In two days time our little boy Alexander would have been six months old, and I now feel ready to share what happened to him.
We have a little girl, Emily, who was three last weekend and we were all eagerly awaiting the birth of our second child in August 2000. Emily had been delivered by emergency caesarian as labour was not progressing well and she had become distressed. We debated whether to choose an elective caesarian or to have a go this time round. On the advice of doctors, midwives and friends who had been through a similar situation we decided to go for it – the worst that could happen would be another emergency caesarian.
Three weeks before my due date we had a false alam and spent the day at hospital – I was having contractions every 4-5 minutes all day but eventually they subsided and we went home – all the staff said the baby would be born at the end of that week. Three weeks later on the 21st August labour started for real and we went to the hospital first thing in the morning.
Again things slowed down but by late afternoon I was having regular, strong contractions and was transferred to the delivery suite. At this stage I was only 1cm dilated but the contractions were very strong and only a minute apart. About an hour after this the midwives decided I should have an epidural and one was set up. Unfortunately, even though it was topped up twice it did not work properly and I was just using gas and air. Within about 4 hours I went from 1cm dilated to 8cms dilated, and during this time the baby’s heart rate dropped once for a short spell. The midwife mentioned that I may need a caesarian and both Matthew and I said that that was fine – to go ahead.
The baby’s heart rate then stabilised again but to be safe they called the registrar to check. He put a foetal scalp monitor on the baby’s head, and had just made the decision to take me through to theatre for either a ventouse delivery or to do a caesarian. At that point the baby’s heart rate dropped from 140 to 50 and they knew something catastrophic had happened. I had an agonising few minutes wait for the anaesthetic team to give me a general and then I was to be in theatre for more than six hours.
Our little boy Alexander had been starved of oxygen because my uterus had ruptured and he had to be resuscitated. He was then put on a ventilator in SCBU but after 10 hours Matthew and I decided to turn him off, as he was so brain damaged he would not have survived. He died in Matthew’s arms whilst he sang songs to his son, and then he brought our little boy down to intensive care for me to see him for the first time. I had had a hysterectomy and my bladder had been ripped into 5 pieces which they had repaired as best they could.
I held my little boy and kept saying how beautiful he was – he looked so like his little sister when she was born. After a while I had to go back into theatre as a swab had been left inside and so I had to hand Alexander back. After the second general I was kept in recovery for several hours whilst they decided the best place for me as I needed more intensive nursing than the midwives could give. Finally, I was transferred to the Gynaecological ward and was given a separate room. The standard of care I received there was amazing and everyone was very sympathetic. Ten days after Alexander was born I felt ready to see him again and we both held him and took lots of pictures. On the advice of the maternity manager we allowed Emily to meet her brother and to say goodbye too – I shall always be grateful for that advice as it has really helped Emily to understand that Alexander is dead and not coming back. The following day we had a small service at the Chapel for our families and some of the staff to say goodbye to Alexander – I had to be wheeled down in a chair but I had managed to get dressed for my little boy.
Eleven days after he was born I was discharged from hospital with two catheters that were to stay in place for the next few months. Once home the loss of our son really hit home and I could not sleep and just wanted my baby back. I felt like I had killed him and if only we could turn back the clock I would have an elective caesarian, and he would be safe. I had no regard for the seriousness of my condition and took it for granted that I was alive, all I wanted was my little boy safe in my arms. I had never held him when he was alive – I had never seen him ‘breathe’ on the ventilator. Matthew and I clung to each other in order to survive those first few weeks, and Emily was the reason to wake up in the mornings.
For five months we had grandparents staying with us helping out with Emily as I have not been physically well enough – I had a second bladder operation in December and had to stay in hosptial for two weeks. I have now been without catheters for 3 weeks, and although it feels wonderful, when the day arrived for the last one to be removed I did not want it done – as it was the last physical connection with Alexander.
We had a funeral for Alexander at the Crematorium to which we invited friends and family – the support we had from everyone was fantastic and Emily came to and sang Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to her baby brother. I used to go to the crematorium several times a week but now I find sometimes ten days will pass and I have not been – but I still think of him all day every day. It is amazing how you can continue with ‘normal’ life and yet feel so deperately sad inside. I am now starting to have some better times too but don’t you feel guilty the first few times you laugh or feel happy?
We have had 11 friends have baby boys since Alexander died and that is hard – for Emily as well as she finds it hard that just her baby brother had to die. We are trying to make life as enjoyable as possible for her and also we are seriously investigating surrogacy as a way of having another brother or sister for Emily, and because we would dearly love a third child.
I could not have coped over the last few months without the support of friends and family but they are now starting to think that I can move on, and I know I’ll never be able to forget Alexander and I will always need to talk about him. I know I am lucky to have such a wonderful husband who has been and continues to be such a support even though he has his grief to deal with too, but the other absolute lifeline has been Sands – especially Anne my befriender, who is always ready to listen and share her experiences of how to cope when it all seems very black. The meeting are also very helpful as it stops you feeling so alone and isolated in your grief and I’m sure I will continue to go to them for a long while, as it allows me the time and opportunity to think and talk about our little boy.