Sunday, 2 March 2014

Our Girl

When Emilie was born, I waited for the cry that would tell me that the whole scenario had been a mistake.  For the shout from our midwife, Amanda for a doctor to come and see to her as she was showing signs of life.  Instead, there was silence and I felt consumed by a blur of dizzy shock.  I had given birth and I had nothing to lesson the pain.  There was no one to root for a feed and no cries of joy at the sight of our new baby.  There were no giggles  as said baby wriggled to get free of the confines of towels, scales and midwives grips.  However, Amanda still looked after her like she was the most precious thing in the world and cleaned her up with the care she would any baby.  She then handed her to me but I could barely look at her.  I gave her to John whilst I cleaned myself up and sent a text message out to people to let them know she'd been born.  The message read "our beautiful baby girl Emilie-Rose Grace was born asleep this morning at 32 weeks due to pre-eclampsia/hypertension.  We are utterly heart broken but know that she is no longer in any pain and we will meet her one day which we will look forward to for the rest of our lives".  I longed to know what it was like to send a text message out to say that 'mum and baby are doing well'.  I longed to know what it must be like to hold my life baby when they had been born instead of having gem whisked away to special care or having already died.  

After I had cleaned myself up, Amanda handed me a prem nappy explaining that meconium would still be secreted.  I put the nappy on Emilie and remember observing how unreal the situation was - how I felt like I was putting a nappy on a doll.  I remember wrapping her in a blanket before putting her in the cot that was in the room with us.  She looked like she was asleep.  A this time her body was still warm and soft and if it hadn't been for the tell tale stillness of her chest I would have been convinced that she was alive.  I kept waiting for her to cry.  Amanda asked for some clothes to be sent up from special care that would fit Emilie.  They were the same size as the clothes that Sam had worn when he was first born.  She laid them out on the bed next to me and asked me what I would like her to be dressed in.  I looked at the clothes , wondering at how surreal everything was.  I wondered at the juxtaposition between choosing your baby's first outfit and choosing the outfit that my little girl would wear for her burial or cremation.  Most of the clothes were neutral - safe.  I desperately wanted to dress her in something beautiful; to put on the tiny tights that I had bought for her and to  dress her in shades of pink and flowers.  I wanted to put her in the tiny snow suit we had for her, to wrap her in the blanket I had made and put her in the car seat ready to go home.  I looked at the tiny outfits that lay on the bed in front of me and chose out a pink and white striped baby grow.  Amanda gently carried Emilie away, took hand and footprints for us to keep, weighed her (2lb 12oz - 1oz less than her big brother) and gently dressed her.  She put a tiny white knitted hat on her and brought her back to us.  She laid her in the cot next to my bed and we sat and looked at her.  

Again, the day blurs in to one for me.  John picked Emilie up and cuddled her and we both marvelled at how beautiful she was.  Photographs were taken as a memento; photos of John holding her, photos of me holding her and photos of us both holding her.  My face and neck were still puffy from the pre eclampsia.  My hair was undone and I had no make up on.  I didn't want my photo taken - and what face was I meant to pull?  What emotions was I meant to show as I cradled my stillborn daughter - someone I would never get a chance to know.

The void and silence after Emilie's birth was lessened through our church leaders -Jenny and Dave - and my counsellor, Carol, coming back in to spend the day with us.  They all held her and spoke about how beautiful she was.  I willed her to move, to breathe and to break the silence with a scream but she just lay peacefully.  She was passed around from person to person and showered with love as she would have been in life.  Dave and Jenny  - always great in a crisis - acted as outlets for our emotions.  They listened while we cried, listened to our anger, reassured me that it wasn't my fault and helped us begin to think about the practicalities that needed to follow.  We needed to begin to think about funeral arrangements; we needed to decide whether we would opt for a post mortem or not and we needed to decide on cremation or burial.  The words were thick and heavy in my mind.  Why was I sat discussing whether my daughter was going to be cremated or buried?  Surely that wasn't how things were meant to happen.  I didn't want to think about it but we were encouraged that these things were better decided on early before the rawness of emotion could take hold.  We decided to opt for cremation.  To say it like that it sounds flippant - a 50/50 chance of opting for each - choose one.  We talked about it and I expressed my fears over both.  I was terrified that cremation would mean that she wouldn't have a heavenly body.  It was a fear I had kept with me since childhood and now it was gripping me with full force.  But I was equally terrified of lowering her tiny body in to the ground.  Of knowing that it would be there as the years went on, cold and decaying.  I needed reassurance that the body I cradled wasn't Emilie.  That she was in heaven - happy and well in her glorified body and this body, beautiful as it was, was just her earthly body.  

