#stillBORN Campaign - Fin's Story Of Reduced Movement

Published on: 27/03/2017

I want to write our son’s birth story as a way of remembering him and a way of welcoming those who are interested into an exceptionally hard but transformative time in my life. As a precaution, I would like to mention that I will be sparing little details but the ones I want to keep for myself. Some of this will be achingly sad, but most of it will be beautiful. I feel I need to include the sad parts because the journey out of them may be an inspiration to anyone else who has experienced loss. I will also mention that there will be pictures at the end and while they are not shocking or graphic, some people may not want to see them.

On Friday, April 5th, 2013, I woke up to the excitement of my last day of work. I was ready to go on maternity leave and have two weeks of planning and dreaming before I was to be induced. The day went by like any other but for a small detail: I wasn’t feeling the baby moving nearly as much as usual. Normally I had never had to worry about counting kicks or monitoring movement because he was like a little acrobat inside me. Lately I had the feeling that he was ready to come out, it didn’t feel like he could possibly have any room left to grow. I had a midwife appointment in the morning and I mentioned the lack of movement to her and how out-of-character it was. She felt my stomach and listened to the heartbeat on the monitor and it came through loud and strong, although I felt at the time that it sounded a little faster than usual. She assured me everything was fine, confirmed that he was head down, and told me that if I hadn’t experienced movement by late afternoon, I should contact the Labour Ward. I had a routine CTG stress test right after work, so I decided to just wait until then. Julian picked me up after work with the car all packed for our ‘baby-moon’ in Scotland. We drove to the hospital and I was hooked up to the heart monitor machine as usual. They had trouble finding his heartbeat but I remember they said they could see ‘something’. The midwives decided to try another machine. We were taken into a different room and hooked up again. They still could not find a heart beat and even a doctor came over to try. It was decided that I would be given a scan to make sure. By this time, I was in tears. Julian reassured me that everything was ok and I tried so hard to be positive, but my heart was slowly seizing. We were taken into a dark room and I lay down on the bed. The technician put the jelly onto my stomach and started moving the probe around with the screen turned away from me. After a few minutes that felt like hours, our worst nightmare unfolded into the room with the words, “I’m sorry, we aren’t seeing any fetal heart activity.” I can’t fully describe the place I went to in my head but it was deep and dark and icy-cold. I managed to say a flustered, “What?!” and turned to Jules. His face was one of utter despair and it haunted me for days afterwards. Every time I think of it now, I try to replace it with his face when our son was born: a face of awe with tears of pride. After we found out, we were brought back into the room where they had taken the second CTG and Jules and I collapsed into each other. The grief and shock were unimaginable. I was almost hyperventilating and I could feel my body physically shutting down as the weight of what was occurring crippled me. It felt surreal and dream-like and I at one point wondered if maybe I was hallucinating. Julian just kept asking, “Why?!” and we were clinging to each other to get as close as possible. After some time, the midwives came back with a consultant, Dr. Stone, and they went over my options. Dr. Stone was a lovingly gentle woman and she asked if we would like another scan just to make sure. We agreed but I already knew the outcome. We all sat down again in the room and I hardly remember a thing of what was said to me. I was a zombie, a blank slate; I couldn’t look anyone but Jules in the eyes. Eventually I decided I would like to start the process off by taking a pill and going home until Sunday morning. I remember holding the pill in my hand and feeling like someone had handed me poison. Wracked with anxiety and reeling with devastation, I swallowed it.

hillary-taylorWe drove home and somehow managed to put away everything we had packed for our vacation. I think we were both running on autopilot at that point and we needed something to do with our bodies other than let them rot with grief. We set up the blow-up bed in Fin’s nursery and took everything from his baby shower (thrown the day prior) up into the room with us. We rolled back and forth between anguished sobbing and semi-rational discussion. We came to the decision and the promise that we would be strong for each other and that we could do this together. We discussed our plans and our feelings and retrospectively, I’m so glad we had the time that we were given to process things. We both slept fitfully and in the morning we decided to take a walk through Queen Elizabeth Country Park. It’s wide and open and we wandered through the forest talking and pausing every few minutes to embrace. I remember feeling strange carrying Fin around- it definitely did not feel natural. I knew that his soul and spirit had already left us and it just didn’t feel right to look pregnant without the accompanying feelings. We discussed how we wanted to go through labour and what we expected afterwards. We also decided we wanted to have him cremated and that his ashes would be split between the oceans here and in Canada. We felt he was never a part of this world and that he was always be our water baby. After all, if the dates were right he was conceived in the ocean! All of this conversation came very easily to us and I am still, and will always be, so thankful that we were able to lean on each other and connect our hearts through such a tragedy. We walked on, breathing the fresh air into our tired lungs, and feeling the filtered warmth of the sun. That night, while lying in the nursery beside Julian, I wished for a miracle. I wanted his birth to be dignified and I wanted to honour him by bringing his body into a room of peace and love. I chose our smallest onesie and a tiny hat my Mom had knit and I laid them out for the morning, then we slept.

