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The Rimmer Family - YNWA

It has taken hours to put pen to paper for something I have spoken about for years, in fact dreamed of, helped share campaigns for, and yet today I feel shivers down my spine. Part of me wants to share and part of me is scared it will bring back the nightmares, the struggles Harry and I both faced over the years through baby loss. We talk so often to others to break the silence, say their precious names, but when it brings to the surface the additional pain caused through ignorance and society it is frightening. Frightened that the nightmares will start again, that I will fuel the angry head of grief. Yet, I feel more compelled to share through love than fear. This is the final version, as I have edited and edited because I no longer feel the bitterness towards those who I once did. Time has not been a healer, far from it, but it has given me the ability to forgive. So, at times when I share, please remember it is going back 19 years’ when we never saw pictures or let alone shared pictures of our precious little ones when they had passed away. The system was far from perfect, but there were those who truly did help Harry and I, so it is important to grab that love and start from there.

  Nearly 19 years ago I delivered our precious little boy into this world, Johnathan Joseph Rimmer, born sleeping 15th June 2005 at 17 weeks and 4 days. Believe me when I say days mean everything to a baby loss parent.  In fact, I used to write each day in my journal how many days it was since I saw his tiny foot and hand, over time this obsession stopped, but like many I can tell you how old each of my children would be today, should they have lived. We had found out our son’s heart had stopped beating 2 days prior, at a routine scan which happened to be on my birthday. Something I did struggle with for years afterwards; I would say it became easier when we celebrated my 50th Birthday and honoured his 18th Angelversary, it was only last year. It was calm, peaceful in fact, I threw myself into our ‘Rainbow’ project, and we occupied ourselves with friends, cake, and a special balloon release to mark both our special days. I envisaged that he would have been like his mum and gone travelling around the world, Angelversary’s just like birthday’s are special, and for those who do not know what the term ‘Angelversary’ means it is used within the baby loss community to honour the day your baby or child passed away. Over the years I have heard this term use mainly by parents who have endured the loss of a baby under 24 weeks, rather than those have had a stillborn baby, or whose baby has died after birth.

So, here goes I will try and explain what it means to both Harry and me regarding the new Certificate of early pregnancy and baby loss. Yet, we cannot describe what it is like to hold this in our hands yet and see their precious names as currently due to the demand and the fear the system will crash, they are only currently only available to families who have endured baby or pregnancy loss after1st September 2018. Which may I add really brought back those feelings of anger within grief for Harry as well as thousands of parents. Harry’s exact words, “Why, why does it always feel like our babies were not good enough, why even bother to release them until they can do it for everyone” …  I get him I truly do, and thousands are asking the same question, I have even read comments on social media posts from people telling parents to be patient, grateful in fact that they are coming. For this article, I do not want to share the language that came out of my mouth when I read them. Staying quiet then for me was easier because all I want and still do today is to see their precious names and recognition of their existence in this world. That their legacy will continue even when me and their dad pass from one world to the next. It has even more heartbreaking to hear the elderly women who I work alongside, say “I hope I get mine Lou before I pass”. There are now words to describe the impact this has had in rolling it out for a select time. But saying that I am hopeful and soon we are told the rest of England will be able to apply. Yes, I say England because it is not yet available in Wales or Northern Ireland. Scotland, however, introduced a similar certificate of remembrance and certificate for parents back in November 2023.

For those who cannot understand why this adds fuel to the fire it is because prior to the new certificate you literally left hospital with only a few sheets of paper or a flyer.  Mine usually were placed in a bin before I had left the hospital grounds. If you were lucky enough you may have received a memory box that contained items to remember your baby by. (Losses that occurred 16 weeks upwards). Parents who had delivered a baby sleeping over 24 weeks were allowed to register their baby, and they were able to register their baby’s death, given access to support mainly for women. The information was aimed for mothers only. God forbid those dads grieved or felt the same as the mother. Seriously, and this was one of the big stigmas around baby loss. So, why is it important to us that we have all our children recognised, remembered, and honoured equally?  Because this is the start of the grief process, the reality that your little one has sadly passed away. This is the time that you have to say goodbye before hello and decide what happens next. In our case I was not given this opportunity and our son was cremated along with other babies and scattered within the baby garden. We were only given this information 2-3 weeks later after I had called the hospital to ask about him.

I have never healed since this day, when people ask me how I have coped, truth is I never. I still feel I failed my son, why did I not ask the questions, why did I not call earlier, all the whys that no one can ever give me an answer too. But I know these feelings are okay to have and when I have them thoughts, I also know they will pass. This weekend though I thought I found peace with myself, only to be sat here at 4am editing my journey without the anger. I guess there will always be a certain amount of anger will always be there and the hospital in question I can never step foot across again even if my life depended on it. As I write this, I think for the first time in years I can honestly say I never knew how cruel the system truly was until that day. I guess each baby loss parent will reflect on what this would have meant to them at the time of their baby dying, and I needed to let you know how much control the system truly had back then. But please remember that a lot of these memories will bring back moments in our lives that when we (bereaved parents) share it is a reminder of a time when we lost friends, family, where many were avoided like they had the plague. Explaining the importance of the loss of a baby so tiny, so pure, and innocent will also reflect our individual journeys too. So, for me personally it is quite sad because many of the people around us at the time who we loved dearly did not see our son as a baby. Because under 24 weeks he was not classed legally as viable, in fact society had always said they were not babies, or tiny humans until they reached 24 weeks pregnancy.

