Now I’m no longer pregnant oh my word work and social events are a million times easier. Yes at a networking event, not looking pregnant, eventually someone will ask if you have kids but they won’t use the topic or babies as their opening line or icebreaker.
When you’re at a networking event, obviously pregnant, people you’ve just met will use the fact you’re carrying a baby as their ice breaker and ask you about it, which if you hadn’t lost children in the past and were enjoying a relatively worry free pregnancy then that might be lovely. However when you’re on your third pregnancy having lost your first child and then lost a second at 22 weeks gestation it’s a topic you don’t really want to chat to a total stranger about.
Lots of work contacts now I’m out and about again after baby have asked recently why they didn’t see me at lots of networking events, launch events, industry gatherings, conferences etc while I was pregnant and this is the main reason why. Yes sometimes I was genuinely busy or grieving but other times I really couldn’t face the fact I knew that strangers would ask me about my pregnancy with a big beaming smile on their faces. Clearly wrongly assuming I’m pregnant and so want to chat babies.
Knowing I’d have to answer the following questions over and over to at least three different people at events filled me with dread:
“How far gone are you?” “Oh so not long now. What’s your due date?”
Then either – “Oh I think you’ll be earlier than that as you’re huge much bigger than you should be” thanks for that I actually have more fluid than normal but I didn’t want to really tell you a total stranger that personal information.
“Oh really but you’re so small. Have you had a sizing scan?” Yes I have actually I’m having scans every two weeks at the Tommy’s clinic but again I don’t really want to go into this with a complete stranger. “Oh what’s the Tommy’s clinic you say?”…
I’ve seriously had both of these opposing size comments at the same event!
Or they ask…
“Is it your first baby?” No my third.
“Oh you’ll be an expert then. Glutton for punishment bet you’ll have your hands full then. What other kids do you have?
Are they excited about their new sibling?” Ah no they aren’t alive unfortunately now that kills a networking event.
Or they say…
“Do you know what you’re having? Is that what you wanted? Are you excited about it?”
“Looking forward to the birth then?” “Baby will definitely take you by surprise by being really early.” Thanks for that I’m having a planned C Section so I hope not but again I don’t really want to go into that with a total stranger.
So folks next time you’re at a social event or networking for business and you see a pregnant lady perhaps instead you’d like to simply pay her a compliment and not think you can use her pregnancy as an icebreaker to ask personal questions or as an excuse to fondle her stomach unnecessarily. Yes strangers seem to think your stomach is suddenly fair game for a good old fondle!
This week has been a really challenging one for me because my baby has been properly poorly for the first time. Yes we’ve had teething pain, the odd tummy bug and reflux issues but this time she has a very nasty cold bug that’s affected her chest too.
Now you might be thinking having to look after a sick baby is hard for any mother or parent and yes it is but when you’ve previously had a baby get sick and then die it makes the experience all the more stressful. Especially when your other baby died of lung problems and now your new baby is choking and coughing in her sleep.
The doctor has said it’s just a cold so you’d think just give the child some calpol and vapour rub and get on with it.
Well just getting on with it is easier said than done. My hubby was also away so I was flying solo too (hats off to all those single parents out there you deserve medals!).
The reality was that I didn’t get any sleep at all. Part of the night she was awake distressed after coughing and wanting cuddles. The rest of the night she slept in fits and starts repeatedly coughing and choking in her sleep. Cue mummy leaping out of bed every time, sprinting across the room to lift her head and rub her back trying to ensure she didn’t breathe any phlegm back into her lungs.
Of course I also put a folded blanket under her mattress to ensure she was tilted to help with congested breathing, a tip we learnt from caring for her sister.
The following day aurora was still not herself so whilst most mummy’s might have tried to nap whilst baby did. I held her propped up while she slept so preventing her from choking on any phlegm and ensuring when she did cough that she definitely coughed or vomited outwards. Her sister they think breathed vomit into her lungs so this is now our worst nightmare for Aurora.
You might wonder why I’m even taking the time to tell you all this and whilst I don’t want to over share or make anyone feel sorry for me. I’m thankful for my baby and don’t want to complain but lots of people think once you finally get your rainbow baby then that’s it job done. Well it’s only just begun really.
The stress and worry now Aurora is ill is unbearable as when I do manage sleep I get flashbacks of her sister, Violet, in hospital and immediately after she died.
Most parents will stress and worry about their babies for their entire lives, that bit isn’t a new phenomena, but I guess most believe their child dying won’t happen to them. These things always happen to other people. Well when the unthinkable has happened to you already then you’re more likely to worry that it will happen again.
