Was it my Fault?
The feeling of numbness is something that I have never experienced before, in a way I felt like my ears had mufflers over them, and although I was conscious of my body, I felt like I was above looking in on myself as well, I am sure that some of that had to do with the large doses of fentanyl that I was pumping into my body, however Ryan says that he felt the same way to.
My OB arrives around this time to see how I’m doing, ‘can I have a little feel of you tummy?’ and I just don’t care, I can feel that my face is expressionless, normally I’m quite an animated person but with the numb feeling I just feel blank. He heads to a seat on at the end of the bed, and by this time we had placed Liam in his cot near that seat, he glances into the cot, quickly rests his hand on Liam’s chest then sits down on the arm of a chair, which tells me he is not here for a long time, but wants to exit as soon as possible, I think about how clinical my OB is in contrast to the nurses, he doesn’t talk to my little man or coo in his direction, he is straight down to business. ‘Do you have any questions?’ he asks, again that line is asked of me, and this time I have had a couple of hours to mull over my thoughts, and I ask the obvious ‘what went wrong, because he is perfect, look at him(which he doesn’t), he looks like he just needs to wake up’ he slightly tilts his head to the left and says ‘the short answer is that we really don’t know, we have sent the placenta and umbilical cord off to pathology, maybe there was an infection that we don’t know about, and we will take some blood from you and see if we can find anything from that but at this stage we really don’t know’ the feeling of numbness disappears for just an instant and my eyes well up with tears, I have been thinking of this all morning and I’m not quite sure how to verbalise it, but I have to ask the question, ‘did I do something to cause this? My tummy was a little off yesterday, I had a bit of diarrhoea, did I do something to cause his death?’ (I had mentioned my tummy to my OB last night, but he wasn’t too concerned about it, the same thing had happened when I went into labour with Alethea and I remember him telling me back then that sometimes this happens to your body when you are about to go into labour) my sense of guilt is heavy though, I had a perfectly healthy baby boy, all the scans showed how healthy he was and surely I had done something to him to cause his death, up to know I’d been too scared to verbalise it, fearing of what Ryan would think of me, not my thoughts, but of me, his wife, killing his son. ‘We really don’t know what has happened, but you did nothing to cause Liam’s death’ is the answer that he gives me, however in my mind, this wasn’t good enough to ease my sense of guilt, if they didn’t know what had happened then there’s a good chance that yes I did do something to cause him to die, ‘I’m so, so sorry that I have done this to you Liam’ was what I was thinking, even after he had just told me that it wasn’t my fault. My OB then looks at us and I know that he is about to say or ask something horrible of us… ‘You don’t have to make a decision now, but there is the thought of an autopsy, yes, we will check the placenta and the cord and your bloods and they may give us some answers, but we could also send Liam off for an autopsy.’ I think that I am going to dry wretch, horror, disbelief, that’s what I feel, how can they want to do this to my little baby, what mum could allow her beautiful boy to be cut open, he has already been through so much, he fought a good battle, he did everything that he could to stay alive, most of his life was spent on a table being poked, compressed, stuck with needles, how could I put him through anymore? My face must have said a thousand words and when I asked what he would do, he replied ‘It is a very personal choice, we may gain some knowledge from doing this, or we may put him through this and get no answers, if we did one, we would get a preliminary report in around 6 weeks, but some of the results wouldn’t be back for up to 2 years. Some couples find that doing an autopsy gives them closure, even if the results show nothing and some couples find that waiting for the results sticks them in limbo, it’s a very personal choice’ Ryan and I look at each other, a decision this big can’t be made by us right at this moment, so we say that we will think about it. The OB then looks at us with compassion in his eyes, and tells us that he will stop in and see us tomorrow and then leaves. WOW, Ryan and I look at each other, what are we to do, do we put our baby through this autopsy or do we leave him be, such a big decision, Ryan and I talk about it for a little while, and although my clinical mind is running in overdrive saying do the autopsy, my mummy brain is telling me that he has been through too much to ask this of him as well, so we agree to hold off on the autopsy at this stage, especially seeing that we wouldn’t have closure for up to 2 years.
