Sunday, 16 November 2014

Stacey: A Rainbow Pregnancy: My Birth Story

This is the last in a series of posts that Stacey is writing about her rainbow pregnancy. To read the previous posts, please click on the links below:

Stacey: A Rainbow Pregnancy: Weeks 29 to 32
Stacey: A Rainbow Pregnancy: Weeks 33 to 36
Stacey: A Rainbow Pregnancy: Weeks 37 to 38

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The birth

‘Do you want to go in the water?’ the midwife asked me during a contraction as I desperately tried to stay in any position other than on my back on the bed. I didn’t hesitate; we changed to the birth pool room and I was in the water within 5minutes, the relief as I sank into the hot water was amazing it took all the pain in my back away. I had gas and air but felt very in control and the pain wasn’t too bad. I knew I had to just get through each contraction and dilate to 10cm before I could push so all I had to do was wait for my body to be ready.

I started to get a lot of flashbacks of my labour with Maisie and became very grateful to be in the water as it was a totally different labour and environment from last time. In between my contractions I talked to my husband who was also finding the labour was bringing back a lot of memories from last time. Neither of us could believe that labour had finally started it felt like a medical process that we had to go through there was never any consideration for the fact that we were having a baby or that in just a few hours we might have a live child in our arms. It didn’t seem like that could ever be a possibility for us so seeing the cot in the corner of the room was actually very frightening.

I was aware of other women on the ward screaming, shouting and swearing all the classic noises you hear on the tv when a woman goes into labour. I occasionally heard the alarm go off and my midwife ran out of the room to go and help. None of these things helped me to believe we were there to have a baby as real as everything was around me it all felt like a dream and any moment I was going to wake up not pregnant and with no baby.

I wanted to stay in control of my labour and to try and help myself to be aware of the baby and to keep her safe I knew that I could lose her at any time so I kept my hand on my belly to try and feel her movements which became hard to feel during a contraction if I wasn’t focused. I also tried to remain composed when the midwife listened in to her heartbeat the weeks of CTGs and months of using my own Doppler meant that I knew what speed and rhythm was a normal sound for her heartbeat and each time I heard it myself I knew she was still ok.

I started to lose composure around 7cm when the midwife asked me to get out of the water for an examination. Leaving the water I felt all the pain suddenly hit me, my legs started to shake and I knew I needed to get to the bed and be examined as quickly as possible so I could get back in the pool. Hearing that I was 7cm and making good progress was a relief that the pain wasn’t for nothing. I think I was so relieved I used some choice rude words which is not normally something I would do in front of strangers!

I got back in the pool and all of a sudden things seemed to speed up very quickly. Every contraction was too painful to control with gas and air I felt a huge urge to push and couldn’t stop myself my body seemed to naturally start to convulse with each contraction. I became more and more vocal as the pain increased screaming out that I wanted and needed to push the baby out now. The midwives kept telling me it was not time and that if I pushed now nothing would happen but that the baby’s head was very low and that was why I was feel like I needed to push. I kept waiting for the point where I desperately needed more than gas and air to ask for more pain relief but the time never came. Although it was extremely painful the time in between contractions gave me a chance to think clearly and to be able to remember that however painful they were I would soon have another rest period.

I started to behave like a wild animal I swore a lot, screeched, cried and got very angry when the gas and air was taken off me to get out for my final examination. I couldn’t walk to the bed and was vaguely aware of my husband and midwife almost carrying me to the bed to be examined. Being told I was 10cm and was now allowed to push I almost cried with relief after hours of needing to push I was now finally allowed to.

I got back into the pool to push her head kept coming out and going back in it was increasingly frustrating and felt like a burning sensation. I knew I needed to focus and my pain started to change rather than the focus being on the contractions it was the burning sensation each time I pushed that hurt. The midwife left the room and when she came back was joined by another midwife, I instantly panicked thinking that something was wrong she reassured me that when they deliver there has to be two people present. She told me that I had been pushing for an hour (thank goodness I had no concept of time as I thought I had only been pushing for about 10 minutes) and that once I had got her head out I would be able to push her body out in one contraction. She warned me that when the baby was born she wasn’t allowed to reach in and touch her straight away but she had to let the baby rise to the surface of the water by herself.

I started to push again with everyone around me shouting at me trying to encourage me to push harder; finally her head came out. The midwife told me to feel her head as she had a lot of hair it was a very surreal experience feeling a head sticking out with masses of hair and again felt very much like a dream. I soon had another contraction and felt instant physical relief when she came out.

The relief lasted for a few seconds before I was desperately asking if she was alive when the midwife finally reached in for her, placed her on me and I heard her scream all I could do was close my eyes and keep repeating ‘she’s alive’. I couldn’t even look at her for the first few minutes all I could do was listen to the sound of her crying knowing that meant she was here and everything had been worth it.

Florence Ivy Davis was born on Monday 13th October 2014 at 9.58am weighing 6lb 9oz (much smaller than the scans had suggested!). It no longer mattered how hard pregnancy had been mentally or physically having her alive in our arms I knew I would do it all over again without hesitation.

