In Episode 5 of Footprints on our Hearts, I talk to Emma Jefferys about her daughter, Amelia, finding hope in grief and volunteering with Sands.
Emma is a life and business coach who also volunteers with Sands to provide bereavement support for parents who’ve lost a child. Her daughter, Amelia, was stillborn in 2012 and she has a living child, Ophelia, who is six.
In the interview we talk about:
- Emma’s experience with miscarriage and stillbirth (6:38)
- Her grief journey after Amelia’s death and how her friends and family helped her through this (26:02)
- The lowest point of grief, reaching the crossroads and how she chose happiness (30:40)
- The rollercoaster of pregnancy after loss (33:43)
- Why Emma decided to volunteer with Sands (39:20)
- How her experience of losing Amelia led to her quitting her job to work for herself (44:41)
If you enjoy the podcast, I’d really appreciate it if you could leave a review on your podcast app. You can connect with me on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/footprintsonourhearts/) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/skyesfootprints) or email email@example.com.
Please note, timings below are referenced from the start of the interview segment of the postcast, not the start of the podcast itself.
Alison Ingleby 0:00
Today I’m joined on the podcast by Emma, a life and business coach who lives with her family in Kent. Emma’s first daughter, Amelia, was stillborn in 2012, and today we’re going to talk about Amelia and how her short life inspired Emma to help other parents through their grief journeys and change her own career path. So welcome to the show, Emma. Could you start by briefly introducing yourself and your family?
Emma Jefferys 0:24
Absolutely. So I’m Emma Jefferys, as you say, I live in Kent and I live with my husband. And I have a daughter here with me, Ophelia who iss six years old, and her sister who sadly isn’t with us, Amelia Rose, as you say, born eight years ago now.
Alison Ingleby 0:42
So we’re going to start by talking about Amelia. How was your journey to get pregnant with her?
Emma Jefferys 0:49
I was one of those people that I can now see floating around in that naive bubble in that I fell pregnant very quickly with my first pregnancy and sadly had a missed miscarriage at 12 weeks. So went for my 12 week scan and there was no heartbeat, and was utterly devastated. Felt like the worst thing that had ever happened. And it was a very, very difficult time. But I was very blessed to be pregnant again relatively quickly with Amelia. And I was scared, I think, having lost already but kind of gently went through that pregnancy, everything looking very boring and very normal. Until I had actually a blood test that came back suggesting that there may be a high risk of her having some form of abnormality, maybe even a condition not compatible with life.
Alison Ingleby 1:46
And was that one of the routine blood tests which they offer or a special blood test, which you just had had for other reasons?
Emma Jefferys 1:52
No, it was a routine blood test. And it was it was a shock actually as everything had looked pretty average. As I say, it was indicators, but it came back with a one in four chance of maybe something like Patau syndrome or Edwards, perhaps downs. And so we kind of went from this, everything’s really normal to suddenly being rushed to Kings and having a CVS and kind of having to kind of go through a whole waiting process to see if there was anything up with the pregnancy. And I still remember the date – it was the 19th of December 2011, where we had the call, I was at work, to say that everything was clear. Everything was completely fine. She was a perfectly healthy little baby girl. And I still remember that feeling of relief, when we had that call, just thinking, Okay, that was hell waiting for results and not knowing what the future held, but that we were kind of, yeah, all clear.
Alison Ingleby 2:52
Best Christmas present ever, I guess.
Emma Jefferys 2:54
It was at the time it was that absolutely amazing feeling that I could kind of relax into the pregnancy at last I could kind of really start to enjoy it. And I guess that’s a feeling that’s always stuck with me. That actually it almost felt like the minute I did let my guard down. Yeah. Tough times around the corner. So bit of a lulled into a false sense of security, I guess. Yeah.
Alison Ingleby 3:19
So you’ve been given the all clear, relaxing and enjoying everything. At what point after that did things then start to go wrong?
Emma Jefferys 3:28
We had a wonderful Christmas and I was pregnant at the same time as my sister in law. So we both sat eating all the chocolate on my mother in law’s sofa with our bumps. And then in early-mid January, I was working from home and I had a really routine midwife appointment that afternoon. And I pottered down… I remember the day really clearly because it’s one of those weird days where I bumped into a neighbour who said she had some baby bits to give me, a neighbour dropped around a baby name book and I bumped into someone and I remember really talking about the pregnancy, probably with the most amount of excitement I had so far. And then I went to the midwife appointment and when she … as I say routine … hop up into the bed so we have a quick listen, she couldn’t find a heartbeat with a Doppler. And even then she didn’t panic. I didn’t think anything was wrong. She kind of made a joke about you know, pesky little things sometimes can hide and maybe she’d moved into an awkward position. And I clearly starts to look a bit worried and my midwife said she wished someone had gone to the hospital with me because she didn’t think she was sending me to have the scan that I ended up having. So it was very much, “let’s get make sure you get a good night’s sleep. Let’s just pop you up to us to have a quick look at baby and then we can all kind of carry on.”
