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