I’ve seen what hell looks like and I’ve experienced unspeakable pain. I have sat by the side of a hospital bed for days and nights on end. I have had to hold my screaming baby down while she is tortured by doctors with needles and tubes all trying to do their jobs. I’ve stifled back my own crying and sobs so as not to distress my poorly child. I’ve told my crying child that all of this is to make them better and lied that they will be ok. I’ve begged and pleaded with emergency intensive care teams not to give up on resuscitation but nothing is worse than the nightmare of your baby actually dying.
You can’t un-see or forget your dead baby’s face. How their cold lifeless body felt? How clammy the skin? How soulless their eyes? Almost like a doll has been made of them. They don’t seem real somehow. I can tell you that hell is watching your child in pain, being tortured and then them die. Then you have to arrange their funeral before somehow going on with your life.
I never ever want to go back there again thank you. If to ensure that doesn’t happen it takes staying awake to check Aurora throughout the night then so be it. If I have to hold her while she sleeps then I will do. Anything I need to do I will do it.
I also keep having to repeat the same mantra over and over in my head.
“This is a different baby. A different person. She isn’t the same. ”
To all those parents out there with rainbow babies or those caring for children who are sick my hat goes off to you too. Sometimes it’s tough being a parent.
Sarah – Violet Skies
Have you read these other posts about Rainbow babies?
A few weeks ago we were invited into St Mary’s hospital for a pleasant reason for a change. We were one of 180 sets of parents to be invited to attend Tommy’s the Baby Charity’s afternoon tea party for all the rainbow babies born in their care in 2018.
The parents and families (some siblings came along too) and 180 little rainbow babies all born in 2018 gathered together for the first time to celebrate life. It was so magical seeing all the people that had been helped by the charity.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the charity it was set up to initially help those who had suffered stillbirth and multiple miscarriages. The charity spearheads research into the conditions and looks at preventative measures to try to safeguard pregnancy ensuring a healthy outcome for mother and baby.
This weekend I visited the Leonardo Di Vinci exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery and highly recommend it, as it is amazing. I always knew Leonardo was a genius but I discovered in this exhibition that his work actually led to changing the perception of how babies develop in the womb and he was the one that figured out that the umbilical cord feeds them too. He also discovered that the heart circulates blood around the body in the 1480’s and looked at how it feeds the main organs.
Leonardo’s sketches of how the foetus develops in the womb
Leonardo’s sketches of how the foetus develops in the womb
Leonardo’s sketches of how the foetus develops in the womb
Without Leonardo we wouldn’t have had the foundation for midwifery and then institutions like Tommy’s. What is a surprise I found is how little we have actually progressed since his discovery in the 1500s as the questions as to why babies die or why women miscarry are still needing to be answered today and those answers are being discovered thanks to Tommy’s.
Leonardo’s study of foetus development
Leonardo’s Infant anatomy that helped Leonardo paint the Virgin and Child
Tommy’s Manchester clinic offered me careful monitoring during my pregnancy with Aurora, after our 20 week scan, to closely keep an eye on her but also to help me to manage my stress levels too. The aim is for those child loss victims, who have lost several babies, to get reassurance that any issues or changes can be spotted by regular scans. They also checked things like blood flow through the umbilical cord, that the placenta was working ok, checked the Aurora’s growth, fluid levels in the womb and in my case, because of my broken heart, the blood supply into the womb too.
All of these checks helped to give me peace of mind during what was an extremely stressful and worrying time. I lived life while I was pregnant from one milestone to the next so each 3 weeks until my next scan was a mini countdown and we celebrated after each one gave us positive news. Although it still didn’t make me worry less as of course we had been told previously by experts during Arthur’s pregnancy in early scans that things were ok and also by Violet’s cardiologist that her heart was ok “nothing to worry about” and then it contributed to her death. So to say I was skeptical about what “experts” told me was an understatement but you know what? The Tommy’s experts or as I like to call them Angels were right!
So the afternoon tea enabled the midwives, who had taken good care of us, and the head of the Tommy’s clinic Doctor Alex to finally meet Aurora in the flesh. The last time they had seen her she was on a black and white screen during ultra sound scans. It was great for then to finally get to hold and meet her. To find out that the little hyperactive baby on their screens was a fidget in real life too.
Tommy’s also have places in the Manchester 10k so if any of you out there would like to run for them and raise some money to help others like us then we would be very grateful you can get more information to register here.