Alison Ingleby 4:52
So did she genuinely Did you genuinely think that everything was okay and that she couldn’t she just couldn’t get the heartbeat?
Emma Jefferys 5:00
I think that, I mean, if professionally, she had a deeper worry, it certainly didn’t come out at the time. I kind of naively trotted up to the hospital. I do remember standing in the middle of our road, kind of car keys in hand thinking, do I need to call anybody? That kind of moment, but because no one else seemed panicked, I kind of just drove myself to hospital and, and sat waiting.
Alison Ingleby 5:21
Did you think at that point, everything was probably okay.
Emma Jefferys 5:25
It’s really hard. Looking back.
Alison Ingleby 5:26
It’s hard, isn’t it? Because I had I mean, I had a similar I had a similar thing. I mean, we went to the hospital with reduced movements, and she listened to the Doppler and she couldn’t hear the heartbeat, but she was just like, “Oh, well, you know, we’ll just get a scan just to reassure you that everything’s okay.” And I honestly, I mean, I guess some part of me must have thought that and maybe I just wanted to, maybe you just want to push that down and you don’t actually want to believe that that is a possibility. And you know, you want to believe that it is okay.
Emma Jefferys 5:55
And if I’m really honest, and again, you know, when I hear people getting crossed with people that haven’t experienced stillbirth, I think we have to remember we were once that person and I don’t know if I actually knew it could happen like that. I don’t actually, I think maybe at some level I realised that could happen but I don’t think consciously I thought, right I’m off to find out whether my baby is alive or not. I kind of I think we felt like we’d been through so much already. Yeah, I don’t think I don’t think I saw what was coming at all.
Alison Ingleby 6:24
So you went to the hospital and were you on your own or with your husband?
Emma Jefferys 6:28
I was on my own. He was working in London. So I called I think when I got to the hospital and said, I’m just coming out for a scan. It’s routine, but they had a problem finding heartbeats at the midwife appointment. And he said, you know, I’ll leave and come back and see how you are so I think perhaps he tweaked something wasn’t quite right. And I remember sitting in wherever I was waiting for the scan, there were lots of people in labour, there’s a woman eating KFC. It’s funny what you remember when you look back, but you know, I was kind of focused on all these people thinking, wow, that will be me at some point, you know, there they are all kind of in various throes of waiting to have their baby. And then I was called in to a side room for a scan. And they use a little kind of slightly weird scan machine that they use I think just to check the position a baby before labour so it’s not particularly detailed, weird, green and black screen. And yeah, I remember them scanning me and then just the silence in the room. And the look on the midwife’s face as she said, “I’d like to get your scan downstairs where we can see more clearly”. And I think, they didn’t say the words then, but the penny started to drop that something really wasn’t right. Yeah. And then they walked me downstairs to a proper scan room. And I remember them scanning me and her saying that there’s a doctor there as well and the midwife and just saying “I’m so sorry”. And then I remember hearing this noise and thinking What is that noise? And it wasn’t till way after she was born that I realised it was me just howling. Proper animal sounds right. And yeah, and that whole bit still feels like a real shock. I remember reading in my notes afterwards that I was visibly distressed and thought, well, that’s…
Alison Ingleby 8:30
It’s the most ridiculous comment I’ve ever heard!
Emma Jefferys 8:36
Yeah. And then I was taken to … we’re very lucky, so Pembrey, our local hospital, super hospital, state of the art, incredible hospital and there is an amazing suite there, which was built, called the Hope Butler suite in memory of a little girl called Hope, and supported by Sands and I was taken there to kind of take in the news, make various phone calls and wait to see the consultant about kind of what happened.
Alison Ingleby 9:08
And were they able to tell you at that point, anything about why she might have died? Did you have this sort of link in your head in terms of the blood test results you’d had? Did you think that might be part of it? Or was it just a case of, she needs to be born and then we’ll see?