Ryan’s parents then arrive, mum comes in with her positive energy, she’s a bright side of life kind of lady, and we can tell that she is really upset, but she doesn’t want us to see. Immediately she looks into Liam’s cot and starts to talk to him ‘What a beautiful boy you are, it’s just not fair, not fair at all’ and she has tears in her eyes and wipes her nose, but she is determined not to break down in front of us. She picks him up, and as a nanna would, starts patting him on the bottom and rocking, even though he is dead, there seems to be this instinct in us that compels us to do it. Ryan’s dad paces, he walks back and forth and he can’t look at us, his eyes well with tears and he blows his nose with a hanky, he doesn’t want us to see just how devastated he is, but by not looking at us, pacing with his head down, we know, he has taken this real hard. Normally Ryan’s dad is a jovial kind of guy who loves to talk and I mean he really does love to talk, doesn’t matter who you are, you could be a random stranger and he would stand and have a chat, but today he has nothing to say, mum tries to show Liam to dad, he has a quick glance at him but can’t bring himself to look, she offers him a nurse and all he can do is shake his head at this stage, it had never occurred to me that all of the grandparents would be as shattered as they were, we had lost our son, but equally they had lost their grandson, and not only that, they had to look on watching their son and daughter go through pain that no one should endure. Their stay was very brief and they left telling us we needed some rest, which was true, we still hadn’t slept and with my puffy eyes and my fentanyl (my button of escape) sleep might just be achievable. Sally enters the room just as mum and dad are leaving and asks us if we need anything, we inform her that our little girl is coming into see both us and baby Liam and we are unsure how to tell her that he has died, so could we get the psychologist to come and have a chat to us to give us some advice on how to deal with this situation, we tell Sally that we think Alethea will be here around 2pm, and she says she will arrange it for us.
Alone, Ryan and I put our foreheads together and say how much we love each other, and we agree that we want this day to rewind and start again and have a different outcome, we both yearn for it, but it doesn’t happen, again I look at Ryan and ask ‘who has a dead baby, who does this?’ and he has no answer, I rest my head down on my pillow with Ryan in the chair next to me, we hold hands and fall asleep.
Sally, again with her bright disposition enters the room, waking us from a quick sleep, my first thought is ‘where is Liam, what has happened, have I dreamt this, is he alive?’ that sinking feeling then comes as realisation sets in, I try to collect myself and think ‘my name is Amanda, I had a baby boy this morning, his name is Liam and he is dead’ that is my world at the moment, and that is all I am capable of. The nurse places my lunch down, ‘You both need to eat’ eating is about the last thing that I want to do, I have no appetite, I don’t even want to look at the tray, however there is not just me to worry about, I have Ryan here, and he needs to eat, so I have a look at what is on the plate and encourage Ryan to have some too, we both eat a little. I have a cry again I ask ‘Who does this, who has a dead baby’ I don’t expect an answer from Ryan but I can’t help from verbalising it. I ask Ryan if he can bring Liam to me (still I am bed bound, not allowed out of bed for 24hrs they have told me) and Ryan walks to his cot, ‘Come here little man, your mummy would like a cuddle with you’ and he lifts him ever so gently and brings him to me, before he has even given him to me, my eyes fill with tears, I hold him and keep telling him how sorry I am that this has happened to him. For the first time I hear a baby cry, and that’s when I realise that we are on the maternity ward, I realise that there are live babies all around me, that some people are having the happiest day of their lives, their babies are breathing and people are congratulating them, and I have a dead baby in my arms, a baby who will never go outside and see the sunshine, a baby who won’t get to have that first car ride home, be carried over the front doorstep for the first time, sleep in his nursery that we had made for him, my baby had missed out on everything, and so had we. I could hear a baby being walked ever so slowly past my door, it was screaming and I wanted to run out of my door and yell at them to have a heart, my baby was dead did they not know that, but how would they, who would tell anyone that there was a dead baby on the ward, no new mum wants to know that there is death around them, no one near us knew that our beautiful little boy was dead.
