Days prior to Christmas last year, when the world and his wife were manically buying gifts and fitting in more frivolous social occasions, one devastated mum cradled her newborn baby. Within just 15 minutes her precious daughter had died in her arms.

Here, Eloquently Her shares the story of how this courageous woman has been irrevocably changed by the mere moments of life granted to her baby girl, Holly Rose.

As a singer and as an actress, Rosanne Priest is no stranger to wearing ‘performance faces’.

She knows how to present to the world the very persona that’s expected of her at any given time.

And yet, in the last few months, this warm and articulate 38-year-old has been having to come to terms with what she now feels is a new identity exposed to the universe – one she never dared fear might become part of her own life’s story.

In so far as it’s possible for any woman, Rosanne had been having a normal pregnancy until the latter part of last year.

She and her partner Dave were planning a personal and private home-birth in their family house on the borders of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.

This was due to be in February 2018, by which point she would have celebrated the festive season, and marked the sixth birthday of her ever-smiling son, Rowan.

“There were no real indications of concern about how my pregnancy was progressing,” she begins.

“Certainly in the early stages I was still happy with continuing in my working world as a theatrical singer and actress, and my energy levels weren’t suffering.

“In fact, Dave and I had already taken the decision that we weren’t planning to make a big proclamation about the pregnancy, so I genuinely hoped I’d be posting pictures after the birth, letting the wider world know that we’d become parents again.”

Indeed, it wasn’t until the latter part of December that any worrisome signs began to unfold.

“I was aware that I was particularly large, given when I was due,” Rosanne goes on. “It obviously reached a point where medical professionals also felt it warranted further investigation, so I was sent to the hospital….and things rapidly changed track.

“On December 21st I was diagnosed with polyhydramnios, which essentially means there is too much amniotic fluid in the amniotic sac.

“While not common, there is often no obvious explanation for the excess fluid, and it usually poses no immediate cause for concern for the baby.

“In my case, it quickly became clear that it was a symptom of a more serious underlying problem, and that my daughter was rapidly becoming increasingly unwell in the womb.

“So, less than 24 hours after arriving at the hospital thinking I was having a routine scan, I ended up having a caesarean section in order to give our girl the best possible chance of survival.”

Tragically, on 22nd December, three days before intended family celebrations, two months prior to her anticipated due date, Holly Rose was born into the world and survived for just 15 minutes.

“So much of that time is now such a blur,” continues Rosanne.

“Although I do remember that she died in our arms and that as she did so, we were playing her a recording of me singing to her.

“It was calm and it was peaceful, and we knew there was nothing more that could have been done by anyone.”

Two days later, on Christmas Eve, with her longed-for baby girl in a hospital morgue, Rosanne rallied herself to ‘wear brave Mummy face’ and complete the present-wrapping, prepare for family, put sherry out for Santa….and enquire about funeral options.

She admits wholeheartedly, in hindsight, that it is only really the knowledge of being Mum to her son Rowan, which spurred her on to get through those bleak days and hours.

He, after all, was too young to fully understand the extent of a mother’s grief.

“I suppose you could say I did really very well in those first few days,” she says.

“In fact, probably even more so than my partner.

“I got through Christmas, rang family and friends who knew I was pregnant, and then arranged the funeral.

“It was in the weeks following that things began to change and I started to find the ‘coming to terms with it’ ever harder.

“When everyone else was going back to work after their festivities, I wasn’t. I wasn’t because I was on official Maternity Leave…without a baby.

“Despite Holly only having been with us for 15 minutes, it’s still considered that I am entitled to full maternity leave. That’s a very odd thought, and yet at the same time I do need some of that time as recovery.”

Often, women who experience the loss of a newborn will talk about having a yearning for a ‘Rainbow Baby’.

This term is commonly used for the child which parents then focus on having to soften their grief, in some small way, for the baby they have recently lost.

Rosanne, however, is unexpectedly firm about her decision.

There will be no new baby.

“It may be that I am choosing something of a lonelier direction, as I prepare to go forward knowing that I don’t intend to have another baby after that devastating loss,” she considers.

“But I know this is the right choice for me.

“I want the next stage of my life to be about choosing to share the pain and the grief I feel, but to do so down a road which involves being Mummy to Rowan – and sadly not to another sibling.

“I am sure anyone who has lost a child will say that the experience changes you and that you really cannot be the same again, however much you long to be.

“In my case, yes, I do feel changed, and I am changed in as much as I have found courage I didn’t know I had, and a resolve that perhaps I couldn’t have known existed.”

What’s more, for Rosanne in particular, is that the ‘change’ process has involved a reconnection which takes this strong woman back to a fondly recalled period of her childhood.

She says: “Back when I was about five, I was telling everyone I wanted to be a poet. I loved to write. It was something I enjoyed and kept on doing as I got older.

“But then somewhere, although I don’t recall exactly why or when, I lost the direction and motivation to write.

“That changed again the day Holly died. I wanted to be writing and writing and writing – telling the world how I felt, whether indeed they ever came to read my words or not.”

She continues: “I immediately wanted to get online and start sharing my thoughts in words. In fact, I had never been one to live my life through use of social media or whatever, but it just seemed like the most obvious and useful medium, so I was soon blogging frequently.”

The result has been a swift audience creation, with fellow parents, hopeful Mums, grieving mums, and sympathetic women the world over, keen to respond to Rosanne’s written outpourings on her blog http://ro-ro-to-fro.blogspot.co.uk.

“I can’t say that the writing – or anything else for that matter – is something that ‘heals’ how you feel about losing a baby, but the communication is powerful, and it does help,” she says thoughtfully.

“I would say to any woman who has been through what I have, do not give up the chance to talk and to share and to grieve or express as openly as you feel you need to.

“No, I will never forget Holly and the dreams I had for a life with her, but I will make sure that, for Rowan’s sake, I am able to face this new phase of my life and to do so with hope and optimism.

“What choice do we have but to deal with the circumstances which life brings our way? I am fortunate to have a son and to have the love and support of so many.

“It’s reminding myself of those aspects of my life which will keep me going – always with the memory of Holly in my heart.”

Further reading & Information

For further information about polyhydramnios, go to https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/polyhydramnios/

To read Rosanne’s blog, go to

http://ro-ro-to-fro.blogspot.co.uk

For help if you have lost a baby and would like to talk in confidence, we suggest:

https://www.sands.org.uk/

http://www.bliss.org.uk/

https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/

https://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/

https://www.tommys.org/