Unfortunately with my poor heart health we’re not in a position to be able to take part so we have pledged to raise funds for them after we hit our Alder Hey fund target in some other way instead. Would you come to a tea party in the summer perhaps and help us to thank our Tommy’s angels?
Also make sure you visit the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition more details click here.
When I was pregnant I remember strangers would tell me “oh your life will change once the baby comes”. “You’ve no idea of the impact it’ll have & how much you will grow as a person”. Well they were totally right as no one prepares you for the shock of parenthood but what people don’t realise is the really extreme sport form of parenthood is caring for a sick or recovering child or baby now that has a real impact. Not to mention the loss of one but that’s another change entirely and I wouldn’t describe that as growth at all, that’s more like having an amputation but I’m not talking about that now.
It feels strange to us to have a “normal” healthy newborn, as with Violet we had to give her specialist care because she was recovering from open heart surgery. So in her early years we couldn’t lift her under her arms, couldn’t wind her over the shoulder, she couldn’t do “tummy time” and we couldn’t touch or rub her chest or tummy at all because of her chest wound and broken rib cage. Anyone who’s ever had broken ribs will understand the pain she would have been in during the first 8 weeks while they healed not to mention all the surrounding muscle tissue including her heart. For a good while we also couldn’t bathe her either bless her.
Last time with Violet as a newborn all her energy from milk consumption in the first few months went towards healing her ribs, heart and muscles from heart surgery so she didn’t really grow or gain weight at all in her first few months of life. In fact she couldn’t even be plotted on the normal growth chart until she was about 6 months old!
This time round despite us feeding Aurora less than we did Violet she is piling on the pounds, rapidly jumping up the growth chart percentiles as a result every health professional so far that has weighed aurora has exclaimed how well we’re doing as new parents, whereas with her sister we were frowned at, interrogated about our feeding skills & had to keep meticulous written feeding records we could show them as “evidence”. Violet fed every 45 minutes for weeks & Aurora feeds every 1-1.5hrs & sometimes at now 4 weeks old she can go a whole 2.5hrs between feeds but we’ve not had to keep records for Aurora.
You’ve no idea how much reassurance growth and weight gain gives you as a new parent. Assurance that despite the tears, occasional vomiting and lack of sleep you’re doing exactly the right thing. With Violet half the time we were made to feel as though we were failing, as she didn’t follow any “normal” growth trajectory, whereas this time the same (if not less) effort is getting us much better results on the growth chart.
We now realise how brilliant we actually were with Violet in looking after her complex care needs and managing to look after her well, despite everything being 10 times harder for us, than we now know it is for those with a healthy newborn baby.
Immediately after Aurora’s birth the midwife asked Daddy to change the first dirty nappies, that some of you will know contain the challenge of Meconium deposits, (for any novices out there that’s sticky black, tar like poo) and she exclaimed “oh this will be an experience for you” but it was super easy for him compared to when he changed Violets leaning into an incubator carefully cleaning around the various wires and tubes that were keeping her alive. So not that I want to jinx anything but it seems as though Violet really did grow and develop us in even more ways than we care to realise. Hats off to other parents of challenging or poorly babies as we now realise again just how many medals and pats on the back you deserve! You are truly amazing and don’t be disheartened if your baby isn’t jumping up the growth charts. Don’t let health visitors & others make you feel you’re not doing a good enough job, as caring for a sick or recovering baby is a challenge beyond extreme so don’t allow them to compare your super hero baby to other “normal” healthy ones. And those other new parents whose healthy babies are climbing the growth charts like our Aurora is you’re not too bad either! Keep up the good work & remember not all growth is easily measured.
To those bereaved parents there are no words and I’m sorry you’re reading this, as I completely understand that when you hear people talking about the tiredness & stress of parenting you know you’d happily agree to anything to get your baby back. I have been there. Big hugs,
Emotional is probably the only constant state at the moment, as with the majority of new mums, never mind those who have gone through child loss. I’m facing a wave of different emotions everyday but unlike most new mums mine include sadness, feeling angry, confused (how can you feel immense pain & pleasure at same time) & devastated that my older children aren’t here too. I am a mother of three not one.
The midwife service would ordinarily have signed me and baby off by now and passed our care onto the health visitors but given the extreme circumstances (loss of two children) they are keeping a close eye on me alongside the health visitors, which is nice in a way, as it is a total contradiction to the care we had 3 years ago where we were forgotten about for the first few weeks after we left hospital. We complained at the time to Manchester’s NHS trust and it resulted in a full restructure of procedures for new mum care in Greater Manchester, hopefully meaning high risk babies that have undergone surgery shortly after birth won’t now fall down the cracks as we did.
