Michelle Cottle aka @DearOrla sadly lost her daughter at 37 weeks, she turned to others going through the same thing for comfort. She now runs her own successful blog raising awareness and fundraising for charities while helping others going through the same thing. Her beautifully honest and raw account of Pregnancy Loss, and parenting after a loss has touched many on Social media. Michelle kindly agreed to be interviewed in hope to break the taboo further by opening up a conversation about pregnancy loss.


In one of your early posts, it said that the thing that saved you was others sharing stories with you.

Is this why you chose to start a blog? To help others and to start opening the doors of conversation around pregnancy loss? Something as a society we do not tend to publicly talk about.

"It was absolutely the thing that got me through those horrendous first few days after Orla died, just reading and re-reading every story I could find. They helped me to know that I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t the only one to have lost a baby through stillbirth and that there was hope for the future. That people did indeed survive. I can’t really remember the moment I decided to start blogging – it all seems like such a blur now. I certainly felt that I owed it to all those who had shared their stories before me to continue to support the huge baby loss community, but much of my writing was purely for personal reasons, as a way to process my own pain and grief and as a way to support our fundraising.

But I guess what I know is that we can only change the way that the world deals with baby loss by talking; and it makes many, many voices to make a difference and I just wanted to be a part of that."


You are a psychologist, did anything in your skill set help you deal with your grief or loss in any way?

"I think that there were lots of things I did and strategies I put in place to keep myself afloat, but that was just a way of surviving.

Falling pregnant so soon after Orla died meant that I had to go into autopilot mode in order to get through each day. Every single moment was filled with fear of losing our baby and I just had to do anything I could to get through those nine months, so in many ways, doing those things delayed my grief as I didn’t allow myself to really feel my pain.

Grief is an inevitable and normal part of the loss, so trying to hurry or bury it will only delay it. The intensity of grief in the very early days scared me and I felt sure that I was going to be consumed by it and would never be able to pull myself out again. So, while some things I did helped me in the short term, it meant that it wasn’t until recently that I truly allowed myself to become immersed in my pain and to work through it in therapy.

"However, the thing that took me by surprise was the broader emotional and psychological impact of loss: the anxiety, the shame, the guilt, the intense fear of anything and everything. I think as a clinical psychologist, I work with these things every day, so I was able to use certain psychological techniques to help me manage these aspects of loss.

But there is only so much you can do alone and I really think that therapy is a very helpful and safe way to work through these things – and I can say that from both sides of the couch now!

"So, overall, I don’t think being a psychologist necessarily helped change my experience of grief, but it maybe gave me a greater insight into why things were happening. However, I really hope that my experience of loss, trauma and grief will make me a better psychologist."


If someone was currently going through losing a baby what would you say to them?

"You are not alone and this is not your fault. This is going to be one of the hardest things that you will ever have to face, but you do not have to face it on your own.

There is support out there waiting for you when you feel ready for it.

"Loss and grief, particular baby loss, is so unique to every individual so I try not to offer too much guidance or reassurance of how things will or won’t be. I think what is important is saying that you will be there for that person, in whatever way they need for however long it takes. And that they are loved no matter how they are."

Social Media

Do you think social media is beginning to crack the taboo subjects and encourage others to talk about pregnancy loss when in years gone by we haven't had that outlet? How is it we could also support dads going through this too?

"Social media has been an absolute lifeline for me. Through exploring hashtags such as #stillbirth and #babyloss, I have found a community of people who have shown me phenomenal support at a time when I felt completely desolate.

There are many, many voices out there, which means that you can hopefully find someone who you can relate to, and there is definitely a shift towards breaking down barriers to discussing these emotive issues, which is amazing. I have been contacted by quite a few women who lost babies many years ago who have said that reading blogs such as mine has helped them to process and understand their own losses after all this time. Those stories really touch me because I cannot imagine having to go through the pain of baby loss alone and not being able to talk about it – and the women who started to change this, who paved the way for us speaking about our babies now, must have been incredibly brave. And I will always be grateful to them for that.

"Although there are certainly fewer dads speaking out on social media, there are some very inspirational voices including @thedadnetwork and @pine_cones_and_study_days We need to find ways to support them in ways that feel comfortable and accessible for them, whether that be through social media or other forums – I think the key is to find out what they would find helpful, whether that is social media or something different. I remember the documentary that Rio Ferdinand made about losing his wife and the group of men who had found each other through blogging, which was just so touching."

Becoming a parent

On your blog, you talk a lot about the fear of being pregnant after a loss, parenting another child after a loss.