Our visitors stayed with us for the majority of the afternoon before leaving to give us some time with Emilie.  As they left I found a tiny sink gown on the end of her cot that had been left for her.  It was beautiful - white and embroidered.  It was the princess dress that I had wanted to dress her in and I put it on her over her baby grow so that she wouldn't get cold.  She looked beautiful and I realised that she looked like she was dressed up for her Christening - in a special gown ready to be welcomed into God's family.

As the afternoon went on I developed an excruciatingly painful headache which required pain relief.  I had also broken out in hives as a reaction to the morphine and needed antihistamines.  I was given some medication to help prevent production of breast milk and the reality of what had happened was starting to sink in.  I felt truly awfully emotionally and physically.  I desperately wanted to go home and be with Samuel but needed to wait for my blood pressure to stabilise.  I was advised to try and have a sleep and to see how I was afterwards.  I have lost huge chunks of the day.  There is part of me that feels like it was the longest day of my life and another part of me that feels like it went by in a flash.  I would give anything to have that time back - to be able to hold her tiny body again before the cold had set in.  I long to be able to feel her weight in my arms, to stroke her fingers and toes and to tell her how much I love her.  I can't wait until the time that I can meet her and cradle her in my arms knowing that I have all eternity to get to know her.

Eventually, although still high, my blood pressure had settled enough for me to be able to go home.  I would once again have to leave my new baby at the hospital but this time there would be no coming back to feed her and dress her.  There was nothing to look forward to.  We were told that we could come back in to see her as much as we wanted to.  She would be kept in a cold cot to maintain her body temperature and slow the decay process.  I thought, with some horror, about the stark contrast between this and Sam's incubator which he was placed in to keep him warm.  We needed to come back in the following morning to register Emilie's birth and death so we planned to see her again then.  
I collected up my belongings and Emilie's memory box, said goodbye to my little girl and walked out of the door with John's support.  The noise from the corridor hit me full pelt and I felt like every eye was on me as I clutched my precious box that held Emilie's meagre belongings.  I needed to be virtually carried through the hospital by John and Amanda and they supported me as we took the 'back route' through the hospital to the car park so that we didn't have to walk past pregnant women, babies and wondering onlookers on the way out.  We reached the car and I knew that this was final - I was leaving my baby behind.  I didn't want to think about where she would go.  I remember asking Amanda if she would look after her for me and her reassuring me that she would.  We got into the car and began the 4 mile journey home to Sam; the longest journey of my life.

From this moment on we began to see our friends rally around us.  We were assured by Faye that we didn't need to worry about childcare - that Sam would be looked after.  He was due to be in playgroup the following morning and Faye arranged to pick him up, take him on for us and let playgroup know what had happened so that we didn't need to be faced with the questions as I stood in public with my post birth body.  A good friend had arranged to do us a meal plan and she emailed it through to us later that evening.  We decided to get a take away that night in the hope that I would be able to stomach some comfort food; I hadn't eaten anything since the previous morning.  When Julie emailed the meal plan through we realised that people had offered to cook for us for five weeks so that we didn't have to think about what to do.  In my 'in state' shock I don't think I realised what a blessing that would be but as the days and weeks went on I was, and will always continue to be, incredibly grateful for the meals; for  the pressure that was taken away for us.  Some days I was just about able to get up and get dressed in the mornings.  To have a healthy, nutritious and tasty meal brought round for us every night for five weeks was amazing.  I still don't know how well I'd have coped without being so well looked after.

On returning home, John and I took Emilie's memory box upstairs and placed it in her cot.  Her room was still made up for her; her cot ready made, the curtains hung, the walls decorated, nappies hanging in the holder at the side of her cot, changing mat out, wardrobe filled with clothes and the blanket I'd made hanging on the end of her cot ready to be used.  Walking in there was an incredibly painful experience and I keeled over at the door.  We should be bringing our little girl home to put into her cot - not placing a memory box of her things in her cot in her place.  I couldn't believe that we were having to go through her death.

When Sam arrived home we sat him down and showed him some pictures of Emilie.  How do you explain to a 2 1/2 year old,who has no concept of death or loss, that his baby sister won't be coming home?  We showed him some of the photos we had taken of Emilie and explained that she was his baby sister.  We also told him that she had been very poorly and that she had died 'in mummy's tummy' meaning that she wouldn't be coming home.  We then left it there for him to process and ask any questions as and when he felt ready.  We didn't want to bombard him with information.  Sam was elated from the time he had spent with Faye and her family and, at that time, wasn't able to take in much of the information we had given him.  We were hoping that, having seen the photos, he would begin  to ask questions over the next few days so that we could talk to him about what had happened.

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