As baby loss awareness week is coming to and end, i thought i would share my own story of losing my stillborn son, and daughter that died at 10 days old.
You have the craziest ideas at the age of 17 don’t you. You feel like a grown up, especially when you have already moved away from home (even if it is to a grotty bedsit). Looking back, we were still just babies ourselves but that didn’t stop me and my now ex husband making the very grown up decision to start a family at 17.
Naively, we thought it would be simple. Lots of the fun stuff equals a baby 9 months later. Only i got my period at the end of the first month trying. I was so upset. But there was no google in those days to answer all my questions. So we kept trying. And the same thing happened. Month after month.
I celebrated my 18th birthday and had really not spoke much about why we weren’t getting pregnant. We were both busy working, him in various fast food chains, me as a nursery nurse. So i hadn’t even realized i had missed my period until i couldn’t remember the last time i had actually had one. We were staying at my parents house as they were away on holiday when we decided to do a pregnancy test. I don’t think either of us believed we were really going to be having a baby. But it was positive. And we were so happy!
Telling our parents did not go down well, his were easier, mine exploded. But we just didn’t care. We were going to be parents and we would be making all the rules.
We went to the hospital for a scan and everything looked great. We were given a book with weekly updates on how the baby would be developing. We would take the book to my ex husbands fave fishing spot and i would read him the weekly update, then chat for hours about our future life. The second scan came and went without no signs of anything wrong either. So we just enjoyed the time together guessing whether we would have a son or a daughter as we decided to wait for the surprise.
I had no usual symptoms of pregnancy, no morning sickness, no going off foods. I was chronically tired but was told i had anemia and was given liquid iron which i could not stomach, even now, as i think of the taste it makes my stomach churn. So i was given injections instead. Other than that my whole pregnancy went smoothly.
It was in my 35th week. Me and my sister took the bus into town to get some bits and pieces for the baby. The bus seemed so jolty, and i put it down to such a rickety journey that my babies movements also felt jolty.
We got home and my baby was feeling a bit calmer. I sat on my bed and i felt a really hard kick, different to usual. I now know, that was my sons very last movement. And i can feel it like it was yesterday.
Later on in the evening i had mentioned to my ex that i felt the baby had stopped moving. He reassured me that he was probably just resting too and reminded me that i would easily have ticked off the 10 kicks that was in the pregnancy notes. I lay back on the bed holding my tummy, quietly begging my baby to move. I did not sleep that night. My heart already was beginning to crack.
We went to the hospital in the morning. The journey was a blur until we stopped at traffic lights. I looked over at the birds hunting for food. Magpies. I counted two. One for sorrow two for joy. A slight smile appeared and i felt calmer. I hugged my tummy and silently told my baby that everything was going to be ok.
We was taken onto a ward to perform a scan. The midwife got up quickly and said she needed to get my consultant. I felt my exes hand squeeze mine tightly. The consultant came and done another scan. I knew before he said those dreaded words. I could see the burden of the pain he was about to cause spread across his face. “I’m sorry, your babies heartbeat has stopped”
Our world collapsed. Just like that our baby was gone. The magpies had lied to me.
We were told i would need to be admitted to hospital so that they could induce labour. I asked if i could go home and come back in the morning. No one wanted to argue with a mama who was carrying her dead baby. So they agreed.
When we got home, calls were made while me and my ex just clung to each other. Sobbing. I tried to stop crying as it was causing physical pain, my face, my eyes my head. It all ached. But it was useless. My babies heart beat had stopped. And my world was shattered. And none of the aching came close to how much my heart ached.
When we got to the hospital, Good Hope, i was horrified to find myself in the “special” suite at he end of a ward with mamas and their new born babies. As we walked down the long corridor all we could hear was crying babies. An extra kick when we was already down with no way of knowing if we would ever get back up.
Labour was induced almost straight away. But the more I heard the babies cry, the more i convinced myself that it wasn’t the magpies that had lied, it was the consultant, he got it wrong and it was all a big mistake. My baby was going to cry just like all the other babies i could hear.
Over the following days i was given everything possible to get labour started. There was hushed talks of a c-section but i had begged to not have to go through one. I was tired beyond words. My whole body was in pain as i had contracted from just a couple hours after the first pessary, just not enough for anything to be happening.
It wasnt till the Thursday morning, a week after i had last felt my baby kick that i was told i was ready to push. I had been drugged up with everything they could possibly give me to keep me from feeling any pain. They told me i would be too traumatized to feel the pain of labour on top of the emotional pain i was going through. A bit late for that i thought. But i took the drugs anyway. I was given an epidural before i was allowed to push.
Nothing could have prepared me for seeing my beautiful baby boy Reiss. I had never seen a dead body before. Never mind touch one. I felt scared to touch him. But at the same time all i wanted to do was hold on to his tiny cold body forever. They had dressed him in a little outfit that we had brought. He looked so at peace. But we were broken. And the magpies were definitely liars.
The midwives took him away for me to get some rest. Which is probably the worst word to use after seeing your stillborn son. Rest is something i have pretty much lived without since that day. Sleep is sporadic, i still suffer from insomnia to this day.
The next day, the midwives brought Reiss back to my room so we could say goodbye. Tears streamed down the younger ones face. I have since learned that a mama with a story like this to tell also has a lot of comforting to do, we have to hold the hand of the person listening telling them hey, its ok, look i turned out ok, just. I had not learned this yet, and so her tears were sadly ignored.
It was the hardest thing i had ever done, kissing my baby goodbye. I took every thing i had to walk back down the corridor of babies crying, knowing i was never going to see Reiss again. I felt my heart break more and more with every single step i took away from him.
