On Thursday the 8th of September 2011 at 6pm, at only 19+3 weeks pregnant, my waters broke at home. Scared, I called the hospital who told me to come straight in. I phoned my doula who arrived within half an hour to take me to hospital where I was examined to confirm that it was, in fact, amniotic fluid. I was transferred up to the maternity unit where I was seen by the on-duty registrar to explain the situation to me.
The registrar told me that the amount of fluid I had lost would be an important factor on the outcome of the situation and that the next 24 hours would be critical. She explained that once someone’s waters break, they normally go in to labour within 24-48 hours. As I was under 24 weeks, ethics stopped the hospital from intervening to stop labour in any way, due to the risks to me of continuing the pregnancy (especially being diabetic and that their lawful focus had to be on my health and not the baby). She then added that if I was to deliver early no intervention or help would be given to the baby to resuscitate her.
The hospital tried to encourage me to terminate the pregnancy because they were extremely concerned about me being at high risk of an infection, and because as a diabetic even a minor infection could get bad fast and lead to death. I was reluctant to end my baby’s life and so I refused to terminate. The doctors kept coming to speak to me frequently to stress the risks to me in the hope I might change my mind.
The next day, on Friday, I was taken for an ultrasound scan to see how bad the situation might be. It was discovered that the baby was absolutely perfect, her measurements were spot on to the day, and her organs were just as they should be. But the bad news was that there was only 22mm of fluid left in my sac. In order for a fetus to grow there must be at least 50mm of amniotic fluid. A baby needs this amniotic fluid for their joints to develop properly, and without it they are born unable to move freely. They also need it for their lungs to develop properly, as they breathe in the fluid and this helps form all the branches in the lungs to ensure that they are able to absorb oxygen when they are born.
I was given a tiny amount of hope though when I was informed that, in very rare cases, the hole can re-seal. If that happens, the amniotic fluid can be replenished as long as the baby’s kidneys and bladder are working properly which they were. I insisted on waiting longer as I really didn’t want to terminate my pregnancy. It was such a difficult time, having other children at home and knowing I was risking my own life by waiting, but I had to know there was no chance for this baby before I could just end the pregnancy.
We waited the weekend, and on Monday afternoon I was taken for another ultrasound down in the ante natal assessment unit. Holding my breath I waited to hear what the news would be, knowing that if there was not enough fluid there would be no point in continuing the pregnancy, yet also believing that if she was meant to be here fate would intervene and the news would be positive. Sadly it was not and there was no fluid left at all in my sac. What seemed to make it harder for me was that the baby inside me was a perfectly healthy baby with nothing wrong. This was hard to grasp–that her heart was beating and she was healthy, yet being told she would have no chance of survival.
I was taken to another room where I signed the consent forms to end the pregnancy. I was given a tablet that would make my body think it was full term pregnancy, and then I was taken back up to the ward. It was a lonely time, and it passed so slowly. I wished for it to go faster, but when the time came to be taken to the delivery suite the next evening, I suddenly felt that time had gone too soon, every footstep outside my door had me on edge. I had that feeling like I used to have as a child when I was scared at night of the monsters in the dark, where my senses would be magnified and I would hear and jump at every single creak of the house and the furniture and would pull my quilt up to my chin and lie as still as I could.
Eventually my doula, Sally, arrived and not long after I was accompanied by a midwife and my doula to the Snowdrop room where my daughter was destined to enter the world. At about 9pm I was given my first pessary to help induce labour. Just after this my doula introduced me to another lady, Serena, who Sally was going to do shared care with, if needed.
Serena was so lovely and made me feel so relaxed and at ease that I really didn’t want her to leave. I asked her if she could stay, and she happily obliged. Serena teaches hypno-birthing and practices past life regression. She also does reflexology and other forms of massage. We then set up the room so that it would be absolutely perfect for the arrival of my daughter and so I could have as natural a birthing process as I could.
We had my Buddha head on place on the drawers, battery-operated tea lights scattered around the room and colour-changing LED lights that were in the shape of a lotus flower lined up. These were our only source of light. We also had Amethyst, Lace Agate and Rose Quartz to help create a peaceful atmosphere. I had my wand on the drawers and we had lavender oil on cotton buds near the bed. I also had my yoga ball ready.
Serena used her various skills to help keep me calm and was even able to assist easing contraction pains with her soothing voice and gentle touch. I felt less scared with her and Sally both at my side throughout the ordeal and it was only near the end where I felt unable to cope with the pain and the situation and eventually agreed to have some Diamorphene to help with the pain. I didn’t feel out of control though, and was able to think clearly still. The medication helped ease the pain and made it feel warm, so I was able to relax and breathe through it and let go of the pain.
