I don’t usually watch Coronation Street, I’ve never really got in to it, but I heard they had a late miscarriage (not stillbirth) storyline and I felt compelled to watch it. To say it was hard to watch is an understatement. I felt every second of Michelle’s (the character suffering the miscarriage) pain, as I’m sure everyone who watched it did. But as I watched, my heart broke once more for my own loss, my Jiya, born at 21 weeks.
I had had my 20 week scan just days before, I recall it vividly…
…the sonographer went through her checklist, “yes there’s the heart chambers, we have two little kidneys, lungs look good, 1, 2, 3…9, 10 fingers and toes, everything is perfect, just what we’d expect at this stage. Oooh, look, can you see, your baby is having a little drink”. We decided to find out if we were having a boy or a girl – Sukhie wanted to wait until the birth, but I couldn’t wait a day longer. “It’s a girl, you’re having a little girl”. The first thought that entered my mind was how my Dad would have been so happy had he still been alive, his first granddaughter after three grandsons, his first granddaughter after his own four daughters. My Dad would have doted on our baby girl and she would have had him wrapped around her little finger, I know that for a fact. I spoke gently to Dad and wished he was watching us at the scan and smiling at the news. I think he was.
Filled with a happiness that I can’t even begin to describe, my husband Sukhie and I had to have a little talk with ourselves…this looks like it is actually going to happen, maybe we should start believing it now, maybe we should start telling people and making plans. Until this point we had only told those around us that needed to know, we lived in a cocoon and took each day as it came, no plans, no expectations, just hope. But now we finally started making lists, lists of things we needed to do between now and the birth, things we needed to buy, we decided which room would be the nursery and we announced it to our wider family…not a Facebook announcement though, that just didn’t feel right. However, two days later we were back in hospital following a small bleed. I didn’t think too much of it because we’d had bleeds before within this pregnancy and the scan had been fine just days before. As we waited to be seen, we continued to plan and even made a shortlist of names. I secretly thought, we’ve passed the 20 week stage, surely we were safe now. And momentarily we were, the doctor checked me over and we heard a good, strong heartbeat. But this was short-lived, 24 hours later at home, I went into labour.
When the contractions started, boy did they start! I was sat on the loo (sorry TMI) and was in agony, I screamed for Sukhie who was making dinner at the time. The pain kept coming and going, but mainly coming! I asked him if he thought these were contractions…not that he’d know the answer, I mean how would he? I knew they were, but I didn’t want to believe it, I didn’t want to accept that my 7th pregnancy was going down the same route as the 6 before it, I mean it couldn’t because I’d just had the big scan that told me everything was ok. It didn’t make sense. But I had no time to think about anything. My contractions were 2 minutes apart, there was no warning, no build up, they started like this, intense and just 2 minutes apart. The 15 minute journey to the hospital was torture, the motion of the car seemed to make the contractions worse, I wanted to grab something solid to help me push through the pain, but there wasn’t anything suited to this purpose in the car, although I remember grabbing the steering wheel at one point…that seemed to help!!
When I finally got to the Maternity Assessment Unit, right on cue as I got to the desk, I had another one. There was no time for introductions. I was taken straight to a cubicle and examined. “I’m afraid Mrs Mann that you’re 9-10cm dilated”…those were his words, I remember them, as clear as day. I also remember my response, through my sobs, “does that mean my baby is coming now, is this it?” I knew it was. But something in me was still searching for someone, anyone to tell me this was all normal and that it would be ok, my baby would be ok. The midwife, or was it the porter, or the consultant, I don’t know, but someone was quickly wheeling my bed into the labour ward, it was at this point my waters broke. They took us straight to the ‘bereavement suite’, where 2 or 3 midwives were waiting, one started explaining that they would be putting an injection in my leg as soon as the baby came out, then asking if we wanted to hold the baby when she was delivered. WTF? WTF? WTF? This was all that was going through my mind.
