Mother of Sam Polley

October 23rd, 2010 – October 24th, 2010

Cape Town, South Africa

Saturday the 23rd October 2010 started as any other day. I set off to my much awaited baby shower that morning and friends marvelled as they felt both babies moving around. I left the baby shower and went home to collect the cribs to take back to my parents house. I had a rest and when I got up late afternoon, I felt very restless and uncomfortable. I lay on the couch for a bit, feeling frustrated, tired and like I had had enough! I decided to have a bath. As I got out of the bath, I had a really strong contraction which caused my whole stomach to tense. So much so that I couldn’t bend down and pick stuff up off the floor. 

As I sat down on the loo, I felt large amount of liquid rush out into the toilet bowl. It was full of blood and clots. I started screaming for my husband who came running along with my mom. I was panicking and crying, feeling instinctively like something was wrong. My husband, Peter, phoned the obstetrician rooms and while he spoke to her I changed. He told her that he thought my waters had broken but I kept saying I thought there was something wrong. There was too much blood for it to just have been my waters breaking. We quickly packed a bag and drove to the hospital. I felt panicked and it seemed to take forever to get there. We seemed to be stopped at every robot.

Peter was calm but anxious and when we arrived at the hospital we walked up to the maternity ward. On arrival, I burst into tears again and Peter explained to the midwife that I was bleeding. They took me through to the examination room and hooked me up to the foetal heart monitors. It took time to find one of the babies heartbeats and then they began looking for the other. We weren’t terribly worried as in the past when I had been checked, they had battled to find both heartbeats at the same time. Every now and then they would think they had found it, but it would turn out to be my own pulse rate. I could see the sister was getting worried and she went to phone the obstetrician who was on her way. While she was gone, Peter continued to look for the heartbeat and even thought he had found it.

The sister came back and they started prepping me for surgery. Everything was happening at once. People were phoning for anaesthetists, paediatricians, etc, they were prepping me, giving me loads of forms to sign and there was general chaos. I was in a complete state as I was very, very worried about one of the babies. The obstetrician arrived and looked worried. She explained to me that they were rushing me down to surgery. I begged her to tell me that everything would be okay and that both my babies would be fine. She looked stressed and promised to do her best. They wheeled me down to theatre and told me they were going to give me a general. There was no time for pre-meds and the anaesthetist sounded panicky. They started catheterising me and putting a tube down my throat. I felt completely helpless and utterly terrified. I was relieved that they were going to give me a general as I didn’t feel able to handle the situation anymore. I felt at that point that I just wanted to escape it all and like, if I had a gun, I could have shot myself.

When I woke up, I was very, very drowsy. My obstetrician was by my side and the first thing I asked was about the babies. She told me that one was fine and that they were fighting to save the other. Her and Peter explained to me that they had resuscitated him at birth and that he was fighting for his life. She said I should give him a warriors name as he was a fighter. They wheeled me back to the ward and I struggled to remain conscious. I was in a huge amount of pain and was freezing cold to the point that my teeth were chattering. I was also terribly thirsty. I kept asking Peter how the baby was and he told me he was very worried. I tried to force myself to stay awake but I kept drifting off. At some point Peter told me he didn’t think the baby was going to make it and that we needed to name him and I needed to see him. I kept pleading with him to make sure they were doing everything they could and willing everything to be okay.

They wheeled me through into the nursery where my baby lay, connected to lots of tubes and monitors. He was lying flat on his back with his legs and arms straight out. He was bleeding from all the places where they had inserted needles and were giving him another blood transfusion. I stroked him and begged and pleaded with him to pull through. I thought that if I willed it enough and he felt my love, he may survive. The paediatrician looked very grave and I asked him what his chances were. He said that if he didn’t improve after the transfusion, that there was nothing else they could do and that he would most likely die. I asked him to do anything he could, even to operate, but he said there was nothing they could do. I was frustrated as I couldn’t sit up and see the baby properly. I felt completely helpless.

At some point my parents and Peter’s dad were there. Everyone was devastated. I went to sleep again but made Peter promise that if anything changed, he would wake me up. I didn’t get any rest I was bleeding a lot and the nurses kept coming to check on me and change dressings. The pain was also very severe.

