That day at the appointment, the doctor listened to his heartbeat and said “your baby is PERFECTLY healthy, and HAPPY in there” and told me no induction, no ultrasound. Basically told me that I was an idiot. I was still worried. I had hoped using the reason of “I was induced with a big baby before” would prompt at least an ultrasound to reassure me that the baby was ok. I had a bad feeling. It was only a few days until my fears were confirmed in the most horrific way.
But back to the evening of 25th February.
I went to bed late (not unusual for me, especially when pregnant). I suddenly realised I hadn’t felt him move that day. I tried to think of when the last time I felt him move was. I couldn’t for the life of me remember him moving in days. This wasn’t that unusual, as I had an anterior placenta and was told that I wouldn’t feel his movements the way I did with my first baby. Now I know the real reason.
I lay in bed for an hour poking, prodding, begging him to move. I could push him from one side of my belly to the other. I could feel his weight shift easily without a single movement. I felt sick. But I decided not to go into the hospital again, as I would have to take the whole family in there in the middle of the night, and I had already done that once this pregnancy, and spent the whole night in there for no reason. As soon as they put the trace on there he bounced around madly. So I stayed in bed, convinced myself he was ok, even though I really knew he wasn’t.
Somehow I slept.
In the morning I headed into the hospital. I didn’t tell Lou any of my concerns as she was up at 5am for work and I was still asleep. I dropped Rocket at school and drove into the hospital for what I thought would be a quick check.
They took me back straight away.
What happened next was the stuff of nightmares. The midwife tried and tried to find a heartbeat with the Doppler. She got a senior midwife to try. I watched the clock on the wall as minutes passed without them finding a heartbeat. I tried to be calm but I started to panic.
2 minutes in and I was scared. 5 minutes in and I know my own heart rate went up. 10 minutes passed and I knew something was drastically wrong. They called a doctor down to perform an ultrasound.
He started scanning and was talking as he did it. “There is your baby’s head. There is a lot of amniotic fluid here” I was thinking “Oh thank goodness he must be ok. Why else would he be talking about these other things?”
Then the words that will always haunt me. He looked me in the eyes and said “I’m sorry, it does appear your baby’s heart has stopped”.
I panic just writing out those words. At the time, I think my heart stopped too. I screamed, I hyperventilated, I lost complete focus on reality. The nurses were telling me to listen to the doctor…LISTEN TO THE DOCTOR. I could see no point in listening to the doctor, my baby was dead. My baby was DEAD.
I jumped out of the bed and screamed “I have to call my partner, I have to call my LOU”. Of course my phone had no reception. They led me out to a phone in the reception area and I called her sobbing. All I could say was “they can’t find a heartbeat”. She could barely understand me. I now know she ran out to her boss in a panic and he drove her to the hospital himself, the only sounds in the car both of them swearing every time they hit a red light or a car in front went too slow. When she went back to work, every time the phone rang in the factory for months she would almost hyperventilate with fear of another terrible call from me.
By the time she got there I had already been upstairs for a full ultrasound, which I kept my arm over my face for. I did not want to see him there on the screen, lying still, not moving. It was all too much for me to bear.
I don’t remember getting back to the assessment rooms but somehow we did. We sat there in shock. I started apologising over and over and saying “how does this happen? How does this happen? I don’t understand…How does a heart just stop?”
I started crying for the first time. I wailed and sobbed while she held me and cried her quiet tears.
The doctor came back in and told us that he was very small. He guessed about 4.5lb but he was far smaller at only 3lb 7oz. There were a full range of problems showing including pleural effusions, malformed kidneys etc. There was a whole discussion on “why didn’t we see this coming”. We agreed to an autopsy. I wanted a c-section. No way did I want to go through labour and birth for a baby who was already gone. The doctor firmly told me no, that would just make things harder. I thought he was mental but I agreed to the induction. We had to choose whether to be admitted right away, or come back later to be induced. I chose to go home and have a few hours, then come back that night.
We walked out in shock. It was my mother’s birthday. I was supposed to meet her in an hour for lunch. Making that call was hard, but I steeled my emotions and called to say the baby had died and I wouldn’t make it to her lunch. We had a very strained relationship at that point because she reacted very badly to news of the pregnancy and had shown no interest in him. I think this still haunts her.
We lay around for a while in shock. Crying, asking why. We decided it was for the best that we didn’t know about all his problems sooner. We never had to make any tough decisions and he passed away (we hope) peacefully, in the warmest, safest place possible. He was never alone for a second. We were strangely calm and rational in between the fits of sobbing.
Arriving at the hospital was surreal. Everyone else there was getting ready to meet their baby and start their lives together. We wanted to scream at every person that passed us “Our baby died! Our baby DIED” but we sat there quietly and waited to be called up. They put us in a special room at the end of the labour ward, as far as possible from the happy families. Our lovely midwife came in and apologised in advance if we had to hear any new babies cry.
Everything that night sort of blurs together now. There are a lot of random details I remember that aren’t that pertinent now. I remember one of the doctors coming in to talk about doing an amnio (they decided not to, to wait for the autopsy). I remember he was so emotional, his voice broke and he had tears in his eyes. We were stoic and unemotional whenever someone was in the room, sobbing hysterically when we were alone.
The IV saga started (as it always does) with two nurses, an anaesthetist and then the head of anaesthetics “having a go” at it.
Our midwife brought us some literature about stillbirth. I tried to read some but quickly became hysterical. I put them aside. I never really cried when our midwife was in the room, she kept saying we were so brave. I didn’t see it as brave, we knew we had to get through it, and becoming a mess wouldn’t help anything. I became a master at controlling my emotions (ha! As if)
I barely slept. Lou never has any trouble sleeping. In the morning we stared out the window. What else was there to do? We saw two friends running in the park across the road. Lou commented that our friends are always close by, even when they don’t realise it.
I had a patient controlled anaesthesia where I could self administer painkillers every few minutes. I had contractions every three minutes but they were easily bearable. At around 2pm they started increasing in intensity. I asked for more painkillers, then changed my mind and asked for an epidural.
From there it all went like lightning. I was in so much pain that I was begging for relief, but there was no time for anything. They were yelling for an anaesthetist to at least give me a shot of something. Finally he did, and less than a minute later my tiny boy was born. My established labour was a grand total of eleven minutes. And yes I am proud that this is recorded in my patient notes.
I was so afraid after he was born, of what he would look like. They had prepared us for the worst, and I asked anxiously “Does he look okay?” Our dear midwife Olivia said happily “oh he’s perfect”. And he was.
I got to see him and hold him straight away and he took my breath away. I couldn’t understand how he could be dead, as he just looked so…alive. He just looked like he was sleeping. He didn't have a single mark on him, they think he must have only just passed away when I came in. I believe it was around 2am the night before, when I first was struck with the though "what if he has died?" Olivia wrapped him up and took him to bathe him and weigh him while Lou watched. He was a grand 3lb 7 oz at 37 weeks.
We loved holding him. Olivia commented “You two are like different people when this little boy is in the room” and it was true. He lit up our lives that day. We had him the whole day, I don’t really remember what we did, or what we said. We just WERE. We talked and laughed and everything was ok right in that moment because he was there with us. Olivia took him overnight. In the morning I asked for him back. She had washed his blanket and his gown overnight and he smelled lovely.
We had him baptised and blessed by the Catholic Father in the hospital. He asked all the angels to watch over him and his mothers. We left late that day, going home to our empty house alone, and empty handed.