Pain, Heartache and Numbness
Liam’s official time of death was 523am, such an odd coincidence as that is the exact time of day that Alethea was born down to the minute. No-one is with us now, they have finally given us the peace that we so craved when Liam was alive, but now he is dead and we are alone, what are we meant to do, how am I meant to act. The recovery nurse comes and asks about my pain, up to now I hadn’t thought about it, but now she has mentioned it yes it does hurt, she asks if I need something for it and I reply ‘that would be nice.’ Half an hour passes and no one has said anything, we are all deep in our thoughts. People start to appear around our curtains, first the paediatrician and then there is a line of people behind him, all here to pay their condolences, it feels strangely odd. The paediatrician asks me if I have any questions, and I just stare at him, what am I meant to ask, my baby is dead what will it achieve by asking something, am I meant to ask a question? He moves aside and the NETS team approach me, their arms are hung in front of them with hands crossed over and their heads are down, they tell me they are sorry for my loss and ask if I have any questions. The OB then comes in, he fusses and asks if he might see the wound, he looks at it, not really paying attention, he doesn’t know what to say, he has been on this journey with us, he delivered Alethea, he performed my D & Cs post miscarriage, he knows how much we have gone through to have this baby. He asks me if I have any questions and I just look again, I can’t speak, please, someone, tell me what am I meant to be asking, he strokes my hair and gently says ‘ok I will come and see you in a couple of hours.’
I look at Ryan, ‘You haven’t told your mum or dad yet,’ and he looks at me with such sad eyes, I can see that he has thought about it, but who would ever want to make that phone call. I say to him that I think he should at least give his mum a call (who if you remember was staying at our house to mind Alethea) before Alethea wakes, (I feared that if Alethea woke nanna would be excited and tell Alethea that mummy was having the baby and she would soon be a big sister, which although is still true, needed to be told to her very delicately). I ask Ryan to please tell his mum not to tell Alethea that the baby is dead, and to try not to cry in front of her, as I think it is best that Ryan and I tell her, and that she is not frightened or scared when she finally sees us. Ryan walks about 5 metres away from me and I can barely hear the conversation, but I can hear the pain in his voice and I know that he was crying, I didn’t need to hear what nanna was saying on the phone, because I could imagine it, and I know the shock she would be feeling and how heartbreaking it would have been for her to hear her son say that his baby boy was dead.
Mum tries to fuss over me, ‘how is the pain’ and I tell her that it is not good, I still haven’t had any pain relief, but at this stage I didn’t really care, who cares about physical pain, pain is nothing. Mum heads off to look for the recovery nurse and I faintly remember saying ‘its ok mum, don’t worry’ but mum needs a job, she needs to feel as if she is in control of just one thing that morning, and if it means getting pain relief for me then that is what she needs to do. The recovery nurse returns and mum tells her that I am in pain and I need something, she lets us know that I am moving to the ward now, and that she will sort it out when we get there. The nurse asks if we will take Liam with us, or would we prefer that he went “downstairs”. Ryan is now nursing Liam and I can see that he is both rocking and patting him, just as any dad of a newborn would be doing, I look at the recovery nurse and tell her that I don’t want him to come with us, I can’t bear the pain of seeing him, he is so perfect, so beautiful, and there is absolutely nothing that I can do for him. Mum steps in and says ‘yes Amanda, you need to have him with you’ and all I can do is shake my head, no, no, no I can’t have it, mum then says it again and I glimpse out of the side of my eye that dad has his hand on my mums shoulder, ‘don’t push her Chris, she doesn’t want to’ and then from nowhere my husband interjects and says that he needs Liam to come with us. I look at my husband, I had totally left him out of the equation, yes I had carried the baby, yes I had had the surgery, but this was his son. Tears filled my eyes as I realise he was the stronger of the two of us, he can handle it and I can’t, he needs his son with him, with us, we are a team, we need each other, we need Liam.
I am wheeled away with mum, dad and Ryan trailing behind, the nurse had offered to take Liam from Ryan but he refused, preferring to cradle him all the way. My pain is made all so real as the bed is wheeled to the ward, every bump that we went over hurt. Travelling through the hospital I felt like EVERYONE was looking at us, everyone knew that this lady and her husband had lost their child, they would stand against the wall with their heads bowed as we went by, no one looked for any eye contact, which I now desperately sought….someone look at me and tell me what has just happened, someone look at me and make it better. We arrive at my room and the nurse leaves, it is now 700am and I have been 2 hours without any pain relief and it is starting to take over me, mum finds the nurse ‘Amanda is still without pain relief and she needs something’ the nurse leaves with a promise to bring something. At 730am two nurses come bounding into the room, ‘we have a PCA (patient controlled analgesia) for you’ they connect it up and tell me to press the button as many times as I need, however there is a lockout period as well, (which I already know, but nod politely) lock out period or not, I press the button and keep pressing it, I feel no relief, I keep pressing knowing that it won’t work. Twenty minutes pass and a beautiful nurse “Jane” (not wanting to put her real name here) came in and introduced herself, ‘My name is Jane and I am the NUM of delivery, how are you feeling, how is the pain?’ I tell her that I have pressed the button many times and that I am still in as much pain as I was before I had the PCA, she responds with ‘Fentanyl, I hate fentanyl, sends you funny in the head and does very little for the pain’ she then tells me that her and another RN “Sally” will be looking after me all day, that if I need anything to press my button and they have a pager attached to them, and that only her or Sally will be attending me, she also informs me that she will introduce me to Sally soon. She asks to have a look at my little man, and rather than shying away from him (as I am sure I would if I saw another persons dead baby) she talks to him like he was alive and tells him how it is unfair that he is not here and that he is beautiful, she then turns to me and tells me to keep pressing the PCA button every 5 mins and pain relief should be achieved soon, she looks at Ryan and asks if she can get him anything and then exits.
