'I had the scan and they just said I'm really sorry but he's died"
Laura Dove is a super-woman.
Smiling, calm and fresh as a daisy, it’s hard to believe this is a 37-year-old who has gone through so much and come out the other side as such a savvy business-woman, busy working mother and award-winning blogger.
Her story is remarkable and one shaken by unimaginable loss when her second child Joseph was still-born at full term. She suffered a further 15 miscarriages.
Now, she has a very happy family, and is mum to Lewis 14, Eva six, Megan, five and Harrison, four, but will never forget the one person who isn’t there.
Joseph would now be 12.
“People look at and think how many kids you’ve got - not think it was difficult - particularly with the age gap so close,” says Laura.
“They think like we’ve just popped them out, not that one is missing.
“Or they ask will I have a fifth - and I think - I do have five. Joseph is always with us.”
Laura, who is from Chorley in Lancashire and a former Parklands High School student, is now happily married to graphic designer Gareth and lives in Euxton with their four children and the memory of their little Joseph - her five little Doves.
She was 23 when she had her first miscarriage as a young mum.
“At that point I didn’t know anyone who had a baby let alone had a miscarriage, " she says.
“When we lost the first baby I was 12 to 13 weeks pregnant and at the time that was shocking to us.
“We had no idea this could happen but were told it was one of those things, which when you’re young and don’t know any different, you say OK.
“We were upset but carried on and had our eldest son.
"When I got pregnant with my second child and I got to 12 weeks I thought I was fine.
“Once we got past 12 weeks I never for one second thought you could lose a baby.
"I feel like I was so naive but in a good way.
"It was nice to enjoy the rest of that pregnancy, we bought everything, we were so excited, we decorated the nursery and I never for one moment thought something could go wrong.
“I had a lot of growth scans as I don’t really get a bump when I’m pregnant. I was under a consultant because there was some concern the baby wasn’t growing properly. I was being seen two or three times a week but even at that point I never really thought anything was wrong, thought I may have to be induced early. I was given steroid injections.
“Then I went for my final monitoring. No concerns , they just tried to find the heartbeat and obviously they couldn’t.
“I was 37 weeks pregnant.
“They said we can't find a heartbeat, he must have moved, went through to another room and they got another midwife to start trying and she couldn’t find it.
"At that point I did start to think something could be wrong here. I had to wait for a scan at which point I was getting quite hysterical.
“I had the scan and they just said I’m really sorry but he’s died.
“And that moment, gosh, it’s not something I’d ever thought about or prepared myself for. You think it happens to other people. It wasn’t like it could ever happen to someone like me.
“I just followed the book throughout the whole pregnancy,no drinking, I’d not eaten pate. I’d done nothing wrong, it just felt so unfair.
“I then thought I’d have a Caesarean or something. I didn’t think I’d have to go and give birth.
“But they say when the baby has already died there’s no risk to the baby so all of the concern is about the mother - for mum to have a Caesarean is a bigger risk.
“It was an induction which was 35 hours - it was just the worst day of our lives.”
And she kept hoping against hope. throughout the delivery
“Until the moment he was born I kind of kept convincing myself maybe they were wrong,” says Laura.
“All the way I could still feel movements as he was moving in the fluids and in the back of my mind I was hoping they had made a mistake. When he born the first thing I asked was ‘Is he alive?’
“I just remember the midwife saying ‘no’ and handing him to us.”
“It was the worst thing any parent can go through to lose a child in any way. You can’t get over it although you can move on. Someone is always going to be missing.”
Laura found one of he toughest things was other people’s attitude and their fear of talking about her experience - which she desperately needed and still needs.
“I talk about all my other children so I find it quite offensive when nobody asks about him,” she explains.
“When I had him nobody asked me what the birth was like, nobody really asked me what he looked like or have I got photos of him? All the usual conversations a mother has.
“When people don’t talk about him it feels like he has been forgotten.”
After Joseph’s loss and the subsequent battles with grief and mental health, Laura’s marriage ended and she thought her future was as single mother to one child.
But then she met her now-husband Gareth, who had no children, and they decided to try and have a family.
But Laura’s struggles were far from over.
“We kept losing babies to miscarriage, “ she says.
“It was only really a consultant who threw us a lifeline and was so good to us and said when you get pregnant to I inject with drug Clexane - a blood thinner.
“I did that every day for nine months with each of them. We had regular scans. When I got to 12 weeks everyone thought I would relax.
“The only way I could cope was to assume everything could go wrong, expect the worst.
“I just thought - don’t expect them to come home.
“I didn’t enjoy the pregnancies . I cried literally every day. “
But then her first daughter Eva was born.
“When she was alive, it was amazing.
"When Lewis met Eva was the best moment of my life.
“Next I had Megan and the year after I had Harry. Each pregnancy was scary but when we had them it was the best thing ever. It feels like a miracle.”
But as Laura says, there is always one member of her family not there.
“It is difficult seeing them grow up and always missing one of them. But he’s a huge part of our life. They include him in everything - shout to the sky and say ‘Hi Joseph’ or when we go and take him flowers.
“They just include him in everything which is not something I told them to do, it’s lovely.”
Laura’s way of coping with her tragedy was to write an online diary.
“At the time there wasn’t really blogs - it’s quite a new thing - so I used to write on a networking baby site, that’s how it all started. For a few years I wrote every day and people started following it.
“That was so therapeutic , writing it all down but getting people supporting you along the way.
“Then the website I wrote for closed down so I started a Wordpress blog in 2014 mainly for friends and family who were missing the diary, It just grew.
Her blog, Five Little Doves, expanded from a diary into a fully-blown parenting and lifestyle blog over the years.
She has now worked with brands like Ella’s Kitchen, Disney, Tesco, Johnsons and Sainsbury’s - as well as raising money for SANDS (stillbirth and neonatal death charity)
“The feedback I get from parents is amazing," she says,
"Sometimes writing the post takes me back to a place.. and you kind of want to move forward
“But when you get those messages saying you helped me in that time in my life it’s incredibly rewarding.
“I didn’t want to dwell but show there is a life after loss, you can be happy again and you will.”
Laura’s blog is now her full-time business, specialising in parenting and in recent times, family travel, a direction she hopes to expand upon.
She started with the basics, reviewing plastic toys and gradually built up to paid work - its success taking her by surprise.
“I think I knew I was on to something," says Laura.
“But making money is not what I started the blog for - but it has become this amazing world and a full-time job for me.
"It's opened up so many opportunities.
“I can also continue the conversation about grief and mental health while inspiring others that life is worth living - and spending time with my family.”