hillary-taylor2On the morning of the 7th, we woke up and walked through the house like robots packing our bag for the hospital. Before we left, I stood at the top of the stairs and looked out at the rising sun. Frost had blanketed the fields over the road and the sky was dipped in orange and pink. I asked for strength. I called on all of those who have lost before me and all of those who were sending us love telepathically. I asked that I be able to get through everything with my head and my heart intact. We drove to the hospital and in between rising panic and nausea, I let in feelings of calm and peace. We arrived at the hospital and made our way to the Labour Ward. A midwife met us and she had tears in her eyes. She took us to a private room away from the rest of the ward so that we wouldn’t hear other mothers and babies. I don’t think a crying baby would have upset me, now that I think back on it. In fact, seeing babies has only made me smile since that day. We were left to settle ourselves in the room and Jules and I sat holding each other on a couch. Our first midwife, Kwei, came in and explained the process of induction and asked if we wanted anything. She was small and feisty and she kept a good rapport with us throughout the morning. She took both Julian’s and my blood and took my temperature and blood pressure. She was very kind. Dr. Stone returned after a while and administered a tablet vaginally to prepare the cervix and also took a swab. They both left and Jules and I were able to relax with each other. I kept thinking of Fin and how he had made a choice to not be born into this world. He had asked to be set free and in turn, he was setting us free. I felt he would have wanted us to live our lives as happily as possible, carry him in our hearts and memories, and make the most of our gift of life. I looked out of the large windows in the room and the sky was blue and dusted with clouds. Birds were soaring in the sun and light filled the room. I could almost feel the world going by: lives beginning and ending, time passing, the basics of life and the raw elements driving the planet on. I felt like being kind to myself was my only option at that point, and I let feelings of self-love, gratitude, and pride fill my body and soul. I could still feel a hole, dark and deep, like a cave in my chest and I just let it be there. I knew it would be filled in time with happier things. The room we were in was very warm. A trio of canvasses hung on the wall across from my bed: an ocean scene with gentle waves and a mottled sky; a creamy yellow sun gently bathed everything in light. Around noon our lunches were brought in. Jules had a Sunday roast dinner and I had the ‘vegetarian version’ of that. It was pretty laughable but I savaged that plate of food, I think my body would have consumed anything at that point. After lunch I was given a pill to swallow that would make my uterus start contracting. I was to be given it every three hours but I only ended up needing one dose. The pain began much as period pains would and I was fully relaxed and able to write while Jules read his book. Kwei had asked us a couple times if we wanted the television on and we both said no, I think it felt like too much of an escape. As the pains became more intense, I began to focus more on breathing and less on everything else. I felt uncomfortable but still in control. Kwei spoke to me about pain relief and arranged to have the anaesthetist come and have a word. I had wanted to see what labour felt like but once I was in it, I didn’t want to feel anything anymore. In retrospect, I’m so glad I wasn’t numbed physically or emotionally. As time went on, I started to become increasingly uncomfortable and could not find a position that eased any of the pain. Earlier on, Julian had massaged my lower back with a massage bar but by this point, I wanted no one talking to or touching me. I managed to just keep from shouting abuse at him, but I gave him ‘the hand’ on numerous occasions and used a very weighted, “Please,” when he would try and ask me anything. Sometimes, “Please,” and ‘the hand’ were used in conjunction with, “Stop,” and that was about the extent of my ability to communicate. I called the midwives and they were just changing over. Lisa would be my midwife through labour and delivery and she had a lovely Scottish accent (something I had been hoping for for months before delivery) and was very calm and controlled. She popped in to introduce herself but I remember nothing but asking for pain relief. I was an animal running on instinct. I was scared but I had not lost control, although if an epidural was in front of me I probably would have chewed through iron to get to it. Lisa left the room to prepare a morphine injection and while she was gone I vomited up all of my ‘vegetarian delight’ and my waters broke. I remember feeling a thud, like a large balloon popping inside me, and then a huge gush of fluid. I had heard stories of ‘trickles’ and ‘leaks’ and how some women weren’t sure that their waters were actually broken. There was no mistaking this. I made Julian press the call button again and Lisa returned with the cart and the precious morphine. Despite being on all fours, cradling a bowl of vomit, and kneeling in my own blood and amniotic fluid, I felt the furthest from undignified. I really could not have cared any less. I felt powerless and my mind swirled with the pain. After a contraction subsided I turned on my side and Lisa said, “This might hurt or sting a little,” and I said, “I don’t care, I don’t care,” and she jabbed it into my bum. It did sting and because I was between contractions, I whinged a bit with the pain. I think at this point I could feel Fin starting to make his way down, because I remember wanting to sit on the toilet. Nothing