Forever Finley was set up in memory of our son Finley William Smith who died at 41weeks gestation during labour due to NHS negligence. The Charity was set up after we struggled to find a business that would cast Finley’s hands and feet.
Finley’s full story was written by Charlotte for Finley’s first birthday.
‘We tried for 4 years to fall pregnant with Luca. Each month was heartbreaking finding out that we weren’t pregnant, we were so desperate and ready for children. It sounds strange but I always knew from an early age that I would have problems getting to be a mummy. No idea why but I knew it wouldn’t be easy. After lots of tests on the NHS and no explanations for our infertility, as well as no IVF option on the NHS due to our postcode. We decided to go private. The private doctors confirmed I had a very low egg reserve that contributed to our difficulties. We started our first round of IVF. They managed to get 7 eggs from me, 4 fertilised and 1 embryo ended up surviving. That one embryo gave us Luca in August 2016. We were so fortunate to get our miracle baby.
We decided that we would love to try again for a sibling for Luca. We agreed that we would try naturally when Luca was 7 months old and if it didn’t work by December 2017 then we would attempt 1 round of IVF. The first month we tried we fell pregnant - we couldn’t believe it, however a week later I started to bleed and the doctors confirmed that I was losing it. However, we were so over the moon that we had managed to fall pregnant naturally!
The following month I took a pregnancy test and a positive line came up. We couldn’t believe how lucky we were to fall pregnant in 2 consecutive months. At around 7 weeks we went for a scan and saw the little heart beating away. We were so over the moon but also a bit worried about having 2 babies under 2. Luca was only 9 months old when we found out we were pregnant. I remember saying to people how 2018 was going to be a tough year with 2 little ones. If only I had known what 2018 would actually be like.
My care at our local hospital for Luca’s birth was really poor so we opted for another hospital. Again I kept saying how the birth couldn’t be worse that Luca’s as his was terrible, again how wrong was I. All these things I said yet I kick myself now for them.
My pregnancy with Finley was really straight forward. We had regular growth scans as I had a hormone deficiency which could indicate he wouldn’t grow well, however, he always tracked on the average line and always behaved. Everything was smooth running. My due date 11th January passed with no signs of Finley. Although I tried to do everything possible to try to get my labour started.
On the 19 January at 41+1 weeks, I started to have some niggles and pains. These weren’t regular but I definitely felt like something was happening. I was due to see my midwife that day so I waited for her to come over to speak to her about it. She examined me and said that I was 4cm dilated. She listened in on Finley and he was doing well. I was amazed! My mum and dad were round looking after Luca. We were all so excited to know that I was in labour and that we would be meeting this baby soon. I remember my mum just telling me to breath and us all joking around.
We arrived at the hospital and again, we were both so happy to know that we would be meeting baby soon. The contractions weren’t really affecting me so I was just swaying with no pain relief. Again, just full of pure excitement to meet our baby.
We had been there around an hour and half when I met the shift change over midwife who would be looking after us. 15 minutes later I felt such intense pressure and my waters broke. From that point, labour is a bit of a blur. The contractions came thick and fast, there was minimal time inbetween them and I had no time to try to recoup myself. I was listening to some hypnobirthing music to help me relax and breath through the contractions with the help of gas and air. I was hanging over the bed holding robs hand, wondering when I would get a minute rest. By the time I came round from the gas and air to think straight, the next contraction would hit so then back on the gas and air I went.
I didn’t move from the position I was in, I just kept asking the midwife what I should be doing. Her response was do what I needed too - which Rob had to repeat to me as I couldn’t hear her. I felt like I needed to push but she just replied ‘do what your body wants you to do’. But should I be pushing I shouted back at her! Again, she left it to me. This is the only communication she had with me. I remember her using the Doppler to intermittently monitor his heart. If I had more time in between the pain maybe I could have spoken to her more to find out the plan, however I was so high on gas and air I couldn’t even think straight. Most of the time I honestly felt like i had already given birth. This went on for 2 hours after my waters broke.
I had started to properly push and remember the midwife saying that the head was out. I was so relieved that we were close but so so exhausted. She then said one last push on your next contraction and we will pass your baby up to you. It felt like a lifetime for that next contraction, but it came and I did the last push. I couldn’t see Finley as I was lying over the bed, however, I heard the midwifes say that they just needed to clear his lungs and took him away.
Completely exhausted I rolled over and watched as they pushed the alarm bells. Around 10 other people rushed into the room and were pumping his little chest and shouting at each other for various bits of equipment. You could feel the panic in the room. I remember Rob in my ear just saying ‘please no no please’. There was no cry, just silence as they tried to do everything possible to get his little heart going again. That sight of them trying to resuscitate our baby will never leave us. After 40 minutes, the doctor came over and asked if they could stop. She said if Finley came round now, he would be seriously brain damaged. We agreed for them to stop. I was numb I just stared in utter disbelief and shock, how could this have happened? What went wrong? What did I do wrong? Why did our baby boy not breathe?
