‘We lost our baby during childbirth – we’re so pleased that Doncaster Royal Infirmary now has memorial garden’

Everything was ready for baby Jasmine.

The nursery was painted. The cot was ready. Mum and dad Michaela and Ian Howard were excited about the new arrival when they went into Doncaster Royal Infirmary to have their baby.

Michaela and Ian Howard, from Doncaster, at the opening of the Butterfly Garden at Doncaster Royal Infirmary

Michaela and Ian Howard, from Doncaster, at the opening of the Butterfly Garden at Doncaster Royal Infirmary

Everything with the pregnancy had been normal and Michaela had gone full term – it was just another family waiting for a new arrival.

But withing hours, the excitement and expectation turned to shock and grief.

Jasmine died before she was born.

There had been a knot in the umbilical chord as the little girl was pushed out of the womb. She was unable to survive the birth.

Kaye Bulliman and Sarah Spencer at the opening of the Butterfly garden at Doncaster Royal Infirmary

Kaye Bulliman and Sarah Spencer at the opening of the Butterfly garden at Doncaster Royal Infirmary

That was in 2000. Jasmine would have been a grown-up now.

Michaela and Ian, both aged 48, will never forget Jasmine or what happened that day. But this week they returned to the hospital to mark the opening of the hospital’s long-awaited Butterfly Garden – a place dedicated to providing comfort to those who have experienced the loss of an infant in a tranquil venue which will also be available to anyone who is need of a quiet place to think.

The couple are among the families who have backed the new site, which was originally proposed 20 years ago, and which they feel could have helped them when they lost Jasmine.

Wiping a tear from her eye, Michaela said: “Jasmine would have been our second baby. We will never forget her. At certain times you get a flashback and the feelings come back. But we were blessed to have a little girl a year later, and both our children are the apple of our eye.

The opening of the Butterfly Garden at Doncaster Royal Infirmary

The opening of the Butterfly Garden at Doncaster Royal Infirmary

“At the time we were taken to a quiet room to spend time with Jasmine. Our families came and there were a lot of tears. This was all happening through the night.

Ian added: “The following morning all we could do was go home. There was nowhere to sit or contemplate. When we got home there were all the reminders about what we were coming home for – the decorations, the pram, things like that. That made it more difficult.

“If this garden had been here then, we would have come here in the morning. They have talked about building it for years, and it is great that it is now there,” said Michaela.

“We’ve come to the memorial service that they hold at the hospital for families who lost their babies, and we look at her memorial page in the chapel every year when it’s her birthday. We’ve added the names of our other children, Daniel and Katie to our names on the message we put on there for Jasmine.”

The couple were among families placing a rose in memory of their children in the garden at its opening.

Sarah Spencer, a nurse from Rossington, also took park in the ceremony.

Sarah, aged 50, suffered a miscarriage when she was expecting her third child. She joined the campaign to create the memorial garden as a result. She went on to later suffer a second miscarriage.

“It was that which made me realise the hospital needed somewhere people can go,” she said.

“I don’t think people realise how hard a miscarriage hits a woman. You get women who apologise for being upset. But as soon as you have that positive pregnancy test, you feel like you have become a parent. It is a baby, and you start planning for its future.

“I was thinking about things like what hair colour my baby was going to have.”

The project was the idea of the Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals Trust’s neonatal team, initially in 1997. It was originally conceived as a memorial space that would be dedicated to parents who have experienced a miscarriage, still birth, or neonatal death.

Called the Grace Project, hospital staff and bereaved families organised fundraising events and activities, all with the aim of gathering money for the garden’s construction and eventual maintenance.  Costing £15,000 in total, much of this was raised by local well-wishers, with additional funding provided by the trust.

Kaye Bulliman, Midwife at Doncaster Royal Infirmary, said: ‘’This has been a passion-project for many current members of Team DBTH.”

The opening coincided with Baby Loss Awareness Week, held annually from 9 to 15 October.