A heartbroken mother-of-two has revealed she was so traumatised after carrying her dead baby for two weeks – before finally miscarrying alone in the middle of the night – that she saw visions of raindrops ‘turning into blood’.
Teacher Toni Edwards-Beighton, from Leicester, and her husband Matt were left devastated at a 12-week private scan for their second baby in December 2015, when they were told there was no heartbeat and that she would soon miscarry.
After eight days of heavy bleeding, Toni delivered her baby alone in the bathroom in the middle of the night, and placed the foetus in a sanitary towel box.
In the months that followed, she struggled to cope and was plagued by distressing visions.
‘If Matt was eating a steak, it would remind me of the baby tissue and I’d throw up, or if it rained, I’d look at the patio and the rain would be red like blood,’ she recalled.
In April 2016 she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening, or distressing events, according to the NHS.
Teacher Toni Edwards-Beighton was gripped by a ‘primal urge’ to be a mother after marrying children’s author Matt (right), 36, in December 2009
Toni, 36, gave birth to their daughter Phoebe, now eight, in July 2011, and found out she was pregnant for a second time in 2015 (pictured during her first pregnancy)
Toni, who now has a second daughter, Willow, three, said: ‘After the miscarriage, I struggled to cope with everything. I felt alone and angry that it had happened to me.
‘Matt was brilliant, but I got worse. I was inconsolable and had horrifying visions which must’ve been as a result of the PTSD.
‘I became obsessed that something would happen to Phoebe. I’d check her bedroom windows every night and when I was downstairs, I’d have visions of her falling out of the window and onto the patio.
‘And if Matt was back late from picking Phoebe up from school, I’d have already planned their funeral in my head by the time they got home.’
Toni, who now has a second daughter, Willow (pictured), three, was left devastated at a 12-week private scan when she was told there was no heartbeat and she would soon miscarry
An American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Study, published this month, looked at the cases of 737 women.
It found that one in six women experience long-term post-traumatic stress – which can cause sufferers to relive a traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks – following miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.
‘I’ve realised it’s so important to talk about what I’ve been through and to raise more awareness about miscarriages and the impact they can have on people,’ said Toni.
‘If I was more aware of what to expect when I found out I was going to miscarry, I might not have reacted as badly as I did.’
Toni was gripped by a ‘primal urge’ to be a mother after marrying children’s author Matt, 36, in December 2009.
So the couple were thrilled when they gave birth to their daughter Phoebe, now eight, in July 2011, and felt like everything had ‘fallen perfectly into place’ when Toni, 36, found out she was pregnant for a second time in October 2015.
Before her miscarriage Toni admitted she ‘panicked’ when it took a little longer to conceive.
She was left so devastated that in April 2016 she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (Pictured with a newborn Willow)
But she and Matt breathed a ‘huge sigh of relief’ when they finally fell pregnant for a second time and were delighted when they realised they would be at 12 weeks on Christmas Day.
‘We wanted to make this fancy baby announcement, whereby we would put the scan photo in a personalised calendar and give it to our mums for Christmas,’ Toni recalled.
She said: ‘Matt was brilliant, but I got worse. I was inconsolable and had horrifying visions which must’ve been as a result of the PTSD’
‘I felt like I had to tell them at Christmas, because as soon as I refused a glass of wine they’d guess anyway.’
Booking a private scan on December 23, when she was 11 weeks and four days pregnant, it never occurred to Toni that anything could go wrong.
But within ‘seconds’ the sonographer checking her stomach became hesitant and Toni sensed something was seriously amiss.
It was confirmed that, tragically, the foetus was only the size it should be at eight weeks and had no heartbeat.
She said: ‘It was heartbreaking. It felt like I’d been sucker punched in the stomach. My baby had died, but my body still thought I was pregnant.
‘I was suffering all the symptoms of pregnancy – feeling sick and unwell – but it was just my body overcompensating for what had happened.’
Heartbroken, Toni was booked in for another appointment, this time with the NHS, on December 27 for management of the miscarriage.
The mother-of-two became ‘obsessed’ with making sure her daughter Phoebe was safe. She said: ‘I’d check her bedroom windows every night’
But knowing she was still carrying her dead baby became too much for her and on Christmas Eve, at a local panto performance with her family, she had a panic attack.
‘Christmas was horrific. I had no idea when I’d miscarry and I was paranoid and going to the toilet every 30 seconds,’ she recalled.
‘At the pantomime I lost the plot and I had a panic attack. I just felt like I couldn’t cope anymore.’
At her December 27 appointment, Toni was told she needed a second scan to confirm the baby had died, before she could be given tablets to induce labour.
‘I told the doctor I couldn’t go back to work without knowing when I was going to miscarry, so I was given a sick note,’ she said.
‘I just wanted to get my body back, to feel normal and to be able to grieve.’
On New Year’s Day, Toni thought she had miscarried when she ‘bled through a towel pad within 30 minutes.’
She continued to bleed for eight days and nights afterwards – needing a hot water bottle and plenty of paracetamol and ibuprofen to ease the pain.
A recent study found one in six women experience long-term post-traumatic stress following miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy (Toni with Phoebe)
‘It was horrible, I was in so much pain, I was convinced I’d passed my baby,’ she said.