In a way this is probably also now the reason why both departments are now OTT with our care.
Midwives and health visitors ask me how I’m doing then look at me carefully to observe my facial expressions & body language to see when I say that “I’m ok” if I’m being honest. They all looked surprised when I explained after Aurora was born healthy that for the first time in 9 months a lot of my anxiety and worry had lifted. I actually felt a huge sense of relief and was also in slight shock that at last the ordeal of waiting and wondering was over. She was finally here and was healthy. Sometimes it still feels surreal so I have to pinch myself to check I’m not just dreaming and other times I still find myself because of sleep deprivation accidentally calling Aurora Violet as though my brain has regressed in time. Although I’m led to believe this also happens often when you have multiple children who are alive too.
Anyway got to dash baby waking for a feed…thanks for reading.
Most people have never heard of an amazing charity called AvMA – Action Against Medical Accidents, probably because until the worst happens you have no need to seek them out.
We were introduced to this organisation by the Manchester coroners office, when we were first informed that there would be an inquest into our daughter Violet’s death at Manchester Children’s hospital.
The coroners team said it was highly likely that the Manchester NHS trust would employ their own barrister for the hearing, when it finally happened, and that they wanted us to feel supported, as though someone is on our side. They said they didn’t want us to be bullied by the trust’s representatives and that an organisation called AvMA might be able to help.
You may now ask “well what about legal aid?” It turns out that no matter what your financial situation in this circumstance legal aid is not available for an inquest hearing. Can you imagine the additional heartbreak and stress for anyone who is grieving a loved one and believes their death might be because of negligence or an accident but has no free legal support? We were quoted upwards of £1000 by several solicitors to pay for legal advice and support for the inquest.
You may ask “what about no win no fee” though but this also isn’t available for a coroner’s inquest as this hearing looks solely to find the cause of death not to apportion blame or result in any type of compensation. In order to get a pay out you would have to have a separate legal proceeding in front of a judge rather than a coroner and this would be after the inquest and is a separate legal action entirely.
AvMA provides free independent advice and support to people affected by medical accidents (lapses in patient safety) through a specialist helpline, written casework and inquest support services. They can put patients in contact with accredited clinical negligence solicitors if appropriate. They also work in partnership with health professionals, the NHS, government departments, lawyers and, most of all, patients to improve patient safety and justice.
For us it meant having a trained barrister examine all the documents associated with Violet’s death and care whilst in Manchester Children’s hospital. This proved invaluable to us as she requested certain things we hadn’t noticed were missing, such as when we asked for a copy of Violet’s medical records the hospital hadn’t included any of her X Ray results, of which there were many. We then had time to request them ahead of the hearing.
Judy, the barrister that volunteered her services to us, was amazing. We had a conference call with her a few weeks before the inquest and were pleased to see that she’d pulled together a list of her main concerns that all tallied with ours. She had done extensive research, including combing through not just the post mortem report but also the medical reports and all of Violets notes (that we couldn’t bring ourselves to sift through again). She also consulted various medical professionals she knew to get their advice on things.
At the inquest itself both Julia the representative from AvMA and Judy our barrister were amazingly supportive. Judy asked all the questions we wanted and cross examined some of the witnesses, the various specialists and consultants responsible for Violets care while she was in the hospital. We passed Judy notes from the table behind with any additional questions that came to us while they were giving evidence, and before the coroner had finished with a witness, Judy always double checked with us that there was nothing else we needed to ask.
I was originally instructed by the coroner to read out the police statement I had given immediately after Violet died and Judy said she could ask for me to be excused from doing this because I was heavily pregnant and the additional stress it would cause. We didn’t even realise this was an option and the coroner said he would admit the statement to the records as a printed document instead. This saved me having to undergo further emotional distress on the day.
Ultimately the inquest couldn’t bring Violet back and we got some answers but not really the resolution we wanted. However I’m not certain we would have received these same answers if we hadn’t have had AvMA and Judy helping us. It was a traumatic day with lots of tears, so I doubt we would have had the strength or wherewithal to ask so many questions ourselves. Their help and support at what was an extremely vulnerable time for us proved to be priceless.