To have returned home with a special certificate or weeks later to have had this and been encouraged to say goodbye in a private way was all we needed. Yet, for us we were due to be married in 3 weeks, and everyone expected our pain to disappear. When it was evident I began drinking more, people hid this and believed it would pass. It never became something I hid well for many years, and I only ever cried about Johnathan when I was drunk, angry, and the amount of times I contemplated suicide, is sad really.  Now 19 years later I know I am not the only one who has used a substance to mask the pain or believed that this would make it all better. Some of us shared, some of us had people around us that stepped in and faced it head on. But regardless of whether it is common for a parent who has endured the loss of a baby or child to think of taking their own lives, again it is not something that society has spoken openly about. But it is something I have on my journey but only ever with other bereaved parents.

Again, please understand that while this is an amazing step forward to helping families grieve openly, and to have recognition of their precious little ones, for some families like mine, it has added additional heartache over the years, the experiences we have endured when we lost our little ones and lack of care from health professionals at the time due to legal documentation and policies impacted not only on our lives, but our relationships with family and friends, work colleagues, and I hope in my heart one day I can forgive the ignorance of those around us at the time. But what people did not understand is that this affected me mentally, and it was a major influence on me having a chronic nervous breakdown in 2012, after we sadly lost our twins during pregnancy (Ruby & Phillip) at 13 weeks & 4 days. This new certificate comes hopefully with new policies and procedures within the NHS, and I truly hope it does. Ensuring health care professionals can finally be trained in how to support families who endure early baby loss does bring comfort, to see the implementation of ‘Dressed in Dignity’ offered to bereaved parents again brings hope. But right now, for me it turns my stomach to know the system is dominated by certain organisations that turned so many parents away who had endured the loss of a baby under 24 weeks. Who could of a long time ago have made a difference and even when policies and laws did not give us the same rights, we could have been guided, supported and most of all imagine the impact this would have had if they had stepped up and been our voices. So, many like me still talk about this within the baby loss community and I have never referred a parent to them because of this, and because of the journeys shared that have broken my heart along the way that parents have finally talked openly about, which they have caused additional pain and heartache.

We have lost two sets of twins, Ruby & Phillip at 13 weeks and 4 days in 2012, and 4 years later in 2016 after Embryo Adoption we sadly endured the loss of our snowdrop twins, who died between 6-8 weeks during pregnancy, So, the ‘Rimmer’ family consists of Harry, me, and 5 children who fly, not walk this planet. It is something that over time saying this has brought some comfort to me, the words we have used to share their existence from this world to another.  Something many bereaved parents also say is, “We are ‘Angel’ parents”. Hence the reason when we decided to campaign to have their lives honoured on a special day such as the 15th of October, as it is recognised as a National Day of Remembrance for Pregnancy & Infant Loss in other countries around the world, such as United States of America, Canada, Australia and many more, we decided to name our organisation Angel Parents UK & Worldwide.

Another memory that came back to me this weekend when I was reflecting is when Harry had spoken about registering our son, I cannot remember if this was before or after I had called the hospital. When I think back it must have been the reason I called that day. Right now, I have goosebumps remembering how I reacted and looking back how angry and short tempered I was with everyone around me. Harry asked me about getting his death certificate. I will always remember that day, just as I did the day Johnathan passed. Because it felt like every part of me was being torn apart, physically, emotionally, and mentally. I was numb, angry, and in fact I was at breaking point, and no one was picking up on this not even my GP. The good old night medication was given, and this was supposed to help mask these feelings. So, when I answered him, it was the system I was angry at, not him. But my reply was blunt, “He’s dead, gone, like he is not real okay, so no piece of paper is going to help you” … He never spoke or asked me again about it, in fact I knew he was mortified as he had shared this with his dad, who had to explain that you do not get anything to confirm their existence under 24 weeks, unless they breathed air into this world. For Harry he needed the certificate of his precious son’s short life, he was broken but this additional heartache I don’t think Harry has ever got over.  Even when the campaign was in its early days and petitions were being shared for parliament to recognise our tiny babies, he had given up and he never believed it would happen. To Harry it was a further betrayal of the system for not allowing us recognition. When we lost the twins in 2012, he never asked or talked about their lives being recognised, we had shared on social media that we were pregnant, or should I say I did… and everyone we knew as a couple, family, and friends all got the daily updates. Whereas with Johnathan we had decided to not tell people (only immediate family and friends) they did not even know he was a boy, only me and Harry knew, as I had endured loss prior to our son, a daughter Jessica Marie, and 3 silent babies when I had been in a volatile relationship. And because I will never forget my mother’s words each time, I announced I was pregnant, “Don’t get your hopes up you know what can happen” from a woman who had lost her child to SIDS at 3 months old, I found her cold and distant, but truth be known she has never found peace.  I was her ‘Rainbow’ baby born after loss, and I was a girl when she had wanted a boy.

