'Having a new baby fills your heart with love but it doesn't take away the pain of losing a child'
Faye and David Chan are celebrating the birth of their baby daughter. But, during their moment of joy, they want to remember their little boy who died. Wendy Roberts reports.
FAYE Chan cradles her baby in her arms and talks lovingly about her beautiful new daughter, Milena.
But, despite the happiness of becoming a mum, the 35-year-old cannot forget the precious son she lost.
"Little Zac would be three years old now," she said. "He'd be racing round the house and causing havoc while I tried to look after Milena.
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"I'd be a busy mum-of-two and life would be full. But he was stillborn and I never even heard him cry.
"Having a baby is all I dreamed about. Being a mum was so important to me and that's why it hurts to think about the day I lost Zac.
"I have one baby at home and one in the cemetery. It is very, very sad."
Faye and her husband, David, 37, of Alvaston, had no idea that baby Zac would be born dead. He developed an infection and simply couldn't fight it. When Faye came round in the operating theatre, her sister was holding her lifeless son.
"I was told that Zac had died and it came as an horrendous shock," said Faye. "Just minutes before I was taken for the Caesarean I'd felt him kick inside me.
"It was the most upsetting thing to happen. I was truly heartbroken. I think the kick I felt was Zac saying goodbye to me. It was the last time I felt him move."
After losing Zac, Faye worried endlessly about her pregnancy with Milena. Despite a series of scans to ensure that the baby was developing well, she could not stop fretting.
Right until Milena was born, Faye said she never took it for granted that her baby would be born safe and healthy. She did not buy anything for her daughter. She did not dare.
"I knew I was having a girl but I couldn't bring myself to buy anything," said Faye.
"I knew that I had to hear her cry and hold her in my arms before I could relax and be happy.
"When I heard her wail, it was the most wonderful thing. I just remember thinking 'thank God she's alive'. I was scared to death that something would go wrong.
"She was so tiny and I held her close to me. I wondered just how I was going to look after a tiny little person. But my heart filled with love and everyone was happy for us."
Teacher Faye said losing Zac in 2010 hit her desperately hard and she does not know how she would have pulled through without the support of David, her mum, dad and sister.
"I spent a long time in bed crying," said Faye. "I couldn't function. My sister, Adele, took a week off work and spent it with me in hospital.
"I was really unwell after Zac's birth. My Caesarean was very painful and there were added complications. My sister was fantastic and the team at the hospital were very kind.
"But nothing takes away the pain and that's what's so hard."
After losing Zac, Faye and self-employed gas engineerDavid agreed to try and have another baby.
But complications during and after the birth of Zac meant Faye developed some fertility problems.
Her fallopian tubes had become blocked and doctors warned a new pregnancy could result it in being ectopic – the foetus developing outside the uterus.
"I was asked if I would like a procedure to try and unblock my tubes but David and I also agreed to put the wheels in motion and pay for IVF.
"I didn't want to waste anytime. I wanted to have a baby and after losing Zac I knew just how much I needed to become a mum."
Faye and David had IVF treatment at Care Fertility in Nottingham. They spent more than £5,000 on treatment and thankfully their first attempt was a success.
"Seven eggs were collected but only one made it to an embryo.
"After a couple of days, we were being told that it was getting stronger and developing well.
"When the team put it back inside me, I didn't think it would result in a viable pregnancy. I felt low and I didn't think my luck would kick in.
"But two weeks later, the result was positive. I was pregnant."
Faye celebrated being pregnant with Milena but she hardly dared do anything which might put the baby at risk.
She kept her news secret until her 12-week scan.
"Everyone was so happy for us," said Faye. "When I finally told my colleagues at school they were all thrilled. After Zac died, the teachers and parents joined together and arranged for a star to be named after Zac. I thought that was the most generous thing to do. Money was also donated to Derby Sands.
"When Milena was born, the cards came flooding in. We've had so many. It has been lovely."
Faye said the most devastating part of losing a baby was being discharged from hospital and coming home without it. The feeling of emptiness and sorrow is more than overwhelming.
She said she felt useless and could not find the strength to do the simplest of things.
Desperately worried about her daughter, Faye's mum called Derby Sands, a charity offering support, comfort and understanding to anyone affected by the loss of a baby before, during or after birth. It is run by a team of volunteers, chaired by Lou Evans.
"I don't think my mum knew what to do for me," said Faye. "It killed her to see me so sad. At the same time, she was sad too. She'd lost a grandson.
"On the phone, she chatted to a woman about me and I think it made her feel like she was doing something to help.
"A few days later, I talked with a woman who was associated with the charity. It made me feel like I wasn't alone and that was reassuring."
Faye was delighted when she discovered she was pregnant with Zac. Everything was straightforward – right up until the birth.
But Faye does not blame anyone for losing her son. She knows there was a medical reason why he lost his life.
A post-mortem examination revealed that Zac had developed an infection and it might have happened after Faye's waters broke.
"I was given a memory box and inside there was a little teddy. There was also information about Sands. We took photographs of Zac and we took hand and footprints.
"The hospital helped us to arrange the funeral and after his death we asked if the hospital chaplain could come and give him a blessing.
"He's buried at the Nottingham Road Cemetery."
Despite being extremely busy looking after Milena, her thoughts regularly turn to Zac.
She visits him every week and takes flowers to his grave. She says she still feels like part of her family is missing.
One day, she wants her daughter to know about all her big brother.
"Going back to work was hard after Zac," said Faye.
"All the children I teach wanted to know why my baby had died. It was very upsetting.
"I'd have a little cry to myself and then I'd try to be brave."
Zac was born and died on March 15, 2010. Baby Milena arrived on November 23, 2012. She was four weeks early and weighed only 5lbs 5ozs.
"It still hurts to think that I should be a mum to two lovely children," said Faye. "Having a new baby fills your heart with love but it doesn't take away the pain of losing a baby.
"Zac will always be the first child I had, even though he died on the day he was born. I still miss him every day and I know that I'll never forget him."
A photograph of Zac takes pride of place in Faye and David's front room. It sits next to a picture of Milena.
On the wall hangs a huge photograph of a tiny hand gripping a grown up's finger. This is Zac.
"I talk to Zac all the time," said Faye. "When I walk past his picture sometimes I say something to him.
"I'm determined to keep his memory alive."
For a while, Faye was a regular at the monthly meeting of Derby Sands. But as her pregnancy developed, she decided to stop going. She didn't want to upset any of the members who were trying to conceive following the death of their babies.
"I see some of the members when I go to the cemetery," said Faye. "We bump into each other and we always have a catch-up.
"Some of the women have become good friends and I can't thank them enough for their support. The last three years have been very tough for me and David.
"Having Milena has been wonderful. There was a time when we didn't think we'd be able to have a baby of our own.
"I was desperate to become a mum but my dream was slipping away. I even started investigating fostering and adoption because I knew how much I wanted to have children in my life.
"When I was really upset, I even considering quitting my teaching job because I struggled to cope. Life was extremely hard in every aspect.
"But Milena means the world to us now and David dotes on her. Everyone does. Everyone loves her. She's really sweet and has lovely dark hair and a little nose.
"We've been through so much and some days have been really, really dark. But Milena is the happy ending to this sad story."