Tag Archives: Midwife

Our Baby Rainbow

Cheeeeeeeeese!

On Monday we celebrated another rainbow birthday. This time it was Jude – 2 years old! I know it sounds cliche but where has the time gone? I can’t help calling him my baby, but soon he will start to understand what I mean .. and get seriously cheesed off!

I’ve previously written about my first rainbow pregnancy with Dylan and the (mainly emotional) difficulties we faced. With Jude it felt a lot different. I knew that my body was now capable of carrying a baby full term. I was a lot more confident. I felt like I could be a ‘normal’ expectant mother talking about ‘when’ the baby would come rather than ‘if’ or ‘hopefully’. I had another enviable pregnancy in that I had very little, if any morning sickness. My mum couldn’t believe how lucky I had been in that respect over three pregnancies. But boy was I tired. I didn’t remember being this tired before. Especially in the early weeks I just felt exhausted. I even remember lying down at work one day. I guess the big difference was having a two year old to run around after. Whereas before I could come home from work and just lie on the sofa, relax and maybe have a sneaky snooze, that was just a distant memory. Given we were potty training too in the early weeks, it felt particularly hard. But one thing I couldn’t do was complain.

Again I felt so incredibly lucky. As with Dylan’s pregnancy, we were under the care of the same consultant, the lovely Mrs Martindale. She was fully aware of our history so we didn’t have to explain a thing. By now, we also knew some of the midwives and sonographers. We followed the same plan as with Dylan. Regular appointments and scans every 4 weeks and then to be induced at 38 weeks, if nothing happened before. This was so handy with planning when to finish work as I had a pretty good idea of when the baby would come.


Unfortunately I didn’t learn any lessons from Dylan’s pregnancy. I have very few photos of me pregnant, less than with Dylan. It is one regret that I have. This is one of the only photos I have, taken the night before I went into be induced.

 

 

 

I was due to go into hospital on the 4th February in the afternoon. Jude arrived less than 48 hours later on the morning of the 6th. Although it might seem like a long time, for the most of it I was sat on the antenatal ward waiting for things (my cervix) to get moving!! Knowing that it would probably be a couple of days given my experience with Dylan, I took about 4 novels in with me … and read them all. It was absolute bliss! I was determined to make the most of the peace and quiet (I was in a single room!) whilst I could.

On one of the nights, I received a visit from one of the midwives on the Delivery ward. It was Paula, the midwife who delivered Ewan. She’d seen my name up on the board and recognised it. I know it sounds corny, but Paula is one of those people I will probably only see a few times in my life, yet I have such a strong bond with her that is hard to explain. She was there almost every step of Ewan’s delivery and for the hours afterwards. She shared such an important chapter in our lives that is usually only reserved for close family and friends, not someone you barely know. I will forever be grateful that she was with us and it was so wonderful to see her when I was waiting for our third baby to come.

So how would I describe Jude’s entrance into the world? One word. Quick! That might sound a bit bizarre when it took nearly 2 days from being induced, but when labour actually started, boy did I know about it. I had an epidural with Ewan, but didn’t have anything with Dylan. I didn’t consciously plan a pain-relief free birth but it just happened that way. With Jude I was determined to have as many drugs as I could get. But it wasn’t to be. It felt like I went from 0-60 in 10 seconds. At the point I asked for an epidural, I got the same response again, ‘too late, baby is on its way!’

Thankfully I got another heavenly midwife, Jayne. She came on shift at 8am, took control and sorted me out straight away. She got me on gas and air (which I’d never got the hang of before) and then suggested a water birth. I was completely stunned. I had no idea that I could have one because the baby was to be monitored throughout. ‘Of course’ she said, ‘we’ll get the tub filled up’. Talk about distracting me and diverting my attention.

