Edit (06/06/19) – I’ve been adding in details to the birth story as they occur to me – some elements are already very hazy in my mind. I think the grief from stillbirth is already messing with my brain in ways I don’t understand also.
This post will be something of a stream of consciousness. To be honest, it’s less for you, dear Reader, than it is for me. I am desperate to try and make some kind of sense of the last few days before I lose clarity on the details of what has happened. But I think there is not really any sense that can be found at the moment. This is just life. Stillbirth is complex, painful and often inexplicable.
Warning: this post may act as a trigger for you. If you are currently trying for a baby or pregnant I would recommend not to read it. Please direct all your energy to absorbing beautiful positive birth stories, which exist in numbers around the internet.
Many of you will have seen my various posts on pregnancy, as I have experienced my first pregnancy over the past 10 months. Yesterday, our beautiful son Pixie (Moley to his friends) was born. Devastatingly, he had died 3 days earlier, on 1st June.
Normally new mums tell their birth story, but sadly Pixie’s stillbirth story is more complicated than that. We had our 41 week antenatal appointment from the Homebirth Team on Friday 31st May where all the usual observations occured and all was well. On Saturday morning I was conscious that I was not aware of the baby being its usual frisky self so I rang the midwife. By 1pm we were at the hospital ready to have a little additional monitoring to check on little one’s progress.
Our hearts sank as one after another, midwives and then consultants failed to find a heartbeat. First using the Doppler, then on a series of three separate scan. Less than 24 hours after a routine antenatal appointment we were being told that our baby had passed away. Our hopes and dreams for our first child disappeared as a grey cloud descended over us, robbing us of our entire future in just one short moment.
Stillbirth: The Unimaginable
I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that this has been the worst thing that could possibly happen to us. Our baby would have been with us within a week. Instead, they were dead, and The Boy and I were having our various options explained to us. I was being asked how I was going to give birth to my dead baby.
This is a good time to say (as I write from my hospital room) that the NHS staff – both the LRI Maternity Team and the Homebirth Team – have been absolutely incredible throughout this ordeal. Absolute angels, every last one of them.
However, I don’t think there could be anything scarier than realising that your baby has passed away, so now you need to decide how they will arrive into the world. Losing them is so unfair, but knowing you will still be carrying them for a few days and then birthing them is one of the bleakest, most terrifying things I have ever faced. Not knowing what to do for the best, we took the recommended course of action with the first, gentle stage of induction before we finally left the hospital that day – a pill that began the process and required me to return to the hospital on Monday.
We did not know the gender of our baby, but Pixie was one of two choices we had for a girl’s name and it seemed appropriate as our child’s name now, whether they were a boy or a girl. And so Pixie Hadland was named.
Pixie’s Birth Story
A regular vaginal birth is recommended for stillbirths, particularly in full term babies. It is the lowest risk and shortest recovery time for the mother. We came into hospital on Monday morning and I was given a pessary to kickstart labour within 24 hours. Nothing really happened on Monday, but first thing on Tuesday morning I started having what I assumed were contractions. Upon timing them they were about 45 seconds long and had a 2.5 minute gap between them. This is pretty much what you would expect for established labour!
I was waiting for them to tail off – I couldn’t just start with full on contractions? Well, 4 hours later I was told that I was 5cm dilated so apparently I had! We worked through the contractions. The Boy was amazing at stopping me freaking out, helping me to breathe through and giving me awesome massages throughout. And keeping me hydrated, helping me manage my contractions, change position… He was in charge essentially and I’m grateful for it.
I am very thankful that that morning I was given a chance to experience some of the more ‘normal’ signs of labour. When my contractions started, it was not long until I lost my mucus plus, having a good deal of mucus that was streaked lightly with blood. Shortly after this I was sat on the sofa in our room when I felt a sudden well of pressure and then a pop, like a water balloon bursting! My waters had gone with a proper bang!
Not everyone experiences or notices their ‘bloody show’ and waters can go with a trickle or not at all. I am really quite grateful to have had both of these experiences with Pixie quite clearly and distinctly. There has been an element throughout of trying to give Pixie the dignity of as ‘normal’ a birth as possible, although so much was outside of my control.
