You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have.
Ryan says that we will try for lights out, it is 11pm and when he switches the lights off it is pitch black, I cannot see the clock on the wall, I cannot see my wrist watch and Ryan has put my phone (which also tells me the time) on the bench out of my reach. I press my button of escape once (it takes 2-3 goes before I am overcome with sleep) and as I do I realise that 11pm is the exact time last night that my waters broke….It’s only been 24 hours and in that time my whole life has changed, my baby is dead, all my plans for the future have changed and I am no longer quite sure of who I now am. 24hours ago my baby was alive, kicking and moving, ‘please God, please God, if you really are there, please let me fall asleep and rewind the clock.’ I have no idea of the time because I can’t see, but I choose not to press my button of escape, I no longer seek sleep, for some reason I want to relive the hours of the night before….why, why would I want that? At 2:30am a nurse comes in and puts up some antibiotics, I know the time because she has a large flashlight, I am unaware if Ryan has been asleep or not as he had been lying very still the whole time, but I know he is awake at the moment. The nurse leaves and I realise that my baby boy was born 24hours ago, for some reason this gives me a little peace, maybe it is because his fate this time last night was no longer in my hands, maybe it was because I knew he was no longer going to make it so I press my button of escape a few times and find that sleep overcomes me.
The night is a long horrible one. I wake frequently and hear babies crying, each time I hear it I get the adrenalin surge and go to get up to get my baby and then realise that I don’t need to, it is not him that is crying, each time I wake I press my button a few times and find that sleep comes back to me. (I am not sure how Ryan slept that first night, he was without drugs, he too could hear the babies crying, but I never heard a peep out of him. My guess is he was hurting as much, if not more than me, he was hurting because his baby boy was dead, he was hurting because his wife was in pain, he was hurting because he could hear my “silent” crying and he was hurting because he had no way of dulling his senses, that must have been a horrible night for him, he, the protector did not have control over what was happening). I guess it was around 4am that I finally fall into a deep sleep and I did not wake until 7am, I know it is 7am as the sun is now up and I can see the clock. As I had been in a deep sleep my first sensation was ‘where am I, what has happened, have I dreamt it all, is Liam alive, please tell me it isn’t real’ (but I think I already knew the answer to the questions I was asking, there’s that sick feeling churning in your stomach that tells you all is not how it is supposed to be and again I need to tell myself that my name is Amanda, I had a baby boy yesterday, his name is Liam and he is dead)… ‘Oh god I have killed him’
Numb again. Big swollen eyes. Numb. I look at Ryan and we reach out to hold hands, tears slide down my cheeks and my sense of guilt is enormous, I have killed our son, our beautiful son is dead and it is my fault, how can Ryan look at me with love in his eyes, how can he be in the same room as me, did he not realise that it is my fault? Please rewind the clock, please rewind the clock. Oh god, this is now my life, oh god, I don’t want to face it, press the button, press it again, oh god I have killed my son, press it again…sleep.
Sally walks in and awakens me, it is around 730am, she brings in breakfast with her cheery disposition and tells me that today is the day that I need to get out of bed, I am to have a shower, and my PCA is to come down. I must have given her an absolute look of horror, because she said ‘we will disconnect you and see how you go, if the pain is still really strong you can have it back again’ Pain? That was not what I was concerned about. How would I get through the day without my sensory numbing button, and more to the point, how would I even consider getting to sleep tonight and dulling all the other babies crying if my button was not with me? Sally tells Ryan and me to eat some breakfast and then she will come and help me to the shower. I give all the cooked breakfast to Ryan and I eat the cereal, food is the last thing on my mind at the moment. I press my button a few times before Sally comes back to help with the shower and then it is gone, my lifeline, the only thing holding me together is taken from me, it’s now up to me, I have to face this, I have to deal with whatever comes my way today, I don’t have a choice. You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have.
After my shower I have a cuddle with my little man, he is still perfect and soft, he is not blue or smelly as some people may think but beautiful. Unfortunately today he looks dead, he is still beautiful but his lips have lost their plumpness and they have turned a really dark red, and I realise there is no way he is coming back to me, but I cuddle him and talk to him as his daddy has a shower, my sense of guilt overcomes me and I tell him how sorry I am that I caused him to die. Mum gives me a call to tell me that dad, Alethea and she will come and see us around 1030am so I ask the nurse if she can take Liam out of the room for that time. If you remember we told Alethea that next time she came to the hospital she would not be seeing Liam, and I didn’t want to confuse her.
