Hayley was five days overdue with her son when the worst happened (Picture: Supplied)
‘A doctor told me Ollie was dead in the same room they’d said he was “happy and healthy” just week before,’ says Hayley Storrs, 34. ‘I was numb from shock.’
Hayley was five days overdue, when she learnt that her much longed for baby with her partner, Reece, had died in the womb.
Now, as she continues to come to terms with his death she wants to support other parents’ who have also experienced baby loss.
Hayley, who is also mum to Ella, nine months, is also running the Royal Parks Half Marathon next month, to raise money for Tommy’s, the largest UK charity researching the causes and prevention of pregnancy complications, miscarriage, stillbirth, and premature birth.
Hayley, an NHS worker from Leeds, and Reece, were thrilled when they learnt she was pregnant. Hayley said: ‘I found out I was pregnant with Ollie on January 31, 2021.
‘Reece and I had been together around 18 months and decided to move in together when the first UK lockdown hit.
Hayley couldn’t wait to meet her baby (Picture: Supplied)
‘I was completely shocked when I saw the blue line turn to a positive. I was convinced it would take us a long time, but there he was. We were excited, nervous, happy, and hopeful for our baby.’
The pair had a private 12-week scan, where they found out they were having a boy. They had a gender reveal party with friends and family, where blue confetti announced that they’d be welcoming a son.
But, Hayley says that from around 26 weeks onward, she was worried. Despite doctors insisting that Ollie was ‘perfectly fine’ she says she was ‘worrying day-in-day-out’ about how her pregnancy might end.
‘I couldn’t shake that anxious feeling something was wrong,’ says Hayley. ‘There was no indication to suggest this at all, except my motherly instinct said Ollie wasn’t okay.’
On the morning of October 15, 2021, Hayley was visited by a community midwife, who told her that she should have ‘no concerns’ about her upcoming labour.
Hayley and husband Reece were excited to start a family (Picture: Supplied)
But just an hour later, Hayley was sat at her dressing table, about to put her makeup on, when she felt a ‘popping’. She looked down, expecting to see her waters had broken, but instead, saw blood.
A friend took Hayley to hospital while, Reece, who had been at a funeral, rushed to join them. But Hayley says she ‘knew what was coming’ after she ‘hadn’t felt Ollie kick during the journey’.
Hayley eventually had a scan and was told by a doctor that Ollie’s heart was no longer beating – he had passed away in the womb.
‘I recall Reece shouting “no” repeatedly, but I stayed silent,’ says Hayley. ‘The world seemed to stop, and I felt like I was watching myself on TV.
They had a gender reveal party with family and friends (Picture: Supplied)
‘I was numb from shock but was quickly taken to labour.’ Ollie was born two hours later.
‘Then I was quickly pushed to make decisions about his funeral arrangements within a matter of hours – it was truly heartbreaking,’ says Hayley.
The next day, Hayley was discharged from hospital, leaving without her baby.
She says the weeks after losing Ollie were ‘the worst of her life’, leaving her ‘catatonic with grief’.
The taboo surrounding baby loss made an already horrific situation, even worse. She says: ‘I no longer speak to a few family members who were incredibly unhelpful and insensitive after Ollie’s death. Other people simply ignored us and continue to do so to this day.’
Hayley said losing Ollie left her ‘catatonic with grief’ (Picture: Supplied)
She says she’s heard ‘countless stories’ like hers (Picture: Supplied)
In an attempt to find others who understood her grief, Hayley went online.
‘I began to connect with women who had sadly lost their children in similar circumstances, and it’s given me an outlet for my grief and lets me chat to people who understand how I feel. I also started a blog.’
Hayley was also able to get some answers as to why Ollie was stillborn. ‘We later learned that my placenta was on the 10th centile and also had notches, which increases foetal and maternal mortality by up to 35%,’ she says. ‘If I had been offered early delivery, or even a simple Doppler scan, Ollie would have been alive today.’
Knowing that Ollie could have been saved with different treatment has led Hayley to want to raise awareness of baby loss, and fund research and better understand into it. ‘I have heard countless stories like mine,’ she says. ‘The UK has one of the worst stillbirth rates in the world, despite having one of the most advanced healthcare systems. Why is nobody talking about this?’
She will be running this year’s Royal Parks Half Marathon in aid of Tommy’s – who also supported Hayley when she gave birth to her second child, Ella, in December 2022.
Hayley is running the Royal Parks Half Marathon for Tommy’s (Picture: Supplied)
The half marathon takes place on October, 8, the day before the start of Baby Loss Awareness Week – which also happens to be the week of Ollie’s birthday.
Hayley is looking forward to representing hundreds of parents who have suffered a similar fate to her own on race-day. She says: ‘I plan to run the race carrying a big rainbow flag behind me, which has the names of hundreds of babies we’ve lost written on it.
‘I want to encourage others to speak our children’s names, to keep their memory alive now they’re gone, because their memory is all we have. It’s an honour to wear their names.’
When asked what advice she would give to someone going through something similar, Hayley said: ‘Please hold on – things get easier. Hope may seem very far away right now, but I promise you it’s there.
Hayley is also mum to Ella (Picture: Supplied)
‘Your baby’s life mattered, no matter how brief. You’ll always be a parent to that little baby – death cannot take that away from you.
‘There’s absolutely no right or wrong way to how you wish to remember your baby, and it’s okay not to have things figured out. Keep going and the fog will eventually begin to clear.
‘There are days when I want to just get back into bed and hide from the world, but I do believe I’ll see Ollie again one day, and that helps me manage my grief day to day.’
Reflecting on her thoughts ahead of race-day and beyond, Hayley says: ‘I’m nervous! I’m not an experienced runner, but I’m excited to see how much money I can raise by the time I’ve crossed the finish line.’
Ollie will never be forgotten (Picture: Supplied)
‘For me – it’s just about spreading awareness and removing the taboo surrounding baby-loss. There are millions of families across the world waking up facing another day without their child – sadly, I’m just one of them.’
To donate to Hayley’s cause visit her JustGiving page.
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‘The world seemed to stop.’