For nearly nine months, Catherine Harwood's pulse beat to the rhythm of her baby daughter's tiny heart.

She felt every move her daughter made and did everything she could to nurture her little body inside.

Catherine fell in love with the baby girl's perfectly-formed fingers and toes as she watched them curl up and stretch out on the ultrasound machine, whispering over and over again how precious she was.

She believes her daughter, Annabel, was destined to be a dancer because she kicked like a ballerina.

The two of them shared a craze for apples which Catherine craved during her pregnancy and loved the Normandy countryside where Annabel leapt about inside her.

But Annabel never had the chance to run through a Normandy orchard or dance a pirouette.

She never even got to open her eyes and see the world she had been waiting to burst into for all those weeks.

Annabel Harwood died while she was still inside her mother's womb, just days before she was due to be born by Caesarean section.

It was something her mother had never heard of, didn't even believe was possible. After a trouble- free pregnancy, she was convinced she was going to have a healthy baby.

Catherine, of Katherine Way, Seaford, said: "We had a perfect pregnancy right from the beginning.

We didn't know there was anything wrong with her.

"The hardest thing was feeling like it had never happened to anyone else, feeling like we were the only ones.

Neither of us knew a baby could be born dead like that we had never heard the word still-born.

I thought because this had happened to us, I must have done something wrong or I must be a freak."

Catherine had gone into the Royal Sussex County Hospital the night before Annabel was due so her baby's heartbeat could be monitored.

Because she is diabetic, Catherine had been advised to have a Caesarean.

She knew Annabel was a big baby and it might cause some problems during the birth but she had no idea anything was wrong.

Catherine and Trevor now believe their baby died two nights before she was due to be born.

She said: "On the Monday night I had these strong pains. I thought I was in labour but they stopped.

"After that I noticed Annabel wasn't kicking.

But everyone told me babies slow down as they get bigger and stop moving around so much.

"Even now, I sometimes can't believe it really happened. It seems like a horrible dream. How could it be that she was alive on Monday and dead by Tuesday night?

"I wish I had had her a week earlier she might have been alive now. There are so many things I wish but you can't live your life wishing for things.

You've got to try and deal with it positively." Before Annabel was buried, Catherine held her for as long as she could.

Her parents and Trevor's parents also came to be with their granddaughter in the hours after she was born.

Catherine felt it essential that Annabel be acknowledged as a person who had a history, rather than a pregnancy gone wrong.

"She was a bluish colour and her lips had gone blood red, but she was really beautiful. She was a mini-version of me, with really dark hair.

It was such a shock to see all this hair."

It is now nearly eight months since Annabel died.

Catherine has worked hard to deal with the grief and anger that seemed almost unbearable last winter.

There were times when she felt she could not carry on but she has pulled through.

Together with Trevor, she has set up a charity, called the Annabel Harwood Trust, to help other parents of stillborn babies.

Working on that has given them something positive to focus on.

For months they feared the grief was pulling them apart.

As Catherine cried and talked about what had happened almost compulsively, Trevor busied himself with DIY tasks like mending windows, not even noticing if it was pouring with rain.

For Catherine, the pain was almost physical. She had carried a baby for 38 weeks and then had to give birth to her knowing she was dead.

She grieved for the bond she had lost while Trevor grieved for the daughter he had never known.

Catherine said: "A lot of marriages break up after something like this but we accepted we were grieving differently. We gave each other time to deal with it in our own way and now that we are ready for it we are doing this thing together."

Trevor and Catherine are expecting another baby. They know they can never replace Annabel but they feel it is time to move on.

"We decided very soon after it happened we would like another child. I don't think we could not have another child.

"It's very hopeful but it's also very scary. Every time I talk about it I have to stop myself taking things for granted. I'm not willing to make plans like I did last time.

I don't even want to find out if it's a girl or a boy."

Catherine has always wanted two children but because she is diabetic the process is automatically more difficult for her. She was expecting Annabel to be her last child.

Her son, Sam, who is five, was just as excited as his mum and dad about the arrival of a baby sister. He also found it just as hard to understand why she never came home from the hospital.

But Sam has dealt with the loss and the atmosphere of heartbreak better than his mum could have hoped.

Catherine, 29, said: "Sam accepts Annabel has gone to be with Jesus. He has given us inspiration because there have been times when you just wonder why it's happened to you and he always has something comforting to say.

"He says things like, Annabel is a special angel and she's looking after us now, Mummy'. He tells me not to worry, that Annabel's OK and he is always there to give me a hug.

Then he says, You've still got me, Mummy, and I'm not going to live with Jesus'."

Despite the comfort Sam has given her and Trevor, Catherine finds collecting her son from school terribly difficult.

"It was horrible to go and meet Sam when the other mums knew I had been pregnant.

I didn't know who knew about it and who didn't and I felt they were all talking about me.

"Months later, I can be walking down the street and someone will say, Did you have your baby yet?' and I will have to say, Yes, I did', and explain what happened. Those wounds are constantly being re-opened.

"There was a girl who was pregnant at the same time as me. Her daughter is a week younger than Annabel. If Annabel had been born then, she might have been alive now.

"I bumped into her recently, which was very hard. She was there with her little girl and mine was dead. It was like reliving the whole thing all over again."

The other difficult thing for Catherine and Trevor, 31, was trying to find out more about what happened to them.

Trevor said: "We weren't really given much information after it happened. The hospital was excellent but we needed to speak to other people in the same situation and find out more about it all."

The couple came across an organisation called the Still-born and Neo-Natal Death Society (Sands), which has put them in touch with other parents of stillborn babies.

For Trevor, the charity has been invaluable. "It has really helped to know we are not alone. But I think it is important for people to know that straight away.

We are hoping to produce an information pack for parents which can be given out by the hospital. We hope that might help people."

Catherine is determined that her daughter will be remembered as a baby girl with a personality of her own.

When people tell her she is young and can have another baby, she is infuriated. To her, there is no other Annabel.

"This has happened and we have to live with it but I don't ever want to forget her.

"One of the things that made me saddest was that I didn't have any memories of Annabel. But then I realised I do really. Every time I listen to Vanessa Mae, I remember her kicking me like mad.

She never stayed still. And she loved apples, just like me. She was a life, she was a person inside me."

To make a donation to the trust, contact Catherine or Trevor on 01323 890009.

They are hoping people will sponsor them to take part in the Lewes to Newhaven Raft Race on July 22.

About 12 people will be taking part in the race on behalf of the charity. All proceeds will go towards baby monitoring equipment for the Royal Sussex.

HELPFUL CONTACTS Books to buy: When a Baby Dies, by Nancy Kohner and Alix Henley; Love, Labour and Loss, Jo Benson and Dawn Robinson-Walsh.

Contact 020 7436 7940 for details of more publications. Sands helpline: 020 74365881 or contact Caroline Davies, who runs the local Sands support group, on 01273 or go to