10th May 2014
Several sweeps later I was 10 days over my due-date and no sign of baby coming. On Saturday I went in for a routine post-date scan, 11 days over, and was told that everything was looking normal, baby was happy, fluid levels were good and was sent home to return either in labour or for induction in 3 days time (as per hospital policy).
11th May 11.30pm
We went to bed on Sunday night, having sent my mum home thinking we wouldn’t need her back until I was to be induced, and about 2 hours later my waters broke – in flood like fashion. Having never had my waters go before labour started I called the hospital and they told me to come in as soon as possible. I had hoped I’d be able to labour at home as I had the last time and was feeling a bit disappointed that I might have to spend it all at the hospital. We arrived into the hospital maybe an hour later and were set up for a trace – the midwife wasn’t managing to pick up a heartbeat and she got the scanning machine and although she wasn’t saying much when she went to fetch another midwife I began to worry. When 2 midwives were unsuccessful I realised something was terribly wrong. It was the middle of the night and we had to wait for a registrar to come out of an emergency section before we could find anything else out. Those 20 minutes wait were perhaps the longest of my life. My husband kept reassuring me but I knew deep down that this wasn’t normal and was preparing myself for the worst. When the midwives returned and asked us to come to a private room, that’s when I knew we’d lost our baby.
12th May 3.30am
The Dr scanned me and then we heard those words that no expectant parents ever want to hear, ‘I’m very sorry there’s no heartbeat’. It’s impossible to describe how I felt in that moment. I remember my husband, Ross, asking lots of questions and I don’t think I spoke for quite some time. The hours that followed are somewhat of a blur because in the dead of night none of it feels real. There were tears, questions, kind reassurances from the night staff and mostly just being held by my husband. We had to wait until after 8.00am to have an official scan in the fetal medicine unit, to confirm what we already knew. At this point I was having contractions maybe every 20 minutes, in that moment you don’t really believe that the baby you’ve carried for nearly 10 months, felt kick and move and squirm is actually dead and then you are faced with the realisation that you still have labour to go through.
After a sleepless night we were brought down to the fetal medicine unit for another scan. I remember staring at the screen willing it to not be true, for it to all have been a huge mistake. The sonographer was a gentle and kind woman, who fought back tears as she told us, again, that our baby’s heart had stopped beating and we returned to our room to see the midwife.
I was part of the community midwives scheme and when Kate, our midwife, entered the room that morning, I couldn’t have been more relieved to see her face. Kate had delivered our eldest daughter and the familiarity was something we really needed. Kate really was a gift sent from above, not just for the labour ahead but the days that followed. There aren’t enough words to express the gratitude we feel towards Kate and how she cared for us, but more on that later.
At this point our options were discussed. Kate explained to us that often in situations like these the body will try and resist labour and so it could be at least 24 hours before I would deliver the baby and that often delivering a stillborn can be difficult. They asked if I’d like to go home and wait to see what would happen or if I stayed in the hospital, after a few hours if things hadn’t progressed I could opt for an oxytocin drip to move things along. There was a lot of information to process and part of me wanted the decision to be taken out of my hands. Being asked what you want to do and I just wanted to shout I don’t know, I don’t want to do any of this. I felt an enormous burden to try and work out what to do in the midst of feeling so utterly devastated. Kate was incredibly helpful at taking time to sit with us, listen to us and give us space to work it all out.
I knew the last place I wanted to go was home, to my 2 little girls eagerly awaiting the arrival of a new sibling, to all the reminders of the baby we had prepared for, for the past few months so I decided to stay at the hospital and see what happened.
At this time Kate also spoke to us about considering taking the baby home with us after he or she was born. Our initial reaction was that this sounded like a crazy idea but in time we discovered that it was the most natural thing in the world to do.
