I spent my 21st birthday cuddling my stillborn baby – now I'm selling her tiny clothes so I can afford a headstone

A NEW mum has described her heartbreak after she spent her 21st birthday cradling her stillborn daughter.

Courtney Marshall was delighted to learn she was expecting her first child in March this year. But only 21 weeks into the pregnancy, she went into labour.

Her daughter, Kathleen, was born without a heartbeat and Courtney spent her 21st birthday in the bereavement suite with her.

But because she was born at 21 weeks – before the cut-off limit of 24 weeks – Courtney doesn't benefit from the government's Children’s Funeral Fund for England which can help to pay for some of the costs of a funeral for a child under 18 or a baby stillborn after the 24th week of pregnancy.

Courtney, 21, from Stafford, says: “I had planned a family celebration for my 21st. Instead, I spent the day cuddling my stillborn daughter. It was heartbreaking.

“The midwives were so kind. They bought me a photo frame to keep her picture in, and bought me a birthday cake and banners.


“Now, I’m fundraising to buy Kathleen a headstone. Babies born before 24 weeks don’t qualify for funding for a gravestone which seems so cruel. She is still a baby after all.

“I’m having to try to sell the baby clothes I had bought for her, to pay for her headstone and that doesn’t seem right.”

Courtney, who is single, was surprised but excited when she fell pregnant earlier this year.

She says: “The pregnancy wasn’t planned, but I have always wanted a baby, since before I could remember. I was so thrilled when I felt her starting to move and kick inside me and I loved having a bump. I especially wanted a daughter too.”

Courtney suffers from Fowler’s syndrome, which causes urinary retention, but was assured it would not affect her pregnancy.

I had planned a family celebration for my 21st. Instead, I spent the day cuddling my stillborn daughter. It was heartbreaking.

But in July, at 21 weeks pregnant, she went into labour. She gave birth to daughter Kathleen Anne, on July 27, weighing just 300g.

Courtney says; “I was in labour for 24 hours and I was begging the doctors to save her but it was too early. There was nothing they could do and I had to give birth, knowing she would not survive.”

She spent the next three days at the Royal Stoke University Hospital with Kathleen in a cold cot.

She says: “At first, I was scared even to hold her, she was so tiny, and I was scared I might hurt her. But the midwives helped me to dress her, and we made keepsake handprints and footprints, which are now in her memory box at home. I will always treasure that special time I spent with her.

“On the third day, it was my 21st birthday. I was supposed to be having a party with my sister, Stacey, and her children, but I couldn’t have left my baby on her own. It was heart-breaking sitting there with her in my arms, on my birthday, thinking about what could have been.


“The midwives bought me a cake and banners and a photo frame as a keepsake. They really looked after me.

“Since losing Kathleen, I’ve found it tough. I’ve had mental health issues in the past but I want to stay strong, for her. I am focussing on making her proud.

“We had her funeral earlier this week and I’ve spent a lot of time at her grave. I’m fundraising for a headstone, I’m even having to sell some of her stuff, which doesn’t seem right. I’m not working, so it’s a struggle. She is still a human being and I think it’s appalling that I don’t qualify for any help.”

Courtney has since been told it is thought that a womb infection caused her premature labour.

You can help Courtney raise funds for a headstone for her daughter at  https://www.gofundme.com/f/raising-funds-for-my-daughters-headstone

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “The loss of a baby is a tragedy and our thoughts are with Ms Marshall.

“Thousands of parents have accessed the Children’s Funeral Fund since we launched it last year, reducing the financial burden at such a difficult time.”

 

What is the fund to help parents who’ve lost children… and why doesn’t Courtney qualify?

The Children’s Funeral Fund for England can help to pay for some of the costs of a funeral for a child under 18 or a baby stillborn after the 24th week of pregnancy.

Irrespective of what you earn you get the same amount.

You can get:

  • burial fees
  • cremation fees, including the cost of a doctor’s certificate
  • coffin, shroud or casket (up to a cost of £300)

Usually the funeral director will submit the cost, but if you have you can reclaim (within six months) here.

Meanwhile, Emma told Fabulous how she spent 14 days with her daughter after she died, even taking her for walks in the pram.

And a heartbroken mum who delivered a stillborn baby released poignant photographs of him – and told how it has helped her heal.

And, one woman told how distressing it was to deliver her child, knowing he had died in her womb.

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