This blog post is very hard to write but at the same time provides me with some form of comfort and relief. I have always found writing blog posts and recording vlogs quite therapeutic, no matter how many people do or don’t read/watch them. Whilst I really do hope that someone out there appreciates what I post, it isn’t the primary reason I do what I do. I like that I have something I can keep that isn’t just a photo I’ve taken here and there. Something that has grown with me over the years that I can look back on and share with future children or family members. That being said, real life isn’t always happy and ‘instagram worthy’. So I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t post the bad with the good, especially when other people in the world may be going through similar and I could possibly provide support to others.
If you have been following me for a while you will notice that at the beginning of the year I announced the most exciting news, that we were expecting baby no.2. We also announced that we would be having a baby boy and shared our cute announcement videos with everyone. I was very very ill with the pregnancy, throwing up all day every day, in pain with SPD, gaining loads of weight and really struggling with smells, all whilst starting a new full time job and working self employed at the same time. All of these things were tough and I remember feeling rather fed up and wondering when I was going to start feeling better. On reflection, I would give anything to be feeling as terrible as that again……I would give absolutely ANYTHING to feel that awful way again, because on the 17th March at 20 weeks pregnant, I went through the most painful thing I could ever imagine going through, losing my beautiful baby boy.
I remember the day everything started to go down hill in the pregnancy. We were so excited to go for a gender scan to find out what we were having. All early scans seemed normal up until then so we felt nothing but excitement and joy when we were going for the scan at 16 weeks. During the scan the sonographer pointed out that something on the scan didn’t quite look right to do with the baby’s gut but that everything else seemed perfect. She reassured us that it was probably fine but contacted fetal medicine at Durham hospital to just do a routine check. Obviously I was quite upset but my husband said that I needed to try and relax as there was no point in worrying until we knew more. The baby was wriggling around plenty and looked healthy otherwise so that was a good sign and I guess we both thought he would just be fine.
We had a scan the following day at Durham hospital and they noticed that something didn’t look quite right. They didn’t necessarily believe it was something that was a big problem but they decided to send us to RVI hospital in Newcastle to their fetal medicine department, as they are able to do much more thorough tests/examinations. Again, even though we were worried it still didn’t really enter our minds that we could end up with no baby, that thought was far too horrifying to even consider. We were just eager to know what was going on and what that meant for our baby boy.
After further scans at the RVI they found other problems that weren’t picked up on earlier scans and we went from 1 abnormality to around 4. I remember the moment they sat us in a private room to tell us the results from the scan. I remember during the scan and the silence from the sonographer who said he couldn’t discuss the results with me until he looked them over with a colleague. I remember him asking me during the scan after a long silence whether my family had any ‘structural abnormalities’. I remember the sickening feeling I had during all of these moments. I remember knowing from this day that we had a long difficult road ahead but I didn’t realise just how difficult it was actually going to be.
The problems they discovered with the baby were all structural problems that on their own really weren’t too much of a worry. 1 would have required surgery as soon as the baby was born which usually is rather successful. One would have required the baby to wear apparatus for a period of time when born to help him grow correctly and help to correct something that was wrong. Other things could have possibly even gone away on their own and could have no longer been present by the time the baby was born. But whilst all of these things weren’t a huge problem on their own, when you put them together, it instantly sent alarm bells to medical professionals. They explained that when there are that many structural problems it usually means that there is something overall wrong with the baby. This was very hard for us to grasp as we had a baby there who I was starting to feel his kicks, I could see him moving around on a scan, he had all of his little fingers and toes and what appeared to be a perfectly formed brain and a strong heartbeat. So hearing this was really hard for us to accept as to us, he just looked perfect.
After our first scan at RVI they said that their first guess when there are quite a few structural problems was Down Syndrome or the likes of Edwards or Patau. They said the best thing they could offer was a amniocentesis to check for these conditions. I decided to go ahead with it because at this point we had no idea what we were dealing with and to be honest I was fully expecting one of them to come back as positive. My husband and I both agreed that we would 100% still carry on the pregnancy if the baby had down syndrome. Our reason for this was because our main concern was always whether the baby would have a good quality of life, and although different, D.S. children still have a pretty good quality of life generally. So that was a risk we were willing to take if it came back that our boy had it. We were aware that if results came back with Patau or Edwards then this would be a risk we wouldn’t be willing to take because in almost all cases babies either don’t survive or have no quality of life. Either way, one of these results, no matter how upsetting would give us an answer, and if I’m honest, life would have been so much simpler if he did have one of those things….but he didn’t. The results came back completely clear.
