decided it was time to have a family. What could be easier.
So we started to project manage this development in our lives
just as we managed projects every day at work.
was conceived in April 1996, due for arrival in February 1997.
The decorating schedule was duly drawn up. We had 9 months
to decorate the whole house. Having moved in only six months
earlier and had major work done in every room, it was desperately
in need of a severe tidy up. The car was looked at. It was
surely too small to carry around a pram and all the other
equipment a small baby demands. We changed the car for a Land
Rover Discovery. Lots of room in the boot. Big and safe if
we were involved in an accident and seven seats. The aim was
to fill them all.
finances were looked at and, if we managed to pull in our
belts now, we could manage while I was on maternity leave
for up to a year. We holidayed in a tent in Cornwall for a
week, instead of five weeks in New Zealand as we had done
the year before! And it was as we were driving back in the
Land Rover, that we stopped in Bodmin and I did the pregnancy
test. It was positive. We laughed and sang along to the radio
all the way to my brother's house in Badminton. My mum and
Dad were there also. We didn't want to wait the customary
3 months before telling anyone. We wanted to shout it from
the roof tops now. We were so excited and pleased. We told
my family that night. I was on light duties from now on. I
avoided lifting anything heavy. I didn't eat soft cheese,
pate and all the other forbidden foods for pregnant women.
I did try to eat for two though! Work was still very stressful
and the long hours were exhausting. I started going to the
antenatal appointments. David came to them all. The ultrasound
scan at 12 weeks was brilliant. We saw him move. We saw his
little face in profile. It was amazing. We told all our friends
and I started looking at prams and antenatal classes. The
appointment came through for the twenty week scan, we were
half way through the pregnancy. Back to East Surrey hospital
we went to see our little boy again.
sonographer doing the scan asked if I was sure of my dates.
Yes of course I was. I had counted every day. Was I diabetic?
No, not that I knew . " Oh" she replied. "Wait
here and I'll get a doctor to see you." What was going
on. We had come in to see our little boy. The notion that
the scans were really to see if the baby was well hadn't occurred
to us. Let alone the thought that anything may be wrong. We
had gone past the 3 month period when miscarriage is a big
threat. It's supposed to be plain sailing from then on. Isn't
were taken to a general waiting room, confused and not knowing
what was wrong. Only that something clearly was wrong. I broke
down and a sister showed us into a separate room and asked
what was wrong. We explained that we didn't know. She looked
at the pictures that the sonographer had taken. And probably
trying to help said " I've never seen an alive foetus
with a placenta like that before". I was not consoled.
The consultant arrived and explained that our little boy was
two weeks smaller than he should be. "It could be a chromosome
problem or it could just be that he's going to be small. You'll
need to go to King's College Hospital for a detailed scan."
earliest appointment was the next morning at 9.00. We went
home in shock, our bubble was bursting. We hardly slept that
night. We were at Kings early. A sonographer did a scan and
said we needed to go to another machine to measure blood flows
around our little boys body. The Professor came into the room
to look over the scan. Still we didn't know what was wrong.
As he looked at the screen showing Matthew's little body he
dictated a letter to his colleague for our consultant. Thank
you for referring this lady at twenty weeks gestation. I have
found severe restricted blood flows with high probability
of intrauterine death....." As the image on his screen
started to shake, he realised that I was a person, that I
was lying there, that I had just learned that my little boy
would probably die and that I was crying. He looked at me
surprised and then realised that no one had actually spoken
to us about our little boy.
were told that Matthew was suffering. He was starving to death.
The placenta wasn't working properly so was depriving his
body of oxygen required to keep his brain alive. That was
why he was smaller than he should have been. I was eating
for two, so why was Matthew starving. I must be able to help
him, I'm his mum. There was nothing anyone could do. All the
media coverage about all the wonderful things they can do
in medicine now - operations on babies while they're still
in their mummy's tummy amazing special care facilities. And
yet, even one of the world's leading obstetrician said there
was nothing he could do. We went home and tried to take in
what was happening. Family said, don't worry, it'll be alright.
How could it be alright. Matthew was dying inside of me and
I couldn't make him better. What could I do. My big belly
was a constant reminder that I was pregnant, but Matthew was
week later I went into hospital with stomach pains. After
waiting three hours for a scan, I found out that Matthew was
still alive. I was on painkillers and on the maternity/antenatal
ward. The other women were all happy, laughing and joking
amidst the crying babies. I didn't sleep, but I cried.
next day David came to see me, still drowsy from a general
anaesthetic. He'd had his wisdom teeth out the night before.
