My Story - by Josephine

I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face when I found out we were expecting Oliver. I remember being fit to burst with excitement when George got home from work and I could finally tell him the news! Other than morning sickness landing me in hospital a few times my pregnancy was very straight forward. We announced our pregnancy on social media after a totally normal 12 week scan and it’s safe to say everyone was just as excited as us.

The next eight weeks were filled with excitement; because surely now we’d made it to twelve weeks everything would be fine right? How wrong we were!

Oliver’s 20 week scan quickly came round and while a little nervous I knew that everything would probably be okay and that it was just a formality. But, sadly that wasn’t the case; the lady doing the scan couldn’t see part of Oliver’s heart so referred us to our local foetal medicine centre for a more detailed scan, but, she was quick to reassure us that it was probably just because he was laying in a difficult position. But unfortunately they still couldn’t see what they were looking at the local foetal medicine centre. So after a number of failed attempts on different days and consuming copious amounts of coke and chocolate on the advice of the consultant to try and get Oliver to move out of his super comfy but awkward position; we were referred to Birmingham Women’s Hospital; we were told that it was most likely that Oliver was just comfy how he was and that his ribs were blocking their view of his heart. This all happened a few days before Christmas so after an initial cry in the hospital corridor, we were reassured by the consultant that we didn’t need to worry, and we went about enjoying a lovely Christmas and moving house just a few days later.

Our scan at Birmingham Women’s Hospital was scheduled for New Years Eve (the day after we’d moved house). The day arrived and although very nervous, I felt positive that everything would be okay because he was hitting every growth stage he should have been, if anything he was a little bit on the big side, so surely that meant he was okay. After seeing Oliver wriggling around on the screen, during a scan that felt like it lasted hours, we were taken to sit in a room and told that the doctors would be in soon.

It was at that moment that I knew there was something wrong with our little boy,

because surely if they had found what they were looking for they would have just sent us on our way. After what felt like an eternity the doctor and midwife came in and sat down gently, gave a kind smile, leant in towards us and said the words “unfortunately, we have found that your baby does have a problem with his heart”. Initially it seemed as though while he would be very poorly when he was born and need an operation along with a stay in NICU he would be okay though and we’d soon have our baby home, we were asked to return for a few scans a few days later just for a second opinion.

The next scan day started with a growth scan and he was doing so well again hitting every growth target, so we sat in Costa eating lunch feeling very optimistic.

We had our scan with the paediatric cardiologists from Birmingham Children’s Hospital neonatal team; and again we were taken into a room after, and told the doctors would be in shortly. I wasn’t as worried this time because we already knew he had a problem and surely this was just to confirm what they had already seen. Once again the doctor and midwife came and sat with us, gave a gentle caring smile, and leant forward and told us that poor little Oliver was a lot more poorly and his condition a lot more serious than initially thought. Then they told us that our little boy may not make it to older than one month old with a number of ground-breaking new operations required; each carrying huge risks. It was in this moment that our worlds fell apart. How could a little boy who was growing so well be so poorly. Suddenly absolutely everything we had hoped for precious little Oliver was put into doubt in that second.

I couldn’t see how I was supposed to stand up and walk out of the hospital and into the car. We spent that evening with our families.

We both took time off work and tried really hard to make the best of everyday for the next few weeks while negotiating this devastating news. Putting the emotions of that day and the following weeks into words is just impossible.

Tragically a few weeks later we lost our precious and very brave precious boy.

We tried to prepared ourselves to meet Oliver (but how on earth are you meant to prepare for that) and went into hospital to be induced; we were told it would probably only take a few hours to start labour; however I don’t think either of us were prepared for what happened next, initially labour started quickly and we were moved down to labour ward the next morning for stronger pain relief. Sadly what followed was not as quick as the initial few hours of labour. In total my labour was over 5 days and it’s safe to say we were both absolutely exhausted both emotionally and physically. Throughout this time we were supported by the most incredible bereavement midwives Steph and Amy.

The induction process felt the most unnatural thing ever, how was I meant to allow someone to help me birth my dead baby?! I remember every member of staff that came into the room would be met with floods of tears because this was just so wrong, why was my baby dead? I sat on the edge of the bed for hours because I didn’t want to get comfy in the room, I didn’t want to accept that this was happening, how could it be real. When our doctor came in to induce me I remember clinging on to George and the midwife and just repeating “this isn’t fair, it wasn’t meant to be like this”, and every time anyone came to do anything I’d just cry, because, I shouldn’t have been meeting any of these lovely people yet, Oliver should have been happily kicking away in me still.

