Friday, 6 July 2012

Guest Post: Stillbirth

Followers of this blog will know that I love birth stories, and often share them here in all their infinite variety. But there is, it seems, a birth story that 'dare not speak it's name', the story of those babies who do not make it. In the UK, 17 babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth every day. In the USA, a baby is stillborn every twenty minutes. The story of stillbirth is happening to mothers - and fathers, grandparents, siblings, aunties, uncles - but in our current culture which fears death so greatly, it is rarely discussed. This silence, this awkwardness, this avoidance - leaves parents who experience stillbirth without listeners willing to hear their painful story.

Hearing painful stories used to be a part of my job before I became a full time mother. But in spite of this experience I still sobbed as I reached the end of this guest post, sent to me by Mel Scott, who lost her baby at birth three years ago and has since reached out to help others through her organisation Finley's Footprints. I have no doubt that, as you read, you will cry too. Through our collective sadness I hope that, like Mel, we can transform grief into something positive, allowing feelings, stories and tears to flow and empowering others to break their silence.


The Birth of An Angel

When I found myself to be pregnant for the second time it was a bit of a shock. Two weeks earlier I had tearfully told my husband that I couldn’t bear to keep trying. My first pregnancy had ended with a missed miscarriage just a week after I found out I was pregnant. My best friend had her baby on the day that mine would have been due. As I held him crying for what should have been, I couldn’t face the reminders of my miscarriage as another month passed without success. Two weeks later I discovered I was pregnant.

Gone were the excited days of phoning everyone possible to tell them the good news minutes after finding out, and we kept the secret to ourselves. An early scan showed the baby was developing well and a reassuring glimpse of a sea horse shape with a beating heart. The twelve week scan showed me the most amazing sight of a tiny baby with arms and legs, lying back with it’s hand behind it’s head.

My friend gave me a book called the Gentle Birth Method by Gowri Motha, and I headed into a love filled pregnancy bubble. The rest of the world ceased to exist. I had a perfect problem free pregnancy. Following the Gentle Birth Method gave me lots of hope and positivity as I planned and prepared for a birth centre water birth. I had reiki and reflexology sessions weekly (and given the outcome, I am so grateful for these special bonding moments). I had none of the usual complaints of later pregnancy, even my hay fever disappeared.

My due date approached and I changed my Natal hypnotherapy pregnancy cd for the birth preparation cd, I upped my intake of raspberry tea. A sweep resulted in a show, but nothing else. As induction started to be mentioned, I trotted off for some acupuncture sessions. These finally worked at 41+5 and I had some mild contractions. My waters broke, so I started walking around listening to the birth preparation cd. I called the hospital, and the advised to come in to be checked. I got to hospital and there was meconium in my waters. That changed things a little, as suddenly I was being told I couldn’t have a water birth, or stay in the birthing centre. The monitor showed mild contractions, and a good heart rate. I was admitted to the antenatal ward, and my husband was sent home.

I couldn’t sleep so carried on listening to the hypnotherapy cd. About 4 hours later I went to the toilet and noticed that the meconium had got thicker and darker, so requested to go on the monitor. As soon as I was connected up it was clear that things were not right. I was getting worried as I saw that the baby’s heart beat was dropping. Events unfolded and after the heart beat dropped and didn’t come up, and a scan showed that there was still a heart beat, and an internal showed I had not dilated at all, the decision was made to carry out an emergency cesarean. I had a general anaesthetic and the last thing I remember was tears rolling down my face and a mask being pushed over my nose.

I woke up in recovery and was told that I had a son, but that he had not made it. I remember saying no, I am not sure whether I screamed. I went back to sleep. The next few hours I can piece together from photos and videos that we have. My husband arrived after the operation had happened, as did my parents. I cannot imagine what it was like to arrive at the hospital to the news your wife has had surgery without you, but that your son had died.

The staff were amazing the whole time we were in hospital. My Mum videoed those first few hours, and the midwife helped my husband to bathe Finley. There is a moment captured which is simultaneously heartbreaking and touching, where my husband and the midwife are discussing the fact that Finley has one ear bigger than the other, and my husband proudly declares that he has the same ears. Watching him tenderly wash and dry his baby, you can almost forget that the baby is no longer alive.

When I arrived in the room, my Mum brought Finley to me and asked me if I wanted to hold him. I am ashamed to say that I didn’t. But thankfully she did not listen, and she had the common sense to move us together for our first, and only, photograph as a family. It is an incredibly moving black and white shot that clearly shows the devastation.

