…continued from “We will place her in your arms until she passes away…”
The doctor asked me if I wanted to hold my baby. Sukhie said yes. I shouted no! I couldn’t meet her like that. I couldn’t meet her when her birth came without warning. I know you’re probably thinking, wake up woman, you were in the bereavement suite, you’d been in labour for 2 days, your waters had broken, she had no heartbeat, of course you had some warning! All that may be true, but in the exact moment it happened, it was all so quick, I wasn’t expecting it right there and then and how was I to hold my baby when I still had the doctor prodding around inside me. I said no. And for that moment in time, that was the right decision.
I was in pain. I now had another midwife with her hand up me trying to pull out the placenta. Instead the cord snapped, so I had to be given an injection and put on a drip to induce the placenta to come out naturally. I was also given some medicine to stop my milk coming in. My body just gave birth, it doesn’t know that the baby has died, so all these natural processes, including the emotional turmoil that would kick in for a living baby, still kick in for one born early and one that is born sleeping…no one tells you that.
I was in a daze. I was in shock. I would have done anything anyone told me at that point in time. I didn’t know if I was coming or going. I could hear babies crying in the rooms surrounding mine. I could hear mothers screaming in labour. It all sounded soooo loud against the emptiness of my room. It all sounded so cruel…didn’t those women know what just happened to me?! Did they have to rub it in?! Someone, please, stop those babies crying! I wanted to escape, I wanted to go where no one could find me, but I was hooked up to the bloody IV machine. I was on it for an age! Two hours at least. The midwife came to check on me and kept asking if I felt any pain or contractions, I didn’t, I didn’t feel anything but numb.
So, the next step in the journey, I needed to go into theatre to have the placenta removed! My baby was delivered without fuss, but the bloody placenta was now taking the mick! I have to say the anaesthetist was a very jolly person and I thought this would annoy me given what had just happened, but it didn’t, I was grateful for someone being normal around me, I was grateful for the anaesthetic, I was grateful to be out of my empty room. The procedure went fine and the placenta was removed without drama (although it did get momentarily misplaced, but that’s a whole other story!) I returned from theatre and it took a good hour or two for me to get any feeling back in my legs.
I felt better now. I felt ready to meet my baby. She was wheeled in. They’d put a knitted lilac hat on her, it really suited her. I was so proud to meet her. As heartbroken as I was inside, I smiled for her. She was placed into my arms and all I could do was smile at her. She was beautiful. She was tall – 29cm from head to toe. She had such perfect, lovely hands and feet, I think she had my hands but her feet were definitely a replica of Sukhie’s! I held her, cuddled her and talked to her, gently and lovingly. She was perfect. She was my baby. She will always be my baby.
We decided to call her Jiya (it was one of the names we selected a few days earlier). Jiya meaning Heart, Spirit, Soul…it just felt right. We spent some time with her but then came the dreaded part of saying goodbye. As soon as she was taken from the room, that’s when I broke down. I cried and couldn’t seem to find the stop button. My heart ached. I couldn’t bear to be away from her. I couldn’t bear to close my eyes and sleep knowing she was in a room in the hospital, all alone. I thought she might be scared on her own, with no one to protect her. I am her mother, I should be protecting her. I wept, long, helpless sobs. So Sukhie went to ask the midwife if we could have Jiya in our room for the night and I was back to smiling as soon as they wheeled her in, this time in a cuddle cot which would allow her to stay with us through the night. When I look back, I don’t quite know how I went from the extremities of one emotion to another in a split second, all brought about by my daughter coming into the room.
I had her cot next to me, in my line of sight, I wanted to see her every time I opened my eyes at night, just to check on her, just to make sure she was ok. It sounds silly doesn’t it? For those that have been there, you will know exactly what I mean. But for those that haven’t been there, you probably think I’d gone mad, how could I protect her when she’d already died? Well it’s a combination of things – mother’s instinct to protect, pretending everything is ok gives you time that you so need to come to terms with your bleak reality and most importantly, grabbing every opportunity to make a memory because before long there will be no more opportunities. She will be taken from the room. We will be discharged. We will never see her again. So, what that night gave me is something that will stay with me for a lifetime, memories of my time with my little girl, very real memories of her short time on earth.
Over the course of the day we were asked questions about funeral arrangements and post-mortems. I couldn’t answer them. My brain couldn’t function. At each question, I turned to Sukhie and said, what do you think, you decide, I just don’t know. My poor Sukhie. He was my rock. He was in shock. He was grieving. He was pained seeing me in pain. But he did everything he possibly could to help us through the situation. I don’t know how I’d have got through that day had it not been for him.
We were given a memory box from the charity 4Louis, it was filled with keepsakes of our baby. They’d thought of everything…everything we couldn’t have thought of when we were in the depths of this nightmare. The box was a blessing for us, it meant we had no regrets, it meant we could mark the birth of our baby, it meant the world to us. You can read more about my thoughts on the Memory box by clicking here. We were given booklets from SANDS (Stillbirth And Neonatal Death Charity) about various things like ‘saying goodbye to your baby’, ‘support for fathers’, ‘deciding about a funeral for your baby’, etc. I opened one to read it in the hospital, but I was just reading individual words, I couldn’t make out the sentence and I certainly didn’t comprehend the advice being given. It was too soon. But those leaflets were such a help when we returned home. When we didn’t know what to do, we’d often look through the leaflets and find supportive, comforting words of advice. We even shared some of them with our families because they too were struggling with what to say and what not to say.
We saw Jiya again before we were discharged from the hospital. Her grandma came to visit and I was so proud to introduce her to her granddaughter. It was a special moment. And that time, when we said goodbye, that really was the last goodbye. At that moment, when she left our room for the final time, I was ready to leave the hospital, itching to go. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t just let us go. We had no reason to be there. Being made to stay was torture. We were sat in the bereavement room and all we could hear was monitors tracking the heartbeat of unborn babies, women screaming in labour and newborn babies crying. I just wanted to get out. Hours later, we were finally discharged.
What came next was the most daunting journey home. An empty car. A vacant bump where my baby had been. Thoughts jumbling through my mind…my baby being alone in the hospital mortuary, had we done the right thing by agreeing to a post-mortem, should we have taken more photos, what do we tell people, how will I be when I see my pregnant sister-in-law, or my 2-month-old nephew, or my neighbour who’d given birth just a few weeks earlier…so many thoughts. So much time for them to linger in my mind. So much space for them to fill the air around me. So loud in my head amongst the silence in the car. That was it, stepping into our front door, we knew this was just the start of a long and painful journey in a world we no longer recognised, surrounded by people who would never understand and a shattered heart, bruised and aching beyond repair.