At one point, before I had the drugs, I could see lots of little blue butterflies,which looked like translucent spirit butterflies, all fluttering around my belly, When asked to picture a colour washing through my body to help me and protect my baby, all I could see was a rainbow floating through.
When it got close to time to push, the drug wore off and the pain became unbearable. Unable to push and scared, I spent a lot of time just crying, and not wanting to let go of my little girl. Eventually, after a lot of encouragement, I was able to start to push her out. I didn’t believe she was crowning and thought the midwife was just saying that to trick me in to pushing, so they let me reach down and touch her head so that I would continue to push. It was so much harder than having a full term baby as she was so small I couldn’t feel her there, and so there was nothing to push against.
She finally came out at 5:18am on Wednesday 14th September weighing only 297 grams and measuring a tiny 20cm, not much bigger than a Barbie doll. I phoned my friends and her daddy to come to see her. One of my friends, Donna, is a professional photographer. She took lots of beautiful pictures of my baby girl. I also called the vicar to come and baptize my daughter.
Whilst we were waiting, I performed a blessing of my own with my daughter. Holding in my one hand my wand and a rose quartz, and holding my daughter in my other arm with a white rose, I read out the following:
“You are dying. None should ever die alone. I am here to share your death, and to journey with you. There is only love, the greatest mystery. I reach behind my fear. I open my heart and my eyes in the light of this love. I will go as far on this journey with you as I can. I will not abandon you.”
Sally then read the following poem to her:
“The world may never notice if a snowdrop doesn’t bloom, or even pause to wonder if the petals fall too soon. But every life that ever forms, or ever comes to be, touches the world in some small way for all eternity.
The little one we long for, was swiftly here and gone. But the love that was then planted, is a light that still shines on. And though our arms are empty, our hearts know what to do. Every beating of our hearts says that we love you.”
The vicar and others arrived, photos were taken, and the baptism took place with my best friend, the photographer, and my two doulas being god mothers to my beautiful little girl, Poppy.
I spent the rest of the day with my beautiful little princess, sending her all my love and gathering items to keep her company until she was put in her coffin. From me she had two teddies (one to remain in her coffin and one I will keep), my rose quartz crystal I held throughout labour (I have hers wrapped up in a make-shift pouch made from a knitted baby hat), and two blankets (one I slept with and took every where with me from the Thursday I was admitted the week before). Her dad took his sleeper earring out and we placed it around Poppy’s wrist as a gold bracelet. It fit her perfectly. He also placed his late father’s cuff links in her basket. My eldest put her choker, a gold necklace and a scarecrow teddy in with Poppy. My next daughter put a photo of herself with Minnie Mouse (as she had been in Paris for the entire time I was in hospital, and only came home the evening of the day I gave birth), and a fairy ornament she owned. On behalf of my two youngest daughters we put in a pacifier, my youngest one’s hospital tags from when she was in SCBU, and two teddies. My best friend put a key ring in that is a lock and a key, and photos of her and her husband and children. My friend, who lost her own baby full term just over six months ago, put an amethyst key ring in, and a rose quartz heart. My other friend put a bracelet in with her, and my dad put in a handkerchief of his with a note for his granddaughter, so that she would have his tears.
I went home and planned to meet with the funeral directors, who also run a charity called “Children Are Butterflies,” which helps toward the extra costs associated with children’s funerals and provides a support group.
I also spoke to the bereavement midwife on a number of occasions and was given a memory box with a heart-shaped vanilla votive candle, some artificial snowdrops, photos of my daughter, footprint and handprints of my daughter, and the two teddies that I put with her.
I also brought my placenta home with me to freeze for later use. My plan is to have some DNA art made using a sample of the blood from it (which is my baby’s blood) and then on her first birthday to plant a baby tree with the placenta beneath it as ‘her tree’ nourished by her.
For the funeral I am going to have a beautiful white coffin made from wool and I plan to have the songs “Hushabye Mountain”, “Over The Rainbow,” and “Songbird’ either played or sung.
Notes to add: Whilst I was in hospital my dad was in Disneyland with my 9-year-old daughter, I couldn’t get hold of him and he only came home late on the evening I gave birth to Poppy. My other daughter, 9 months old, developed a chest infection with fluid on her lungs and I thought I was going to lose her, too. I couldn’t leave the hospital to do anything about it. Her NG tube came out every day and I was worrying terribly about her. My 3-year-old got sickness and diarrhea, and again I couldn’t be there for her either. When I had to go for surgery I was scared I would die and not have gotten to say goodbye, and that my dad and daughter would come home to find that they had lost me and my baby.
*Reprinted with permission from http://dementedramblingsofamadwoman.wordpress.com/