Emma Jefferys 9:27
Yeah, I think because she’d had you know, I’ve gone through such thorough, detailed tests. I think at the time, it didn’t even cross my mind that there could be any link between those because she’d come back clear with everything. And actually, as many people find, you know, the post mortem, came back totally… she was a perfectly healthy baby girl, and they could find nothing wrong with me either. So no one kind of even talked about what might be the cause. I think they were just trying to get me to come to terms with … that this was happening. I think you do go into that kind of shock. And then trying to get me to understand what was going to happen next. And again, this is something that I find really weird now I’m on the other side of her birth, because I remember thinking they were mad. I remember thinking that there has to be another way for her to be born and that the thought of delivering her … the emotional pain of delivering her knowing she wasn’t going to be crying or breathing, I just thought was the worst form of torture you could ever ask somebody to undergo. And I remember thinking there must be a better way in in the 21st century that we can do this. And I think again, I understand now why some people who haven’t been through it imagine there must have been another way and I find myself really having to hit home the fact that she was born, that I delivered her, I gave birth to her.
Alison Ingleby 10:45
And your first birth – your first experience of birth as well. So I guess you’ve got all those kind of natural thoughts and nerves and worries going through your head in terms of the process of giving birth and how your body’s going to respond to that and how you’re going to respond to that. As well as the fact that you know that you’re not going to get that that living crying baby at the end of it.
Emma Jefferys 11:12
It’s funny actually, I remember and look and laugh at myself now, it was like cramming for an exam because I was like, I haven’t read those chapters of the books yet. And I was panic reading them going, you know, someone’s brought the deadline forward for me to get up to speed.
Alison Ingleby 11:27
I was exactly the same. I basically hit Google for 24 hours before going back into hospital.
Emma Jefferys 11:35
And I remember, you know, so I went back into, I think they had to scan me again, and then I had to have these drugs to start the induction. But I do remember someone said, “it must have been so awful those two days before you gave birth to her” and I was like, “No, actually, I kind of wanted to stay there”. Like I was very happy taking her home. It sounds funny saying it now, but taking her home and I wanted to keep her safe and I didn’t want to give birth to her because I knew that was kind of the saying goodbye bit. And yeah, it’s weird how the brain works, I think doing last to help protect you and to… But at the time, I was like, actually, this is good. I’ll go home with her or pretend that nothing’s happened. Nothing’s changed.
Alison Ingleby 12:19
I mean, I think you do…. And I very much felt that I went into survival mode. And I think you do, because part of you is like, well, this is it. I just have to get through it. And there is no choice. I have to do it. And I think maybe, you know, when you don’t have that choice, then you do step up to the plate, because you do not have a choice. And you’re like, right, well, what do I need to do now? And as I said, you know I was googling on what happens when you give birth, how is an induction different to a normal birth … I had no idea about that. I think I’d done a bit of breathing in my yoga classes and that was about it. I didn’t even know what I should be packing in my hospital bag because obviously, I mean, I hadn’t even thought about that, but clearly, you know, you’re not going to be bringing your baby home. So even looking that kind of stuff up. But I think you do go into that mode. And I mean, it’s obviously different for every person but there is perhaps tendency to almost shut off part of that emotion and that hits you later, but for that, you know, for that bit of time, you’re just surviving.
Emma Jefferys 13:23
And I remember, I spoke to really close friends and I went into, well, I was kind of giving orders to them about you know, can you cancel pregnancy yoga and can you tell NCT I won’t be back. And you can you do this and that, and looking back, they were probably thinking “Hold on, wait, what?” I, they were the only bits I could control. I couldn’t control what was unravelling and what I was going to have to go through. So I think I went into real practical kind of admin mode. But as you said, because I don’t think you know what else to do and you do realise, I think looking back that you’re only given the grief and the emotion in chunks because you couldn’t deal with it all in one go.
Alison Ingleby 14:05
So you went back in hospital couple of days later. Was was your birth fairly straightforward in terms of … obviously taking aside the fact that you were giving birth to a dead baby at the end of the day? Did they treat you well?
Emma Jefferys 14:20
Yeah, they did. My midwife was utterly amazing. And, you know, I had a bit of a breakdown in the morning, begging for a C section. I think it’s quite common. Or an epidural, I didn’t really care. I was like, I don’t want to feel, I can’t feel any more than the emotional pain, don’t give me the physical pain as well. And the midwife, she was wonderful and I remember her kneeling down and looking me in the eyes and just saying, “you are going to deliver this baby and you’re going to deliver her purposely into this world. -Sorry, this always gets to me. – “Because this is the last thing you can do for her and you’re going to do it right”. And I kind of hated her at the time and thought you’re nuts and you don’t know what you’re talking about, and who used to tell me … I remember thinking all these things at this wonderfully kind lady. And the minute Amelia Rose was born, I got it. And I say it now to women I work with, there was such beauty and pride in delivering her that I’m glad that I got talked out of all my ridiculous of kind of magicing her away. And I think from a grief perspective as well, you know, recognising my body and my mind recognising what just happened is a really important part of that journey. You know, had I been knocked out and woken up, it would have been even harder to get my head round, I think.
