When I spoke to friends of mine that were mothers to grill them about the pain of childbirth, the reply from most was along the lines of ‘oh you forget all that as soon as you have your baby in your arms – I’d do it all over again, just you wait and see, you’ll feel the same!’. I was not of course entirely convinced by this argument and continued to feel somewhat daunted.
I was not given the chance to have all these wonderful, overwhelming, ecstatic feelings – my beautiful baby daughter Daisy was stillborn at 40 weeks on December 28th 2003 at 7.38 pm. As a lay in the hospital bed that night in what I suppose was a semi delirious state I drafted in my mind what we would e-mail to people to tell them what had happened. I couldn’t believe that the words in my head were not going to be the usual proud and happy ‘Mother and baby are both doing fine, baby weighed... and was born at….’ I suppose this was the first of many, many feelings of disbelief that this had happened to us and that Daisy was not with us.
It is four and half months since we lost our little girl and it is only now that I feel an urge and need to write down what we have been through. I have read quite a number of accounts from parents who have experienced stillbirth and have in some ways felt comforted by some of the feelings other women have felt and at times it has reassured me that I am not going mad for feeling some of things I have felt or thought.
I got pregnant quite easily and although we had made a conscious decision to try for a family I was not entirely prepared for it. I think to be honest we were both a bit stunned as the realisation dawned on us that our lives would now be very different! We also couldn’t believe our timing – the baby was due on Christmas day. To think that I worried about our child feeling deprived at having a Birthday on Christmas day, how trivial it all seems now.
As the months rolled on, as the morning sickness passed and the various antenatal tests were all ok we became slightly more relaxed. At each check up I was always given the all clear. I was trying hard to be healthy, exercise and watch what I ate and I felt reassured every time I was packed off. My husband still continued to ask me if I was all right at every opportunity as if I was the only woman in the world to be pregnant ‘Yes of course I am’ I would answer back flippantly. Secretly it felt wonderful to feel so important, loved and worried about, but I never told him that.
At 33 weeks I had an extra scan to check on the position of my placenta, which had been a bit low earlier on. I was pleased that I was having this scan as it meant another chance to see our little baby and to check all was developing ok. I had decided that I wanted to find out whether we were having a boy or a girl, secretly both of us wanted a little girl first and it looked like we were going to get our wish. We tentatively started to talk to my bump as ‘Daisy’.
I had now finished work and was trying to take it easy, although it was a bit frustrating as I am not very good at just sitting around but even walking was becoming uncomfortable. It was the build up to Christmas and it felt slightly strange not to be in the midst of drunken work parties, but it felt great at the same time. ‘I am so over all that ‘ I thought to myself and just wanted my baby to come - the waiting was hard and a bit nerve racking.
We’d met some great couples at our NCT group, all similar people and local too. We sensed that we would have a good support network. In mid December some of them started to have their babies. Every time I rang my husband at work he would say excitedly ‘ Is the baby coming?’ ‘no’ I would reply ‘I’m just bored - what do you want for your tea?’ When I think back now to those weeks, I know how excited he was. He would have made a brilliant Dad and spoilt our little girl rotten.
The week leading up to Christmas day I did not feel great. I had a nasty cold and felt very tired. I had also noticed that the baby was moving less. I assumed that this was because she was getting bigger with less room to move. I had my last check up on Christmas Eve and heard as I had done many times before, Daisy’s heartbeat – it was normal. I mentioned to the midwife about the movement and whether the baby would be affected by my cold. She asked if I was still getting 10 movements a day – I thought I probably was. The fact that I was worried – should this not have alerted her more? Maybe I should have gone to the hospital anyway if I was worried, gone with my instincts…. maybe, should I, if only, why? How many times have all these thoughts and scenarios gone round in my mind? People close to me tell me not to, that it can’t do me any good, but I simply cant help it.
I left my check up assuming that the next time I would see the midwife I would have my baby, but at some point between this appointment on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day my baby’s heart stopped beating. We were concerned on Boxing Day morning and I was willing her to move. I tried everything - warm bath, drinking cold water, eating, going for a walk. We went into the hospital whilst my parents were at my sisters expecting us round for food later.
The first Midwife could not find the heartbeat straightaway, but the room was noisy and the machine was not that good. I directed her to where I usually heard the heartbeat, but still nothing. She came back with another Midwife and another machine, then we were moved to another quieter room, still nothing. I can’t really describe what I was feeling at this point. I think I now knew something was very wrong. They called the Registrar with a portable ultrasound machine and we saw our baby on the screen and the look on the Registrars face as she searched for a heartbeat – there was nothing. ‘I’m so sorry….’ she said and tissues were handed to me. I shall never forget the look on my husbands face as she told us that our baby was no longer alive. I was in shock and just stared at a plug socket on the wall in front.
As it was explained to us that a natural delivery was still the best option, we tried to decide what to do and went home. We sat in our living room and stared into the fire, cried and held each other. We had called family members from the hospital. I told my sister and could hear my mum distraught in the back ground as my sister’s face and reaction told her what had happened. My parents, the proud and excited grandparents to be – this was to have been a new chapter for all of us.
Daisy was so eagerly awaited and wanted. We couldn’t believe that she was no longer alive inside me. We had come so far, 40 weeks to be exact. Why had this happened, why hadn’t she come out, she would be here now. Of course we couldn’t fully comprehend what had happened – we are still trying to now. We managed to get a little sleep, then in the morning we went back to the hospital and were shown straight into a special room. There was some information by the side of the bed ‘When your baby dies’ and it hit me – my baby had died. I was going to have give birth to a baby that was not alive, that wouldn’t cry, wriggle and scream when she came out. I could not do this, how were we ever going to get through it? This was not right.
I was induced; I had an epidural and was in labour for nearly 24 hours. The experience is mostly too painful to think about. It will stay with us forever. It was traumatic and heartbreaking. We held Daisy and the Chaplain blessed her. We kissed her and tried to take in everything about her. When she was carried away from us, I don’t think I fully realised that I would never see her again.
As I sat in the car preparing to leave the hospital the next day I saw other women coming out clasping their ante-natal notes as I had done after my 12 week scan. I wanted to be back at that point with it all in front of me – somehow wishing for a happy outcome. As true anxious first time parents we had tested out the car seat in preparation for this journey, now we were coming home, having been through so much without our precious little girl.
We agreed to a post mortem. They found nothing conclusive. One scenario was shared with us – but they could not say for sure. Daisy was physically perfect and a healthy 9lb 3oz, much bigger than anyone had anticipated.
We have a couple of photos and other keepsakes. I can’t believe that this is all I have of my daughter, who I carried and tried to care for, for 9 months. She was so nearly here with us. We are still grieving for her and feel a great sense of loss. As strange as it may sound, I miss her. I want to be her Mum, care for, love and cuddle her. There is a very big empty hole in our lives.
Pregnancy and childbirth, now has a new meaning for us. It has lost all its amazing innocence and excitement. I now feel that it is a miracle when things actually go right. I look at people with 3 or 4 children and wonder if it was all so easy for them and also wonder if they take it all for granted. Our Consultant has told us that this will not happen to us again, that it was a ‘bolt of lightning’ but how can she possibly say this, she can’t guarantee it. We do want a family eventually but a lot of courage will have to be taken by us. Whatever happens, Daisy will always be in our hearts.
Daisy – in everything that is beautiful there is you.
Daisy May December 28th 2003
Written by her mum, Rebecca