They wrapped Finley up and bought him over to us. Once he was in our arms realisation set in, I remember screaming and sobbing hysterically at seeing our son for the first time, silent and still yet so utterly perfect and beautiful. They then told me I needed to go to theatre to have the placenta removed as they couldn’t get it out. Luckily they agreed to knock me out to do it. I didn’t want to be here, why was I alive and our precious boy had been taken from us, I needed to escape from this nightmare so I begged for a general.
I woke up a few hours later hoping it was all just a big dream and I was still pregnant. I woke to Rob holding Finley just staring at him, it wasn’t a dream, our worst nightmare had happened. Our perfect boy had died in labour.
One of the clearest memories about that night was the music playing on my phone. We had the hypno-birthing track on for hours yet whilst we were staring at our boy being resuscitated, begging he would scream and wake up, the music suddenly changed to Lighthouse Family and High. We Googled the meaning of this song assuming it was about drugs, however, someone wrote that it’s about having Hope, and nothing bad lasts forever and you will get through this pain. We think it was a message from Finley. We also found out that this song is what my auntie religiously listened too when my grandad passed away. Therefore, we think it’s also a sign that my grandad would look after Finley.
We spent the next 2 days in hospital with him creating memories. Although I do have regrets about things I wish we had done, I wish we said to family and friends that they could meet him if they wanted. We just didn’t even think that people would want to meet a baby that had passed although we were so proud of him and did want to show him off to the world. I also had to force my parents and sister to meet him as they didn’t want to remember him like that, however they were so happy they came and saw how perfect he was. I wish we had taken videos and even more photos. However, in hindsight nothing would ever be enough and we did what we could at the time.
We continuously cuddled and kissed Finley, dressed him, took photos and drew round his little body on a pillowcase. We couldn’t believe how perfect and beautiful he was. He had a button nose like his big brother, lovely long legs and knobbly knees. He was 7lb 4oz and so chunky - so much so that all the baby grows we bought were too small as we expected him to be small like his brother. Those 2 days we just cried and cried, and talked and talked, with each other aswell as the great bereavement midwifes we met.
During the 2 days, I had lots of blood tests and we agreed to a full post mortem to find out what had happened to Finley. The Hospital explained sometimes it was ‘just one of those things’ and ‘these things happened’. We were so desperate for answers however we knew nothing could bring him back so we needed to stop our minds from focusing on the what ifs as we were driving ourselves crazy. We had the paediatrician come in and ask what my movements were like in labour, basically implying that I should have known something was wrong with him. She then also said that as I was over 40 weeks (I was 41+1), things were much riskier for the baby so that could have been a reason for his death! I understand doctors can lack compassion but how dare they make me feel any worse than I already did?! Deep down we had our doubts and knew something wasn’t right, healthy babies shouldn’t just die in labour.
On day 2, we decided we needed to say goodbye to Finley and get home to Luca. We needed his cuddles and were desperate to be with him. He was only 17 months at the time so still a baby himself. Saying goodbye and walking out of the hospital with no baby was horrific. I felt like we were leaving Finley there. Even though he wasn’t there in spirit and it was just his body we were leaving, I would have done anything to bring him home with us.
We were so scared someone would try to talk to us. I didn’t feel like me anymore, just an empty shell full of shock and pain. The journey home was awful, reminiscing about the journey to the hospital 2 days previous full of excitement and anticipation. I worried about how I should be with Luca, how was I meant to be ‘normal’ fun happy mummy with him when I was completely broken. How could I stop the tears falling in front of him. He shouldn’t have to see his mummy and daddy so upset. We walked into our house and he was so excited to see us but then he saw our faces and just kept searching. It’s like he was looking for ‘us’. Even at such a young age he sensed something terrible had happened and he just cuddled us. For the couple of hours after that, he did everything in his power to make us laugh. In the 2 days we had been away, he had completely changed, we think it was Finley’s touch in trying to make us smile.
That first night at home was awful. The hospital had given me sleeping tablets to knock me out however at 2am I woke sobbing, I needed to hold Finley, why couldn’t I hold my baby? We got up and lit Finley’s candle and talked to him. I was considering waking Luca to cuddle him as the need was so overwhelming. I needed a baby to fill these empty arms. The pain in our hearts was a pure physical pain, I didn’t know grief could physically hurt. The guilt was overwhelming too, I felt like we lost Finley because we didn’t deserve him as we didn’t try hard enough. We tried for 4 years with Luca, yet we fell pregnant instantly with Finley. Rob felt guilty that we hadn’t properly prepared for Finley in that everything we had ready was Luca’s hand me downs.
