1 January 2016
On this dark morning, the 25th of February 2016 at 12:22am, I sit on my bed, candles lit and tea in hand.
From as young as I can remember I wanted only two things from life; to be a successful hairdresser and to be a mother. Two of my only lifelong wishes that I only dreamt of coming true. Now, at 24 I have achieved both of those things, however, the outcome is not what I had ever imagined.
In August 2015 I was run-down, couldn’t get to the gym, fell asleep on the couch every night by 7pm and the thought of my daily breakfast was fast becoming a mighty turn-off. I had convinced myself I had chronic fatigue syndrome! After a week off work and a quick trip to the doctor for full bloods to see what on earth was happening to me, I grabbed a PT on my way home. Three positive tests later, and a phone call to soon-to-be Grandma, my second wish was coming true.
Pre-occupied by work and the everyday ongoings of life, I hadn’t realised I had been pregnant for already eight weeks by the time I found out. Our little loved baby was due on the 25th of March, Good Friday.
So the next step was to have more blood tests, and the nuchal fold screening. The tests you panic about, and the daily hope that you hold on for those four more weeks until you’re pretty ‘safe’. Lucky me, everything came back low risk! Woohoo!
Now, let me just brief you about my routine 20 week scan, later you will find out why…
Seven long weeks passed (anyone that’s had children can relate, these weeks feel like YEARS!)…. we made it to the 20 week ultrasound. As I made my way to the hospital with my mum and partner in tow, I was SO excited.
This 20 week ultrasound might just be one of the moments that changed my life forever, but we don’t know for sure, just yet.
My crazy little baby was flickering all over the place, somersaults, flipping upside down, back to front, you name it. This was making it a little hard for the ultrasound technician to take the images she needed. But that’s ok, right? That means he’s healthy, right? This ultrasound took TWO HOURS! About half an hour into the scan, we moved to the chest area. The lady stayed on his chest for about 45 minutes, moving around, trying to get the right images. I layed there, trying to make sense of what I could see, counting the heart chambers, checking his spine. At one point she even pointed out that she could see him practising his breathing, looking back, that is the only time I ever saw my precious baby trying to breathe. After an increasingly nerve-wracking 45 minute pause, she excused herself. I knew at that moment that something wasn’t right. But I held it together…
She transferred the images to a specialist in the hospital and returned to the room with a fellow technician. I heard the words ‘is this the part you’re concerned about?’ to which she replied yes. My heart sank. They then brought in the specialist for the third opinion.
They team were concerned about a shadowing in the baby’s lung. However, they dismissed it as the machine frequency – not a health issue.
I left pleased with their verdict, after all, they’re the professionals. A follow up obstetrician appointment consisted of ‘your baby is perfectly healthy, you’re doing great!’. Wonderful.
Eight weeks passed…..
Eight looooong HOT weeks working full time in a salon, during the Christmas period, in summer! But I made it! Woohoo and boy was i glad when it was over! I was suffering a little low blood pressure during my second trimester. During the last day or so, during the Christmas period, I remember saying to one of my close friends that he hadn’t been moving heaps. However, I put this down to me being so exhausted, hot and not to mention my placenta was at the front, which dulls any sense of movement as it is. Christmas Day came, Boxing Day came and on that evening I recorded a little video of a tiny punch or kick that I could see from the outside. Little did I know how special that video would be. After boxing day I hadn’t felt any movement, asides from what i thought could be hiccups at one stage. I had my next check-up at the hospital a day or two after so i didn’t worry too much! If only someone had made me aware of counting my kicks, maybe I could have done something different that day. I will never know.
After fasting all night, I headed to the hospital at 8am for my GTT. Which I wasn’t overly thrilled about because yet more blood tests were to come. At that time, on that day, that was my biggest conern. 10am came and i headed downstairs to the lovely midwives. I was called into an exam room and the first thing i mentioned was the decreased movement. She had a feel to see which position baby was lying in and gave him a bit of a poke. Without too much hesitation she grabbed a doppler and tried to find baby’s heartbeat. She struggled initially but soon found it.
Something about that heartbeat did not sit well with me.
“There you go, do you feel better now?” She said smiling. I immediately replied no. I knew something was unfamiliar about that heartbeat, it wasn’t galloping as usual. My anxiety rose rapidly. We decided to try a heart rate monitor that we could strap around my belly to see how that would go, my placenta being in the way was a concern. Still, nothing about the heartbeat was helping ease my worries. I think at that moment, deep down, i knew something was wrong – but i didn’t want to admit it. She couldn’t understand why I was worried… She mentioned that unless it was my heart beating at 130-150bpm then why wasn’t I relieved?
Well it was my heartbeat.
Nothing can prepare you for the heartbreak of hearing your own heartbeat for a solid 15 minutes hoping that your baby’s will take over.
I was taken upstairs to the birthing and assessment suites, where they have better technology. Very quickly I was taken to a dark room, with about three people i didn’t know. Who were all braced for the worst. I could see by the looks on their faces, they were worried. The midwife who I first saw, stood at the bottom of that bed with her hands on my legs, with a look of heartache on her face. The obstetrician began the ultrasound and all I remember at that point was her saying with a gentle voice, “so we’re in the chest area now looking for the baby’s heartbeat, and I’m sorry to tell you but there is no heartbeat”. I immediately broke. I don’t know how to describe that feeling, but my heart just exploded into a billion pieces. Every inch of my body just screamed with pain. If nightmares came true, I was living the unthinkable.
