Florence's Story

10:16 am

I have thought long and hard about putting Florence's story here, and having talked it over with Woody decided that I would.
Her story, our story is not an easy one to tell, but we think it might help some people who care about us to understand a little more about her short life. I also know how much it's helped me reading other families stories of loss, and maybe a mother in a similar position to me might stumble across this page and know that there are other mothers out there that understand, and feel that immense pain just like they do.

Florence Violet
22nd July 2009

Florence was a wonderful surprise baby. We had four children, and didn't plan on having any more, though it was no secret I wanted at least one more!
Finding out we were pregnant, was a surprise, I'm still not quite sure how it happened! I felt so lucky to be pregnant again, and enjoyed every moment of my pregnancy...ok maybe not the morning sickness!

Tuesday 21st July 2009, three days after my “official due date”, I woke in the early hours to strong contractions and period type pains. The contractions were only coming about every ten minutes, and I was managing to rest, even doze between them. I knew there was a way to go yet.
Woody had already booked the rest of that week off work as I was struggling with the school runs. I was very glad he had.
Things slowed down a little once all the children were up, and I managed to get the middle two off to school without arousing any suspicion.
I just had to keep my excitement from India, who had already finished school for the summer, and from Sid.
We spent the day quietly pottering about the house, and went for a gentle walk to a local park. We fed the ducks and simply enjoyed some quiet time.
By tea time the pains were stronger. Woody prepared a delicious chilli and flat-breads, and my best friend, Heather joined us for dinner.
We were all quite jolly. Woody and I were amused that Heather had shown up not knowing I was in the early stages of labour.
Once she realised, she looked rather nervous, and I tried to hide when the contractions came.
Later that evening once all the children were tucked up in bed, my contractions got a lot stronger, and I decided to try out the tens machine I'd borrowed from a lovely friend, Maxine.
I was trying to watch TV while bouncing on my birth ball or standing using the bedside crib to lean on and rotating my hips.
I also spent a lot of time on the loo, I think Florence was pressing on my bladder, I seemed to constantly need to wee. That position though would then trigger more contractions, as would Florence's constant wriggling!
She'd been enormously active all through the pregnancy, and during labour was no different. She'd kick and wriggle so violently sometimes I'd shout out “you little bugger!”.
She was going to be just like her big sister, Eden. I was sure of it.
By about 1am, the contractions were coming about every four minutes and were lasting about a minute and a half. Woody and I decided to go downstairs to the lounge where I planned to give birth, and where Angus and Sid were both born.
I decided to give the hospital a call and warn them I might need a midwife sometime soon.
Mary, my wonderful midwife was already in with a birthing woman, so I said I'd call back when I thought things were more urgent in the hope she'd be free by then.
Meanwhile Woody had woken India to go and sleep in with Sid in our bed. Eden and Angus also woke briefly, but I told them the baby was coming and they should go back to sleep.
Woody and I settled down in the lounge. Woody in the arm chair with a blanket, and me sat on my birthing ball,leaning over the back of a dining chair.
By now the pains were very intense, and I was struggling to get in a comfortable position. I felt overwhelmed and began to cry, telling Woody I couldn't do this...classic transition maybe?
Woody gave me some rescue remedy and a homoeopathic remedy from my birth kit. I stopped crying and gave myself a severe talking to.
I was now standing and leaning over the back of the dining chair. Woody had started to doze in the arm chair,but I couldn't wake him as now the contractions were one on top of the other, and very intense. I was half keeping an eye on the time and decided if these contractions kept coming like this until 4am, that would be when I'd wake Woody and ring for Mary.
I kept telling myself “you can do this”.
Just before 4am my mucous plug came away, and I woke Woody to check...I couldn't move, I was rooted to the spot and clinging on to my chair.
We then phoned the delivery suite, but I couldn't speak, and before I'd even passed the phone to Woody, the midwife was already sending Mary out to me.
Mary arrived very quickly.(I live very close to the hospital.) I was so pleased to see her. A week earlier she had hurt her leg and I didn't think she'd make it to my birth, I was so glad she did.
Mary wanted to examine me, I was really nervous, but she was gentle and caring. She said I was 5cm's dilated with waters bulging. Florence was in a great position and her heartbeat was strong.
As I stood up from the sofa, there was a whoosh of amniotic fluid! Mary again listened to Florence's heartbeat, still good and strong.
I was managing with the Tens machine, but Mary thought I might like some Entonox, so popped out to her car to get a mouthpiece for the canister.
Almost immediately I could feel Florence's head crowning. I said to Woody “Here comes the head”, but he didn't believe me! (I have since told him that when a woman says a head is coming, she's not kidding!).
There was another huge gush of waters, and I could feel Florence coming with them. I didn't push, just breathed deeply.
I told Woody to go and get Mary, then said “No stay, catch the baby”. Woody was holding out his hands to catch Florence, (she had one hand up near her face) as Mary came back in. Mary said the cord was tight around Florence's neck and she may have to cut it, but Florence had other ideas and was born in a flash into both Woody and Mary's hands . (little did we know, that had she cut the cord then, we might not have got the time with her we did.)
Mary passed Florence up to me, I held her warm slippy body in my arms. Woody said “It's a girl”. I knew it! I held her close and scolded myself for any doubts I'd had while pregnant that she might never make it earth side.
Woody and Mary helped me to the sofa. There had been no time to put down all the towels I'd been saving, so Mary hastily put down stepping stones of inco pads for me.
I sat on the sofa with my beautiful baby girl against my breast. She looked just like Eden. I knew her already, just like the other children.

