Stillbirth. My story, my son Louis.

 

Pooh bear stillbirth quote

It recently occurred to me that in the 12 years since I lost my son Louis, I have never told our story from start to finish. Always the abridged version to fit the audience, just the details that I think they will be able to understand or even want to hear.

So here it is, from the top.

I found myself pregnant at 20 years old, despite not being the previously maternal type, I was thrilled. I was in a fairly new relationship with ‘A’ (for the sake of his privacy) but we were crazy in love – that specific young crazy love where you think everything is going to be fine. I made plans to defer University until the following year, we moved to a new city, got a beautiful puppy called Molly and rented a house. We set about becoming a family, rose tinted glasses firmly in place.

I think about that couple sometimes, just starting out in the world. We may have been naive/crazy  but we really loved each other and we were happy.

We were also extremely poor. Our families, initially not overly pleased with our news, rallied to help us with baby essentials. We decorated the nursery with a nautical theme using donated half empty tins of paint. ‘A’ spent days decorating the room and painting an old chest of draws, it was late summer, I can still remember the smell of autumn appearing in the air and David Grey’s song ‘Babylon’ was the soundtrack as he worked. The first signs of autumn (and that song) still remind me of that time, it was filled with happy anticipation.

It was apparent that we were having a rather large baby. In fairness, I was absolutely huge. I know everyone says that but I really was. I went from 8st 7lbs to 13st 11lbs – totally massive. I had sciatica and could barely move. My due date came and went, not unusual of course. I had an appointment to discuss induction scheduled for 9 days overdue at the hospital.

As he walked, I shuffled, along the river that weekend – with Molly bounding around us – we talked about how our son would be born the following week. “One way or another” I said, which seems so prophetic now. Again, I think about that young couple and I feel so sad for them.

The morning of my appointment I was sitting on the bed when ‘A’ walked into the room, I blurted out that the baby wasn’t moving. I had tried lying down, poking my tummy and downed a large glass of cold water. Nothing. ‘A’ told me not to worry and reminded me that everyone keeps telling us that he’s so big he got no room to move and as we’re on our way to hospital anyway. We were going to the right place after all.

At the hospital we sat in the waiting room. ‘A’ chatting away, genuinely not worried but I felt cold and clammy with a fear I just couldn’t articulate. When we were called into the consultant’s room, I told them I couldn’t feel the baby move so they got me on the bed and listened for his heartbeat.

I now know what deafening silence sounds like. Silence so loud I can still hear it now.

Reassuring words and a scan arranged in the next room, only to confirm what everyone already knew. A lady saying sympathetically how sorry she was and leaving the room to get the midwife. I tried to stand up but my legs failed and I’m in ‘A’s arms on the floor screaming. I know I’m screaming but I can’t hear my own voice.

We are taken from the scan room to another smaller room. ‘A’ starts calling our families. Everything is such a blur but when I look back I think how hard those calls must have been for him to make. My Dad was visiting from abroad and had been due to have lunch with us, he was on his way to our house when he got the call and came straight to the hospital. He walked in the room and I collapsed on him in grief.

I never knew you could genuinely collapse in grief until that day.

The only saving grace that day was that I was already in labour, so no induction or waiting. Things actually moved quite quickly and I was taken to the SANDS room (a special room donated by the charity SANDS). When labour became more intense I was taken through to the delivery suite. I went to the bathroom on the way and stayed in that tiny room for so long they threatened to break in! I was hiding from myself, in pain on the floor. I knew once I left that room I was going to have to deal with what was happening – obviously it was all happening anyway but hiding in that little room felt like the better option.

I did eventually come out and labour progressed. My mum had been away on a course but rushed back to arrive in the evening. I had an epidural just before she arrived so was a bit more comfortable but when I saw her I broke down, I told her I couldn’t survive it – I knew I didn’t mean the labour.

It was just ‘A’, me and two very kind midwives for the delivery. I wouldn’t push, I didn’t want him to be born. I wanted him to stay inside until someone told me it had all been a mistake. I knew once he was born it would all be true and the real hell would start.

Louis was born into silence. He was silent, we were silent. Everyone was crying – even the midwives – but after the brutality of giving birth, there was not a sound to be heard.

They brought him back cleaned, wrapped in a blanket and lying in a moses basket. He was wearing a little blue knitted hat and holding a bunny. He had lots of black hair, chubby cheeks and podgy wrists. He was a beautiful little boy. He was big at 10lb 11oz. There was however, no way to pretend he was just sleeping, he looked dead and that shocked me. I would have liked to pretend for just a minute.

The house was cleared of baby things (except those I wanted to keep) while I was in hospital. People brought flowers and sent cards, all of which was very kind. For a time people spoke Louis’s name and listened to me speak about him, but even the closest of friends and family moved on leaving me behind, trapped in that moment of grief.

I wish I could say in the weeks, months and years that followed I rose above this terrible situation. The truth is I sank. For a long time, I just hit the depths. My relationship with ‘A’ fell apart by Louis’s first anniversary, I was barely surviving financially and I felt out of control emotionally. At 21 years old I had lost so much, so quickly.