It’s funny how the different senses invoke particular memories. It was a beautiful sunny morning on Monday. As I got out of the car with Jude, the sun hit my face and warmed me instantly. I was transported back to the birthing pool. As I settled in the water, the sun was coming up and streaming through the water. The design of the room couldn’t have been any better. I lay there with my eyes closed and on the sun on my face. It had a enormous calming effect.

I won’t bore you with any further details other than to say within 10 minutes of getting into the pool, Jude made his entrance into the world. Our second rainbow was in our arms. Dylan came to see him a couple of hours later. He was a bit bemused and couldn’t really work out what all the fuss was about, especially when Jude cried! He eventually came round a few days later. The photo below is one of the first I took of them together. It’s a bit blurry but you can see Dylan showing him one of his dinosaurs!

 

I don’t ever want to take my rainbows for granted. They are the delights that came into our lives and mended our broken hearts. Every day is a blessing, but on special days, like birthdays, I count them even more.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Our first Rainbow

January brings with it a mixture of emotions in our household. It is a significant month for two reasons. We celebrate the birthday of our second son but mourn the death of our first.

I want to write a bit about my pregnancy with Dylan and his birth, and how Ewan’s death affected us during this time. Essentially this is the story of my first rainbow pregnancy.

It was a strange feeling when Ewan died. I knew that in essence I was a mother, but it didn’t feel like it. I felt cheated because I didn’t have a baby in my arms. So, although I was grieving, I knew very quickly that I wanted to try for another baby. It was an awful feeling. I remember the first time I mentioned it to Adam. I felt as though I was cheating on Ewan. That I was being disloyal. That in some ways I was saying that he didn’t mean a lot to us if we were willing to try again so soon. I knew deep down that wasn’t the case, but I still had conflicting voices in my head trying to convince me otherwise.

Adam was on the same wavelength as me. But he was also sensible enough to say how important it was for me to be physically and mentally well.

About eight weeks after Ewan died we had an appointment with a consultant. We were told that they couldn’t find any reason for the stillbirth. We hadn’t opted for a post-mortem (more about that another day) but still had blood tests and other results. Essentially this meant that there was nothing to stop us from going ahead and trying for another baby. The consultant echoed Adam’s thoughts about being ready. I didn’t want to wait any longer. I thought I was ready, and looking back, I still think I was.

Luckily we didn’t have to wait too long. Taking the pregnancy test was a completely different experience to when I found out I was pregnant first time around. The excitement just wasn’t quite there. Even though I was happy and it was what I wanted, the carefree joy wasn’t forthcoming. I remember coming downstairs to show Adam. We hugged and asked each other if we were ok, but the smiles were muted. We had lost our innocence and knew that the next nine months potentially could be anything but plain sailing.

We kind of carried on with normal life and especially in the early weeks didn’t really talk about our situation. We were kind to ourselves and in between working had a break in Germany and then a bit later on, a holiday in Scotland. We didn’t want to get too excited or think about what could be. We were still in the mindset of thinking about what should have been.

Our GP referred us to a consultant at the local hospital. We were able to see her quite early on, at about 8 weeks I think. She explained how I would be cared for and would have additional monitoring to be on the safe side.

8 week Dylan

8 week Dylan – so tiny you can barely see him!

I was to go every four weeks for a scan and check up, partly to check on the baby, but also for our own reassurance. At the first check up we unexpectedly had a scan and got to see a tiny embryo with little more than tiny stubs for arms and legs. It was amazing to see, but I found it hard to get too excited.

 

12 week dylan

12 week Dylan. The little buds are his hands and feet.

 

At my 12 week scan, I went through the normal procedure e.g. seeing the sonographer, before I then had see the consultant. Adam and I sat in the waiting area and I had a flashback to sitting in the same spot waiting for the scan which would tell me Ewan had died. Up to that point, I felt as though I had kept it together, but broke down when that memory pinged in my brain. By the time I saw the sonographer, I was an absolute gibbering wreck leaving Adam to explain why. She was absolutely lovely and reassuring, and probably spent more time with us than necessary just to make sure I felt better.