It was 4.54am.

While we waited for the placenta, I held Florence skin to skin. I offered her the breast but she wasn't ready to feed yet. She had been born very fast and was a little mucousy. I wasn't concerned about her not wanting to feed straight away. All of my babies had waited a good hour before wanting their first feed. I was happy to feel her body against mine, and study her little hands and face.
She passed meconium all over us both, and I started to feel a little uncomfortable after about thirty minutes or so. This was when we decided to cut the cord that had stopped pulsating, and I asked for syntometrine to help the placenta come away.
Mary then suggested I go for a quick shower to rinse off the meconium, and Woody took Florence. He washed her gently with warm water and a soft cloth before having a cuddle with her while I showered.
I was so excited in the shower, I think it was the quickest shower of my life, I just wanted to get back downstairs to my new baby, to give her that first breastfeed and to settle down for the new day with my family around me.
The children had all gone down to say hello to Florence while I was in the shower.
When I got downstairs, Mary said Florence was a little cold and “dusky” and she wanted to put her back skin to skin with me. I immediately tucked her under my pyjama top.
Mary took her temperature, and it was only 34 degrees, she was by now whimpering a little. Mary called an ambulance and I held an oxygen mask over Florence's face.
Initially I think we all thought it was the fast birth and the mucous on her chest causing the problem, but I remember my hands shaking as I tried to put a nappy on her, and knowing in my heart that things were very wrong.
India found me some shoes and a fleece to throw on over my pyjamas as the ambulance arrived.
Mary held Florence into the ambulance, and I was helped in by the paramedic, and strapped into my seat. The sirens and lights were switched on. I couldn't believe this was happening, I was overwhelmed with dread.
We arrived at the A&E department just minutes later. I climbed out of the ambulance first, but Florence was already on the table by the time I got there.

It was 6.05am

This is where details get very blurry. I have flashes of the next five hours , but exact time lines are lost to me.
I remember a wonderful nurse, Jo enveloping me in her arms and holding me so tightly. I think we both thought that holding on like that might make it all ok.
(I've since learned that Jo sadly lost her father just a week later and he is buried close by Florence.)
I remember Woody arriving soon after us. He had waited at home for his step Mum to come and look after the children, then raced to the hospital to be with us.
I remember Florence's tiny body on that table, wires and tubes from every limb, from her nose, her mouth and her umbilical.
I remember stroking her tiny hand and her soft cheek as the doctors and nurses worked on her.
I remember knowing she was leaving us.
I wanted it all to stop. I wanted to hold my baby in my arms.
Finally, after five hours Florence decided she was leaving us. Woody had taken me outside for some air. He was holding me up, and I thought I was going to wake up any minute.
That is when the doctor came to fetch us. She told us Florence was making the choice to leave us.
Woody held me up as we walked towards the table. Another doctor was still trying to resuscitate her. The first doctor told him to stop and to give us our baby.
Woody and I were both sobbing and holding our beautiful girl as a nurse hastily cut all the tubes and wires.
We sat together, huddled, crying, me unwrapping my baby to get a good look at her. I wanted to study her as I would've at home during that first feed.
Time stood still in our little bubble as the nurses cleaned up around us.
She was gone.
She never had that first feed, she never opened her eyes.