Alison Ingleby 15:43
Yeah, and I do think is one of the hardest and bravest things you can do is to go through that. And I guess part of it is perhaps also it’s, it’s that evidence that you are a mother like everyone else. You’ve been through that same process, you know and what you said before about what other people think, and honestly, what I perhaps thought you know, before my experience was, you know, if your baby died at full term then yes, you have to go through and give birth but earlier on it was like, well how does this baby go from being in my stomach to out of my stomach? And yeah, you just you just don’t think that actually you’re going through exactly the same process as pretty much every other mother goes through.
Emma Jefferys 16:28
And I think that it’s that short period of time where, you know, I think the kind of euphoria, the happy hormones … I was saying this to someone a while ago – it’s weird because they’re still there. You know, I did feel peace and calm, until everyone starts wanting to talk to you about postmortems and filling in forms. And I didn’t have a daughter yesterday and now I have one, but she’s dead, and I’ve got to sign bits of paper and release her body, and I just remember that just felt like the weirdest contrast … Life and death just coming together in one moment that felt so massively overwhelming. And, and it’s something we’ve spoken a lot about with the hospital. Now, with some of the volunteer work I do about kind of how that process happens, because actually to throw all of that at you, they wouldn’t do that to you just after birth with a live baby, they wouldn’t start throwing paperwork at you. And suddenly there’s an awful lot to kind of take on board.
Alison Ingleby 17:25
And were you able to spend a bit of time with Amelia before you left hospital?
Emma Jefferys 17:29
My husband and mother spent a bit of time in the other room with her while I was kind of otherwise engaged having difficulty with the placenta and bits. Yeah, all that. I hadn’t read that chapter in the book!
Alison Ingleby 17:43
Yeah, I know. I thought it just came out, you know!
Emma Jefferys 17:46
But I do remember that just trying to leave the hospital was impossibly difficult. You know, I was finding every procrastination trick in the book not to leave because I knew… I was kind of walking away from her and it felt so desperately unnatural. And walking out of the hospital that night…. When I’ve been back to the hospital, I’ve walked the same walk and it’s a really short corridor. And yet, on the day, it felt like the longest walk ever away from that delivery suite. Yeah, empty arms.
Alison Ingleby 18:23
Yeah. Thank you for sharing that story with us. And did you know anyone else who’d been through any sort of similar experience? Was this all new to you?
Emma Jefferys 18:37
I… It’s such a weird question. It’s not a weird question. It’s the answer. It’s not … Yes, I did. But maybe I haven’t really connected with stories in the way that I could have done and I think you have to forgive people when they don’t connect with yours because I think sometimes we miss the real impact of baby loss on people’s lives. So actually, yeah, I had a really good friend who’d lost her baby. And I hadn’t really understood what she meant by that, I don’t think. I think I’d been a bit of a rubbish friend. And there werea few other people in my lives, including close family, who just didn’t really understand the full enormity. So they were there, but maybe I’d never connected with them on that level before, if that makes sense.
Alison Ingleby 19:22
Yeah, definitely. And those initial weeks and months of grief are really hard. What was your experience of that? And perhaps what was the kindest thing that someone did for you around that time?
Emma Jefferys 19:37
I mean, the grief in those early days, as you’ll know, it is so overwhelming. Like I remember thinking, I don’t think I can survive this pain. Just the physical pain of grief and the intensity and rawness of it all was just huge. And I think the things that really stick in my mind. There’s a friend who … I didn’t really want to talk to people, I didn’t really want, I didn’t know what really had to say, I kind of just cried a lot or repeated myself or wanted to talk about the birth and talk about her as any new mother would do. And so the friend I think that really got it was … She just called the same time every single week and no matter what state I was in or whether I wanted to be put on the phone or not, she was on that phone. I think I did this little sob down the phone quite a lot or repeat myself but she was there the entire you know, until I was strong enough to kind of start calling her when I wanted to talk to her. So she was just there no matter what and took me as I was. Another very close friend who had also lost a baby. She lost one of her twins. She had a most beautiful, embroidered butterfly with Amelia Rose’s name done for me and again, just seeing your baby’s name written was so special and then … My absolute rock, you know, my mum just was there, scooped us up whenever we needed it, seemed to know the right things to say and the right things to do. And looking back, I can’t imagine the pain his grandmother, let alone the pain as as a mother, and all that that brings watching your child go through through that. So I was blessed. There was an awful lot of kindness around us from lots of different directions.