Nearly 3 weeks later

Whilst I write this my 2 week and 5day old daughter is sleeping on my chest. I can lean down just 2 inches and kiss her head full of hair, I can hear her snore and I can see the amazing faces she pulls whilst she dreams. She will never replace her big sister but Florence gives us a reason to live again, she is helping day by day to heal wounds that run deep, too young to even know just how special she is and how many people’s lives she has enriched and completed. 4am is fast becoming my favourite time of day when I wake up to spend an hour with her feeding and changing her, there is no-one else around, my husband is still asleep and I have her all to myself in my arms. It is then that I realise how lucky we really are and how I hope that I never take a single second for granted. Of course I still have some anxieties; is she too hot, cold, hungry, has she got a dirty nappy and is she still breathing all frequently run into my mind but the few seconds spent worrying before I check her are worth it just to be near her again.

A dream is a wish your heart makes
When you're fast asleep
In dreams you will lose your heartaches
Whatever you wish for, you keep
Have faith in your dreams and someday
Your rainbow will come smiling through
No matter how your heart is grieving
If you keep on believing
the dream that you wish will come true

Thank you to Loss through the Looking Glass for giving me the opportunity to have a safe place to write about my hopes, dreams and fears for the past 9 months.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Stacey: A Rainbow Pregnancy: Weeks 37 to 38

This is the tenth in a series of posts that Stacey is writing about her rainbow pregnancy. To read the previous posts, please click on the links below:

Stacey: A Rainbow Pregnancy: Weeks 29 to 32
Stacey: A Rainbow Pregnancy: Weeks 33 to 36

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37 weeks

We have made it to full term!!! The baby is now fully developed and ready to start making her way into the world. I have finished swimming this week as my membership has run out, I have really enjoyed my swimming and would highly recommend it as a gentle form of exercise (and relaxation!) during pregnancy especially as it takes the weight off hips and ankles. I unfortunately did not take a picture of me at 20 weeks when I started swimming but I decided to take one to remember my last swim.

I had my final growth scan at 37+2 and its good news baby is now 6lb 13oz which gives a predicted weight at 40 weeks of 8lbs not 9lb and the Doppler scan showed that the placenta is still performing well so she is still getting a good amount of oxygen and food. I haven’t had any signs of natural spontaneous labour yet but I do think I am coming down with some kind of sickness bug I have spent a few days this week in bed feel very nauseous but not actually being sick. I hope it passes soon!

Next week I have my consultant appointment that will give a final plan for when this baby will be born. I have been research the NICE guidelines and the statistics on what stage of pregnancy and induction is likely to succeed and the chances of it ‘failing’ and resulting in a caesarean section. I have decided I want to push for 39 weeks exactly as there is little evidence to suggest that waiting an extra week for the due date is actually worth it in terms of success of induction but I am also going to request a stretch and sweep to give me a final chance to go into spontaneous labour. I have been feeling very tired and sick this week and having lots of long baths as I seem to have no energy to do anything and the baths make me feel more relaxed with the hip and back pain I am now suffering from. I am very glad that whatever happens at my consultant appointment I wont have to go overdue there is no way I could physically (never mind mentally!) cope up to 42 weeks!

38 weeks

My consultant appointment went better than I hoped for! She again suggested that I should have a due date induction I refused and said I wanted 39 weeks exactly and she simply agreed and went off to book it we didn’t argue over it at all. Unfortunately I forgot that 39 weeks would be Monday 13th October which is the day of the NHS maternity strikes therefore I could not be booked in for that day so it has been agreed that I will have 39+1 with an extra CTG and scan to help me mentally through the final stage. I was very pleased that she actually listened to me and has let me have what I want. My husband is now convinced that I will relax a bit and go into natural labour of my own accord but we will see! I also asked about a stretch and sweep which my consultant has agreed for me to have at 38+4 and she asked a midwife to do an internal check on me before we left that day. The internal showed that I was already 1-2cm dilated so things are looking positive for a successful induction!

When we got home from the hospital we saw a huge double rainbow outside our house, the first one I have seen since the day before we found out I am pregnant. I think Maisie approves the induction plan!

I had my stretch and sweep at 38+4 which was very painful, the midwife said I am now 2-3cm dilated and she could feel the top of the babies head! I lost a little bit of brown old blood after and felt very, very tired later that evening I lost my mucus plug and started to get some contractions they were very irregular but lasted for about 5 hours. I got very frustrated with them as they would get closer together and longer and then all of a sudden stop. I decided to go to bed and see what happens during the night but I woke up the next day with no signs of labour at all. The next day at 38+6 I started to get ready for my induction planning things like having food in the house, washing, cleaning and ironing all done but I still don’t believe I am going to be having a baby at all. The day ended just like every single day throughout the pregnancy with my husband and I taking our two dogs for a walk before bed at 11pm but tonight was going to be the night that everything changed. Within 10 minutes of getting home from walking the dogs I went from feeling completely normal to having contractions they started every 5 minutes lasting 30 seconds and were very painful. As the same thing has happened only 2 nights before I decided to go to bed and ignore them thinking they would stop. When I got into bed things started to feel more painful I actually started to cry with each contraction and soon I realised they were coming every 3-4 minutes. I decided to get up and have a shower as I hoped the hot water would help to ease the pain in my back, still convinced that I wasn’t having a baby and worried about going into hospital just to be sent home I tried to ignore it but soon I was having such painful contractions I was becoming quite vocal and my husband was begging me to call the hospital to go in. At 1.30am I finally called; the midwife who answered did not particularly want me to go in yet as she didn’t seem to believe I was having contractions and thought it was just part of a bloody show but towards the end of the phone call I had a really painful contraction and couldn’t speak. I had to hand the phone to my husband and whilst I completely blanked out with pain he told the midwife that we were coming in now as I was struggling to cope with the pain.