I wanted to come home with David. We found a midwife who understood
why I wanted to go home and at 8.00 that night we finally
went home. We nursed each other all Sunday. The movement of
the bed as I rubbed my tummy lulled David to sleep. At 5.00
in the morning, I woke David to take me to hospital. Matthew
was induced and after a short, but painful labour, Matthew
was born. I cried out, "Where's my baby!" But he
was taken out of the room as soon as he was born. The midwife
brought Matthew back to us in a mosses basket. He was tiny,
but perfect. He had tiny little finger nails, beautiful hands,
little eyelashes and big feet. We decided he would have been
tall with those big feet. He was our little boy and we cried.
We spent the afternoon with Matthew, not leaving him alone
for a minute. But finally we had to leave him there and go
home empty. Completely empty. We were in a daze and exhausted.
David was recovering physically from his operation and I was
recovering from labour. And we were both trying to deal with
the utter devastation we felt.
week later David carried Matthew's tiny white coffin into
the chapel. We had gone around the woods and fields the day
before to collect autumnal nuts and berries, reds, oranges,
yellows and greens to put on his coffin. It was a lovely natural
posy that I hoped in some way would sustain him. I still longed
to provide for him. When he was born I just wanted to put
him to my breast. To feed him. To make him better.
next week we went to collect Matthew's ashes. We were handed
a small cardboard box barely two inches by four inches. I
don't know what we expected, but the coldness of collecting
him from an office and being handed a cardboard box was distressing.
We took him home and kept him in the bedroom with us. We had
decided to take Matthew for a walk and to scatter his ashes
at a beautiful view point that we often walked to. We would
have taken Matthew for many walks, so it seemed right that
he should be in a place where we could come to see him and
talk to him and be with him. It was very difficult letting
Matthew go. It took four months before I could bare to part
with his ashes. It was a sunny day when we took him to what
we now call Matthew's Place. David scattered his ashes at
the base of a tree stump, by the fallen tree where we could
sit and gaze at the view and talk to Matthew.
had agreed to a postmortem to see if we could find out why.
Why he died? What we did wrong. Why us? Why Matthew? Six weeks
after Matthew was born we went back to see the consultant
to hear the results of the postmortem. There was no chromosome
problem. There was nothing wrong with Matthew. The placenta
had failed and haemorrhaged. It was one in a thousand. It
wouldn't happen again. But that didn't bring back my Matthew.
clung to the photograph the midwife had taken of Matthew.
I still had his scan pictures and a footprint they had done.
They are all precious to me. I would not have thought of such
things at the time. The distress of the situation was all
consuming. But they are wonderful things to have. Matthew's
picture is in the lounge and the bedroom so I can be with
him every day.
week's after Matthew was born I went back to work. And five
weeks later we decided to take a holiday. Driving to the airport
the Land Rover blew up. The smoke and emergency services brought
the M25 to a stand still. A fitting end for the Land Rover.
first six months after Matthew died were a complete blur of
grief, distress and desolation. Sands, was a tremendous support.
I spoke to other bereaved parents and I soon realised that
how I felt was normal. The feelings of complete hopelessness,
the guilt, the anxiety, the sense of failure and the all consuming
sadness and despair. Knowing these feelings were normal didn't
make them go away, but it did make it easier to get through
each day, just one day at a time. As the days turned into
weeks and the weeks into months we slowly found the strength
to consider having a second child.
were fortunate that I conceived again at the first attempt.
Ruth was conceived in March 1997, and expected in December.
But, being pregnant this time was a totally different experience.
The consultant had told me that I would never enjoy being
pregnant again. That I would find it a very stressful and
anxious time. It was but I did enjoy being pregnant. I felt
special again and maybe this time I wouldn't be a failure.
antenatal appointments were very difficult. David came with
me again. But I cried through every one. When we went for
the twelve week scan, we weren't smiling excitedly like last
time. We looked round the waiting room and wondered at the
happy faces and thought, if only you knew, it's just not that
easy. We used to be like them. Never thinking, really thinking,
that anything could go wrong. A lady went into the scan room
with her partner, sister and mother. Ten minutes later she
came out in tears. I felt sick. Something must be wrong with
her baby. Her sister said, "It may not be right. They
can't always tell at this stage. She replied, "It is
right. I saw it. It's another bloody boy ." I stopped
listening and tried to quell the anger.
had scans at sixteen and twenty weeks. Everything was going
fine. We were going on a budget holiday for a week, the last
holiday before our second baby arrived. I asked the consultant
for a "peace of mind" scan just before we went away.
I was twenty seven weeks. Maybe, he said, this is a normal
pregnancy and there isn't anything to worry about. Finally
he agreed and I went to East Surrey Hospital the day before
we were due to go on holiday.
sonographer had taken the time to read my notes and knew about
Matthew. So when she said, "Your baby is a bit small,
I just want a doctor to see this scan. Just to be on the safe
side." She said it carefully. It was exactly a year minus
a day, in the same scanning room that we had heard those words
before. Mentally we gathered all the strength we had and went
to the maternity ward where I was put on a CTG machine to
monitor Ruth's heartbeat. The consultant on duty came to see
us. The same consultant who had come to talk to us almost
exactly a year ago. He was kind and tried to reassure us.
