40 stories for #Sands40
40 stories for #Sands40, | 19 June 2018

As part of Sands 40th anniversary this year, we will share 40 stories by 40 parents, family members and friends affected by the death of a baby. Starting in June to coincide with Sands Awareness Month and our #FindingTheWords campaign, we aim to show the sheer number of people who are affected by the tragedy of a baby’s death, help other bereaved parents to understand they are not alone and raise awareness of the issues surrounding stillbirth and neonatal death. Visit our 40 stories for #Sands40 to view other blogs in the series.


The 31st January 2004 was the scariest and one of the most exciting days of my life. I had a positive pregnancy test and my world suddenly changed.  

At six weeks I started to spot, but a scan showed a strong heartbeat and although they checked me again at eight weeks the baby was fine and looked like a little peanut, which is where the nickname was started.

Just before 12 weeks I bled again, but the rest of the pregnancy went smoothly.

My 20 weeks scan showed we were having a boy and he was growing perfectly. Due to my BMI we had extra scans and I was fortunate enough to see him a few more times. 

At 36 weeks I was due to finish work but just before that I woke early on the 1st September to some bleeding. After last time I wasn’t too scared and we headed to the hospital. It was decided to observe me for 24 hours in hospital.

Later that night I started bleeding and when the midwife tried to find a heartbeat she couldn’t. The silence in the room was so loud. She went to get a registrar who scanned me and told me the baby had died and then walked out. 

My husband Dave had been called and walked into the room catching what the doctor had said as he walked past him. I felt as though I was in a soap opera as surely stillbirths didn’t happen to real people.

We heard seven women in labour that night. The walls were like paper. My first reaction was “get him out”. We spent the whole night talking and planning his funeral.

On the 3rd September at 14.43 Xander was born sleeping.  My midwife was amazing. When Dave went out of the room though, very few staff would make eye contact with him.

We were given time with Xander but it was a hot day and we noticed changes quickly. We left the hospital with two black and white pictures the hospital had taken, a lock of his hair and his hand and footprints feeling alone, lost and empty. Thankfully my dad had taken some photos as well.

HeatherJane Coombs and baby Xander. 

I discovered Sands when planning the funeral and realised I wasn’t alone. They put me in touch with a lady who had also lost and she got me through some very dark moments in that time.

I was offered counselling but I didn’t want to speak to another health professional who did not know what I had been through. I needed to speak to someone who had survived.

Some friends we haven’t heard from since, some acquaintances stepped up and have become close friends. So many people had stories they had never shared.  My employers were amazing, Dave’s boss not so much. 

Dave and I coped very differently, he focused on me and being strong for me, but had no one to really talk to and a year later it came out physically in him, and was signed off work for a bit.

Photo: HeatherJane Coombs and baby Xander. 

15 babies die before, during or shortly after birth every day in the UK. We want to reduce this number, but we need your help. Support #FindingTheWords initiative now to help ensure a bereaved parent doesn't have to cope alone. Thank you. 

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