Today at the gym I saw two of the midwives who cared for me in hospital a few weeks ago. One of them helped to deliver Freddie. They looked as if they expected me to burst into tears at any second, and their faces were crumpled with a longing to say something to help me. I felt compelled to let them know that actually, I’m ok right now; “I’ve been keeping busy”, I said, smiling. It must have seemed so incongruous – the girl they remember in a hospital bed who lost her baby less than a month ago pounding away on the treadmill, smiling, talking – as if everything were ok.
Yesterday I spent the day at my granny’s in York (my granny is not like many grannies; she is funny and interesting and we sat and chatted for almost 5 and a half hours). We talked a lot about Freddie, and my baby girl, and everything that has happened in between and since. There is one thing that I had, until yesterday, allowed myself to think about only in the most fleeting of modes. It is a thought so horrifying that I had been too afraid to permit myself any deep consideration of it, for even those transitory moments that I have spent with this thought have made me feel very uneasy. I suppose I felt safe to venture toward this idea yesterday, and I discovered that my granny had speculated over the same thought; the thought that if someone had examined me just a short time before Freddie died, that he could have been born alive.
I have not yet explained the journey that I and Freddie made over the course of a week within the confines of the maternity ward. I will try my best to keep it relatively brief for the purpose of this dialogue.
On Friday March 18th, I started to develop pain in my lower back. I have IBS and figured that this was the reason for the pains I had, and as they did not feel like the pains I had experienced when I suffered the loss of my first baby, to begin with I was not too worried. However, it soon became clear that there was indeed, a problem, and not long after phoning the ward I developed tightening and pain in my abdomen. Sam and I rushed to the hospital, which fortunately is just around the corner. Within 15 minutes of being admitted, my waters broke like the opening of a dam, and the pain stopped.
I remained in hospital for a week, all in all. As the days went on, and Freddie stayed strong, kicking and rolling about as if his world had not literally just drained away from him, we all grew in confidence that things would be ok. Every time someone listened in, Freddie’s heartbeat was strong and even. My mum continued to knit tiny hats in different sizes, in case Freddie was born in a week, or even two or three.
On the Wednesday evening, a friend from work came to visit, bringing cards, flowers, messages of support and the normal gossip; we laughed a lot and everything seemed great. But later that night I developed more pain and was examined at 9pm by the doctor. “Your cervix looks fine”, she said, “in fact I think it’s probably closed a bit since you came in”, she exclaimed, smiling. I felt relieved and went back to bed.
Later that night I woke with more pain. When I went to the toilet I discovered that there was meconium. It wasn’t as I imagined it to look – it reminded me of tiny frogspawn – but I knew what it was. I was moved onto the delivery suite which was where I stayed until Friday night.
Over the course of those hours, the following happened; I experienced pains which were not believed to be contractions, Freddie’s heart rate was monitored and remained consistently strong, I was not examined internally.
In the early hours of Friday morning, when the midwife came to listen in, she could not find the heartbeat. She called the consultant who used a scanner to see if she could see anything helpful. The consultant told us that our baby was dead. I was then wheeled in a chair to the scanning department to use a better scanner to confirm the conclusion. As I lay there in the half-darkness, I allowed myself the tiniest shred of hope that both pieces of equipment had been wrong, and that we would see the tiny flicker of our baby’s heart, or that he would move a little. But my hope was misguided and I knew as I stared through tears at the fuzzy black and white screen, that there was no flicker, no movement.
After being wheeled back to our room, I climbed back onto the hospital bed and lay next to my husband where we lay and sobbed, as our hearts were broken, and our world collapsed, once again.
The thought occurred to me almost in the same instant as I was informed that my baby was dead: ‘Why didn’t someone look? … He could have lived’. But I knew, as I know now, that the people caring for me did what they thought was right. I had said to one of the doctors on Thursday, “I assume I’m not in labour then?”
“No, it’s probably just the infection, or your body preparing for labour”, she said.
It turns out I was in labour, it just wasn’t typical as the pains I had were not consistent with labour pains and my cervix does something called ‘funnelling’, which is why it looked closed, to begin with. I expect that if someone had looked at it at a later stage, though, it would have indicated that I was in labour, and things might have been very different. This thought is one that I find very difficult to contemplate. He was a tenacious little thing; even after days of being without fluid, his heart was unfaltering . His limbs looked thick and strong when he was born, and he was very, very beautiful. I am quite sure that if he had been born alive, he would have gone on to live, and that the little baby I imagined would have grown into the little boy, and the young man, that I pictured so many times.