We were very reluctant to tell people and kept the news to ourselves other than telling close family and friends. Usually most people will make an announcement after 12 weeks, but we just told people on a need-to-know basis. And the Facebook statement was a definite no-no. Why? My skewed logic told me that the more people knew, the greater the likelihood something would go wrong. So by keeping it quiet, it would increase the chances of everything going well. Bizarre I know, but that’s what my brain told me at the time.

Still trying to cover up! In Scotland at about 16 weeks

Scotland camping St Andrews

I don’t think I made it public knowledge at work until I was about 18 weeks. I remember my manager asking me when I was going to say something (she knew very early on) because people were already starting to wonder and ask questions. A few nights later, I became very upset. I (irrationally) thought that now more people knew, the more likely it was that something would go wrong.

It wasn’t long after this that I spoke to a work colleague, who had been through a similar experience and then gone on to have twin daughters. I asked her how she had coped during the second pregnancy. She told me that she came to the conclusion that there was no point in worrying. It wouldn’t make her feel any better, nor would it affect the outcome. This struck a chord – she was right. Spending my time and negative energy thinking about something which may never happen was pointless. When I talked it through with Adam later, he was a bit frustrated as he had been trying to tell me the same thing all along! I think I maybe just needed to hear it from someone who had been in the same dark place but had a positive outcome.

From this point on, my mood definitely lightened. I wouldn’t say I fully relaxed and had the carefree abandon of the first time pregnant me, but mentally I was in a much better place.

We continued to get excellent care from our consultant, Mrs Martindale. I was also assigned a caseload midwife which meant I saw the same midwife every time rather than seeing a different one each time in clinic (thus saved from having to explain our situation time and time again). Around the time I was scanned at 28 weeks, Dylan was measuring on a small side. Although Mrs Martindale didn’t have huge concerns, she still sent me for regularly heartbeat monitoring over a few days, just to double check. I was surprisingly calm throughout this time. The hardest part was going onto the antenatal ward and being taken into one particular room. I recognised straight away that it was the same room I went into when I had my first scan to find Ewan’s heartbeat.

Early on, it was suggested that I would be induced early in an attempt to reduce the risk of another stillbirth and also allay our worries and fears. Mrs Martindale recommended going to 37 or 38 weeks. I was quite comforted knowing that I wasn’t going to go overdue and could plan ahead. Because of this I decided to finish work quite early (34 weeks). This coincided with time off over Christmas and the wedding of one of my best friends in Northern Ireland. This was quite exciting actually. I wasn’t able to fly so we had to take a mammoth trip driving to Scotland to get the ferry. Still, it was worth it to catch up with old university friends and get the cobwebs blown away by the wind blowing off the Irish Sea!

One regret is that I didn’t get many photographs of my pregnancy with Dylan once I started showing. (Stupidly now) I was reluctant to capture pictures of my bump. As if it was going to affect anything! Thankfully I did manage to relax in time for the wedding.

Finally some bump photos!

Giants Causeway Me and Jen Ruth and co Ruth wedding

The hospital were so careful in their attempts to avoid any clash with dates associated with Ewan (14th and 17th January). So I eventually went into hospital to be induced on the 10th January 2012 and our beautiful rainbow bounced into the world two days later. I will share his entrance into the world, but that is for another day.

Tomorrow we will celebrate his 4th birthday. His new scooter is set up in the living room with balloons attached and I think I am more excited than he is. In those darker months it didn’t feel as though we would get to this day. Only a few weeks after losing Ewan, my mum and I went to visit his grave. She told me with confidence that I would be a mum one day. I didn’t dare believe her then. But as we all know, mum’s are always right!

Happy Birthday to our beautiful Rainbow!

P1070626

Meeting Ewan – My Stillbirth Story

Footprints and candle.jpg

As it is Baby Loss Awareness week, now feels the right time to share the next part of Ewan’s story. I have already written how we found out about losing our baby, and the weekend we spent at home before coming back into hospital to give birth.

