Poppy’s Story

Project Rainbow – Baby Daphne – 18.02.2021

Poppy Walker

In June 2019, I gave birth to my first baby, a beautiful boy who was the light of my world. We didn’t know he was going to be a boy. We had picked Daphne if the baby was a girl, but couldn’t agree on a boy’s name. Just before we left the hospital, we fell in love with the name “Felix”, meaning happy in latin. Felix changed our world for the better.

We knew that we would like Felix to have a sibling, but it was a surprise when we discovered I was pregnant just after Felix turned 1. 

The pregnancy seemed to be going smoothly. I felt sicker than I had done with Felix and my hips were constantly hurting, but apart from that it all seemed to be going fine. The most stressful part was the fact we were in the midst of the Covid pandemic, with lockdowns, reduced midwife care and restrictions on who could be with you in the hospital. I was very nervous about catching covid because so little was known about how it could affect a pregnancy, with some saying it could increase your risk of stillbirth. But still, we were optimistic about the future, and couldn’t wait to bring our baby home. 

At 35 weeks, after a particularly hard day at work, I realised that I couldn’t feel the baby moving. I went to the hospital alone in the middle of the night thinking that they would put the monitor on and the baby would be kicking away but in an odd position I couldn’t feel. Instead, the first midwife got another midwife, who got a different machine and a more senior midwife, who then called for a doctor. I already knew what they were going to say. I could feel it in the air. But still, when the doctor said “I’m so sorry” I lost it. I howled and I screamed. 

The next few days were a blur. I was well cared for by the bereavement midwives Sibi and Rhiannon as I was induced and birthed our baby. She was a girl, so small and beautiful and perfect in every way. We named her the name we had always loved for a girl – Daphne.

My husband and I spent time with her, holding her, looking at her perfect face. We wrapped her in one of Felix’s baby blankets with a teddy bear on it.  It was hard to say goodbye when it was time to leave, and we left the hospital with a small box of memories the midwives helped to collect for us. 

The next few weeks were the worst of my life. The world kept turning while mine stood still. I just wanted the pain to go away and to have my little girl with me at home. The funeral was hard, with just me it was just myself and my husband saying goodbye to her together in the chapel. The days all ran into each other, as we battled the waves of grief as a family, trying not to drown. What got me through those darkest days though, was Felix. Having a 20 month old who needed his mummy was the only reason I got out of bed in the mornings. I am so grateful for my boy, and will always be thankful to him for being my smiley sunshine in the darkness, my guiding star, my reason for living. 

Despite the lockdowns and restrictions that were in place, we were so well cared for by our friends. Losing a baby really brings true friends closer. We were sent food deliveries, friends travelled to our local park so we could walk outside together, they kept checking in on how we were, they listened, they supported us. I am so grateful for our community of friends and family pulling together to make sure we had everything we needed both practically and emotionally to keep going for another day.

When I had my first period after we lost Daphne, I had this overwhelming feeling that I needed a baby. Not wanted. Needed. When I spoke to my husband, he agreed. We decided not to try, but to choose not to use birth control. I never had another period, and discovered I was pregnant only a few days before our phone meeting with the consultant at the hospital to find out why Daphne died. The doctors told us that the reason Daphne died was that there was a problem with my placenta. I asked them if that could happen again, and they said maybe, but promised to look after me and the baby. 

This pregnancy was the same as all my previous pregnancies. Sickness, sore hips, cravings for salt. The big difference was the anxiety. Every moment of every day I was anxious. It just became how it was and somehow I just lived alongside the constant fear that this baby would die too. I was scared to love it. However, for the first time we decided to find out the sex of the baby at the 20 week scan, and when they said she was a girl, suddenly I felt this overwhelming love and connection. Suddenly she was real. Which was good for bonding, but terrible for my anxiety and stress. 

I was being monitored closely, especially in the third trimester, with regular growth scans because a baby stops growing if there is a problem with the placenta. At 36 weeks, the scan showed that growth had plateaued. Baby had stopped growing. I felt sick and had my heart in my mouth, and we were told to go home and arrange childcare for our son and come back in the morning to be induced. The next day, we welcomed our baby girl into the world. Our glorious rainbow. Alive, beautiful and so so perfect. We named Carys which means Love in Welsh. 

Babies don’t replace babies. A rainbow baby does not replace the baby that was lost. But what Carys brought into our lives was the feeling that although the world is dark, there can be hope, there can be light, and there can be joy. 

Every year on Daphne’s birthday we spend the day as a family in our home city of London, and make it fun for Felix and Carys. Today, on 18 February 2024, Daphne turns 3 years old. Together we celebrate her, and the beautiful impact her tiny life has had. She has shown me how strong I am, and how resilient I can be. She had taught me about overwhelming grief, and also about overwhelming love. She has made me humble and more compassionate to the suffering of others. She has changed me and made me a better person. 

Daphne is in the daffodils that bloom around her birthday in the parks and gardens that surround us. She is in the streets of the city where I walked with her for those 8 months. She is in the moon that shines for us wherever we go; when she glows for me, I nod and say hello, and thank her for always being there. 

I write this story for Daphne and all her friends, the other lost children, because every story deserves to be told and every life celebrated no matter how short. I wear this skirt for Felix and Carys, my sunshine and rainbow who fill my days with mischief and joy. And I take this photo for all the London bereaved parents who have had to say goodbye. We may be strangers in a city of 9 million people, but we walk together, we find each other, carry each other when times are hard, and we keep our little one’s memory alive in everything we do. 

If you are going through loss, and are in the darkest days, I just want you to know that it doesn’t get better. You will always grieve for your baby. But it does get different. And it does get easier. And you will shine again. But you will shine bright with the power of a mother who knows the beauty and the depth of love and loss. You will be fierce and powerful, because you will have endured the very worst. You will rise again stronger with your baby in your heart. Don’t lose hope, you have got this mama. The sun will shine again.

Poppy wears the rainbow skirt and holds it out to one side. A large town hall building is in the background.

Find out more about Project Finding Your Rainbow.

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