When a longed-for young life is cut short before it has even begun

Laura Pye and her partner David MacKay. Picture: Jane Barlow

Laura Pye and her partner David MacKay. Picture: Jane Barlow

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WITH his tiny fingers and toes perfectly formed and locks of thick dark brown hair, Laura Pye and David Mackay gazed upon their newborn son for the first time.

It should have been a moment of unbridled joy for nursing student Laura and David, a footballer with SPL side St Johnstone, as their baby boy lay dressed in the clothes they had bought for him to come home in months before.

But while the couple will always treasure that time with their second child, their lives will forever be touched by pain and sadness. They had found out the previous day that their son, later named David Gordon by his big sister Louise, had died in the womb.

He had been stillborn – and the heartbroken family may never fully get over the tragedy which meant baby David would never see the family home in Bathgate, West 
Lothian.

It was all supposed to be so different when Laura, 30, found out last October there would be a new addition to their small family.

Unable to contain their excitement, Laura and David told their daughter and close family members the news almost immediately.

“The pregnancy was semi-planned, within the last two to three years we’d been thinking we really wanted to try,” Laura said.

“When I found out I was pregnant we were over the moon, Louise couldn’t have been any happier. She longed to have a brother or sister, it’s all we heard about.”

And with 12-week and 20-week scans indicating that the pregnancy would be routine as it had been with Louise more than a decade earlier, initial caution turned to 
anticipation.

David, 31, said: “We paid for another 4D scan to find out the sex. Everything had been absolutely fine. The baby looked perfect, there was never anything to worry about.”

Laura added: “When we got the sex scan we didn’t tell anybody – nobody knew we were having a little boy. I don’t know how we managed to keep it secret.”

But suddenly, with Laura 33 weeks pregnant and the June 8 due date approaching fast, their lives were to come crumbling down around them.

Laura had noticed that her child had not been moving as much – something she was told to expect as the baby grew larger and had less space.

But then, on the morning of April 22, she knew something was terribly wrong.

“It was strange – from the minute I woke up I had this feeling. We tried everything. We had a few songs we used to play to him through the iPod and usually he would move when you played music to him. He had always been really active, always kicking about.”

David added: “We phoned the hospital and they told us not to panic and it should be fine. They gave us a couple of things to try but still, there wasn’t any movement.”

Despite reassurances from medical staff, the couple went into hospital fearing the worst. And it was an ultrasound scan, rather than a doctor, that all but delivered the catastrophic verdict.

“You could just tell, there was no sound coming, no heartbeat,” David said. “A doctor came in with the monitor and you could see David on it, and he then broke the devastating news. On other scans you could see his little heartbeat, but there was nothing.”

Laura said: “It was shock and numbness. It was the worst feeling ever. It’s hard to explain.”

They then began the heartbreaking task of phoning family members, before David left to tell 10-year-old Louise that she would not be able to look after her little brother or sister after all.

“It was a horrible moment. It will stay with me for the rest of my life,” David said. “Louise just broke down, screaming. She was looking forward to it so much, it was devastating for her.”

Laura said: “Thinking back I don’t know how we got through that day, trying to act normal when people were coming in. I think we must have been in shock.”

Then, the following day, after being given medication to induce the labour, Laura gave birth to David, who weighed 4lb 3oz. Mercifully, the birth took just an hour, although it was only then that the reality of what had happened began to hit home.

“I kept thinking he was going to come out alive for some strange reason,” Laura said. “Even though I knew he’d died I was thinking there might be a small chance.”

David added: “When he was being delivered I was just hoping and praying for a miracle, that he starts crying or something, even though you know it’s never going to happen. To see your baby delivered not moving and with no noise, it’s numbing.”
After nurses took the baby away and cleaned him, Laura and David were able to spend a few hours alone with their child.

“I actually wasn’t sure what he was going to look like, but he was perfect – like a newborn baby would be. He had all of his little fingers and toes, and was a good size,” David said.

After initially saying their goodbyes to their baby, the couple returned one final time before they left, knowing they would never see their son in the flesh again.

“Walking out of the ward you know you should be taking the baby home in the car seat. To leave empty handed is devastating,” David said.

The funeral took place on May 4. It is believed that baby David died due to an infarction in Laura’s placenta, restricting his flow of blood.

Four months on, the couple are beginning to come to terms with their loss, although there are constant reminders of what might have been.

Laura said: “It’s hard seeing all the little kids going up to primary school or even the Olympics. We went to London in March when I was quite heavily pregnant, and even seeing London on TV kind of brought it all back.”

The couple now want to speak out, to raise awareness of stillbirth which affects thousands of people in Scotland every year.

“It’s important that everyone remembers him,” Laura said. “Some people after it happened blanked it out and carried on as normal. But it hurt us more when people didn’t say anything about him. You’re crying out inside for them to say something so you can then go on to talk about him.

“At the beginning people say it gets better, and you don’t believe them. It feels like it’s a nightmare you can’t escape from, but slowly, it does.”

Laura is now focusing her energy on preparing for the Great Glasgow Run in September, which she is completing to raise awareness and money for SANDS Lothians, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity which has supported her in recent months.

“My main thing now is getting back to university and getting back in to studying,” Laura added. “It’s about getting to the day that we don’t forget David, but can live with what happened. I’m not there yet, but I think that day will come.”

• To sponsor Laura’s run, visit www.justgiving.com/Laura-Pye0