We were then told to come back in for another scan in a couple of weeks time when I was then 19 weeks and they could see if anything had changed, or if they can see anything else on the scan that indicates exactly what is wrong with our little guy. We also would have the rest of our amniocentesis results back which would also look at the rest of the chromosome results for rarer conditions. We were already told that if the Down sydrome, Edwards and Patau came back clear they were expecting the rest to come back clear too and that the problem could actually be DNA related rather than chromosomes. Unfortunately as there is thousands and thousands of DNA code and all it takes is that one spelling mistake in the DNA, they just can’t test it all. Which means that we were open to all sorts of horrible things that could be wrong with our boy and no way of finding out what was wrong. The amniocentesis really was just awful and really painful! I am already terrified of needles but this was just horrible! It was however all over in 10 minutes and I am glad I did it just to try and find out as much as I could about my baby.
We had to taken in to account that best case scenario was that our baby had various unrelated problems that would require surgery and other not very nice things to correct him, but he could possibly then lead a pretty good life. Or there was the other possibility that he could be a really poorly baby who had little to no quality of life. That is essentially what we were left with. No actual answers, just the top medical professionals telling us there wasn’t much more they could tell us, but that they very much believed that there was something overall wrong with him. Whilst they never pushed us in to a decision on what we should do with the pregnancy, it was very clear that they didn’t see much of a positive outcome for us. We were left with the worst decison we ever had to make and we were the only ones who could make it, with the little information we had been given. We were just left with millions of questions and very few answers. We had to decide our baby’s fate based on this and we had to weigh up every outcome.
After days and days of having discussions that no one ever wants to have, lots of tears, faking smiles and taking out our stress on each other, we eventually both came to the same conclusion… We both agreed that the worst outcome would be for us to bring a baby in to the world who had no quality of life and/or who was really poorly/suffered. We also agreed that if it had just been us and we didn’t have a child already then maybe we would have been more inclined to take the risk but we couldn’t do that to our other son either. We essentially decided that it was our pain over our baby boy’s pain, even though our pain was unbearable. The second worst outcome was that he had these problems but would have been okay in the end and we had terminated. This was definitely a close second worst scenario, but it was just that…second. So we had to make our decision based purely on the worst case scenario, especially since it was a very high probability we would end up with that outcome.
I remember the moment that we both sat there with our head in our hands realising that we were both on the same page. Realising the decision we were making together and what that actually meant. I remember making the phone call to the fetal medicine to tell them our decision and I remember feeling absolutely numb, like it was all a bad dream and wasn’t real. I remember going back and fourth in my head thinking, is this the right thing, am I strong enough to go through this. I remember punishing myself over and over in my head, but deep down we never changed what we knew was the right decision. We still couldn’t help questioning ourselves and feeling immense guilt and sadness and there was always that thought ticking in our brains ‘what if he was ok’. We had to keep reminding each other what we were doing was the least selfish thing we could do or at least our decision was based on what we believed to be the least selfish thing. The selfish thing would have been to do what I really wanted, which was to carry on the pregnancy and pretend everything was fine and deal with the consequences later. But I had to think about my family and my baby in this scenario rather than myself.
The day that I went in to hospital to start the whole process, I don’t think I had ever felt sadness and fear like it. I had to go in and take a tablet which would tell my body I was no longer pregnant. I remember it feeling like it was the end of the world when the dr handed me the tablet. I remember staring at it and looking at my husband, praying he would tell me not to take it. That was the selfish part of me kicking in again, hoping someone would save me from what I was about to do. We both agreed that if I threw the tablet up (which is a possibility) then I would take it as a sign and not carry on with the process, but everything went as planned and we had just gone through the first step of the medical miscarriage.
