I am mother to Bethany and Courtney 16, Megan 12, Grace 9, Connie 6 and Archie who was stillborn in 2009. I was 35 weeks pregnant and I suffered a concealed abruption, which meant that I bled internally. I was rushed down for a caesarean and when I came round they said that he'd not made it - he'd passed away.
Baby Loss Awareness Week takes place each year between 9-15 October. It is important for me and many around me because it is a chance to let others know they are not alone. Years ago there was no support for families. No one spoke of baby loss. Families were expected to carry on like nothing had happened and as a bereaved parent I can only imagine how hard that must have been.
Here's our story. I hope it goes some way to helping people understand why this week is so important to bereaved families.
The theatre staff started prepping, which panicked me because I was still awake! The iodine was on and everything. The woman who had the mask on my face then told me they couldn't do anything without her say so. It was just three minutes of pure oxygen I was having at that point, just three minutes... that three minutes would have probably saved him, then nothing.
I remember coming round slightly and my eyes were still closed and asking where Chris (my Husband) was and while she was answering that question the penny dropped, I had just had my son! So the next question was asked, "Where is my baby? Where is Archie?" I still had my eyes closed at this point still very fuzzy headed, groggy, still coming round. I sensed some hesitation so I instantly knew at that point something was not right so I was trying to get off the bed!
They made me lay back down and put my legs back on the bed. I don't remember if I was in pain, then someone said those words, those words that no one should hear... "I am so sorry we did everything we could....." I rolled onto my side (the best I could) and sobbed. Then Chris appeared.
I remember them handing me my baby and I took in this big breath and sobbed because I couldn't believe how perfect he was and how much he looked like he was asleep.
Emma was fantastic, she was the midwife I had for the day. They did his foot prints, hand prints, a lock of his hair, photos etc. then asked if we wanted him dressing. I said "yes" and as she started I said "stop". "I want to see his bum before you put his nappy on." She looked puzzled and I just smiled and said "someone had a regret that she never saw her baby's bum and I didn't want regrets." Silly I know. When she dressed him she handed my baby back to me. I was still a proud mum, I still wanted to show him off but I didn't know what was normal. I was in a far from normal situation. What did other people do? When Emma mentioned photos I was a bit surprised. I don't know why, I suppose it just didn't seem right, but it was more than alright. The hospital took some photos. We had some taken with him and to look at them breaks my heart. They printed my girls one each, I thought that was lovely!
I felt so detached from everyone, like I was watching all this going on around me, like I was watching someone else's life go so terribly wrong. Would I ever feel normal again? Did I even want to feel normal again? What exactly was normal now? I knew he was gone but he was still my boy, still mummy's little Prince. You see it on films where something terrible happens and they have that sob which sticks in their throat. Well I suppose I never thought it actually happens until that Saturday.
Visitors came and went, each one offering condolences. I laid in that bed unable to move, unable to think of anything other than 'that's my baby'. Yet I still felt sorry for each one of my visitors. Each one that came and sat with tears in their eyes as they held Archie. I was the one apologising for them being upset. I felt bad that I had done this, I had caused so many tears. I felt for each one for different reasons. Chris because he had lost his son and watching me grieve like he had never seen before. My Dad because I was his baby and how do you watch your baby go through so much heart break knowing only too well how she is feeling? The one person I wanted was my Mum, my best friend but she had passed away 14 months before Archie.
As I laid there I remember thinking, "Is this why Mum had died? Was it fate? Was she to die so she could be there to meet Archie and look after him?" I remember thinking it gave some sort of reason as to why she had died so young. That was then taken over by guilt, "what if I wasn't to have any more children? What if my fate had been different? Would my mum still be alive today?" It's funny how our minds go on over drive. I watched Pam, my mother in law, as she held Archie and you could see the pain written all over her face. Her first grandson. The image of Chris, her baby. I had to turn away.
Neil, my father in law had had a heart attack two days before and was on the Coronary Care Unit. I asked if he was coming down but they weren't sure if he could. I asked if he could come in a wheelchair? He did. He held Archie but I was more bothered that he was ok.
Bethany, Courtney, Megan and Grace arrived to meet their long awaited baby brother. Even though they knew what had happened they still came in with their faces lit up. My heart broke all over again! They looked so proud, so happy. I knew they would need me at home but I knew they were well looked after a while with my sisters, Laura and Sarah. All I could think about was this is my time for Archie, I won't get another chance but the girls have me forever. (Selfish, I know).
Photos were being taken, people coming and going, different midwifes coming in to see him and saying sorry. Questions, questions, questions! Those questions you don't want to think about, those you never in your widest dream you never thought you would be asked... "Have you thought about the funeral?" I sat thinking "NO! I don't want to think about it! How do you choose whether to bury or cremate your baby?" I knew what both involved! I didn't want either. I just wanted to take him home, home where he belonged.
Everyone had gone. Emma's shift was over, bless her, she did so well! She was a star. So patient, so caring and kind. She held it together right until it was time to say goodbye. Her eyes filled up. With that she left.
Now it was Chris, me and our son. Just us three. The room was so unnaturally quiet. I couldn't take my eyes off of our baby, so perfect. I watched for a flicker, a twitch. Maybe they were wrong. Of course deep down I knew I wasn't going to see any movements. I watched for his chest moving... nothing... nothing but a peaceful looking baby laid in my arms and in Chris's.
More visitors came. They also couldn't believe how perfect he looked and how he looked like he was sleeping. More tears.
That night, when it was just us three it was time to move to the family room. It had a double bed, a moses basket, set of drawers, two chairs and a kettle etc.
Archie was put in the moses basket at the side of me. Chris fell straight to sleep. I looked at him, then at Archie, then back to him and couldn't get my head around how he could sleep. Obviously exhausted! I couldn't settle so I ended up waking him up crying saying I need him to pass me Archie because I couldn't reach and he should be with me. He passed Archie to me.
I had Archie on my chest where I could keep him warm, stroke his cheek and kiss his forehead. That's where he should have been. Chris went straight back to sleep.
The bereavement midwife popped her head into the room to check on us and found me sobbing so came and sat with me for a while. I sobbed as we spoke about how we would choose what was right for the funeral. I told her I understood what happened either way and how did they expect me/us to choose? How do you choose that for him? She asked what Chris thought and all he had said was, "don't know". That poor midwife, she must have been emotionally drained!
We had four days with Archie. I bathed him, we had a blessing and took lots of photos. Archie was buried on the 15th July 2009.
Archie changed my life for the better, I am a better person because of him and for that I am truly thankful.
On 15th October at 7pm I will be lighting a candle for Archie. I'm part of Chesterfield Sands, one of Sands, the stillbirths and neonatal death charity's UK- wide network of local support groups, hold a 'Wave of Light' service. It is well attended with parents who have suffered the loss of their babies at all different gestation, some recent and some many many years ago.
We can't have memories like other families but we can make our own memories.
You can find out more about Baby Loss Awareness Week visit: http://babyloss-awareness.org/
For further details about Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity visit https://www.uk-sands.org/