Tommy's guest blog, 23/12/2016, by Megan
‘Baby sisters don’t die, do they Mummy?’ asks my son Oliver, and I struggle to answer. Having lost his brother in March, my beautiful four-year-old boy is looking for reassurance that the little girl I’m carrying will be okay but all I can say is, ‘I hope not’.
Max died during an emergency c-section at 31 weeks after severe pre-eclampsia caused a placental abruption.
I’d suffered terrible morning sickness and repeated infections through my pregnancy but there’d been no indication things would go so terribly wrong.
When I started spotting at around 14 weeks it did make me nervous, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that everything wasn’t quite right, but the doctors and midwives reassured me and I trusted them.
At 16 weeks we had a private scan and took Oliver with us, he was so excited to find out he was having a baby brother.
The 20 week scan also went well but eight weeks later I started contracting at work. I’d thought it was Braxton Hicks but, after calling my midwife, went to hospital where a CTG showed I was experiencing ‘tightenings’ and they sent me home.
Two days later the pain was worse and I went back where a pre-term labour test showed I was high risk for premature labour.
I stayed in for three days with very high blood pressure which they put down to stress and pain. I told them my baby wasn’t moving like normal but they insisted the CTG showed he was fine.
They transferred me to another hospital with the facilities to care for babies born before 30 weeks. I, again, mentioned reduced movement and that I thought I was leaking fluid but I was refused a scan and, four days later, discharged and told to see my midwife the following month.
Feeling stressed and like I wasn’t being taken seriously I arranged to see my community midwife the following day and she found my blood pressure was still high and there was protein in my urine. Sufficiently worried, she sent me back to hospital where I, again, reported reduced movement and feeling like I was leaking fluid. They said my blood pressure was ‘borderline’ and sent me home.
I went back, as arranged, two days later and was told all was well but that weekend I felt wrong.
On Sunday, Mother’s Day, I started contracting again so returned to hospital on Monday where my blood pressure was so high I was in danger of having a stroke.
I was taken to the labour ward and asked if I’d felt my baby move that day, I hadn’t and a CTG showed his heart rate was lower than usual. The midwife said he was fine but I was insistent and I eventually saw a consultant. He found my baby was measuring small, then a Doppler showed no blood flow from my placenta and no amniotic fluid. The consultant diagnosed severe pre-eclampsia and said I needed an emergency c-section. It all happened so quickly my partner, Andrew, only made it into theatre half-way through the operation.
After that everything is a blur. They spent 30 minutes trying to resuscitate Max but I just knew there was no hope and I felt strangely calm when the consultant told us there was nothing more they could do.
I was still in danger because my liver and kidneys weren’t working properly and I think, because I felt so bad physically, I wasn’t able to process the emotional pain.
When I got to the recovery room, Max was dressed and in a cot. He was tiny and looked just like Oliver had as a newborn. Holding him was surreal, sometimes I’m glad I did it, other times not because the memory is so painful.
It was seven weeks before we could have a funeral which was incredibly difficult because I was desperate to get back some kind of normality for Oliver. We explained his baby brother was just too poorly and he’s accepted that but it’s sad because he shouldn’t have to.
The post mortem showed my placenta was covered in clots and an abruption led to Max’s death. It should have been picked up on and the hospital is investigating what went wrong but it’s a long process and I’m desperate for answers.
I feel so let down by the people who were responsible for my care.
I tried to tell them time and time again that something wasn’t right. I put my life, and his life, in their hands and they failed us.
Falling pregnant again soon after losing Max was a shock but my hospital care has been completely different, regular scans, CTGs and blood tests.
I’ve had spotting again, and reduced movement. Every scan fills me with dread.
I’m numb to it all really, I look at baby stuff but don’t buy it because I can’t face having to get rid of it all again.
I don’t feel I’ve bonded with our little girl yet because I’m protecting myself. I also worry what it will be like when she’s here because she’s not the baby I was meant to have.
My blood pressure is being controlled with medication but they won’t let me go beyond 37 weeks this time. I’m also much more aware about fetal movement because I know now how serious it can be. I’d tell any woman who feels a change to demand a scan, nobody wants to be difficult but, ultimately, it could save your baby’s life.
I now know that if I’d waited a few more hours before going to hospital, the placenta abruption could have killed me too, leaving Oliver without a mummy. It’s a horrific thought.
‘Are we really going to have a baby this time?’ he asks again. I really hope so son.
If you are pregnant
We have information to support you if you are reporting reduced fetal movements
- Download the 'Reporting reduced fetal movements. What should I expect?' leaflet (PDF)
This is designed to take with you to your hospital appointments. It tells you what treatment you should receive when you report with reduced fetal movements.
- Download the 'Feeling your baby move is a sign that they are well' leaflet (PDF)
The leaflet contains clear messaging on reduced fetal movements consistent with national guidelines.
Pre-eclampsia is a combination of hypertension (raised blood pressure) and proteinuria in pregnancy (the presence of protein in your urine).
Our #movementsmatter campaign challenges dangerous myths about baby movement during pregnancy, and urges mums-to-be to follow current recommendations about what to do when they experience a change in their baby's movements.
A 'stillbirth' is the death of a baby after 24 weeks of pregnancy but before birth.