Adam and I were checked into a normal delivery room. We sat on the sofa, waiting to be seen by Elaine, our allocated midwife who we had met on the Friday. I remember what I was wearing – I put on one of my nicest white maternity smocks. I felt like I needed to make an effort and look good. I also wore a necklace that one of my best friends bought me some time ago. I had been wearing it on Friday and I don’t know why, but it felt appropriate to wear it again.

At this point I just need to explain that one thing that got us through the next 12 hours (actually the next week, month and years) was a little bit of humour. It may sound absolutely bizarre in the context of what I am talking about. But when you are in such a terrible situation, humour keeps you sane. It reminds you that you are still alive. That the ability to smile and even (shock horror) laugh just stops you from spiralling down a gloomy black hole never to return.

So we whilst we were waiting in the delivery room, Adam started to fool around. To break the tension of why we were sitting and waiting. And mainly to try and make me smile and feel better! There was a yoga mat so he pretended to do some school-style gymnastics for me. I am smiling now just thinking about it. I commented that anyone looking in at that moment in time would think we were absolutely crackers. As the evening went on we sat talking about our favourite comedy programmes and quoting lines and jokes.

The next couple of hours just involved settling in and trying to get comfortable. Labour wasn’t really progressing very quickly and I only had a few pains. Elaine kept bobbing in and out. She had a lot of blood to take, from both Adam as well as me. This was mainly for genetic tests I think, to see if there was any reason they could find which would explain the death of our baby.

Elaine was just what we needed at that point. Adam and I smile when we talk about Elaine now because she had some bizarre topics of conversation, our favourite being her dog which had ADHD! She was chatty and upbeat and again kept us from slipping into the hole I talked about earlier. She was very experienced and explained what we would expect during and after the birth. At 8pm there was a shift changeover and Elaine left us. We met our new allocated midwife Paula as she came to introduce herself.

I’m a bit fuzzy as to the right order as to the next events. I was probably given a pessary and then went on a drip to try and kick start the induction. It worked. At about 9pm the pain suddenly hit me like a train. I remember getting out of bed to walk around and my waters broke. The contractions came thick and fast. With it came the feeling that I didn’t know whether I could actually get through this. Every woman will tell you that labour is tough, really tough. But for the vast majority of women, it is just about bearable because a) it doesn’t last forever and b) there will be a healthy baby at the end of it. That wouldn’t be the case for me.

I suddenly turned into an uncontrollable raging crazy lady. A brief conversation about pain relief (me asking for as much as I could get) resulted in Paula paging the anaesthetist to give me an epidural. I’m not sure under normal circumstances I would have got one so quickly. But this wasn’t a ‘normal’ situation. Adam was doing his ultimate best to keep me calm and help wherever he could. I don’t think I was very appreciative or accepting of any assistance. It felt like a lifetime before the anaesthetist arrived, but in reality it was probably only 15-20 minutes. My mum and dad had arrived at this point. I hate that they saw me in so much pain, but it was good to have them there.

The epidural was a bizarre experience. The anaesthetist was a gruff, Eastern European man. He had few words and was quite surly. Maybe he knew our situation and didn’t really know what to say. I was petrified when he gave me the instruction not to move, otherwise I could be paralysed. In such pain I didn’t know whether I could do anything but writhe around in pain. It went in successfully though and by the time he finished, my mum had managed to win him round with her light-hearted chit chat. He had softened to the point that he smiled as he left. Another clear memory.

Once the epidural kicked in, things calmed down to the point where I could lay on the bed and even managed to doze for a bit. I was aware of mum, dad and Adam sat round the bed talking. Paula popped in occasionally to check on us. At about midnight, I woke up a bit more and realised that the sensations I was feeling had changed and so we buzzed Paula. After a quick inspection she told me I was fully dilated and that it was time to start pushing.

