A grief-stricken mum has recalled the trauma of giving birth to her baby girl despite knowing she wouldn’t be alive as she had suffered a missed miscarriage.
Jo Paskell, 38, was expecting her fifth child last year but, at her 20-week scan, the sonographer found no heartbeat.
A consultant told Jo her baby had died but her body didn’t know – a rare occurrence called a missed or silent miscarriage.
But the mother, of Penarth, south Wales, gave birth to Cariad the next day after doctors gave her tablets and her own room with a bathroom.
Jo took the pills, went into the bathroom and her contractions started but she didn’t have the strength to get back to bed. Her spouse Phil was not allowed to be with her due to Covid rules.
Speaking to Wales Online, Jo said: “She [Cariad] was perfect. The most perfect little nose and eyes that never opened. I held her and sang to her. I told her how sorry I was that I couldn’t protect her. And then I had to leave her. Instead of bringing a baby home all I had was a little box with her footprints and photos. And so many unanswered questions.
“I was in at 9am and out by 4pm. They wanted me to stay longer but I just wanted to get home to my kids.”
A missed miscarriage, usually diagnosed at 12 or 20 weeks, is also known as a silent miscarriage because people often don’t exhibit the most common miscarriage symptoms such as heavy cramping and vaginal bleeding. One to five per cent of pregnancies results in a missed miscarriage, according to recent research.
Doctors believe from their measurements that Cariad was around 16 weeks when she died. Jo is now determined to raise awareness of missed miscarriages and the support available to parents who lose a child.
“A missed miscarriage is not something I’d ever heard of,” she said.
“I’d had none of the typical signs of miscarriage. There was no indication at all that anything was wrong.
“My life is all about my children and Cariad is no exception. I will always be a mum to five beautiful children.”
Recalling the traumatic 20-week scan at Llandough hospital in Penarth, Jo said: “I can’t describe the feeling. I told her she was wrong, that it wasn’t possible. How could my baby be dead and I didn’t know? Another doctor then came in and confirmed it. It was like my whole world stopped in that moment. It was like I went into autopilot, but I could barely even stand to walk out of the room
“A consultant came to see me and explained I’d had a ‘missed miscarriage’ where my baby had died but my body didn’t know.”
The mum had already been through a challenging first lockdown, as her grandmother died and she was unable to go to the funeral. Jo’s family had largely isolated during the pandemic as her eight-year-old son Jack has non verbal classic autism and short bowel syndrome, and so needs regular care.
“Our house is pretty full and a bit crazy, life is very busy already with four kids and their additional needs, but there was no question of Cariad fitting in. We were very excited,” Jo, who lives with kids children, Jamie, Jack, Kasey and Kali, and her partner Phil, continued.
“Then the pandemic hit and we went into lockdown, and it was really scary. I was worried about catching Covid for Jack’s sake because he is clinically vulnerable – but also for my baby.
“One of the hardest things was not telling my mum and dad, because I couldn’t see them and I didn’t want to do it over the phone. Apart from my nana’s funeral it was nearly three months I didn’t see them for.
“It’s been a scary time, because of Jack’s loss of bowel he picks up coughs and colds very easily and spends a lot of time in hospital having IV fluids,” Jo said. “Trying to home-school the children by myself with so many different children with additional needs, and then the baby running around, was extremely difficult.”
Now, Jo and her family cherish a photo of Cariad’s footprint, taken at the hospital.
In June, a private funeral was held for Cariad with the help of James Summers funeral care in Penarth, with only Jo and Phil in attendance.
“We held it at Barry crematorium,” Jo explained. “A poem was read for Cariad and we played two songs – The Last Lullaby by Itty Bitty Beats and Somewhere Over The Rainbow by Eva Cassidy. About a week later I was able to collect Cariad’s ashes.”
In October, after receiving a full autopsy report for Cariad, Jo found out her daughter had Down’s Syndrome which had contributed to her death.
As the family approaches what would have been Cariad’s first birthday, Jo said she was determined to make a difference for people who experienced similar loss by raising funds for the Aching Arms charity and the Down’s Syndrome Association.
“I was dreading it [Cariad’s first birthday]. I should be planning a party, buying presents and a cake,” she said. “Instead I have nothing. But I can’t let her birthday pass without doing something.
“At the moment I’m really focused on my fundraiser. I wanted to do something that would make a difference and help other people too.” You can see Jo’s fundraising page here, after she pledged to cycle 150km in October.
“Depending on how it goes, I’d like to do something every year to raise money for different charities in Cariad’s name. I want to try and give her the legacy that she deserves. One of the places I’ve had support from is Aching Arms. They provide families with teddy bears in memory of their lost baby – something to hold on to when my arms feel empty.
“They (the children) keep me busy, there’s not a lot of time during the day to do anything else,” she added.
“It’s the night time that is worse – when the house is quiet.”