After the tablet I had to wait a day before I could come back in to actually be induced and have the miscarriage. Probably one of the hardest tests to my sanity was that at this point, our baby was still alive. I could still feel him kicking and moving and it was a whole day of just waiting until I would go back to hospital for the worst day of my life. Because it was too unbearable to just sit and think about it and torture ourselves all day, we decided to keep our son, Reid off nursery and just take him out for the day. He could do or have absolutely anything he wanted! I didn’t care what it cost, what it was or how much we spoilt him that day. We really needed him, he was keeping us sane, even though it was impossibly hard to put on a brave face in front of him. We went to his favourite place to go on the trampolines and go bowling. Then we went to the cinema and stuffed our faces and we bought him endless amounts of sweets and treats! We went to see Coco which was a bit of a bad idea as its quite an emotional children’s film and the song ‘Remember me’ was quite relatable to me in a way so I did find myself falling to pieces quietly, trying to hide it from Reid. Luckily there was no one else in the cinema at that time of day so I could cry my eyes out without anyone seeing me. That day, you would look at photos and videos we took and think we look completely normal…we look like a normal family having a great day out. But in reality we were in so much pain, and those smiles you see were masking a huge amount of sadness and hurt and we were doing it for our son.
The next day, I still, even now find it difficult to think about. I remember packing my hospital bag…which was very similar to the kind of bag you pack when going in to have a baby. The likes of sanitary pads, lip salve, pjs, slippers etc. The only difference was that there were no baby items in that bag. No nappies, baby grows, vests, socks or teddies. Everything I did was a reminder that eventually I was going to be coming home empty handed from that hospital and no longer pregnant. I fell to pieces the moment my mum collected our son that morning. Every part of my body was saying run run run. You can’t do this, everything will be fine, just turn around and don’t go in. But again this was just my body’s way of trying to protect me from the pain I was going to be in. I had to ignore and fight every natural instinct to protect myself and my baby and do what I knew was right.
When I arrived in hospital I was in the bit where all the mums give birth so I tried to shield myself from any new born babies as I couldn’t bare to see them. I was shaking and crying when I arrived so a midwife quickly rushed me in to a private room. This was the room I was to spend 3 nights in and was also the room I was to give birth to my baby boy in. It’s safe to say that from the moment I entered this room, most of my time in there was a bit of a blur. It really does feel like a nightmare that didn’t really happen. It still doesn’t seem real or like it was me that went through it. All I can say is though that I will never ever forget what I went through and I don’t think the pain ever will really go away.
I was given the first pessary to start the process of a medical miscarriage. I remember as soon as the pessary was inserted any kind of togetherness I had left….well that completely went out the window. At this point I was uncontrollably sobbing and shaking. I remember this was the moment I started to really punish myself. Saying look what you have done! How can you do this to your baby! I started shouting, ‘I am killing my baby’ ‘I can’t believe I have done it’. My husband reassured me as he knew that I would react in this way and he carried on reminding me why I was doing what I was doing. Regardless of our decision it was me that was physically causing the miscarriage with it being my body so this really did mess with my head A LOT!
The first pessary didn’t work so 6 hours later I was given a second one. About an hour after the second pessary I began to feel contractions. I was quite shocked at how soon they began to get very painful. I was given diamorphine via an injection every couple of hours to manage the pain and my labour went on for around 7 hours. Even with the diamorphine I really was in so much pain and I was quite shocked at how it was just the same as a normal labour. I remember I could still feel him moving throughout the labour which made it even worse as I feel I knew the moment my baby died which was just horrific.
The moment it came to pushing him out it was still really difficult, like in labour with a full term baby. He did come out a lot easier than with my other son who required 2 hours of pushing but it was still very painful and required a lot of energy. The moment he came out was the most heartbreaking moment of my entire life. That silence. I have never hated silence so much ever. I longed to hear his cry, to hear anything from him. That silence when he was born will haunt me for the rest of my life. I will never forget the look on my husbands face when I shouted, he’s come out. The devastation and hurt in his face along with the silence in the room still pains me to think about.
When my baby was born the midwives very quickly wrapped him in a knitted blanket and handed him straight to me (at my request). I was so scared at what he would look like and whether seeing him would be a bad thing or not but I just knew I had to. My God, he was absolutely beautiful. I couldn’t believe that at 20 weeks he could still look so perfect. He was just teeny but he had the most beautiful perfect nose and big lips. Seeing him, whilst it was heartbreaking was completely the right decision. Getting to hold him and spend time with my baby even though I never knew him alive, helped me with my grief. I got to hug him and kiss him and talk to him, it just made me feel normal even if it was just for a fraction of a second. His daddy read him a story which was beautiful and heart breaking at the same time.