The next 2 hours I work at getting my pain relief under control, Jane brings Sally in who is equally as sensitive and respectful of Liam and introduces us to her. I tell them that my pain is still not under control at which point they look at each other and discuss their hated of Fentanyl. Sally exists and brings in some oral analgesics which I take, in trying to obtain pain relief with the fentanyl I have now made myself very drowsy which I don’t mind because things don’t feel quite as raw. It’s now 10am and mum, dad, Ryan, Liam and I are all in the room together, I have nothing to say, my world has been taken from me, what am I meant to say, every thought that I have is on Liam, I haven’t slept since yesterday and my eyes are so puffy from crying they now hardly open. I look at mum and dad and realise they are both heartbroken and at a loss at what to do with themselves, I could tell they didn’t know whether they should talk, ask us questions on what happened, or just sit there, so I decide to give them a job and ask that they go to my house and take over looking after Alethea so that Ryan’s mum and dad might come and see our beautiful boy. I also ask that they take Alethea home to their house that night, but before they do that I ask for them to bring our little bundle of energy in to see us, she needs to see Liam and understand that he is not alive, and I need to see her, all I want to do is hold her and tell her how much I love her. Ryan and I are then alone for a little while, and we both have a cry and a cuddle, I tell him that I am so sorry, that I can’t understand what has happened and why it went so wrong, I feel like somehow this is my fault, I was the one that was carrying our son, I must have done something to him to make him die.
Sally enters the room and with her cheery disposition tells us that Liam needs to have a bath, the poor little bubba still had quite a bit of blood over him, she asks if we would like to do it, or would we prefer that she did it, as I am bed bound and still haven’t touched Liam since the Dr told me that he had passed, I looked at Ryan, he had done the first bath for Alethea and I thought he might like to bath his little boy, at first Ryan hesitated and then he said yes, he would like to bath Liam. Sally and Ryan prepare the bath together and undress Liam, Sally has a camera in her hand and takes photos as Ryan gives our son his first and last ever bath. Ryan was so good, he talked to Liam as he bathed him, telling him ‘don’t you worry little man, daddy will clean you up and make you feel much better’ I was watching from the bed with tears streaming down my face, Ryan was so brave, and our baby who should have good muscle tone and either love (fall asleep) or hate (scream the room down) the bath was just limp in his arms. Ryan turned him over to wash the other side of him just as gently as he would have if Liam was alive, and finished washing him, talking to him the whole time, meanwhile I was watching on with tears streaming down my face, not wanting to miss a moment of it but hating every second of it as well. Sally then dressed Liam and asked if I wanted to have a hold, I was crying shaking my head, but she showed him to me and I found my head nodding. He smelled beautiful, that newborn smell that all babies have and he was without doubt the most beautiful little boy I had ever laid eyes on. I cried for him and I told him that I was so sorry that this had happened to him and that I wished I could turn the clock back 12 hours and change everything, I couldn’t let him go, I couldn’t stop stroking his hair and touching his cheeks, he was the softest thing that I have ever touched and I kept saying to Ryan, ‘he is so beautiful and he is so soft, he is perfect and looks like he just needs to wake up’. Ryan and I looked closely at him for the first time and noticed that he had the same lips, nose and chubby cheeks that Alethea had when she was born, I offered Ryan a cuddle and of course he said yes and he sat in the chair beside me whispering to Liam all of his thoughts, love, hopes and dreams to him, I sat in the bed next to him with my eyes closed listening to my husband, silent tears streaming down my face as he tells my son that he will miss teaching him how to catch and kick a ball, play tennis, and watch the footy together. (In my mind I was replaying the conversation that Ryan and I had a couple of weeks ago, Ryan had just come back from watching his team play footy, and he had said, ‘as I was walking to the oval, I saw a couple of dads, sitting with their young sons eating a sausage sizzle and I could picture the dads saying ‘don’t tell your mum about this’ and I continued to walk on and thought to myself I hope we have a son and that is me one day.’)
Ryan gently hands Liam back to me and I cradle him and kiss his head, rubbing my lips over the top of his head, the feeling is so soft and beautiful and comforting, and I keep willing the day to rewind, I keep wanting to feel like this hasn’t happened, it all feels so surreal and I turn to Ryan and ask ‘who has a dead baby, who does this?’ and I keep asking that question, the day does not feel real and that’s when I realise that numbness has overtaken my body, and I feel like I am no longer me, that I am no longer in this day, this day is not real and this hasn’t happened. I am since told that this feeling is a natural part of grief and it is how we as humans cope when things totally overwhelm us.
- Posted in: The First Weeks