Saturday, 30 December 2017

The Power Of Words

When I was five, I said I would be a writer. Somehow, I never got around to it, but perhaps I should start writing, because something about this incident has triggered a need to write, and keep writing... So, please forgive some potentially epic posts in the future as I process all this!

My milk never came in. I wondered if the treatment on leaving the hospital would be sufficient, I guess I now know the answer to that question. Yes, one tiny pill (bright pink; smaller than a Tic-Tac) was enough to suppress my maternal instinct to overfeed a newborn. When my son was born, I produced enough milk to provide for an entire dairy farm. I am relieved I didn't have to deal with that in the absence of a baby to nurse, but I look back at my final feeds with my son, and wish I had known then that they would be my last. Would I have appreciated them more? Who knows. It's all so bitter sweet.

The midwife is coming today, one final time. I expect I will be discharged from midwifery care once they confirm that my body is recovering as it should. Another bitter sweet moment. Reading my maternity notes with the benefit of hindsight, there are so many things we missed (myself, and the midwife). I don't blame anyone, not even myself. Hindsight is the key word here, and the fact of the matter is that nothing would have changed the outcome. I feel blessed that Holly's condition was missed. I feel blessed she survived as long as she did. I feel blessed that she looked as perfect as she did. Even the timing (horrendous as it seems, so close to Christmas) turned out to be a blessing. Holly Rose named herself; we had a different name picked out all along, but when we found out on the 21st December that she had to be delivered on the 22nd, she suddenly claimed for herself a new name. And it seems so perfect. I keep repeating it to myself. Holly Rose. She was perfect.

The date of her birth now seems predestined (ironically we had avoided attempting to conceive another Christmas baby. Hah!). I went in for a routine scan, with a diagnosis that affected me, but not the baby. When I walked into hospital, I had no symptoms to cause concern (besides an enormous and very sore bump). By the time the consultants had already decided that the only option was to deliver the baby the following day, things had escalated so fast, and I was already bleeding with my uterus contracting non-stop, very probably in early labour. I would have ended up in hospital that night anyway. Things were progressing with nature taking its course, and it really does feel like - in spite of the awfulness - we were "in the right place at the right time." I could have gone into labour spontaneously at home (my son's labour was lightning fast, so this would have been incredibly dangerous in my daughter's case). She was breech, and I had so much amniotic fluid she could not have engaged, a natural birth would never have been possible. Her little legs were the one part of her body that was obviously affected by her condition, and her knees didn't bend. A natural breech birth would have ended her life anyway, and probably mine along with her. 

The way things turned out, she had "the best birth we could have hoped for" under the circumstances. It was surprisingly peaceful and sensitive. Everyone who cared for me was incredible, I cannot fault them. (This coming from the woman who was adamant that she wanted an intervention-free home birth). Even my caesarian scar is a miracle. It is hard to believe my daughter was born through that invisible window.

Yesterday dealing with the paperwork was hard, and I've probably cried more yesterday and today than the rest of the week put together. (A week ago today, she was born. This time last week, I was still pregnant). How is it that the past seven days have gone so fast? I hated pregnancy (it hurts to admit that, given what happened, but it doesn't change the fact). Time stood still when I was pregnant. Again, with hindsight, even this in itself was a blessing. It feels like she was with me for longer. But this past week since she was born and died, has rushed by in such a blur... again, not helped by my memory loss... perhaps this is why I feel the need to write everything down, in case I forget - I have taken to having notebook software open on my computer at all times so I can write things down as they occur to me. Otherwise, my thoughts are instantly lost.  

I am grateful that Holly lived long enough to "qualify" for a birth and death certificate. I read the experiences of other wonderful women who have experienced loss, and I am genuinely grateful that we had time to spend with her, and that we now have the official documents to mark her existence. I have dual copies so that when I need to send them anywhere for official purposes, I will always have a copy. I can always see her name in print. It means so much, and I am so sorry for the legalities that prevent some other grieving parents from having this small comfort.

There are, however, inaccuracies on her death certificate that are painful to me, including an exaggeration of her short life-span, and a spelling mistake in the medical condition that resulted in my pregnancy complications, and was a contributory factor to her early birth and death. The registrar insisted on preserving the error on official documentation, even though I pointed out the mistake. The doctor had signed-off on it, so it officially had to be transcribed as it was. Bizarre. I hate to think of my great-great grandchildren in a hundred years' time, researching my family tree and the only record of Holly's brief existence is inaccurate. But at least she formally exists, and will have her place in history.

