I never thought that the birth of my beautiful Son would change my life as it did.
We had been trying for 3 and a half years to get pregnant, finally succeeding just as we were about to start the serious treatment at the fertility clinic, we couldn’t believe it. I had worked at my company for over 15 years so they knew what we were going through. It was only a small company and I knew that me being off could be a problem for them, so I told then straight away – even before I had told my Mum – I was that concerned about my pregnancy not being a problem for them
All was ok until we went on holiday for our Anniversary. The day before we had been for our 20 week scan and all was well, we were going to Amsterdam for a few days on what would be our last holiday just the two of us, happy that our much wanted beautiful baby was healthy and very much loved up for our anniversary.
We had been there for about 3 hours when I felt something that wasn’t right, I hoped it was just the travelling was a bit much for me, but we left the supermarket and got to the hotel as quickly as possible. In the hotel room I went to the bathroom and knew it wasn’t right, so my husband went and spoke to the receptionist, who then called an ambulance for us. Not long after we were crossing the tramlines of Amsterdam in the ambulance, lights flashing and crazy sirens blaring, to the most amazing hospital of people that would help us through our darkest days.
After four long days in hospital, after doing everything possible, our very beautiful Son was born. He was 19 weeks and 6 days gestation and was just the most amazing precious tiny soul we had ever seen. He only took one breathe in the world but he has changed our world forever.
I had spoken to my work the day after arriving in hospital to tell them that I would not be back to work the following week. They were quite helpful and said they would do anything they could to help, although this was never to actually materialise.
We went to see them at there home the following weekend. My bosses are a married couple, and having worked with them for so long, we thought of them as friends too. It was a long afternoon and the conversation was a bit of everything. Some insensitive things were said that we just ignored (including ‘Just try again or adopt’, ‘Just think of the future’ ‘At least you know you can get pregnant’ ‘Could he have played for the Netherlands if he had survived?’ and when I explained we were having some DNA tests done she joked to my husband ‘Why, to check he was yours?’) We know it was an awkward situation the first time we saw anyone and people didn’t tend to know what to say, so we had got into the habit of letting peoples comments go over our heads a little
Our Sons funeral was the hardest day. They sent us some flowers and were still saying take your time and we will do what we can, but they turned out to be very hollow words.
3 weeks after the death of my Son, I offered to pop into work on a Saturday to do some month end work that I knew they might not be able to do. The office would be quiet as only one of my bosses there, but I was really conscience that everything was being done properly, it’s just the way I am and I will probably always be. I became frustrated that simple things that should have been done in my absence had been done incorrectly and I did get upset. I explained that I was upset as I shouldn’t have to be worrying about simple things being done properly at work when I was dealing with other things. In return I was told that everyone had been really stressed whilst I was off, as if I hadn’t been stressed myself! I also noticed that someone had been using my PC in my absence (which is fine as they need to) but that the internet history showed that someone had logged in to my personal Facebook account on more than one occasion since I had been absent, including reading private messages. I mentioned this but was just told that he didn’t know anything about it. My fault I suppose for leaving my password saved on my PC, but no excuse for someone logging on to my private accounts.
A couple of weeks later, on the advice of my counsellor and support group, I asked if I could pop into work to have a catch up and break the ice before returning to work the following week. The meeting was icy and when I mentioned about returning to work part time the following week and maybe in another quieter part of the office, I got no response. He hardly said a word to us, She was short in tone in her conversation and I started to feel uncomfortable. I was explaining where we were at, that we had finally been given a support counsellor and how the funeral went, but was just met with a frosty reception and asked ‘well, hasn’t the funeral given you closure now?’ I was told that they had had to employ another member of staff and that she would be taking over some of the things that I had been doing.
Whilst there, I asked for a private chat with a work colleague who was also pregnant. I was conscious to speak to her, again advice recommended by the SANDS charity, as she may be awkward working with someone who has lost a baby whilst she was pregnant herself. I explained that she didn’t have to hide her pregnancy from me and not enjoy it as I was really pleased for her, and I was happy to answer any questions she had. Whilst I was talking to her, my husband was talking to my boss in another part of the office by my desk, where again she was quite short in her tone of conversation. She asked him if and when we were going to try and get pregnant again (not in consideration at the time as it was less than 6 weeks since our Son had died…) so he just said ‘next year, maybe’ to stop the conversation. When I got back to my desk I noticed that my desk had been rearranged and the monitor was in a position that would have been uncomfortable for me to use. I just made a flippant remark that my desk had been rearranged and She snapped at me that it wasn’t my desk and was ‘just a work station now’.
When we left I mentioned to my husband that I thought the atmosphere was frosty, and that they weren’t as friendly to me as usual. He tried to put my at ease, and suggested they were just busy and stressed as I was off.