We got into the car and I started to lose control as the pain got worse. I screamed at my husband to slow down as he raced to the hospital throwing me around the car as he turned corners until we finally arrived and I knew I had to regain some kind of composure. I somehow managed to get some self control in order to check into the hospital and make our way to labour ward. Just as we approached the ward I had another contraction and although I managed to stay calm during it a midwife spotted us and came straight over. She took us through to the labour ward where I was put onto a CTG to check on the baby who was fine, I was given gas and air and had an internal examination. At 2am on Monday 13th October at 39 weeks exactly the examination showed I was 4-5cm dilated and in active labour. I was not being sent home; I was staying to have a baby!

My last ever bump picture at 38+6

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To read Stacey’s next post, please click on the link below:

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Stacey: A Rainbow Pregnancy: Weeks 33 to 36

This is the ninth in a series of posts that Stacey is writing about her rainbow pregnancy. To read the previous posts, please click on the links below:

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33 weeks

Fortunately I managed to get some rest after last week’s dramas and try to enjoy a bit of my weeks holiday but I am back to work again this week and I am starting to experience Braxton hicks. I always thought that they didn’t hurt and they were just little ‘practice’ contractions but mine bloody kill! They feel like period pains but almost don’t seem to go for hours sometimes then they go for days. One of my routine CTGs picked them up on the monitor there are registering as very, very small tightenings but they are strong enough to register!

We also started our antenatal classes this week, it has been very strange to learn about how to care for a baby and what emotions and things we may go through during labour and after having the baby as I truly don’t believe that any of it applies to us as I don’t believe we are going to bring this baby home. It is also hard being around true first time parents with all their innocence and naivety, I find myself very jealous that I cannot have that pure excitement and that I will never have it again no matter how many children I have. There are two more weeks of classes left and I am hoping we will be able to really get something from it if I can learn to try and relax a bit!

34 weeks

I have now finished work! I am taking 2 weeks holiday and then starting maternity leave at 36 weeks. I am very relieved to not have to deal with the stresses of anything other than baby and pregnancy worries it takes a lot of pressure off but is a bit daunting how much free time I have and how many weeks are left until the baby comes!

This week I had my 34 week consultant appointment and growth scan the scan went brilliant. I had a lovely sonographer who gave me a couple of free pictures and baby is now weighing approximately 5lb 9oz; tracking the 90th centile and potentially could be around 9lb!!

The consultant appointment I had been really nervous about. I wanted to talk about a plan for the end of the pregnancy and had done lots of research using the NICE guidelines to make a case to argue with my consultant about why I should be induced and not allowed to go overdue. It worked out that she had thought I would do exactly this and she started the appointment by asking me what I wanted from the rest of the pregnancy. I asked for an induction at 38 weeks but she advised that there is a high likelihood that this won’t be successful and will end up in medical intervention and likely a c section. She advised that I consider being induced on my due date which would mean the baby would be more likely to be ready and engaged meaning that it was less likely to take 5 days and then be followed by a caesarean section. We agreed in the end that I would go away and do some more research and we would make a final plan at my next consultant appointment at 38 weeks.

Knowing that I wont have to go overdue has lifted a huge weight from my shoulders that I now don’t have to worry about it. A due date induction would could mean I go 5 days over due maximum but I have been assured that I would be in hospital the entire time being monitored. I am also very relieved that I did not have to fight to get an induction and that it was such an easy conversation it made everything much easier. Now I just need to decided what I actually want to do, do I stand by what I originally wanted and push for slightly earlier than my due date or do I go with what my consultant says and accept due date. Its not an easy choice to make.

35 weeks

We decided to go to London for a last day trip out before (finger crossed!) two become three, we had a lovely weekend saw the musical Wicked and had dinner with a friend. It definitely opened my eyes to how different things are between London and the Midlands.  Not a single person offered me a seat on the tube despite how obviously pregnant I looked and on the train home I was told to move by a man who wanted my seat!

This week I finally finished packing my hospital bag which is something I have been putting off for weeks. Almost every appointment I go to I get asked if I have packed and when I say no I get the slight eyebrow raised as a response so I decided now was time to get organised. It was hard to pack things for a baby that we don’t know if we will bring home or not. Things like clothes we will need either way but to organise the car seat, nappies, wipes all the things that only a live baby needs was really hard. We have packed a separate bag for the baby that will stay in the car until she is safely here and then my husband can get her bits from the car. All we have for her in the interim is a blanket to wrap her in.

We also sorted Maisie’s garden this week, we normally go every 2 weeks; we clean everything and trim the grass around her, I also like to change the decorations that she has and do themes throughout the year. She had a beach theme this summer so we have changed it to an animal theme (mostly owls and butterflies). Being there made me realise this could be one of the last times that we go down and stay for a good amount of time if things do go well we will struggle to get there and spend an hour or two tidying up every few weeks. It has left me feeling very sad and like the only thing I can do for her I may no longer be able to do properly. I never realised before how complex the emotions of being pregnant again would be the constant swing of happiness and hope through to sadness and despair is very draining.

