The Story of Freddie and Phoebe

Freddie was born at 5.29am on Adam's 30th birthday at 24 weeks and 3 days weighing just 1lb 9oz

After about four years of trying to get pregnant, we sought help from the fertility clinic and were put on fertility tablets before resorting to IVF.  After 2 months of being on these tablets, we fell pregnant with Freddie in February 2020 – we were so excited and relieved as we thought it was never going to happen for us. However, this was just as we went into lockdown which unfortunately meant that Adam could not come to any of the scans or appointments.  Luckily, all scans etc went smoothly and everything was going as planned and we began to look forward to our due date in November 2020.

In July, we invited family over for garden visits to celebrate Adam’s 30th birthday. However, by the evening, after everyone had left, Sophie started getting cramps, but what we were unaware of was that these were early labour pains – we hadn’t even spoken about labour, and what our plan was as it was still so early.

The pain got progressively worse, so we called 111.  They advised us to take some paracetamol and to try to remain calm if possible and to try resting or sleeping.  However, it soon became clear that we needed to get to the hospital soon as the pain was worsening.

At 4am on Adam’s 30th birthday, we arrived at the hospital – by this point, Sophie was already 10cm dilated. We were only 24 weeks and 3 days into our pregnancy. By 5.29am Freddie was born breach, weighing 1lb 9oz. He was delivered by a lovely midwife called Ailish.  He was taken to the corner of the room and the doctors worked on his little body and were clearly working so hard, but it was apparent quite quickly that he was too small to survive. Freddie was officially alive for 86 minutes. We were then given some time to take in what had happened before Sophie went to theatre.  Shortly after returning from theatre, we were reunited with Freddie.  Adam chose a little blue outfit to dress our handsome little man in.  It was a perfect choice.

Shortly after theatre, Hayley from the bereavement team came up to see us; she was wonderful and so caring.  She stayed with us and talked through our next steps.  Additionally, she told us about the bereavement suite, which we could go to as our family of three and spend time with Freddie making memories.  The wonderful Hayley also took on her role of Sophie’s midwife as well as the bereavement side –  doing checks as Sophie was feeling quite weak from both the labour and theatre visit.

Once in the bereavement suite, we were also given a wonderful box which had a ‘Guess How Much I Love You’ book in, alongside a candle, small angel and ink and paper to make hand and footprints.    The most special items in this box though were the two bears they gave us.  Little did we realise, these bears would become the most precious gift we could ever imagine having.  The bears were identical and one stayed with Freddie after we had left the hospital and the other came home with us.  We loved this idea as it meant we were still connected to our handsome little man.  We spent 3 days in the bereavement suite with our little boy in a cold cot; reading him stories; making precious memories and spending time in our little family bubble.

After our experience we wanted to try and make the best out of a tragic situation and therefore at Freddie’s funeral, asked for donations for the bereavement team – we ended up raising over £1,000. Hayley and the team kept in touch with us after we left the hospital.  We felt so lucky to have Hayley in our lives as she was so good at keeping in touch; checking in and making it known to us that she was there for us, no matter what.

Unfortunately, our hard journey continued and a couple of months after losing Freddie, we found out we were pregnant again.  However, this baby was never meant to be and sadly we had a missed miscarriage a week before Christmas 2020. When Hayley and the team found out, once again, they were there for us.

Once Sophie had recovered from the miscarriage, we decided to start trying for another baby and by April 2021, we were pregnant again.  This pregnancy was classed as a high-risk pregnancy due to the two losses and we were therefore looked after by the Rainbow Team.  The Rainbow Team are a dedicated team of midwives who look after patients who have suffered a loss of pregnancy or death of a baby previously. Thankfully, we had our first scan at 8 weeks which showed that the baby was viable.  From then on, we had fortnightly scans to reassure us and to keep an eye on Sophie’s cervix (it was an incompetent cervix which caused Freddie to be born so prematurely). We were lucky to have an amazing consultant called Sirabi, who completed both internal and normal pregnancy scans and she kept us informed of everything we needed to know.  By 18 weeks gestation, we discovered an issue with Sophie’s cervix again – this meant we were at risk of premature birth again.  Sirabi arranged for the cervical stitch to be put in two days later in order to strengthen the cervix in the hopes that this pregnancy would go to full term (or as close as could be).

