How we lost our baby girl at 40 weeks
It's been over 3 months since I gave birth to my baby girl. She was stillborn. She died in my tummy when I was two days overdue. The post mortem revealed the cause of death was actue hypoxia due to the placenta not growing in those very final days of pregnancy.
I don't normally write about our family life, but I want to share this story.
Where do I start...
Let me take you back a few months. On 10th November 2014 we moved into our new house. Joshua had just celebrated his 6th birthday, Daniel was close to turning 4 and I was nearly 38 weeks pregnant. We had tons and tons and tons of stuff, and was utter chaos, but it's was a dream come true to be in our new home before the arrival of our baby girl. We fell in love with our house from the first viewing, and we felt very blessed indeed that it was ours.
The whole of 2014 was pretty much focused around the arrival of our third baby. I discovered I was pregnant on my 34th birthday in March. Joshua was 5 and Daniel 3. We prayed about a third baby and eventually felt it was the right time. When I saw the blue cross appear it felt like a very special birthday present. After that came the crazy months of moving house mixed in with morning sickness, heartburn, working and taking care of the boys. Rich exchanged my Nissan Micra for a Vauxhall Zafira mummy wagon.
We were pretty much unpacked and ready by my due date, which was Thursday 27th November. The boys were both overdue so I was half expecting I would go overdue with this baby as well. I went for my 40 week check up at the midwife. Everything was fine, the baby was moving well and the heartbeat was strong. I was feeling great - I was eating tons, sleeping tons, had loads of energy and the heartburn had vanished! I went home and tried to plan a last minute trip to the cinema over the weekend, baby permitting.
On Saturday 29th November we spent the morning sorting out some paperwork in the lounge. The boys played and watched a Christmas movie. We went out in the afternoon and had dinner at my parents house. It was a lovely day. I remember that day so well, I just felt so blessed and so excited, but all that was about to change.
After we put the boys to bed I became aware that I had not felt the baby kick me for a while, but I wasn't too worried. I was having loads of braxton hicks contractions, and I had been walking lots, which usually rocks the baby to sleep. I googled 'how to get your baby to move' and followed the advice of eating chocolate and having a cold drink. I waited an hour and still felt nothing. I jumped in a hot bath, thinking that change of temperature would do something, but I still felt nothing. I then called the hospital who said I should come in to be checked, so my mum came to watch the boys and off we went. I still wasn't that worried though - I was full term and everything had been fine. I actually felt like I was probally over-reacting and felt bad about dragging my mum over to babysit so late at night.
It was past midnight by the time we were sat in the waiting room of the labour ward in Frimley Park Hospital. A midwife took me to one of the examination rooms and asked me to lie on the bed. She felt the position of the baby and tried three times with the doppler to find a heartbeat. 'I'll get the doctor to scan you to confirm the position of the baby' she said cheerily. But I started to feel a bit sick. I knew that she really knew the position of the baby.
We were taken to a room next door with an ultrasound machine where a young lady doctor started to scan me. I couldn't look at the screen, I just stared at the ceiling. There was silence in the room as she scanned my tummy searching for life. I felt more sick and hot and tense as time went on. Rich sat next to me. The room was so silent. The doctor asked me a few questions, then asked the midwife with her to bleep another doctor. The second doctor came, an older man. He also asked me the same questions and scanned me. Again there was silence as he scanned me for what seemed like such a long time. Rich and I looked at each other but there were no words. What were they going to say?
The first lady doctor came and sat next to me. She put her hand on my hand as I lay on the bed. She spoke quietly and slowly. I will never forget her words. 'I scanned you, and I could not find a heartbeat. My colleague scanned you and he could not find a heartbeat, but we are not experts. The consultant on call is coming in to scan you now.' I just lay on the bed and nodded, tears now streaming from my eyes, but I didn't make a sound. All the time I was thinking they must have made a mistake, there was not a chance that my little girl was not OK.
The consultant arrived in no time at all. Another scan. Silence. She scanned me for a long time. The same questions again - did I have a fall? Did something hit my tummy? I shook my head as the tears flowed steadily and silently as I lay on the bed and prayed quietly. I was sure that this was a bad dream and I was about to wake up. They had all make a mistake and she was fine. This is going to be one of those amazing miracle stories that people share on Facebook. I covered my face with one of my hands. It was dark in the room so they could see the ultrasound screen, but the atmostphere grew dark as well. I didn't want to hear what the consultant was going to say.
