‘I’d be lying if I said there weren't days when we feel like we can’t go on'
Kettering parents speak of their grief and anger over baby’s death
By Natalie Bloomer
A memory popped up on Jessica Mitchell’s Facebook page last week. It showed a video of her and her partner Andrew Maynard excitedly revealing the gender of the baby she was carrying. Filmed one year ago in the local park, Andrew runs towards Jessica and hugs her as blue confetti falls around them, their joy evident for all to see.
“…Reggie you already are a very loved little boy and we can’t wait to meet you, our little prince,” Jessica wrote on the post which accompanied the video.
The couple, so excited about starting a family together, couldn’t have imagined the tragedy which awaited them.
Jessica, 18, from Kettering has not had an easy life. At the age of 12 her mother died and because her father was in prison and there was nobody else to look after her she was taken into care.
“It was quite difficult. I had four different social workers during that time before finally getting one that stayed on a while. They are nice people but you know for them it’s just a job - they go home at the end of the day and can forget about us but we’re living it,” she says.
In November 2020 she began a relationship with Andrew. It was a whirlwind romance and a month later they were engaged.
“We have been completely inseparable ever since. I used to annoy him at school, following him around and had a bit of a crush, so when we met again after all those years it was definitely fate.”
By the following spring Jessica was pregnant and in December 2021 she was housed in independent social accommodation (used to help care leavers transition to living alone).
Baby Reggie was born on January 17 after three days of labour but while in Kettering General Hospital both Jessica and her new son were diagnosed with sepsis.
“We don’t know what happened but just before I gave birth I started to really shake and during the labour I lost a lot of blood. They [the hospital] didn’t explain anything about the sepsis, we didn’t know what was going on and just felt like they were patronising us when we asked questions.
“I didn’t know what they were putting into me or my son through the cannula and when I asked them to remove it a midwife told me to ‘stop acting like a child’ and that ‘I was a mother now and should act like one’. I had been a mother for about five hours at that point.”
After six days in hospital both mother and son were discharged and Jessica was excited to start her new life with Andrew as parents. But it soon became clear that all was not right with Reggie.
At around two weeks old he started screaming and while Jessica was on hold to 111 she says he began shaking and his eyes rolled back.
“The screaming wasn’t normal, I knew there was something wrong…while I was on the phone I thought I’d lost him. They told me to take him straight to hospital as he might have had a seizure.
“Once at KGH they asked a few questions but seemed to focus on his feeding not the fact he had been shaking. They kept us for three days but didn’t do any scans and just tested for sepsis again.”
The family had to return to hospital each day for five days for antibiotics to be given to Reggie.
“After that there was nothing, no more investigations or tests into what had happened. I just felt like they weren’t taking our concerns seriously.”
In March when Reggie was six weeks old he became unwell again. Jessica believed he had a cold but he also had diarrhoea and had been sick so she took him to the local GP surgery for him to be checked over.
“Me and Reggie had previously been registered at another doctors. I took ID to be registered that day so he could be seen but they said it wasn’t enough. My social worker even spoke to the doctor’s receptionist to ask if Reggie could be seen but we were told he was fine and to come back after the weekend.”
So Jessica took Reggie home and wondered if she was being an overprotective first-time mum. That evening she went to bed and never saw her son alive again.
“I woke up but Reggie didn’t.”
The police initially interviewed Jessica under caution but later released her. That was five months ago and the couple still don’t know what caused Reggie’s death and still haven’t been able to hold a funeral for him.
“The coroner’s office told us initially it would take two weeks for a postmortem, then four, then eight, and then they said it would be 16 weeks. We thought ‘okay we’ve waited this long we can do this’ but then we were told it could take up to six months.
“At one point we were calling them every other day for an update but we weren’t getting any answers. It felt like we were just being dismissed. I don’t know how these things normally work but if that’s how they usually treat people I don’t know how they live with themselves”
The couple believe that their age and social status has played a huge part in how they’ve been treated throughout their ordeal. Asked if they think Jessica would have been treated different if she had been a 30 year-old woman from a middle class background, Andrew says:
“Yes 100 per cent, without a doubt.”
“I know that because I have met women like that on a Facebook support group and they have had a very different experience to us.”
A month after Reggie died Jessica says she was evicted from the social accommodation she was living in and was told it was due to her mental health now being too unstable and volatile.
“We’d just lost our baby. I’d be lying if I said there weren't days when we feel like we can’t go on. I understand that sometimes babies die but parents shouldn’t be treated like this after that happens. They shouldn’t just be dismissed.”
The inquest into Reggie's death was opened by county coroner Anne Pember last Thursday at Northampton's guildhall. In a two minute hearing Pember said the post mortem carried out by a Dr Malcolmson had found that 'the cause of death is unascertained'.
She adjourned the inquest until February 15 next year and at the end of the hearing told Reggie's parents 'I’m very sorry for your loss'.
Jessica says she found out the inquest was happening last week through the media.
Going through something as tragic as losing a child could tear some couples apart but Jessica and Andrew are united not only in their grief and love for each other but also in their determination to get answers for Reggie.
“It’s so hard but we have to live his life through us, that’s what keeps us going and stops us from breaking. We look at photos of our boy and know he didn't deserve what happened to him and we're fighting to get justice. Things need to change and parents should be listened to, no matter how old they are.”
A spokesperson for the NHS Northamptonshire Integrated Care Board said:
“We would like to extend our sincere sympathies to the family and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.
“A multi-agency review has begun into the issues raised by the family. With formal enquiries under way, it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for Reggie’s funeral