I began to hate that phrase, “in time you can try again”. We knew that. But everyone still felt the need to say it. The doctor had told us after the post-mortem that my placenta had failed. That it was a cruel act of Mother Nature and that there was absolutely no reason why we wouldn’t be able to have a health pregnancy, that it would be incredibly rare for it to happen again, and i would be closely monitored in any future pregnancies.
So after around a year, we decided to have another baby. It took a while again. We had moved back in with my parents to save money. After just a few days of missing a period, we ran to buy a pregnancy test. While he was making our fave cheese and tomatoes on toast, i done the test. I flung myself at him when it showed positive. Thankfully he caught me, and by some miracle, didn’t burn our lunch. We couldn’t help but smile, finally something to actually smile about as neither of us had done much of that since losing our son.
We went for our first scan and was told everything looked good. I had been put under the fetal med team and had more appointments than a normal pregnancy. We had the 20 week scan and everything still looked ok. Again, we chose not to find out the sex of our baby, we wanted the surprise.
At around 21 weeks though, everything changed. I had had a slight bleed and rushed to hospital. The baby was checked and everything was fine. But my blood test results showed i had anti-E antibodies and that i was going to have to be very closely monitored. I was told my body was seeing my baby as something foreign, like it would a cold, and that my baby could be at risk. To say i hated my body would be an understatement. I hated myself. It was my horrible body doing this to our much wanted babies. So it was all my fault.
I had to stay in Good Hope hospital several times after this. And i cant say that it was very pleasant. I was once told my boyfriend was probably out having fun with other women while i was stuck in hospital. By a midwife… i never did make a complaint about that. There was also the midwife who blatantly flirted with my ex husband. She would also make cruel digs about how my body looked. There was a lovely midwife though, who thankfully was my main carer at No Hope.
At 37 weeks, blood tests showed my anti bodies were too high to safely carry on with the pregnancy so would have to be induced. In a way, i was relieved, my baby was safer, but it hurt so much that my body seen my baby as something to get rid of.
On the 10th of July, i gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl, Tia. She was so perfect. She was tiny with black hair and a crinkled face. Her cry filled the room and it was the most glorious sound i had ever heard. After the doctor had checked her over, she was placed on my chest to feed. Me and my ex husband cried happy tears. We were a lil family. We had a daughter.
Around an hour later, Tia started making a grunting sound. At first the midwives said she was probably just cold and to do skin to skin contact. She carried on grunting. The pediatrician came and said she needed to go straight NICU. It all happened so quickly. One minute we were had happy tears celebrating as a family, the next we were left with an empty cot with no clue what was going on.
We went down to the neo natal unit and we were told Tia had developed jaundice and anemia which was the effects of the antibodies. Not once throughout my whole pregnancy was i told that problems could arise when she was safely on the outside. I had been led to believe she was only in danger while i was carrying her. I felt numb.
She was put under a special light to help with the jaundice. She had to have her eyes bandaged to to protect them. And i was only allowed to hold her to feed her. I couldn’t stop crying. Why us. Why our babies.
I was fortunately allowed to stay on a ward in the hospital. So i could stay with Tia and still be able to rest. Not that i done much of that, i was worried sick. But they kept reassuring me that the light therapy was working and that she would get better.
Until, the anemia got worse. We were on the 10th day of daughters life. In the middle of the night Tia needed a full blood transfusion. No one had come to the ward to say what was happening. I had fed her as usual in the night and then was woken up to say i was needed in NICU. My heart was pounding.
They told me that Tia had reacted badly to the blood transfusion and was very very poorly. I rang my ex husband and screamed at him to get back to the hospital. In the mean time Tia was developing purple blotches all over her leg. No one knew what they were and they told me they was waiting for another specialist to come and see what they might be, i was frantic and scared.
Everyone came bursting into the hospital at once. I clung too my ex. This could not be happening.
But it was. All machines started bleating and a nurse desperately started trying to resuscitate our darling daughter. Tears dripped from her face all over Tia. I know she carried on long after she should have stopped. But nothing could bring her back. She had gone to join her brother. And we were left so heart broken that there are no words i can use to describe it. Both our babies had died.
Getting home and seeing another empty cot was devastating. All around was signs our girl was coming home. We should have been cautious, but when you have a stillbirth, we didn’t think we could be so unlucky in our journey to becoming a mommy and daddy. But i guess life can be very cruel.
The months that followed her death really are a blur. Every one avoided me. No one could even look at me. I felt so alone. My GP was so helpful. or at least he tried to be, i shut him out when he would come to my house to check on me. I told him i didn’t need sleeping pills or depression drugs. Or a counselor. Looking back i wish i had accepted his help. There was only a couple of other people that made sure they speak to me, and that was my aunty Jenny and a friend who called me regularly from inside Her Majesty’s not so great places to end up in.
A post mortem revealed she had developed septicemia during the blood transfusion. I was told this by my consultant. We tried repeatedly to get in contact with Tia’s consultant but was always fobbed off. I know i should never have given up trying to get answers, but we had nothing left in us for such a long time. We were just empty shells. And i had no fight in me.
It has been almost 22 years since i had Reiss. And Tia should be celebrating her 21st birthday next year. They say time heals, but it doesn’t. I just miss my babies more each year. It has got easier to live with, but i let the pain in as i knew it could never go away. Some days i still feel like i should get some counselling then other days i look at my four beautiful crazy children (yes, there was a happy ending as could be) and feel like the luckiest mama alive.
If you are going through the loss of a baby there are so many places that can help you these days. You are not alone. And if you need to speak to someone who has been there then please feel free to get in touch.
love, nikki xoxo