Last night, I had a hot bath, for the first time since I was pregnant. Extra hot, and without the guilt of having the water too warm for the baby (throughout both my pregnancies, my partner had a running joke that I was "boiling the baby" because I do love a HOT bath). I was able to submerse my former bump in the water, as I haven't been able to do for months due to the mammoth size of my pregnant belly. As the water touched the skin on my tummy, my grief suddenly became a very physical experience, and I unexpectedly howled the house down (with apologies to my neighbours). I'm sure there will be more howling to come at unexpected moments.

Today, I should be tidying the house, and continuing to make funeral arrangements. I have made some progress with funeral plans, and am beginning to see how I can turn this into a beautiful experience... but more on that another time. Instead of doing what I should be doing, my son is out on a play-date (he currently has so many invitations to friends, he has a very full social calendar), and I am writing this. I don't really know why I'm writing this, but it is helping.

And I wish everyone who has supported me, and commented on my posts across social media the most blessed New Year and 2018. I cannot thank everyone enough for their overwhelming kindness - which is largely what I will remember from this horrendous experience. There is nothing so moving as the kindness of strangers.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Bitter sweet: Birth and Death Certificates.

Well, it's official. And it's bitter sweet: Her birth and death certificates.
Holly Rose officially lived, and officially died.

And she "officially" (according to the necessary wording of her death certificate), lived to one hour old. Except that she didn't. And it somehow seems unbearably callous to "round up" her fleeting fifteen minutes, granting her four times the length of time on earth than she actually spent here. And then consigning her to history's records for all eternity, as if that one hour was factually correct. But so it must be.

It is comforting to see her name in print, at least. She was here. She was real. And she was loved.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Christmas Day, and my daughter is in the morgue.

I haven't used my photography blog for a while (although I have continued to take photos, I just fell behind on blogging them). Now I need to use my blog for a different purpose, at least for a while.
The next few posts will be hard to write, and hard for those reading them. But I feel a need to share, and hope that you will bear with me while I work through my thoughts.

It's Christmas Day, and my daughter is in the morgue. This will be something of a bombshell for many, who didn't even know I was pregnant... for which I apologise... but I have never been one to live out my pregnancy via social media. The plan was to post snuggly newborn photos in Feb, ideally accompanied by a glass of bubbly following my planned home birth. Unfortunately, no part of that plan has come to pass.

My daughter, Holly Rose, was born and died on 22nd December, weighing exactly 3lb (a very respectable weight for a baby born prematurely at 30 weeks). It's hard to believe that this time only a few days ago, I was having a "normal," though difficult, pregnancy, and planning a home-birth in February.

Then I was diagnosed with polyhydramnios on 21st December, and things escalated very quickly when it became clear that my baby was very unwell in the womb. Less than 24 hours after going to hospital for a routine scan, I had a caesarian-section to try and give her any chance at all, but she only lived for around 15 minutes.

She very probably had Edwards Syndrome. Nothing we could have done would have changed the outcome and she had a surprisingly peaceful and sensitive birth. She died in our arms listening to a recording of me singing to her. In these awful circumstances, it is the best outcome we could have hoped for.

Her condition was missed at scans and screenings, so we were blissfully unaware. I genuinely consider this to be a blessing, as we were spared some very difficult decisions, and nature took its course - there is nothing we could have done to change the outcome, and I do take comfort from that. We were also fortunate to spend those precious 15 minutes with her, and she was incredibly beautiful. Holly is amazingly perfect in so many ways. And yet very clearly so poorly in others.

My son is almost six (with his birthday coming up on New Year's Eve), and consequently, life must go on. We have stumbled through Christmas (including running out of petrol on the way home from Christmas Dinner... I mean, as if things could get any worse?!). I've managed to carry on almost as normal, though I am secretly haunted by the fact that it's Christmas Day, and my daughter is in the morgue. It's very hard to accept.

Things happened so, so quickly, it's very hard to get my head around these last few days. A lot of the time I feel fine...ish... although I also seem to be suffering some sort of brain fog/short-term memory loss, which I really hope isn't permanent! I don't really know whether I'm coming or going at the moment, I am just trying to plod on for my son.

We have to arrange her funeral ourselves, because she lived for those 15 minutes. It hasn't been possible to get hold of anyone over the Christmas period, so we are a bit in limbo. Likewise, we need to register her birth and death (and apparently have only five days in which to do so!) but this has also proved impossible due to the fact everything is closed. Ironically, we had actively avoided trying to conceive another Christmas baby... This is not how I planned to spend Christmas.

Above is a photo of my son, and my daughter Holly Rose, together. She may have only lived for 15 minutes, but she will forever be in our hearts.