Diane Cooke talks to bereaved Zahida who finds comfort, knowing her first baby is waiting in Heaven

WHEN Zahida Ismail looks into the eyes of her beautiful baby daughter she feels intense joy and pain.

Joy because the child is a blessing and pain because she would have had a three-year-old sister, had she not been stillborn.

Zahida, 27, from Blackburn, gave birth to baby Fatima Katoon after an arduous three-day labour at Bolton Hospital in May 2011, but the child never opened her eyes or took her first breath.

There was no explanation as to why it happened.

Zahida had carried her baby for the full nine months of her pregnancy without any complication. She weighed a healthy 8lbs 1oz.

She was born at the right time and had been a perfectly healthy baby throughout all the scans.

Says Zahida: “I gave birth to the most amazing, beautiful little girl and there was no reason why she was stillborn. All I can think is that it simply wasn’t meant to be.

“I didn’t want a post-mortem for religious reasons, but also because it was pointless.

“She was gone and there wasn’t anything anybody could do about it.’’ Zahida was given counselling from Bolton Hospital, but found the service wasn’t right for her.

Being a strong believer of the Muslim faith she felt she wasn’t coping with her grief and needed to open up to someone who knew what she was going through, but who also understood her cultural beliefs.

That’s when her sister pointed her in the direction of Children of Jannah, the UK’s only bereavement service for British Muslim parents and families who have suffered the loss of a baby or child.

“My sister told me about a Facebook group that specialises in helping people like me. Not only was it exactly what I was looking for, as it focused on our faith, but there were also people I could talk to that understood and knew the pain I was going through.

“At night, when I felt most alone, there was always someone online who would talk and understand. The page allowed us to support each other through the arduous grieving process.

“I was advised to let out my grief and I was comforted by the fact that they told me my baby would go to Heaven and that she would wait for me there until it was time for me to join her.

“It really helped me knowing that I would see her again.”

Zahida says she’s not sure how she would have coped with her grief without the charity’s help.

She was constantly feeling down and didn’t see any way of things getting any better. She was keen to have another baby to help ease the pain and Khadijah was born just over a year later. “I was terrified all the way through the pregnancy that it was going to happen again. But when she was born her eyes were open and she cried straight away.

“It was a huge relief. Every day I look at her and feel blessed that I have another daughter and she is healthy. She keeps me strong.

‘’If Children of Jannah hadn’t been there for me I wouldn’t be as strong as I am now. I still have days when I feel down.

“Before I would have let these feelings wash over me but now I know there is someone there I can turn to who will listen to what I have to say without judgement, allow me to express my feelings and remind me it is okay to grieve.’’ Zahida has now become involved with the Children of Jannah as a Facilitator covering the North West. Her way of giving something back is to hold fundraising days.

Children of Jannah is a registered UK charity set up in 2011 after the death of founder Hafizah Ismail’s two-year-old nephew.

It aims to support grieving Muslim parents and families after the death of a child or baby, whether through illness, miscarriage or stillbirth.

For more info: www.childrenofjannah.com