#misCOURAGE story, 17/05/2017, by Jess Marchbank for The Motherload
It’s 2am, Wednesday the 5th of October. I have started writing this whilst I stain the crisp white hospital sheets in a bright rouge, sticky liquid that was once home to my baby. I will finish writing this once I have held my darling Bea.
We’ve called you Bea,
our baby (bay-bea).
We’ve called you she,
it helps me.
Let’s go back. On the 19th August I was maid of (dis)honour for my childhood best friend Jemima. I knew that day would consist of Prosecco, lots of it and it was this thought that shunted me into accepting that I needed to pee on a stick.
I had recently stop breastfeeding my darling pumpkin Noah (overloaded with hormones) and Mother Nature was 10 days late (I was the unlucky one whose periods came back 8 weeks post-partum even though Noah was exclusively breastfed).
Long story short, I peed on the stick in the bridal bog, it gave me two pink lines, I panicked, calmed myself, told my oldest and dearest friend Tink but no one else; today was not about me and hubby was the wedding photographer so I didn’t want to distract him from taking his stunning pics of my Mima.
It took us a while to get our heads around the positive pregnancy test, and, in all honesty the shocked, surprised and “oh crap, how on earth can we find time to have a baby?” thoughts never went.
At 8 weeks I had a very small bleed, had a scan, saw our darling smudge on the screen, heard her heart beat, saw it flickering away, and I fell in love.
I knew that we would just make it work and the overwhelming maternal rush that I got when I looked at the scan picture made me know we’d be okay… Love conquers all, right?
We carried on as normal, she was in there, bouncing away, we’d seen her heart, very much alive.
At 12 weeks and two days I knew she was gone. No bleeding, no pain, I just knew. I told my husband “something isn’t right, I can feel it, I think it’s gone” He told me I was probably over-tired and feeling run down, but I just knew. The next day I started to bleed, just a little bit. Then the cramps came. I rang the GP and was booked in for another scan the following day.
12 weeks and three days. The doctor said the words we all dread “it’s not good news I’m afraid… There’s no fetal heartbeat”. Our little smudge fell asleep at nine weeks and three days. She had been asleep inside me for three weeks.
My world crumbled. I sobbed into my toddler’s crazy curls as the doctor handed me leaflets on missed miscarriages and told me what to expect next. “Just a little heavier than your normal period, and a few more intense cramps”.
That night at the dinner table as I prodded my fish finger sandwich, hubby’s best attempts to cheer me up, my waters burst, dramatically, like they did with my Noah bump.
I made a noise that I’d never imagined I’d make. Not like a scream of pain when you stub your toe, and neither like the fear of a huge spider, but a primal, deep bellow from somewhere hidden, somewhere you don’t ever imagine you would need to go. A sound that does not belong.
From 5.30-6pm I filled two pads, they just weren’t cutting it, so I moved onto my toddler’s night-time nappies. The clots were huge and they kept coming. I checked each one, I wanted to find my baby. I just couldn’t let her just sink into the loo.
From 6-7pm I had soaked through three night-time nappies and was in agony. We rang 111. I was losing so much blood, I was faint, I was not well.
An ambulance turned up. They took me to hospital. I lay on the stretcher in my Tinkerbell dressing gown and Bambi pyjamas (like the mature 29 year old I am) and I sobbed and sobbed.
The paramedic was far better than I could have hoped for. I won’t name her as she may not want her story shared.
She told me how she had also miscarried at nine weeks, she knew my pain. She cried with me, she hugged me, she told me her story, how they buried their child and what they do to remember their little lovington.
She told me that her baby would be six years, three months and four days old today! My heart broke all over again.
At that time, she was the person I needed. Someone to tell me “it’s not okay, it hurts and you’re allowed to grieve the loss of what you won’t have, the memories you won’t make” not the doctor who says in a very kind manner “it most likely had a chromosomal defect so it’s best it ended before it started”.
Yeah, that doctor is statistically right, there was most likely something wrong BUT this info doesn’t help. My baby is dead. I needed someone to be real and raw, to acknowledge that, even though she was only an inch long, she was real and I was growing her, inside me. We were one. Knitted together.
Once in hospital I had to undergo horrific but necessary things. I had clots pulled from me. Fluid pumped into me. Doctors discussing with doctors the “product that remained inside” and how to best remove “it”.
Kelly and Miriam, my two nurses in A&E, thank you for your compassion and your heart. Kelly, thank you for holding my hand and just allowing me to sob. Miriam, your soul shone so bright that dreaded night. Your simple words of “I’m so sorry” and your teary eyes meant more than you’ll ever know.
Once up on the ward, dosed up on pain killers, I thought I could sleep but they needed to stop the bleeding.
I was hooked up to a drug they use to induce labour. It was hideous. It made me contract. Every pain a reminder that I will never hold this baby, never latch her onto my breast, never feel that burning love when our eyes connect for the first time.
The drug stopped dripping into my veins at 4:30am. I had not slept. The pain, the frequent toilet trips, the frantic searching through blood clots…
At 4:45am I passed a huge solid mass, bigger than both my fists. This must be my baby, surely? I pulled the toilet call bell, the health care assistant came to me. I opened the door, I opened my mouth to tell you, nothing but grief came out.
