24 and 25 September 2011
John and I had our normal Saturday night routine - Dr Who, X-Factor and Casualty - and I lay on the sofa waiting for movements. I prodded my stomach and could feel a faint 'shifting' which reassured me although I knew that she wasn't kicking. Not really. I was absolutely exhausted and decided to go to bed. During the night I woke up experiencing pins and needles up and down one of my arms and had to take my wedding rings off as my hands were so puffy. I went to the toilet and went back to bed although didn't really sleep. Looking back, I am certain that I knew something was wrong. When I woke up the following morning my face and neck were puffy, my hands were puffy and my feet and ankles were puffy. I also had a terrible headache and cramping. I asked John to take Sam to church without me so that I could get some rest-but the rest didn't come. My head continued to ache and each time I prodded my stomach there was no response. The baby seemed to have wedged herself in a position that was uncomfortable for me and I couldn't get her to wriggle out of it. I spent the morning moving around, drinking sugary fruit juice and trying to get her to move but nothing happened. As soon as John and Sam got home I called the hospital and sobbed down the phone. "I feel really poorly and exhausted. I've got a headache, I'm all puffy and I can't feel my baby move.". I told the triage nurse. She reassured me over the phone but asked me to come down and get checked out. We called round a few friends to see if anyone could have Samuel but couldn't get hold of any as they were all still at church. I decided that we couldn't wait any longer and we took Sam into hospital with us.
We arrived at the assessment room and sat in the waiting room. There were a couple of other women in there who were much bigger than I was and I looked at their sizable bumps jealously. As we waited to go in, Sam became restless so John took him for a walk round the hospital to get a snack. I sat in the waiting room nipping to and from the toilet to try and get a response from the baby. I carried on prodding my bump and couldn't feel any kicking but was reassured by the shifting motion that I could still feel. I was certain that I was going to be admitted there and then for delivery, that the lack of movement was the same thing that had happened with Samuel as he began to become weak before he was delivered. I'd even packed spare contact lenses and make up in my hand bag so that I could re-do my make up for photographs in special care after delivery.
No sooner than John and Sam arrived back from their walk was I called into the, now all too familiar, assessment room. I was asked to give a urine sample and lay down on the bed for monitoring. Immediately the midwife commented on the size of my bump and measured me commenting that I was measuring about 3 weeks behind - something to try not to be too worried about. She had a feel of my bump for the baby and asked when I'd last eaten. I explained that I'd tried some porridge for breakfast but couldn't manage anything. She suggested that the lack of movement could be as a result of low blood sugar levels and wanted to run CTG fetal heart monitor test to reassure us. I knew the score by now and fastened the pink and blue bands around my middle whilst the midwife positioned the sensors under the bands. When she couldn't find anything she repositioned them, joking about what a 'little pickle' the baby was and how she was going to have wake up and say 'hello'. Still, she couldn't find anything and carried on trying different positions and poking my abdomen. Eventually, she said that the baby might be too small to pick up on a CTG and got a sonic aid to try again. Minutes dragged by and I started to cry. I kept reminding myself to be brave and telling myself over and over that the baby was just being awkward. She pushed the sonic aid into my stomach and tried various positions. Finally, I heard a heart beat but no sooner had I got my hopes up that the midwife stated "no, that's you.". This pattern repeated for a number of minutes as I stated to feel dizzy and was unable to hold back the tears. Suddenly, my consultant walked into the room. She said that she was on call and had seen my name on the board so wanted to come in and see what was going on. I broke down as soon as she arrived and told her how bad I felt. Looking back, I don't know what I'd have done had she not been there. I know that, as hard as it must have been for her to tell us what had happened, there is no way I could have taken, or trusted, the news from someone I didn't know. From a stranger. When my consultant found out what was happening she requested a mobile ultrasound unit and it seemed to arrive within minutes. I sat crying and sent a text message out to my most trusted friends. I still have it on my phone. It read "hi guys, please can we have some prayer over the next couple of mins. Just in hospital as had a bad night but midwife can't find any heartbeat for baby. Thanks x".
The ultrasound machine arrived and my consultant began to scan me. I could see the look of concern on her face and her furrowed brow. It seemed to be the longest scan I'd ever had and she'd scanned me enough times for me to know that the first thing she always pointed out was the heart beat. This time she remained silent. After what seemed like a age she put the ultrasound wand down and said "I'm so sorry Claire but the baby has died.'. Immediately John began crying next to me and I started screaming. There was no way I could control what was happening to me. Anyone who knows me will know that I hate losing control. I hate showing weakness, vulnerability or emotion in public and here I was screaming and shouting at the top of my voice in a room full of strangers. The only thing I knew that would comfort me was Sam and I asked for someone to hand him to me.