Judy and AvMA only invoiced us for their expenses, which totalled less than £200, including travel costs from London and an overnight stay, so when you consider the thousands a barrister would normally charge this was a bargain. We’ve since given a larger donation to the charity too, so we can help them to help someone else like us who find themselves in an impossibly heart wrenching situation.
AvMA operate as a charity offering support to parents and families like us whose loved ones have died or been seriously injured because of what might have been a medical accident. This will be the hardest most traumatic time in their lives and as a result they are certainly in need of support, especially around something that could result in answers, justice and in the case of proven negligence, when someone is seriously injured, later on a possible future financial payout too, that could make the difference to quality of life.
I know this charity isn’t as attractive or as immediately heart tugging as a animal, Children’s charity or a cancer cause but rest assured they can make a huge difference to people’s lives at a time when there world has just ended. When they are already struggling to deal with the grief and shock of losing someone, in our case our 15 month old daughter.
You never think this type of thing will happen to you. That one day your perfect little life bubble could burst and you lose a child or someone close to you but if this happens then you certainly need legal support from someone like AvMA as life at this time is overwhelming and devastating enough without adding a looming inquest to the list.
If you can afford to donate to this amazing charity, even if a small one, then please do so as you could help someone like us who has said goodbye to their child. If you’re a legal professional and would like to donate time or expertise to work with the charity to help someone like us then please do take a closer look as we’re so grateful to Judy for giving up her time and expertise to help us.
Judy explained to us that she understood a little of what we had gone through with Violet, as her daughter had been premature so she had spent lots of time with her in hospital and luckily she was healthy now but she knows how scary it can be to be a parent of a sick child. She said she can’t begin to imagine then losing them and then the stress of the coroner deciding to launch an inquest into what happened too. After reading our case she felt compelled to help us. A truly wonderful lady and we will be eternally grateful to her for her help and compassion.
Here’s a link about AvMA please take a look and consider giving them some support if you can
When you’re experiencing pregnancy after loss you expect to be stressed throughout the entire 9 months, so every scan becomes a milestone and you count down until the next scan or check happens. It has actually believe it or not become easier as time has gone on because the more positive scans and checks you have slowly the better you start to feel too.
What you don’t expect only 2 weeks before D Day, which for me is C day really, is to suddenly start getting horrendous nightmares that stop you sleeping.
I spoke to my GP about it and she said oh that’s post traumatic stress disorder because you’ve had two extremely stressful birth experiences previously so the closer you get to your c section date the worse these might get not to mention the stress and grief from losing two previous children.
Great just when I thought I’d nearly done it and we were finally on the home stretch my subconscious seems to want to remind me of the nightmares I have had previously.
WARNING anyone who is pregnant stop reading now as you don’t want to read this part, if you’re squeamish too or eating at the moment (don’t worry there are no photos)!
In my first birth experience I was induced to give birth to Violet at 37 weeks of pregnancy, because they said it’d be less stressful for her, given we knew she had a heart condition and the crash team would be on standby to whisk her straight to the neonatal unit. Unfortunately I wasn’t offered any positioning scan to check her head was definitely engaged and all the various midwives and consultants that examined me told me she was in a perfect position. We were induced on the 14th June 3 times in total and she was finally born the night of the 15th. Both of us nearly died, as it turned out she was undiagnosed breech and no one realised until her bottom appeared instead of her head. She was classic breach too so like a resting frog or a roast chicken with legs tucked either side and because of that her legs wedged her into my pelvis so she was stuck for over 10 minutes. They eventually had to use brute force to yank her legs out then tear her out of me quite literally. The afterbirth shot out with her like a pressure cork across the room along with nearly 2 litres of my blood. Violet wasn’t breathing when she came out so they had to resuscitate her before taking her to the neonatal unit and they had to take me into the operating theatre to repair the third degree tears caused. Oh and did I say I was given no pain relief either, despite requesting some repeatedly for well over a day? I now know the excruciating pain I had felt too for over a day was her toe nails and knees scraping along my insides on her way out.
