This is a tale of two birth stories, both very different. I’ve rewritten this numerous times. I’m not very good at showing my emotions, but believe me, this was difficult to write.
On November 17th 2012, our little boy, Dylan Alexander Hicks arrived – he was stillborn.
Our journey to hell and back started five days earlier when my boyfriend, Nick, and I went to a routine scan appointment. Instead of finding out the sex of our baby, we found out that there was something very wrong. We were told that there was no fluid around the baby, it was instantly clear from the sonographers face that this wasn’t good. It was confirmed the next day that the baby’s kidneys were either not functioning properly, or hadn’t developed at all. He had no chance of survival outside the womb. I don’t really know how to explain how it felt to be told this. Thinking back to that moment, I can see it as though I am an onlooker, I can see myself lying on the bed, crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. I think I kind of shut down after that.
Later that day we were taken in to a small room and joined by two women, I think one a consultant and one a midwife. They told us what was going to happen next, I didn’t hear anything they said. One of the women disappeared and came back a few minutes later with a plastic cup of water and a small paper cup with two pills. “You need to take these pills, we can wait a while if you prefer” she said, “I’ll have them now” I responded, and swallowed them in one gulp as if I were taking a couple of paracetamol. It didn’t dawn on me until the next day what the pills were for, “I feel different”, I told Nick, “I can suck my belly in”. Those pills were to end my baby’s life, how did I not realise that’s what they were for? I was angry at myself for being so stupid.
Two days later we were back in the hospital, I was going to be induced. As if I wasn’t hurting enough, I now had to give birth to my baby. It took 9 hours between the start of my induction and delivering the baby. I had a lot of blood taken for testing, this made me weak and woozy, I was given pain medication that made me violently sick, I was in a state of semi-consciousness, the only thing keeping me awake was the searing pain coming from my stomach. My head was lolling from side to side, I could see Nick and my mum looking at me worried, there was nothing they could do to help me, we just had to wait it out. Dylan was born just after 6pm, he was there, I could see him, his tiny lifeless body. “He’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen!” I said to Nick, suddenly I was fully conscious. I was so happy to see him, which seems crazy, but the sadness had taken a backseat for a while. The midwife wrapped him in a blanket, put a tiny hat on his head and lay him in a basket, I only got to hold him properly once because he was so fragile. We got to see him a few more times, but because of his fragile state, he had to be taken back to, I presume, the morgue. The next morning we left the hospital with nothing but photographs and prints of his tiny hands and feet. As we walked to the car, we passed a couple leaving with their newborn baby, the first thing the new mother decided to do with her freedom was light up her cigarette, baby in the other arm. If I was a violent person I would have punched her right in the face. Sometimes life just isn’t fair.
A month later, after the post-mortem was complete, we had a small funeral. It was very short, a few words were said before I carried Dylan’s tiny coffin to his plot. It was December, the grass was frozen underfoot, I couldn’t help but think how cold he was going to be. Time passed slowly after that, people told me it would get easier – I didn’t believe them. How could you possibly get through something like this? Well the thing is, you do – and I did.
290 days later, on 3rd September 2013, in the same hospital, in the same maternity ward, Hamish Dylan Hicks was born.
Pregnancy hadn’t been a fun experience, I was terrified something was going to go wrong. I had a scan every two weeks to make sure everything was okay, sitting waiting for my appointment was always a stressful time, but everything was going smoothly. I was admitted to hospital with pre-eclampsia at 34 weeks + 5 days. I was told that I would be stay in hospital until I was 37 weeks, then I would be induced. But at 35 weeks + 2 days, the morning after I’d had my last steroid injection, there was concerns about Hamish’s heartbeat on my CTG scan, he had to come out straight away. Nick wasn’t at the hospital, we were having carpet fitted in our hallway that morning, I rang him 5 times before he answered the phone. I was carted in to theatre and told that we couldn’t wait for Nick to arrive, I got my epidural and lay down on the table. Just as I was numb enough to be sliced open, Nick careered through the door with his scrubs half on. Hamish arrived with a shrill scream a couple of minutes later, I hadn’t realised they’d even started the procedure, Nick and I were just having a chat. I got to hold Hamish for about 30 seconds before he started having difficulty breathing. I didn’t see him again for 3 days. He had a few health complications that couldn’t be taken care of at our hospital, so he was taken to an Intensive Care Neonatal Unit at a hospital 40 miles away, Nick went with him but I had to wait until a bed was free to transfer me to. This was a stressful time, more so for Nick as I was off my face on pain medication, but I knew he was going to be okay, I didn’t got a second thing anything bad would happen to him. It’s strange to think about how laid back I was that Hamish got taken away, I would put up one hell of a fight if someone tried to do that now – I’m going to blame it on the morphine.
After receiving some amazing care, Hamish left hospital a week (almost to the minute) after he was born, and he has been a healthy, happy boy ever since.
I don’t really know how to put in to words what it’s like to give birth to a stillborn, it takes you to a dark place, it feels like you will never be happy again. But I am happy again, I am happier than I have ever been, I feel so lucky that after going through such a traumatic experience, I ended up with such an amazing baby boy. We don’t talk about Dylan very often, but I think about him a lot. Sometimes I feel guilty that we are having fun without him, or sad that he didn’t have the same luck as Hamish. It’s a difficult thing to think about – if Dylan had survived, Hamish wouldn’t be here. That causes such a mix of emotions inside me that I couldn’t begin to explain it out loud – as I don’t understand it myself.
One of the gravestones near Dylan’s reads ‘A moment in our arms, a lifetime in our hearts’ – pretty cheesy, but very true.
You can find out more about us through my Instagram; http://instagram.com/lyndsay_buchanan
If anyone has/is struggling with the aftermath of stillbirth, or just wants a chat, my ears are open. Alternatively, I know that Sands (https://www.uk-sands.org/) are excellent.