It was 10.55am

After a while we were moved to a relatives room, and a midwife was left with us. We were worried sick about our older children, and I made that awful phone call home to Grandma to let her know our baby girl had left us.
We were moved again a while later to the bereavement suite in the maternity department.
I was wheeled through the hospital holding my baby and trying desperately to hide in her blanket the tubes and wires still left in her body.
Woody walked behind carrying my bags.
It's a long way from A&E to the maternity department, but our lovely bereavement midwife, Annie went as fast as she possibly could.
The bereavement suite is a quiet comfortable space in a distant corridor away from the bustle of the maternity wards.
Annie helped me to weigh Florence, 9lbs 3.5 ozs.
We were left alone in that room for a while. Woody made a cup of tea. Annie had left us sandwiches, but we were not hungry.
We undressed Florence, and I washed her carefully before dressing her, and hiding all the wires I could in her nightgown.
I kept asking for the wires and tubes to be removed, and being told it was impossible until the coroner arrived and gave permission. Woody stopped me several times from ripping them out myself.
We held Florence in our arms, I walked with her and rocked her and we cried.
Eventually the coroner, Rita arrived and gave permission for the tubes and wires to be removed. Finally we could see our sweet baby's face.
She was so beautiful,and I swear I could see her smiling.

We had to then endure the SUDIC (Sudden Unexplained Death In Childhood) team, their questions, their intrusion into our grief and even into our home, as Woody went home with two detectives and a specialist paediatrician so they could see where Florence was born. (Granddad and Grandma had by now taken the children to their house, they still didn't know what had happened.)

Finally the time came to leave Florence. We had to get back to our older children, but to do that we had to abandon our precious girl.
Annie's colleague suggested she hold Florence in her arms on the sofa, so we could leave her that way instead of having her taken out of the room.
We kissed our baby girl goodbye and forced ourselves out of that room, down the corridor, into the lift, down another corridor, forcing one foot in front of the other. Holding a memory box in my arms instead of a baby, my dress spattered with blood.
When I got into the car, there was the baby seat.

We arrived home to an empty house, but the children arrived soon after. We sat on the sofa, we all cried.

The children wanted to see Florence, so later that evening we went back to the hospital. The children all got to hold and kiss their baby sister, and we took photos.
The girls both took her gifts to keep with her. India gave her a little pink bunny, and Eden gave her a cushion she had made and embroidered for her.

That night the older three children cried like I never want to hear them do again. They all slept together in the same room for several days afterwards.

The last time we saw Florence was two days before her burial. She was lying on the quilt I'd made for her while pregnant, wearing the gown I'd made for her in the days after she was born, and the bonnet I'd knitted for her on holiday.
She looked like a little sleeping pixie, delicate and beautiful.

Florence was buried on 7th August 2009. The sun was shining, we watched the balloons float off into the clouds and we wept.

We are all broken hearted at the loss of our Florence Violet. She was a part of our family from the very moment she was conceived. We miss her so very much and will love her forever.
She will always be our fifth child.

Our family of seven

Don't be shy, say hello!


  1. Bless you for sharing Florences story m'dear.

    Much love Tracy M XXXXXXX

  2. It is such a moving birth story. You are a brave lady for sharing this story and I'm glad you did, your special little baby won't ever be forgotten.



  3. My heart goes out to you.

  4. so much love to all seven of you xxxxxxx

  5. Dear Jeannette,

    Thanks so much for sharing Florence's story.

    I can't even begin to imagine what you're going through and how painful it must be. My heart truly goes out to you and your family.

    I'll keep praying for you.

    Much love,
    Sandra xxx

  6. Thank you so much for sharing Florence's story. I think you are a very brave woman.
    Take care, Tor

  7. thank you jeanette. it is a privilege to hear your story. My thoughts and prayers are as ever with you all. Much much love

  8. Thank you for sharing Florence's story, Jeanette. You're all in our thoughts xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx love Fiona

  9. such a moving story .bless you and your beautiful family especially little florence

  10. Thank you for sharing such precious memories Jeanette.
    I still think of Florence and you and your family every day.

  11. you are an amazing woman Jeanette, I can not find the words to express how I feel after reading Florences story, thank you for sharing with us.

  12. Thank you for sharing your beautiful, sad story. Your precious Florence is remembered and loved.

    Carlyn (TBW)

  13. thank you for sharing Jeanette - still praying and thinking of you all xxx

  14. Thank-you for sharing your story with us ... I am so, so sorry.

    Gentle hugs - Vanessa

  15. Thank you for allowing us to carry Florence's story with you.

    Wishing you peace.