Unfortunately after having him I struggled getting the placenta out and I was losing a huge amount of blood. Very quickly our baby was given to my husband and I was quickly whisked off for surgery under anaesthetic and I remember seeing my terrified husbands face. He was sat holding our baby watching me looking very out of it, losing a lot of blood being rushed out of the room. I know that must have been so so hard for him and he was scared but he was still my rock through all of this. He put aside whatever hurt or pain he was going through just to focus on me and whatever I needed from him.
As I was going in to surgery one of the midwives took our baby off my husband and got him dressed in a little bobble hat and sleeping bag. She then held him and cuddled him the entire time until I was out of surgery and I had came out of recovery. She didn’t put him down once and carried him like he was alive, like any of the other babies born there. It really meant a lot to me that he wasn’t just put in a cot like he didn’t matter. They made me feel like he did matter and like he was just as important even though he wasn’t alive. The staff at the hospital really were amazing! I couldn’t have asked for a better experience with the staff under the circumstances. My husband and I didn’t even want to leave there and go home as we felt everything was so easy there. Everyone knew exactly what to say to us and we didn’t even know what the right thing was to say ourselves. They just knew how to make you feel that tiny bit better in the worst situation ever. They even told me I could stay there as long as I wanted and there was no rush to go home. We actually stayed an extra night as we just weren’t ready and every single staff member we came across was brilliant.
We got to spend 3 full days with our baby boy which really did help provide a tiny bit of comfort. He was in the most beautiful white wicker basket with a special cooling machine attached. The hospital said I could spend as much time with him as I wanted and he never left my side for the 3 nights I was there. The staff provided me with a digital camera and memory card so I could take photos of him and then keep the memory card which I thought was just an amazing thing to offer. They then went and had photos printed out for us and also did some in black and white. They also gave us a box of things to remember him by which included various lovely things.
Leaving the hospital was unbelieveably difficult and facing our son Reid was even more difficult. We then had so much to think about such as how to tell our little boy who was only 4 and super excited to have a baby. We had to think about a funeral and had funeral directors out to visit us very quickly. We had to decide how much time we could afford to actually have off work, which to be honest wasn’t a lot. We had to decide how and when to let people know what had happened. There were also those horrible and awkward instances where we had to leave the house and we would see people who didn’t know what had happened and we would have to explain whilst trying our best to look like we were coping. It was also pretty bad timing as it happened around the Easter holidays so I had that guilt of being a pretty rubbish mummy who struggled to go anywhere. I managed a couple of lunches out with him on our own, swimming one day and a trip to an inflatable play area place and ice cream parlour. That was all I managed for those two weeks with him. If I’m honest the lunch dates out with him was because I couldn’t be arsed to cook so I went out for food with him and just made him think it was something fun to do, that was for him. But if I’m being honest it was for me. It was so I didn’t have to make food and so that he got out the house for a minute and so that when he was glued to the TV or his tablet at home, I didn’t feel quite as bad. I just did what I had to do and most of the time I was a zombie who was absolutely broken inside.
Do I regret my decision, when I look back? Yes, every single day and I always will, I think it would be wrong if I didn’t naturally feel that way. Do I think it was the wrong decision? No, I don’t think it was as our reasons behind it were what we thought was best for our baby and not about what we wanted. How can I regret the decision but think it was right? Because the mind loves to torture you and no matter how good your intentions are or how unselfish you are actually being, you will always put yourself down and hate yourself for making a decision like that. I will always naturally long to have my baby boy and to watch him grow and to see him smile or say mummy. I will always wish I could have seen Reid holding his baby brother and loving him so much. I will always dream of his little face and his little eyes that were closed and that I never had the opportunity to see. I will always feel like I am missing a big piece of me and will always feel like a mum of two children but who only actually has one.
We decided to have our son cremated because I couldn’t bear the thought of burying him and then us moving ad just not having him close to me didn’t feel right. We decided to have a bear made who is absolutely beautiful by an artist on Etsy and we have put his ashes in there. We will keep him on a shelf and then if we want to give him a hug or we are missing him and are sad then we can get him down and give him a hug. Reid believes that his baby brother can see him through the teddy so that he can watch his big brother and his mummy and daddy having fun. He also believes that when he hugs or kisses the bear, his little brother could feel it in Heaven. He often asks to give the bear a hug and tells him that he loves his little brother and misses him.
We named our beautiful baby boy Elijah and I made a slideshow video below which does actually include a photo of our little baby. So please do not watch if you would find this too upsetting to see. I believe he is beautiful but I do understand that not everyone would want to see him.