It’s taken me a long time to write this post. I’ve spent months typing words onto the screen, deleting them and rewriting them again. I have spent every month since the day we lost her telling the world Evalyn’s story and although I have directed some of my blogs towards certain moments, I have never sat down and written Evalyn’s birth story in it’s entirety – Or at least, as close as I can remember it.
It’s probably still not finished, to an extent. But at this moment in my life, this is as much as my mind can put to paper. In a way, I think that this blog post is more for myself. It is something that I have wanted to sit down and write for a long time in order to finally take myself back completely and for my own self healing. And with baby loss awareness week having taken place this month and with Evalyn’s 2nd birthday fast approaching, now just seems like the right time to share a little more of our daughter with you all.
I think the saddest part of Evalyn’s story is that it isn’t unique. She is not the only baby who never got to go home with her parents. Me and Nick are not the only parents whose hearts have been broken by the loss of our baby. Awareness is so important. Fundraising is so important. Research is important. The hospital care provided is important. And being there for families who have been affected by this is important.
Together, we can make a difference. Even the smallest steps can make the biggest difference. And with Evalyn in my heart, I never want to stop trying to achieve that . . . .
He was young, European, yet I struggled to place his accent and as he fixed his eyes on my own, I struggled to comprehend his words.
“I am so sorry,” he told us, “But your baby has died. Your baby’s heart has stopped beating.”
And just like that, time stopped.
I tried to recall the last fourty five minutes of my life. How had everything gone so wrong so quickly? Maybe I should have known as we rushed through the doors of the maternity unit and were immediately ushered into a side room. Maybe I should have known as the midwife placed the doppler over my swollen tummy and her anxious eyes wouldn’t meet mine. Maybe I should have know as she gave me a little smile and told me that she was just going to get a second opinon but never actually answered my question of is everything alright?
The truth is, a part of me did know.
I don’t know what scared me the most when I awoke in those early hours; the darkness of our bedroom or the fact that somewhere deep within me, I knew that something wasn’t right. I’d felt it the night before when I’d turned to Nick and told him I was a bit worried because I hadn’t felt the baby move much that day. I had even cried. But in that moment, as if she was trying to reassure me, I felt the little prod of her foot and saw the ripple run over my skin as she tried to get comfortable and my anxiety dissolved.
You hear it all during pregnancy, don’t you?
“Babies don’t have as much room towards the end of pregnancy.”
“It’s NORMAL to feel less movement.”
Blah, blah, BLAH.
None of it is true, yet it is spoken as if it is. Maybe if medical professionals were less concerned about worrying prospective parents with the facts and just told them as they were, then my concerns would have turned into actions before and not after Evalyn’s heart had already stopped beating. As her mother, it will forever haunt me that I now know that that kick was probably her last. . .
Your baby’s heart has stopped beating. Your baby has died.
I heard myself repeatedly scream, I felt Nick crumble next to me. The room caved in. My life caved in. Everything I knew as my reality had suddenly irrevocably changed and I was not prepared for it. We had two weeks left of our pregnancy. Lying there being told that my baby was now not living inside of me was not part of our plan.
I don’t know how long we cried for in that room until my screams turned to cries, my cries turned to whimpers and those whimpers turned to silence. I don’t know at what point my life didn’t seem to matter to me anymore. I knew I was angry. I knew I was beyond angry, at myself and at the world. I was even angry with the doctors who hadn’t given me the news I was expecting to hear. I knew that at some point, I would be faced with the challenge of bringing my baby into the world and saying Goodbye, but my mind had somehow already switched itself off in order to block out any more pain. I sat there only half listening to what the doctor was telling me would happen next. In a way, I didn’t care.
What did happen was phone calls.
“Mum? The baby’s gone.”
“The baby’s gone. The baby’s heart has stopped beating.”
“No. No. No. No. What? No.” . . . .
And after that, we were led to a special birthing suite where parents go when they can’t bring their babies home. With hindsight, we were fortuante to have that room. I have met many parents since who never had that option and instead found themselves on the main maternity ward itself, surrounded by new life and happiness whilst their own world had been shattered into a million pieces.
We were introduced to our midwife, Kelly. Blood tests were taken to use to investigate the cause of our babies death. Turns out quite alot of blood is needed for that. Another doctor made a second visit to confirm to us that yes, our baby had indeed died (because being told once isn’t enough). I wanted more than anything for him to look at the screen and declare that this had all been a huge mistake. Instead, he nonchantly agreed with the first doctor and then proceeded to inform me how I would be prepared to birth my baby. But instead of hearing what you would expect to hear, we were now being given options I’d never even thought I would need to consider.
Unless there are any complications, a natural birth is always deemed the most appropraite birthing method for this situation.
You will be induced immediately and your waters will be broken for you if need be.
Any pain relief you want or need will be made available.
Please consider how you would like your baby prepared for you after birth.
Would you like your baby to be handed to you straight away?