It’s important to paint the scene a little bit more so that you can understand the emotions I am going to describe. Because it was midnight, obviously it was dark outside. We had really soft lighting; it felt like we only had a small lamp on and the other parts of the room were dark. It was quiet and peaceful. The word I really want to use is ‘serene’. Thanks to the epidural, I wasn’t in any physical pain for which I am so incredibly grateful. And it probably sounds bizarre when you read this, but I can’t imagine we could have had a better birthing experience given our circumstances.

Now you will remember that I said Elaine was great for the early stages and kept us upbeat. As labour progressed, it became clear that Paula was the perfect midwife to guide us through delivery and the hours that followed. When I think about Paula now, I have an unbelievable sense of calm. And feelings of absolute gratitude. To me she was like an angel sent to guide us through our ordeal. She was controlled and calm, kind and understanding. I know that this description might seem odd when I talk about Ewan as our angel, but I really can’t think of another word to use. And I am frustrated with myself that I can’t think of better adjectives to describe the impact she had on us. She was born to be a midwife. She was born to comfort grieving parents. I get incredibly overwhelmed when I think about her.

You may imagine that the physical act of giving birth to a baby who isn’t breathing is a horrendous experience. For many women it is. Especially for those why the baby dies during or at the start of labour. But we had some time to get used to our situation. We knew our baby wouldn’t be alive. I had an epidural so I wasn’t in pain. And it was the middle of the night. It was calm. It was dark. It was winter. It was peaceful and it felt like there was no-one else in the world at that time but me, Adam, Paula and the baby we were about to meet.

Our son was born at 12.44am on Monday 17th January 2011. It was calm and peaceful. No cry, no screams. There was silence. Paula told us it was a boy. I remember saying sorry to Adam. Why? I guess I thought he would be more upset because we had lost a son rather than a daughter (yes, stupid I know). Paula handed him to me to hold. Paula asked Adam if he wanted to cut the cord, which he did. I cradled my baby. Adam cradled us both. And we cried.

We called him Ewan Mark. Ewan (you may remember) was our favourite boys name, and Mark after Adam’s dad.

Time slowed for the next few hours. We sat with Ewan in the delivery room. We held him and kissed him. I asked Paula if we could bathe him. She said it would probably be a better idea not to, because his skin was so fragile. So we didn’t. Instead we dressed him together and wrapped him in a blanket. We took photographs and created memories. My mum and dad came into spend some time with their grandson. Paula moved in and out, staying in the background, and was there if and when we needed her.

When we were on our own, the three of us, Adam played some music. The one song that sticks with me is Beautiful Boy by John Lennon. Seeing Adam talking to Ewan about John Lennon and the Beatles just broke my heart.

At some point in the early hours mum and dad went home and we moved from our birthing room to the Serenity Suite taking Ewan with us in a crib. There was a double bed in the suite and after a shower, we tried to get some well needed rest. We were exhausted and drained, both mentally and physically. We probably only slept in 20-30 minute bursts. When we were awake we would kiss and hold Ewan, talking to him and each other. Paula kept popping in and I remember being in a half awake/half asleep state as she took my blood pressure.

As it started to get light, Paula offered us some toast. Isn’t it funny how I can still remember the taste of that toast now! It was dripping with butter and tasted amazing. I was so hungry.

At the 8am shift change, Paula came to say goodbye. I tried, but probably failed miserably, to thank her for all her help and support. I knew that she would go home emotionally drained too, and wanted her to be aware of what an amazing job she had done. We gave each other a huge hug.

It wasn’t much later when we asked to be discharged. It felt like it was time to go home. Although staff said that we could stop as long as we needed to, we wanted to be back in our familiar and comforting surroundings. Earlier, Adam and I had a discussion about whether we should bring Ewan home with us, or to leave him at the hospital. In the end, we decided not to bring him home. One of the midwives came in and asked us how we wanted to leave. Did we want someone to come and take Ewan away first, or for us to leave him in the room? It moved me that they asked such a question. I didn’t really want either, but we needed to make a decision. We opted to say our goodbyes on our own and leave when we were ready.