36 weeks

The final week before I am classed as full term! I have finally finished writing my birth plan; I didn’t particularly want to write one but my midwife pointed out that If I go in with nothing then I may find that I feel disappointed after if I don’t have some positive memories of the delivery. So this is my short birth plan obviously the choices I have made for things like pain relief and placenta delivery are only my choices there are no right or wrongs in how we get our babies here as long as they get here safely.

  • I am very anxious and may need reassurance
  • I understand that births do not always go to plan and am happy to do whatever is best for the baby and I
  • I would really like to have as positive an experience as possible to balance the negative memories of my previous labour
  • If possible I would like to use water during labour
  • I would like to stay as active and upright as possible without compromising the need for monitoring and I am happy to take advice on positions for labour
  • I would like to start with as little pain relief as possible and build up if needed
  • I do not want pethidine or diamorphine; If needed I would rather have an epidural
  • I do not want any form of pain relief that could have a negative effect on the baby
  • I would like a managed placenta delivery
  • If it is safe for the baby I would like delayed cord clamping
  • I would like skin to skin as soon as possible
  • I would like to try to breastfeed
  • I would like the baby to have Vitamin K via injection

Sadly this week did not go completely smoothly; my midwife appointment this week left me feeling very frightened. I had felt the baby move all morning even right up to the minute the midwife asked me to get onto the bed so she could listen to the babies heartbeat I was sure everything was fine. When she got the Doppler out she put it onto my placenta and seemed to be struggling to find the babies heartbeat, her face went white and I really started to panic this couldn’t happen not now we were so close. She then said yes it sounds fine and turned the Doppler off. I am convinced she did not find the heartbeat. I left the appointment terrified, went out to the car and was about to call triage to go and get checked out when the baby started moving again. I have no idea what happened and why the midwife couldn’t find her heart beat but the baby was absolutely fine and routine CTG monitoring showed that there was nothing wrong at all. Unfortunately it left me very scared and the mental impact of the event has shown as I am now struggling to sleep, having nightmares and convincing myself every morning that the baby has died over night. I need these next few weeks to go quickly and to get this baby here alive in my arms!!

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To read Stacey’s next post, please click on the link below:

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Stacey: A Rainbow Pregnancy: Weeks 29 to 32

This is the eighth in a series of posts that Stacey is writing about her rainbow pregnancy. To read the previous posts, please click on the links below:

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29 weeks

This week we have been doing a bit more work on preparing the house for another person to come and live here! We cleared out the kitchen cupboards, pantry and freezer. Over 5 garden bin bags of stuff got thrown out plus loads of recycling bits turns out we had an entire cupboard full of mugs we never use! We now have loads of lovely cupboard space and 2 empty draws in the freezer so I can start to fill it with homemade frozen meals to keep us going in the first few months!  We also brought a crib this week which is a huge step in the right direction. After shopping around we narrowed it down to a wooden Winnie the Pooh one, the Snuzpod and Chicco next to me. After getting loads of advice from the sales assistant we went for the Chicco, I’m not sure we will actually use it with the side down for co sleeping as I don’t feel confident enough in myself to not accidently throw the duvet on her but it will be nice to have a see through side and be able to just lie and watch her sleep.

We also went for a 4d scan this week which we have been really looking forward to. We paid for the scan, pictures, a USB stick with images on and a DVD of the scan. Unfortunately the scan was very disappointing especially for the £150 we paid! We only got 3 minutes on the DVD which was meant to be a minimum of 10 minutes and we only got 5 pictures in total. She was in a very poor position with her hands up over her face and no amount of running up and down stairs and rolling from side to side got her to move into a better position it actually made it worse and she decided she had had enough and turn to be spine up and face into my spine. We were offered either a £40 refund or a rescan to see if we could get anything better but if we couldn’t then there would be no refund at all. We decided to go for the refund and were told we needed to call Babybonds head office the following morning for them to refund our card. This was one of the pictures we managed to get.

We also paid for growth checks she is now estimated to be 3lbs 2oz but her head is still measuring very small which is one of my main concerns that I will raise at my next consultant appointment.

The next day we called Babybond and were told that we could not have a refund of £40 but actually we were only entitled to £20. I felt very disappointed at this especially as we have used them for all our private scans and have spent a fortune with them. We decided that we really had no choice but to have the rescan and hope that she is in a better position.

30 weeks

A huge milestone to reach, there is now only 10 weeks left and the last week in double digits before it becomes a single digit weekly countdown! I had my first episode of reduced movement that I felt worried enough to take action on. I called triage who put me through to foetal wellbeing as it was during working hours, went straight up to the hospital and was seen immediately with no wait. Whilst the midwife was still putting the straps of the machine on me she started kicking and moving loads! I felt so embarrassed that maybe they would think I had made it up but very relieved that all was ok. I was left on the monitor for about half an hour before she moved so much that the machine could no longer pick her heartbeat up as she had completely changed position.  The midwives were lovely and have given me a direct number to go straight there if I am worried again during working hours so I don’t need to call Triage.

