Would my son still be with us if I’d reported it sooner?

Amy’s son George was stillborn at 31 weeks after she experienced reduced fetal movements. Her rainbow baby, Sophia Grace, is now nine-months-old.

by Amy

My beautiful son, George William Horwood, was stillborn at 31 weeks and losing him changed my life forever. I had felt some reduced movement but didn’t report it until a midwife appointment three days later. I now wonder every day if our precious boy would still be with us if I’d reported it sooner.

I was shocked but over-the-moon to find I was pregnant just a month after we started trying, but from the beginning I didn’t feel right.

I bled frequently in those first months and doctors discovered I had a heart-shaped uterus so they monitored me and placed me under consultant care from 24 weeks.

I also suffered permanent sickness until 16 weeks, and sharp pains, but it was my first pregnancy and I just assumed that was normal.

Our 12 week scan was emotional, there was our little one sucking his thumb. I felt movement quite frequently from around 17 weeks then, at our 20 week scan, we found we were having a little boy.

At our consultant’s appointment at 24 weeks our baby was doing so well that we were told ‘he gets a gold star for growth’. That really sticks in my memory because, just weeks later, everything started to go wrong.

I’d felt sick all weekend. My GP diagnosed a water infection then asked about my baby’s movements. I told him they’d been really intense the previous evening. That’s the last time I remember feeling him move.

I called work to see if I could take some time off as I felt so wretched, but my boss said they needed me to come in.

Three days later at my midwife appointment they did a Doppler, then put me on a monitor because they couldn’t find a heartbeat immediately. They offered hope, perhaps our boy was in an odd position, but I knew.

We then had to make a 20 minute drive to the delivery suite in Bath for a scan. We made that journey in silence, Sean clinging to hope while I had none.

They used four different scanners to be sure, then the consultant said, ‘I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat’.

We were talked through our options but I was so shocked and overwhelmed. I kept thinking, ‘this is not happening’ but I knew it was. Then I was filled with a desire to meet him, to be with him.

It hadn’t occurred to me that I’d have to go through labour, all that physical pain for nothing. We arranged to go back the next day, then went home where we both spent all night crying.

At 9am I went back to hospital to deliver our son. I was composed as I walked into the Butterfly Room, but a beautiful picture on the wall, with a plaque beneath it commemorating another lost child broke my heart all over again.

It was 24 hours before labour began, then George arrived within 30 minutes and that silence was crippling, so unnatural.

Midwives put him in blankets then placed him in my arms. I felt sick but, at the same time, so pleased to meet him. He was tiny but perfectly formed and he looked like me. I couldn’t stay with him for long because I knew if I didn’t hand him back, I’d never let him go.

Once home I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t do anything, the physical and emotional pain crippled me for such a long time. I became obsessed, writing to him every day about what I was thinking, feeling, all the things I wanted to tell him.

I’ve had lots of counselling and the biggest thing for me was forgiving myself for not knowing enough about fetal movement. I felt it was my fault George had died and the guilt was overwhelming.

I thought that once you got beyond that first 12 weeks everything would be okay.

Three months later I was pregnant and the anxiety kicked in immediately. I was bleeding again and had weekly consultant appointments from eight to 20 weeks, then every fortnight beyond that point.

I was much more aware about fetal movement and, as my placenta was at the front of my bump, I couldn’t feel as much so relied on scans to reassure me. I knew this baby’s pattern and if anything changed I’d call the midwife. Then, from 26 weeks, I constantly wore my Kicks Count bracelet.

At 37 weeks and three days I was induced due to anxiety and our baby girl, Sophia Grace was here. She looked so much like her brother.

She’s now nine-months and full of humour and smiles, we treasure every second.

I miss George all the time and life is still full of ‘What ifs?’ but I’m trying to channel that grief, that loss into something positive. For me, encouraging other women to be more aware of fetal movement, is George’s legacy.

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