#3 Goodnight, Not Goodbye...
Updated: Aug 24, 2020
*Trigger Warning* I’m going to talk quite openly and possibly graphically about Ellis, his labour, and the hours we got with him afterwards. If you feel that might upset or trigger anything for you please don’t force yourself to read on. I know that in my early days of grief I couldn’t read about other stillborn birth stories as it all felt too raw but I did find comfort in finding out that this had happened to other women, women from all walks of life, and that their stories would still be there if I felt strong enough to go back and read them.
My main concern when entering the labour ward again was having to explain myself and why I was there. I had been assured that the staff would have been fully briefed and sure enough as I arrived at the door and pushed the buzzer I had barely finished saying my name when I was invited in and taken to the Rowan Suite, again. I was met by two midwives, Suzanne (who I think ran the show on Labour Ward) & Monica, one of my two bereavement midwives. I was also asked if I would be happy having a final year student midwife be part of my care and without even really thinking about it I said yes. And I’m so glad I did. Louise turned out to be such a support to me, she was and is a really lovely girl. It is an unfortunate part of the training that they have to learn; I didn’t know if this was Louise’s first stillbirth case or whether she’d been through a few before but her empathy and warmth proved to me that she was and will be one hell of a good midwife, and any mother in her care is one lucky woman!
And so the induction process started; I’m given a quarter of a tablet every 4 hours, a tablet only given to women in my situation and not used in labours of live babies which was very different to my induction with Ruby. I’m in the Rowan Suite which is made up of 4 rooms. You start in what I call the “hotel room” side - you have double bed, TV, fridge, tea & coffee facilities on tap (Trevor was thrilled to find they had his favourite coffee pods!), it’s all very civilised. Then there is the bathroom - fairly standard. Then the hospital room with all the equipment needed for labour and afterwards, and then the last room is the cold nursery, a freezing cold room where your baby can be placed after birth, or at any time if you feel you need some space/rest or anything. It’s a beautifully decorated room, but it was still the saddest room I have ever been in.
Being June, I am glad the grass court tennis season has started as I was sat able to watch Queens while bouncing on a birthing ball with Trevor sat in the corner on his phone. Time seemed to whizz by and before I knew it I’d had 3 of the 4 quarter tablets and contractions had started. I felt an urge to try and do as much of this labour as “naturally” as possible, again I think part of my mind-set to give Ellis a smooth and calm arrival. But it soon became clear that the contractions were taking their toll on me and I was advised not to feel I needed to be Superwoman. It was then I was taken across to the hospital room to be given an epidural. Labour progressed and it soon transpired that all was not well with me, the epidural wasn’t working as it should have been. It only seemed to be working down one side of my body - I was feeling the full pelt of the contractions but only down one side! The doctor came through with the anesthetist and they felt that my back had a slight twist so suggested I lie on my side to see if that helped the epidural run down that side of my body, it helped a little but not a lot. I mentioned previously that I had 2 bereavement midwives. Jo was the second and the one that took me through labour and delivered Ellis. Again, what a woman! I don’t think I could have got through the end of that labour without her; so softly spoken but when it came to the crunch she was fierce, motivating and encouraged me in a way I have never experienced before. I’ve since told people it’s like being told off by your favourite teacher, you respect them enough to listen but also don’t want to disappoint them. So when she said push I pushed and before too long I was being told that his head had been delivered and that with the next push he’d be out. Jo asked me where I wanted him and all I could muster was the words “here, here” whilst patting my chest/ I wanted my baby on my chest, as close to my heart as possible. Moments later, there he was all 7lb 8oz of him - so much for being a big baby! He was beautiful, he was perfect, he was my son. When I labour I lose track of times as I just move from contraction to contraction, and the hours just disappear – it happened in both my labours. And so I had no idea what day it was, or even what time it was so I asked Jo. She said “He was born at 12.46am”, meaning he had in fact been born on the 21st June - the Summer Solstice. I let out a huge laugh/cry. I am born on the Winter Solstice. It just felt fitting, yet cruel, that he be the Summer Solstice, a weird link between the two of us.
