Story by Roxanne,
Kaitlyn is our second child.
We have another daughter, Mia, who turned three just before Christmas. My pregnancy with Kaitlyn was what you would call “textbook”.
I was on the low risk pathway, as my first pregnancy and delivery had also been completely textbook. I was so thrilled when I found out we were having another girl; I instantly started dreaming about Mia and Kaitlyn playing together and developing a special sisterly bond.
I absolutely could not wait for them to meet each other, and Mia was so very happy that she was getting a sister. At 39 weeks and 2 days pregnant, on a Thursday night, I started to have mild contractions.
These continued over the next 31 hours and whilst I didn’t go into “established labour” during this time, the contractions were very intense and each one lasted a long time. Where we live we have a Labour Line which is made up of midwives and covers three hospital sites.
I spoke to them on the Friday and they didn’t seem concerned.
At 5am on Saturday I couldn’t handle the pain any more and I was starting to worry that something wasn’t right, particularly given the length of time for a second labour when the first had been so much shorter. I called the labour line again but they couldn’t see me in hospital until 4 hours later. We went into the day assessment unit where we had a scan and were told that our daughter had no heartbeat.
The shock was absolutely unbelievable.
Just 24 hours previously I had been excited because I thought I was going to meet my baby soon; when we went into hospital, I had thought that the worst that would happen was a check up, perhaps some pain relief and maybe a sweep or something like that to get things moving.
Not in the darkest corner of my imagination did I think that our baby girl would have died. My heart literally broke into tiny, tiny pieces and I wonder whether it will ever even begin to repair itself again. My labour carried on progressing and I delivered Kaitlyn at 19:22 that same evening (17th November 2018).
We stayed in hospital with Kaitlyn for 48 hours, in the bereavement suite – thankfully the hospital we were in is well equipped.
We were supported by the staff to spend time making memories with Kaitlyn – we gave her a bath and washed her hair (she had a full head of beautiful dark hair, just like my first daughter did too), we dressed her in her new baby grow and took her for a walk in the park in a pram.
I was so glad I got the chance to push her in a pram. A photographer from Remember my Baby came and took photos, which are now my most treasured possessions. Mine and my husband’s families came and met Kaitlyn and we have photos of them together as well.
We took Kaitlyn’s hand and footprints and a lock of her hair. Two of my friends also met Kaitlyn and brought her teddies, some of which we have kept and some have gone with Kaitlyn.
I am so grateful that we could make these memories with Kaitlyn; I shudder to think of how parents in our position used to be treated, and I am so immensely grateful to all the parents who have spoken out and the charities that have done amazing work to support bereaved parents and provide training for health service staff.
Kaitlyn’s funeral was on 4th January 2019. It was a bright, beautiful winter day. We invited people to be with us at the funeral and around 90 people attended. It was a big undertaking to plan such an event in the depths of our grief, but I am so glad that we did.
We used the service to share all the memories we had made, we had a visual tribute with some of the photos and my husband and I both spoke about how Kaitlyn has changed us and our family forever. I feel that we created an impression of Kaitlyn as a person in the minds of those 90 people, and that this will help her to live on through all of us.
We opted to have a post mortem report and we have had the results back today (13th January 2019). No definitive cause of death was found, which I was expecting as it’s the same for so many babies.
They found evidence of something called fetal vascular malperfusion, which basically means there were blood clots on Kaitlyn’s side of the placenta. I understand that this is relatively unusual so our consultant is looking further into this, and whether it has any implications for future pregnancies.
We feel lucky to have received our report back within two months of Kaitlyn’s death, as we have been informed that reports in the south of England are taking 5-6 months to be produced.
We were not at all happy with this so we were able to arrange for Kaitlyn to go to London, where the report time is 6-8 weeks. There is also a serious incident investigation (as is standard practice for stillborn babies) still taking place within the hospital which we are expecting back in February.
Supporting Mia as well as we can through Kaitlyn’s death has been of vital importance and we have included Mia in everything. She met Kaitlyn in the hospital and they have photos together.
Mia and I had made a bunny rabbit cuddly toy for Kaitlyn at Build a Bear workshop and we gave this to Kaitlyn. The hospital gave us a beautiful book called “Playground in the Sky”, which we have used to help Mia understand where Kaitlyn has gone.
Mia attended Kaitlyn’s funeral, which she refers to as our “special goodbye” to Kaitlyn. I can see that losing Kaitlyn has affected Mia; she often stops and asks if I miss Kaitlyn, then says she does too. She says she wishes her sister could come home, and she often wants to do things like blow bubbles into the sky so that Kaitlyn can catch them.
As for my husband and I, we have never experienced grief and despair like this. There are times when I miss Kaitlyn so much I cannot breathe, and I am grieving so deeply for the loss of the little family we had imagined.
We are attending our local Sands Group and we have both had support from the helpline; speaking to other parents who understand what we are feeling is a lifeline and helps us to feel that we are not really losing our minds.
The Sands information we were given in the hospital was completely invaluable to us. I am desperate to raise awareness and to be part of the movement to keep making improvements to maternity care and bereavement care. I hope that sharing our story can be the first step in doing that.