Walking out of that room was one of the hardest parts of the whole weekend. It absolutely broke my heart and I cried harder than before. We held onto each other and somehow guided ourselves out of the Birth Suite and out of hospital.

Our arms were empty, but we took Ewan home in our hearts.

Always loved and never forgotten.

12074610_473014239545726_4214325479804057538_n

The Words No-one Ever Should Hear – My Stillbirth Story

I’ve decided that I would like to share Ewan’s story. Most of our friends know that he was stillborn at 32 weeks. Not everyone knows exactly how it happened and how in just one day our lives changed forever. Although stillbirth isn’t a quite a taboo subject, it’s not something that is written about a lot in great detail. Information is there if you look for it, for example through the SANDS website (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society) as I have written about previously. I don’t know if it is standard human nature to feel uncomfortable talking about death, and in particular the death of a baby. Is it the British in us? Anyway one of the reasons I set up my blog was to write about Ewan. The story is long so I will do it in stages. This is the story of our pregnancy.

I found out I was pregnant at the beginning of July 2010. Adam and I were delighted. It was our first pregnancy and we’d only been trying for a couple of months. We considered ourselves lucky that it hadn’t taken us very long. I had an enviable pregnancy. I was one of those really annoying people who could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times they suffered from morning sickness. We told a handful of close family and friends our news, and instead kept quiet until after our first scan at 13 weeks. At this point once we had seen baby floating and kicking around on the screen, we thought we were out of the woods and safee. October saw our 20 week scan and another opportunity for a photograph. Bubba he was then known (we chose not to find out the sex), gave us the thumbs up on the ultrasound. Christmas came and went. We were secretly happy to have an excuse not to go out on New Year’s Eve and instead stopped in with a takeaway and boxset of 24.

P1100244

Ewan at our first scan

From the moment he planted his first kick, Ewan was very active baby. I would love sitting in meetings at work and feeling him turning somersaults. He was most active at night when I was reading and relaxing in bed.

Fast forward to Friday 14th January 2011. I remember certain events of that day so incredibly vividly and others are a bit of a blur. I remember waking up that morning, laying in bed hearing the birds sing thinking it was the first time I had heard them for a while. On the way to work I stopped off for some petrol. I remember being at the pump when the thought occurred to me that it was 8 weeks exactly until my due date. I distinctly recall thinking ‘My baby could be in here in 8 weeks. Actually in 10 weeks it will definitely be here.’ Obviously this gave me an extra spring in my step, or a spring in my waddle.

About 6 months pregnant

About 6 months pregnant

It was a busy day at work. I work in a Further Education College and at the time there was a campaign being set up to challenge the removal of the Education Maintenance Allowance, which the then new coalition government had announced. I was trying to organise the student body to sign an online petition and arrange for PC’s to be set up around college. Around lunchtime I managed to snatch some quiet time in my office. As I sat at my desk, after a couple of minutes my thoughts turned to my bump. It all felt quite still. I couldn’t recall the last time I had felt it move. My brain went into a mini overdrive. I tried to think back to the night before. Was Bubba performing its usual circus routine? I just couldn’t remember.