The consulant was a lady of around 50 and clearly very experinced. She wheeled the chair she was sitting on close to me and placed her hand on my arm. 'We all scanned you' she said quietly, 'and none of us could find a hearbeat, which means your baby has died. I'm so sorry.'
It was the 'd' word which really got me. Died? How could my baby have died? She had not even been born! Anyway, as far as I was concerned, they had clearly made a mistake, and this was going to be one of those incredible stories. Doctors don't always get it right do they? We had everything ready - the room, the clothes - everything! I couldn't even go there. There was not a chance she was not OK in my mind.
She then went onto explain the procedure. I would have to be induced and deliver the baby. I needed to take a tablet (to help speed up the induction) and 48 hours later they would induce me. I had the option taking the tablet right away (it was by then around 2.30am) or I could come back Sunday morning and take it then. I asked if they give that tablet to every lady who gets induced on just 'ladies in my situation' as I put it. 'We only give the tablet to ladies whose babies have died' replied the consultant. Why was she using the 'd' word? It was irritating, becuase in my mind my baby was not dead! So I decided to come back in the mornng, because to take the table then meant I was giving into the sitation. In my mind it was still a mistake, and I was not going to take that tablet because there would be a great miracle and everything would be fine. I was just numb, I wasn't even crying.
I called my mum as we left the hospital to let her know we were on our way back. I could barely speak 'baby gone' is all I could get out. I felt like I was choking. I didn't even want to say those words, because in my mind this was still not true.
I think I slept for about two hours that night. I couldn't wait for it to be morning. I just felt sick. Everything was ready for the new baby. The little clothes were all washed and put away. The crib was up. The car seat waiting. This surely could not be happening? I have since read that denial can be an early stage of grief, a way of protecting you from going crazy. I was very much in denial.
It was so hard seeing the boys that morning who had no idea what we had been through during the night. They didn't even know we had left the house. We made a plan to drop the boys with my mum and dad in the morning on the way to the hospital. Our pastor and close friend James drove us to the hospital which was much needed. We sat in the back and held hands, our minds were in turmoil as the reality started to dawn on us. I will never forget my dads face as we dropped off the boys. My mum and dad were both very broken. Seeing them made it seem more real.
The midwives knew exactly who I was when I arrived and I was imediately whisked into a room in the labour ward. I welled up as I looked at the little crib in the room, wondering if my baby girl would ever need one. The midwife joined us in the room. She was compassionate but clearly not as confident with handling the situation as the people we had seen just hours earlier. She brought me a pack with some leaflets from the SANDs charity. 'Memories of a Special Baby' it said on the front. I felt myself choke as I read it, still in utter disbelief that was my baby. We asked if I could be scanned once more, just to check, but at that point I think we both really knew. The doctor came and the scan confirmed yet again that her heartbeat had stopped. I agreed to take the medication and knew that in two days time (Tuesday) I would be back to deliver our baby. Perhaps that would be one of the hardest days of our lives.
Leaving the hospital, with a lifeless baby inside me that I knew I would carry for another two days, was just crazy. As I walked I saw things which made the painful realiity sink further in. A dad carrying an empy carseat into the hospital, the same carseat we might never need. The three of us got into the car and sobbed bitterly.
The next 48 hours were very difficult. We had to put on brave faces for the boys. We cried lots and slept little. We prayed lots. We believe in God and we have seen miracles for others, so why not this time too? Our friends prayed too. Food arrived at the house but we ate very little. My nose turned red from crying. Tissuse all over the house. Friends and family helped with the boys. The time could not pass quickly enough.
Up until that point we still hadn't chosen a name for our daughter. We had lists of names we liked, but not one we both loved. Instead of sleeping at night I scanned lists of baby names. I stumbled upon the name Annaliesa, which I liked instantly. It seemed perfect because Rich liked Annabella and I liked Elizabeth as a middle name (liesa is a variation of Elizabeth). Annaliesa means ‘graciously consecrated or given to God’. We had decided together that whatever the outcome she belongs to the Lord. We also gave her the middle name, Gabriella, because it means ‘the Lord is my strength’ and its also a reminder that she was born at Christmas time (Gabriella being the feminine version of Gabriel). I loved the names we had chosen so much. Pretty names with strong meanings.