I did rebuild my life but I was right when I told my mum I wouldn’t survive it. I didn’t. The person I am today is not the same woman who walked along the river at the end of that summer, waiting for her son to be born. I am a better person in many ways. I am stronger, but I am not the same.

Please get in touch if you would like to tell your story.

 

10 Comments on Stillbirth. My story, my son Louis.

  1. Mumsdays@gmail.com'
    Hannah Mums Days
    4th October 2014 at 3:31 pm (3 years ago)

    Thank you so much for sharing Louis’ story, Claire, what a truly awful thing to happen to you. I can’t think of anything useful to say, probably because there isn’t anything. There is no silver lining. But I wanted you to know I read your story. Much love xxx

    Reply
    • Claire
      4th October 2014 at 7:46 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you so much for your very kind comment and for reading Louis’s story. When it happened I struggled to find any information or stories about other women experiencing the same loss (the internet has come a long way in 12 years!!) – I’m trying to write the kind of thing that would have been helpful to me at the time, and for all those families who are now grieving for the long term. As you say, no silver lining, but I have been so lucky to build the lovely family that I have today.

      Thanks for reading,
      Claire Xx

      Reply
      • mumsdays@gmail.com'
        Hannah Mums' Days
        4th October 2014 at 10:03 pm (3 years ago)

        You’re so right Claire, there was nothing. But really I’ve not come across my blogs like yours before. What you are doing is so important and supportive for women, parents going through literally the worse possible thing that could happen. Something people want to pretend doesn’t happen. It’s also incredibly helpful for friends and family. My husband’s cousin’s baby was still born about 2 weeks after I had Reuben. I didn’t know them that well but I grieved for them and felt a mixture of guilt and relief and more guilt for feeling relief that I had my baby. I felt I had to keep my distance and could offer them no support for fear of making it worse. I know now that that was self-centred and ultimately I couldn’t deal with their loss.

        Reading your story is hard (I was at my in laws and had to quickly remove myself and sit up stairs) but so important for us to start to understand how to support each other. It really sums up what makes blogging such a powerful tool. I would love to share your story as part of my Giving Birth Series at some point if you would be willing?
        Hannah xxx

        Reply
        • Claire
          5th October 2014 at 1:46 pm (3 years ago)

          Thank you so much for your kind words about my blog. Sadly Stillbirth rates have not decreased in this country in many years but at least there is a lot more support available – I’m just so pleased if I can be of any help, to anyone. I remember feeling so cut adrift when I lost Louis. If you think my story would be an appropriate part of your Giving Birth Series then yes, It would be great to share my story, just let me know if you need anything else?

          I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s cousin’s baby, that must have been such a bittersweet time for your extended family. You weren’t being self-centred at all – just totally human and normal. I remember being so shocked when I lost Louis, everyone knows to be cautious for the first 3 months but I never even heard about the possibility of Stillbirth throughout my pregnancy. I don’t think we should make pregnancy all doom and gloom but I do think we to educate women about the possibility and signs to look out for a lot more.
          Thanks for taking the time to comment on Louis’s story, it means a lot.
          Xx

          Reply
  2. franglaisemummy@gmail.com'
    Franglaise Mummy
    13th October 2014 at 9:06 pm (3 years ago)

    There are really no words, but I couldn’t just read and run. I cannot begin to imagine going through something like that now (age 38), let alone age 20. I only realised still-birth continues to happen when recently I heard about 2 friends of friends who’ve gone through it. I’m sure your blog post will be very supportive to other women who have gone through such heartache.

    Reply
    • Claire
      14th October 2014 at 6:51 am (3 years ago)

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, I really appreciate it. If my post helps anyone, in any way, that would be great – I remember feeling so alone when I lost Louis, I knew there were lots of other mums out there but I could never find their stories. It’s such a difficult thing for everyone to talk about (and read about) but so important to raise awareness. Thanks again. Xx

      Reply
  3. erfmission@gmail.com'
    ERFmama
    7th December 2014 at 9:24 pm (3 years ago)

    No words….it’s such a heartwreatching story, I can not imagine what you have gone through. I would still like to thank you for being so strong and sharing your story with me.

    Reply
    • Claire
      8th December 2014 at 1:57 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment.
      I really wanted to share Louis’s story because I hadn’t come across many accounts of the actual stillbirth process and I think it would have helped me at the time. My thinking is that perhaps it might help someone else, or just make them feel less alone (as I felt).
      Xx

      Reply
  4. kgomotso@neo-style.co.uk'
    Kgomotso
    1st January 2015 at 2:50 am (3 years ago)

    Thank you for a heart wrenching and moving post. Thank you for having the courage to tell your story and hopefully this will be able to help many other women who have experienced a still birth.

    Reply
    • Claire
      2nd January 2015 at 2:47 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you for your lovely comment. I always remember looking for and wishing there we’re more stillbirth accounts that I could relate to, hence writing my own so that it might help someone else who is looking.
      Thanks for reading.
      Xx

      Reply

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