‘I was so upset, I was wallowing. I wasn’t eating and I was irritating myself. So, after the eight days of bleeding had passed, I told myself to get up and go to the shops.’
Popping to her local Tesco, she started feeling what seemed like contractions every 45 minutes.
Believing the sensation was in her head and she was ‘going mad,’ Toni rushed back home.
‘I thought, “I’ve lost it, I’ve convinced myself I’m in labour”,’ she said.
‘I had two large glasses of wine and told Matt what I was feeling and that I’d definitely lost the plot and gone completely crackers.’
Before her miscarriage Toni admitted she ‘panicked’ when it took a little longer to conceive. But she and Matt (pictured on their wedding day) soon breathed a ‘huge sigh of relief’
Then at 2.30am the following morning, on January 9, feeling the ‘urge to push,’ Toni ran into the bathroom, bleeding profusely and felt her baby finally coming out.
Stunned, she wrapped the baby – no larger than her palm – in a piece of tissue, put it in a sanitary towel box on a high shelf, bleached the bathroom and went back to bed without waking Matt.
‘I was shell-shocked after it happened and I just went back to bed,’ she recalled. ‘I told Matt the next day and his jaw dropped to the floor.’
After that, the couple called the hospital, where staff offered to dispose of the remains.
Feeling their response was ‘insensitive,’ instead Toni and Matt went to the garden centre, bought a planter and a Winter Sun plant.
Then once Phoebe was in bed, they buried their baby – planting the Winter Sun plant to remember the little one by.
At a private scan when she was 12 weeks pregnant, the sonographer checking her stomach became hesitant ‘within seconds’ (Pictured, Phoebe with newborn Willow)
‘When we said our goodbyes, I was hysterical,’ Toni remembered. ‘It was hammering down with rain and there we were with this plant.’
In April, Toni was diagnosed with PTSD – and the following month she was put on the waiting list for counselling.
In May, despite not actively trying, she fell pregnant again.
‘I was offered counselling in the June, but I refused to go to the sessions because I was convinced it would jinx my pregnancy,’ she said.
‘I was also struggling with horrific visions of something bad happening to Phoebe. I was in an awful place.
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.
- Feelings of isolation, irritability, guilt
- Problems sleeping
Possible causes can include:
- Violent personal assaults, such as sexual assault, mugging or robbery
- Serious road accidents
- Serious health problems
- Childbirth experiences
‘I was constantly checking I still had pregnancy symptoms.’
Thankfully, everything progressed well, and in January 2017 baby Willow was born weighing 7lbs 11oz.
Although her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck at birth and she needed to be resuscitated, Willow was saved by quick-thinking medical staff.
‘It was like all my nightmares were coming true for a few seconds – but, thankfully, the doctors acted quickly, and Willow was absolutely fine,’ Toni said.
‘Now, looking back, I wish I’d let myself enjoy the pregnancy – but I couldn’t bring myself to.
‘Matt was amazing – he had lost a baby, too, but at the same time he also had to deal with me and all my crazy behaviour.’
Despite being in a far better frame of mind now, Toni still worries about the ‘worst case scenario.’
She said: ‘Willow is now a victim of my over worrying and anxiety. I’m constantly panicking that she’s not okay – but now I know it is my own mind overthinking things.’
At her December 27 appointment, Toni was told she needed a second scan to confirm the baby had died, before she could be given tablets to induce labour (pictured with Willow)
Now feeling ready to accept counselling, Toni also feels able to conquer her demons once and for all.
‘Enough time has passed for me to know I feel ready to talk about my thoughts and what I went through,’ she said.
While she loves being a mum, Toni still wonders what the angel baby she lost would have been like.
‘I do still sit and wonder what our baby would’ve been like,’ Toni said.
Now Toni is also keen to promote Tommy’s – a charity funding research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth, and providing pregnancy health information to parents.
She concluded: ‘It’s so important for organisations like Tommy’s to continue to raise awareness, because no woman should ever feel isolated or alone in their grief.
‘There’s always someone to talk to or someone to help – and that’s why I’ve decided to share my story, to help others so they know they’re not alone.’
Tommy’s midwife Amina Hatia said Toni’s case illustrates how essential ‘kind, sympathetic and specialised care’ is for women experiencing pregnancy loss.
Now Toni is also keen to promote Tommy’s – a charity funding research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth (Pictured, Toni with Phoebe)
She said: ‘The grief experienced by women who have had miscarriages is so unique and often misunderstood or ignored, which can lead to long term conditions such as PTSD, which can impact all aspects of their lives.
‘Breaking the silence around miscarriage, ensuring women and their families have access to appropriate and sensitive support, and an awareness of the psychological impact miscarriage can have in subsequent pregnancies, can all help in combating some of the long-term psychological impacts of early pregnancy loss.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson echoed these sentiments.
They said: ‘Every death of a child is a tragedy and we want to do everything we can to ensure women receive sensitive and compassionate care at this devastating time.
‘No woman should be left to suffer in silence which is why we are working with baby loss charities to fund and develop a National Bereavement Care Pathway, to ensure every woman across the country receives the same quality of support.’
To find out more click here.