Alison Ingleby 21:27
And did you find that you and your husband grieve differently or the same?
Emma Jefferys 21:32
Differently and I remember because I don’t know about you, but you suddenly start reading everything, Google is your friend and forums are your friends. I remember reading the stats around couples splitting up after baby loss. And I do remember thinking, if we’re not careful, this is going to be us because I think, you don’t realise even though you both love this little person, so much, your grief is very selfish, isn’t it? It’s a very selfish emotion. You kind of do it at different speeds and different ways. And we went for counselling, had the most amazing counsellor, because it was important to really hear each other I think and not get caught up in our own stories and our own pain.
Alison Ingleby 22:15
And sometimes it’s even hard to start those conversations and have those conversations. Because you don’t want to hurt the other person or you’re not sure if they’re in the right frame of mind. I mean it must be … well it is one of the hardest things that couples can go through. And I think it’s really great that you reached out and got some help and support with that.
Emma Jefferys 22:36
Yeah. And I think actually it you know, it taught us how to listen to each other and it it taught us a lot about communicating, which is always a good thing, isn’t it?
Alison Ingleby 22:48
And how have you found your grief journey has changed over time? So over the past years, and also what was your lowest point and how did you get through that?
Emma Jefferys 22:57
So as I said, you know the overwhelming nature of grief in those early days when you don’t think you can survive it, the analogy I’ve kind of used to make sense of it to me over the years is it was like being in a really rough sea and being pulled under those waves and like you were choking and suffocating and you didn’t know when you were going to come up for breath again. And now I feel – and there was a particular point when it changed – but now I feel grief is still there, you know, I think people think it magically disappears, but I feel like it’s more waves around my ankles. I kind of know they’re there. I can feel it all the time. It’s there at some level. And occasionally, a huge wave knocks me over and the wave is as big and the impact is as massive and it hurts as much but I can get up quicker. And I know that there will be more time and more light and more goodness and happiness before another wave comes. But for me, to answer the other bits, you know that the lowest point was definitely driving the car relatively early after I lost her and thinking, I remember thinking there was a lorry coming towards me and I wasn’t suicidal in that I wanted to kill myself, but I remember thinking how easy it would be to turn the wheel and for the pain to stop. And I really wanted that pain to stop because it was crushing me. And it really frightened me to the point that I made my husband take the car keys and I made him hide all medication which sounds very dramatic, but I just thought, actually, that’s a clue that somewhere in here this pain isnot making me as mentally sound as perhaps I could be. And, you know, I went for the counselling. I talked a lot about it. And that was the main thing for me was I did not let myself have those thoughts on my own. I voiced them to my mom and my husband. I promised I would never keep any thoughts like that a secret because I think that’s when they become dangerous is when they’re internalised. And slowly, I ran, I used to run up to the cemetery to visit her grave. And that was kind of a good kind of physical and mental health release for me. And then one day and I talk about this with clients, I stood at what felt like a very physical crossroads, albeit in my mind. And I remember thinking you have a choice, the path you are on is dark and twisted, and it probably leads to a really horrible, bitter place where you stay a victim. But it’s the easy path to walk because you’re on it already and you kind of know what it looks like. Or if you turn the other way, it’s going to be a harder journey, but at the end of that is a brighter, happier, more meaningful place. And I remember thinking, How sad if, in her name, you decide to stay on that bitter dark path and it’s one of the things I you know, I preach all the time, happiness is a choice. You know, I chose on that day to be happy despite her death, and I think that was a massive turning point for me.
Alison Ingleby 26:06
Do you remember how long that was after her death that you had that crossroads moment?
Emma Jefferys 26:11
Probably about six months? I would say. I think you probably know physically you can’t stay in those early days of grief, you wouldn’t want to, but I think it gets very muddled. Sometimes I think, you know, lots of people myself included, you feel the guilt when you laugh or you when she’s not the first thing on your mind when you wake up. And I think, recognising that actually pain and grief and loss and sadness can coexist with hope and happiness. And I remember thinking, I think this was an important turning point for me was, I wasn’t doing this without her. I wanted to do this because of her. I wanted to make her life count and for her to have a legacy that was worthy of her, if that makes sense.
