A story by Mary
What on earth had happened? I had only popped out for a routine midwife appointment and now I was lying in the hospital. To my left was the image of my lifeless daughter, and to the right was my partner in tears. I was 36+5 and it was only a matter of weeks until I was going to meet my third daughter. We already had Eve, 7 and Molly, 2. We were so excited to add another girl to the mix.
This wasn’t fair. Where was the warning? I had felt her kick the night before at a music lesson I was teaching. I knew that for a fact. But had I felt her today? I couldn’t be sure. It had been a busy morning with a house full of people. How could I have not noticed she’d died?
I was told not to worry
My pregnancy with Alana was like my previous 2 pregnancies. They were all low risk with no complications. There had been a small issue with Alana, at 28 weeks, when my bump was measuring slightly large. I had a scan and was told that I was carrying some extra fluid. The deepest pool was 9cm. But the doctor said that they usually have cause for concern if it reaches 10cm or more.
They also told me that it looked like the baby had some fluid in her kidneys, but it wasn’t anything to worry about and that it would just mean she may need a scan once born.
I was reassured that often extra fluid corrects itself, so I was booked in for another scan 2 weeks later. I wasn’t too concerned. I didn’t even Google it. At the scan 2 weeks later, the fluid had corrected itself and I was told not to worry.
Apart from that, all had been well. Yet I was now pacing the room, crying without tears and in total shock that my baby had died. I had endured nearly 37 weeks of pregnancy and I wasn’t going to get my treasured prize at the end. My life had changed forever. One of the hardest things I had to do was tell my other daughters – Alana’s sisters.
I was terrified when, 2 days later, I went into hospital to be induced. I will never forget walking onto the labour ward. The same ward where I had given birth to my other daughters. I cried in disbelief. I was taken to a normal delivery room with the absence of the baby’s incubator blinding me. Alana’s birth was beautiful and peaceful, and I look back on it with such warm memories.
I remember when she was placed onto my chest, silent and still. She had a head full of red hair and she resembled both of her sisters. I felt so proud of her and so deeply sad that she wasn’t alive.
One thing I noticed straight away was that Alana looked like she had Down’s syndrome. The midwife had a look at her and said that she was showing some characteristics.
She said that she could be tested for it at her post-mortem. Within 2 days of finding out my daughter had died and giving birth to her, I was met with terms like ‘bereavement team’, ‘post-mortem’, and ‘cold cots’. The list was endless. I couldn’t process it all. I didn’t want to. I had been given some leaflets, but I couldn’t bear to read them. I didn’t want any of it to be true.
I was able to spend time with Alana until the day we finally had to say goodbye.
Since her death I have tortured myself with so many questions. Some are so personal that I have found it hard to openly talk about them. We hadn’t had the screening for Down’s syndrome with any of our children. It was always a case of ‘it doesn’t matter if they have it – we will love them regardless’.
I never considered that if it came back that they were high risk that I might have been monitored more or given extra care. Did she die because I didn’t have her tested? I also cancelled a routine midwife appointment at 34 weeks because we had booked a last-minute treat day out for the girls. The earliest they could reschedule that appointment for was 2 weeks later – the day I found out Alana died. What if a problem had been found at the original appointment and we could have saved her as a result?
Did I eat too much sugar? Did I not exercise enough? Was I not getting enough Vitamin D? The questions were endless.
We had a non-invasive post-mortem for Alana and this is something that I don’t regret. As a result, our consultant, the wonderful Dr Alex Heazell at the Tommy’s Rainbow Clinic in Manchester, said that they couldn’t find a definite reason why Alana had died.
I asked him all the questions that had been running through my mind. He reassured me that nothing I did would have made a difference. Even if I’d had the screening for Down’s syndrome, the most I would have been given was extra scans which I had anyway when my bump was measuring large.
My darkest hours
6 weeks after Alana died, I was involved in an art therapy workshop and here I met some amazing researchers from the Tommy’s Placenta Clinic. I also met some of the wonderful research midwives from the Tommy’s Rainbow Clinic. In my darkest hours, they were there for me. They listened to me and they answered any questions that I had.
I felt like they made a conscious effort to go into detail about why it wasn’t my fault. They explained with facts, rather than just trying to make me feel better.
They educated me on so much that I wasn’t aware of. I really began to believe that whatever did happen to Alana wasn’t my fault. They also made me see how much they truly care and want to make a different to reduce stillbirth rates and I felt inspired to help in any way I could. I truly believe that with the research Tommy’s do, women will begin to find the answers they deserve.
1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss – and most parents never find out why due to a shocking lack of research. It doesn't have to be this way – and Tommy’s research is finding the answers. But research into pregnancy loss is currently seriously underfunded compared to other medical conditions.
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