The next few minutes are a blur as I remember being taken out of the assessment room and helped down the corridor to another room. I carried on crying hysterically and couldn't focus on anything around me. I know now that I was in the middle of a massive panic attack. I sometimes find myself looking back and trying to piece things together in my mind but there are still huge gaps in my memory. The walk from the assessment room to the bereavement room seemed to take forever and although we were accompanied by a team of medics I could only focus on myself, John and Samuel who was clinging to me not knowing what was going on. With each step I took, my legs seemed to cripple more and I could feel myself sinking lower to the ground. Once we made it to the bereavement room we were advised to let someone take Samuel whilst we talked. I screamed and panicked at the thought of them taking away my little boy – my little girl had already been ripped from me and I hated being apart from Sam at the best of times and didn't want to let him go. I was told it was for the best to avoid him seeing us in such a state and know that that was the right thing to do but at the time I was certain that they weren't going to bring him back. I called Faye and managed to get the words "I've lost the baby, please can you come and get Sam?" out on the phone.
I can’t really piece together the next minutes and hours of the day – they seemed to pass in a haze of panic and dread. I had, at some point, realised that our baby dying meant she was still inside of me and that we would somehow need to get her out. I began to have another panic attack at the mere thought of having to give birth to her and begged the doctors to allow me to have a caesarean. They explained that this would not be the best option for me due to recovery time and urged me to have an induction instead. They explained that I would be given a tablet to block progesterone release into my womb and then would come back 2 days later for induction to begin. 2 days?!! How was I going to sit at home for 2 whole days pretending that nothing had happened and knowing that my beautiful baby was dead inside me. Again the panic set in. Eventually my consultant came into the room telling us that she had some news. There was protein in my urine and my blood pressure was dangerously high indicating pre eclampsia. I would need to be induced as early as possible.
Faye arrived to take Samuel home with her. He came back into the room and was oblivious to what had happened. He was treated like a celebrity and had been given juice and biscuits by the midwives. Someone had blown up a latex glove and drawn a face on it to make a puppet for him. We kept this for months afterwards until I deemed it a health hazard. I could never bring myself to throw it away and recently found it tucked into Emilie's memory box!
Sam loves Faye and was more than happy to go home with her and spend the night with her, Mark and the boys. I asked Faye if another friend could bring in my hospital bag, which I'd already packed, for me. I specifically asked for any baby clothes, dummies, bottles etc to be taken out of the bag and for one blanket to be left in. We have such wonderful friends and Sally, who brought in my bag, didn't even think twice about doing so.
Once Sam had gone home and I had stopped panicking, I asked John to call our Church leaders and let them know what had happened. Unbelievably they all came out to the hospital to spend the afternoon with us as did Carol - a lady I'd been seeing for counselling throughout the pregnancy. I don’t know what we’d have done without them as their presence was so loving and supportive. I think the panic would have continued for the whole day as we bounced off each other but I am certain that the fact we were able to talk to them meant that alot of our terrified emotions were contained on the first day prior to delivery.
My consultant popped in and out throughout the day offering amazing support. One of the biggest ways in which she supported us on that day was to remind us what a special boy Sam was. She kept reiterating how she couldn't understand what had happened but reassured me, in my panicky state, that nothing I had done would have caused it. She carried out umpteen blood tests to try and find out what had happened whether it was the same thing that had caused Samuel to be born prematurely and growth restricted. Throughout the day, various people came to talk to us about post mortem and funeral arrangements but the whole day is a blur. I remember saying over and over again to anyone who would listen that (at that time I felt) there was no point in trying to find out what had happened as I wouldn't be able to go through it again and wouldn't be having any more children. I had wanted, and still wanted this baby. I couldn't bear the thought of giving birth to her and not seeing her breathe, hearing her cry. The thought of finding out what had happened to prevent it happening to any future babies could not have been further from my mind at that moment and thank goodness that
there are guidelines and protocols that have to be followed. Thank goodness for practical people who are able to function well and keep their heads in a crisis. I just wanted the whole situation to be over with. I wanted to go to sleep and wake up when it was all over. I wanted to forget it all.
Instead we had to live through what no parent should have to endure.