When Jo Paskell refused to see her family for months for the sake of her unborn baby, she said it was one of the hardest things she had ever had to do.
“In April we lost my grandmother, I attended her funeral, but I stayed away from my family and did not go to the crematorium,” she said. “I sat in the car outside and saw it on the video link on my phone.”
Jo, 38, from Penarth, was scared by the impact that the capture of Covid could have on Cariad, her little daughter who was due to be born in October 2020.
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“I found out in early March 2020 that I was pregnant,” she recalled from her home that she shares with her four children, Jamie, Jack, Kasey and Kali, and her partner Phil.
“It was a great shock. Our house is pretty crowded and a little crazy, life is already very busy with four children and their extra needs, but it wasn’t about Cariad fitting in. We were very excited. Then the pandemic hit and we locked ourselves in, and it was really scary. I was worried about catching Covid for Jack’s sake because he’s clinically vulnerable, but also for my baby.
“One of the hardest things was not telling my mom and dad, because I couldn’t see them and I didn’t want to do it over the phone. Apart from my grandmother’s funeral, they went almost three months without seeing them. “
Jack, who is eight years old, has classic non-verbal autism and short bowel syndrome, and needs regular care. Jamie, 16, also has autism, while Kasey, 6, and Kali, 2, are undergoing autism screenings.
“It’s been a scary time, because of Jack’s loss of bowel movements, he comes down with coughs and colds very easily and spends a lot of time in the hospital with IV fluids,” Jo said. “Trying to homeschool the children by myself with so many different children with additional needs, and then the running baby, was extremely difficult.”
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Putting Jo through such a difficult time in her life was the thrill of Cariad’s arrival. But in May, on his 20-week scan, his “whole world came to a halt.”
“I had to go alone for Covid,” she recalled. “Jack was born with a condition called exophalos, which was diagnosed in his 20-week scan, so I knew he could show something, but nothing prepared me for what was coming.
“I thought everything was fine and I was concentrating more on finding out if I was going to have a boy or a girl. I planned to get additional photos so I could give them to my mom and dad and tell them through the window that they were going to have an eleventh grandchild. “
As Jo watched in expectant joy at the Llandough hospital, the sonographer told her that Cariad had no heartbeat.
“I cannot describe the feeling. I told her that she was wrong, that it was not possible. How could my baby be dead and I didn’t know it? Then another doctor came and confirmed it. It was like my whole world stopped at that moment. It was like I had gone into automatic pilot, but I could barely stand up to leave the room.
“A consultant came to see me and explained that I had had a ‘missed miscarriage’ where my baby had died but my body did not know it.”
A missed miscarriage, usually diagnosed at 12 or 20 weeks, is also known as a silent miscarriage because people often do not have the most common miscarriage symptoms, such as severe cramps and vaginal bleeding. According to Progyny, one to five percent of pregnancies result in a missed miscarriage.
Doctors believe, from their measurements, that Cariad was around 16 weeks old when she died. Jo is now determined to raise awareness of missed miscarriages and the support available to parents who lose a child.
“A miscarriage is not something I’ve ever heard of,” she explained. “She hadn’t had any of the typical signs of a miscarriage. There was no indication that anything was wrong. “
Jo recounted the heartbreaking details of how she gave birth to her daughter the next day, knowing that she would not be alive.
“I went to University Hospital of Wales and my partner was not allowed with me. They gave me tablets and then they left me alone with the nurses who only came if I called them. I had my own room with a bathroom and I went to the bathroom when my contractions started and I couldn’t go back to bed.
“She [Cariad] it was perfect. The most perfect nose and eyes that never opened. I hugged her and sang to her. I told her how sorry I was for not being able to protect her. And then I had to leave her. Instead of taking a baby home, all he had was a box with his prints and photographs. And so many unanswered questions.
“I entered at 9 in the morning and left at 4 in the afternoon. They wanted me to stay longer, but I just wanted to go home to my kids. “
Jo and her family appreciate a photo of Cariad’s footprint, taken at the hospital. In June, a private funeral was held for Cariad with the help of James Summers’ funeral service in Penarth, attended only by Jo and Phil.
“We celebrated it at Barry Crematorium,” Jo explained. “A poem was read for Cariad and we played two songs: The Last Lullaby by Itty Bitty Beats and Somewhere Over The Rainbow by Eva Cassidy. About a week later I was able to collect Cariad’s ashes. “
In October, after receiving a full autopsy report from Cariad, Jo discovered that her daughter had Down syndrome which had contributed to her death.
As the family approaches what would have been Cariad’s first birthday, Jo said she was determined to make a difference for people who experienced a similar loss by raising funds for the Aching Arms charity and the Down Syndrome Association. .
“I was dreading it [Cariad’s first birthday]. I should be planning a party, buying gifts and a cake, ”he said. “Instead, I have nothing. But I can’t let her birthday go by without doing something.
“Right now I am really focused on my fundraising. I wanted to do something that would make a difference and also help other people. ”You can see Jo’s fundraising page here, after she committed to riding 150 km in October.
“Depending on how it goes, I would like to do something each year to raise money for different charities on behalf of Cariad. I want to try to give him the legacy he deserves. One of the places I’ve had support is Aching Arms. They provide families with teddy bears in memory of their lost baby, something to hold on to when my arms feel empty. “
Without her children, Jo said she didn’t know what she would have done after Cariad passed away.
“They keep me busy, there is not much time during the day to do anything else,” she added. “It is the night that is worst, when the house is silent.
“Cariad was not with me for long, but she had hopes and dreams for her future. And although she is not physically here, she will always be part of my family and I think of her every day, and I wonder what the little person she would be.
“My life is about my children and Cariad is no exception. I will always be the mother of five beautiful children. “
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