My story from heartbreak to gratitude

Sam is a good friend of mine and is as passionate about supporting Red Nose as I am. This is her story...

L to R: Sam Richards, Sarah Morrissey

L to R: Sam Richards, Sarah Morrissey

In 2000, at the age of 31, I found out that I was pregnant with my first child and I couldn’t have been happier. My husband and I literally danced for joy that we were going to have a baby, a little girl, but that joy wasn’t to last long, as during one of the ultrasounds we found out that our baby was sick. We had more ultrasounds and an amniocentesis. In this procedure, a big needle is put through the abdomen into the uterus to get a sample of amniotic fluid. It’s an accurate way of diagnosing the condition of babies still in the womb.

The results were heartbreaking. Our baby daughter had a less than 5 percent chance of survival. Our world fell apart, and no matter which way we looked at it, the outcome was going to be the same. Olivia was not going to survive. I didn’t know what to do as I felt my heart shatter into a billion pieces, so we did nothing and went away to spend time with her. I spent the next two weeks with my little angel. We couldn’t change the outcome, but we could change how we dealt with it and make it easier for her and us. We talked to her, sang to her (not too well I might add), and became one with her.

Two weeks later I went into labour, and eventually, I was handed my perfectly formed - if not a little premature – baby whose lifeless little body I found hard to give up. I remember staring at her little face thinking, “Wow, she’s perfect!” and expecting her to gurgle, but no sound came. I couldn’t cry, I was in shock, and so I put on a brave face and smiled a dead smile for the camera. Nothing felt real. I was convinced it was a bad dream that I was going to wake up from. We had a Chaplain come in and perform a name giving service and blessing for her, and we reluctantly handed her over to be taken to the hospital morgue until her funeral three weeks later.

Even though my heart was broken, I felt a love for my little girl that I never knew existed. A love that I could do no justice to if I tried to put it into words now. Even though it took me a long time to work through my grief, it wasn’t without the initial support of organisations like SIDS and SANDS.

I did go on to have two happy, healthy, cheeky, and very beautiful children, a boy and a girl, and I do feel truly blessed to have them, though as a result of the tragedy, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do with my life. I decided to look over the precipice of fear - boy was it a frightening abyss of darkness staring back – and change career direction completely, following my heart. In 2014 I decided that I wanted to be a coach of children in how to be better communicators. I do work with adults too, but everything I do is driven by what I experienced and by my three children to make a difference to those young lives I come into contact with.

The loss of Olivia, and subsequent births of Joshua and Emily has given me the drive to do something I love, and for that, I can only feel blessed and grateful.

Samantha Richards, Building Voices