I lay there cuddling my baby boy, kissing him & smelling him and all my previous fears left me. I wasn’t scared of his appearance, he looked like any other new born baby aside from having dark lips and permanently closed eyes. He looked no different. I was laying quite awkwardly on the bed so Jo suggested I hand Ellis over to Trevor while I got more comfortable, whilst they sort the rest of me out down there - I had a second degree tear that needed stitching. I looked across at Trevor, he was cuddling him so tight with tears in his eyes. And I just said “I’m sorry” again, he didn’t reply and just shook his head. I could tell he was heartbroken all over again but knew that my apology meant nothing as to him, he knew there was nothing to say sorry for - this wasn’t my fault.
Now here is something I didn’t expect or anticipate - joy! My body had just given birth so it was doing what it was supposed to, it released all my happy hormones. You might find this hard to believe but from the moment he was born to the time we said goodbye and left the hospital nearly 24 hours later I hadn’t shed a single tear. It might sound harsh or heartless, I myself was so confused by it all, but of course I was happy my son had arrived - he was gorgeous. We had told our families and most of our friends what had happened but I still felt compelled to “announce his arrival” so I wrote them all a message, it said something like:
"Our gorgeous Ellis Michael, was born sleeping, today 21st June 2019 at 12.46am, weighing 7lb 8oz, he is just perfect."
We spent the rest of the day cuddling him, Trevor dressed him, I sang (badly) to him & we just enjoyed the time we had with him. I’d been given a memory box at the start of all of this and Jo had suggested we do the hand and foot prints to start the memory making. She also arranged for the hospitals baby photographer to come and take some photos of Ellis, which may sound awful but at least it was someone used to seeing babies this way than just a standard Mr Snappy. Jo’s long shift ended and we were joined once again by Monica. She had the horrible task of talking us through all the forms: post mortem, funeral, aftercare, all of that fun stuff. But in her beautiful and soft manner she made those horrible things feel a little less horrible and heart-breaking.
We were told that we did not have to leave The Rowan Suite until we absolutely ready too. When we weren’t cuddling Ellis he would lay peacefully in his special cold cot, a cot that remains freezing cold in order to slow down the deterioration and darkening of baby’s skin. If we wanted to we could spend the night with Ellis, we could go back through to the hotel side and lay with him as long as we liked, or he could sleep in the cold nursery while we got some rest. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but knew somehow that I would know when the time was right to leave and as Louise, Suzanne, Jo & Monica’s shifts all started coming to an end I looked at Trevor and said, “I think it’s time.” Partly because I didn’t want a new set of people to come into our little bubble, they hadn’t been through this with us so they didn’t know us, they didn’t know Ellis and I didn’t have any more energy left to be polite. So we asked Louise if she could start the ball rolling with my discharge papers, which she did. When all the paper work was ready, we switched off the lights, put my labour playlist back on, specifically the song he was born to. We took it in turns to cuddle him, kiss him, tell him how much we loved him and ultimately say our goodbyes. As I carried him back to his cot, I lay him down so gently, I pulled his blanket up around him and I leaned in and whispered to him. I told him I was so sorry, sorry that I couldn’t keep him safe and sorry I let him down. I told him I loved him so much, I told him his daddy loved him, and his big sister, and that we will remember him always. I kissed him and said, “It’s not goodbye, it’s just goodnight my darling, sweet dreams.”
We walked out of the hospital around 11pm that night, the hospital was practically empty, just like our arms. We walked to the car, got in and drove home, my overriding thought being that I needed to see my daughter so when I got in I went straight to bed. I was exhausted as I hadn’t slept for nearly 2 days and I knew the sooner I was asleep the sooner I’d be awake and could go and cuddle my baby girl – the one I got right.