I also had a routine midwife appointment this week which has shown that despite me worrying that I am not growing I am still on the 50th centile so growth is slowly and consistently moving in the right direction. Afterwards I had my Whooping Cough jab, it is a very personal choice as to whether the pregnant woman decides to have the jab or not, after talking to my husband and midwife we all decided that the risks of having the jab were far outweighed by the risks of not having it and that therefore it was an essential thing to do. The jab itself did not hurt at all, I chose to have it in my right arm as the advice is to lay on your left hand side if you need to monitor movement, but 12 hours later my arm really started to ache and feel heavy. The next day I felt very grouchy and sick kind of like I needed a lot of sleep and sugar. But 24 hours later I started to feel completely normal again and after 3 days the swelling around the jab had gone down and I could lie on my right arm at night.

It felt very surreal actively doing something to help my baby for birth, I still cannot comprehend having a baby and what life might be like with a living child.

We also had our 4d rescan, fortunately she was in a brilliant position this time and we managed to get another 7 minutes on DVD (she is very active during the 7 minutes as well) and a few more pictures of her. We also had her growth checks redone and she is estimated at 3lbs 11oz! I cannot believe that she has put on nearly 10ozs in one week! I am really shocked at this she is really starting to get to a stage and weight that a newborn is! Her head is starting to catch up a little bit but is still measuring small. I am really pleased that we ended up having the rescan and feel like we have much more for our money now. This is a picture from this week.

31 weeks

This week I am back to work after being signed off for bleeding at 26 weeks. I was nervous going back about how I would physically manage to be on my feet all day but it hasn’t been too bad. My second day back I had a scare with my waters, I went to the toilet just before leaving work and upon standing up to redress I felt a very tiny gush. When I checked it was more like watery discharge that is common around ovulation, my pad was clear even two hours later it was still dry and movement was completely normal so I was advised it was probably not waters but an increase in discharge which is very common around 30 weeks. Part of me is starting to wish that I could be brave enough to read the pregnancy books so I knew more of what to expect but I am too scared I will want to read ahead to stages that I may never get to.

The day of Hope took place this week and for the second year I made a flag for Maisie. This year I chose to use some fabric from a few items that I brought whilst I was pregnant with her I have made my flag with it and I will also make something for the new babies room with so they both have a part of the fabric to link them together. It has been lovely doing something just for Maisie again it doesn’t feel like there is much I can do for her anymore so having this to look forward to each year which is completely for her has made me feel a lot more positive that I can carry her with us throughout the years.

32 weeks

After being at work for a week I am back off again, this time it’s not bad news though I am taking some holiday as I have 6 weeks to fit in before maternity or I will lose it. So a chance for me to try and relax a little bit and start getting ready just in case we actually do bring this baby home! This involves making a lot of big, frozen healthy meals to help us through the first few months and washing all of the baby bits. We seem to have accumulated quite a lot!

First thing this week though we had another wedding to go to! So same dress as the first wedding here is a comparison shot. 14 weeks and 32 weeks I can’t believe how different my body looks!

But of course there has to be some drama this week! At 32+1 I called Foetal Wellbeing (FW) for reduced movement when I went in I mentioned about my waters and that over the last few days when she had been moving it was slightly painful. The midwife asked me to go straight down to labour ward rather than be checked at FW. So I got down there thinking it would be a quick check on the monitor and I would be off home again to find that actually it was a bit more serious that I had realised. I was put on the CTG which showed everything was fine, had a sanitary towel test done (it changes colour if there is any amniotic fluid) which showed that I am leaking some fluid. So I had to have a speculum and swab which came back clear and then got referred for an emergency scan to check the fluid levels. The scan came back clear and everything looks fine but it is very frightening to see the look on midwife and doctors faces when they ask your gestation and you can see them sort of thinking ‘ok so we could get this baby out now if we need to’. After 6 hours on labour ward I was finally allowed to go home but my care plan has now been changed to include routine ctgs at fetal wellbeing twice a week. So now instead of me calling if I think I have a concern I have to go in twice a week for a pre-booked ctg. This does reassure me a lot that they are keeping such a close eye on us. It helps me to think that maybe I could get to the end of the pregnancy with a living baby. Now I just have to deal with how I am going to get her out alive and healthy.

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To read Stacey’s next post, please click on the link below:

Friday, 29 August 2014

Suzanne: Right Where I Am 2014: 3 weeks 3 days

My baby was born dead 3 weeks and 3 days ago.  Lucia Jane was her name from the moment I knew she existed in the form of a "she".  She died sometime before then. I guess I don't know exactly when she died. I feel very sure it was on Thursday, July 31 at some point in the day. I was probably eating lunch or typing on the computer or naively thinking about wrapping up work so I could be on maternity leave (sleepless nights....eye roll) as her little heart just stopped, completely unbeknownst to me.

But she's dead. I have a dead baby. This is what runs through my head almost every waking second of every day. My friends talk to me and I think "my baby is dead".  At the grocery store, shopping for celery. Still have a dead baby.  It is the record player that runs constantly.

I have this weird impulse now to know who else has a dead baby.  An impulse I would never act on but think about regularly.  I want to lean out the car window as we drive by a lady pushing a stroller and shout "did you have another baby who died?".  Twisted, I know.  But I mean - other people have them. There are other people just like me walking around, seeming completely normal and average on the outside, who have held their dead children in their arms.

Where I am today is peeking through the haze of confusion that this really horrible, sad, terrible thing happened to my little family. My baby died, it's true.  She died way past the point when we should have worried about that. I was 37 weeks and 3 days pregnant.  The end stages of a very smooth ride.  Car seat installed, hospital bag packed, doctor's office joking that she could come any day so be ready! And then she was gone.