Time and time again while staying we were touched by the kindness of our midwives and doctors; one of them (who had finished late the day before) came in, on her day off, just to sit with us for a little bit, I still can’t put into words how lovely this felt. We had midwives who would phone in when they got home to check how everything was going, and every single one of them went above and beyond to make this horrific experience that tiny bit easier. 

While we were on labour ward waiting for Oliver to arrive our midwife brought us a “memory box”, it was beautiful in every single way, I remember looking at everything in it collated with love, to help us make memories of the limited precious time we’d have with Oliver and feeling an overriding feeling that someone was holding our hand through the hardest time in our lives.

On the night of the 31st January 2020 Oliver was born silently and sleeping. When he was passed to us he was perfect, he was ours, and he looked so peaceful. I finally had my little boy in my arms and I didn’t want to put him down. I was proud beyond words of how hard he’d fought his battle. The room was silent, not even the doctors were talking, there was a sense of pain in everyone’s deminer, a sense that they were all devastated for us, they hugged us with tears in their eyes. Our incredible midwife Carol went above and beyond to help us to dress him and wrap him in his blanket, so he was just as cosey as he’s always looked in his scans and take some photo’s of him.

I was determined not to sleep, I was determined to spend every single moment possible with Oliver, but after some time George and the midwives managed to persuade me that I needed sleep for my own health, and I remember just laying there, it was an odd feeling, the room had been filled with business and medical staff all week and suddenly it was just us and Oliver, our little family, it felt strange and wrong in so many ways. In the morning another absolutely lovely midwife Siobhan took over our care and helped us to create the most precious foot and handprints. We were then moved to a family room on the postnatal ward to spend some more time with Oliver, it wasn’t like a traditional clinical hospital room; it was more like a home from home. That time we spent with our Oliver was the most precious time.

The days following leaving the hospital without Oliver were so much harder than I could have ever imagined. The support from family and friends was absolutely incredible with everyone going above and beyond.

With time each day slowly got easier, we left the house, George went back to work and the world slowly one tiny piece at a time began to return to normal. But then tragedy struck again, but in a very different way, we had found out we were expecting a rainbow baby some months after losing Oliver. But tragically one Monday morning I began bleeding but weirdly by the evening the bleeding seemed to be slowing down and by the Tuesday morning had practically stopped, so everyone thought it was okay.

But, tragically on the Tuesday afternoon I was devastated to see that the bleeding had changed; it had become what everyone told me to look out for – bright red blood. I was paralysed with fear how could this be happening, and phoned George while he was at work to come home and once again sat in the nursery crying at another loss. Although, while bright red it wasn’t too heavy and there was no pain, so, after long conversations with the midwives everyone was hopefully it could possibly still be normal and to keep an eye on it; so we spent the rest of the evening snuggled under the duvet watching rubbish TV.

I woke up on the Wednesday morning and felt like something wasn’t quite right; and sure enough when I went to the loo; there it was; the thing I had feared, the thing everyone had told me to look out for; bright red heavy blood soon followed by the pain. I was miscarrying our rainbow baby. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, how could this possibly be happening after having lost Oliver. I couldn’t find any words in that moment; how was I going to tell George, luckily he was working from home that day, so he was still at home.

I spent days under a duvet on the sofa trying to work out, where were we supposed to go from here, how were we supposed to overcome this while still grieving for Oliver (because the grief of a child never stops). A rainbow baby was never going to replace Oliver and we never wanted it to either, but what it was, was a light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

This loss felt very different to the loss of our precious Oliver; we had never met them, we hadn’t even seen them on a scan, and while my mind had run away and planned everything in the time I was pregnant and I loved the little one so much already but, it just felt different. I was of course upset beyond words, but it did not even begin to match what we felt for the loss of Oliver. Of course it didn’t, I had to birth Oliver, we met Oliver and we have physical memories of Oliver. In many ways it felt so dark and awful again but it also felt like just another devastating thing that had gone wrong in the journey of becoming parents. At some point I have found myself feeling bad for not being as “upset” for this loss, but gradually with help of the professionals I have come to realise I’m not going to feel the same it is totally different.


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