However, at 29 weeks and 4 days, Sophie began to get stomach pains and something felt not quite right.  At first, it didn’t feel too serious so we headed to our first bereavement support group and thought the weird sensation would hopefully pass. However, once home, the pains started feeling worse.  We decided we should go to the hospital to get checked. Thankfully, the scans and tests were all normal and there was no sign of labour yet.

The following day, however, things still felt weird.  We headed back to the hospital and Hayley met us at the door.  All seemed okay and we were told the pains could be Braxton Hicks.  However, after a visit to the toilet, Sophie started to bleed.  We were rushed into a labour room for the internal stitch to be removed and immediately Sophie’s waters broke.  All of this happening on the 5th November 2021 – very strange, when November 6th, the previous year was Freddie’s due date.

After Sophie’s waters had broken, all labour pains stopped and it wasn’t until 48 hours later, on Sunday 7th November 2021, that our gorgeous, feisty girl, Phoebe Imogen Ailish was born weighing 2lb 7oz.  Ailsh (our lovely midwife, who delivered Freddie) came into the room to help deliver Phoebe, which was amazing to have that link between our two babies.  Phoebe seemed to be doing really well – she was feisty, biting everyone as they tried to get her tubes in; eyes wide open and fighting with all of her strength.  Phoebe was taken up to the amazing NICU unit, whilst Sophie was taken into theatre.

The day after Phoebe was born, we were able to go up to the NICU and spend lots of time with Phoebe.  She was a little wriggler and was keeping the wonderful nurses very entertained.  We even put her big brother in his bear form, into the incubator with her.  Unfortunately, late on Monday 8th November 2021, things took a turn for the worse and we found out that our little girl had a blood infection – one that even a full-term baby would struggle to fight.  The doctors worked so hard to get antibiotics into her. However, it was soon very clear that despite all of the wonderful work from the NICU staff and the incredible fighting from our feisty, little girl, she couldn’t be saved.  It was all too much for her little body.

We asked Ailish – our midwife throughout both of our journeys so far – if we could go back to what we deemed ‘our room’ – the room we had spent 3 days with Freddie in.  We now wanted to make memories as a family of 4, with both Freddie Bear and Phoebe.  Again, we were lucky enough to be given a memory box to make hand and footprints; another copy of our special family story ‘Guess How Much I Love You’ and two more little bears – one to stay with Phoebe once we had left the hospital and one to come home with us.  Our special link to our babies.  So many of the midwives came to check in on us whilst we stayed in ‘our room’ after they had heard what had happened and to see little Phoebe and of course Freddie Bear.

All the midwives, the Rainbow Team and Bereavement Team (in particular Hayley AGAIN) were so amazingly kind and caring and really helped us through both of our losses.   We managed to spend three days with Phoebe, again reading her stories, making memories and telling Phoebe about her brave big brother too.  Eventually, the time came again to leave behind our baby girl (with her Phoebe Bear) with Hayley, whilst we returned home to plan Phoebe’s funeral.  Again, we asked for donations to go to the Bereavement Team in Phoebe’s memory.

Our Freddie and Phoebe Bears are such an important part of our lives and they have many adventures with us.  We still try to live our best family life and include our babies in their bear form in everything that we do.  Without our Freddie and Phoebe Bears and without the bereavement suite to spend time with both our children in their baby form, our experience would have been so much harder.  Having that time in ‘our room’ will forever mean everything to us and we are so grateful that we had those 3 amazing days with our handsome, little man and gorgeous feisty girl.  We continue to raise money for the Bereavement Team in memory of our little ones and raised yet more money at a Freddie and Phoebe Charity Golf Day in August 2022 as well as hosting a Freddie and Phoebe raffle party.

One thing we have learnt from this whole experience is just how many other people have been through the same thing. We want to support this appeal in any way we can and if telling our story does that and just one person makes a donation to help the appeal then we know it was a good thing to do.

Get in touch

Royal Berks Charity,
Royal Berkshire Hospital,
London Road,
Reading RG1 5AN

© 2021 Royal Berks Charity.
The working name of the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust Charity.
Registered charity number 1052720

Sign up to our newsletter