Lucky is how I would describe myself after the death of my beautiful son in April 2004
What’s that, I hear you say?
Yes, I was devastated and hurt to have to let my long awaited little boy go and to this day, I still grieve his loss of life and I probably always will but through his birth and his death I learnt so much about trusting my own body and letting go and learning to trust again. Out of death came two beautiful lives and a better understanding of who I am. I learnt about the beauty of the human spirit and about a love that I have never known before.
This is the birth story of Ivy Hazel and Noah William (and in parts the birth story of my gorgeous angel, William David).
After 14 months of grieving William’s death and trying to conceive we found ourselves pregnant again. It was an amazing, scary, exciting, emotion charged moment that I will never forget. When I was 7 weeks pregnant we found, to our utter surprise, that we were having twins again. Our first set, were celebrating their 9th birthdays in the next month and our little girl, Lily would be 7. Both births had been caesareans, the first emergency and the second elective. William’s birth was a VBAC.
William’s labour was everything I wanted for a birth until second stage when my uterus ruptured. I lost almost four litres of blood, I lost my son, I lost faith in myself.
I was so lucky that I got to meet him, fall in love and spend five days with him because what we didn’t know was that he also had a fatal heart abnormality and his gift to me was my one and only vaginal birth.
I was lucky to see his spirit into whatever lies beyond this life.
I was so lucky that I had the most amazing group of people around me, who thought quickly and were able to save my uterus. Who saw me through my darkest days and lifted my spirit so that I could see all the amazing things that my son had done in his short time.
They repaired my uterus and we were told, after a while, that we could try again.
So here we were.
Pregnant, with twins.
At 11 weeks I bled.
We were in Tasmania, so far from home and I was sure that I had lost my little ones.
On the day we were coming home it stopped.
I was 12 weeks.
The next day we went for a scan. We decided that if everything was ok, we would tell the girls and our two foster boys afterwards. We hadn’t breathed a word before, for fear of hurting the already wounded. We hoped for a miracle.
We were lucky. Two heartbeats, two little souls.
At 19 weeks we found that we would be welcoming one of each, a little girl and a little boy. There it was, our miracle.
I have never felt more scared in a pregnancy as I have in this one.
I didn’t feel lucky, every day was like torture. I denied the flutters, the squirms, the kicks. I was sick with fear. My life consumed with the ever growing unrest inside my being.
I had pain. Stretching pain, adhesions, the good doctor said. The uterine repair was so big, there were bound to be adhesions. That didn’t sit well, I felt I knew my body and that the pain was something more.
I had low haemoglobin, so low I needed an infusion, so low I passed out. Lower after the infusion and so they thought that maybe I was bleeding from somewhere.
I had diabetes. A sign of unresolved issues our midwife said. A sign of loss of joy.
I know I was lucky. I know that the doctor and the midwives were so very patient with me. I know that everyone was doing everything within their power to make me feel safe.
I didn’t think Andrew, our doctor was hearing me though…listening but not hearing. The pain was different somehow and I was exhausted trying to explain. Uterine thickness scans showed nothing out of the ordinary but I just didn’t feel right.
And so at 29 weeks when I couldn’t take the pain or the fear anymore I was admitted.
I had the infusion, I had weekend leave to watch my beautiful girls dance in their concert, I thought I was going back in to wait it out until 34 weeks when it was decided I would have the caesarean.
I was lucky that there were some beautiful midwives around me, talking to me, encouraging me to deal with William’s birth before these babies came.
I was lucky that, in the week I came in, my midwife and friend Val was rostered onto the ward and rostered on to look after the antenatal ladies; Me.
On the Tuesday evening my husband called me to tell me that my father had gone into have the cancer from his liver removed. It was not going well.
They say that a stressful event can start the onset of labour.
On Tuesday night I had the worst pain yet, searing along my scar line and up into my belly. I didn’t sleep and my complaints fell on the deaf ears of the night staff. One suggested pethidine, which I refused, too scared that it would mask another rupture. Angrily she muttered that she couldn’t help me if I was unable to help myself. She told my doctor, who came in to visit on Wednesday afternoon. We talked about my still dropping haemoglobin and the tests that needed to be done, we talked about my Dad, we talked about how my faith in my antenatal care was shaken and my wonderings as to when he would start listening to me…I didn’t want to be another obstetric emergency. We talked about William and his birth and how much this had affected Andrew and how he wanted a good outcome for David and I this time. I wanted that too. I felt better, like there had been some sort of breakthrough.