At 1030am my little bundle of energy comes running in the room, immediately she stops ‘where is baby Liam?’ she asks and I tell her again that her brother did not wake up, that he is dead, (I try the arm above the head and the breathing thing but that didn’t really work) and that the hospital has taken him and tell her that we are not allowed to bring him home. She is upset for a while and cuddles into me, until I tell her that I have a present for her. Ryan brings out her present and it is a pink scooter, her eyes light up and she is so excited, she practices around the room and she asks if she can go on a big scooter ride. Ryan gets me a wheel chair and we follow my bundle of energy as she scooters throughout the hallways of the hospital. Yes she got into peoples way, yes she was a nuisance, but I didn’t care, in fact I was daring someone to say something so that I could tell them off, but no one did. We went all the way to the front of the hospital where there was a good 100m of concrete that was hardly used, that she could scooter on, and she played there for around 30mins and then we went back to my room. Alethea was playing a game with Ryan and I whereby both the scooter and the wheel chair needed to be stopped on the same line of carpet and then she would say go, we would go about 10m and then stop, only to start again, she always won and loved it. About 5 doors up from my room I happened to glance into someone else’s room and see a dad with a newborn up on his chest, the baby was crying and that is the first and hopefully last time that I COMPLETELY lost it ‘go, just go’ I cried out to Ryan, Alethea was crying from behind ‘wait for me mummy, I want to win, stop I want to win, I am the winner, stop’ she was crying and yelling at us, poor Ryan didn’t know what to do, but the desperation in my voice told him not to stop ‘just go I said’ and he wheeled me as fast as he could to my room, Alethea came in second also crying and my parents followed. ‘Are you ok Amanda’ mum asks ‘Just leave, everybody just leave, just give me a minute to myself, just go’ is my response. I can’t handle it, I can’t do it, I have no baby, I have killed him. Mum and dad leave and Ryan and Alethea remain with me. Poor Ryan, both his wife and his daughter were in tears and he needed to console and calm both of us down. Looking back, I am not quite sure how he did it, how he held it together, he must have felt as utterly gutted as I was, but he remained the calming influence for us.
Nothing of significance happened that Wednesday, my OB came and saw us and asked if we had made a decision on the autopsy to which we replied that for the moment we would hold off. The social worker came and saw us, and she was useless. In my line of work I have come across a lot of social workers and have always known them as kind, loving, and helpful, but the social worker at this hospital was sullen, and unhelpful. She gave us a list of funeral homes and asked us which one we were going to pick. Firstly, Ryan and I didn’t even know what a funeral home was used for; we had never arranged a funeral. She asked us if we would bury or cremate our baby….Oh god, we hadn’t even thought about it. I realise that these questions needed to be asked but she just came straight out and asked the questions without any warning. I think the better approach would have been to ease us into the idea, by saying something like ‘Liam will need to have a funeral, and I realise that you haven’t thought about this yet, so I have put together a list of funeral homes for you (they are the people who will transport Liam from the hospital to the casket to the burial plot or crematorium) and you will need to discuss together whether you want to bury or cremate Liam.’ But unfortunately our sullen social worker came into our room saying ‘sorry I’ve had a busy day’ gave us a white folder which had a few bits and pieces in it including some funeral homes and said ‘do you know which funeral home you will use, and will you bury or cremate your baby, because if you want to cremate him, there are some forms that will need filling out’ Thank you for your empathy you can leave now, is what I was thinking.
Ryan and I were left alone for much of Wednesday, so we had time to cuddle and talk to our little boy, which we did a lot of. This was also the day that I had announced on Facebook the same message that I had texted my friends, just in case there were people that we had forgotten to tell, my whole pregnancy I had been looking forward to when I too would announce the birth of my baby, as you all know FB is BIG on birth announcements and over the last 2 years each one had been like a dagger in my heart, finally with this pregnancy I too was going to be one of “those people” who proudly presented their baby to the world….not like this, not like this, this is not how it should be, oh God why me? Of all the people in the world why me, but as I had no choice my baby’s’ birth announcement was also his death announcement.
Ryan and I read all the information that the social worker had given us and all the pamphlets in the Bears of Hope bag, and I feel totally left out, all the information is for families whose babies died from prematurity or from still birth, there was nothing there for us, we had an apparently perfectly healthy baby who died after birth, although we could draw analogies from the still birth booklets our baby was not still born, and our baby certainly wasn’t premature he was a 39.5 week 3.57kg (7lb 14oz)a beautiful baby boy,(however all the information that was contained in the pamphlets helped us immensely, they even had lists to help us know what we needed to do and information on who to contact, so although I felt a little left out, the information was so important and valuable to us).
Night time comes and a friend of mine sends me a text telling me about a professional photography organisation called Heartfelt who come and take photos of you and your baby for free, so that night I call them and arrange for them to come the next day. I also ask my friend if she could recommend a pastor at the church we were going to who could help with a funeral, (We had attended this church for 2years and then moved elsewhere for 2years and recently we had moved back to this church, and as there are a lot of pastors at this church I was unsure of who would be the most suitable to help us with our arrangements) she gave me the name and number of someone that she recommended and being late at night I decide to give her a call the next morning.
