story

Our journey all started in November 2012 following four years of trying to conceive and in our fifth month of fertility treatment. We had just returned from a holiday in Portugal and, as I did every month, I did our monthly pregnancy test. After all of the years of trying you never expect it to be positive however you always have some hope. So when those two lines appeared on the test I could hardly believe it, neither of us could!

The first few weeks were really hard. I was convinced that something was going to go wrong. I had a number of early scans to reassure me that everything was fine and seeing my baby’s heartbeat was such an amazing experience.

We got to twelve weeks and everything was perfect, a good strong heartbeat and our baby now looked like a baby! Yet even now I couldn’t relax. In all the books it says that if you get past twelve weeks everything should be fine but I'd set my goal on twenty weeks. I told myself that if I got there I would stop worrying.

As my twenty week scan approached I got more and more nervous. I couldn’t enjoy myself and the stress led to me being signed off work. Despite this it came round quickly and before we both knew it, it was here.

We had both decided that we wanted to know the sex if we could and as we sat waiting my nerves started to turn to excitement. The scan was amazing! It was in so much more detail than before. We could see everything, every little detail. Then she asked the question “do you want to know?” I could hardly wait! She had a little look around and then made the announcement, we were having a girl! I never had a preference before but now I was suddenly glad it was a girl, however I think I would have felt the same if it was the other way round.

We walked out of the hospital with smiles on our faces. I remember thinking that this was it, we were having a little girl and I couldn’t wait! I felt better from that moment. I went back to work and we started to shop. I just couldn’t resist the little outfits! I also started to embrace my pregnancy body and rather than hiding it I brought some lovely maternity clothes to really show off my bump.

I'd told myself that I wasn’t going to worry about all the little things anymore, everything was going to be fine.

Unfortunately there was no way of knowing what was round the corner. On the morning of 13th of March everything changed. I started to bleed. I went into hospital to get it checked out but I was really calm. I'd said that everything was fine and hadn't really expected that things could go wrong at this point.

They checked the heartbeat and it was good and strong. I breathed a sigh of relief and laughed at myself for making a fuss over nothing. Then the doctor came in and said she wanted to examine me. I agreed and this was when the pain started. I was in agony as she tried to examine me. I have no idea what the doctor was called but she had a student with her. I remember looking at them knowing something was wrong.

They were talking to each other but I couldn't hear what they were saying. I felt myself becoming hysterical as I really didn't know what was happening. Then the doctor came over to me, held my hand and starting to tell me that she could "see the baby". I had no idea what that meant but by the look on her face and the tone of her voice I knew it wasn't ok.

I was then left in the room on my own and a nurse came. She said she was moving me to another room and admitting me. I was in a complete panic, still not having a clue what was happening. She offered to phone my husband and then left again. I was on my own for what felt like forever. I sat in a chair rubbing my bump begging with my baby to stay. It was weird, I managed to calm down in that time.

My husband Christopher arrived and came in and it all started again. I was hysterical again and all I could say was "I'm sorry". Christopher was crying but reassuring me that we still had a long way to go and it was no means over yet, there was still hope.

Finally two consultants came in and things got better. They explained that my cervix had failed but they were going to try to stitch me up. They said they were going to monitor me overnight and then do the operation the following morning.

That night felt like a lifetime. It just kept going and going. We were living for every hour. Finally morning came and I was showing no signs of labour so I was taken to theatre. As they got started I really felt well, I really thought this was going to work.

Sadly that feeling didn't last long. After only about 10 minutes into the operation the consultant came to me and said that there was little they could do, there was nothing left to stitch. She did try again after tilting the bed back to see if that helped but it was no good. She was so nice, as was the nurse holding my hand. They seemed to genuinely care about what happened.

As they took me to recovery I couldn't believe what was happening. It all seemed to hit me at once. As I lay there I just couldn't believe it was over. I had no idea what happened next and little could I know what was in store.

I was taken back onto the ward and Christopher was waiting. The consultant joined us and said there was little to be done but wait, hope and pray that I didn't go into labour. I wasn't going anywhere and all I could do was lay, tilted down to take as much pressure off my cervix as possible. They said it was unlikely but if we could stop labour for long enough, my baby might survive.

So we went back to living hour on hour. Every hour felt like a massive achievement. They would come to us every day and check on Isla and she continued amazing everyone by fighting through.

A week passed us by and we really started to believe that things might just be ok. No one could believe, least of all us, that she was still alive, still fighting. Every time we saw her on a scan or heard her heartbeat it was magical, might we be the one in a million?

Sadly we got our answer. After a little over a week I went into labour and there was nothing they could do to stop this. Our daughter was ready to be born. After many long hours Isla Louise Axe was born, alive at 6:34am on March 20th 2013. She was perfect, beautiful and everything I wanted and more. She lived her short life in my arms with her dad close by. That time remains to this day, the most precious time of my life. For that time everything else was forgotten. I was a new mum, Christopher a new dad and we were a perfect little family. She died silently, in peace with no suffering, for that I will always be grateful. All she knew in her short life was love.

After she died we got photographs and hand and foot prints. We started creating our memory box with with her clothes and presents from the staff. I will treasure her memory box forever.

In the months that passed I started to plan what we could do to honour our beautiful girl. As we loved her memory box so much it made sense to focus on this. We found that many parents were not as lucky as us and left hospital with nothing. We needed this to change.

In September 2013 we launched Memories From Isla. Our aim was to provide memory boxes for bereaved parents whose babies had died before, during and shortly after birth. We aimed to raise awareness of baby loss and try to get people to talk more openly about this area, which is sadly still a taboo.

We have grown from strength to strength and we now donate to our local hospitals on a regular basis. We have also continued to develop our services to include early loss memory bags, and in 2017 we launched our sibling memory boxes that have proved to be very popular as a way of including other children in the grieving process. We also take individual requests for support from hospitals, so we have donated items such as library books to a local hospital for the use of bereaved parents. We also donate individual items such as baby towels and baby wash to encourage parents to bath their baby, a large range of tiny clothing from as small as 1lb so that all babies can be dressed, clay impression kits and much more.

We couldn't be prouder of Isla and the impact that her short life has had on the world. We hope that Memories From Isla will continue to grow and support parents when the worst happens. We can't take the pain away but we hope to be able to bring a small amount of comfort to their lives when they really need it.

By by doing all of this we hope to keep our memories of Isla alive.

Many thanks for reading our story,

Sarah and Christopher