‘We were heartbroken, scared and felt robbed’

Kayleigh and Joe on their wedding day
Kayleigh and Joe on their wedding day

Kayleigh Riley knew something was wrong when she didn’t feel her baby boy kick for a day.

The anxious former Layton Primary School and Hodgson Academy pupil, along with her footballer boyfriend went to hospital for an urgent scan – with the pair given gut-wrenching news.

Kayleigh and Joe Riley

Kayleigh and Joe Riley

After six-and-a-half months of pregnancy, little Leo had died inside the womb, with the heartbroken 30-year-old given a tablet to bring on the birth – which she had to endure knowing her tiny son had not survived.

Opening up to The Gazette for the first time, Kayleigh, who grew up in Poulton and married to Plymouth defender Joe Riley in May, said: “We were so scared and heartbroken, and we felt robbed.

“It was our first child and we had wanted a boy, so it had all seemed perfect. We were so happy and it was all going to plan.

“Everything was ready. We had chosen his name, bought his furniture, ordered his pram, and bought nappies.

Kayleigh and Joe on their wedding day

Kayleigh and Joe on their wedding day

“Everything was prepared and then this happened. It was awful.”

Kayleigh, who works as a personal assistant, was allowed family at her bedside while she was going through her harrowing ordeal in March, said: “Afterwards there was a special room where me and Joe could spend time with Leo on our own.

“We held him and told him we loved him, and we stayed overnight with him.”

Joe, 26, who used to play for Shrewsbury Town, said: “I’m so glad we had that overnight with him.

Arriving at Blackpool Tower

Arriving at Blackpool Tower

Afterwards, we had good days and bad days.

We weren’t always feeling the same things at the same times, so sometimes I leaned on Kayleigh, and other times she leaned on me.

“We were there for each other.”

The pair were engaged, but brought forward their wedding after Kayleigh’s dad told them: “Why don’t you go and get married in the summer?”

The group who walked to Blackpool

The group who walked to Blackpool

The couple flew to Portugal for an intimate beach ceremony in May – and made little Leo the centre of attention.

There were baby blue balloons, and the wedding table was named after him.

Kayleigh said: “We had mixed feelings on the day, but it was a little bit of happiness in a sad time. My family was so happy and we all remembered Leo on the day.

“As we signed the register, one of the balloons, which we put there for Leo, popped behind our heads.”

Instead of locking away Leo’s possessions, or hiding them away in his room, the couple have embraced his memory.

And, to raise money for the maternity unit at Royal Bolton Hospital near the pair’s home, and where medics helped the couple, they hiked 44 miles to Blackpool Tower, raising thousands in Leo’s memory.

He should have been born on June 13, so the brave duo picked the Saturday closest to then and recruited their friends and family.

Joe and Kayleigh were joined by her dad, Craig Campbell, 49, step-dad Parrish Cobb, 53, who lives off Moorland Road in Poulton, sister Emily Cobb, 20, and her partner, Man Utd goalkeeper Max Johnstone, 19, and brothers Ben Campbell, 20, and Kane Campbell, 12.

Joe’s best friends Dave Howarth, 26, Jack Byram, 26, and Josh Wilson, 26, also took part. Ex-Blackpool FC captain Charlie Adam, who is married to Kayleigh’s other sister Sophie, was unable to take part.

“We set off at 7.30am from Worsley Old Hall. By 11am, we reached Chorley and had a break before going on to Preston where it started chucking it down,” Joe said. “Everyone remained in good spirits and we reached the Tower at 10.30pm.”

Joe and Kayleigh, who studied construction at Blackpool and The Fylde College and lived on the Fylde coast until 2015, are now set to move to Plymouth from Worsley, and see it as a chance of a fresh start.

But Joe added: “We think about Leo every day.

“It has given us a new attitude to life.

“We do things with him in our memory.”

A cause is not always found

A stillbirth is when a baby does not survive after 24 completed weeks of pregnancy.

It happens in approximately one in every 200 births in England.

Some stillbirths are linked to complications with the placenta, a birth defect or with the mother’s health. For others, no cause is found.

The advice is to contact your doctor or midwife immediately if you are pregnant and anxious about your baby, for example, if you have noticed your baby moving less than usual.

After a baby is stillborn, mothers are offered tests to find the cause. These are not compulsory, but the results may help to avoid problems in any future pregnancies.

More in-depth tests can also be carried out on the baby to try to establish the cause of death or conditions that may have contributed to it.

How to get help

Losing a child is an emotionally devastating time.

Charity Tommy’s has an advice line with midwives who have experience in dealing with pregnancy loss and have bereavement training.

It can be called free on 0800 0147 800 from 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday.

The stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands can also help. That can be called on 0808 164 3332.