Thursday, 29 November 2012

The circle of life

I spent quite a lot of time during my second trimester preparing my daughter for the arrival of a baby brother or sister. I wanted to give her a sense of excitement for the forthcoming new addition to our family whilst teaching her the importance of caring for others. So, we read books about being a big sister and practised lots of role play with her toys (mainly with 'baby dolly') - snuggling them up cosy and warm under a blanket and pretending to give them milk to drink. We took an interest in other people's babies and talked about what activities we would do with our baby after he/she was born.

My daughter wanted to be like mummy and imagined that she too had a baby in her tummy. She would talk about how the baby would eat her dinner after she'd eaten it (I think my husband had tried to explain how babies are nourished through the umbilical cord). She took an interest in the movements in my bump and would kiss and stroke the baby through my tummy button.

I never imagined that I would end up having to try to explain why her brother isn't like other babies and that he is never coming home...


Tonight in the bath she said "When our baby comes back into your tummy..."

"No, sweetheart," I said "our baby isn't coming back into my tummy." I reminded her that he had been born but that he had died and that he isn't coming home.

"He's just in the picture" she said, sadly.


Yes, he's just in the picture. We have a photo of Monty on the windowsill. In the picture with him is his little soft bear rattle - a toy that we have given to our daughter as a gift from her brother and which she associates with the concept of 'our baby'.

We have been given lots of professional advice on how to explain death to children but it is hard to deal with the naivety and direct nature of some of my daughter's questions and statements. I can hardly understand what has happened myself, so how do I begin to make sense of it in a way that my daughter can comprehend? She is only two-and-a-half years old but she is confused by the sudden change - where is the baby we were preparing for? One thing is clear, she is grieving just as much as the rest of us for his loss.

I am sure that, as time goes on, I will be able to answer her questions a little better and without crying. I want her to know about Monty, to remember his name and to recognise his photo. He is my second child and her younger brother. He will always be 'our baby' but just in the picture, in our memories and in our hearts.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

No more bikini...

I have divarication of my abdominal muscles. The muscles separated during my first pregnancy (and I'm not sure if they ever returned to their original formation), then separated further during my second. The community midwife referred me to a physiotherapist as part of my postnatal recovery.

Three weeks after delivering my second baby, there is still a 5-6cm gap across my tummy button. I've been doing the prescribed exercises two or three times a day since I came home from hospital and they have started to have an effect but there is more work to be done.

The physiotherapist assessed my injury and advised how to improve my exercise technique. Basically, lying on my side (or standing up), I pull in my tummy muscles as I exhale and hold for a slow count to 5 or 6 whilst breathing normally. I repeat this about 5 times. Easy (or so I thought)! Apparently, I shouldn't pull so hard with my upper abdominal muscles but concentrate on the lower down ones. I'm also putting too much effort into the exercises - about 50% is enough! My work to date has led to some improvement above my tummy button but I still have a tear-drop shaped divarication.

I must also keep doing pelvic floor exercises (like everyone else!) and these will engage and build up my tummy muscles too. Long holds and quick squeezes - 5 reps of each two or three times a day.

In addition, I've been wearing some of the sturdiest and most formidable Bridget Jones pants ever made (on the advice of the midwife and endorsed by the physio) and have now been given a huge length of tubigrip to wear from boobs to bottom on days when I don't want to wear the support knickers - sexy!

Hopefully, the exercise regime will bring the muscles closer together. A second assessment in four week's time will determine my progress and possibly lead to a revised exercise plan.

I accept that I'll never wear a bikini (truth be told, I never wore one anyway!) but I'm hoping that one day I will be able to get out of bed without using the rolling-onto-side-and-pushing-up-with-one-hand technique and that I might even be able to get back to the gym or a yoga class in a few months' time.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

One step forward, two steps back...

Potty training. *sigh*

After a promising start, with my daughter getting the hang of sitting nicely on the potty to do a wee ("There's something in my fanny!") and being rewarded with a sticker, she seems to have lost interest.

The first signs of disinterest emerged when I went away for a weekend with my singing group at the end of October. One set of grandparents came to visit and my daughter refused to try any nappy-free time whilst they were staying and my husband was in charge! (I'm told that she only wanted to wear big girl pants for mummy.)