Alison Ingleby 27:03
Yeah, hundred percent. And we’ll come on to talk about her legacy in a minute. But first I just wanted to touch on Ophelia. So you do have a second daughter. How did you and your husband decide when you were ready to start thinking about trying again and how did you find being pregnant with her?
Emma Jefferys 27:22
So I, and again, I know through work with Sands that this is quite common, but I whilst I was grieving emotionally, the physical side of it almost was like, I just want to be pregnant again, I just need to kind of continue the journey that I was on, which is all a bit messy. And I actually did fall pregnant relatively quickly and we lost another baby after Amelia at about the 10 weeks stage, which we know was a little boy. And then we waited a while because I wanted to make sure there was nothing going on. As everyone said that Amelia was perfect and there was nothing wrong, but for me, I was like three babies now not here that should be and I didn’t really understand. So we kind of pressed pause while we went through a load of tests, and everything came back completely fine. And so when I fell pregnant with Ophelia, it’s safe to say I was utterly terrified. But with terror comes hope, you know. I think, that is to say, I felt like I was in a really dark hole that I’d been thrown into, and there was sunshine at the top, but that sunshine came with a bit of a nine month ladder to it and I was gonna have to try and climb to get there. And I was aware that I could slide down that ladder numerous times, but the only way to the sun was to was to kind of get back on the ladder. So yeah, it was … Physically I loved it. I absolutely relished every minute of being pregnant physically. Couldn’t have loved my bump more and found, yes, the courses, ailments and difficulties of being pregnant, but I could not be ungrateful for those for one minute, so physically it was beautiful. And I made a decision with the help of the support group that I was attending, which was that I had two choices. I could live the whole pregnancy in fear of her dying. Or I could live the pregnancy as if that’s all we might have together. And so I did pregnancy yoga, and I spent time connecting with her and I thought, if this is all we have, if you join your sister, then I’m going to have no regrets. I wasn’t waiting … the pregnancy wasn’t a means to an end, if that makes sense. So physically, it was great. Emotionally … a bit of a roller coaster. I think, the sense of responsibility I felt as the carrier of this precious cargo and somehow feeling that my body let me down before and I didn’t even know it, you know, that I had no idea that there’s anything wrong or that she’d died. I found that a massive weight to carry and everyone around us on tenterhooks going “how’s the baby?”, and you’re thinking, “I wish I knew! Just doing my best here I’m working with the data I have”. So lots of you know, lying on random toilet floors, poking her in the middle of the day to see if I could make sure she was moving and yeah, having threatened to be up at the hospital living on a monitor, I was actually quite restrained. But I think that’s the difference is sadly after loss you have such a … Well, I was very lucky to have a complete kind of A Team around me of medical professionals and I only had to say the word and I could be seen. I had a midwife who said, you know, your mental health is is the most important thing here and I saw her weekly in between scans for a quick five minute Doppler because that was the only way I could get, you know, week to week. So no, in many ways, a great pregnancy with a sprinkling of terror.
Alison Ingleby 30:53
And how did it feel that moment when you did finally get to bring her home?
Emma Jefferys 30:57
Incredible. Right at the last minute, I ended up having a section because I went in to be induced at 38 weeks and I wasn’t looking that ready. And I think the fear of kind of getting into a whole failed induction, baby in distress…. People made good calls and decided that was not clever. So I went in for a section and when she was handed to me, I cried, “she’s alive” and everyone looked a bit kind of shocked in theatre, but until the moment I could see her and she cried, I still didn’t believe she was coming out alive. And it was the best sound I’ve ever heard. The relief that she was here was amazing. Absolutely amazing.
Alison Ingleby 31:43
Amazing. And do you talk about Amelia with her?
Emma Jefferys 31:46
I do. She knows all about her sister. And we’ve always talked about her so there was never a kind of moment, she’s just grown up knowing that that that’s who she is, and I’m super proud of how she deals with it. It’s difficult, I think, the the older she’s getting – she’s six now – there’s more awareness and more questions. But she brags about her in the playground to have friends. There’s occasionally sibling rivalry about the fact that she was stronger because she made it home which have to smile about. And there’s a million questions that I wish I could answer for her like why she’s not here. But she’s, you know, she understands that I have the same questions. And I wish she was here as well. So yeah, there’s a comfort in Ophelia accepting the sister she never met into the family as easily as she has done.
Alison Ingleby 32:40
Amazing. OK, let’s talk a bit about Amelia’s legacy then. And in particular, I’d like to chat a bit about what led you to volunteer with Sands. And could you perhaps start by explaining what Sands is just in case anyone listening hasn’t come across them and how you got involved and how you took that decision to become more involved with them.