Baby and infant loss over the years has destroyed families, adding additional heartache and pain due to the lack of care, and people not being educated. People making decisions that simply had no idea of the impact. Each time I became pregnant there were no happy or huge congratulations, not even with our son, Johnathan. But so much has changed and hopefully we will see the implementation of policies to avoid this happening to future generations to come. That the voices of bereaved parents are stronger than those that hold the key, it is something I admire about Zoe Clark-Coates, she never gave up. She used every contact, made contacts, and continued to fight for the recognition of our children. I know others have been a part of this too for it to happen and they should be credited, but truthfully the woman had a dream, and after reading the independent review for pregnancy and early baby loss I can see the changes in history we have all prayed for happen, sooner rather than later. I had a post removed from a peer support group after stating this, and I left the group because it still highlights the divide within the baby loss community, and for some this brings funding and money. Like everything in this world, the root of all evil is money, and the amount of organisations now wanting to deliver early baby loss training makes my skin crawl… I think that this would and could have been implemented many years ago, but because there are more babies that die early in pregnancy the cost implications prevented this from happening. But that is for another day, all I will say is an alcoholic can only ever be helped by a recovering alcoholic and this should apply when it comes to early baby loss.

When I reflect on my journeys as I have done this morning and all weekend I do still smile. Because we got to have all those magical moments together with our babies however short and the choices I made after losing Johnathan have made me not only a stronger woman but a stronger mother.  Harry and I had 17 weeks and 4 days of love, 6 of them we never knew he was here. He came silently into our lives, but the impact he left will last a lifetime. If having the certificate brings additional comfort, I welcome that, but I am not sure for me it will. But for Harry most certainly it will. I will need to be there for him, hold his hand as he relives the nightmares, but I hope the outcome will allow him to know that those precious weeks are now validated. But where we are today as a couple, is stronger than we have ever been. Our son was a secret for a while, our bundle of joy, our miracle baby. Conceived by love and wanted more than anything else in this world, he was and always will be my little man that saved me. Going forward we must remember the good parts of pregnancy, and there are so many. Which is why at this part of sharing I am smiling. Because without Johnathon I would never have started the Rainbow project in Manchester, supporting other families on the pregnancy followed by loss. Because of our son we have supported over 500 families on their rainbow journey, we have had the pleasure of watching some of these beautiful babies’ blossom, and the bond we have with their parents still today grows as they do into toddlers, it is a greater love than we could have ever anticipated for. From being at birth with families, to watching their little ones start school - this is a legacy our son left us with.

So, where are we now well grief continued to knock on our door and in 2016, we lost our twin snowdrops that we conceived through embryo adoption in Prague. I knew then that I could not go through another pregnancy or say goodbye to another baby before hello. and before I had the chance to say this to anyone in 2019, I had to undergo a hysterectomy due to medical reasons beyond my control. It was so cruel because it was our wedding anniversary and we had been down this road before, 3 weeks to getting married in 2005, when we had lost Johnathan. My days of becoming a mother to a child that walked this planet were finally over, and to get through that I spent every waking hour supporting others who too had endured the loss of their baby for a long time. But last year I realised that there are others who can provide more support, who are keen to implement new ways to support families and now I focus on ensuring dressed in dignity packages are offered to parents across the UK, training and assisting a team to support families. We have supplied our specially handmade forever beds and individual clothing and keepsakes to hospitals around the world, and we continue to do so, and train NHS professionals who work with early pregnancy units on how they can dress, support, and offer parents’ choice with little ones under 16 weeks. I work alongside 117 volunteers who bring so much wisdom, love, and ideas on how to support others who walk the same path as they do, only wearing different shoes.

As I said I welcome the new certificate with open arms as a parent, and I guess seeing something that Harry has wanted for so long come to light, as his wife and the mother of his children I hope that the certificates bring him the comfort he needs to grieve openly, or to find some peace. For me at this moment in time I worry about the mental health of those who have not had their certificates. But as an advocate for Baby Loss and Mental Health, I worry about the impact and aftercare for those who now have theirs and are yet to grieve, the emotions that have never been dealt with before. But to do this without support at hand, or by educating first within the NHS, I feel many will be affected mentally, emotionally, and we do not have the capacity nor funding to accommodate this. We have seen an increase in signposting to the point we had to open a private peer support group to help signpost, listen to parents’ emotional days, and hopefully be that additional bit of support for the parents we have worked with for so long in campaigning for a National Day of Remembrance for Pregnancy & Infant Loss in the UK.

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Thank you for sharing with us luanne what the certificates mean to you and Harry. And especially after all these years thinking what the potential impact of receiving the certificates may be. I really hope and pray that those who recieve their certificates and need help will recieve it x

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