Friday, 1 March 2013

Claire: The Pipette in my Fridge

We moved into our new house in December 2011 in readiness for our baby who was due in April 2012. All of us were excited; husband, daughter and me full of expectation. I began to adapt to living in a house rather than a flat. It was an easy enough adjustment. The only downside was having to waddle upstairs to throw up instead of just popping into the bathroom in our flat. I’d had horrendous sickness all through this pregnancy. My first pregnancy had been bad enough when I’d thrown up for around 12 weeks. This time round, things had been even worse. I’d thrown up every day throughout the pregnancy apart from about 3 weeks in the final trimester, and I had the most awful heartburn for the final 16 weeks too. But I kept telling myself that the sickness was a good sign. It meant that the hormones were high and that meant that the baby should be strong and healthy.

When we moved house we negotiated to keep the previous owner’s white goods. Only 6 months after we moved in the fridge freezer decided to give up the ghost, and that is where the pipette comes in.

My husband and his brother removed the fridge and put a new one in its place. The only concern I had was whether my husband would think I was mad for keeping the tiny little pipette that had been in our fridge since 22nd April 2012. Thankfully, he understood, and gently placed it into the top drawer of our new fridge unseen by anyone but us.

Our beautiful baby girl Laura was born by C section on Friday 20th April, seemingly healthy. We were so delighted to have her with us, so relieved to meet her, to hear her cry. But she wasn’t as perfect as we thought. As soon as she was born I tried to breastfeed her. My older daughter had latched on and sucked for dear life only minutes after she was born, but Laura seemed to struggle. She hardly seemed to suckle and when she did, she coughed and spluttered and eventually began to have awful episodes of not breathing. The night she was born she was diagnosed with a condition called Tracheo-Oesophageal Fistula. Overnight she was transferred to a top London hospital but as I had to have a C section due to her breech presentation, I had to wait in our local hospital until the morning to get discharged (there were no beds available in the hospital Laura was transferred to).

And so began my attempts at expressing milk for my little girl. My older daughter had been an expert breast-feeder and despite having problems in the early few weeks, she took to it well and in fact refused anything other than the breast, meaning that she moved straight onto cups rather than bottles. Because of this, I had never really experimented much with expressing. Now I was faced with this as the only current option, so when a midwife at our local hospital asked me if I would prefer to move to a private room until I could be discharged, I declined thinking that hearing all the other crying babies may help me concentrate on producing some nourishment for my darling little Laura. That, and the beautiful picture of her that I had taken only hours earlier on my phone.

In between getting discharged and visiting Laura on the Saturday, I massaged and tried to express every 2-3 hours, setting the alarm on my phone so that I wouldn’t miss an attempt. Most of these attempts led to nothing but a flushed face and sore breasts, but eventually at around 1pm on Sunday 22nd April 2012 while Laura was having her corrective surgery I finally began to see small drops (small precious drops) of colostrum. I was elated. I could finally look forward to giving our little girl some nourishment and protection when she came round from her operation. I was given dozens of little pipettes and instructions on how to collect this “liquid gold” as the neonatal nurses called it. Two small pipettes with drops of my colostrum were labelled and placed carefully in the NICU fridge alongside whole bottles of milk expressed by loving mums for their poorly babies.

At 6pm on the Sunday, Laura’s operation was still ongoing. We weren’t unduly worried (not openly anyway), so I went to the expressing room and had just begun to squeeze out some drops when there was a knock on the door and I was hurried away to the consultation room to hear the words that turned my life into a spin and eventually broke my heart. Our lovely little Laura’s lung had collapsed, she had gone into cardiac arrest and the surgeons were unable to re-inflate her lung. They had tried for 45mins to resuscitate her with no success and by now her brain function would have been zero. There was no hope of a positive outcome. We were asked permission for the surgeon to stop resuscitation and were rushed off to the Surgical Theatre to receive our still warm but bruised and battered little baby only moments after her time of death had been called – 6:08pm.

We stayed with Laura for hours after she died. Some of our close family came to see her and we removed the drips and tubes, washed her and dressed her and cuddled and kissed her.

The only thing we brought home from the hospital that day along with our sadness and tears of despair was the tiny little pipette with the drop of liquid gold that now resides in the top drawer of my fridge.


  1. Thank you Claire for sharing more of Laura's story with us. I loved this post, I love that you have kept the pipette. Isn't it funny the mementoes that we keep - simple things that become so symbolic and so precious. Much love xx

    1. Thank you Clara. I still look at it from time to time & think of how different things should have been

  2. Hi Claire, your post made me cry, our little boy lived six weeks and I expressed milk for him and he was fed by pipette for those six weeks. I still have two bottles of expressed milk in the fridge and an ice cream tub full of frozen milk bags in the freezer I just can't bare to move them. Laura is so beautiful, I'm so sorry we couldn't keep our babies. Lots of love x x

  3. Anonymous, thank you... it's a tough one isn't it? As parents we are programmed to do all we can for our babies. For some of us, we are unfortunate enough to never get to fulfill our potential. Really sorry for the loss of your little boy xx