Heidi Laura was stillborn on Sunday 6 January, 2008, at 1:05am after an 18-hour labour. Mum Jenny Dale had got up to go to the toilet on the Saturday morning but she got stomach cramps and her waters broke. Dad Allan Ogle took Jenny to the Sheffield Royal Hallamshire hospital but as the pregnancy was only 22 weeks progressed, little could be done to save the baby, she just wasn't viable. Allan informed the respective families and stayed with Jenny throughout. This was their first baby and she was much wanted and loved. It's hard to imagine a more enthusiastic dad-to-be than Allan, he excitedly sent everyone in his mobile phone contacts the news as soon as the pregnancy test turned blue! As I had passed around the news of my second grandchild on the way, everyone who knows Allan commented: 'He'll be a great Dad'.
At Christmas they visited and delivered copies of the 20-week scan along with their Christmas cards and their baby plans were all they could talk about. Jenny doesn't smoke but they both drink alcohol and both had given up for the duration of the pregnancy, to give the baby the best start in life, and Allan thought it 'only fair' to share the hardships.
Well life can deal some terrific punches. When my older daughter turned up here on the Saturday 5 January with 'bad news', burst into tears and couldn't even get the words out, I just held her close until she could tell me. I was shocked to see Laura like that because she is normally so strong, she's certainly my rock. She's a qualified grief counsellor, having done four years at night school and got a degree, and here she was, in bits. This was Laura's first niece/nephew, (at that stage we still didn't know the sex of the baby), she was looking forward so much to being an Auntie, those were her first words when we talked about the pregnancy news.
Laura rang me Sunday morning with the news of Heidi's stillbirth. Laura said they were having a naming ceremony at the hospital and did I want to go with her, (which would have meant taking Liam, her son aged 11), or would I look after Liam for her, so I opted to remain at home and look after the boys. Andrew was very quiet, he doesn't express emotion outwardly but I could tell he was distressed.
Allan rang during the week to tell me the hospital were arranging a funeral for Heidi on Monday 14 Jan. Laura decided against taking flowers and named a star after Heidi instead (it's in the constellation Ursa Minor the 'Little Bear'). After some consultations (I don't know Sheffield at all) it was agreed that I would meet up with Allan's best friend Tom, who still lives in this area, near the A180 so I could follow his car and arrive safely. I arranged to take my Mum along for company and support.
Mum gave me Dad's binoculars and I've barely used them, but on Monday morning it was still dark when I got up, from my kitchen I could see glorious sparkling Venus so on impulse I went and got Dad's binoculars. As I turned them on Venus I was surprised to see a much smaller, orange planet just to the right, within the same field of view. Mercury! I don't recall when I last saw Mercury, it's not a naked-eye object so you have to know where to point your optical aid. It felt like a gift, thanks Dad.
I did feel his presence with the rainbow I saw on the way to collect Mum. Upon arrival at the Chapel in the cemetery, I parked right next to my ex-husband's car and stepped out to be greeted by Helen, his wife, we said hello then hugged. (I never would have believed that 20 years ago.) I left Mum talking to my ex while Helen and I went to find a loo. There was another funeral service going on so we all stood outside in the rain reading gravestones. Then Allan arrived with Jenny and my daughters Laura and Helen with Liam and we all hugged and cried. We were ushered into the Chapel waiting room as soon as the previous service had finished. By this time Liam was clinging to me like a limpet, he kept asking me questions, Bless him, he kept me focused. It wasn't the first funeral he'd attended, he was at his great-grandad's in 2006, but he had accepted that was the order of things. Old people die and new babies are born, it's the way of the world. Life doesn't always work that way, and it's difficult to explain to a child why babies die, but I did my best.
The undertaker asked us all to go in the Chapel when the hearse arrived, as Jenny and Allan wanted a last few moments alone with the coffin. We (me, my Mum and Liam) sat in the front pew with Laura and Helen and their Dad Keith and step-mum Helen behind us. Then in walked Allan carrying the tiny coffin with a large wreath placed on top, Jenny just a little behind him and together they placed the coffin on the catafalque. Then they sat together in the other front pew, right behind the tiny coffin. There was a song playing as we had entered, but I don't recall what it was. The vicar welcomed us all and talked about Heidi and how much she was loved was obvious, and the lives she had touched, and she was now with God. We were all crying and Liam was sobbing really hard, I gripped him tightly, eyes closed. I remember 'I'll Be Missing You' being played and the Vicar reciting Footprints which my mother had chosen:
One night I had a dream. I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to me, and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of my life flashed before me, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that many times along the path of my life there was only one set of footprints. I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in my life.
This really bothered me and I questioned the Lord about it.
'Lord, You said that once I decided to follow You, You'd walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why, when I needed You most, You would leave me.'
The Lord replied: 'My precious child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.'
Prayers were said and then we all filed out to 'You'll Never Walk Alone' which was the last record played at my Dad's funeral in 2006. We went to the pub where Jenny's sister had provided a buffet. Jenny handed out an envelope containing photos of them in the hospital with Heidi, and the 20-week scan picture. Allan made a speech thanking everyone for coming and respective families for continued support of them both. Mum and I left at 2pm and on the drive home we saw another rainbow. I stayed with Mum at her house for about an hour and had a welcome cuppa. Gone 10pm I got a text from my sister Yvonne saying she'd seen a shooting star, and I replied I'd seen two rainbows that day, so everything was reversed from Dad - he normally sends me the shooting stars and my sister the rainbows.