Then, the upheaval of the last couple of weeks (in which we have all been trying to deal with the loss of Monty) has put potty training more firmly on the back-burner. To be honest, none of us has had the energy to think about it properly. My daughter has volunteered to wear knickers on a couple of occasions but has had quite a few accidents, so we've switched back to nappies.

I know that no-one expects potty training to be successful in times of stress but it seems a shame, given the effort, enthusiasm and promise of the first couple of weeks, to have to put this on hold.

Perhaps, when we're all feeling a bit stronger in the New Year, we'll have another go?

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Hospital bag: debrief

I promised to make a note of which items packed in my overnight bag were useful and which were a waste of space. So, before I forget, here's the lowdown:

(Note: I re-packed before going to hospital for my induction and removed most of the baby items, knowing that I wouldn't need them.)

These are the items that we used:

Items for me:

  • hairbrush. comb and hair bobbles
  • lip balm - I got very thirsty and my lips dried out
  • toothbrush and toothpaste - we stayed overnight
  • maternity pads - one packet was plenty
  • breast pads - I used one pair
  • shampoo and shower gel - I had a bath after labour and a shower the next morning
  • deodorant
  • slippers (although I didn't wear them as much as I thought I would)
  • fluffy socks - I wore one pair in labour and the other pair afterwards
  • cotton pants - I used a couple of pairs
  • two nighties - one to labour in, the other for after the birth
  • pyjama bottoms - worn underneath my nightie after the birth
  • wrap cardigan - I kept getting cold and shivery after the birth (probably due to shock from a quick labour)
  • going home outfit - maternity jeans, long-sleeved top and cardigan

(I asked the midwives to dispose of the nightie, socks and knickers I'd worn during labour - I didn't want  to keep them, so they were sent for incineration.)

Items for husband and mum:

  • toothbrushes
  • snacks 
  • crossword book and pen 
  • newspaper

Items for baby:

  • A vest and a blanket for Monty to be dressed and wrapped in after he was born
  • A soft bear rattle (we took a photograph of Monty with his rattle and then brought the toy home as a gift from him to his big sister)

Other:

  • maternity notes
  • digital camera
  • mobile phones

These are the items that we didn't use:
  • nail file
  • alcohol hand rub
  • bio-oil
  • earplugs
  • plastic jug (the hospital provided one!)

We were given a parking permit for the car park, so I didn't need all the coins I'd saved up for parking charges, and the hospital provided a TENS machine for me to use.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Creating memories

This week, I would have been 37 weeks pregnant - officially full-term and anticipating the arrival of my baby. Instead, we held a small, private funeral to say goodbye to our little boy.

We have created a memory box to hold the few keepsakes we have of Monty:
  • scan photos
  • hand and foot prints
  • a few locks of hair
  • the yellow baby-gro I bought for him
  • ankle and wrist bands from the hospital
  • cot card
  • certificate of stillbirth
  • photos we took after he was born
  • a beautiful felt heart, embroidered with his name and birth date, made by a friend
  • order of service from the funeral
  • a copy of Monty's entry in the babies' book of remembrance at the hospital

We have bought two matching frames to keep a photo of each of our children on the windowsill, next to our wedding photo. I also bought a necklace with a heart pendant to wear every day in memory of my precious baby boy.

With Monty's due date in mid-December, I've had a silver Christmas bauble engraved with his name and the year. It will be hung on our tree so that we can think of him during the season of family togetherness.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

And time goes by so slowly...

It seems as though time has slowed to a crawl this past fortnight. I hardly know what day it is, let alone the date or time. Two weeks ago, I waited for a call to attend a scan at the hospital and then my life was turned upside down.

There has been so much to do, think about and agree to. The only way I've been able to 'cope' is to break it down into chunks: deliver my baby; meet him and say goodbye; give consent for tests and a post mortem; register his birth; speak to the chaplain about funeral arrangements; and so it goes on...

I have never cried so much or so hard or drunk so many cups of tea.

I feel so desperately sad that I don't have my baby to hold, that my husband doesn't have his son, that my daughter is a big sister with no sibling. Our baby felt my love and care for 34 weeks but never got to enjoy the love of his extended family. If only I could have known that something was wrong - perhaps I could have saved him?

