Parents lose baby at 23 weeks after eight rounds of IVF

Heartbroken parents who lost their baby at 23 weeks after eight rounds of IVF are determined to help other bereaved parents and tell them they're "not alone".

Julie and Chris Sullivan, from Heswall, Wirral, tragically lost their son, Will, after he was born at 23 weeks during lockdown.

The couple had been through eight rounds of IVF, with Julie suffering two miscarriages, after trying to have a child for eight years.

Sadly, Will was only alive for a few hours after he was born before, in Julie's words, he "gained his angel wings".

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Julie said: "It's a really awful situation and you don't wish for anyone to be in that situation. But the kindness that people show you, whether that's staff looking after you, or someone being a friend to you – it's small things and it really means a lot."

Julie and Chris are starting a fund in their son's name, in order to provide support for parents whose pregnancies don't always go to plan.

Speaking to the ECHO about Will, Julie, 39, said she and Chris first tried to start a family eight years ago.

She said: "It's quite a difficult thing to speak about, but we've been trying for a baby for almost eight years, now.

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"Throughout those eight years we've had eight rounds of IVF and a couple of miscarriages in there.

"And then we had Will, but unfortunately he passed away shortly after he was born."

Images taken of Will Sullivan, by parents Chris and Julie Sullivan, from Heswall, Wirral

Julie said the couple's fertility journey started in Liverpool, but for the last round of IVF they travelled to London and had the final round there.

Expecting twins, Julie and Chris found out they were pregnant.

Tragically, the couple lost one of the babies during the pregnancy.

If you have been affected by any of the details mentioned in this story there are people who can help you.

Most people grieve when they lose something or someone important to them.

The way grief affects you depends on lots of things, including what kind of loss you have suffered, your upbringing, your beliefs or religion, your age, your relationships, and your physical and mental health.

Grieving is a totally normal process but there are way to get help if you need support.

Your GP is a good place to start. They can give you advice about other support services, refer you to a counsellor, or prescribe medication if needed.

Or you can contact support organisations directly, such as Cruse Bereavement Care (0808 808 1677) Samaritans (116 123) or Love Jasmine.

Julie said: "We had twins to start with and we lost one twin early on. Then at 12 weeks we knew there could be complications so we were looked after well in Arrowe Park.

"I was classed as high risk from the start, so we were looked after and seen every week for one week after another.

"After having so much treatment, in one way it was good to be monitored. I'm sure it's an anxious time for everybody who's pregnant, but having the fertility journey and having treatment just kind of increased that worry."

The couple welcomed Will into the world while Julie was 23 weeks pregnant, she said.

Julie added: "I went into labour early, they don't know why. I didn't realise I was in labour, I was having a little bit of pain so I went in to get checked and after a couple of days I had Will."

A hat and a small toolbox made for Julie and Chris Sullivan's son, Will.

During this sad time, the couple were hugely supported by staff in Arrowe Park Hospital, who they want to praise.

Julie, Chris and Will were able to spend quality time in the Butterfly Suite – a space set aside for bereaved parents – although sadly due to lockdown, the suite was not able to be open to others in their network.

Away "from the hustle and bustle of a delivery ward", Julie said the family were given clothes small enough for Will, a room that looked homey with duvets, blankets and pillows and were offered books to read.

As well as this, they were given the chance to take special pictures with Will and take imprints of his foot and hand prints to treasure.

Charity Elsie's Moon provides much-needed donations to the ward and were instrumental in supporting Chris and Julie, with the option of counselling available to them.

Julie said: "It made us feel like we weren't alone."

Chris, who works in construction, was also able to make Will a tiny tool box kit as a special gift while there.

The couple want to start a fund in Will's name, Will's Wishes, and have started a gofundme page in order to donate to Elsie's Moon so other parents can be supported like they were.

Julie said: "The only thing I'd want to say to other [bereaved parents] is you're not alone. Other people have been in the same situation and there's people you can talk to.

"There's a couple of charities we have found that we know are there for help and support.

"If they feel able to reach out to local charities especially. "

Julie and Chris' gofundmepage can be found here.

Information on Elsie's Moon and how it helps families can be found here.

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