I don't cry every day, at least not the obvious, open sobs that found me in those first weeks (and still find me, just not as frequently).  But quiet, private tears show up daily, quiet enough that I can breathe through them, wipe them away, and keep going.

For the first time since Lucia died, I can think about what I'm having for dinner or what I'll do tomorrow.  I can think more than 30 seconds ahead and make decisions.  I'm not paralysed by the grief anymore. It's still quite present but it's not suffocating me anymore.  I'm coming to accept that my grief is a life partner who has come to live with me forever.  I don't want it but it's not leaving anytime soon so we're getting used to each other.

Thankfully, I've stopped blaming myself, for the most part. Stopped the relentless, haunting idea that I could have saved her "if only I had....".  That was the pits.  It helped to know that blame is just part of the process and completely normal.  Expected, even.  "Don't fight it", our therapist said. It's horrible to think about but it needs to come so let it come and then let it go.

I'm working towards acceptance, processing that this thing happened and it's not fair and it majorly sucks but it's not changing, which means I need to figure out how to march on.  I've had a hard time getting here, I've felt like accepting it means somehow saying I'm glad it happened, which I most certainly am not. Or maybe acceptance has felt like letting go, which I am also most certainly not ready to do.  But no, acceptance just means finding a way to shoulder the burden and keep going.

I find the most peace being alone, getting time to myself to think and feel in my own space. I'm blessed to be surrounded by the most well-intentioned people who are amazingly supportive.  I have to remind myself that this grief is theirs too. It doesn't look like mine, it doesn't feel like mine (who's can feel worse than mine??) but it still exists for them and their desire to support me and be with me is them processing grief too.  One day, I'll be able to share more with them, be more of an interactive companion.  But for now, about what I can handle most of the time in the company of others is sitting and staring, not wanting to talk about it but not able to be distracted from it. Or wanting to be asked about it but not knowing what I want someone to ask.  Grief makes you a terrible conversationalist.

One day, I was talking to a wise friend, sharing about a bad day I had.  And she said something that stuck with me, which was "That must have been awful. But you lived, you did it."  And she was right.  What I've learned in the last 3 weeks and 3 days is that I've survived a lot of moments that seemed terrifying to me. I lived. It was hard but I did it. I cried but I did it. I ached and wanted to throw up. But I did it.  And that's about as much comfort as I can give myself right now as I look ahead to all the things that I still dread.  They might be terrible but I can do them.  I can wake up every day. I can figure out how to be a good mom to the child I am blessed to already have. I can find a way to be a wife and partner to the world's awesomest husband, who does nothing but love me to pieces. I can move forward, walk on, "sit in the shit" as another good friend said to me just yesterday, and I will be okay.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Stacey: A Rainbow Pregnancy: Weeks 25 to 28

This is the seventh in a series of posts that Stacey is writing about her rainbow pregnancy. To read the previous posts, please click on the links below:

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25 weeks

We are due the hottest summer for years and I am really beginning to physically suffer with the heat. My feet and legs have started to swell a bit and everything seems to take me 3 times longer and be 10 times harder than it ever used to be! But movement has really increased and I am starting to recognise a pattern in her movement. I had my regular midwife appointment this week which went well and I was a lot more relaxed during this appointment. My midwife felt my tummy and said that at this stage it is not very accurate but I am measuring slightly bigger than 25 weeks; more like 28/29 weeks! So we could be in for a big baby! It will be interesting to see what she weighs at the growth scan and how I am measuring at my next appointment at 28 weeks.

This week we made a start on preparing a nursery by putting up this wall sticker. Time is starting to go quickly now so we want to begin to prepare but every step we take in getting ready for her to come home is filled with that fear of I hope this isn’t going to go to waste and that she will come home to this room.

26 weeks

I have been admitted to labour ward. I went to the toilet one night after work and found that I was bleeding, I had felt her move all day and hadn’t overdone anything or had a stressful day but at that point I realised I hadn’t felt her move for a few hours. I tried to stay calm but inside all I kept thinking was ‘not again, I cannot lose another baby, not now we are so close’. I called triage and the midwife said to go straight in. The drive to hospital although short was agonising trying not to panic or show my husband how frightened I was when we arrived we had to wait for a room and a midwife to be free. We must have been waiting for about 30minutes but it felt like a lifetime all I wanted her to do was move to show me she was still alive but there was nothing. We finally got called through and I started having urine samples, blood pressure checks and everything else done when finally the midwife listened to find the heartbeat. I tried to listen myself and couldn’t hear anything, I looked at the midwifes face I could see she was worried but was trying to keep a straight face in case she had to break any bad news when finally there it was! Her heartbeat loud and clear, she was still alive! The midwife listened in for about 5 minutes to check everything sounded ok and that there we no signs of stress (my hospital wouldn’t do a monitor trace at that stage) and she was happy with what she heard. Then finally she started kicking and moving the relief was amazing. I was kept in labour ward for about 4 hours in total before being allowed home after having swabs and my cervix checked. That night I was very anxious about going to sleep in case she died that night but I tried to stay calm and reassure myself that she was moving fine now.

