Today marks the final day of Baby Loss Awareness Week 2017 and tonight sees the annual ‘Wave of Light’, where candles are lit to remember all babies who passed too soon.
Tonight’s post is by Mother Sider and good friend of Jo’s, Becca, who has two fantastic boys – Jack and Ben. Sadly, however, she lost two more beautiful boys at 22 weeks, when she went labour prematurely. She and her husband, Andy, were able to hold their boys for a brief time before they passed away. Here she shares their story of loss, grief and, ultimately, hope. We are incredibly grateful to her for doing so, for her honesty and her wish to support others going through the same ordeal.
Over to Becca…
“Is this your first?”
Such an innocent question for someone to ask a pregnant woman, but one that broke my heart every time I was asked it when I was pregnant with Jack.
In 2013, we found out we were pregnant with our first baby – we were delighted. Easter saw us at the hospital for our 12 week scan and we were amazed and surprised to find out that we were expecting identical twins. We shared the news excitedly with family and friends – the thought of twins was daunting but we were up for the challenge!
I was under consultant care as twin pregnancies are always considered high risk, but the pregnancy progressed well, with everything being as it should at the 20 week scan. We had started looking into what we might need to welcome our two little ones into the world, and at 22 weeks had had an initial look at double buggies and car seats in John Lewis one Sunday morning. We met some friends for lunch: I had some tummy pains but didn’t really think anything of it. The pains continued into the evening, so I phoned the hospital and they said to come in for a scan to check everything was ok.
We arrived at the labour ward (a weird feeling at 22 weeks but I was still fairly relaxed) and were taken through to be scanned. We saw our two babies wriggling round on the screen and heard their little hearts beating – “phew”, I thought, ‘everything must be fine’. The doctor said he’d send us home, and then decided that perhaps (because it was twins), he’d keep me in to keep an eye on things (I’m eternally grateful that he did so).
I got some sleep that night and woke in a ward with ladies awaiting elective C-sections. People checked on me sporadically but nobody seemed too concerned about me or the babies, so I wasn’t either. Then the pains intensified a bit; something didn’t feel right.
It turns out I’d been silently labouring and that our beautiful baby boys just couldn’t wait to meet us. They arrived very quickly on that Monday afternoon.
I knew instantly that they were too little to survive but the doctor confirmed this pretty quickly too. The room was cleared of the many medical staff (that had instantly appeared on hearing the emergency alarm) and we were given a few precious moments with our babies whilst they were still alive (we were told they wouldn’t last long at all). I can’t really remember much about this moment, other that I knew I needed to savour each second with my tiny, warm boys whilst their hearts were still beating.
After a quick discussion over what we would call our boys (we decided on George and Harry), I was taken into surgery to deliver my placenta: I just sobbed at a midwife who held my hand throughout. Meanwhile, my husband (with the help of a bereavement midwife), washed and dressed our gorgeous boys, and took their hand and foot prints.
I am eternally grateful to Jane, the incredible bereavement midwife, who was with us from the moment our boys arrived and provided support, not only in those first moments, but also over coming weeks. I am also forever thankful to the wonderful volunteers who put together memory boxes (these contained a tiny handmade knitted outfit, a little teddy, hand and foot print sets and some poems), which made those early moments slightly more bearable.
We were put in the Snowdrop Suite, which is a room at Northampton Hospital, away from the main labour ward (as you can imagine, the last thing you want to hear at that point is crying babies). The Snowdrop Suite is a place where parents like us can spend time with their babies until they feel ready to leave them. We spent precious moments with our beautiful boys, holding them, taking photos and trying desperately to fix every tiny feature to memory. Our parents came to meet their grandsons. It was a heartbreaking time but a time that I will always be grateful for.
Leaving was tough. I don’t even know how to put into words how it feels to leave your babies at the hospital. It was not how it was meant to be.
Those first days are a bit of a blur, but I remember throwing myself into organising the funeral, making a photo album and framing prints and photos.
Days went by, the funeral came and went, life went on as normal around us. I cried. A lot. Some days everything would set me off, others I managed to hold it together. They say you find a ‘new normal’ after losing a baby; I think they are right, but I didn’t believe anything would ever feel normal in those early days. As the weeks and months went by, it did become easier, but George and Harry were (and are) only ever a thought away.
Looking back, I am now able to say that this awful experience made me a stronger person and probably a better mummy in the long run.
I am grateful for many things:
- George and Harry only ever knew love. They felt no pain and experienced none of the horrors that we face in the modern world.
- Wherever they are, they will always have each other, forever.
- They were alive when they were born, so we have birth certificates for them (I do not believe this is the case for a stillborn baby)
- Our beautiful boys taught me the strength of my love. They were only with us for minutes but the imprint on my heart will be there forever.
- The experience made me put things into perspective. I’m more relaxed now, particularly as a mother.
- What happened reminded me what incredible friends and family we have: I would not have got through it without them.
I try not to dwell on “why us” as there will never be an answer to that question. I have been angry and sad, and my heart remains a little bit broken, but life has to go on, so I might as well make the most of it.
We have been blessed with two Rainbow babies since. Jack is three and Ben is seven months; they make us smile every day and I feel very lucky that we have been able to have happy, healthy babies: I know that not everyone in out situation is so fortunate.
I sincerely hope that nobody out there reading this ever has to go through the pain of losing a baby, or seeing a friend or family member go through it, but this would be my advice if so:
- Talk about your baby. It will be hard and people won’t know what to say, but they were a real little person, who you carried: they deserve to be recognised.
- If you can, take photos and make hand and foot prints. I will treasure ours always.
- Be honest with your partner / family / friends – it’s ok to be falling apart: talk about your feelings.
- Seek outside support if you need it. SANDs are a great organisation and have local support groups, as well as a phone line.
If someone you know goes through this:
- As above, talk about their baby; help them make memories.
- Make them a meal. The last thing I wanted to do was cook, and one of the best things friends did for me was deliver meals that I could shove in the oven!
- Tell them your news – it might seem irrelevant and small but it’s good to have something else to think about. If you find out you are pregnant, tell them – they will be heartbroken, not because you are having a baby but because they will never see their little one playing with your little one.
- Just be there. Talk, hug, sit, go for a walk, make a cake,…. just show you care.
Please join me and others to light a candle on October 15th at 7pm, as part of the global ‘Wave of Light’, to remember all the babies that have died during pregnancy, at, during or after birth. This event marks the end of Baby Loss Awareness Week.
Becca, writing for The Mother Side x
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