Wednesday, 27 June 2018

#StillOurBaby Eli.

This week's #StillOurBaby comes from Stacy and her little boy Eli. This post contains photos of beautiful Eli. 


We found out I was pregnant at exactly four weeks. We were both so excited, scared and nervous of course but ultimately happier than ever. Looking back now I say blissfully ignorant. At six weeks we saw a tiny little heartbeat after a bleeding scare and from that moment, I was in love. That natural instinct to love and protect was there from the very beginning. My first trimester was terrible, I suffered terribly with nausea and sickness but it was all working towards the end point of our baby so worth every second, although I had to remind myself of that several times a day!

Our 12 week scan went by without any problems and we announced our happy news via Facebook, My sickness and nausea started to ease off as I headed into the second trimester and we began buying a few little bits and pieces. Our 20 week scan we were told everything looked good and we had a very healthy baby boy growing away as he should be. We began thinking of names, trying to agree was really hard but we were not concerned as we had plenty of time to make a final decision. Eli was a firm favourite for us both from the beginning.

At 23 weeks 2 days pregnant I had some period type pain, I assumed it was ligament pain and took some paracetamol and carried on with my day. I had a Doppler and listened to our boy’s heartbeat that night, it was as strong as normal and he was doing his usual somersaults so I had no reason to be concerned in my mind. I woke up in the night with some strong pain again but this quickly subsided and I went back to sleep. When the pain was still happening the next day I phoned the on call midwife who said I needed to get checked out, although they didn’t think it was anything to worry about.

At around midday I headed to the hospital, my partner and I even joked in the car park that they were going to see me and tell me to piss off home and get on with being pregnant. We sit waiting for about half an hour to be seen and are eventually put on a bay with three other pregnant women.

They listened to his heartbeat which was fine and strong and then the trainee doctor examined me and took some swabs. He said he thought my cervix was open but no indication as to how much and that he would need to go and get the registrar. At this point I began to panic, the words cervix and open were ringing in my ears. The Registrar arrived and he examined me and again we are told that my cervix is open, but no indication as to how open, he talks about a stitch being possible some times depending on how open the cervix is and that he needs to get the consultant to examine me. At this point I lost my shit and really began to panic, turns out the pains I had been experiencing were actually contractions and I was in labour.

The Consultant came and said she needed to examine me, I asked if I could pop to the loo beforehand and when I came out they had moved us into a side room away from the ward. I knew then that it wasn’t good news. She examined me and while she was doing the examination she asked me about my contractions and the one I was currently having, I said I wasn’t having a contraction at that moment but she could feel it even though I couldn’t. She estimated I was around 8cms dilated already, and she told me that she couldn’t put a stitch in because I was contracting too much and my cervix was already open too far. So they admitted me and put on bed rest and if we made it to Friday without delivering then we would be moved to a hospital in the next County who can deal with very premature babies.

Monday night passed by in a bit of haze of hourly morphine and regular contractions, at one point they were every three minutes apart for quite a long time, but then they would drop back down to 15 mins apart. Tuesday morning I relented and took some codeine and proceeded to then chuck my guts up and was out of it for a couple of hours. They gave me the steroid injections for his lungs. Still no sleep since Saturday night by this point. Tuesday afternoon contractions slowed right down again and I went as long as 40 minutes between each one, I actually thought that we might make it to Friday and that golden signpost of 24 weeks that everyone kept talking about.

Around 6ish they picked right back up again and I couldn’t move for the pain, I was standing up which in hindsight didn’t help. I finally fell asleep for about 45 minutes, only for the battery in the tens machine to stop. My partner had just fallen asleep so I didn’t want to wake him by putting the light on, so off I went to the nurses station for more batteries and morphine. At this point my contractions picked up and were between 2-5 mins apart. About 5am I started on the gas and air, which was great for a while until it made me feel very sick! They moved me up to delivery at 8am, but I had to wait for the consultant to come around before they could make a decision on whether I should be pushing or not, by this point I hadn’t been able to wee for about four hours and I felt like my bladder was going to burst. The consultant came around at 9.45, she asked what position the baby was in, and no one had a clue as I hadn’t been scanned the whole time I was there. They quickly scanned me and it turned out he was already in the birth canal (hence not being able to pee due to the pressure) and my bladder was taking up most of the screen. They gave me magnesium sulphate (I think, I can’t remember the name) via cannula to protect the baby’s head. This took ten minutes to put in and it feels like your body is on fire from the inside out. Once that was in I started pushing. After about 20 mins of pushing my waters went and I again lost my shit and announced I couldn’t do it any more but my mum, partner and the midwife spurred me on, 10 Minutes later Eli was born at 11.33am.

He was taken and wrapped in plastic and put on the neonatal incubator where there were several doctors and nurses waiting. They attempted to give him oxygen but his heart rate kept dropping and after five long agonising minutes in which I allowed myself to believe he was going to make it, the consultant told us they could go no further. My heart broke as we held our darling boy until he peacefully passed away.