Emma Jefferys 33:00
Yes, so Sands is the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society. And I’d never heard of them. And I think they’re one of these again, like so many charities, incredible charities that just kind of go under the radar until you’re in the situation that we’ve been in. I first came across them, there were leaflets in the Hope Butler suite in a drawer… Kind of how to prepare for labour when your baby’s died and things like talking to employers and things. And I remember kind of picking these things up and thinking I probably need to read these at some point. And then, in the days that followed after her birth, I did a bit of research and was like actually this sounds like an amazing charity, I realise now that they had provided the Hope Butler suite. And so I started doing a bit of fundraising before I’d even really been to a support group and in Amelia’s name, and from there realised that there was a support group literally down the road from us, they run. They’re all run by volunteers. They’re bereaved parents who have trained as befrienders and who create a safe space to share kind of whatever’s going on for you right now. And my husband and I must have stumbled into that first meeting, probably only two or three weeks after she was born, because I wasn’t quite sure what else to do. I remember thinking it, it sounds like it’s a good thing to do and I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready so why not do it now. And I walked into that group, and there were a bunch of wonderful people in there. And they were laughing about something happened on EastEnders. And I remember thinking these people are doing more than just surviving. You know, they’ve, she’s got makeup on. She’s kind of dressed and looking like she may have even been to work and they’re laughing and they’re smiling. And whilst I didn’t really process it at the time, I think that was hope right there that maybe at some point, we wouldn’t be where we were right now. And, yeah, looking back, I think it was an amazing lifeline. So we both attended the group, sometimes the two of us, sometimes just me, but we kind of went monthly, sort of religiously, it became like this … to get through another month of the journey and check in again was a really helpful kind of a milestone to milestone that you are moving forward. And when I was pregnant with Ophelia, we run a pregnancy after loss support group that’s separate from the bereavement group. So again, there’s a midwife in there as well as bereaved parents, so just having that emotional support through the journey was incredible. And so not long after Ophelia came home, I said that I’d be very happy to help out with the pregnancy group, having just gone through it and kind of bought a baby home through that process. So started volunteering, and until I was ready enough to leave Ophelia to go and do my befriender training and started helping with the support groups, and then in just a change of committee and how it was all sort of moving around, ended up heading up the bereavement support team locally. So it’s quite an organic journey really. But it’s funny, someone said, you know, when you spend two hours on the phone to a newly bereaved parent late on a Sunday night, I remember this girl saying to me, thank you so much and you’ve helped me you’ve given up so much of your time and I had to remind her that you’ve given me … You know, I’m in this with you as a brief parents and actually, I don’t do this selflessly. In some ways, it’s selfish because it’s what helps me make sense. I have knowledge, I didn’t ask to lose her or ask to go through that. But through that comes knowledge and comes strategies for coping and strength that I kind of feel I have … it’s my job to therefore help those coming behind me.
Alison Ingleby 36:52
And I guess it’s, it is Amelia’s legacy and it’s it’s giving that back and allowing you to take something positive from that experience. And, um I guess it is almost like a way of you spending time dedicated to your first daughter, and you know, her legacy and what she’s doing as well as obviously parenting Ophelia.
Emma Jefferys 37:16
Absolutely. And I think you know, you through working with so many different parents, you start to see the themes where you can really know where you can change things. I’ve done loads of work with the amazing hospital team, but how can you make things easier at someone’s kind of lowest point through the whole kind of process and system? And then how do you give people the courage that they may not have to talk about their child or say how many children they’ve got or stand up for some other kind of, you know … you do get ridiculous comments from people after you’ve lost a baby and some people sort of can’t find a way to express that that’s not really how they want to be spoken to. So I think, yeah, there’s strength in in coming together and sharing experiences and just not feeling alone.
Alison Ingleby 38:03
And you mentioned in I think it was a blog post or something I read, that your experience of having and then losing Amelia led to a bit of a career change for you. So could you perhaps talk about what your job was before Amelia? And how you went about creating that change? And I guess your thought process and how your experience with Amelia fed into that?