Then the words “my baby, my baby” fell from me as I crumbled into your caring hug. As you held me you said words I’ll never forget “it’s okay to cry, and it will always be okay to miss the baby you’ve never held”. I was too drugged to catch your name. But thank you for just allowing me to cry rather than the agency nurse who didn’t understand and told me to quiet down as I would wake the others.
The agency nurse who looked at me in disgust when I told her I wanted to keep my baby, to bury her at home. The agency nurse who said “don’t be silly, it’s not a baby, just dead matter”. I am glad you were agency. Hopefully no other grieving mother will be under your “care”.
The doctor was called to examine the baby. She came to my bedside at 5:30am. In a room full of other patients. She picked up the paper bed pan that held you. She opened the tissue I’d wrapped you in. With a gloved hand, in front of me, she pulled you apart. Then she just looked at me and said “this isn’t the product, it’s just a very large blood clot”. I was horrified but also relieved. If it had been my baby that she was pulling apart, in front of my eyes, that could have been the last thing I was able to bear. It could have been the most horrific image that I would have been stuck with every time I closed my eyes. But it wasn’t. The doctor told me that I must have passed “the product” without realising. I knew I hadn’t. I knew you were still with me.
A very caring female doctor came to see me before finishing her night shift. I told her I knew I hadn’t released you from my body. She scanned me. My uterus was empty, just blood was left. But I knew you were still there. She said I could go home as the baby, (she called you my baby and that makes my heart swell), had passed.
At 8am I still had pain. You shouldn’t have pain if your womb is empty. Mr Bennett, my consultant with Noah came to see me. He listened to me when I said you were still there.
I had a new nurse, Debbie, her eyes told me she knew how my heart felt. She listened also. They re-scanned me. The scan gave the same conclusion. An empty tomb. But he had heard me, he had listened.
Mr Bennett took the dreaded speculum and repeated the procedure I’d had in A&E. He removed more clots. He confirmed that “the product” was still inside me. She was stuck in my cervix. He tried to pull you out.
The pain was worse than labour. Maybe because even though labour is flipping sore, it’s a positive pain. This was unreal. I politely told Mr B that enough was enough. I remember how I told him “Mr Bennett I wish you had a vagina so you knew how it felt”… I’m sorry for that. Your response was perfect “If I had a vagina I wouldn’t be Mr Bennett and I wouldn’t be here with you”. Thank you Mr B.
I was comforted by a second year nursing student. Danica and her mustard yellow epaulets. You will be a fantastic nurse Danica. You helped me more than you’ll ever know. Thank you. Be brave. Aim high.
Back on the ward I broke down. The blue curtains providing minimal privacy. I pulled my knees up to my chest and I emptied my heart into my hands. I’d never felt so hollow, so empty, so helpless.
Debbie my nurse came in, sat on the floor and held my hand. Debbie thank you for your words. She came back 10 minutes later with a ‘memory box’, I cried all over again.
This box will forever be special to me and I am so thankful to Louis’ parents for making these beautiful keepsake boxes.
Dr Palmer, a lovely young doctor full of empathy and compassion. I am still in awe of how you spoke to me, like a mum who had lost her child, not “just another patient”. You gave me my second treatment. Four tablets to be inserted into my vagina. These tablets will help to open the cervix.
They didn’t work as we’d hoped. Another night at the Pilton Hilton with no ‘positive’ effect.
The next day I was clinically much better. The blood loss had eased and the cramping was bearable. I was sent home and told that “the product” may stay in situ till my next period. I couldn’t deal with that. I couldn’t process the thought of having my dead baby inside me for another month. But, I was clinically well and being home with my boys sounded delightful.
As I cuddled and snuggled my 15 month old to sleep I sobbed. He looked at me and held my cheek whilst he whispered “mama”, then he stuck his finger up my nose and closed his eyes. I was home.
I didn’t think it was possible to love my Noah monster anymore than I already did, but my gosh, every cell in my body seeped with a craving to hold him, to smell his baby scent, to hear him say those precious words “mama”.
Noah you are my little sunbeam (even if you still ‘sleep’ like a newborn).
At 7:40pm I left his bed and rushed to the bathroom in such pain I thought I may pass out or be sick on the way. As I sat down I felt you coming. I put my hands into the waterfall of blood and I caught you. You were here. In my hands.
You were snuggled tight in your little sac. You were about two inches long. I could see your outline. I held you to my heart and wished this moment to be false, to be a bad dream.
I wished more than anything that I wouldn’t hold you for another six months. That first embrace when you birth your child and get that skin to skin, there’s nothing like it. I craved that moment.
I took you to find your daddy.
Unbeknown to me he had transformed our garden into a beautiful sacred place. He had made you a bed and lit the way to your final resting place with candles. I sobbed “she’s here, she’s come out”.
Your daddy came to us, he held me and he sobbed. His heavy shoulders oscillating with sadness. He asked to see you. I didn’t think he cared. He’s a man, and he doesn’t show emotion. But he did care.
He led us to your bed. As I lay you down he said four words, perfect words “night-night little one”. He covered you in your blanket of soil and we wept.
The stars were shining so brightly. It was a beautiful clear night.
My miscarriage was complete. My heart was empty.
Rest easy my darling Bea.
Born 6th of October, at 7:40pm, weighing approx 2 grams.
With thanks to The Motherload where this blog was first posted. You can read the original here.
Jess is now pregnant again with her rainbow baby.
Image: Fraser Marchbank
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