Would you like your baby to be taken straight from the room?
Please read through these post mortem leaflets. If you and your husband could start to think about what options you would like to consider for your baby then we can make this process as straightforward as we can for you both.
Can you also think about your baby’s aftercare and funeral options? The hospital can sort this out for you but if you would prefer to go privately, then arrangements will need to be made as soon as possible.
Would you like to dress your baby or would you like the midwives to do that for you?
The hospital offers a blessing service. Would you like the hospital chaplain to come and sit with you? Would you like the chaplain to come and speak to you about a blessing?
So many questions.
We were left in a room with a mountain of paperwork no parent ever wants to sign and minds that didn’t even want to comprehend the words written on the paper itself. My eyes wandered over each word as the midwife hooked me up to the drip that would inevitably force Evalyn from my body.
And then we waited.
I remember being induced with Ieuan, my first child. I remember the excitement we felt as the smallest of contractions started. I remember laughing with the midwife about the pain of labour I was about to experience. But what is it we always say? The pain will be worth it once my baby is in my arms. . . .
As Evalyn’s contractions started, I sat on the edge of the bed staring out of the hospital window. It’s a surreal moment to find yourself in. There was no need to monitor my baby. There was no need to be strapped up to a CTG machine or for them to check her heartbeat. There was no need for any of that. I remember how removed I felt from the experience. How removed I felt from the room itself. In a way, how removed I felt from Evalyn.
I sat staring out of that window cursing the world. How was this fair? How was it fair to face labour, to face the pain, but not be able to take my baby home? In a way, I welcomed the pain that was to come. It was the only thing in that moment that felt real. And I felt so incredibly guilty that my body had failed me that I saw it as a punishment I very much deserved. The more pain I was made to feel, the better. It is what my body deserved for letting all of us down . . . .
I have met people since losing Evalyn who recognise you have ‘lost’ a baby, yet fail to realise that apart from the fact you can’t take your baby home with you, you still endure the same process as any other mother.
You are still on a labour ward. You have a maternity bag lying next to your bed (which will now never get used). Your partner is still by your side, holding your hand as you scream at the ceiling tiles. Your midwife still tells you how well you’re doing even though you know you’re not. You couldn’t keep your baby alive, for starters. That’s not really doing very well, is it? At least, that’s what I told myself. The Grandparents still pace the corridors outside, although now their whole world has come crashing down too.
The only difference is, is that all of the other mothers on the ward that day wanted their labour to be over. I wanted to mine to go on forever.
Because having Evalyn leave my body would mean Goodbye.
And I wasn’t ready for that. How can you ever be ready for that?
By the time early morning had become evening and my midwife told me it was time to start pushing, I shook my head and cried. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want Evalyn to not be a part of me anymore. The pain was unbearable but I wanted it to go on for longer. There was a moment I even selfishly told myself that this would all be easier if I could just go with her. Take me with her. Because the thought of trying to negotiate my way through everything to come after her was unfathomable.
But then I looked at Nick. At my mum. I thought of Ieuan who was waiting at home for us completely unaware of what was unfolding in that room and I added that thought to my ‘things to feel guilty about‘ list and focused on what the midwife was telling me to do.
I also thought about the past nine months. Those beautiful nine months that Evalyn and I had shared together, even if she was inside of me. We’d shared alot. We’d shared holidays, birthdays, her big brother’s first day of school. I thought about the time we heard her little heartbeat for the first time. I thought about how we had cried tears of joy as we saw her on the black and white screen for the first time. I thought of how we had painted her nursery in grey and mint green and how I had spent the week previously hanging up the last of her clothes in her wardrobe. I thought about how excited we had been at the idea of spending our first Christmas together as a family of four.
We’ll always have those memories, I told myself as the pain of my contractions forced me back into the room reminding me that it was nearly time.
It’s a strange thing. I’d cried every hour up until the moment Evalyn left my body. But in that final release when I caught a glimpse of her dark hair and the midwife swept her out of the room and away from me, I stopped crying completely. I stared blankly at the ceiling. I tried to contemplate what on earth had just happened. I felt the nausea from the gas and air start to rise from within and I knew that the only way I would get through the long, dark hours, weeks and months ahead was to do it in stages.
The first stage involved the midwife cleaning me up and stitching me back together whilst I threw up into a cardboard sick bowl that Nick held for me.
The second stage involved Nick and the midwife lining up a second hospital bed against my own so that me and Nick could sleep next to eachother for the remainder of the night, both of us knowing that sleep wouldn’t come easy if at all.
The third stage involved crying. Alot of crying.
Fourth stage. Denial.
Fith stage. Anger and hitting my head against the pillow in rage.
Sixth stage. Major calm down.
Seventh stage. Seeing Evalyn.
I look back now and wonder why it took us four long hours to ask to see our daughter. But I know at the time it is what I needed.
