Raewyn - Baby Loss Awareness Special - Stillbirth
We found out we were expecting Isla in March 2014.
We were overjoyed. We were innocent parents-to-be. Sweetly planning, reading and absorbing everything we could to prepare for our beloved baby. We did not know to look for severe pre-eclampsia or HELLP, to prepare for stillbirth, or for the fight for my life.
The pregnancy was relatively uneventful. We did not know her gender, but we knew her through and through. She hated fish and garlic, and loved the shower and quiet time at the end of the day when she would wriggle and bounce around. She loved her daddy so much. Every time he would come home from work, she wouldn't stop kicking at the sound of his voice. I cannot say I felt well at all, but I was a first time mum, I read all I could; they said fatigue was normal, I was fatigued. My fabulous midwife was not alarmed. I was not alarmed. Sure I had my great days, my bad days and everything in between. My blood pressure was normal, numbers were perfect, all in all sweet baby and I were well.
Thursday 28th August, I had a scheduled appointment with my midwife, feeling fine, I was excited to finish work early and off I went. The pee stick showed traces of protein in my urine and my blood pressure was slightly up compared with normal. We discussed early symptoms of pre-eclampsia and if it was confirmed, baby would likely be arriving on the earlier side of our due date. I felt fine, everything seemed relatively under control, but to be sure I was sent to do blood tests and check in on baby with a growth scan.
On the following Monday we got to see our healthy baby moving about, all looked well. We went up to the hospital afterwards to meet the midwife and check things over further with the obstetrician.
It was confirmed. I had developed pre-eclampsia.
I was admitted that afternoon, for routine monitoring and medication to keep my blood pressure under control until baby was ready to arrive. We thought we were in for a long few weeks of resting until we finally got to meet our little baby.
Tuesday morning: routine checks were done, blood pressure was under control, more medication given and baby’s heart beat was strong. I was kept company by a lovely friend over lunch then treated myself to a little nap. I woke with my vision completely blurred and odd tightening cramps in my tummy. I buzzed the midwives who came…
I lay helpless on my bed, midwives running in and out of the room, desperately trying to get a hold of Paul and determined to find baby’s heartbeat. Things weren’t looking great and I was transferred to the delivery suite for further assessment. Paul and our dear midwife arrived, along with an ultrasound technician, who put the wand to my belly.
The room fell quiet.
Every last bit of hope was crushed as she announced that our baby had died.
Our world had literally been ripped away.everything.shattered.
I looked at Paul, our eyes filled with horror, stricken with fear and pain.
They hooked me up to numerous monitors and began running further tests. My pre-eclampsia was very severe and progressed extremely quickly, resulting in a placental abruption. More blood work came back and I had now also developed HELLP syndrome, a secondary cause of pre-eclampsia.
I was told my platelets were dangerously low and my blood pressure climbing. We need to deliver this baby and save your life.
This was the first time we heard this expression, it was around 6pm on Tuesday 2nd September 2014, and the fight for my life would continue for the next 9 days.
I did scream. I did cry. I asked a lot of questions. Why? How? What is happening? Why couldn't we get the baby out in time? We didn't we know the baby was in distress? How could this happen? The baby was fine this morning!
I received no answers. I received pity. I received pained faces that walked into the room.
As the night carried on, the midwives, obstetricians and specialists came and went. I was in horrific, screaming and stabbing pain from the bleeding in my abdomen. They remained fixed on “delivering this baby vaginally”. They remained fixed on the fact that it is best. I was not allowed to have any pain medication because of my platelet count being so low. I had to endure the pain of delivery, induction, and my abdomen filling with blood, on gas tanks alone.
I was so thirsty. I hadn’t drunk anything since lunchtime. I begged for water. I begged like a dog. Finally allowed the smallest of sips.
My poor husband was reeling. He was stunned as we all were. He took every opportunity to take my hand, and tell me we would survive. That together we could do this. That we needed to fight. We call for backup. My sister, who had a complicated delivery due to pre-eclampsia. We then had my sister, Paul’s sister, our midwife, and parents battling for my life along side us.
I remember snippets of the night. Being told to rest, and then being poked, prodded and touched every few minutes.
Can you sleep while someone checks your cervix? Me neither.
As if sleep is possible when you are holding your baby in your belly, knowing these are the last. When you try to shift in bed, and you feel the baby’s body slump inside you, lifeless. Sickening. I am bitter, enraged, in agony.
The morning came around and the pain was increasing. I demanded to know how much longer I had to endure this horrific nightmare for. I was seen by yet another obstetrician. 9cms. That was all I needed, for the first time I thought that there might actually be an end to the most traumatic night of my life.
Paul and I got to meet our sweet darling Isla at 7.48am on Wednesday 3rd September 2014.
It truly was the most incredible moment of my life.
I felt like somehow I already knew her face. I knew she was Isla. Paul and family held her, loved her when I could not. They transferred me to ICU where I was kept for the next 8 days, with Paul and family and friends by my side.
Isla had dark, almost black hair, like mama. My face shape, nose and my little chin. She had giant feet like her daddy, and long fingers and toes. She was born 3 pounds 1 ounce and 44cm’s long. She was perfection.
After being stabilized in ICU, Paul brought her to me, in a little white and pink dress and bright pink cloth nappy that he’d dressed her in. He helped me to hold her. I could barely stand to touch her. She was ice cold. I could feel the cold radiating off her through the blanket. If my thoughts lingered on it, I felt blind rage building inside me. To rip out every tube, scream, sob and tear the room apart. But this was our time with her on this earth and I couldn’t let that happen. So there we sat, and in that moment all I could think about was our little family.
As the weeks, months and years have passed I am still caught short of breath at times, holding back uncontrollable tears, and smiling when I see signs of her. Connecting with other loss parents and loss communities has been an incredibly powerful tool in finding ways to embrace these waves of grief, talking through rough experiences and acknowledging the pain of living without a piece of you. Although a club you so desperately wish you never belonged to, it's a club I am forever grateful for.
We were also so blessed with such supportive family and friends, who still speak her name, tell stories of her and celebrate her. People who allow us to feel what we need and cry with us, laugh with us and remember with us. If anyone ever needs an ear to listen or a tear to share I will always have space to offer.
We have endured the unimaginable and yet we are still able to walk.
Why? Because love is stronger than death and no one could ever take our love away from us. We have been deeply wounded, scarred and moved beyond words. We are irrevocably changed, our hearts cracked wide open.
We are weak and brave and angry and compassionate and fearful and fearless, sometimes all in the same day. We still stand and we still walk, because we choose to honour our daughter. We live our lives to make her proud, to give Isla a legacy of great love. We are proud to speak our daughters name, proud to share her life, for inside our hearts burns the brightest fire - her precious memory.
Raewyn and Paul have since welcomed their two precious rainbow babies Mischa and Beauden xx