What I haven’t mentioned is that morning I also had a pain, which was unusual. I hadn’t felt anything like it before. I had read that baby’s sometimes started to engage from 32 weeks and wondered if that was the reason why. Not knowing when baby last moved, coupled with the pain prompted me to pick up the phone and ring the hospital. It took me a while to find the right department, but eventually I spoke to someone on the antenatal ward. I’m not sure why but when I started to explain why I was ringing, I only mentioned the pain. The midwife asked me to describe it and suggested I had a bath. I then told her that I couldn’t remember when I had last felt baby move; straight away she told me to come down for a scan, just to get checked out and make sure everything was ok. ­

I locked up my office and set off, calling into see my boss on the way out to tell her where I was going. I remember trying to make light of it and just said that I was a little bit worried so wanted to double check there wasn’t anything serious. In the car, I rang Adam. His phone went to voicemail so I left what I hoped was a slightly cheery, reassuring message saying I was sure everything was ok (I probably didn’t do a very good job!) and told him where I was going. I quickly nipped home to get my notes and then headed to the Lancashire Women and Newborn Centre at Burnley General Hospital. I live about 4 miles from college and 1 mile from the hospital so thankfully it wasn’t too long a journey. I don’t remember much about driving there, other than still trying to reassure myself, and also willing Bubba to move.

I finally found my way to the antenatal ward. Now I do vividly remember the walk upstairs. At this point I started to think the worse. On the ward I gave them a quick explanation and the loveliest midwife (I was to meet a lot of these) took me into a private room. I lay on the bed and she used a Doppler to try and find a heartbeat. Whilst it made a lot of noise (something to do with the ultrasound waves), the regular sound of a heartbeat couldn’t be found. She gave me a reassuring smile and said it was probably a problem with the instrument. She left to get a portable scanner, and seconds later reappeared with a doctor. Unbeknown to me they were waiting outside the room – I am guessing someone buzzed them when I arrived. On went the gel again and the doctor started to scan. I could see the monitor at this point but wasn’t really sure what to look for. Then, there was the most telling sign. Marie (the midwife) who was stood at the end of the bed put her hand on my feet. That was the point when I knew. I knew that she knew. No one had said anything, but they all knew. I burst into tears.

They wanted me to go for a proper scan, with the ultrasound technician, as they said sometimes the portable scanners didn’t pick up faint heartbeats. But they still knew. It just needed to be confirmed.

I think I refused a wheelchair and walked back down the stairs holding onto Marie. I sat and waited for the ultrasound. The technician came out of her room and Marie went up to her. I could see the technician wasn’t happy. I think she had a backlog of patients already. Marie whispered to her, and instantly the technician’s face changed. I was beckoned to go in and Marie came with me. The technician told me that she wouldn’t talk to me until she had finished scanning which could take a couple of minutes. She said that it was important for her to concentrate. I could have looked at the monitor but instead I covered my eyes with my arm. I didn’t want to see and instead just hoped against hope that the news would be good.

Then came the words no parent-to-be ever wants to hear. ‘I’m sorry, but there is no heartbeat’.

I remember just giving a loud groan and started to cry again. I can hear the sound now. It came from the bottom of my belly. Marie held me. I don’t know for how long. Somehow I got back onto the ward and into a room. The word stillbirth was being used. Still Birth.

This part is a bit of a blur. What I do remember is asking how this could happen. I think I even uttered the words ‘but this only happened in Victorian times!’ But that is what I was thinking. Only Victorian babies were stillborn, weren’t they?

Then my phone started to ring. It was Adam. I think I answered it (if not it was Marie). I just told him to get to hospital. I don’t even think I told him where to go. I definitely didn’t tell him what had happened because he was either driving or about to drive. It seemed like an age before he came. But then I can’t remember what happened between him ringing and arriving. So it probably wasn’t that long. I just blurted out ‘I’m sorry, I’ve lost the baby’. I can see his face now and can feel how his arms gathered me up and give me the biggest and warmest hug I probably have ever had.

After some time, during which Adam rang my parents for me because I just couldn’t face breaking the news to them, we were moved from the antenatal ward to the Birth Suite. Now this was hard. Really hard. We had to walk through a door where there were beautiful canvasses of newborn babies on the walls of the corridor. Fresh tears. We were taken to the Serenity Suite. This is a room especially designed for parents like us, who wouldn’t give birth to a living baby. Who knew these rooms existed in hospitals? It had a kitchen area, shower room, double bed and television amongst other things. It was a place we would be able to move to after the birth, recuperate a little and spend some time with our baby.

