Sad memories

Its a bit of a sad time this time of year for us. On 12 January 2010, we had a little baby boy who was stillborn.
This is a bit of a taboo subject. People (close friends and family) know about this , but its not something that people like to talk about with us or bring up. Perhaps they are uncomfortable, not knowing what to say or they just don't like to think that perhaps it could happen to them. Its one of those topics.

Our baby boy, Jack, was a surprise baby later in life for us. Bethany was 11 and about to start high school so Ben would have been 8. Both were young enough to love the idea, and were looking forward to having a little baby at home. Little did they understand what having a baby around would mean to their precious belongings!! but they were old enough to close their doors and help out when they felt like it.

Things were going along well, and we were due for our 22 week scan. I took my mum as well as the kids along. It was pretty exciting, I had told the kids we would find out the sex so we could start picking out names and setting up the nursery.

We arrived, and the doctor starting looking around. We could see the baby sucking on his thumb and moving around, and the kids thought this was pretty cool. But the doctor got quiet and then he said I think there are some problems and you should go straight over to the hospital, I'm going to ring them now. Naturally any thoughts of finding out the sex or any lightheartedness was gone and we headed for the hospital.

When we go there the nurses pretty much told us that the baby would not survive. It was such a shock hearing that, they isolated us in a separate room so I think I knew things were very serious. They made us an appointment for the for the Monday in 2 days to go into Westmead and see the doctors there. Afterwards I asked myself why I hadn't pushed for a same day appointment, but at that stage I thought there was still hope.

When we got to the hospital on Monday, there was another scan. Ben was with me and Craig, Bethany was away on holidays by that stage with friends. When she done the scan she said she was sorry but there was no heartbeat. That was it. Poor Ben, he was so young and had to cope with seeing me crying my eyes out non stop. It was a terrible moment.

They spoke to us, and then sent us away to come back the next day to give birth. I had to walk out into a waiting room with my big belly amongst other pregnant mums waiting for their appointments, knowing that my baby hadn't made it. My beautiful friend Melinda came down to the hospital and just hugged us. I was so appreciative of this, if anyone knew how we were feeling it was Mel, who had lost a full term baby only a year or two earlier.

Even worse was going home knowing that I had a dead baby inside my body. Its a terrible feeling, one you can never forget. I was given a tablet to induce the baby, so that I would give birth easily the next day.

All the way home in the car, I cried. In the backseat, Ben was crying too, sobbing. I had to tell Craig to pull over so I could help Ben, it was so very sad that he had to be with us when this was happening, he was too young to have to deal with a situation like this.

We went back to the hospital the next day and had to go through birthing. All that effort and no reward at the end. Not really much you can say about that except that it was frightening and awful.

There are so many terrible things you never ever consider in this situation. Giving birth was not painful but its still physical. I was given very strong painkillers (which just never would have been used normally) so I wouldn't feel any pain. But when you are pushing, you still have the sensation. I remember this being so frightening - pushing but not really feeling anything. I bawled my eyes out. Then afterwards, having that very strong period from having a baby.  I was having my period for weeks afterwards, and it was very heavy. The other thing that I distinctly remember as being a part of the awfulness of this was having my milk come in. That sensation of having very heavy breasts filled with milk. They were rock hard. I had to take medication for this.

They took Jack away, dressed him and brought him back so we could say goodbyes. He was this very tiny little doll of a baby who looked just liked Ben had when he was a baby. Except for being tiny, there wasn't any way to see why this had happened. Its terrible and upsetting reflecting on this after 4 years, and I remember the excruciating sadness of this whole period. It was so so hard to have to give him back, and say goodbye at this point. His skin was still warm, and pink.

After a certain time in the pregnancy, babies dying in uterus are stillborns, not miscarriages. So we had a funeral to arrange and endure as well as the pain of going through labour. Wasn't the death of our baby enough? It felt very unfair.

Back at home, I spent my time crying. In the shower, I was doubled over in pain and grief. And it was constant - it never went away. I didn't leave my bed for days, and wouldn't speak to anyone except my direct family. I know my friends just wanted to grieve with me but it was too much effort to give them when I was struggling to manage dealing with everything. My husband was amazing during this period. It felt like he put his life on hold to be the strength that I desperately needed.

After about a month, I started getting in a better place. Luckily for me, I had some long service available so I chose to use it and take 4 months off work and get my head and my family in a better space. This was the best approach for us I think, it helped us regain some normalcy and routine again.

Someone bought me a book to help with grief and it was just the right thing. I bought another one, and then started to move on from dwelling on the what ifs that inevitably come up in these situations.

People just didn't understand how I could have been so emotionally attached to our baby that hadn't been born. We were told it was natures way, there could be another, I was lucky to already have 2. I heard them all, but they just didn't understand that this was a special baby in its own right and it deserved the opportunity to have its own life. I also felt a lot of guilt. I felt what had happened was my fault and I could have prevented it with better care, or less work travel, or by booking into a different hospital. Reading the books helped a lot but I still have a slight residue of those feelings.

I would have loved another baby, another opportunity to show I was a good mum and could take care of my babies. But it just didn't happen. I guess we were lucky that we had the family we did. And there was a very strong chance of this happening again, and I'm not sure Craig could have held us up a second time.

So these things happen. Its not something we talk about a lot. Occasionally the kids (especially Ben, who I think bonded with Jack more because of his involvement) will talk about Jacks birthday, or dropping in to the gravesite to leave flowers. But we don't discourage conversation or make it taboo, that would be very sad to think his life was without some meaning.

In the beginning I used to dream about Jack, or hear songs on the radio that we played at his funeral and had the gentle reminder of him. Not so much anymore, but if I hear 'In the arms of an angel' I always have to turn it off, it brings tears to my eyes.
So enjoy your lovely children, and make the most of the gift of having them with you, healthy and alive. And for us, each 12th January is a time to reflect back, and think of Jack with love.


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