As hard as it was for Ryan and I to deal with Liam’s death, we had no idea what we were going to say to our little girl, she had been so excited about our baby coming, she had even told me ‘when the baby cries mummy, you stay in bed and I will bring the baby to you’ she had suggested that the nursery we had for Liam was not necessary, because he could sleep in her room so that she could look after him, all of her little friends had siblings and she was the last to get one, and she was ready to be a big sister. The thought of telling her that he had died was my biggest fear and I needed guidance on what should be said, again my world was shattered when the psychologist who had promised to be there before my daughter came in at 2pm didn’t arrive until 6pm, alone, with no advice on what to do, we were left to our own devices to tell her what had happened, and how her baby brother would never come home…..
- Posted in: The First Weeks
oh no, I was wondering what ward you went to because of all the babies crying in a maternity ward.
It’s been very touching to read of the love you and Ryan – and grandparents – showered on Liam in the little time you had with him.
Yes Roslyn…the maternity ward, I understand that we were there to get the best care off nurses who knew what they were doing…but maybe if we were in a different ward with a midwife there just for us it would have made our experience slightly more bearable and less heartbreaking!
Amanda and Ryan, my heart goes out to you, sitting here reading your story and wishing there had been a different ending. What a beautiful baby Liam was and what wonderful parents you both are. My love to you and your daughter and of course the grandparents of which I am one.
Dee, I agree that Liam was a beautiful baby, in my heart he will always be perfect. Not a day goes by where I too don’t wish for a different outcome, thanks for your thoughts, especially for the grandparents as they are often overlooked
Amanda, thank you so much for sharing your story, you are brave and inspiring and Liam is such a beautiful gift for you and your family.
It is coming up to the 4 year anniversary of our baby boy Jake who died at 5 days old after neonatal complications. After seeing your article in the Manly Daily and reading your blog I have sobbed and sobbed for you, for me and for our families.You could be writing my story.
I especially struggled in the materninty ward and because I delivered naturally I had to get up and get my meals from the dining room where other mothers had wheeled their healthy babies in their special little trolleys.
Not a day goes by when I don’t think of our boy and I always include him and say I have 4 children (we had 2 more since then).
My heart is breaking for you but please keep writing your blog as you are not only healing yourdelf but many others too xx
Renae, It is hard to believe that so many people also go through the same thing that we are going through. I always knew that it happened, but never thought it would happen to me. I also had no idea how frequently this occurs, on any one day in Australia between 2-5 families experience this immense grief, that is up to 35 families a week, how did I not know that this was so prevalent, I struggle with the concept that it is such a taboo subject to talk about. Thanks for your words of encouragement.
Hi Amanda I just read your article in the Manly Daily. I haven’t been to playgroup as Austin has swimming and didn’t hear about Liam. I am so deeply sorry for your loss. You are amazing to write this blog, I know when I had a miscarriage I wrote everything down in my journal and it helped getting it out. Asking god why, how, why? Am praying for you and your family. Love Ange xx
Thanks for your prayers, I too find it helps a lot to write down what happened and how I felt, so far it has been the best therapy for me. I was wondering why I hadn’t seen you for a while at playgroup! Take care
Hi Amanda. I am reading your story one piece per night as its all I can handle. I am so sorry Liam didn’t survive. Our first son, Samuel was born premmie in December 2008 and passed away when he was 2 days old. We have since had another little boy who is amazing but not a day goes by that we don’t think of Sam, miss him and wish he was here to be a big brother. What you have written could have been my words. It does get easier, but the love you have never diminishes.
I am sorry for your loss of Samuel, and yes I know that I will love Liam always, I know that I will think of him everyday (I still think of him every minute at the moment, he is never out of my thoughts, but I know with time that will ease and with time I will think of him every 5 mins then every 10 etc.) I find myself looking at other babies wondering if they are Liam’s age and trying to picture what he would be like…and I think I always will, just as you probably look at 3.5yr olds and wonder about Samuel.
Love to you