Sunday 1 May 2011

When a child is born

The Boy and I are home now after a very tough couple of days. We went into St Thomas's Hospital on Saturday morning at 9am to complete the necessary procedures to lay our dead baby Beans to rest. I had slept badly - again - and been awake since 5am with some uncomfortable period-like cramps, and my nerves were starting to get the better of me. I shed a few tears on the way in on the underground. It still seemed so unreal what was happening and I felt angry and upset to be on the tube with people who were on their way out for days out, to enjoy the sun, or to visit friends or family, while we were on the way to complete my miscarriage and lay our first baby to rest.

We tentatively made our way to the gynaecology ward where we were welcomed by a very sweet nurse, Lorna, who was looking after me. I had a large, beautiful private room on the 8th floor with huge windows overlooking the London Eye and County Hall. Even in my numbed and agitated state the views took my breath away. The sun streamed through the window, loitered with stray fingerprints, and I watched the tour buses packed with visitors here for the Royal wedding trundle over Westminster Bridge. Happy scenes and smiling faces all around, with union jacks flying brightly in the dazzling blue sky.

The Boy and I were left to our own devices for a short time under the doctor came in to check on my progress. It was Dr Cloke, the same doctor who had explored my options with me on Tuesday and it was a relief to have this continuity, as she had been very understanding and patient with me. I was really impressed. It's a long time - 15 years - since I've been in hospital and patient care and the level of service you receive has improved beyond all recognition. By the time she came in my cramps were becoming much more uncomfortable - I understand now I was having contractions - and I was given some basic painkillers and anti-nausea drugs, then at 10.45am I was given my first dose of the medicine to encourage the contractions to continue and for the labour to begin.

While I was trying to be strong, brave and positive, I was pretty scared by this point - I think because I didn't know what to expect, how painful it would be, how long it would take, and what I would see - and the contractions were becoming increasingly painful. Nothing I couldn't bear, but it was as if with every squeeze of my cervix I was reminded of what was happening, every wave of pulsation reminded me what the Boy and I had lost and what this would lead to. I'm surprised I didn't crush the Boy's bones, I squeezed his hands so tightly. He was amazing with me, reassuring me and comforting me all the way, massaging my head and shoulders and telling me how much he loved me. He gave me the strength to relax and let the medication take its course.

Things happened fairly quickly and within an hour or so I was bleeding heavily. I managed to stay together though and I felt unexpectedly calm through this part of the process which lasted a couple of hours, and the pain stopped as soon as the bleeding started which was a relief. It subsided to much more gentle cramps across my ovaries and womb. I had two more doses of the medication, one at 2pm and another at 5.15pm, during which time I felt like nothing much more was happening. I had waves of sadness and it was very surreal being there, but I was able to talk to the Boy, read magazines and newspapers, and I felt relatively relaxed given the circumstances. Lorna and Dr Cloke were both amazingly kind and supportive, and I felt really valued and respected at all times.

At 6.15pm the Boy nipped out to call both our sets of parents and get some air. I felt sure at this point nothing much was happening as I wasn't even uncomfortable, let alone in pain. I was sure the process would take all night, as you can receive up to five doses of the medication before anything happens. But luckily he wasn't gone too long because a routine check from the doctor as Big Ben chimed 7pm coincided with the delivery of our tiny baby - peacefully and painlessly. I had been warned to expect a lot of pain, blood loss and general mess, but in the end it was nothing like that. Maybe our little baby was being kind to us, I don't know, but it was a gentle process. It felt natural and it also felt like a relief, although obviously one tinged with huge sadness.

I felt a bit bewildered after the process was over. So many mixed emotions. One which caught me by surprise was that my arms ached to hold a baby - I wonder if when the body goes through this labour process the maternal physical instinct is to nurse a child afterwards. I longed to hold a baby and smell its newborn skin. I felt huge sadness and emptiness that the labour had ended with a dead baby - and I longed for our situation to be so different. But I also felt relief - as if the baby, the Boy and I can now all be at rest. What needed to happen has happened, and now we can begin to say goodbye, grieve and heal. I also felt that I'd seen a different side of myself - one that was stronger than I knew, more resilient than I expected, and braver than I had previously thought. I experienced our worst nightmare and I survived - in fact not only survived, the staff commented on how well I had coped and managed, and also finding out my body worked as it should do and could deliver a baby was quite moving, in a funny way I felt proud of myself.

The staff kindly let Ben stay in with me overnight, as they needed to keep me in to check my blood pressure and blood loss. We both cuddled in my bed for some time, mostly in silence, shocked by what had happened but also calm, and we cried together for the baby that we had lost. We had to fill in some paperwork about what happens next. We have resisted an autopsy for our baby, but taken up the hospital's offer to hold a funeral for our baby - apparently it will be buried in a small casket and we can attend the service. I think this will help us let go, but we can make a final decision nearer the time.

We both managed more sleep that we expected. I had some strange dreams where I met people from my past and was telling them about the baby, but they wouldn't listen, and I also heard Big Ben chiming through the night. In the morning we had a small wait while the staff continued to check my blood pressure and blood count, before they finally discharged me about noon. We visited the chapel on the ground floor of the hospital and spent some quiet time there. We also wrote a prayer in the church's prayer book - we took the last entry space which somehow also felt significant. I only wrote a few words from us, asking him upstairs to look after our little baby Beans until we can all meet again.

So, now we are at home, still wounded, lost, shell-shocked and bewildered as I imagine we will be for some time to come. We're both riding a wave of emotions - sometimes it feels ok, sometimes devastating. I had dreamed of the day I would bring our baby home from hospital and I feel the pain of coming home with nothing keenly. I find myself restless, wandering from one room to the other not sure what to do with myself. Now suddenly not being pregnant I don't have a purpose, and no other jobs seem worth doing now that I can't be a mum - yet.

We've had lots of cuddles and again, I can't put into words how cherished I am by the Boy and how much this helps. I know we will survive and be all the closer for this, and I know while now there is darkness, one day there will be light again. We're talking a lot about what has happened and we're thinking of ways we can remember our baby - neither of us wants to forget. We plan to buy an ornament or something beautiful for the house, and engrave the birthday date - 7pm 30 April 2011 - on the bottom. Then we will have a reminder we can take everywhere, from house to house, of our beautiful first baby Beans, who I hope is now in far safer hands than our fragile, human ones, and who is waiting for us patiently on the other side until we meet again.

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