Tommy’s guest blog, 30/01/2017, by Nicole Addy
Nicole and Steven Chidgey had to say goodbye to their baby daughter Avery last October after her heart stopped beating at 28 weeks.
After visiting Tommy’s stillbirth centre in Manchester for Avery’s post-mortem, Nicole and Steven were told by our clinical director Dr Alex Heazell that Avery passed away due to a placental malfunction.
He was able to tell them that Avery would not have suffered at all – a piece of information that Nicole says bought her peace.
Here is their story
It seems like so much has happened since we lost Avery back in October 2016. Only a few short months ago, but they’ve shaped me more as a person than my 25 years on earth.
The day she died, no one can prepare you for.
I went in routinely at about 8pm because I’d not felt my girl all day, it had happened before but not for this long.
Calmly, we sat in the waiting room, and then laughed and chatted to the nurse as she took my blood pressure.
But then, it came to the heartbeat and she couldn’t pick it up with a Doppler – I knew straight away – despite her telling me it doesn’t always pick up the heartbeat, midwife’s always joked about how strong her heartbeat was as a Doppler picked it up before it was even touching my belly.
So I knew at that moment that she was gone.
A consultant came in and confirmed, I’m sure they were very heartfelt in how they told me, but honestly, I don’t remember a word they said to me from that moment.
All I remember is I was just given a tablet to take and sent home knowing I’d be called at some point the next day.
That night was by far the worst night of my life, to even comprehend that we as women have go to bed knowing that the tiny human who lit up our life, was eternally sleeping inside of us breaks my heart – and for the partners who have to get to sleep heartbroken for the loss of their baby, terrified for what’s ahead for their other half and feeling they have to be the strong one – I raise my hands to everyone who has been through ‘that first night’ – we made it through the worst!
The next day, I received a call from a woman called Vicky (now an important person in my life – my bereavement midwife) who explained to me exactly what I was going to have to go through – this was hard to hear.
Despite knowing deep down I couldn’t just have her taken out of me easily, I wasn’t quite prepared for the reality that I’d have to go through full labour, and that the tablet I’d taken the night before was preparing my cervix for just this.
Every emotion in the thesaurus that defines scared is how I felt.
My mum came round that morning as her and Steven were my planned birthing partners, and so it was to stay that way, even though the ending of the story had changed, I wanted everything else to remain the same and that was minimal pain relief and my two favourite people by my side.
It took just about 15 hours from getting to hospital for my waters to break (very quick considering) and that was it, from this point on, something took over my body which I can’t quite describe (I say I switched off my humanity) because I went into focus mode.
I didn’t cry, I didn’t complain, and somehow, I de-sensitised myself from what was happening – now looking back that’s just the strength that we have as women to get through things – we’re warriors and must never forget it!
At 10am on Wednesday 12th October, at 2 and a half pounds, my beautiful angel Avery-Grace Chidgey was born sleeping and touched our hearts forever.
I can honestly say, meeting Avery has changed me forever – she was perfect in every way and I’m proud to say we created a miracle.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy, I cried every second of it and I couldn’t pick her up at first or look at her face for too long.
But after about 10 minutes I plucked up the courage to be alone with her, and tell her everything I could ever wish to tell her, and those special mother daughter moments nobody can ever take away from me, they’re just for us and I’m so grateful for them
Later on, Steven joined us – and we got to spend time as a family. Seeing Steven bravely pick her up and embrace her made me so proud to have such an amazing man by my side and father to our girl and future children.
We got her into the room with us a few times over the next 2 days while I recovered in hospital, and they were ever so special.
Saying goodbye for the last time in person was hard, we had her beautifully blessed and then touched her cold soft skin for the last time.
Saying goodbye to the person who you’d been so close to for the past however many months is indescribable, you hope to outlive your children and celebrate all their milestones throughout life with them, and to have that taken away before it all is cruel, unfair, unjust, and all of the above.
But it’s life, and sometimes we are dealt a testing card– it’s important to be strong for them, because all they knew was warmth and love and happiness – so be proud of the happy but short life you provided for your baby – because I certainly am!
2 weeks after she was born, my brain was still processing what had happened, it was working on overtime and I’d become sick of crying to my mum and Steven - I needed an output for my feelings and thoughts, and being a writer as a profession, I decided to set up a blog www.mylittlebirdytoldme.com
My first blog was the hardest, after two weeks of trying to blank out what had happened I succumbed to the reality, and reflected on the whole experience of losing Avery.
I’m surprised I didn’t break the keyboard with the floods of tears that fell, but after I had wrote it all down, I felt somewhat relieved, like I’d spent an hour in therapy!
So, that’s where my blogging began and I haven’t looked back since.
Since starting my writing back in October, I’ve had numerous parents who experienced pregnancy loss reach out to me, telling me how it’s so comforting for them to read my stories.
I always write in the moment and share the real experience, and I think it helps other parents realise that they’re not alone in their feelings.
For me, receiving messages from parents saying Avery has helped them, has been the biggest turning point me for in my grieving.
If she just lights one person’s day up through my writing, then to me, that gives her death a little purpose and meaning, and as a bereaved parent, that’s all I can ask for.
I think speaking out about my experiences is so important.
If I’ve learnt one thing since it happened, it’s that I have so many people in my network of work colleagues, family and friends who have been through the pain of pregnancy loss, but I never knew about it because they were too scared to speak out – like it’s a taboo subject – and I’m on a mission to change that.
The scariest thing I’ve done so far was speak out on a video on social media about raising awareness of amazing charities like Tommy’s – a nerve wrecking but necessary post which thousands of people viewed.
We recently had her post-mortem at the rainbow clinic at St Mary’s with Dr Alexander Heazell, who informed us that Avery passed away when the placenta suddenly malfunctioned, and couldn’t quite get the blood flow to her that she needed.
It’s very comforting to know what we now have a plan in place to prevent this happening again in future pregnancies at the rainbow clinic.
Dr Heazell is an amazing consultant who made us feel at ease about our future, and more than anything, knowing that Avery didn’t suffer has brought me peace.
She has a special place in our home and I find all her pictures comforting and look at them daily, I sleep with her teddy which has a recording of her heartbeat in and she even has her own little corner in our house – but everyone is different and grieves in their own way – there’s no right or wrong way to do it!
I may be newly bereaved but if I can offer any advice, it’s to speak out, don’t hold in the pain, it’s not good for anyone.
Speaking out brings us all together, because we’re by no means alone in our grieving – each day is a new challenge, but also a gentle reminder than you made it through yesterday, and it’s going to eventually be ok.
If you have suffered the pain of stillbirth and need to talk to someone, our midwives are trained in bereavement support. They are on hand from 9 – 5, Monday – Friday to offer you any advice, support or information you may need on 0800 0147 800.
If you want to read more from Nicole, you can head over to her blog, My Little Birdy Told Me.