Emma Jefferys 38:25
Absolutely. I mean, I consider myself very lucky. And before Amelia was born, I had a wonderful career in advertising. I worked as a planning director for a marketing agency, and I loved my job, I loved my clients, I was surrounded by amazing people, very interesting kind of diverse people. And yeah, I felt very passionate about what I did, but I think I said to someone not long after Amelia died, it was a bit like being on autopilot and then, Amelia’s death was a bit like the crash that totalled the autopilot,. And suddenly I kind of woke up and thought, actually, I’m not quite sure where I am. And I’m not quite sure who I am after loss, I’m going to have to refine myself and, reconnect. And in doing that, I think you start to … your priorities have changed, your values change, you just see the world slightly differently. And I started to realise that actually certainly post her, that maybe … not that I didn’t like my job but I didn’t care enough about the the output. So I didn’t really … Which is not great place to be right? cCients are paying you, you should care about what you’re delivering for them. So I remember having this kind of wrestle thinking actually, you know, I love my job, but perhaps I need to start thinking about something else. And when I started thinking about what all my skill sets were, but also what I’d learned through volunteering with Sands, and also this new, I guess, the light bulb that went on which is I am a product of post traumatic growth. You know, it took trauma to make me take charge of my life and do something I really want to do. And so many people do that, whether it’s divorce or illness or you know, grief, actually, life is so short while we’re waiting for the crash before we do that. So it all came together in a bit of a beautiful, perfect storm in that I picked up the phone on … I can’t remember which year it was now … but anyway, on Amelia’s birthday a few years ago, I picked up the phone and booked myself on to my training course to become a coach. And that really the rest was history. I kind of was like, you know what I’m going to use your birthday as the day that I create that change. And actually, when I talk about her now, I lost a lot when she died. But in so many ways I gained things I didn’t think were possible. You know, I… I didn’t… I did say I’d like to point out I didn’t think I was a bad person before, but she has made me a better person, you know, she’s given me empathy. She, I run towards people in pain not away. I’m not afraid of difficult conversations or silence. And I know because I’ve done it that you can be in your darkest, darkest … driving your car looking at that lorry place and you can use your mind to come back from there. And, you know, that’s kind of why I do what I do now.
Alison Ingleby 41:25
I think that’s really powerful. And I hope if there are people listening to this, who are still in those really early, dark days where it does feel like you are literally surviving until the next day and you don’t know if you can survive or how you’re going to get through, that your life has always been changed, but it will get better. It won’t always be that bad.
Emma Jefferys 41:50
No. And it comes back to that crossroads, right. Yeah, I think at some point and not in the early days, but at some point you can choose without detracting from your love for them, or how much you wish they were here, or all that’s wrong with them not being here, you can still choose to do things that make you happy and to live a happy, full life. The two things aren’t mutually exclusive.
Alison Ingleby 42:15
Were there any books or anything you read or came across, that helped you get to that realisation
Emma Jefferys 42:26
One of the weird things about baby loss is if you think it’s one of the darkest things that can happen to you, and yet there are so many beautiful, amazing people in the baby loss community. I feel like a lot of my strength and inspiration came from the people in the support group that people I was talking to online. And I’m in … I was in a Facebook group, kind of an offshoot from people that I’ve met on the Sands forum who I’m still in touch with. Now we’ve all gone on to kind of have other babies together and kind of share that experience and the strength and inspiration from … I don’t think it was really reading something, I think it was just recognising that I wasn’t on my own. And that if I chose to keep walking forward and making progress, there were people around to kind of help support me do that.
Alison Ingleby 43:13
Yeah. And I had … I think a similar kind of Crossroads experience. And, I did, a fair bit of reading, I always turn to book, books are my thing. And one of the books I read was a book by Brene Brown called Rising Strong.
I know and if anyone hasn’t come across her, she is amazing. And she has some fantastic TED talks and things. But I think this book, I mean, it’s not specific about baby loss at all. And I actually had some other stuff that I was dealing with other than just, you know, just my baby dying, there was some other things going on in my head at that time. But it’s a book around … It’s a book around failure. It’s a book around being in that really darkest depths of the blackest hole and how you pick yourself up from that and not just how you do it, but that you can do it. So if anyone’s listening, that’s that’s one book that I did find really helpful. Well, we are about out of time. Thank you so much for sharing your story and talking with me today. And just before we sign off, would you like to tell people where they can find out more about you and your coaching business online?
Emma Jefferys 43:32
I love Brene.
Absolutely. I am online as action woman there is no cape sadly, I’ll see if I can get one for years to come. So you can find me at actionwoman.co.uk. I’m also on Instagram as action__woman and, yeah, I’d love to hear from anybody who has experienced baby loss, always happy to kind of talk about where people are in their journey and be a listening ear. So and if you haven’t found Sands already, your local support group really can be a complete lifeline and energy giver.
Alison Ingleby 45:00
And I’ll link to both of those in the show notes. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast.
Emma Jefferys 45:05
Thank you, Alison.