My second birth experience wasn’t any better as this time I had to deliver Arthur sleeping at 22 weeks and we had had to make the difficult decision to terminate him due to severe medical reasons a few days earlier. Apparently I was told it would be much easier physically than birthing a larger full term baby and as he wasn’t alive I could have maximum pain relief. I opted for diamorphine injections so got my first one when contractions began and could have another 4 hours later. So 4 hours later happened and, as they were preparing to give me more pain relief, I starting birthing him so they couldn’t continue. It was explained to me that it’d be easy to push him out as he was so small and then all they’d do is give a little tug on the umbilical cord, once he was out, then the placenta would come away easily. So my poor tiny sleeping baby came out and then they gave a little tug but the cord snapped, so I started haemorrhaging, they hit all the alarms and the crash team rushed in. I still had no more pain relief but was told to take deep breaths while a consultant put his hand inside my womb (yes my actual womb meaning my cervix had to open the width of a normal sized baby’s head!) and he manually scraped the placenta out. Then another consultant had to do the same to check they got it all. In the meantime I’d lost a litre and a half of blood. Over the next week I found myself in and out of hospital with infections of my womb, extremely low iron and blood pressure. Not to mention dealing with the grief of having delivered my dead son, almost a year after we buried my daughter too.
Today I achieved the first step to get over my PTSD as we had a tour of the labour ward and operating theatres in the hospital. It was the first time I had been back on that particular ward/area since having Violet and I broke down into tears, as I was taken right back to just over 3 years ago. I was proud I did it and hopefully now it will be easier for me to go back there again in a few weeks time. Fingers crossed I will be much less stressed.
So there you have it the main reason behind my PTSD and the reason why this time they are giving me a Caesarean section so just hoping this one goes smoothly because I bloody deserve it (excuse the pun & the language!).
The amusing thing is that after I had Violet the National Childbirth Trust contacted me to ask would I consider becoming a volunteer to talk to expectant mothers about my natural birth experience! I said I didn’t think that’d be a good idea, as they would have nightmares, not realising at the time that it would be me having them.
Not many people talk about PTSD from childbirth experience so I wanted to share in the hope others come forward or feel less alone. I know the vast majority of people have relatively straightforward birth experiences and I don’t want to scare anyone but no one really supports those that go through horrendous ones, so I felt I should share my stories in the hope others feel they can share theirs.
I have now been offered help in dealing with my PTSD but the treatment isn’t advised when you’re pregnant so they will work with me on it in a few months.
This was the best kept secret until recently as anyone can testify if they have bumped into me, as at 34 weeks pregnant with my third pregnancy I’m now pretty big.
Those of you who regularly read my blog you will know that I like to write in a very honest and frank way so I apologise if I haven’t been forthcoming about this massive development in my life and hope that after reading this post you can understand why.
We were lucky enough to fall pregnant again pretty soon after the loss of our baby Arthur and unfortunately were told that there would be a 50/50 chance of the new baby having similar brain issues, as it’s older brother and that we wouldn’t know if it had these issues until the 20 week scan. So we would have to wait 5 months until we knew if our pregnancy would be viable or not.
In the meantime we were of course offered additional scans so we had one at 7 weeks, 12 weeks and another at 16 weeks where they checked baby’s heart. At the 16-week check we discovered that unlike Violet’s heart the new baby’s heart was perfectly formed and we had received this news about Arthur’s heart at 16-weeks too. So although it was good news we weren’t celebrating yet.
I remember after our 16-week scan with Arthur we had been so happy that his heart was ok and felt so lucky, relieved and excited we told friends and family we were pregnant. Everyone of course was delighted for us especially after the loss of Violet. Then after Arthur’s 20-week scan we got the devastating news about his severe brain condition and our entire world collapsed.
For this very reason we refrained from telling our close friends about the new pregnancy until after our 20 week scan. This scan turned out to be the very first 20 week scan we have ever had that hasn’t resulted in us being pulled into a separate room to be spoken to by specialists and midwife counselors. The first 20-week scan we have had that hasn’t resulted in us having to have a second follow up scan with a more senior specialist a week later. So when the two specialists that performed our 20-week scan told us that the baby was perfectly healthy we didn’t know what to say. We were in total shock. We were asked if we had any questions and all we could think of was “what do we do now?” We were told we could leave and come back for another scan with a specialist at 28 weeks.
Since then we have been waiting for a phone call or letter from the hospital to say that they are sorry but they have made a mistake. We had the second specialist scan at 28 weeks and again we prepared ourselves for the knock out punch but that didn’t come, again we were given positive news. To anyone reading this we must sound ungrateful but we were just so used to being given bad news whether it was devastating or minor bad news that we almost couldn’t believe what we were hearing.
We currently have a minimum of one baby or pregnancy related appointment each week either to monitor my heart (as I have an ASD see my post about a broken heart), to check baby’s growth (the amazing Tommy’s clinic gives us a scan every 3 weeks), child loss counseling or midwife appointments. I’m under so many different departments and teams that we have gone from having an horrendous level of obstetric care when we had Violet to now having lots of specialists who all know who we are and will give us priority level care. The NHS now feels like it is working for us!