My contractions were still only about 15 minutes apart and not lasting very long, at this point you are totally torn because you just want to get it over with but equally you know that once it’s over you have to face the reality that you don’t have your baby anymore. The idea of delaying labour and keeping him or her inside me for a little bit longer meant we had a little bit more time before I had to say goodbye. I decided to have a shower and then we planned to go for a walk and try and get labour going. After a chat with my aunt, who is also a midwife, I decided I wanted to try and labour naturally if I could. Although part of me just wanted to say give me an epidural as soon as possible I knew from previous experience that this would affect my recovery time and as frightened as I was I also knew I wanted to have the chance to deliver this baby in the way I had planned.
Before I got into the shower I said to Ross, just pray that this labour happens quickly and easily. I got out of the shower and after getting dressed suddenly my contractions were 5 minutes apart and growing in intensity. This was starting to happen. After having had no sleep the night before and I hadn’t eaten anything since dinner the previous night I suddenly became completely overwhelmed at what was ahead of me – I looked at Ross, broke down and said I don’t think I can do this. If someone had at that moment offered me a c -section I would have taken it. After Kate had examined me (I was only 1 cm) she suggested I take some pethadine, which might help me relax and get some rest and might also help bring on contractions – I was able to have a good dose of it as it wouldn’t affect the baby!
And it did just that. We played the music we’d planned on playing in labour, I lay on the bed and Ross held my hand as I breathed through the contractions, they were strong but not unbearable. Kate remained in the background, ready with heat packs, sips of water and when Ross needed a loo break she took his place, held my hand and encouraged me. It’s amazing how nature kicks in, despite the devastating outcome, my body knew it had one job to do, to deliver a baby and even though I knew that this wasn’t one of those – ‘the pain will be worth it moments’ – I wanted my baby’s entry into the world to be one that was calm and peaceful, perhaps because this was the last thing I would be able to do for him as his mum.
To the surprise of all the midwives within 2 hours I was ready to push – I’ve never had an easy time pushing out my babies but this time round we got to the delivery suite, I instinctively climbed onto the bed and after a few puffs of gas and air and what only seemed like a couple of minutes of pushing at 2.15pm, our beautiful, perfect little boy was born. He weighed 8pds 3ozs.
Kate had warned us about the strange silence that would follow delivery and as she placed his little body beside me – he looked so peaceful, as though he were just asleep and in that moment our hearts were both overwhelmed with love and completely and utterly broken. We named him Jude – which means praise/thanksgiving – because despite our loss we are so thankful for our little boy.
I’m so grateful for our incredible midwife, Kate, who went over and above in her care for us and without her support I don’t think I could have done it. We got to dress and hold our son and have him with us until the next day when we could take him home so his two big sisters (and the rest of our family) could meet him and say goodbye to him.
Having now delivered 4 babies I can say in all honestly this was by far my easiest birth, physically speaking – it doesn’t really make any sense but I think of it as my gift to him and his gift to me. Grief is an exhausting thing, emotionally and physically, and I’m so grateful that I had such an uncomplicated delivery, no stitches etc. allowing me to give myself to grieving our little boy and being available to our two little girls.
Although my memories from that time are still extremely difficult I genuinely cherish my memory of Jude’s birth. I still look back and often ask how did I do it and truthfully I don’t know – yet I found a strength and a grace to face the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do.
6 weeks later we got the results of Jude’s post-mortem – where we were told that Jude had an acute group B strep infection and my placenta had a condition called DVM of the placenta (which only occurs in 3rd trimester). I hadn’t been screened for group B strep (it isn’t routinely screened for here in Ireland as in the UK). We were told at that appointment that it isn’t considered ‘cost effective’ to screen mothers but since losing Jude I really believe that information and awareness on Group B strep is totally lacking in maternity services – women should be given the choice to screen for something that is so easily treated and could prevent such devastating outcomes.
We miss Jude every single day, I don’t think I’ll ever understand why it happened, but this is Jude’s story and I’ve realised that telling it is part of our healing. As I write this, almost 2 1/2 years to the day, I sit with my gorgeous 11 month old daughter on my knee – but that’s a story for another day.
For more information and support on any of the issues raised in Lucy’s birth story follow the links below