That night was the premier of Mrs Browns Boys on the TV, I had told Ryan the week before that we would have had our baby by the time it started (thinking that we would have been induced on the Tuesday night) and to not let me forget to watch it, as it is my type of humour, so we put the TV on and I laugh a couple of times for the first time, but I find my mind can’t pay attention the whole time and I miss a lot of the punch lines. It finishes and we watch something else, the nurse comes in with some pain tablets for me (Endone x2) and asks if I want some sleeping tablets, I had found that the Endone throughout the day had helped with the pain, and had also numbed some of my senses, but I was unsure if it would hold me throughout the night (sleep wise) so I say yes to sleeping tablets and she gives me 2 Temaze and leaves the room. I offer Ryan one of my sleeping tablets and he declines saying that he is a better sleeper than I am and he doesn’t require them. That was a hard night for both of us, my button of escape was no longer there to be pressed to enable sleep to resume and the babies on the ward cried all night. Again I relive the hours of Liam’s death (waters break, off to hospital, baby delivered and this time I relive over and over Liam’s final breath in my arms) my baby is dead, he died in my arms, I felt the life go out of him, who has a dead baby, who does this??
Morning comes and we both look exhausted, I ask my OB how long we have to stay in hospital for and I’m told that normally with a Caesar I would be discharged on the Monday…Oh God that is 4 more nights, no way, I tell him that I think I will be ready by tomorrow (Friday). Ryan and I have spent all our time in hospital with Liam, and he still looks beautiful, but we feared that if we spent more than another day with him, he would begin to smell and change in appearance, and that is not the way that we wanted to remember him, we wanted only lovely memories of him, so we had decided that tomorrow morning we needed to say our final goodbyes and if we couldn’t have him with us while in hospital, there was no reason for us to be here, there was nothing that the hospital was doing for us that we couldn’t do at home.
It was a busy day that day, I rang the pastor, Sylvia who came and saw us just after lunch, she was the most helpful out of all the people who had come to see us, she told Ryan and I which funeral home she frequently used and explained to us the whole process of the funeral and what each person’s roll was in preparing for a funeral, she gave us different options on where the funeral could be held and after she had left Ryan and I felt as if a weight had been lifted off our shoulders, we knew exactly what we needed to do and started the phone calls to arrange it all.
I also call a lady from Twinkle Toes named Jennifer, (that’s the company who do baby hand and feet sculptures, we hadn’t done this when Alethea was born, but we decided to try and do as many things as we could with Liam as this was all we had of him. ) Jennifer answers the phone and I say that I would like to get my babies sculptures done, however unfortunately my baby was dead and I was in hospital, would she be able to come to me, her response really humbled me ‘Of course I can come to you, which hospital are you at’ I tell her and she says to me that she will be there in a couple of hours. I had cried on the phone to her when I said that my baby was dead, I couldn’t help it, and she was so lovely. I have no idea what she had planned for her day, whether she had to juggle things around for us, or how far she travelled to get to us, but she never complained, and when she got to the hospital she acted like it was an honour to be doing this for us. She was so good with Liam, she talked to him the whole time she took his sculptures ‘good boy, there you go, aren’t you beautiful, oh aren’t you a good boy’ and made Ryan and I feel very special, she never once mentioned that it was out of her way to do this for us or that she had other things going on that day, she acted like seeing us was her top priority. Following the death of our son, we met a few genuinely lovely people who went way out of their way to help us or do something for us, and this lady was one of them.
Two of my friends visit us in the afternoon, it was the only friends who were brave enough to come,(I think if it had of been me, I wouldn’t have visited, but now I realise that this is one of the loveliest things that a friend could do), Lisa and Gina enter the room and are both in tears, Gina can hold it together better than Lisa and they both say that they are sorry, that they didn’t mean to cry and upset us, (crying with a friend who has lost a baby is beautiful, it is heartfelt and was one of the nicest things that anyone did with us while we were in hospital and although we didn’t want lots of visitors it was nice that these friends made the effort to see us and also met our little boy, that will always be special to me). They stay for a while, ask us what happened and we relay our story to them, both of them keep saying the same phrase over and over ‘it’s just not fair, it’s just not fair’ and I agree with them, nothing about what has happened is fair. By the time they were ready to leave they have stopped crying and only have tears in their eyes so they say their goodbyes and leave the room, as they exit Lisa bursts into tears and we can hear her cry echoing all the way down the hall, it was beautiful, it was sad, and it meant the world to us that they had met our little man and were grieving with us.
The photographer from Heartfelt also came this day and took some beautiful photos of Liam for us and of Ryan and I holding Liam, it was unfortunate that the hospital hadn’t told us about this organisation the day that Liam died because the photos would have been even more beautiful then, unfortunately by the time that Heartfelt came, you could tell that Liam was dead because his lips were so dark red, however the photos and the memories that this company gave us are priceless, I look at them every day and remember how beautiful my little man was, I look at them and ask why, why is this beautiful boy dead, I look at them and hope that when he died he did not suffer, I hope that he didn’t feel scared or afraid or was in pain while he was dying, I hope that he could feel all the love that Ryan and I had for him, I hope that he knew we were there and wanted him to stay, but knew that he wasn’t strong enough, so told him that it was ok to go, I hope that he knew that telling him it was ok to go was the hardest thing we have ever done.
- Posted in: The First Weeks