Yorkshire family's appeal after sudden loss of baby son at 36 weeks pregnant

There is a weight of grief in shattered dreams, in the future they had imagined for a baby boy who would be lost before he could draw his first breath.

Suzanne and Matthew Kings' son was stillborn, with no heartbeat at 36 weeks pregnant.

Suzanne Kings, from Ebberston on the outskirts of Scarbrough, lost her baby son at 36 weeks pregnant. Six months on, she is fundraising for maternity bereavement support after the kindness of care she was given. Image: Gary Longbottom.

Suzanne Kings, from Ebberston on the outskirts of Scarbrough, lost her baby son at 36 weeks pregnant. Six months on, she is fundraising for maternity bereavement support after the kindness of care she was given. Image: Gary Longbottom.

They returned home from hospital with a box of memories, rather than the newborn they had hoped and longed for for so long.

But they had a comfort in their care, the Scarborough couple say today, as they share their story to ease the greatest taboo over baby loss.

And as they fundraise to ease the trauma for others, they say the kindness they were afforded is the only thing which has made their experience more bearable.

"There's so much pain, in the unrealness," says Mrs Kings, 29. "A nightmare, that you can't believe has actually happened.

Suzanne Kings lost her son in late pregnancy, but says the experience was made more bearable by the kindness of specialist bereavement midwives at Scarborough Hospital. Image: Gary Longbottom

Suzanne Kings lost her son in late pregnancy, but says the experience was made more bearable by the kindness of specialist bereavement midwives at Scarborough Hospital. Image: Gary Longbottom

"But we've had such kindness. People who continue to look after us, the midwives who got in touch at Christmas, realising how difficult it would be.

"Had this been a few years ago, or in another part of the country, we wouldn't have received the same care or support when our whole world was falling apart."

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A devastating loss

Suzanne Kings, of Ebberston on the outskirts of Scarborough, is raising money for maternity bereavement services in Scarborough and for a specialist suite at York Hospital. Image: Gary Longbottom.

Suzanne Kings, of Ebberston on the outskirts of Scarborough, is raising money for maternity bereavement services in Scarborough and for a specialist suite at York Hospital. Image: Gary Longbottom.

The Kings lost their baby in July last year. They named him Bokke, a moniker stemming from his grandfather's cricketing days in South Africa.

His loss had been sudden and unexpected.

Mrs Kings, finishing her nurse training in Gloucester, had just joined her husband in his home village of Ebberston to set up their new home ahead of the baby's arrival. There had been concerns at a scan just days before, but nothing to indicate what was to come.

Then she realised she hadn't felt the baby move for some time. A quick trip to hospital was supposed to allay her fears, but instead it confirmed the worst.

Suzanne Kings, of Ebberston on the outskirts of Scarborough, is raising money for maternity bereavement services in Scarborough and for a specialist suite at York Hospital. Image: Gary Longbottom.

Suzanne Kings, of Ebberston on the outskirts of Scarborough, is raising money for maternity bereavement services in Scarborough and for a specialist suite at York Hospital. Image: Gary Longbottom.

There was no heartbeat, and it was later to emerge the placenta had failed.

In the days that were to follow, the Kings endured the greatest of trauma as they tried to come to terms with their loss, and say goodbye to their son.

But there was a kindness, gifted in the passage of grief from parents before them.

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Specialist care

Scarborough Hospital is among those with specialist bereavement midwives, while a suite for families was opened with the backing of £130,000 in donations in 2016.

This Snowdrop Suite meant the Kings could have their own space, for the duration of their hospital stay.

And the specially trained midwives, who didn't leave their side, were the ones who could understood what it was the Kings would need.

When it came to information, to counselling, to continued support. And in putting in place the memoirs that would become so important to them.

The tiny handprints, captured in clay and ink, the memory box, created by past parents with shared stories of comfort and loss. It meant everything to the Kings, in easing their pain.

"Losing our son has changed our whole perspective on life," said Mr Kings, 37.

"You've got this 'Disney idea' - that you're going to find someone, have kids. That has been shattered for us.

"It's all we've got, a box for memories. But the service, and the kindness that we've been given, needs repaying. It needs to carry on.

"Not so many years ago, parents were just sent home to get on with their lives," he adds.

"You don't think about it, until it happens to you. But when we needed it, the service was there for us."

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Fundraising efforts

The York Teaching Hospital NHS Trust is among those trialling a National Bereavement Care Pathway with charity Sands, and there are calls for it to be rolled out nationwide.

For the Kings, they say, it made the world of difference. A fundraiser by Mrs Kings, with a run this weekend, has now raised over £500.

Half the funds will go towards maternity bereavement services in Scarborough, and half towards the Butterfly Appeal in York, creating a similar bereavement suite for families.

"I still want to shout about my son, I'm so proud of him," said Mrs Kings, now a staff nurse herself at Scarborough Hospital.

"We went through eight months of joy, and we leave with a box of memories. At the end of the day, we haven't got our baby.

"But for other people, going through that, they will need support and we want to pass it on.

"We were lucky, in a way," she adds. "This isn't in every hospital. This service needs to keep going, and it needs to be extended."

To support the family's fundraising, click here.