The next day all I had was a little bit of spotting so I hoped it was all going to calm down and was a one off. I called my consultant to arrange a reassurance scan and to check the placenta and also called my GP who advised me not to go to work before seeing him and that I needed to rest. When I did see him he signed me off for a month! I thought I would be advised to have a week or so rest but a month! Well whatever is best for the baby. Later that week I finally got to see my consultant for a scan and all looked to be ok she did a full growth, placenta, fluid and Doppler scan and the baby is weighing in at 2lbs 1oz already! But she is on the 50th centile which is what she has grown at throughout the pregnancy so maybe she won’t be so big after all!

We had a second scare this week when my husband called me on the way home from work to ask if I had had my Whooping cough jab yet, which I haven’t as I’m not far enough gone. It turned out that he had been with a client all day when had been coughing and failed to say anything until the end of the day that he had been diagnosed with Whooping cough! I text my midwife to ask for advice and she assured me that everything would be fine until the baby is born (if I chose not to have the vaccination) and then if my husband does get WC he could pass it on to the baby but during pregnancy there is little to no risk of the baby coming to any harm. To be safe our GP prescribed some very strong antibiotics to kill off any infection that he may have caught (I wasn’t given anything as the GP didn’t want me to take anything unless necessary) with strict instructions to go straight back for blood tests if he coughed at all. We decided to take precautions of scrubbing everything in his car, washing his clothes, him showering and brushing his teeth before being anywhere near me. Hopefully we will be ok but after this week I am just hopping that this is the end of our pregnancy dramas and that we can have an easy ride from now! I don’t know how much more I can take mentally!

27 weeks

The third trimester is creeping ever closer and I am starting to feel some excitement about that, a new part of the pregnancy journey that I have never experienced before. I am also starting to recognise the difference in her movements and how to tell what is a kick, what a stretch is and when she is trying to change position. The stretching feels very strange like someone is rolling a fist all down my belly from the inside. It is my birthday this week and I feel like this baby has really helped me to being to heal in so many ways. Not replace or erase what happened but to heal some of the bitter wounds I have. Last year I should have been 39+3 on my birthday but I wasn’t. I was grieving for my daughter who had died a couple of months before, it feels very strange to think how life has changed in the last year. I hope that next year I will have a 9month old here to celebrate the day with. This picture is at 27+6 on the morning of my birthday.

28 weeks

The third trimester is finally here! Apparently I am now on the home stretch, I hope so! Busy week this week I had a pregnancy massage which was my birthday present from my husband. It was lovely and I think that the baby liked it as well as she kicked loads during the hour. My midwife appointment where I got the results for my GTT which were negative! Fasting sugars were 4.4 and after drinking the sugary drink my levels were 4.8 so my midwife was very pleased with them. I am also quite shocked I had almost convinced myself that I would have GD and I’m really pleased that I don’t. My swabs from the bleeding all came back clear and there is no sign of infection which is great but my blood tests did show a huge drop in my iron levels. My levels at 13 weeks were 142 with reserves of 40 and at 28 weeks were 127 with reserves of 16. My midwife explained that although my initial levels were ok my body had obviously been eating into my reserves which it can only do for a certain amount of time without it being dangerous. She asked me if I had any symptoms of being short of breath or palpitations which I realised I had had both frequently over the last few weeks. These are symptoms that the body is struggling with low iron levels. I felt a bit stupid not realising that this meant something was wrong but I thought it was just because I was getting bigger and it is so hot (the hottest summer in 300years apparently!). She has asked my doctor to prescribe me some iron tablets and will now be seeing me every 2 weeks instead of every 3 to keep a closer eye on me.

The next day I had my growth, placenta, liquor and Doppler scan which I had been very nervous about as I don’t feel like I have been growing much over the last few weeks and that my bump is small for my gestation. The scan showed her to be approx. 2lbs 9oz but with a smaller head (centile) than any other part of her body. I got myself into a state after the scan panicking that in 2 weeks she has gained only 8oz and that I was expecting her to be much closer to the 3lb mark. I decided whilst waiting for my consultant that I was going to push for the next scan to be at 32 weeks not 34. Unfortunately when we got called through it turned out that my consultant was not there and I would not be seeing anyone to discuss the results of the scan. I asked the midwife to ask the consultant on the ward to approve a 32 week scan. He refused stating that if they did the same for every anxious person the NHS would be bankrupt! Now I know the NHS is not a bottomless pit but there is a right way of refusing and it should be done with a full explanation to the parents about why it is being refused and some reassurance that everything seems normal. Unfortunately this has not been done, I have called my bereavement midwife and left a message for her I am hoping she will help me to get either a 32 week scan or an explanation of why the head is falling so far behind the rest of her. I noticed when we got home that no one had even written in my notes that I had asked for a 32 week scan and it has been refused. I’m not sure this is best practice as if something does go wrong that could have been caught at 32 weeks there is no record of my request. On the plus side we did manage to get a lovely picture of her which I am told is unusual for a 28 week scan in ultrasound as they normally cannot get a clear view to make a good picture.

Finally this week I have experience hiccoughs for the first time! I can only describe it as tiny little rhythmic taps every 3-5 seconds which went on for about 5 minutes. They were so tiny if I hadn’t been sat down I would have missed them but it was an amazing experience!

