Real life Angels

11+6 days pregnant

I haven’t written much about the day I had to go into hospital to give birth and yet it was a huge part of my experience and something that most angel mummy’s have to go through on this heartbreaking journey. I’m not sure I believe in a God or in heaven but I do believe that I was blessed to have some form of guardian angel sent to me on that day. 

When we found our we’d lost Nieve we were sent home to ‘rest’. It was suggested we get some sleep before I went back in to be induced. Of course, when we arrived home I couldn’t sleep one bit and spent the whole night on the phone to friends, family and work to update them on the situation and share the heart-rendering news. I don’t remember many of those conversations now. I was in such shock and I’m not sure how I constructed the words to tell other people of the loss. I do remember the gasps and cries at the other end of the phone, the disbelief. I also remember stating quite matter-of-factly that the next stage involved me having to go back in to give birth. 

I never gave the birth much gravity. Among the heartbreak it felt almost insignificant, yet it is often deemed the pinnacle of a pregnancy. I didn’t have the mental energy to be afraid and I didn’t give much consideration to the pain I could expect. I was broken, and any pain to be endured seemed to feel meagre in comparison.

We were going to wait 24 hours to return to the hospital, but it just seemed to be delaying the inevitable, so, after a sleepless night, we went back in just 8 hours later. Making the decision to go in to give birth enabled me to feel like I was ‘doing something’, like I had a bit of control in a world where we’d lost it all.

Returning to the hospital was difficult, there were pregnant women and babies everywhere. There were stalls selling baby clothes and gift shops filled with ‘new baby’ cards, balloons and gifts which were achingly irrelevant for us now. It was the first time I realised that I was joining a very different group of mothers, a club nobody wanted to be in. 

We were ushered to a private bereavement suite, a safe respite away from the other families and a space where Matt could stay with me and other visitors were welcome to come and go as we pleased. I was thankful that there was a special ward for us to go to, an escape from the joys and elation of the other mothers in the wards where parents got to take their babies home with them. It’s a solemn fact that it also separated US from THEM- it protected them from a heartbreak which could cause them undue fear in their otherwise healthy pregnancies. 

When we entered the birthing suite it suddenly felt so lonely and desolate. It was about this time that I got a phone call from my friend Fiona, asking if I wanted her to be with us. I had contemplated asking someone to be with us through the birth to support us both, and when I considered it, it was only her name that came to me as a suitable candidate for what was a essentially a mamouth ask. She was the perfect person for the role- strong, caring, patient, practical. She was able to be all the things I was not at that time. It was a blessed coincidence that her parents were staying with her on that particular day and were able to take care of her young son so that she could be available to us. I don’t know what I truly believe about higher powers but I do believe she was sent to me that day at a time when I needed her the most.

She arrived with sandwiches, of course she did, ever practical, ever motherly. Just having her there made everything feel a little lighter, she added a little glimmer of ‘normality’ amongst all the trauma and turmoil. She helped me to stay calm by not over dramatising what was already a very dramatic event and she listened as I unravelled and began to try to process the astronomical. She guided Matt and I through my labour, taught him how to support me and the three of us were deemed to be doing such a good job that the midwife mostly left us to it. Fiona used an app to time my contractions and it was like having my own personal Doula. 

When my waters broke I felt an intense pain and felt suddenly overwhelmed by fear and the urge to push. I’d resisted much in the way of pain relief until that point but was now terrified and pleaded with the midwife to give me something to relieve the pain. She looked me right in the eye and said “Claire, this baby is coming now. You can do this, you can.” I gripped fiercely to Matthew with one hand and to Fiona with the other, and after three more contractions, I’d pushed her out. 

The midwife had asked whether they should place Nieve straight on to my chest after she was born and I immediately responded no. I was in so much shock and terrified of how she would look. That makes me feel very guilty to openly admit that. In some ways I wondered if it would be easier if they just took her away, then I somehow wouldn’t have to face up the reality of the situation. Over the months I had built an image of Nieve in my mind through intereacting with her and experiencing her daily movements. I was afraid that seeing her now would shatter the perfect image I had of my little girl. 

When she was born, the midwife took Nieve to a side room to clean her up and dress her. Fiona asked me if she could join her and I agreed. I was so grateful that she felt strong enough to do what we were not, to tend to my darling little girl. Once she was dressed they wrapped her in a pink blanket and laid her in a tiny Moses basket, placing a small teddy in her little arms. The midwife asked again if we would like to see her and once again we deliberated. I asked Fiona to describe her to us and through her gentle encouragement and reassurance, we made the decision to meet our daughter. 

When the midwife brought Nieve through I was struck by how much she looked like Matthew. I was relived to find she wasn’t deformed or abnormal in any way like I had begun to imagine. Her lips were very red but otherwise she just looked as though she was sleeping. She was beautiful. 

I’m so happy that we found the strength to meet our little girl, though I still feel wracked with guilt that it was even a deliberation for me. I’ve read so many stories of ladies in my situation but they all seemed to speak of a motherly instinct which took over and they reached straight for their baby. I feel like I let Nieve down. Why wasn’t I strong enough to be the one who tended to my baby? Why was I so afraid to see my innocent little girl? I was her mother and I failed at the first hurdle. I’m so sorry Nieve. You deserved better.

The staff on the ward were amazing- kind, sensitive, compassionate and so respectful of myself, Matthew and Nieve. They encouraged us to spend as much time with Nieve as we wanted. They created a memory box of keepsakes for us, which is now one of my most treasured possessions. It contains photographs of Nieve, her hand and footprints, her teddy and a number of other beautiful trinkets. I feel blessed that Nieve was born in a time where so much regard is given to parents of stillborn children. One of my midwives had even been on training on how to take creative photographs in order to make beautiful and priceless memories for parents. 

The people that supported us on that day- the wonderful midwifes and my beautiful friend, they made the unbearable bearable, the intolerable tolerable. It was never going to be an easy experience but I felt blessed that I had an uncomplicated labour and such amazing support. I can never thank those people enough for how they supported us, I can only hope that if a time comes where they need it, that they too will have a guardian angel by their side.

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