Tuesday finally came. James drove us again to the hospital and stayed in the cafe to support us. On the way to the we stopped at the big M&S in Sandhurst so we could buy an outfit for Annaliesa. We had been given lots of clothes, but I really wanted to buy her one newborn outfit, just from us. I knew exactly what I wanted, a pretty but simple baby gro with a little matching hat. I was really happy with the outfit we chose. Rich went to the till so I could avoid being asked when I was due.
Frimley Park Hospital have a special suite for delivering stillborn babies (I still can't believe I'm writing that word, stillborn). It's a wonderful facility with a delivery room joined to a bathroom which is joined to what looks like a hotel bedroom with a little crib. I looked around the suite, it was all so painful though. Looking around at the crib, feeding chair etc I was almost kidding myself that things were going to work out OK again.
We met our midwife Naomi at around 11am. Looking back, she handled everything brilliantly. She was warm and compassionate but very professional. We grew quite close to her that day. She made the whole experince as dignifed and as pleaseant as it could have been. I'm sure it's not easy for the midwives to deliver stillborn babies. I have since heard not all ladies are privilaged enough to receive good treatment like we did.
I had my first lot of induction medication at 12.30pm which kicked in pretty quickly. Shortly after the second dose at 4.30pm I was needing to use gas. I hadn't planned on a natural birth this time, I just didn't see the point, but everything moved so quickly there was no time for an epidural.
By 5.20pm I had a couple of contactions that were more intense, and to everyones suprise the baby was coming! It was all so quick. Annaliesa arrived at 5.34pm. My note read that the established labour lasted for 6 minutes. I lay on my back on the bed too scared to look. I just caught a glimpse of her little feet as Naomi carefully lifted her up "It's OK, she just looks like she's sleeping" she said. Naomi carried Annaliesa's body into the adjoining room to examine and weigh her. There was not a sound coming from her.
I just lay on the bed and stared at the ceiling, wondering what would happen next. I was so numb, but so glad that bit was over. Naomi wrapped Annaliesa's body in a blanket and brought her for me to hold. She was little - 6lbs 12oz - compared to her big brothers who were both over 9lbs. She had been dead in my tummy for at least two days, so she was a little fragile, but she was perfect. Dainty. She looked a lot like Joshua when he was first born, but more feminie with fine dark hair and a petite little nose. Her eyes were closed. Her hands and feet all perfect. I could tell that she would have been very pretty. She was so beautiful to me. I didn't cry or feel pain, I just felt numb.
After a little while we brought James upstairs. We all prayed for one last time, and then we prayed, giving thanks for her life and we dedicated her to The Lord. It was clear that she wasn't going to stay with us. Naomi dressed Annaliesa in the little suit and hat I had bought her from M&S that morning on the way to hospital. It was so pretty. She was wrapped in a pink blanket my mum had bought for her. She just looked perfect.
At 7.30pm we said our last goodbyes to Annaliesa, but we knew in our hearts it wasn't really her. In the short time of two hours she had began to deteriorate. I was amazed how quickly it happened. Two hours seemed long enough. We took some photos and Naomi also made prints of her little hands and feet. It felt right, and dignified.
We made our way back to the car an hour later where we cried again. We cried loudly. I cannot even begin to describe the pain and the loss, the sadness, the confusion.
The days that followed were much like that of when you have a baby. Food arrived. Flowers arrived. People were not sure if they should pop in or not. Midwives visit. My body did all the things it did after I had the boys. It wanted to feed the baby. It took a month for the milk to dry up.
The past three months have been the hardest of my entire life. Each day is a new day without my little girl that I have to face, and get through. Some days are easier than others. We had Christmas, we had a funeral, we had the results of the post mortem. Life goes on. I still carry the pain, though not quite as raw, but it is still very intense.
We both have a strong christian faith which has kept us strong. It doesn't make it easier, and of course we still have questions, but we have experinced very clearly that 'The Lord is close to the broken hearted, and he saves those who are crushed in spirit.' We don't know why God allowed this to happen, but we do know that He helps us every single day. We both defintely have a new perspective on life and death.
I don't know what the future holds, I'm still just trying to get through each day at the moment - I forget that it's still very early days. I love my husband and my boys very much, and we have a wonderful life, I just miss my little girl everyday and the life I would have shared with her.
We have set up a fund in memory of our little girl. All the money goes to a charity we support called KinderKerk who support children in townships in South Africa, providing them with meals and clothes and most of all love. As this charity has been created through Kings Church International, there are no admin costs and 100% of the money goes to help the children who need it so much.