The next day I received an email that felt very official (I have worked with my boss long enough to be able to tell that it wasn’t in ‘his language’) and that they didn’t want me to return to work the following week until they had written to my doctor. I knew it was going to be difficult but I wanted to get back to work, hopefully in a part time capacity, to assist in getting back into things (Again, this was advice I had been given by my GP, counsellor and support group)
Later that day he phoned me to check that I had received the email, which I confirmed I had, but I told him that I felt it was asking me not to return to work and it felt like I was not wanted. He explained that he had never dealt with this situation before and didn’t know what to do, which I completely understand, but again I felt like I was being pushed away and not being helped as I should have been.
The day after that I received a call asking if they could visit me in my house straight away. Of course this wouldn’t be a problem, I would have preferred if my husband was there, but he was at work and there wouldn’t be enough time for him to come home.
They came around as they wanted to explain that they didn’t know what they were doing in the situation and were following the advice they were given. I can appreciate that, but at the same time, I was asking for help but being treated like a problem and not as I should be.
Not long after the conversation started I was starting to feel pressured and intimidated, and I did snap and asked them to leave, but was just shouted down by her saying ‘see, how are we supposed to deal with you when you are being so snappy?’. They did not leave and she continued to say things to me that I found offensive and unhelpful, but I did not feel that I was able to defend myself. I felt bullied in my own home, when I had no support or representation, and was told I was being argumentative and snappy when I did try to protect myself.
These comments included being told that me and my husband are weak, and that usually there is a strong one in a couple but we aren’t coping because we are both weak. When I tried to explain that we had had support from the SANDS charity and the meeting group we have attended, I was told that we were surrounding ourselves with sad people and something so offensive to parents who have lost a child that I can’t even put it here for them to read. I tried to explain that the meetings were very positive and it wasn’t just people sitting around crying but I was again dismissed. I was told I need to ‘stop dwelling on it’, but I don’t think they understand quite the depth of emotion and pain that follows losing a very much wanted pregnancy, and then have to give birth to your Son knowing that he would not survive.
When I tried to explain that I wanted to get back to work to get back into a routine, but would need to be part time for a while, I was again shot down with ‘what do you want me to do, wrap you up in cotton wool and treat you like a special case?’, ‘we have other people to think of too’ and ‘what good is that to us?’ I was accused of telling a colleague that I hated another colleague and that I had emailed a list of demands of what people could and couldn’t say to me (again, not true, was just one line in an email I had sent days after my Son’s birth that I wasn’t sure how to cope if people said insensitive things to us)
I tried to explain that we had been through a terrible time, and some of the things that had happened to us were heartbreaking, we were struggling to know what to do to and we were doing the best we could based on the medical and charity advice we were given. I completely understand that they were busy and pressured at work, and at any other time I would always try and help the company the best I could, but our situation was hard and I had to do what was best for me and my husband on this occasion.
Things calmed down as I just agreed to what they wanted, mainly because I just wanted them to leave my house. I agreed not to go back to work the following week and to go back to my doctors. As soon as they left I contacted my husband at work, as I was upset and had to tell him what they had said to me.
I did go back to the doctors the following week, he thought my anxiety had increased, and prescribed medication for my anxiety. I did not need these on my previous visit to the doctors, but my personal health had noticeably changed since they visited me at my house, and what they said had had a detrimental affect on me.
After a discussion with my Counsellor where I explained what had happened, she insisted that for my health I was not to contact them at all as their behaviour was unacceptable, and to ignore any contact with them until I felt strong enough to deal with them. Since they visited I have only maintained any necessary contact with them by email.
A few more weeks had passed, and I continued with my counselling and got off my medication, I was feeling strong enough to move forward. A real dilemma for me was deciding to hand in my resignation to a job that I love and have done to the very best of my ability for nearly 16 years. I had to come to the decision because the way I was treated and how I have been spoken to was unacceptable. My trust and confidence in them was broken by their behaviour. There is no way I could sit in an office with someone who said such horrible things to me.
I’ve taken them to ACAS conciliation but the only thing we ever wanted was an apology. Our solicitor laughed when I said that, he said that companies will never apologise, and that the only thing we could do was take their money as an admission of their guilt. We decided to press ahead and thought we could donate the money to our local hospital for premature baby equipment, and use it so that I could go back to college and retrain as a counsellor when I am strong enough.
Since handing in my resignation I have been accused of making up everything they said and that I am so depressed and mentally ill that I can not make a correct decision. I’m not mentally ill, I’m just been grieving for my Son! It’s horrible when people that you trusted for so long are now making up accusations that even involve my family (they told ACAS that I have fallen out with members of my own family over advice I have been given, which is just a complete lie!) I have no reason to lie, yet they have every reason to as what they did was so very wrong.
They have denied everything but we can’t fight it any longer. We can’t afford to risk our savings and our future on people that are being so in-humane. I can only presume that whilst I was off sick that they were under pressure and couldn’t deal with it and have for some reason decided to take their stresses out on me.
In less than 6 months I have lost my son and my career. We are going to continue our life on a path we didn’t expect to be going along, but we will do it confidently knowing that we never deliberately hurt or lied to anyone along the way, and that we will always try and do the right thing even though our hearts are shattered. We also have the star that is our Son watching over us and that is worth more than any salary they could ever have paid me.