I’ve recently been to a few different Manchester events and I’ve bumped into so many people now that I think most know about our impending arrival. People constantly ask me whether I’m excited about the new baby and the truthful answer is simply that I will be relieved when baby is here safe and well, when I can see with my own eyes. Until then I can only try to be hopeful for the future.
Everyone talks about “rainbow” pregnancies and what a blessing they are.
It is very true that when we were expecting Arthur we were overjoyed and all of a sudden we had a new lease of life. We had hope for our future, as a family and truly believed the sun was shining on us again.
Yes we were still immensely sad about Violet and our grief for her was still strong but we had a renewed sense of optimism towards the future especially after we had Arthur’s 16 week scan and they confirmed that unlike Violet’s his heart looked ok. We were ecstatic and so relieved that we genuinely looked forward to his 20 week scan as they would double check his heart again in more detail but if there were any slight abnormalities then they would be minor.
We were so pleased and reassured by his 16 week scan results that we even felt confident enough to let friends and others know we were now expecting. That in January 2018 Violet was going to be a big sister.
Then we had the 20-week scan. Arthur’s heart did still look ok but what didn’t look right was his brain. The sonographer wouldn’t/couldn’t tell us too much other than his brain didn’t look how it was supposed to look and she would have to refer us to a top specialist. Our world crumbled. We then had to wait over a week before we could see a specialist to get more details.
We were heartbroken. The fact that something might have been wrong with his brain hadn’t even dawned on us, as we almost expected a heart defect and as we knew from our experience with Violet that wouldn’t necessarily have been a deal breaker as a heart can be fixed but a brain? The interim week waiting to see the specialist was one of the longest in our lives and in the meantime I could feel little Arthur kicking and wriggling around much more hyperactive than Violet had been.
When we finally saw the specialist he explained that Arthur’s brain had declined and become even more severe, just in the week since our previous scan. The issue was the amount of fluid in his brain, which was already so vast it had crushed most remaining parts of the brain including the area responsible for reflex and animal impulses like breathing and swallowing. The increased movement from Arthur was put down to the nerves being over stimulated by the fluid sloshing around his brain. His symptoms weren’t even anywhere near the borderline and in fact he was so beyond this that the prognosis was that he might at best reach 30 weeks of pregnancy and then would die. His head would be so large and full of fluid that he wouldn’t be able to be birthed and would have to be removed through caesarean section, which could have complications for me too and given my age we were told if we still wanted other children then losing him earlier would be the kindest option for everyone.
We explored every alternative but I couldn’t bear the thought of my little boy suffering (incidentally his deformity had affected him so badly that they couldn’t even identify his gender through the scan) and it wasn’t until I birthed him at 22 weeks that we realised he was a little boy. Having to end his life was the hardest decision we have ever had to make but the thought of him suffering and declining further was too much to bear. Having to give birth to him was traumatic and extremely upsetting. We did get to meet our little boy while he still looked like a healthy but tiny baby and he was beautiful like a miniature version of his daddy with dark brown hair. We spent several days saying goodbye to him in hospital and gave him a funeral service before burying his ashes with his sister almost a year to the day that we lost her too.
We will never forget our little boy and we miss him more than imaginable but it is a very different type of grief to that that we have over Violet. We knew her, shared experiences together, heard her laugh, babble away incessantly and have a million photos of her that we can look at too. In a way this makes it easier as we have constant beautiful reminders of our memories of Violet. I find I’m much angrier at the world over Violet because she had battled and overcome so much in her short life that it feels much more cruel for her to have been taken away as she was.
Grieving Arthur is much more difficult as his loss so early was our decision however his brain abnormalities weren’t and he would never have survived to full term anyway. Never been able to breathe or swallow unaided if he had survived to full term. It is the cruelty of us having to endure this on top of losing Violet that I find very hard to bear. I remember screaming “how much pain do they want us to go through”, “what have we done to deserve this” and “how cruel is the world”.
People talk about rainbow babies and how they are “God’s gift” well Arthur did fill us with hope for the future before it was cruelly ripped from us again. I’m often asked why I don’t believe in God and this is the reason why.
Now we are struggling to discover what there is “somewhere over the rainbow” or as I like to say we are somewhere after the rainbow; what happens when you’ve had a rainbow and it is faded and disappeared?
We look for the next one I guess and try to keep positive.