I think this is by far the hardest thing I’ll ever have to write and post. I feel that there isn’t a lot out there in terms of people’s raw experiences that bring them to this point and that’s why barring a few graphic details I have tried to write it all down here. This was the worst moment of my life, that doesn’t mean I want to forget or pretend it didn’t happen. I want to talk about it. I want Eli’s only living moments on this earth to be remembered. I want people to feel like it is ok to talk about their baby loss in all it’s heartbreaking, earth shattering, gory detail. 


Thank you so much Stacy, for writing and sharing Eli's story. Such a honest and raw post. You can find Stacy on Instagram @StacyIqbal. 

If you'd like to be a part of the #StillOurBaby series, please get in touch. 

Katie xx

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

The Grey Area: Pregnancy Loss 20-24 Weeks.

Image from Google

The grey area. That's where us parents of babies lost between 20-24 weeks live. We don't fit into any box. Our babies are not legally classed as 'stillborn' but in my eyes you don't have a funeral for a miscarriage. Our babies were born either naturally or via c-section, more often than not on a delivery suite, just like those at full term. Yet there is no legal record of them ever existing. We didn't get a birth or death certificate and we didn't get to register Jonah. I was 17 days away from viability, 17 days away from being able to document that our baby was a part of this world. That's why for me, it's so important to keep saying his name. 

Losing Jonah so close to the 24 week mark is incredibly tough. Being so close to a big milestone, actually felt achievable despite a difficult pregnancy. I know the chances of survival at 24 weeks are slim, but it would have given us some hope. It would have meant Jonah would have been delivered earlier in the evening and I may not have had to endure such trauma from excessive blood loss. 

And then there is the practical side of losing a baby before 24 weeks. I carried Jonah for five and half months. That took it's toll on my physical and mental health.  The anxiety around this pregnancy was beyond anything I'd ever experienced. My bump was getting bigger and bigger and therefore making an impact of my hips and back. I then gave birth via a c-section and had major abdominal surgery. Yet I wasn't entitled to any maternity leave, not one day. 

I spend my time trying to find a group that I belong to. It turns out, I don't really belong to any. Losing a baby between 20-24 weeks is rare, in fact it's less than 2 in 1000 pregnancies. Then I add the hysterectomy factor in - that's even less people. I have yet to find anyone in the UK that has been through a similar experience. My grey area, gets even bigger. 

I can't join in conversations about the relationships between siblings. I can't discuss how many children I'd like to have in the future. I have to walk away when I overhear conversations about pregnancy or newborns at play groups. I so desperately want people to know I've given birth and had a baby this year, but of course, nobody ask about him. But why would they? They don't know he existed. I'm now the mother that avoids conversations at toddler groups and hangs out with the grandparents where it tends to be a little 'safer'. 

I can't enter discussions about rainbow babies or pregnancy after loss either. I don't belong in the group of ladies trying to conceive after the unimaginable. Every bit of hope was taken from us, when my womb was taken. We're stuck in this no man's land, just trying to survive.

Maybe one day the grey will become a little clearer and we will finally belong somewhere. But for now we will continue to try and find the club we belong to.

A little link to some research and advice for pregnancy loss between 20-24 weeks.

Katie xx


Wednesday, 13 June 2018

#StillOurBaby Gabriel.

The third in #StillOurBaby series comes from Anna and discusses termination for medical reasons. This is beautiful Gabriel's story. 


Those seven words that I will never forget “I’m sorry, there’s a problem with baby.” Even now I can still picture that moment, the moment my world changed forever. Then came a flurry of appointments, words like “termination”, “fetocide” and worst of all, “your baby is unlikely to survive the rest of your pregnancy”. This can’t be happening, not to me, not to us… heartbreaking, anguished phone calls…

“It’s done,” she said as she injected potassium into his heart to stop it beating. I lay there, numb. My husband was quiet. Another scan moments later, screens off, confirmed it. He was gone. His tiny heart was no longer ticking inside me. His movements stopped.

We were numb. My baby was in there still, where he should be… but he had died. He was dead.

“Baby mummy?” My son asked.

“No angel,” I managed, “baby gone…”

Two days later, he was born. His entrance was rapid and unbearable. I was panic stricken. We were in the bereavement suite, watching Netflix.

“I’m pushing I think,” I said panicked and woozy from the gas and air, “I don’t know… I’m frightened.”

“Don’t be frightened,” my midwife soothed as the agony took over.

Two pushes and I knew he was there.

“The pain has gone,” I told her.

“It comes in waves,” she said gently, “you know that.”

“I’m wet.”

“I’ll have a look under the sheet, if I see baby is coming I will press this button for some help…” she lifted the sheet, “baby is here,” she said gently, pressing the button. The shaking began. I felt sick. They took him away, wrapped in a towel.

It was bizarre. Even though I knew he was dead, I felt the usual rush of post birth emotion, I wanted to meet him, I was almost excited, happy… I went to the loo to clean up. I stripped my wet bed.

