Sheffield Telegraph Health: '˜I cried my heart out so intensely - my whole world had just imploded'
October 2nd 2014. My due date. I slept in that morning but I woke up so incredibly happy and excited. We had made it to 40 weeks! I bounced on my pregnancy ball, telling Mum I thought he had dropped.
She casually said: “You’re still feeling him though?” and I said yeah...then I suddenly realised...had I? When was the last time? I poked his usual favourite spot and nothing. My heart sunk. I rushed into the kitchen and got a glass of milk and a Mars bar. I tried to act normal in front of mum so she didn’t get panicked. I got my maternity notes and read the section in there that tells you what to do.
I’d had the milk. I’d had the chocolate bar. I’d not waited two hours. Because I knew. I knew in my heart and soul that he wasn’t there anymore. From the first time I felt him move I found his favourite poking spot. He always responded in some way but he’d never stay still.
Still. Such a cruel word and yet I also, now, find it calming. He was still.
I rang the ward and they told me to come in. I hung up and cried my heart out so intensely I thought it would forever be dry. It was my body accepting that my whole world had just imploded. My mum came up and hugged me, dried my tears and got me in the car.
At the hospital, a midwife strapped me up to the heartbeat monitor. Silence.
They took me to the scanning rooms. It was the same room where we first met our baby on our 12-week scan. It was the same room we found out our little poppet was a boy and he would become Joel. But she didn’t do any of those things this time. She didn’t say a thing. Except: “I’m so sorry......”
And all I did was wail: “Why”. I didn’t say anything else... there was nothing to say or do. I felt dead, but painfully alive. Numb but every nerve in my body on alert. I felt sick and hungry, faint and heavy.
They put us into the family room where we could ring people. I spoke to my family and my partner, Peter, my darling Peter. How could I do this to him? How could I tell him?
“I’m so sorry Peter... I’ve lost our boy. I’m so sorry.... I’m so sorry.....”
I sat and listened to his heart break in to a million pieces and I knew I’d forever love a new, damaged heart. Peter soon got to the hospital... we hugged. We cried. We stared into space.
The medical team came to speak to us and told us the plan. I was to be on the birthing suite. They would induce me. I remember Peter crying. I told him I needed him to be strong. I couldn’t carry us both through this. I needed him to be there for me wholly while I faced giving birth.
I know this is hard on you. I know you’ve lost your boy. I know you have to watch me go through this. But it’s worse for me. I have to give birth to our boy that my body didn’t look after properly and I can’t do it while looking after you. I need you to be his dad. From that moment on, Peter has been the strongest, most caring dad I could have ever wished he’d become.
I was induced at 5pm and they checked on me a few hours later. Eight centimetres! Already! Oh my goodness I was doing it! He was going to be here soon! It was nearly over. My time with him was nearly over. He was leaving me, really leaving me this time. I waited for a contraction to end.
“Gas and air isn’t cutting it any more.”
At nearly 9cm they gave me diamorphine. Never would they normally give me such strong drugs at such a late stage. But there was no harm to be done. My baby wouldn’t be drowsy. He would be still. The really hard part hadn’t started yet. I think they tried to numb my shock as much as possible.
I pushed. Not where I thought I would push. But I learned. I could feel where to push. I felt the pain of him. The pain that bonded his body with mine forever. At that moment I was so excited. I’d done it. No epidural. No drugs until the end. I’d done it for me and I had done it for him. My final gift to his body - I gave him my all. He was born. He was here. And he’d already gone. Joel David Nelson was born sleeping on the October 3 at 3.20am weighing 8lb 3oz. Perfectly formed.
Family came. They met him. We stayed another two days. We left without him.
Those days, weeks and months that followed were the hardest days I could ever imagine. My way of dealing with our loss was to immerse myself in knowledge of stillbirth. I’d received outstanding care while at the hospital but felt totally bewildered once I got home. I desperately wanted to make something positive out of Joel’s short life, so I went back to the hospital and had a meeting with the head of midwifery, Linda Gustard. Together we came up with the idea that I would write down my own experiences of ‘life after stillbirth’ for them to hand out to future parents suffering this awful loss.
My book, Life after Stillbirth: Your New ‘Normal’, is a snapshot of how life changes after experiencing a stillbirth. It is based around my story but other parents’ experiences are included. It shows that although everyone’s stories are different, we all move through the same milestones.
At Chesterfield Royal Hospital the book is now gifted to every parent who loses a child in their care and is also used as a training guide for midwives. From the day I found out I was pregnant I always knew this baby would be special. Never did I imagine that this would be his story but for every parent that this book helps, a little bit more of Joel has been shared with the world.
n Life after Stillbirth: Your New ‘Normal’ is available to buy from Amazon.