** Trigger: This blog post refers to pregnancy after loss**
She told me her name was Kelly. And then she gave me the one thing nobody other than my husband had given me that morning.
Up until that moment, nobody else had thought to do that. The Doctor who told me your baby’s heart has stopped beating hadn’t offered to comfort me. In fact, he had walked out of the room as I screamed after him only to come back a few moments later and tell me, We need to do another scan for confirmation. But Lyndsey, I want you to be under no illusion or have false hope. Your baby HAS died.
The staff members who escorted me to my hospital suite didn’t hug me either. Please make yourself comfortable, they told me, your midwife will be with you shortly. We’re just changing over shifts.
It wasn’t until Kelly walked into the room and without even flinching, pulled me into a warm embrace that I realised just how much I needed to be held. In less than 5 seconds, Kelly had gone from a stranger to someone I trusted more than anyone. Because she was about to see me at my most vunerable and not even I knew what I looked like that way.
“I am so sorry you’re here,” she told me. I wasn’t sure if she was holding onto me or if I was just clinging to her, too scared to let her go. “This just isn’t fair at all. No one should have to go through this. But I promise you I will be here for you and I will get you through this.”
It turned out that Kelly was very good at keeping her promises. Over the course of the worst 24 hours of my life, not only did I come to realise that this woman would be somebody I would never forget but I also realised what amazing people midwives are.
Kelly not only provided comfort to me, but she was also there for Nick. She made sure that he was OK when I couldn’t. And when my parents arrived a few hours later, she soothed their broken hearts too. She realised that this wasn’t an individual experience. We were grieving as a family and she was there to support us all.
As I sat on the bed in early labour trying desperately to go through all of the paperwork that had been given to us, Kelly took it from me and put it to one side.
“Don’t worry about all of that now,” she told me, “Let’s just do this in stages. The paperwork can wait. Let’s focus on getting your baby here for now so you can spend some time with them. Everything after that we’ll deal with later.”
So, we did it in stages. I endured the pain of labour with no pain relief. Labour came too quickly for me to receive it in time. And when Kelly’s shift ended and Evalyn still hadn’t arrived, she took my hand and gave me a determined look.
“I’m not leaving you until your baby is here,” she said, “I told you I would get you through this.”
By the time Evalyn had silently entered the world and Kelly went home for the night, it was already two hours past her shift.
When she came back the following morning, she made sure that Nick and I got to spend as much time with Evalyn as we wanted. And not once did she refer to Evalyn in past tense. Kelly made Evalyn seem alive because of the way she spoke about her.
“She’s so beautiful,” she told me, “Look at all of her gorgeous brown hair! I think she must get that from her Daddy.”
She also made sure that when it came to finally sorting through paperwork and making decisions about Evalyn’s body, that we had the time to process each bit of information properly.
“These are decisions that will stay with you forever,” she said, “Don’t rush anything. Take all the time that you need.”
I still believe to this day that when the time came for us to say Goodbye to Evalyn and leave her behind, I was only able to do so because of Kelly. She gave us the space and time to be alone with our little girl. And when it felt like my legs couldn’t find the strength to walk away, she turned to me and said the one thing I needed to hear.
“I promise I’ll make sure Evalyn’s OK,” she told me, “I’ll go and sit with her now and give her a cuddle so that she’s not alone.”
And that’s all I wanted. I didn’t want Evalyn to be alone. I didn’t want her to think that Mummy and Daddy were leaving her behind by herself. I wanted her to have company and for someone to be there for her when I couldn’t. I wanted someone to hold her close, even if it couldn’t be me. If it hadn’t of been for Kelly’s words at that precise moment in time, I honestly don’t think I would have been able to leave my daughter’s side.
I told myself that I wouldn’t look back as I walked away.
But I did.
The last thing I saw as the door closed behind me was Kelly entering Evalyn’s room. Another promise kept. . . .
Nearly a year later as we were approaching Evalyn’s first birthday, Nick and I found ourselves back in the same room that haunted my dreams. It’s surreal being in the same room where Evalyn’s heartbeat fell silent, strapped to a CTG machine listening to the rhythmic beat of your other daughter’s heart. But in those final weeks of Iola’s pregnancy, the only way I felt safe was to go to the hospital every day to be monitored.
I just wish that it wasn’t in that room.
We both turned as a knock sounded at the door.
“O my Goodness!” she cried out, “I saw your name on the board outside and I thought that it HAD to be you!!”
There was Kelly, a huge smile on her face. And as I smiled back at her I realised that neither of us knew what the other looked like happy. The last time she had seen me, my body only knew how to cry.
“I think about you guys so much,” she said, “And Evalyn, It must be her first birthday soon?”
She had remembered. That meant the world. I had imagined what it would be like to see Kelly again. And being in the hospital every day had made it seem probable. As we filled her in with stories from our lives over the past year and our pregnancy after loss journey, we also took the time to thank her for everything she had done for us and our little girl. I still don’t think that there are words meaningful enough to do that justice. For the last remaining weeks of our pregnancy, Kelly made sure to check on us if and when her shift pattern allowed.
And when Iola arrived and we were preparing to leave the hospital, she popped by to meet her and congratulate us.
“She looks so much like Evalyn,” she smiled as she stroked the top of Iola’s head, “She’s so beautiful. Just like her big sister.”
This is why midwives matter. Kelly will never truly understand the part she played in our journey. She was the first midwife to hug me when I lost Evalyn. And then a year later, she was there with another warm embrace to meet Iola. She has seen me in complete turmoil and she has seen my at my most joyous. She has seen me cry until there are no tears left and she has seen me smiling so much my cheeks ached. She supported me through stillbirth. She supported me through pregnancy after loss. And she was still supporting me when Iola arrived.
Midwives don’t know what they will be faced with on a day to day basis. Kelly drove to work on 8th November 2016 not knowing that her job role wouldn’t involve bringing life into the world that day. Quite the opposite, actually.
But she was there for me when I needed comfort.
She was there for Nick.
She was there for my parents.
But more importantly, she was there for Evalyn.
She made a mother’s Goodbye to her daughter more bearable.
Thank You, Kelly. . .