We were thrilled to discover I was pregnant with our second child. After losing my father to cancer eight months earlier it brought us happiness after so much sadness.
After the usual sickness in the early weeks, I had an easy pregnancy without any problems. I was fairly anxious about the amniocentesis, but as the Doctor performing it announced we had a little girl, I had a certain feeling all would be well and I began to get excited about having another baby.
My final scan was at about 33 weeks, and the baby was developing well; a good size already estimated at around 2.3kgs (5lbs) I was beginning to worry about the birth as our first baby (Louis) weighed 4.250kgs (9lb 4oz) and was delivered by caesarean section at 41 weeks. So when I went for my final visit at just over 38 weeks, I was expecting to discuss a date for an elected caesarean.
Laurent, my husband, was working so my sister-in-law drove me to the appointment and as the doctor was running a bit late, she went off to do some shopping.
When I saw the gynaecologist he took a routine sample for Strep B and took it to the laboratory next door for testing. When he returned, he told me to stop by and pay them after my appointment. Then he checked the baby by ultrasound scan and seemed concerned about the placenta being low. He then checked for a heartbeat and that was when he informed me there wasn’t one. He was quite clear and certain of this and I believe he must have told me at least three times before I myself began to register what this could mean. My baby, our little girl had died...
I took this terrible news fairly calmly, dressed myself and called my sister-in-law and told her to come and meet me straight away. The Doctor told me he would meet us at the hospital which was five minutes drive. It was only on leaving the clinic when I told my sister-in-law the baby had died that it really hit me; my legs gave way and the shock set in.
First we had to pay the laboratory next door. I don’t know how I managed to hold it together to write the cheque, but by then I seemed to be on auto-pilot.
As we arrived at the hospital we phoned my husband. He was unable to take in what his sister was telling him, so I took over and told him this was no joke, we’d lost our baby – it broke my heart.
After a little chasing around and not knowing where to go, a midwife met us and took me for a further scan. At this point, contrary to Laurent and his sister who thought there may be a chance we’d find the heartbeat, I held out no hope. The doctor confirmed once again that there was no heartbeat. He then examined me and as I was shaking so much, I was offered some tranquillisers, which I gladly accepted – I needed something to help me through this nightmare.
We were then sent to another hospital 45 minutes away which was better equipped to deal with the situation. We passed our house on the way, but I couldn’t face seeing our son (Louis 4½) or my mum who was looking after him to break the terrible news.
I felt so sad and guilty knowing how they too would suffer when they heard what had happened.
On arrival at the hospital’s maternity ward, I was greeted by a midwife who hugged me with tears in her eyes. It was such a relief; she was the first medical professional who’d acknowledged our loss as another human being. Her name was Dominique and she was a tower of strength to us throughout.
We met with the doctor on duty who had already received a report of what had happened and told us what to expect next. He gave me some tablets to soften the cervix for labour. It then struck me that I would still have to go through labour and give birth, this prospect terrified me – How would I possibly find the strength and motivation to go through with it?!
We were offered the choice between a room on the maternity ward where the mid-wives would be close by or a room away on another ward. We chose to stay in Maternity, as the nurses would be able to check on us more often. At that stage it really didn’t bother me about being near the other mum’s and their newborn babies.
Dominique talked us through a list which had been compiled to help us make some important and difficult decisions. She told us to take some time to read through the items and discuss our wishes privately before deciding anything. This helped us to address things we’d perhaps rather not talk about. She also advised us, from her previous experiences about the benefits of gathering as many memories as possible as we would have so little time with our baby.
Laurent and I spent a long and tearful night raising many questions, but managed to get some rest as we knew we’d need our strength to get through what was yet to come. In the morning we saw a second doctor who said that subject to the results of a blood test I could go home if I wished because labour could take up to three days! I really broke down then, how long would this nightmare go on? How could I go outside and face people who would think I was still expecting a joyous occasion? So after pressing the doctor, he explained that a caesarean would be a last resort and this was the best way for me now.
Just half an hour later though, he returned with the news that the tests showed my blood was thinning and we’d have to start straight away. I was pleased about this as I wanted to deliver the baby as soon as possible, but also afraid in case anything went wrong.
I was given some tablets to induce me and the contractions began soon after just before midday. They were fairly strong so Laurent and I decided to go for a walk. By the afternoon contractions were coming fast and strong so I was allowed morphine to ease the pain. Finally at around 6pm the Doctor came in and decided it was time to go into the delivery room. An anaesthetist came and administered an epidural, but I could still feel alot of pain down one side. With the help and encouragement of the team, I pushed for what seemed a long time keeping my eyes tightly shut not really wanting to be present. I used the anger I was feeling to control the pain and push. Despite all the encouragement from the team I sensed the baby wasn’t coming and almost gave up. Laurent later told me that the Doctor was shaking his head at this point. Then after a pause, somewhere from within came the strength and determination to carry on. I’d come this far through labour and I was not now going to have a c-section. As the Doctor sent a midwife to get the forceps, I suddenly revived and shouted ‘Allez, Let’s Go’ and in a few pushes, Lucie was born...
I still had my eyes closed as I couldn’t bear to look, but I heard Laurent sob beside me, and we hugged. I was exhausted...
The midwife then brought Lucie for us to hold and all the anger that was inside me just melted away. She was perfect, a beautiful baby girl... only sleeping.
We held her for a while and hugged her tightly. My mum who had stayed at the hospital whilst I was in labour also came in to hold her. Then I had to give her back to the midwife, as I knew if I held her too long I’d never be able to let her go.
They took photos, and later handprints and footprints at the hospital which have been so important for us as we have so few memories of Lucie.
The following day, some members of family came to visit and went to see Lucie in the Chapel. After some thought, we decided Louis could see her too as he’d been asking. So the nurse brought Lucie up to our room in a crib and we explained to Louis that this would be the last time that we could all see her. We were left a little while as a family and Louis was very excited and asked many questions with the typical curiosity of a child. He, like us didn’t want to let her go saying ‘I just can’t stop looking at her mummy’. It was a terribly difficult moment for us all. I’m so glad we gave him the chance to say goodbye, it’s been a very important part of his healing too.
The nurses were wonderful, never complaining and always more than happy to help us with any request. We were given a book we could write in, which other parents who had lost babies had written in. It helped us to feel less isolated and showed us that others had been through this terrible experience too.
We spent many hours talking with each other, the staff at the hospital, friends and family over the four days we were in hospital, and I really believe that the support we received in these initial days has helped enormously in my recovery and our acceptance of the loss of our baby Lucie.
After some thought, we decided to have Lucie buried without ceremony in the family plot at our local cemetery (which is just down the road from us). It’s been reassuring for us as we feel she’s close by and resting with family. And we can visit whenever we feel the need. The sadness of losing Lucie has eased, but there will always be a void that cannot be filled no matter how many children we have in the future.
Lucie will always have her place in our hearts and within our family...