In Memory of Billy - The Knutsford couple determined to make sure their son's death was not in vain

PUBLISHED: 11:38 10 November 2011 | UPDATED: 20:16 20 February 2013

New joy: parents James Wilkinson and Amy Docherty with their new baby daughter, Daisy

New joy: parents James Wilkinson and Amy Docherty with their new baby daughter, Daisy

The life of Amy Docherty's son lasted just 20 minutes. But his legacy lives on as his determined mum campaigns for better maternity care and greater awareness of premature birth WORDS BY EMMA MAYOH PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON

When Amy Docherty discovered she was pregnant with daughter Daisy, she couldnt stop crying. Despite it being the news she and fiance James Wilkinson had longed for, she was terrified.

But when you consider what the couple had gone through a little over a year before, the reason for her reaction becomes clear. In October 2009 Amy and James, who live in Knutsford, lost their first child, Billy. Amy had gone into premature labour and gave birth when she was just 29 weeks pregnant. Their sons 2lb 2oz body was not strong enough and Billy died just 20 minutes later.

Id heard about things like this happening, but you dont expect it to happen to you. You dont expect your first child to be born prematurely and be dead in 20 minutes, said Amy.

It was an incredibly hard time. Driving home from hospital with an empty car seat that should have had our baby boy in it is the worst thing I have ever had to do. It was the most horrible part of my life, and the year that followed it. We never found out what caused it.

When I found out I was pregnant again, it wasnt that I was upset, I was absolutely terrified that it was all going to happen again. We were both so scared.

The couple, happily, had the chance to fill that empty car seat when Daisy was born earlier this year. As with Billy, Amy went into premature labour again. But this time she had good support from maternity services at Wythenshawe Hospital, where she gave birth, and the baby charity Tommys. In fact it was treatment pioneered by the charity that Amy credits with Daisys survival.

She said: I had a cervical stitch because I have an incompetent cervix, which means Im at greater risk of premature birth. Putting in the stitch is a technique pioneered by Tommys to see if it would help. It held her in place. She was 6lbs 2oz when she was born.

Daisy was three weeks early. I lost some water at 26 weeks, I went into labour at 33 weeks and with drugs the hospital was able to put it off until 36 weeks. Without the work Tommys have done, I dont think Daisy would be with us. Amy has worked with Tommys since the days after Billys death. She has dedicated herself to fundraising for them through In Memory of Billy, a foundation she established to remember her baby boy.

It was the overwhelming support of family and friends that prompted her to raise money for Tommys. Just after the tragedy, she requested that people donated money, instead of sending more flowers and sympathy cards. This alone raised 1,000 in the ten days between his death and his funeral. To date, she has raised 26,500.

Amy is also campaigning for improved maternity services and has discusssed her concerns at meetings with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. The Tatton MP was so impressed by her work that he made No 11 Downing Street available as the venue for a Tommys VIP fundraising evening earlier this year.

She said: One in four women will lose their baby during pregnancy and Tommys do research into why that happens and to stop it from happening. The UK has the highest rate of neonatal death in the developed Western world. This shouldnt be happening. The NHS also doesnt have enough money to invest in new nurses and midwives and maternity services need more people.

I wanted to talk to George about what is happening and the fantastic work Tommys do. Through him I got to talk to the health minister. I hope that all this can help more investment go into preventing this happening to women.

James did ask George to do a sponsored leg wax for Tommys but he was announcing the budget the next day. I suppose we can let him off for that!

Amy said: When Billy died it was the hardest time of my life. Im very lucky I have good family and friends, like James and my mum, Julie, to support me. Somehow I came out the other end of it.

Tommys have been amazing and if I can help stop this happening to anyone else then Billy has a legacy. Im not prepared to let my son die and for that to be it. Even though Billy is not here, if I can help other women it feels like together we can make a difference.

The print version of this article appeared in the November 2011 issue of Cheshire Life

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