Mother to Nicholas John
Born in the arms of angels 19 March 2012
Gold Coast, Australia
I can’t believe it has been 3 weeks and 3 days since it happened, it feels so much longer – certainly longer than the entire 9 month pregnancy! Three weeks and three days since we said hello and goodbye to our little man. Three weeks and three days filled with questions, guilt, “what if’s”, “why me’s?”, and tears; more tears than you could ever think possible to cry. Even though we know what happens at the end, it is important to start at the beginning:
Our journey began in August 2010 when we were thrilled to find out we were expecting a little person – a sibling for our little boy Christian. We had been trying for months and finally all our hard work paid off – we just couldn’t be happier. Unfortunately nature had other ideas. At the 10 week mark the worst nightmare for any expectant mother happened – bleeding and cramping. You want to believe the best but deep down you just know that you aren’t going to be pregnant for much longer and all those dreams you had for your little one disappear in that instant. My doctor recommended I get an ultrasound straight away and not only did this confirm what we already knew, but it showed that there was never a baby there in the first place! I had what they call a blighted ovum. I felt completely cheated and betrayed by my body – my heart and emotions were grieving but my body had given them nothing to grieve over – it is a horrible place for a would-be mother to be in! I don’t really remember much about those days but I do remember being left in a hospital room for hours by myself while waiting for a D&C and the specialist on duty trying to reassure me that I should be relieved because no baby had actually died. When he said that I made a conscious decision to tell people I had a miscarriage because even though my body didn’t lose a baby, my mind and heart did. It took me weeks to get over it, but onwards we went and finally settled back into our family routine, and still determined to give Christian that sibling we all really wanted.
That dream finally became a reality when in July 2011 we found out we were pregnant again – 5 weeks to be exact. Those double blue lines were the focus of our attention for the following 3 weeks; we had to keep looking at it to reassure ourselves it really was positive, but we were very mindful not to get our hopes up too high after our last experience. All we had to do make it to our 8 week scan and see that little heartbeat. And what a heartbeat it was! The relief we felt was so overwhelming that I cried; now I have a life inside of me to plan for, not just a fantasy. We also confirmed our due date – 27th March. Even more exciting was that two women I work with also found out they were pregnant and we were all due within 10 days of each other – someone to share the pregnancy with and swap war stories – it made the experience so much more enjoyable. Apart from the morning (all day) sickness the pregnancy was a smooth one. Being over 35 they monitored me more closely than normal and about half way through I started getting heart palpitations often which saw me meeting with a specialist on a regular basis. But other than that it was a “dream pregnancy”, or so they told me at each appointment. We found out we were having a boy at our 20 week scan (we didn’t need to be told, he flashed us a number of times!) and the debate over names immediately began. We were thrilled – a little best mate for Christian. We involved Christian in the pregnancy right from the start and he was so excited. He even went through his toys and picked out all the ones he wanted to give to Nicholas. Each night he kissed my belly goodnight and every morning said hello to him – it was so very special. At the 30 week appointment I tripped over on to my stomach right outside the hospital, while trying to navigate some road works – they monitored me for a short time but my little Jackie Chan was kicking up a storm like normal so was sent home with a clean bill of health. The next 9 weeks went by so quickly – we were busy organising things for our wedding which is coming up in June and were thinking that we must start unpacking Christian’s baby things at some point. We didn’t even buy Nicholas anything ourselves (not even a little vest) as I wanted to wait until we unpacked everything to see what we needed, a decision I now deeply regret.
The 16th March was my last day at work. I had noticed that his movements had slowed down somewhat but because my Braxton Hicks had been stronger and more painful over the previous 24 hours I thought that must have been the reason. When I got home that night I felt so nauseous and so unbelievably tired that I had to go to bed by 7pm – very unusual for me, but I just thought I had overdone it that day. The next morning I woke to very little movement again; it only felt like slight hiccups, but once again I put it down to the Braxton Hicks or probably just preparing himself for labour (I really wish I hadn’t read on the internet that babies slow down just before labour – it gives you false hope). I carried on with my day and by 2pm realised that I hadn’t felt him at all since 8 that morning. But then at 3pm a huge sigh of relief – he rolled over! But it turned out to be the very last time I would ever feel him move. By 6pm I was very concerned and bundled my fiancé and Christian into the car to go to the hospital. They put me in the delivery suite and strapped me to the Doppler machine. When I heard a heartbeat I felt so relieved, but the next instant completely deflated when I saw the midwife mouth “maternal”. She silently walked out and got the doctor who did an ultrasound straight away. The doctor then said the words I will never forget: “I am so sorry, but there is no heartbeat”. I broke down into tears; I just couldn’t believe this was happening. My poor fiancé – he was trying to keep our boy occupied and calm while at the same time trying to process the news himself. We called my mum to pick up Christian and after she left with him we just sat in the delivery room, staring at the happy baby posters on the wall and listening to the screaming woman next door giving birth, while trying to comprehend what had just happened. After a long time of waiting, another ultrasound, lots of blood tests and some people trying to talk to us, we decided to go home and spend one more night in our bed with our baby before being induced. We finally made it back there at 1am.
