Bereaved Parents, neo-natal/infant death

“I’m Sorry, Your Baby Has Died”

by Hayley Stephenson

Until you’ve been through a pregnancy loss, you tend to take it for granted that all will be ok – I know I did! Life, in general, can be ripped out from under us at any given moment, but new life is extremely precious. It’s something you wish you could wrap in cotton wool and keep protected with such a force that would deem it indestructible. In reality, that won’t ever happen. The thing I now dislike about pregnancy is that you can’t see it. You can’t really keep an eye on it – much like an insidious disease – you don’t know from day-to-day what is going on in there. By God, do you stand on tenterhooks! You pray with all your might that this precious little life will be strong and live! High risk pregnancy is what it is labelled. It’s something I thought wouldn’t ever exist in my life, but boy how wrong I was. The past two years have been one heck of a ride – an emotional rollercoaster with twists and turns you don’t see coming.

My name is Hayley and I was lucky enough to be given two healthy girls before my experiences with multiple missed miscarriages.

It was 2010 and, although unplanned, we were all extremely excited at the impending arrival of our bundle of joy. All was going well until I had some spotting – nothing to worry about. Geez, some people can bleed quite heavily throughout an entire pregnancy and still deliver a beautiful, healthy bub. It was winter school holidays here in Australia (July). My little one was at preschool, Adam was at work, and I was preparing to take my then 8-year-old to a movie. I phoned the midwife whom expressed little concern, but stated it’s best I go in for a check-up anyway. I explained to Lilly that we had to go to hospital so they could check the baby, but we would then make it to the movies. Unbeknownst to me, our lives were about to take a massive blow.

Lilly and I attended the hospital and the midwife could not detect the baby’s heartbeat. Still, she wasn’t overly concerned as the placenta was over the top of the baby and this can make it hard to detect the heartbeat. She referred me over for an emergency ultrasound – my eight year old still beside me. Before she started, I asked the sonographer if it’s possible if she could please tell me the sex of the baby. The ultrasound started and after a few seconds of studying the screen, I knew something was dreadfully wrong. Then the words came “I’m sorry, but your baby has die”. I was absolutely shattered.

Trying to absorb the scene and dealing with my sobbing eight year old as well. I immediately phoned Adam. He had to make his way home via train and it would be about two hours before he would be home. I also had to make the 30 minute drive home from the hospital through the tears and the devastation. The ultrasound measured the baby at 12 weeks plus 1.

I was in theatre that afternoon for a D&C and home by 11pm that night. Some weeks later, the pathology returned with the result of NAD – no abnormalities detected. They said due to the growth of the baby it was actually between 16 – 17 weeks along. Sex was undetermined.

Back at home, I was feeling hollow and alone although I had people around me. I didn’t leave the house for a couple of weeks. Adam was very supportive, taking time off work and running the kids around. I don’t know how I got through it. It’s all very much a blur. I returned to work and life went on.

2011 arrived and with that so did our second chance. It was May and I was pregnant! After our last experience, I had a few initial blood tests to ensure my HCG levels were indeed rising. Falling HCG levels can be the first indication of an impending miscarriage. The doctor told me that if there were any concerns, they would phone. I heard nothing – which was a good thing.

At five weeks, I experienced some spotting and was sent for an emergency scan. This early scan indicated that I had actually fallen pregnant with triplets – naturally! Unfortunately, two sacs were empty, but the third was very much a viable pregnancy (thank God). At ten weeks, I attended the doctor again to be referred for the Nuchal translucency scan which is generally performed between 11-13 weeks. He looked at his computer and then proceeded to tell me that my last blood test had indicated a drop in my HCG levels. What happened to the phone call? He immediately referred me for an emergency ultrasound. This scan revealed the baby had stopped developing two weeks previously at eight weeks gestation. Another devastating blow! No signs, no symptoms. I was booked in for a D&C.

It was once again July (oh how I was hating this month of July). I was still reeling with the grief and devastation of my older brother’s suicide just weeks earlier. He hung himself on 7th May 2012 which, in Australia, was the day before mother’s day. Adam and I had just recently attended the funeral of his grandmother. I had also dealt with the sudden death of my older sister, the death of my nephew from cancer (son of my deceased sister), and the death of my father also from cancer. Life still goes on as normal as it can. Some of the days, I lived behind a façade.

In October 2011, I discovered once again that I’m pregnant. An early ultrasound revealed that this time my pregnancy started as twins but one sac is empty. This time will be different – we have a medical plan in place. I immediately started taking 100mg aspirin daily and 5mg of folate (folic acid) as well as a pregnancy vitamin. From 12 weeks, I am to give myself a daily injection of Clexane 40mg. The 12 week mark arrives and the doctor’s renege on the injection. I have had one positive result for Lupus Anticoagulant and one equivocal result (neither positive nor negative, but somewhere in between). They now tell us that their decision to not go ahead with the injection is based on the requirement of two positive results before starting the injection as the injection comes with its own high risks. What happened to the plan? My heart sinks.

All is well. I even think I felt the baby move at 14 weeks. We think it’s a boy, the two girls are very happy. Adam and I throw ideas of names around. I am very much a Hugh Jackman fan and so nickname the baby “bubba Hughie” in an attempt to stir Adam. Even the girls are referring to the baby as “bubba Hughie”. We all laugh.

The 18 week ultrasound is looming. I tell Adam I’m scared. Do I have to go? He says everything will be ok, but I’m not convinced. I’m not so sure. This time it’s summer school holidays here and the girls are with us. We are going to find out the sex. The sonographer begins the ultrasound and immediately knows something is wrong. She tells me quietly. I tell the girls to leave the room. Here we go again! I should be 18 weeks, but the baby stopped at 15 weeks. No signs, no symptoms. My body carries on as though it’s still pregnant. My tummy was still growing. How could this be?

We are again shattered people. If only they had gone ahead with the plan, I could now be holding my baby boy in life (he was due around 26/06/12). Instead, I held him in death. He was born on Saturday 28/01/12 at around 1:10am. We named him Hughie. We left the hospital before lunchtime on Saturday; again very empty & alone.

Grief can be an all consuming, highly emotional, suffocating rollercoaster. It can feel as though a crocodile has dragged you under into a death roll and you are drowning in it. Grief, if you let it, can and will take over your life. It can be soul destroying. How much grief can a person be dealt before they feel they are being swallowed alive? I don’t know the answer to that, but I’m still here. Some days are indeed hard to get through. I look at pregnant women and new babies knowing that I’ve now lost three. Why me and not them? Still, we remain positive and we hope the future is bright. We will try again. But honestly, at times, I feel that somewhere along the line I must’ve killed a Chinaman!

I have recently started a Facebook page for people who have been affected by miscarriage. It’s called Missed & Multiple Miscarriage Support. If I can help just one person get through part of their grief, my job is done.

About the Author: Halley Stephenson resides in Sydney, Australia with her significant other, Adam, along with Miss Lilly (nearly 11) and Miss Brinlee-Rose (4 1/2). Hayley worked for many years within the aged care sector. She now holds a position as a Physiotherapy/Exercise Physiology Assistant. She can be contacted via her Facebook page, Missed and Multiple Miscarriage Support. She created this page in the hopes of letting people know that they are not alone. “A problem shared is a problem halved”.