David’s death at 21 weeks was a real blow; it took 48 hours for me to give birth to the tiny little boy that I had already grown to love. Four pints of blood and quite a few painkillers later, I was discharged from hospital. Unlike the other mums, I had empty arms. The physical reminder, however, was still there. It was 8 months before I fell pregnant again, both my partner and I were overjoyed. There was, however, a nagging doubt that lightening would strike twice, when I voiced my doubt I was laughed at, told I was paranoid. Unfortunately they were wrong and I was right.
The 16 week scan at the local hospital showed what was described as an abnormality, my Consultant knew of the condition, but not the cause. I was told that an immediate referral to the regional unit for a full structural scan was necessary, then we were sent home to wait. Termination had already been mentioned so I went to my G.P. and said that I did not want this. One week later I had the scan, I cannot describe the feelings that I had or the depth of my despair. The confirmation came, my precious little angel would very probably die. The question then was, what was I going to do? I wasn’t numb, I was paralysed. The options seemed to be that I could carry on and watch and feel her die inside me, having the courage to follow through with my conviction or allow her to die by the hands of man. I heard terms like, “It would be easier for you to terminate the pregnancy and start again.” Just what you need to hear at the time. My partner and I spoke at length. The cordocentisis was performed at 19 weeks, my baby was still alive, still fighting, every turbulent step of the way. Yes, I loved my baby with every part of my soul, but I knew the outcome was going to be death. Well, I’d had a baby at 21 weeks, I knew what was in store in that respect. However, nothing prepared me for those who couldn’t cope with me telling them I was pregnant with a baby that was dying. I had a false labour at 20 weeks, went up to the district hospital and the ‘T’ word was hammered home again. I was so adamant I wouldn’t do what I felt I was being pressurised into doing, they had to call my partner in.
There were now answers, my baby was a girl, we had already chosen a name: Abigail. From 20 weeks I didn’t feel her move but I knew she was alive, every morning I got out of bed and thanked God for that extra day I had with her. Yes I admit I was in pain, but there was hope, for every extra day was mine to have. The love still grew for Abigail, I was so lucky to be a mum even if it was only for a short while, no one could take that away from me. I had my check-ups at the G.P.’s surgery, they were great, never once treating me like I was off my head. I didn’t need medication for my nerves, to take the edge of the pain. I needed to talk of my love for this tiny being inside me and I wore their ears off. I felt for David at this time, he had died at 21 weeks, but with Abigail I had an extra 3 weeks. Yes, it was worth it and I knew I could do it all again even if it was the last time before closing the door on motherhood.
At 24 weeks I got out of bed and I knew my baby was dead, I just knew. I wanted just one more day, so I waited 24 hours before the scan, it was my time to grieve and to feel the relief of my burden passing. Thirty six hours later my daughter arrived into this world very disfigured and very dead, I had been warned at the likely state of her body. I saw her and held her but only one other held her like I did. When the curate from my church came to perform the blessing the mortuary assistant told him, “Are you sure you want to hold her,” I felt for him as he stood alone in the mortuary with my daughter in his arms, in her he saw what I saw, not the body, but what she was worth.
Abigail’s ashes were released for internment 10 days after her death apparently the delay was due to a backlog at the cemetery. Wonderful! Did I care? Not really. I could not afford a funeral, besides everyone said they couldn’t face the ordeal, so there my partner and I stood alone, the children together under the earth. A tiny little box contained Abigail’s ashes, I must admit I really didn’t want to let her go.
Coming home that day was my saddest moment, I cried for hours closing the door and not answering the phone, I really didn’t want to hear how awful anyone else felt. My partner and I found comfort in different ways. After a while I wanted to talk, I visited my G.P. then rang Sands who gave me the name of a local contact, my experiences had been slightly different to her’s, I’d known my child was going to die, I had time to prepare for her death, but she helped so much. Then I found out about a consultant who may have been able to help with my case, my heart wasn’t dead – maybe I could go through it all again.
I wrote to him, then went to meet him. It was January, cold and very bleak, money was tight and I couldn’t afford to pay for treatment. I had many questions that needed answers. My first impression of this specialist, the door opened and in walked a somewhat dishevelled looking individual of average build, he paced down the corridor with such determination, no introduction was needed. He went through my notes with a pink markerpen, pausing only to run the tip through his hair. I can only remember thinking, God what on earth is going on? But I trusted him, he was honest, but there were no guarantees that this wouldn’t happen again.
We discussed the fertility drug, multiple birth, the risks of me having another Abigail. I learned a lot that day, not to judge a book by its cover, and that although we would never have all the answers, there was for me at least, hope and Professor Nicholades was there to help. He would give me the facts and the rest was for me to decide, he wouldn’t tell me what to do or how to feel. It was June before I went to see my Consultant for the fertility drug, we did discuss everything. Selective fetacide was one area that had to be addressed. What would I do, if I was carrying twins and one had the same condition as Abigail? Many people have said that you should cross a bridge when you get to it, generally I agree, however, in some situations, it simply cannot be ignored. Issues had to be addressed with the right people.
Luckily for me I now have two wonderful children, David and Abigail have not been replaced, I wouldn’t want to. Their lives, for me, were important, I did learn from my experiences. This week was Abigail’s fourth anniversary, it hurt in a way that I couldn’t express my feelings, on the day, by the evening the memories overwhelmed me, I lashed out at people around me because I felt the let down all over again. With everything that has exploded in the media these last few weeks, it reminded me of why organisations like Sands exist, to support, not judge, through the grief.