A doctor and another midwife, Elaine, came to speak to us and talked us through what would happen next. Although they were lovely, nothing could prepare us for the next bombshell. We would have to give birth naturally by being induced. I had just expected a caesarean section. We would have to go through labour. Now it makes perfect sense as to why, but back then we were just dumbstruck.

I was given something which would start the induction process (no idea what, a pill I think?). We were told we could stop in the Serenity Suite for the weekend, but instead we chose to go home. We wanted to be surrounded by familiar things, surroundings, our cats and be in our home. We had to return back to the Birth Suite in 48 hours for the next stage of the induction process, provided nothing happened before then. Elaine reassured us that she would be on duty and so would look after us when we came back.

We left the hospital about 5 or 6pm I think. Being January it was already dark. Which suited our mood. Adam drove us back home to what would be a very long weekend. To tell family and friends. To continue with our lives together. Down a very different path to the one we were happily walking along that morning.

 

 

Make your voice heard people – The NHS Maternity Services Review

I am big fan of our National Health Service. Before Ewan died I probably would have been quite non-committal about my thoughts on the NHS. Sometimes I would be pro-NHS. They agreed to take my tonsils out when I was 21, which, having suffered from tonsillitis approximately 8 times a year, I was eternally grateful to them for. But then I didn’t like my GP practice for a number of years – the GPs were grumpy, stroppy and had terrible ‘bedside’ manners (for the record I LOVE my current GP. He is ace!). On the whole I would probably have sat on the fence if asked for an opinion.

Since our experiences with Ewan’s stillbirth and my two subsequent rainbow pregnancies however, both Adam and I have not been able to fault the care we have received. If anyone asks, we could talk for hours about the professionalism, compassion and dedication of the maternity teams at the Lancashire Women and Newborn Centre at Burnley, in particular our beloved midwives and consultant! I honestly don’t think I could find a bad word to say about them. The midwife who delivered Ewan was simply wonderful. I am so grateful to her for helping to make what was in essence the most awful experience of our lives, into a beautiful, calm, peaceful and memorable time. I hope one day to write a blog post about this particular experience. We were then supported through our next pregnancies with kid gloves by an amazingly kind and considerate consultant who absolutely understood our worries and stresses.

maternity review 3

So when I heard about the current NHS maternity review, I knew I wanted to go along and make my voice heard. There is currently a roadshow of drop in review events taking place up and down the country. Today I went along to my local event in Preston to share my views and also make suggestions. I am not so naïve to realise that a) improvements can’t be made and b) everyone has received the same care that we have. I truly believe, for example, that women (and men) would benefit from seeing the same midwife from day one, through all their antenatal and then postnatal appointments. We were lucky with our second pregnancy to be allocated a case-load midwife. I saw her every few weeks. She attended some of our hospital appointments and visited me at home. Through this I was able to trust her and ask questions that I may never have asked a ‘random’ community midwife. After we took Dylan home she came to visit a few times and I remember once compiling a list of about 15 questions for her. Some of them seem ridiculous now (I had about 3 questions alone about burping…. the baby, not me!), but I knew that she wouldn’t laugh at me because I had already built a good relationship with her.

Also, in relation to my last blog post, I referenced how mothers should be tested for Group B Strep as standard practice in the latter stages of pregnancy.

Maternity review

With Rainbow Jude and my old school friend Kelly who is now involved in NHS service commissioning

Anyway the review is ongoing for the next couple of months. So if you have had experience of maternity services anywhere in the UK, either as a parent, grandparent, friend or in any other capacity, now is the time to feedback about your experiences. Positive or negative, the NHS want to hear what you have to say. If you aren’t able to make it along to one of the drop-in sessions here, then email england.maternityreview@nhs.net.

Make sure you have your say.