When I was pregnant with Arthur I remember we were so happy and filled with hope for the future; even more so after his 16-week scan where they checked his heart and confirmed that unlike his older sister’s it was perfectly symmetrical.
I threw myself into getting prepared for the new pregnancy and baby, which included signing up for Pregnancy Yoga and Pilates courses.
I remember I was so looking forward to the classes, as they’d give me chance to focus on this new little life inside me and to try to be positive about the future. I was also looking forward to building a support network of new friends who would be pregnant like me and so would be able to share the experience with some peers too. We’d done NCT classes when pregnant with Violet and gained friends from it who were then like a support network through pregnancy and baby’s first year.
When I registered for the classes I made sure to let the organisers know my sad story about losing Violet the previous September and she said she’d make the teachers aware of this.
Anyway my first class, which was Pilates went well and afterwards all the participants chatted together about their pregnancies. It was very welcoming and inclusive just what I’d have hoped for.
My second class, which was Yoga wasn’t anywhere near as relaxing or positive as I had hoped it would be. Lots of the same ladies were at this one that had been at the Pilates class, so it started off very friendly and welcoming again at the start.
We then took our places and mats to begin the session. The teacher announced that she wasn’t the one we were meant to have and she had been asked to step in at the last minute. Still no red flags in my eyes.
Then she asked everyone to begin by introducing themselves, what stage of pregnancy they were at and if it was your first baby or not. If it wasn’t your first baby then how old your other children were and whether they were looking forward to their brother or sister. I felt my positive little safe space and new support network crumble like a house of cards!
They went round the circle and I was one of the last, so I spoke about my second pregnancy. I told them all that I had had a little girl who died at 15 months old, just 9 months earlier, and how I imagine she’d be delighted to have a new brother or sister but alas she was no longer here. There was total silence and shock in the room you couldn’t even hear anyone breathing. Finally the teacher said how sorry she was to hear the news and thanked me for being so honest in sharing with the group. I remember everyone being in shock and blankly staring at me, even when the final girl had started talking about her pregnancy, they were still in shock looking at me. How I managed not to break down I don’t know.
Then we moved on with the class. I think it was the longest Yoga class of my life. Only one of the other participants looked over and smiled at me, reassuring me to check I was ok. Most other class members even those I had spoken to at the earlier Pilates class now avoided my eye contact. At the end of the class the majority of people rushed off desperate to escape quickly, so they didn’t have to face speaking to me or dealing with any emotional heartache or perhaps they were worried I had some contagious “all my kids die” disease. Maybe they are right?
The one girl who had smiled at me earlier, came up saying how she was blown away by my strength and she just felt the need to give me a hug. The teacher then apologised for having put me in that position in the first place and said how brave she thought I was, that I had shared what happened so honestly with the group. Then the tears came and I found myself crying all over the teacher and this poor girl who was 40 weeks pregnant and due to give birth anytime!
When I got home I was so upset I wrote to the organisers to say how a class I was supposed to find relaxing had become super stressful and emotionally fraught. It certainly wasn’t the Zen experience I had hoped for! They apologised for the miscommunication with the stand in teacher and said they’d give me an extra session for free if I continued with the course. They reassured me all teachers would be briefed about my situation.
I continued with the sessions (Yoga and Pilates) but they just weren’t the same, as I now received pitying looks from all the participants who simply felt sorry for me. The welcoming feeling I had felt at that first Pilates session was now gone and I was an outcast in the group, cast aside by the others. A few of them occasionally spoke to me but it was more so they could settle their curiosity about what had happened to Violet.
Don’t get me wrong if anyone had openly asked about Violet or whether I had other children, I would have told them the truth anyway, but I would have preferred a chance for them to get to know me a little first, before they learnt my sad news as that’s the basis of friendship, it needs to be built from mutual understanding and shared interests rather than pity.
Then when I lost Arthur at 22 weeks of course I contacted the course organisers and they refunded my subscription costs. I asked then perhaps if I could switch onto a postnatal Yoga course so I could try to heal but I was told that they didn’t advise this as it would be too emotionally distressing as everyone would be talking about their babies and my story would upset everyone else in the class too. Instead I was recommended to try some other sessions that after further research were designed for the elderly and infirm. I decided I couldn’t face attending a class full of geriatrics!
I was devastated that when you think of how many women sadly go through miscarriages, stillbirths and other troubled pregnancies that there are no Yoga or Pilates classes designed to help those who have suffered loss. Surely we need it even more than those who have birthed a healthy baby who is still alive?