I have bad days and better days. One thing is certain, I couldn't have got through these last two weeks without the excellent and tender care received from the hospital and community midwives, love from my family, and support from our friends. We have received so many cards, texts, emails, letters and flowers - I am touched and comforted to know that people are sending us their thoughts and prayers as we try to understand what has happened.

The strength of love I feel for my husband and daughter is amplified; they keep me going.

The community midwife is coming to visit me today. I was supposed to be going to the clinic for my routine 36-week appointment but, instead, she is coming to see how I'm doing at home. I'm expecting to be discharged from midwife care and handed over to my GP and health visitor until my 6-week postnatal check. Somehow, over the coming weeks and months, I will have to find my "new normal" and learn to live in a different future to the one I had planned.

My husband said "The past is ours to remember, the future is ours to create..."

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Goodbye before hello

I went for my routine 34-week midwife appointment not suspecting that there could be anything amiss with my pregnancy. I have been relatively fit and well (bar the bronchitis and sinusitis about a month ago) but had been quite busy on appointment day, so hadn't noticed much foetal movement. The midwife was concerned that I was measuring small for my dates and had difficulty finding the baby's heartbeat, although she did eventually get a strong signal on the doppler monitor. She referred me to the day assessment centre at the hospital for another scan and said I would be seen within 24 hours. I went home to have cold drinks, something to eat and take note of baby's movements. I did feel some movements during the evening and, although I was feeling a little anxious, I went to bed as normal.

The hospital phoned the next morning and I went in for the scan. Unfortunately, the ultrasound could not detect a heartbeat. My baby had died.

The sonographer and doctor were very kind and phoned my husband who came to the hospital straight away. I told him what had happened and they made us some tea. We were moved to a more comfortable room and several people came to see us and explain what would happen next. I don't remember everything that happened that afternoon but we decided to go home for the night, collecting our daughter from nursery on the way, to have as normal a family evening together as possible and try to process the news that we were losing our baby.

We told our parents and they told our sisters the sad news. We invited a midwife friend to come and sit with us for an hour in the evening and it really helped to have it all explained to us again by a friend. We arranged for my mother-in-law to come the next day and stay for a few days to look after our daughter whilst we prepared ourselves for more hospital appointments and the loss of our baby.

I didn't sleep very well that night. Butterflies swarmed around my stomach and I felt incredibly thirsty. I was up every hour and eventually got up at 5.30am to try to eat some breakfast. It's hard to eat when you have no appetite and feel queasy but an empty stomach somehow feels worse. Plain food, eaten cold, little and often helped to keep the edge off my hunger.

We had been told to return to the hospital once we had childcare sorted for our daughter. After my in-laws had arrived and been settled in at our house, we took my overnight bag, toiletries and a few extras to make us feel more comfortable to the hospital to speak to more doctors and midwives and start the process of delivering our baby. I hadn't realised there would be so many decisions to make and so much  time to wait between different stages of the process.

We spent a couple of hours in the hospital. I took the first set of medication and managed to get some sleep. The hospital made two rooms available to us - one was like a hotel room (double bed, comfy chairs, tea/coffee making facilities, fridge, tv); the other like a hospital room (with hospital bed, medical equipment and en suite bathroom). We were told that these rooms would be available to us all weekend and that we could stay as long as we liked. We stayed in the comfortable room and then, when I woke up, decided to go home again because the second set of medication could not be administered until at least 24 hours had passed.

My mother arrived that evening. She wanted to help with the delivery and see the baby born. I went to bed early and despite my churning stomach, I managed to get some sleep (more likely through exhaustion than anything else).

The next morning, after a small breakfast, my husband and I went for a short walk to get some fresh air. Having spent so much time indoors, sitting or lying on beds and chairs, it was good to stretch our legs and feel some sunshine. After lunch (not that I could eat anything), my mum, husband and I went to the hospital for the induction.

Our baby boy was stillborn that evening, six weeks ahead of his due date. Mum helped the midwife to wash and dress him for us. They took hand and footprints as a keepsake. We named him and were given some quiet time alone with him to take photos before he went to the chapel of rest.

I am the mother of two beautiful children but my baby son is never coming home.