The next morning we had the awful task of letting our families know. We are both from very large families so the task was very torturous. We are glad we did because the support and love we received from them over the following two days was amazing and really got us through. We arrived at the hospital at midday on 18th March (unfortunately my fiancé’s birthday) and were assigned a room at the far end of the delivery ward, with two rooms beside us which were to remain empty for the entire time. We were both made as comfortable as possible and the midwives we had were absolutely amazing. Nothing was too much trouble and we were allowed as many visitors as we liked at any time day or night (not that we really wanted any). I was finally induced at 3pm that day. I honestly didn’t think it would take long so I didn’t pack anything – not even a toothbrush!! The 19th March arrived and after having very little sleep my contractions kicked in with a vengeance and was immediately given an epidural. The midwife that was assigned to us that day was such a beautiful soul. She stayed with us the entire time and made sure we were keeping sane – even in such an awful time boredom does set in when you are bedridden looking at the same four walls and not having the ability to even focus on a TV or magazine. The whole day really felt like we were waiting for the executioner as we knew how the day was going to end- you just wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy. Because of the epidural I couldn’t tell how strongly my labour was progressing but I do remember being fully dilated at 2pm after only being 2cm at 10am. They didn’t get me to start pushing though until 4pm. When it was time to start the midwife turned down the lights and closed the door and the room suddenly became very calm and peaceful – no one made a sound during the next 45 minutes. Even though it was so heartbreaking to think that we will not get to hear any cries when he arrived, I felt incredibly blessed and honoured to be able to give birth to my baby boy – it really was beautiful.
He finally arrived into the world at 4.49pm weighing 7lb 4oz and 52cm long. We got to hold him straight away and I just drank in every bit of him, from head to toe; he was perfect in every way, except he wasn’t breathing. I watched his chest for the longest time willing for it to start moving, to start rising and falling, but it never did. He looked so much like his father and had the biggest hands and feet I had ever seen on a baby. He was also very fragile, that just moving him slightly made you think you were going to break him. It was the most emotional and peaceful time of my life – even the midwife cried with us. After about an hour he was taken away to be cleaned, dressed and measured and then he was brought back. My mum and sister came up to meet Nicholas, they brought their camera and took a lot of pictures, which I am so glad they did because I look at them a thousand times a day. We wanted to spend more alone time with him so they left but unfortunately all the doctors and specialists started coming in so was a little impossible to do. The pediatrician came in to examine him externally right next to me. Although I knew he had to do it, it was a very upsetting experience and I couldn’t bear to watch it. Unfortunately his little body had been manipulated that much that he was starting to not look so good and I was completely petrified that my lasting memories of my little angel would be of him like that, so after saying our long, teary goodbyes we asked the midwife to take him away. It was devastating watching him being wheeled away knowing that we would never see him again. Leaving the hospital that night was the hardest thing I have ever had to do; to leave without your baby you have just given birth to is something that no parent should have to go through – EVER! We had made the decision to keep Christian away from the hospital, but it is a decision that I now question because he keeps asking where his little brother is as, even though we have tried to explain it to him, he doesn’t fully understand what has happened.
The shock of what had just happened rendered us completely useless and was in no state to organise a funeral in those early days. We finally got our act together and said goodbye to Nicholas again in a most beautiful service on 30th March. All of our families came and some had even travelled to be there. My dad and brother who live in New Zealand were also skyped in. It showed the level of love there was for Nicholas even though they never got to meet him. Our wonderful celebrant was amazing – she gave Nicholas a voice and made every part of that service about him. She is now marrying us in June and we couldn’t think of a more fitting, perfect person to do it – it is like she will be Nicholas’ representative. We didn’t have his little coffin at the front of the chapel as I didn’t think I could bear it, but after the funeral was over my fiancé and I went to say our private goodbyes to him. Seeing that tiny white coffin with his name inscribed on the top broke my heart even more, just when you think there is nothing left of it to break.
Our journey isn’t over yet. We opted to get an autopsy done to try and find out what happened and we are still waiting for the results. We know that we could come away from all of this with no answers to any of our questions, but we hope that it will relieve some of the guilt that we have, or erase a lot of the “What ifs” that currently crowd my head. I try and take comfort in the fact that he passed away in the warmest and safest place a baby could possibly be: surrounded and held completely by his mum and love. As we chose to get him cremated we are still waiting to lay his ashes which we hope to do this coming Saturday. I choose not to look at this as yet another goodbye, but rather as a “welcome home my baby” – somewhere where he can finally be at peace. He may not get to have his own bedroom or his own bike but he will have his own piece of paradise in the children’s garden which is full of colour and light. I am having a small part of his ashes placed inside a locket and inside a teddy bear. Our wedding rings will be tied to this bear and he will be carried by Christian up the aisle, that way we get to have both of our boys by our side when we get married – the way it was meant to be.
To make things even harder – those two women at work are now having their babies. One had a healthy baby girl last week and the other is now overdue. Everyone is waiting on the news of this new baby with such excitement but I am waiting for it like an executioners axe. I want to be happy for them, I really do, but I just can’t be right now. In fact the thought of it makes me really nervous and filled with dread, because I know in the coming weeks, months and years I will be looking at their children knowing that my boy should be with them playing, laughing, running, living. And while they get to feed, cuddle, show off their babies and complain over how tired they are, I just get to look at pictures of mine and touch the locket that holds a part of him. I do get to tell everyone I have two beautiful boys but then I get to watch their faces drop when they realise one is an angel. That is our next, new heartbreak. Life really is not fair.
Through all the sadness, tears and devastation I feel proud, blessed and privileged to have known my little baby boy – he was such a special boy…and always will be. He has taught us so much already and he will remain a huge part of our lives for the rest of our lives. I am comforted by the thought that he is up there surrounded by other angel babies and knowing he will be happy and looked after until I see him again.
Rest easy my angel boy xxx
Karen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org