Published: 13:13, 11 October 2019
| Updated: 13:40, 11 October 2019
When Carina Neeves made the heartbreaking journey home from hospital without her baby, she couldn't imagine things could get any worse.
But for the Broadstairs mum, who lost little Florence at 41 weeks pregnant, trying to deal with her indescribable grief was made even more painful when she was invited to post-natal checks and appointments for her daughter in the following weeks.
The 37-year-old, determined other mums wouldn't have to experience the same pain, wrote to consultants at the QEQM Hospital in Margate and met with the NHS team to discuss how services could be improved for mothers and babies.
Her actions have led to services being developed to improve care for women in the future, including the recruitment of two specialist bereavement midwives.
"That’s exactly what I wanted," said Miss Neeves.
"To know that Florence would help to change things and help other people in the future," she said.
The inspirational mum, who has raised £15,500 for baby loss charity Tommy's, also supports other parents who have lost a child.
"Since Florence died I’ve spoken to so many other parents with similar stories, and if I can help them then I’ve achieved my aim," she said.
"People say I’m strong but I’m not – I’m just doing it for Florence.
"I use social media to celebrate Florence but also to reach out to bereaved mothers to support them, and that helps me too."
Miss Neeves and her partner Mark Taylor were unaware there were any issues during the pregnancy with Florence, which was deemed low-risk, although the midwife detected growth issues at 33 weeks and organised extra scans and checks.
The conclusion was Florence was just a smaller baby and no one was concerned.
'I remember going to the nursery, and it was all ready for her, and thinking ‘what do I do now?’' - Carina Neeves
But Miss Neeve's placenta had in fact started to fail, although this was undetectable during the pregnancy.
"People say once you get to 12 weeks pregnant then you’re past the risky stage and everything will be fine," she said.
"But I was almost 41 weeks pregnant and I wasn’t fine.
"When I found out she had died it was all such a blur. They kept checking and scanning but she had gone.
"They moved me to the bereavement suite and Florence was born at 5.47pm on April 26, 2018.
"She was absolutely perfect; there was nothing wrong with her at all."
The grieving couple had Florence baptised in hospital and she was able to stay with her devastated parents in the bereavement suite, in a special cool cot, for a few days.
But then they had the unbearable journey home, empty-handed, to a cot Florence would never sleep in and to clothes laid out that she would never wear.
"I remember going to the nursery, and it was all ready for her, and thinking ‘what do I do now?’," said Miss Neeves.
"It was such a lonely time. There was the physical part of having given birth and having no baby, and that was hard, but the grief was hardest."
The couple were then dealt another blow when Miss Neeves had a miscarriage.
But in August this year, they finally got their rainbow baby and became proud parents to Reuben.
He was delivered by planned caesarean section, by one of the consultants who had helped the couple after Florence’s death.
Miss Neeves says the whole team - from midwives to the consultants - were brilliant and still message now to see how she is.
"It is lovely to have Reuben, but it brings home all the things we didn’t have with Florence," she said.
"We have always believed that after a storm, rainbows appear, and so we never gave up hope."
Miss Neeves spoke about her experience as part of Baby Loss Awareness week, which runs from October 9-15.