We got to 10cm dilated after about 7 hours, and then I launched into two hours pushing. By this point I was desperate for the ordeal to end as I just did not feel like my efforts were getting anywhere. Eventually this was confirmed by the consultant – the baby’s head had disengaged from my pelvis, and as it was just me putting in the effort and they were not an active participant there was nothing that could be done to get them back.
So it was off to theatre for more. I have always been very wary of an epidural, but at this point I had no real choice and the relief was immense. Within an hour our baby was born by caesarean section. We were able to hold them for the first time. Mike identified the gender -we met our son and welcomed him to the world.
Pixie Hadland was born at 8.15pm on 04/06/19 and weighed 11lbs 5oz.
Pain Relief and Interventions
We had been shooting for a drug-free, natural hypnobirthing homebirth with a birthing pool. So you see what the Universe thinks of your plans! Stillbirth changes everything. I wanted minimal intervention, and I ended up with about every intervention you can imagine excepting forceps/ventouse delivery.
First was the induction. This came in the form of a pill with a 48 hour wait. That was followed up with a pessary with a 24 hour wait. The pessary took so well that I was spared any further intervention on the induction front. The next stage would have been a hormone drip known to bring on regular, strong contractions. However, my contractions came on strong, regular and shortly spaced. So much so it took me a few hours to be sure that this was it!
That meant that I did about 3 or 4 hours of breathing through the contractions with The Boy. We were using what we had learned from hypnobirthing. It was only then that I realised I should probably be asking for some pain relief already as the contractions were as strong as they get!! That’s the problem when you’ve not had them before!!!
Gas and Air
So in the early afternoon I started on the gas and air which stayed firmly in my grubby little hand until I started I was fully dilated and started to push. Then I mainly forget about it. A few hours later, I asked if I could have something more and was given a diamorphine injection which was so effective that I was then regularly asking for the next one!! That didn’t happen though as instead I had my epidural injection in preparation for my cesarian section.
Stillbirth mothers can have things like diamorphine as the primary concern for the medics is her health, and not the baby’s as in a normal birth. That’s pretty hard to get your head around too!
Our Hospital Stay
Now I write from our private room at the hospital, with my son by my side. There are ‘cold cots’ now that slow the deterioration of your child’s body. This allows you to spend time with them making some memories. There is so much I can write now about what I cherish about him and our time together.
This time together is so special. It is a celebration of his short life. It is an acknowledgement of the 10 months of life we shared together. We enjoyed going to gigs, going on trips. He is a well traveled baby! Most importantly being together as our family of three has kept The Boy and I surprisingly level and together. We have a couple of days together while I recover from my surgery.
We don’t know what will happen when we leave. I am keen to go home. But I know when we do, we will be saying goodbye to Pixie for good. Our entire lives were devastated on Saturday. When we were told Pixie had died,the future that we have been eagerly looking forward to had gone. Everything that was important and special from tomorrow onwards would now not come to pass.
You just don’t realise it happens. Those first three months of pregnancy you keep everything quiet. The danger of early miscarriage passes. And you sort of assume you’re in the clear. Especially when you reach full term. I carried a healthy, happy, normal baby for 41 weeks. There was no reason to suspect stillbirth was possible.
We were so excited to spend our first Christmas as a family because I’m so crazy for Christmas. Sharing it with our new baby was going to be so special. It made us nervous but excited to think about discovering what Pixie was like. We looked forward to taking care of him. Our new lives were to be moulded around him totally. Even before he was born, he was already the centre of our universe. We couldn’t wait to take him travelling – to encourage him to see the world, to try amazing food, to meet people from all walks of life. We were looking forward to a peaceful homebirth. But we were denied the privilege of gently welcoming our son into the world in the quiet of our house.
Now the future is totally unreadable for us and The Boy and me will have to build a new life. We don’t know what it will look like or how we will feel. What we do know is there is a long and painful road ahead of us. The Boy and I have been through the greatest devastation we can imagine over the past 5 days. There is no way of predicting how we will cope with it. We do not know what we want going forward. But already we are ensuring that Pixie can do only good. He has helped us to reaffirm our commitment to each other and whatever happens we will come out fighting together. We only have a couple of days with Pixie, but we will always be a family of three in spirit.
And so, unexpectedly, the pregnancy and family section of my blog comes to an end due to stillbirth.