  16. Thank you Jeanette and Woody, so much, for sharing your sad story. The love you feel for Florence so apparent. Still thinking of you. Love and hugs.


  17. Thank you for sharing your story with us. She is such a special little girl. I think about you all every day. Love and hugs to all of you. Anne xxx

  18. Thank you for sharing your moving birth story of your beautiful little baby girl. God bless you and your family ((hugs))

  19. Thank you so much for sharing this xxx

  20. Jeanette thank you so much for sharing.

    I was reading it while nursing my 2 year old and he kept unlatching to say "mummy sad" and then going back to his business.

    You and your family are still very much in my thoughts on a daily basis.

    H xx

  21. ... I just don't know what to say? I want to say something so helpful and comforting that it will make it a little better for one small moment, ( but how could I possibly?)I want to avoid cliches, ,I want to give you the strength to NOT scream when people say unhelpful things like "I don't know how you cope- I would just fall apart" (- like as a mother -you have a choice to fall apart?,) I want to give you hope and send you strength and all those other things, I want to be able to tell you that maybe one day you won't be so struck down with the pain you are feeling now...( but I don't know you and would never presume to tell you when you will feel better or how that will happen.)

    What I can tell you is that I will squeeze my little family a little bit tighter tonight and your story will stay with me for a long time.

    I send such strength to you and your beautiful family and hope that by writing about it as eloquently and beautifully as you have it will help you through this horrible time... even if its just knowing that by sharing this intensely private time with us and sharing this story it will help so many other people.
    big love to you Jeanette.

  22. Cath, you have totally hit the nail on the head! I have no choice but to get up every day, to get dressed, to put my make up on, dry my hair, make the school lunches...
    My children and my husband need me.
    There are days when all I want to do is go back to sleep,even if that means nightmares about dead and dying babies, it's still better than the reality of one of my children dead.
    I get up and do all the mundane every day things because I know that eventually that is what will get me through this, it's all I can do.
    I might be smiling on the outside,but my heart is breaking every moment of every day.

  23. You write so eloquently, and so movingly sweetheart. You are a brave woman, and a wonderful family. xxxx

  24. I can't add any more to the things that people have already said - just that I think of you all everyday.
    Love and miss you.

  25. Stay strong and love will get you through.

  26. Can't think of the words as I am sobbing too much, just can't bear the thought of you all in so much pain. I am glad you were able to share as I think of you often and ask myself how and why this happened. You are blessed with such a lovely family and Florence was lucky to have you as a mum even for the short time she was with you. Much love, Katherine xxxxxx

  27. I still look for the words that might offer a glimpse of comfort & still everyday fall short as I cannot think of a single thing anyone could say to me should one of my children leave me so suddenly that would make me feel even the slightest 'better'.
    I wish I could send strength to you to, to see you through the days & nights.
    You are never far from my thoughts, thank you to your family for sharing such a special little girl.

  28. Jeanette, you don't really know me ( I am a fairly recent poster on CN aka jo&tribe).. but I have been moved beyond belief reading your birth story tonight, and felt compelled to comment.

    I am so sorry Florence wasn't able to stay with you for longer, I cannot begin to imagine how this is for you and your family, but I do know it has made me think tonight. I am squeezing my children tightly.

    There surely is nothing that can take away your pain. But thanks for sharing an inspiring birth story.

    I will be thinking of you tonight and your family, especially Florence.

    Jo xx

  29. I found my way here through Grit's Day. I'm so very, very sad for you and do understand what you are experiencing. I lost my precious daughter 5 and half days after she was born. That was 2 1/2 years ago. Please take so much care of yourself, give yourself lots of Florence time and I hope that the coming weeks and months are gentle with your heart. I can only say that on your worst days focus on breathing because even that will seem like an effort. I understand that even though those living around you may bring you so much joy the loss is still unbearable and your heart is well and truly broken. But if I can offer a glimmer of hope it is that in time you will get stronger and you will carry your heart break easier, at some point in the future the pain will not be so raw even though you will never forget your dear little girl. Never beat yourself up for not doing quite as much as you used to for your friends, family or even your other children, its hard mothering a lost child and you have to have that part of you too. You will get better in time at balancing it all but its such early days. My heart goes out to you and all your family. Its hard watching your children grieve too. I will go and light a candle for Florence. Hxxxx

  30. I'm so terribly sorry that you lost your sweet daughter, Florence Violet. I'm so sorry.

    I kept wishing for her to be alright all the way through reading this post. Even though I already knew how your story ended.