Again he made us an appointment at a London hospital, St.
George's this time.
went home in a daze. Is this really happening a second time.
"One in a thousand chance. It won't happen again."
We hardly slept and were up early to drive to London for the
9 o'clock appointment. The traffic was horrendous. After two
hours we dumped the car and ran/walked the rest of the way.
We didn't want to miss the appointment. Unfortunately there
were a couple of emergency cases and we had to wait three
hours to be seen. It was extremely stressful. I fought back
the tears in the waiting room, unsuccessfully. Finally we
were seen by the consultant.
scanned Ruth and pronounced severe IUGR (Intrauterine growth
retardation). The placenta wasn't working properly again.
The consultant said to come back in ten days for a second
scan and he would see if Ruth had grown. We explained what
had happened to Matthew, but he assured us that Ruth was a
lot bigger and that we had a chance this time. She would never
go to term, but she might grow big enough for an early caesarean
birth. We left St George's Hospital remembering how we were
supposed to go back for a second growth scan for Matthew,
but never made it.
St George's we went to East Surrey Hospital for blood tests
and blood pressure monitoring. When finally we got home, we
started packing for holiday. We were meant to go that morning
and now we weren't sure whether to go at all. The hospital
called with the blood results as we were about to leave. The
kidney function test was abnormal. The most likely cause being
pre-eclampsia. After lengthy discussions with the consultant
we were advised to go on holiday for the week as the condition
was unlikely to become critical. Reluctantly we went, feeling
exhausted. We spent a week on Lundy Island in the Bristol
Channel, with no roads, no medical facilities and twelve permanent
residents. Under normal circumstances - bliss. But, after
spending three days in bed with flu, we were helicoptered
off the Island as the weather conditions were too poor for
the boat. Back to hospital we went. I was admitted to East
Surrey Hospital for the pre-eclampsia and was transferred
the next day to St. George's Hospital. Here I remained for
the next two months.
second scan showed that Ruth had grown slightly. So although
the placenta was failing, it was still sufficient to sustain
her with very limited growth. It was now a toss up between
the pre-eclampsia accelerating and the placenta failing completely.
43 scans, 41 blood tests, 78 CTG's, 233 blood pressure tests,
10 steroid injections, 41 urine tests, a kidney scan, 42 aspirin
and more than enough stress and upset, Ruth was born by caesarean
section 7 weeks early. She weighed 2lb 8 oz.
was there at the birth, with me as always. He went with Ruth
to intensive care, still in his theatre blues. He was now
looking after Ruth. He was so intent on checking what was
happening to her that the nurses mistook him for a new registrar.
Ruth was connected up to a heart and respiratory monitor,
oxygen saturation monitor and had an intravenous line put
into her heart to feed her. Her nappy came up to her arm pits.
had four days of phototherapy and weeks of daily blood tests
to treat/monitor her jaundice. And during the first week of
her life she caught an infection and had to undergo a lumbar
puncture, xrays, more blood tests and intravenous antibiotics.
But soon Ruth moved onto feeding via a nasal tube, just 1/2
ml of my milk an hour at first. Ruth was on a concoction of
drugs, including caffeine to try and reduce the number of
bradycardias she was having. This is a condition caused by
immaturity of the brain. Ruth would forget to breathe and
her heart rate would drop right down. It's terrifying to witness.
The monitor alarms go off and you see the respiratory and
heart rates drop. Sometimes a little nudge would remind Ruth
to breathe, other times she needed a quick blast of oxygen
to get her going again. We spent as much time as we could
with Ruth. We would scrutinise her medical charts every time
we went to see her to try to find out as much as possible
about how she was progressing.
Ruth was all wired up and tremendously fragile, the paediatricians
actively promoted "skin to skin" contact. In simple
terms, open your shirt and put Ruth inside next to your skin.
The warmth of your body keeps her warm enough and it's been
proved that close contact helps premature babies to thrive.
It was a lovely sensation. So wonderful to be able to hold
her at last.
12th was the big day when Ruth came home, weighing 4lbs. Finally
we got to walk out of that hospital carrying our baby. Although
we had to continue with the hospital routine of measuring
feeds and administering her drugs and keeping her inside for
the next month, we did finally get to look after our little
Ruth on our own. And the sleepless nights were a joy! Ruth
is now eight months old, weighs a grand 13lbs and smiles at
every opportunity. And she is the reason why this article
is entitled "So Lucky". That's how we feel - we've
got the most precious gift in the world - life. But, still
we never have and never will forget, Matthew, our little boy.
He is part of our family of four. And we take Ruth to see
her big brother, so she can tell him what mischief she's been
up to today.