You never think it will happen to you until it does….Working in the NHS and previously for CQC I have seen some tragic stories and witnessed some harrowing experiences of abuse which will stay with me for the rest of my life. However, losing my child at 40 weeks puts me into a club that no one ever wants to be a part of.
My partner Reece and I decided to try for a baby following lockdown, we presumed it would take us a while to conceive. I was wrong, just 4 weeks later I took a pregnancy test following a missed period and the second blue line appeared. We were absolutely thrilled. Aside from suffering from dreadful morning sickness and nausea from weeks 6 – 14 I sailed through my pregnancy with no complications. Despite a urine infection and a slightly low iron count I encountered no problems and was considered low risk. My friends threw me a beautiful baby shower, we moved home into a bigger place to accommodate our new arrival and the 4d scans we had of Ollie were beautiful. But I had an extremely anxious pregnancy, I attended hospital numerous times for reduced movement and was utterly convinced something was going to go wrong. However, when we reached week 40, the home stretch I started to relax a little. I started having Braxton hicks contractions and my body appeared to be gearing up for labour, it was decided by myself and my community midwife to have a stretch and sweep at home at 40 weeks + 3 days. Everything went mostly to plan however Ollie had changed position and was now facing the wrong way, I was assured this was normal but slightly unusual. The midwife listened to his heat beat on the Doppler and everything appeared to be normal. This is when things went drastically wrong…
Around 1 hour after the sweep I was sitting at my dressing table getting ready for the day when I felt what could only be described as a popping sensation. In my naivety I thought my waters had broken, I rushed to the bathroom expecting to see this however what I actually found was a huge amount of blood. It was clear I was having a haemorrhage. I called the Labour Ward at Calderdale Royal Hospital and they advised I came into hospital immediately; I was unfortunately home alone and in a complete panic so unable to drive. Luckily my friend Hannah lived around the corner and was at my house within minutes. I made it to the hospital in around 20 minutes and by this time the bleeding had subsided a little, my partner Reece was on his way from a funeral which was an hour away, so I waited in the assessment room alone due to Covid restrictions Hannah was unable to sit with me. Despite heavy bleeding I was kept waiting for over an hour and was ignored by midwives on the unit when I repeatedly told them something was wrong. Eventually Reece arrived and a receptionist on the unit took pity on me and forced her way into the Maternity Assessment ward demanding I be seen immediately. However, I knew it was too late, I hadn’t felt Ollie move for around 1 hour and knew he had gone.
The Midwife finally attached the straps and started the Doppler, nothing happened. She told me ‘his shoulder is probably just in the way’ and moved me into several different positions but we still heard nothing. However, we had a small glimmer of hope when she told us ‘I think I can hear something, I’m going to get the doctor just to be sure’ and left. Reece took this as reassurance that Ollie was okay and was very optimistic about the outcome. As his mother I knew this was wrong and that his heart had stopped. The doctor attended and repeated the same exercise, he told us ‘I’m sorry, I’m not detecting a heartbeat’. What followed is a blur, I didn’t say a word I just laid there. I was later told I was in shock and I didn’t feel a single thing, I didn’t cry, I didn’t react, I just laid there. The world seemed to stop, and I felt like I was watching myself on a TV screen, that this could not be happening to us. I remember looking at the Midwifes face who was as shocked as we were. He was 4 days overdue.
At some point I was helped into the scan room by Reece and the doctor, the sonographer confirmed that Ollie had died due to a placenta abruption. he identified a large blood clot behind my placenta and told me that my life was in danger as I was at high risk of a haemorrhage. At this point I accepted that the outcome was inevitable, I was going to die with my child and I made my peace with that. In my confused state I asked the Doctor when Reece left the room if there was any way Ollie could be saved and I could die in his place, but this wasn’t possible.
I was moved to the bereavement suite which I never even knew existed on the labour ward, I called my parents and told them he had gone and messaged my friends to tell them the same. I asked my close group of 4 friends to contact everyone to inform them of the news, I was still getting messages from people who were completely unaware of what had happened asking if he had arrived. To this day I feel immense guilt at how I broke the news to my friends who I consider to be family and the burden I imposed on them to relay that terrible news.
I had a very long labour; I was given a morphine injection to help with the contractions and then administered an epidural and anti-sickness injection to stop the vomiting which had suddenly began. I was attached to a glucose drip and oxytocin to induce my labour, I remained here for 13 hours until I started to push. Due to Ollie’s position and the epidural after pushing for around 2 hours not much was happening. The Registrar attended and the decision was made to use forceps and do an epiostomy. After a further 2 hours Ollie was delivered at 06.40am, he was taken next door where he was cared for by the midwives and washed and dressed. I haemorrhaged post labour and was administered further oxytocin to contract my womb after delivery of the placenta. The doctor took my mum and Reece into a room, with my consent and explained he believed the cause of death to be placenta abruption and had identified the blood clot behind the placenta. I had absolutely no idea that this had happened and felt completely normal prior to the sweep. We took some comfort from the fact that it would have been instant, and Ollie would not have known much about what was happening, I also took comfort from the fact that he died with me listening to my heartbeat, so he knew his mummy was with him. We opted for a post-mortem to find out the exact cause of death, however 4 months later and we are still awaiting these results…and the results of the investigation from the trust.
Following his birth, the midwives kept asking if we wanted to see him, but at this point we declined, I know what my son looked like and what he felt like. There is absolutely no right or wrong way to deal with a loss such as this, and this felt right for Reece and I at the time. I couldn’t understand why I had survived, and he hadn’t. Had the option have been available to me I would have happily died in his place. It seemed unfair that I was spared.
I was discharged a day later thankfully with no follow up, I had lost a lot of blood, but my iron count returned to normal quickly. The paperwork I had to complete before leaving was torturous, instead of signing a birth certificate I was signing a death certificate. Leaving the hospital walking through the labour ward without a baby was honestly the most harrowing and painful experience I have ever encountered and something which no parent should ever have to go through.
The hours and days that followed were the darkest of my life, I am not ashamed to admit that I contemplated numerous times taking my own life to be with Ollie. But somehow, I made it through by taking things hour by hour. For a long time, I was unable to be left alone and friends and family took it in turns to sit with me drinking cups of tea while I stared into space, I was flooded with hormones and had periods of time where I physically could not stop crying. I made noises similar to animals because the pain was so great that I couldn’t find another way to express it. I stayed up most nights until 3am watching mindless television because I developed a fear of the dark, I was prescribed Diazepam to control my severe anxiety and panic attacks that developed in the days after his death. But I’m still here, I survived. I could not have asked for a better partner, Reece has been the most incredible support and has kept me going through my darkest hours when I wasn’t sure if I could continue. He is the best dad to my son that I could ever ask for.
What I believe some people struggle to understand it that we are not just grieving for the loss of a child, we are grieving for the loss of a life we thought we would have. First birthdays, first days at school, bath times, swimming lessons, first words, parties, life. Almost 5 months later I am in therapy for PTSD and try to dedicate my time to raising awareness about baby loss and tell Ollie’s story. I am determined that if something should happen to me, his story and his voice will have been heard.
Despite everything Ollie has changed my life for the better, he taught me how to be a better person and he made me a mother. I am more empathetic, more forgiving, more understanding, more compassionate but I am also less tolerant of nonsense, more ruthless about who I allow into my life and my relationships and more confident to speak up when I think something is wrong. Ollie may have died but he has taught me how to live, which is the most precious gift of all. Reece and I are still parents, and we always will be.
In memory of our Angel x