    Much love xo

  31. Oh, Jeanette. I'm so sorry you lost Florence. My heart breaks reading about your older children as my older four have likewise had such a tough time. The three boys came to hold our wee George as well (we thought Mairi was too little to understand). So many sad things in common. Do you have or have you heard of the book, "We were going to have a baby but we had an angel instead?" We were gifted with it for the children and it is *brilliant.* So real. Doesn't minimize grief. Beautiful illustrations. (((Hugs))) and thinking of both our fifth-born angels.

  32. I do so hope that writing this was cathartic, it was terribly sad to read. But it honours Florence and will always be a memory of your feelings at the time. I have no shades of religion within me, but I wish very hard that you will keep working through your grief at your pace. You are remarkable.

  33. Jeanette, I hope you and your family are doing ok without Florence in your every day life. I'm glad that you can do some sewing to make your days go by. I'm glad you got to hold your precious baby girl. I'm sorry you had to let her go. Hold on to your children tightly ... you know they are the most precious things you will ever have in the world.

  34. I truly do not know how to say the feelings I have when reading Florence's story.
    My heart is breaking for you and your family.
    I can't imagine what you must be going through. you are incredibly strong and I send you prayers and love from the botttom of my heart Jeanette. I am so sorry x x x

    Kelly ann x

  35. I don't know you, and you don't know me, but I was so moved by your story of Florence that I wanted to send you my love. I have no advice to offer you, only that I wish for your hearts to heal in time, and for you to hold Florence within them forever. Thank you for sharing so bravely. x

  36. hi jeanette, i'm one of those women who stumbled upon you and your story looking for solace and understanding during my own time of grief for my son harvey, who died in my arms 2 months ago. thank you for sharing, i am so sorry little Florence's life was cut so short, please accept my deepest sympathies. xxx anne

  37. Jeannette, we know eachother on Glow. I just read through Florence's story, and I cannot stop crying with you. Her montage is so beautiful. What a terrible cruel thing it is to be given a baby and then for them to be taken away, and I'm sorry we are sisters in arms in this. She is in my heart. My love...

  38. Really left me sobbing - thanks for sharing xx

  39. Jeanette, I'm so scared. I came back here again tonight, just to read and remember Florence and in turn my Henry. I must be a glutton for punishment, but there is such a beauty in remembering the last moments, isnt there? I'm scared for these new babies. Holding your hand from far away, and really I think you are holding mine.

  40. i came on your blog in search of a pattern and here i find this heart wrenching story. i'm so sorry. my heart goes out to you and your family. although it's been a year and a half since florence, i'm sure you've found a bit of healing, but wow. thank you for sharing. you are amazing and brave.

    all the best to you and your family, truly.


  41. I am so sorry for all of you. I don't know what to say. You are an inspiration.

  42. I've been here a few times but never read Florence's story before. It made me cry.

    I am so sorry for your loss. xxx

  43. Jeanette,

    Thank you for being so brave and having the strength to share your, and your families, moving story about your beautiful daughter Florence. I am so touched by your honesty and I hope, actually know, that the process of writing out your story and your feelings at the time helps an awful lot in processing and understanding the emotional experience that you have been through. Florence is a gorgeous girl, with a loving family, you are truly an inspiration to others to show that life does indeed go on, albeit with a heavier heart and deep memories of your daughter.

    I came to your blog this evening via a photo of your darkly blooming Colette Hawthorn on Flickr, its such an amazing dress that you have made, that it caught my eye. I admire your seamstress skills! I re-discovered my passion for sewing and craft in Dec 2011, a few weeks after I was diagnosed and began treatment for breast cancer. Having a passion for something, even something as trivial (in others eyes) as sewing, has really helped in my healing and moving on, yes life does go on and sharing my passion with my 8 year old daughter has been a great motivator, even making for my 11 year old son has been a fun distraction! And taking responsibility for a 'natural' recovery and prevention has also aided in a swift return to normality, even if its a different normal from before.

    Warm regards all the way from here, a chilly winter's night in Sydney, Australia,
    from a fellow Brit, (also from the north-west, Liverpool) to you and your family on what looks to be a warm English summer's day...you guys are an amazing family unit.

    Karen Jeanette

    1. Karen, I rarely check comments on this post, but randomly decided to today. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I wish you all the very best for your recovery. x


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