The contractions continued, but began to slow down. When I was examined again, apparently my cervix was now closed. The midwives who were all poised at the end of my bed started to wander about, and then it was time for them to change shifts. Everything just slowed down. My baby wasn’t coming…not tonight anyway. The contractions slowed and then stopped during the night. I think I slept for an hour before I was woken by the sun shining into the room and a beautiful midwife coming in to see me. She was an angel in disguise. Her presence that day seemed to make things better. It felt like something was different, and as strange as it may sound, it felt like it would be a good day.
When the consultants came to see me, they were surprised at how the situation had calmed since the night before. During a scan, I was astonished to see my little baby was doing fine, her heart still beating away, despite the trauma of the previous day. The amniotic fluid around her however had all but gone and although we were told this would slowly start to regenerate, we were told that with such a low level of fluid the risk of infection was pretty high. But her heart was beating. She was still alive. She still had a chance. No matter how small it was, she still had a chance. And we still had a glimmer of hope.
We had a pretty decent day with lots of love from the midwife, she kept us fed and watered and spent a great deal of time talking to us and making sure we were ok. We spoke about our options even though some of the answers felt pretty cruel. We were told, because we were only 21 weeks along, we had little chance of our baby surviving. We were asked to fill out forms about funeral arrangements. We were told that the hospital weren’t allowed to help the baby (including giving me steroids to help her lungs mature, providing ventilation, etc) because she was less than 24 weeks, which is the age a foetus is considered ‘viable’. I didn’t fully understand it. In my mind I thought, if she is born and alive, they will put some tubes in and put her in a ventilator and in time she would be ok…I mean I’ve seen the pictures of tiny babies being cared for this way. She wouldn’t just be left to die, would she? Something in me made me ask the midwife this very question and her response was, “If she is born and breathing, we will wrap her up and place her in your arms until she passes away”. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. How, in this day and age and with medicine as advanced as it is was this the only option for a baby born alive? The thought we may have to do this was too much for me. I mean how would I be able to do it? How would I hold my baby and watch her die? I couldn’t do it. The reality was, we didn’t need to encounter that nightmare, our little girl spared us that added agony.
When my favourite midwife finished her shift, she snuck in a cheeky Doppler scan and immediately found our baby’s heart still beating strongly. We held on to that glimmer of hope.
But a few hours later I felt my waters go again, the contractions started again, my mind now well and truly all over the place. Things were confusing too. When the doctors that night checked my cervix, they kept telling me it was virtually closed, but I was getting bad contractions and still bleeding. I was exhausted. I was confused. I just wanted to be normal and have a normal pregnancy like the women in the wards around me, screaming through labour, with the prize of a live baby at the end of it.
Somehow I endured the night and woke to what felt like a darker day than the one before. There was a tension in the air, as if something bad was brewing. Although my contractions had stopped again, I was startled when I went to the bathroom and felt my baby’s head. I screamed, cried with fear and pulled the emergency cord. Within seconds my room was filled with doctors and nurses and I screamed that she was coming. But, again, when I was examined I was told my cervix was virtually closed and with no contractions, I don’t think anyone knew what was actually going on. I was a mess. I just wanted to know what the hell was going on. It took like 2 hours for a scanning machine to appear in my room and when Dr 1 scanned me, she struggled to find a heartbeat, in fact she struggled to find the baby too! Then Dr 2 came in and confirmed she couldn’t find a heartbeat either, oh but wait, then she found something, she said it could have been the baby’s or it could have been mine. She called in Dr 3 who said there was no heartbeat and actually said the baby was really low down. She asked to examine me and thinking nothing of it I said yes. The doctor said ‘she’s here, I’m just going to pull her out’. I was like what the actual fuck are you doing? Then a few seconds later the Doctor had my baby in her hands. That was it. It was over. The glimmers of hope over the two turbulent days, all gone. My pregnancy had ended. My heart shattered. My soul in pain. My world silent and still…