happened and I ended up crawling on all fours on the bathroom floor while the midwives changed my bed sheets. We were left alone again and shortly after I had gotten back into bed, I could definitely feel his head with every contraction. I would like to make note of the passage of time and my obliviousness to it during all of this. The elapsed time, from the start of active labour to when Fin was delivered, was under two hours. Everything was hard and fast. I felt like I had no choice but to push, my body was just ‘doing it’. I told Julian he needed to call the midwife. When she came in, I don’t think she believed me when I said I needed to push. She waited for my contraction to subside and had me lay on my left side. I remember asking when the morphine was going to work and whether I could have more. I remember her looking between my legs, and then coming back around to look me in the eyes and I think we both knew that there was no time for anything else. She looked me in the eyes and I remember staring at her like an animal caught in headlights. Her eyes were watery-green and in a soothing voice, she told me, “I think you’re ready to have him and you’re going to have to be brave. Don’t be scared.” I don’t remember her exact words, but I remember, “Don’t be scared,” and her calm, hypnotic eyes. She had Julian press the call button and another midwife joined us. I curled into the side of the bed and with each contraction I could feel more of him slip out. I was so relieved to be pushing; it felt so productive as opposed to writhing with the pain of contractions. I squeezed my eyes shut and my body kind of took over while I controlled my breathing and made what can only be described as ‘animal noises’. The morphine didn’t seem to do anything for the pain, but I think it definitely allowed me to ‘zone out’ between contractions and stay focused. I remember feeling his head come out but not believing it. The midwife kept saying, “Almost there, almost there,” and I thought she was just giving me false comfort. When she told me his head was out and we were just waiting for his shoulders, I said, “Really?!” In about three or four pushes, at 3:22 in the afternoon, Finlay Ethan Christie came out with a rush of fluid and it was the biggest sense of relief I have ever felt. I remember my eyes rolling up to the ceiling and I kept saying, “Ohhh, thank God,” over and over. I looked up at Jules and his face was so wonderful, even though he was crying. I asked, “Is he ok? Is he gross?” It sounds so weird to me now, but is was all I could manage to form with my mouth. Jules nodded through his tears and said, “He’s absolutely beautiful,” and I looked down and, my God, he was. He took my breath away he was so gorgeous. I just kept saying through tears of elation how beautiful he was, it was stunning. It was magical. I could not have asked for anything more peaceful and gorgeous. I held him right away and the nurses gave me an injection to deliver the placenta. It hurt to push it out, but it was quick and I had another rush of relief. Jules cut the cord. I don’t think I bonded with him while he lay on my chest, but I definitely felt love and a sense of awe for him. Despite the sadness, I now completely understand why women do that over and over. I can’t imagine going through another pregnancy but that doesn’t change how precious and empowering this experience was. I know Jules’ and my states of mind were indescribably important during the whole process. I held him for ages until the midwives came in and weighed him (5.9 lbs), and then took him into another room to clean him up and take some photographs. The midwives brought him back out and we dressed him and wrapped him in a blanket. He was so, so soft. He had strawberry blonde hair and almost-invisible eyebrows. From the nose down he looked like Thomas, it was very strange. He had a gorgeous little face and perfect hands and feet. We had made a truly stunning baby. Fin stayed with us in the room for a while and we talked to him and touched him as he lay in his bassinet. I knew in my heart that he wasn’t really ‘there’, that his spirit had left us on Friday and I had to keep reminding myself that we were in the presence of his body, not his soul. He looked so peaceful. We were both shattered with exhaustion and I remember wavering between hot and cold flashes. At one point, for the umpteenth time, I asked Jules to shut the window and bring me my wool socks. Because I was still in lots of pain, I asked him if he would put them on for me. The image of him knelt at the foot of the bed pulling my socks over my feet is one of great intimacy for me. Such a simple, tender act of kindness made me smile and the time and warmed my heart when I remembered it out of the blue much later. Dr. Stone came back in the evening and we signed some paperwork for the post-mortem. Every decision we had to make was based on instinct; it was all we had left. After everyone left the room, Jules and I took some time to speak softly to Fin and touch him for the last time. We promised him that we would take care of each other. We then called Ash, our evening midwife, and told her we were ready to leave. She brought us some photos she had managed to quickly print off and we hugged her and thanked her. She had tears in her eyes and I could feel her pain. I can’t imagine having to do that kind of work. Jules and I left the room with heavy hearts and when we got to the outside doors of the hospital I said, “I don’t want to leave this place as a place of sorrow. If we ever come back here, I want it to be in peace,” so we both smiled at each other with tears in our eyes and walked out into the darkness hand in hand.

Hillary Taylor-McCaffery

Mum to Finlay, born sleeping 07/04/2013, and rainbow baby Anaïs, born 11/06/2015