You designed some parenting after a loss stickers to indicate to medical staff and others how did this idea come about?

"When you are pregnant after a loss, there is so much focus on getting through pregnancy and getting this baby here alive, that there is almost no preparation for what it is like to bring a baby home. You are given a sticker for your notes to notify healthcare professionals so that they can approach their care with sensitivity and you are often provided with a package of care that is more intense than an average pregnancy. Yet once your baby arrives, it can feel as though the trauma that you have suffered is meant to just disappear and you can just parent as though everything is completely normal (and even bringing a baby home without loss is HARD!).

However, parenting after loss comes with its own complex challenges that I really believe need to be acknowledged. Therefore, I asked a friend of mine (@lisajo.design) to help me design something for a baby’s red book and the parenting after loss sticker was born.

"It is early days, but I hope that with time, more and more people will use them and the issues surrounding parenting after loss will become better understood and catered to."


You took part in the Tommy's #sleepontheside campaign, why is this so important?

"Stillbirth rates have remained unacceptably high for too many years, yet research has shown that there are changes that can be made that may help to reduce the number of babies who die each day.

While making one change, like sleeping on your side, alone won’t prevent all stillbirths, I do believe that every little helps. Families need to feel empowered with as much information as possible to help them to have healthy and safer pregnancies and I will support any campaign that helps us to achieve that."

Post-natal depression

After the birth of your second daughter, you have spoken about suffering postnatal depression. How important is it as parents to be honest about our mental health with no stigma or judgement?

"I have always advocated for the importance of talking and raising awareness of mental health issues through my work as a psychologist. However, it wasn’t until I myself experienced PND that I really understood the stigma and shame that continues to shroud mental health.

It took me many months to admit to myself I was suffering, and much more to speak openly about it. Maybe because I was already blogging candidly about baby loss and grief, it might have been easier for me to share. But ensuring good parental mental health is so important because it impacts whole families if they aren’t given the right support. Earlier intervention is better and trying to battle through by yourself with no help isn’t helpful for anyone, least of all yourself."

Award winner

You won the Tommy's Mum's Voice Award 2017 and rightly so, how did you feel when you found out you had won?

"I was utterly thrilled and overwhelmed! It was such an honour because there were some amazing finalists including two very good friends of mine, Jess (@thelegacyofleo) and Sam (@stormsandrainbowsblog) who write beautifully about their sons Leo and Guy.

The day of the award ceremony was emotional, but it was really heartwarming to see Orla’s name and face up on the screen on stage. I felt incredibly proud of her and the impact that she has had on me and my life and hopefully those of others."


Do you feel any of your relationships changed after losing Orla? That people were not quite sure how to act around you or what to say. How can we support others going through pregnancy loss/ loss of a child?

"I think all of my relationships have changed in some respect as I have changed as a person. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just a reflection of the intensity of loss, trauma and grief. I have been lucky in that most of my relationships have thrived. For those that have not, I wonder if this is maybe because they haven’t been able to tolerate this shift and change in me. They maybe want things to ‘go back to normal’ where that just isn’t possible for me. And as painful as this is, I am slowly coming to terms with this.

"In supporting others, I think every individual requires something different and this can change throughout the grieving process. However, what I would say is important is being there; physically and emotionally. Being prepared to sit with their intense grief and not expect them to hurry through it. Listening, asking questions, and never ignoring their pain. Being patient, because grief has no set time limit. Not expecting them to return to their old self because losing a child will change you irrevocably. Accepting them for who they are so that they can also learn to accept this within themselves. I would also say be prepared for, and able to tolerate, feedback that the bereaved parent gives you. If they say ‘it’s not helpful when…’, then respect them and their wishes. Of course, you may feel hurt or guilty, or a whole host of other things – but use your own support networks to manage this and don’t put it back on them to manage."


You have raised so much awareness and money for some amazing charities like S.A.N.D.S and Tommy's the baby charity your partner Andy cycled from Vancouver to San Diego, your Warrior pins have sold out in one day! You have raised thousands upon thousands of pounds. What is next for you?

"I would love to continue blogging as and when I can, which I know will be a little more tricky when I go back to work again. The popularity of the Warrior Pins took me by complete surprise, but I would like to explore ways in which to continue and expand on those as it is a wonderful way to raise money whilst also giving something meaningful to people who feel that they need it. And in the longer term, I would love to bring my professional and personal experiences together in some way – my head is currently swimming with ideas, so I really hope that I can be brave and take the plunge one day!"