Val came in. She hadn’t been in delivery suite since she left to go to the low risk unit, almost a year ago. She had lost faith in the system, didn’t like the environment offered to women and so had avoided it. We debriefed on all that the doctor had said. I felt so grateful that she was there.
A buzzer went off in another room and Val went to answer it.
I went to the bathroom, to discover I was bleeding.
As I went to get Val (ok, I’m a midwife too and midwives NEVER buzz), I felt those first gripey niggles start low in my uterus.
‘Are you ok’? Val asked, looking at the loss,
‘Yes, I think so’, I said, knowing I wasn’t.
Val knew me well, ‘I’ll get the CTG, we’ll just have a look at what is going on’.
‘Ok’, I replied now feeling the familiar searing starting across my pelvis.
We both knew this was it.
It was lucky that David and the girls came in to visit me that evening. They didn’t come every night. Dave still in his work wear, the girls oblivious to what was happening. Lily, my youngest, climbing up and over me and jumping off the other side of the bed, Maddy, lying on the floor next to me telling me about her day, Immy standing in the corner, watching everything. I think she knew what was happening before Dave did.
It was lucky that my mum had just come home from dinner out, on the third and final attempt at calling her, to come and pick up the girls and lucky that David’s Mum was at home with the boys.
It was lucky that David hadn’t taken the camera home, even though I had asked him to
It was lucky that, even though Val told my other friend and midwife not to come in because I was not sure what was happening (as I had requested), that she turned the car around and came straight back in. (She told me later that she just knew as well).
It was lucky that there were just two beds left in the NICU on that Wednesday night and that the staff specialist on call was the head of neonatology.
It was lucky that Val was there, that she knew, from Will’s birth, that my pain threshold was good and that there was no time to waste, even though the registrars wanted to do varying tests, even though our doctor didn’t want to come in until he was sure, even though they were throwing around words like ‘monitor’ and ‘overnight’.
I was so thankful that she jumped up and down, that she was my advocate.
My obstetric emergency was quickly becoming a scary reality.
I am wheeled up to delivery suite, the tightenings are coming, short and sharp, now palpable. The right sided burn getting steadily worse.
Don’t touch me!
So, so frightened.
Gown, hat, consent.
Told I would have to have a general anaesthetic – NO!!!
I NEED to see these babies alive!
Val by my side, we need a spinal, it’s VERY important.
Who has the girls?
It’s ok, everything is ok.
Dave is there, the girls come in and I give them each one of my rings to look after and my necklace with William’s portrait engraved into it. Their frightened faces peering into my soul.
I’m ok I reassure them, The babies are ok.
The staff are kind.
Just as they prepare to give me the spinal, my other midwife arrives. Carolyn.
Breathe, she says and I do.
This is meant to be, she says and I know she is right.
The pain starts to blur and all I can do is pray that the babies I have come to know will be ok.
Carolyn and Val are talking to us non stop. Reassuring us and themselves, I think.
‘Please’, I say, ‘I can’t do this again, they have to be ok’, knowing that I am only 30 weeks and knowing I haven’t had the steroids that would mature their lungs.
Flashes of William’s birth fly through my mind as I see concerned faces swimming around me and tears start to fall. I have never wished for something so hard in my life.
There is some pushing and pulling going on
Suddenly there he is!
Crying, wet and wriggling
I am filled with love, hope, joy and overwhelming relief
Carolyn smiles at me, she knows as I am looking at my tiny, miracle son, I am thinking of William too. She says just that and I cry more tears.
Then moments after he is wisked away my final miracle arrives.
Hello little girl.
There is a tiny cry and my heart melts for this little being.
They are small and will need some help to breathe. They are taken to the NICU. David looks amazed and everyone is smiling.
People come and go. Andrew cleans me up
He comes over to talk with me and I hug him, in all the sterility of theatre because I have no words to describe everything that I am feeling.
The next day the Andrew comes to see me.
There were very few adhesions.
There were only a few strands of uterine wall left. A small window of uterus, so thin, he could see the first baby through it.
It was nothing short of a miracle that the babies were born before my uterus ruptured for a second time.
It could have been a very different outcome and he apologises for not listening to me.
I don’t care. They are here and they are safe, growing stronger every day in the NICU.