I needed, for myself, to figure out the past 15 hours. I needed to prepare myself for the amount that I would love her once I saw her because I knew that with that love would come a Goodbye I never wanted to utter.
Our room was lit only by the light above my bed as the midwife led Evalyn into her room in her little cold cot. She was a tiny 5lb 6oz. Her eyes were closed. Her arms were folded over her chest. And she petrified me. She petrified me because she wasn’t alive. She petrified me because I had never felt or seen death with my own eyes. And she petrified me because I was so in love with her I would have given anything to change our situation. I didn’t hold her in that moment. I just took her little hand in mine and Nick and I cried until I couldn’t take it anymore and asked the midwife to take her away again. It hurt too much. I wanted to embrace her forever yet at the same time, I found myself not wanting to be near her at all. I have never been so at war with myself or my emotions.
But I knew we would have tomorrow. I also knew that tomorrow would be all we would have. I knew that tomorrow would be everything. . . .
The following morning, I found myself standing in the room next to our hospital suite, holding Evalyn’s little hand once more and crying into Nick’s shoulder. It was a small room, barely bigger than a storage cupboard. Cabinets lined the walls either side. Paperwork hung off the walls. Evalyn had been prepared for us to pop in and see her before our post mortem consultation. She was lying in her moses basket surrounded by little teddy bears. I only recognised the one I had begged my Mum to buy for her when I was in labour.
I never got around to buying the baby a teddy bear, I cried to her mid labour, Every baby needs a teddy bear.
My Mum had promised she would run down to the hospital shop and buy one and there it was, snuggled into the blanket that was tucked around Evalyn but would never keep her warm. In the cold light of day, her skin was slightly darker, a sign that life had drained from her further. But any fear I had felt at seeing her again instantly vanished when I saw her.
I felt comfortable now. I wanted to touch her. I wanted to show her all the love her mummy could possible give to her in the short space of time I knew life had given us. I held her hand, kissed her forehead, stroked her temples where her dark brown hair fell out beneath her baby hat. I talked to her. I told her stories as if she were alive. . . .
The post mortem consultation which took place half an hour later reconfirmed to us that Evalyn was only alive in my head.
“I completely understand that your minds are all over the place,” the kind Doctor told us, “But we need to go through these forms to not only make sure that you understand the next process for Evalyn, but so that we can get this done as quickly as possible for you and your family.”
There were alot of questions. There were questions I’d never even considered. Would we agree for Evalyn’s details and photographs to be used for training purposes? That one, we had to decline. I just couldn’t bare the thought of my daughter’s little image being put onto a screen as “Case No. 103” and for people to pick her apart as if her life never mattered. As if she wasn’t somebody’s daughter. Somebody’s child. It’s a hard decision, especially when you don’t know if your baby’s results may help in researching and preventing stillbirth for someone else. In hindsight, I’m not sure if my decision would have been different or the same. But at the time, it wasn’t right for us. Or for her.
Over an hour later and we only had two requests : For her photographs not to be used for training purposes. And most importantly, for her face not to be touched during the post mortem in any way.
“We can’t bare for her face to be cut,” we told the consultant and he kept his word. It wouldn’t be until three months later that Evalyn’s results would show no obvious reason for her death other than her growth being slightly on the smaller side and our sheer bad luck in life. . .
Evalyn’s birth story ended with her blessing, and our Goodbye. Shortly before midday, the hospital chaplain came to our hospital suite and as I held Evalyn in my arms, she performed a blessing for our little girl. I’ll be honest with you, I barely heard a word she said. I was so focused on keeping Evalyn close, of taking in every moment. When you know that time is running out, every minute counts. Every touch. Every look. Every smell. I tried so hard to remember every inch of her. And, even though I knew it wasn’t really possible, I wanted so badly for her to remember every inch of me too. I thought that if I could just give her the best mummy cuddle in the world, then maybe she would know that I loved her more than anything. Maybe she wouldn’t be angry at me for leaving her behind.
She was in her moses basket when we said our last Goodbye. Just Nick, Evalyn and me. All sat on the hospital bed, the curtains open letting in the light and her unused maternity bag and her memory box waiting by the door to leave with us. But Evalyn, we would have to so sadly leave behind.
“Here’s the thing, Evalyn,” I whispered, “This wasn’t meant to happen. You were meant to be coming home with us. Your room is all ready for you. You have such lovely clothes hanging in your wardrobe and and an older brother who was so desperate to meet you. But Mummy and Daddy love you so much and we PROMISE you that we will carry you in our hearts forever. You will ALWAYS be a part of our family. You will ALWAYS be our little girl. You will ALWAYS be loved. Goodbye, my darling.”
A kiss from Mummy. A kiss from Daddy. A signal to the midwife to let her know we were done and then Evalyn was taken from the room and from our lives. But I knew it at that moment as I caught a last glimpse of her face before the door closed. And I know it now nearly two years on from what still feels like yesterday.
Evalyn can never be taken from our hearts.