Inconsolable, the doctors and nurses tried to contact my partner and my mother to see if someone could come and be with me. I spent about two hours on my own, the very first midwife i saw that day, she stayed with me for as long as she could. I am so thankful for her support, at that time she saved me from myself. The strangest thing was, after that initial blow, I stopped crying. I was in tremendous shock. That didn’t just happen did it? Then it hit me, I have to deliver this baby. Labour and delivery is daunting to any first time parent, but when you’ve learnt your baby has passed it puts it into a completely different perspective. I was TERRIFIED. Anxiety took over, I couldn’t stop shaking, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t cry, all i could do was ask “why?”.
After a few hours and several more ultrasounds to confirm the worst – one of the most horrific things I think anyone can go through – I was given a tablet to take to prepare my body and I was sent home. I was due to come back two days later, New Years Day 2016. This day was significant being the first of the year and also my partners birthday. Those two days passed.. I don’t know how, but they passed. The crazy thing about grief is that your whole world has stopped, but time keeps ticking. I have never felt so empty, sick, scared, heartbroken, anxious in my whole life than i did walking into that hospital at 7.30am on that morning.
Through the ordeal, the hospital staff were great. Supportive, empathetic, attentive, everything they could be to try and make it that little less terrible. At 9.30 I was induced and after a VERY quick and intense labour, at 12.18 my beautiful baby boy Omari Leo was born. Can you believe that through the delivery i was calm, relaxed and eager to meet my little boy. It was like the power and heaviness of everything that had happened, lifted, to give me that moment of clarity and love. I could not believe how cute he was! At 28 weeks he was 39cms and weight 1.5kg. He had a full head of black curly hair, a cute little squished nose, teeny little ears and 10 perfect long fingers and 10 perfect delicious toes.
We had four hours with Omari at the hospital. He was quite fragile because he had passed away a few days before he was delivered. During that time we took photos, I held him and studied every bit of his body and tried to take in as much as i could for as long as i could. I could not help but think that time in your life, after your have your baby, must be so incredibly heart-warming and joyous. It just doesn’t have the same ring to it when your tiny baby didn’t make it. We were encouraged by the hospital to have Heartfelt come by and take some professional photos. I am SO glad we said yes. Such an incredible organisation that gives you lifetime memories. We wrapped Omari in a beautiful bunny rug that I had purchased when i first found out I was pregnant, and placed a matching beanie over his precious head. That midwife that I very first saw? She came to visit me that day. Those moments will last an eternity in my mind, clear as day.
Then the time came when we had to say goodbye…
It all happened so quickly, less than three hours labour and delivery shocked everybody. As i mentioned, Omari was quite fragile and as the hours went on, I could see him change. I decided that in the late afternoon, after he was with me for about four hours, it was time to say goodbye. Up until that time, I held it together really well. I just soaked up my newborn baby, shared him with family and a good friend. But it never actually occurred to me that he wasn’t coming home. There is never a good time or a right time to hand your baby over to the hospital. The emotions are indescribable. It was raw. Half of my heart forever left me that day and went with that little boy. I know I will always have him with me, as i carried him. But physically my body yearns for him every single day of my life.
I don’t know how, but i left the hospital that afternoon with nothing but needle marks from drips and blood tests, and paperwork. To this day, i don’t understand what took over. What is it that makes us get through these situations? How can we survive such heartache, such longing and endless pain? And walk away from it? I don’t know what it is, but I am thankful for this auto-pilot.
To this day, we still don’t know what caused Omari’s death. Hopefully we have some answers early March. But i bring you back to the 20 week ultrasound and what stands out in my mind. On the day I found out he passed, the specialist that viewed the final ultrasound mentioned ‘plural effusion’. Of course, being me, I googled it. Coincidentally it has something to do with fluid trapped in the lungs that can cause death in utero or newborn babies. I also read that it CAN be somewhat fixed. But hey, I’m not a doctor.
No one should ever have to plan a funeral for their child, no matter how old. That’s not how it should be. But perhaps they give us the strength to go on and to live another day. Perhaps these lost babies really were too precious for this earth, and they didn’t want to leave their mummy’s.
To end my long story, I update you now, almost two months after Omari was born.
– I haven’t returned to work, I’m not sure when I will.
– It doesn’t get easier. I have to adapt parenting a child in heaven. Every day is different.
– I have pictures of him in the house, I light candles for him and I take fresh flowers to his grave every week.
Omari’s nursery is still in tact, I have put clothes away but that’s all for now. In a way I feel like im honouring his life by leaving his room untouched. In this two months, I have struggled with seeing people, going to the shop, leaving my house, getting dressed, sleeping.
– I have to come to terms with the fact that my whole future that I had planned, has vanished. I have to live with the daily wondering that if i had acted sooner, would he still be here?
It’s ok to struggle. It’s ok to say no. It’s ok to hide in your house. It’s ok to absorb yourself in tv so you don’t think about anything else. It’s ok to stay up until 4am and sleep all day.
Most importantly it’s ok to talk about your babies. Talk about them, to anyone and everyone, keep their memory alive.
At 1.40am, after many tears, I end this post. All I hope is that I can reach out to somebody, to let them know, you will make it through this.
Written by Abbey, Omari’s Mother.