Those first few weeks were beyond unbearable. We were so fortunate to have to get out of bed each day to look after Luca otherwise I’m not sure what we would have done. The tears never stopped flowing and the pain never lessened. I remember having a shower looking at my belly, feeling annoyed for the lack of stretch marks, why had I tried to hard not to get any? When all I wanted now was some proof that our baby had existed and I had carried him for 9 months? Luca still sensed something terrible had happened. There were times he would sit in between me and Rob just holding our hands, just trying to comfort us.
Even though we had said our goodbyes at the hospital, once we heard Finley was at our local funeral home after the post mortem we decided we needed to see him again. We continued to visit him right up to his funeral, the comfort in just being able to hold him was immense. We also took Luca to meet Finley - a last minute decision which we are so happy we did. We also decided to cast Finley’s hands and feet ourselves even though we had no clue what we were doing.
4 weeks after Finley passed, on the 15th February, we held Finley’s funeral. Rob was so adamant he wanted to carry his boy but was so worried he would breakdown and drop him. However, he did it. He was so strong and remarkable. I know Finley would be so proud of his daddy and the courage he showed. We had over 100 people attend and I wrote a tribute to Finley which a friend read out beautifully. We walked into the crematorium to ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ and played Lighthouse Family High in the service. We were so overwhelmed with everyone’s support. Walking out of the crematorium was so tough as again it felt like we were leaving our boy. That was the end, no more going to the funeral home to hold him, to touch his hands or feet or kiss his button nose.
4 days after the funeral we decided to run away on holiday. Again i felt anxious leaving home as I felt like we were leaving Finley behind. However we booked a last minute 2 week trip to Tenerife.
Our aim was to make Luca smile, take him swimming, play on the beach and dance at the mini disco. We decided we would get a plane straight home if we couldn’t bear it. I think it was definitely the right decision for us, we needed that family time. We walked along the beaches, wrote Finley’s name a million times in the sand, cried our tears behind our sunglasses and just had time to try to process what had happened. Every shop we went too we looked for anything with his name on. We also decided that we wanted to set up an angel baby casting charity so we spent time organising that.
We ended up staying the full2 weeks and even contemplated a 3rd week. We felt like Finley was there with us, we didn’t need to be at home to feel him.
A couple of months after the holiday we received our results from the post mortem and investigation. The Hospital concluded Finley died due to a lack of care in labour. Our midwife had only been qualified 4 months and didn’t know what she was doing. She didn’t follow national guidelines in relation to monitoring his heart (I wasn’t on a CTG as I was classed as low risk) and she didn’t interpret the heart results she did take correctly. At the point when my waters broke, she should have examined me to confirm I was fully dilated and given me an hour to push. However, she left me 2 hours - even though Finley was showing signs of distress from the heart readings she did take as soon as the waters went. There were 2 senior midwifes who also didn’t supervise her correctly and left her to it. The midwife justified her failings by saying that as I was listening to hypnobirthing she wanted to give me a natural birth with minimal intervention. Finley’s heart rate was last recorded 11 minutes before he was born which makes us sick to the stomach knowing he was so close. He kept up a fight for 2 hours before his heart couldn’t take it any more. I kick myself every day for not pushing harder so he was out quicker or shouting for a plan of delivery, however, both myself and Rob trusted what the midwife was doing. We assumed she was looking after us and we would never have questioned a ‘professional’. This last year feels like a whirlwind, I can’t believe it’s been nearly a year since we lost Finley. We have learnt to include Finley in everything we do, we talk about him everyday and Luca knows all about his baby brother. Every night he says goodnight to him and he tells us he’s up in the stars. ‘Forever Finley’ is now up and running and in 5 local hospitals aswell as at funeral homes providing hand and feet casts of angel babies to families. This charity is all part of our healing too. We talk about Finley and our experience to show other baby loss parents that life does continue, they will learn to carry on living.
We are living our new day to day life and have learnt to keep on going no matter how hard it is. Some days it’s a lot harder, and the tears don’t stop falling. The pain is back to a physical pain in our hearts and we want nothing more than to hold Finley one last time. I understand now that we will be forever broken. We may smile and laugh, however everything we do will be tainted with that sadness and longing for our little boy. The guilt, what ifs and anger at the people that let us down do also rear their ugly heads but I’m hoping in more time these emotions will calm.
Tomorrow we will be celebrating Finley’s 1st birthday. I have no idea how we will feel on the day and even if we will be able to get out of bed, however, what I do know is that if we had the choice to erase the last year/Finley’s pregnancy or go through the pain again, we would do it all again in a heartbeat.’