We spent 3 days in hospital and during that time I went through an important process. Gradually as everyone left, I started to want to see my son. I touched him, and his fluffy blanket made me want to hold him. Once I had held him, I never wanted to let him go. I would even call the midwives to hold him so that I could go to the toilet. The bereavement midwife was amazing, and made it clear to us that the time was so short and we had no second chances to make memories to last us a lifetime. We spent a night where my husband was able to stay and Finley stayed with us, in the cot at the end of the bed.

The last night in hospital the bereavement midwife came to spend time with me, staying past the end of her shift. I was at this time cuddled up in bed with Finley. She took a series of heartbreaking photos instructing me to kiss my son for the first, and only time. She also spend time finding out how we wanted to say goodbye. I never wanted to say goodbye. I couldn’t stand to think of walking out of that hospital room without him. I broke down saying that all I wanted to do was be a Mum, and screaming how could I be a Mum when I had not even changed his nappy.

So three days after Finley was born, I got to take his nappy off, see his whole body. He was a big, healthy baby boy at 9lb 7oz. I bathed him, even laughing about the fact that I did not know what to do! I dressed him in a new outfit with a cute cap. We spent a little more time there filling in the most horrendous forms with the midwife, things like choosing a burial or cremation, consenting for a post mortem, and being told that we had to go to the registry office to register his stillbirth. Then it happened.

I read Finley a bedtime story, cradled in my arms, my voice breaking as I cried. I wrapped him in his blanket, and handed him to the midwife. Then we walked out – a family of three forever with a part missing.

Finley John Scott – 2nd August 2009


A moment in our arms – Forever in our hearts

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About Finley's Footprints
Just a few short weeks after Finley was born asleep, Mel was given a website, called Finley’s Footprints. It began as a blog, but quickly developed into a space for Mel to share her experience and skills with bereaved parents and professionals who care for them. Mel was passionate about helping other parents to experience high standard of care locally and began fundraising to supply memory boxes to her local hospital.

Now nearly three years on, Finley’s Footprints provides regular training to birth workers, developing their skills to help parents create memories at a time of loss. It offers regular structured onlin support groups, and Occupational Therapy to people affected by the loss of a baby.

A sister organisation called Towards Tomorrow Together operates the fundraising activities, aiming to develop and support baby loss services in the South West of England through services such as advocacy, and parental mentoring, as well as funding doula care, and holistic therapy.



You can read the full story of After Finley available to buy at http://www.lulu.com/shop/mel-scott/after-finley/paperback/product-15971666.html



Stillbirth Resources








It would be great to build this list  of resources further. Please contact me if you would like to suggest a resource to add - a blog, Facebook page, forum, or any other place of help, information or support. Thank you.


7 comments:

  1. You are so right, it is diffcult to talk about stillbirth. For those who hear the story because they feel uncomfortable and don't know what to say, and for the parents because the reactions and comments of others can be very upsetting.
    I have lost two little boys at 32 weeks (1st and 4th pregnancy). The first time was particularly hard because we had just moved and didn't really know anybody. All I wanted was to tell people that I was a mum and that my little boy was beautiful but I was actually afraid to leave the house and bump into someone who had seen me pregnant and would ask about the baby. The best reaction I met to the fact that I had lost my baby : no words, just a hug...
    http://mothergoutte.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/5-years-on.html?m=1

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    1. Thanks MG. I've read your story and i'm in awe of your strength and courage. x

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    2. Thank you for your kind words. I will be off to read your post too.

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  2. Thank you for sharing this story. As a mum who lost her son at full term 3 years ago, with no sign of any problems I have become really aware that there are a lot of mums, dads and other family members suffering in silence, often too worried to say anything incase they upset others, at times even ashamed to talk about it incase it feels self indulgent or makes the other person feel uncomfortable. It really does appear to be a taboo- which is so sad for the families that go through, what believe me I really feel is one of the most unimaginably overwhelming forms of grief that affects those involved in such a deep way.
    Thank you for your raising of the awareness and to Mel for sharing.

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    1. Thanks Anon. I really appreciate your taking time to comment on this very difficult subject. I really hope this post goes some way to breaking that taboo. Hugs to you. x

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  3. I'm so sorry for your loss. You are so wonderful to share the story of Finley's birth with us.

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  4. This story made me cry, I lost three different siblings at different times (I only remember one), but when my mom is asked "Are all of these yours?" she always replies "yep, I have 9 children, six are living."
    Sammy

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