'It was utterly devastating - our baby had just died and he was still in Judy’s womb' - Richard Madeley
British television presenter Richard Madeley – best known for the Richard and Judy daily chat show with his wife - has opened up about their experience of stillbirth.
Madeley and Judy Finnigan have two children together.
But here, he tells the Telegraph newspaper, how the couple lost their first child together.
“Judy was 16 weeks pregnant when she went for a routine scan. It was our first baby together (she had twins from her first marriage) and there had been no cause for concern. But I’ll never forget the nurse hurrying towards me, an agonised expression on her face: “Mr Madeley, you need to come this way…”
“I joined Judy in the examination room. Tears were streaming down her face: “It’s died, Richard. It’s died.”
“The scan had revealed a perfect foetus with a non-existent heartbeat. Something - we never discovered exactly what – had gone wrong at a critical stage of his development. (The post-mortem revealed we would have had a boy).”
“It was utterly devastating: no warning; no earlier, gentle, indication of the possibility of catastrophe. Our baby had just died. And he was still in Judy’s womb,” he said.
Madeley explained how Judy was induced and she gave birth to their first child “knowing what the grim outcome would be”.
“She was kept in hospital overnight for a second scan (“just to make absolutely sure’”) and was then put into an induced labour. My heart broke for her as I waited outside the delivery room. What a dreadful experience: to go through the motions of childbirth, knowing what the grim outcome would be.”
“As the father, you focus on the mother 100 per cent. Do you need support? You don’t even ask the question; you’re there to support your partner, nothing else.”
“A day or so later, Judy was discharged and we went home, baby-less. It was horrible: empty, cold, defeated and drear.”
The pair then went on holiday to recover but Judy endured “torture” while they were there, Madeley said.
“I booked a week in the south of France, and took her there to find some kind of solace. The sun shone, but every beach restaurant seemed to be crammed with newborns, cooing in their mothers’ arms. It was torture for Judy, and she – like so many mothers of stillborns or miscarriages – blamed herself; felt she’d somehow failed. It was my job – like countless men before and after me – to assure her that she hadn’t.”
“Three months later, Judy was expecting again. It was, as you can imagine, the tensest of pregnancies. She passed the 16 week barrier with flying colours but, as the months went by, any decrease of kicking would prompt panicky trips to hospital.”
“Jack was born on May 19, 1986. He’s a handsome, successful businessman today. As Judy said to him this summer, when we were discussing our lost child: “The thing is Jack, if I’d had him, you wouldn’t be here, would you?”
We have so little control over these things, so we must somehow find acceptance. But as fathers, husbands and partners, our role when tragedy strikes is abundantly clear: support, sustain, cherish and encourage. Yes, of course it’s our loss, too. But it’s infinitely worse for the woman. Uphold her. Love her. But accept that you need to grieve as well.