Early in the morning Peter was very pessimistic. He kept telling me the baby wasn’t going to make it and I didn’t want to believe him. My parents arrived back and came through to my room. Peter was with the baby and my dad went to check on him. He came into the room looking shell shocked. I asked if the baby had died, and my dad said “No, but he is going to”. I knew then that he wouldn’t make it. Peter came back into the room a short while later and told me the baby had died. (I learnt later that they had tried to resuscitate him again and Peter had told them to stop). Peter had held him as he died and then they wheeled him through in a bassinet for me to see. Everyone was crying but I felt completely numb and disassociated from the situation. I held him and his head was warm and soft against my cheek. He looked like a perfect sleeping baby. My parents and Peter all had a chance to hold him and they were all crying. I felt removed from it all and was even comforting them. We named the baby Sam and they took him away. My dad arranged for an undertaker to come and fetch his body. All the nurses kept apologising for my loss.

Later that afternoon my children came to visit. I felt completely drugged and was still battling to stay awake but I forced myself to act normal in front of them. That night I couldn’t sleep and the nurse gave me a sleeping pill. The next morning the obstetrician came to see me and as the drugs, were wearing off, the situation became more real to me. They transferred me to a private room and then reality started to hit me. I felt devastated that I hadn’t spent longer with Sam and wanted to see him again. I was talked out of doing so as everyone said it would be worse for me to see him at the funeral home. I had to keep going as up to this point I had completely ignored the other baby. I started trying to express and went into the nursery to see him. I had to look at the spot where Sam had lain all night fighting for his life. From then on whenever I went into the nursery, it would hit me like a ton of bricks. There were 2 sets of twins in the nursery who I was confronted with every day. I couldn’t sleep at night and was given sleeping pills. I started to bond with Finn but felt absolutely heartbroken for losing Sam.

I spent a lot of time in my room crying and didn’t see any visitors. I didn’t have any appetite and didn’t eat much at all. I didn’t want to come home as I didn’t want to face the bathroom where I had lost all Sam’s blood. I discharged five days later but had to go back to the hospital two or three times a day. Each time I would have to walk back into the nursery where Sam had died, be confronted with the nurses and parents of the other babies and twins. On one occasion just after I had discharged a nurse came rushing up to me and relentlessly started questioning me about Sam and his funeral. I felt completely bombarded; like I had no place to run and hide. I had to answer lots of questions to the other parents and everything was a constant, painful reminder. One of the things I found most painful was the parents of the twins who were clearly so excited. I found this incredibly hard to listen to. I started having physical symptoms – I would get a pain in my chest and feel tingly in my face, like all the blood was rushing out. I also felt very very tired. The only comfort I got was from chatting to Peter about what had happened and holding Finn. I felt like I was living in a trance and was very tearful all of the time. My whole day was made up of hospital visits and when I was away from the hospital and Finn, I felt utterly heart sore and also anxious that Finn was okay. Finn coming home was bitter sweet. I constantly thought that there should have been 2 babies in the car, in the crib, in the bath and in our arms. I felt completely cheated – cheated out of my pregnancy and my baby.

A poem I wrote for my precious baby boy, Sam, who will always be alive in my heart:


Go softly my darling into the morrow

Caress my cheek and wipe away my sorrow


Go with song in your heart as I’ll love you forever

I’ll hold you close and forget you never


Go with love my boy, for the gift I gained

Was that to know true joy, you must know pain


Go peacefully Sam into the light

Send me a sign from the heavens that you are alright


Go gently my angel into the night

And whisper my name as you take flight

 You can contact Kate at kate@bigpicture.co.za

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  1. ReShonda Parker says:

    I almost didn’t read your story because I knew my own heart strings would be torn. My story is different from yours yet so much like yours. Losing a child is something that could never ever be described in a way where anyone would understand it. I lost my first son in 2001 from “SIDS”. In my heart I know there was something else wrong and the pediatrician at that time confirmed it with what he didn’t want to tell me. I know your pain and as I read your experience, I hurt for you and me. I lost another baby on 2009. A doctor caused that loss. Now I have another four month old baby and he is and has been a blessing. After losing my first son, I had another too. No baby can ever take the place of another, bit those babies have helped to heal my broken heart. I still cry for the baby I got to know and lost and for the one I never knew. I know you have a hard time looking at your baby without remembering the one you lost but please pray about it. Your angel is safe, I know that doesn’t lessen the hurt ( trust me I know), but look at the precious face with you and know he is a blessing and try to give him all the love you can give times two. Your other son will be both of your Guardian angel as mine are to me now. May God bless you and give you peace.

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