Caroline Verdon: 'It felt like our lives as we knew them had been ripped away'

On August 2, 2014, I went into hospital with an overnight bag to give birth to our first child and it was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

Wednesday, 1st August 2018, 3:23 pm
Updated Wednesday, 1st August 2018, 3:28 pm

I was going in pregnant, knowing that I was leaving without a baby. Two days previously we were given the devastating news that our little boy’s heart had stopped beating.

There is no way of adequately explaining the overwhelming mixture of jubilation and crushing grief I felt at meeting our son for the first time and seeing his tiny little toes and holding his tiny little hands knowing that I would never hear him laugh or cry or see him take his first steps. He looked like his dad. We told him about the things that we’d have liked to have done with him, the farm park visits and the swimming lessons and we told him that we loved him. We kissed him goodnight and left him.

Our world collapsed. It felt like our lives as we knew them had been ripped away. We found out on the Thursday and I was induced at our local hospital on the Saturday. Those nights, at home in our bed, in the room that had a pile of flat pack baby furniture in the corner ready to be made, I just howled with sorrow. I made noises I’d never made before. A lot of it was the guilt. I felt responsible.

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We’d had some test results come back that suggested our baby might have a tripled chromosome and so we had gone to a private clinic for a blood test to find out more. Not because the outcome would affect our decision or our love, but because I wanted to rid myself of any feelings of grief before he was born.

I hated the idea of him arriving and any part of me being upset – or worse, disappointed. He deserved better than that. He needed parents who would stand up for him and fight his corner so we went to a London clinic to get answers.

The sonographer there told us our baby’s heart had stopped beating, probably that day. Then she uttered words I will never forget. She said he looked as though I’d ‘crushed him’ and she asked me how I’d done it.

There was a huge wall mounted TV infront of us showing the scan images and she pointed to the parts of our unborn child that she felt looked crushed, his arms, his legs, his body. She used the word ‘crumpled’. How had I done it? How had I killed him? The only thing I could think of was that on the drive there, I’d filled up with petrol and had lent over from my seat to pull the lever that opened the petrol cap. She said that must have been it.

I had therapy for two years after that. For six months I struggled to fill up my car with fuel at all and today, four years on, it still goes through my head every time I need petrol even though I now know that none of it was my fault.

Ultrasounds can’t tell you when a baby died or often even how and that it’s actually impossible to crush your baby unless you too have been crushed and you’d have broken bones to show for that. A post-mortem showed our son had something called Patau Syndrome and that is why he died. At no point had he been crushed.

August 2 2014 was hard. As was September 4 when Alex was buried alongside five other babies, all in tiny white coffins, all surrounded by families who like us, were broken by the hole left in their hearts by a child they never got to hear cry or see smile. But it doesn’t end there.

Four years on, some days are still hard. We had another little boy, Arthur, in 2015 and when people cooed over him and asked “is he your first?” it was like a stab to the heart. It still is now. I imagine it always will be. I fully expect to feel sad from time to time forever because that’s what happens when you really love. I don’t write this for sympathy, I write this because we don’t talk about it enough. It’s stigmatised as though it doesn’t happen, as though it’s rare. It’s not. One in four pregnancies in the UK end in miscarriage and 4000 babies are stillborn in our country every year. We need to talk about this more. It happens, and it’s ok for it to still hurt.

Leeds is a city of fibbers...

I learnt this week that Leeds is a city filled with liars.

Not the bad kind that will try and pilfer your money but the little fib kind that have been told with the best of intentions and yet backfired hilariously. On Monday we asked if you’d ever told a lie to impress someone and the answer was a resounding yes! On Love Island at the weekend, they showed a clip of two contestants going surfing.

One was a pro surfer and her date was a guy who claimed he could board too. He could not. Clearly he just said it so that it seemed he had something in common with her. Years ago, a guy asked me to the opera. I knew nothing about opera so I bought some cheat notes and the album and swotted up. Turned up he’d done the same and only invited me there because someone mistakenly told him I like it. Either that or they were winding the pair of us up. You though, wow. John in Holbeck told a girlfriend that he was a carpenter and had made several pieces of furniture in his lounge. She was impressed. Years later when they moved in together she asked him to make them a coffee table and he had to admit that by carpenter, what he meant was he used to put people’s flat-pack together for them!

Then there was Sarah in Chapel Allerton who told her school that she knew Mark Owen and that he was friends with her dad. It fell through when her teacher asked her if he’d perform at their end of year party. Her dad’s friend Mark was a plumber and not a member of Take That!

Excited about Leeds Pride

Just three days to go now until Leeds Pride and I can’t wait.

Radio Aire is leading the procession which is a massive honour. It starts at Millennium Square at 2pm and wriggles its way through our stunning city ending in Lower Briggate

This year our troop is made up of friends, family, collegues and Leeds lovers and we’ll be decked out in our rainbow tshirts and rainbow glitter make-up.

Last year we came with our Radio Aire bus which played music as we danced but this year we’ve gone one better.

The music is staying but we’re also bringing a huge digital screen that will flash up your messages for everyone to see.

If you’d like to appear on the screen, all you have to do is drop us a Tweet – tell us what Leeds Pride means to you and send it to @radioaire and your name and message could be up there in rainbow lights for all to see.

Caroline Verdon is one half of the breakfast show at Radio Aire. You can hear Caroline and Ant between 6-10am every weekday morning.