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To read Stacey’s next post, please click on the link below:

Friday, 15 August 2014

Nicole: For my boy on the eve of his third birthday

I can't believe we're about to hit your third birthday tomorrow.  Like so many life-defining moments, your birth seems like it was yesterday, and yet also like it was a lifetime ago.  I normally write to you on your birthday, but this year I felt moved to write today, the day before.  I can't explain why, but I've learnt to stop questioning myself and go with what I feel when it comes to you.

I have been tired and short-tempered today.  I always struggle with this day more than your birthday.  Because your birthday wasn't the worst day of my life.  It could never, ever be that.  No, the worst day of my life was the day before.  Because that was the day you died.  I don't know when, but sometime after 2pm - when I heard your heartbeat, steady and true - and before midnight, you died.  Your heart simply stopped.  I hate that I don't know where I was when it happened.  Was I on the sofa?  In the bath? Moving around on my birth ball, trying to get labour started?  Was it when I was laid in bed, feeling so ill? Or was it on the way to hospital - did your life stop just as I arrived in the car park or laid on the hospital bed?  It does feel like a lifetime ago, but remembering a few short words can take me back there instantly, 'I'm sorry, but there's no heartbeat'. 

I have often told women who are at the start of this journey, who say 'how will I cope with the funeral, or the first anniversary, or telling people, or my friend's pregnancy?.  To them I say 'you have survived the worst already.  You had the news that your baby has died.  If you lived through that moment, you can get through anything'.  I stand by that, but I still think that everything else is horrible, and beyond difficult.  Telling everyone was hell.  Registering your stillbirth was sickening. And your funeral was utterly and totally heartbreaking. 

My nana, your great-nana, died a few weeks ago.  I adored her.  We had always been close and I miss her like crazy.  But her funeral was the first I had been to after yours, and it was poles apart.  Though sad, and moving, the funeral of a 97 year old lady, who had lived a good life and was mourned by her family, has a feeling of completeness and closure about it.  It is sad, but it is right.  The normal way of things.  I found myself smiling a lot during her funeral, thinking of her and how wonderful it had been to have had her in my life for so long.

Your funeral, my darling boy - there was nothing right about that.  We chose songs that felt appropriate, readings that fit, and we wrote a piece to be read out that so well expressed how we felt that we could never have written anything different.  But a child's funeral can never be right.   Everything about it is jarring, and wrong, like a horrible screeching flat note that ruins a piece of beautiful music.  I remember that note.  It sickens me to think of it even today.  I feel it, and I feel your loss, like a physical pain, every day.  Like someone cut part of me away, never to return it. 

But your birthday, my love? That could never be the worst day of my life.  That was the day you finally came into the world, after 9 long months, and 3 years of waiting.  You were amazing, and beautiful.  The memory of you - the wonderfulness of those 9 months we had together - and the lack of you - the way I miss you every day - has moved me to do so many things that I would never have done otherwise.  You know I wish you were here, more than anything.  But those memories of you sustain me.  The legacy that you have left - the new things, the shared blog, the forum I was part of and the support group I'm about to launch - they keep me going.  And the relationships I have developed - the friendships that grew stronger because of the people who simply listened to me, the individuals who remember you through cards, messages and doing new things, and the bereaved mums who are so integral to my life I don't know how I lived without them - well, that's all thanks to you.

I'd give anything for today's anniversary not to exist, but tomorrow?  Well, no one can take that away from me, or from you.  Happy third birthday, my beautiful, wonderful son. xxx 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Miriam: Right Where I Am 2014: 9 months 3 weeks 2 days

Well it has been quite a year. We lost our second child and my big sister in the space of just 5 days. Two grieving mummies in one family, trying to find that new normal. One grieving those lost hopes and dreams and the other with a huge hole where a life's dedication, love and care were centred.

However, my journey to here all began last summer. Such a happy time. A June holiday, followed by a special souvenir, a BFP. This time last year as family gathered for a BBQ party, we celebrated our son George's first birthday and we also announced to the family that a little brother or sister was expected to arrive in February. I have a picture on my wall of that day. Happy, because it was George's birthday of course, but also because I had everything I ever wanted.

Now, with hindsight this day, also carries a few shadows. Shadows of that moment of happiness for our second child and also, I wasn't to know at the time, but it would be the last time I would see my sister. I often reflect how lucky I am that she shared so many special days with us - our wedding day and George's christening as well as his birthday. So I guess it is right that this happy day be the last one I remember with her.

As the next couple of months lead up to Gabriel's angelversary, it is difficult not to dwell on the 'this time last years'. I threw out my diary, but etched in my memory are the dates of the scans and consultant appointments I went to. I miss him so much and he is never far from my thoughts. Little things - seeing a butterfly will always have me whispering hello and his song (Ellie Goulding's "How long will you need me?") seems to be constantly on the radio. Painful but also comforting reminders of my own little angel, Gabriel.

And so George is rapidly approaching his second birthday as Gabriel's big brother. He has been my rock this year. It is for him that I've carried on, for he deserves to have his mummy, a smiley mummy, who can laugh and share his joy. So whilst I have those happy and now sad memories from last year, I have to put those aside and celebrate him. The happy, funny, chatty little boy that he is becoming. Where I am exactly, right now? Filling party bags, blowing up balloons, making sandwiches and baking a cake.

Looking forward to next year, I turn 40 in January, so that clock is ticking loudly I suppose. Will we have a rainbow, a much wanted third child, a sibling for George? Only time will tell.