We wanted to see him. I hadn’t known up til then if I wanted to or not, but I did. We sat together on the sofa bed and they brought him in. I asked not to see his defects. He was dressed in a tiny pale green cardigan, a hat, and tucked under a gorgeous blanket with little lady birds on it.

“Hello Gabriel,” I said softly, not knowing what to do. He lay in a tiny Moses basket. So peaceful. She showed us his feet which she thought were gorgeous. We stroked his little face. Delicate, soft, cold. I was so pleased to see him. My tiny boy, perfectly imperfect.

“Can you take him?” I asked her, “I don’t want to see him when his colour has gone…” I’m a nurse, I know what happens. She nodded, and he was gone.

My husband slept. I lay awake listening to the screams of some woman elsewhere on the delivery suite, wishing I could swap with her, wishing she knew what was going on in our room. Our midwife apologised.

The screaming stopped. Her baby was here. Her baby would be wriggling, nuzzling in to her, clutching her fingers. My baby was cold. My baby was dead. My much wanted, longed for second son. Loved from the moment those two lines appeared.

We left early in the morning. I had to do it quickly, like ripping off a plaster. The thought of leaving my beautiful boy with strangers threatened to tear my heart in two.

We had a memory box from the hospital, photos, candles… footprints. But no baby. No car seat to wrestle in to the car. No balloons from excited visitors.

We went home as if nothing had happened, I had the usual after effects, bleeding, pain… but no baby to show for it. My head went in to meltdown, tormented with grief, guilt, isolation.  My best friend arranged Gabriel’s cremation, made sure he had the bunny we had bought him with him at all times. I had one to match. I squeezed it tight, when I needed it, hoping he could feel my cuddle too. The funeral directors were kind, they looked after him when I couldn’t. They kept him safe.

And then I realised. He was gone. I was empty.

Image of Gabriel's Bunny

There is only one way to end the stigma of termination for medical reasons. Talk about it. Raise awareness. It happens so much more than you realise. I felt so alone… and then I spoke to someone else going through the same thing and the relief was enormous. We held hands through our grief. Even on the darkest days, I know she understands.

My darling boy. My angel. I hope your bunny is giving you cuddles the way I should be. I hope someone is caring for you, wherever you are. I hope that. I don’t believe it, but I hope that.

You sit in an urn by my bed. It feels better to have you home with me. I stroke our matching bunny.

The milestones are coming… I dread them. I think of you every day, my beautiful boy. I am now used to being in pain. It overwhelms me.

But you were born. You are our son. And I miss you, sweet boy.


Thank you Anna for sharing your heart wrenching story and for helping break the silence around TMFR and baby loss. 

Katie xx

Monday, 4 June 2018

Charity Focus: Sands #FindingTheWords.

It's Sands Awareness Month, so it seemed only right to have them as my charity focus for June. For anyone that doesn't know, Sands stands for Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity, however they also support those that have been through late miscarriage. 

The charity was founded in 1978 by two bereaved mothers, when they discovered their was no help for parents that had lost a baby. It started as a small charity, and is now one of the most well-known baby loss support charities in the UK. In fact, it was probably one of the only support networks I was aware of, prior to losing Jonah. 

So what do Sands do? They have a range of support for anyone thats been affected by the loss of a baby. When we were discharged from hospital, we were sent home with a Sands information pack, which included booklets for grandparents, siblings and even employers. I guess they were one of the first pointed of contact after Jonah died. 

As well as literature, Sands provide a helpline via the phone and email and most crucially, support groups and forums. I actually sent a Facebook message to my local group, from my hospital bed and now attend monthly sessions. The groups provide me with the much needed reminder that, we're not alone and it's so lovely to meet parents that live near by. We spend time reflecting on the month that has passed, if anyone has any news and have time to walkabout our babies or our maternity experience. The groups aren't just for parents ether, I know our group has welcomed grandparents in the past and I know of siblings that have attended meetings elsewhere too. 

This weekend we visited the Sands Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum, for a special memorial day. The event was just what we needed and was another example of the care and support we have received from this charity. They held a special service then a blessing in the Sands garden at the Arboretum. It was also an opportunity to meet some of the lovely ladies I've chatted to on social media and learn more about their babies. 

 We we're encouraged to leave stones for our babies, these are Jonah's that were left in the garden. And each given a rose to lay. 

I wanted to do these charity focus posts to celebrate and promote charities that have really helped us. This month Sands have launched their #FindingTheWords campaign, which involves a short video that can be shared n social media. It's all about keeping the conversation going around baby loss and supporting those that have lost babies. You can get involved easily, by just sharing the video on Twitter or Facebook using this;

"Baby death is still a taboo subject. But together we can break the wall of silence. Join me in #FindingTheWords to support anyone who has experienced #babyloss and share the new @SandsUK film at #15babiesaday"

Sands really have been a lifeline for us and we cannot thank them enough, for their continued support over the past few months. 

You can find out more about Sands here.    

Katie xx

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