#stillBORN Campaign - Gabriel's story
Published on: 27/03/2017
Those seven words that I will never forget “I’m sorry, there’s a problem with baby.” Even now I can still picture that moment, the moment my world changed forever. Then came a flurry of appointments, words like “termination”, “fetocide” and worst of all, “your baby is unlikely to survive the rest of your pregnancy”. This can’t be happening, not to me, not to us… heartbreaking, anguished phone calls…
“It’s done,” she said as she injected potassium into his heart to stop it beating. I lay there, numb. My husband was quiet. Another scan moments later, screens off, confirmed it. He was gone. His tiny heart was no longer ticking inside me. His movements stopped.
We were numb. My baby was in there still, where he should be… but he had died. He was dead.
“Baby mummy?” My son asked.
“No angel,” I managed, “baby gone…”
Two days later, he was born. His entrance was rapid and unbearable. I was panic stricken. We were in the bereavement suite, watching Netflix.
“I’m pushing I think,” I said panicked and woozy from the gas and air, “I don’t know… I’m frightened.”
“Don’t be frightened,” my midwife soothed as the agony took over.
Two pushes and I knew he was there.
“The pain has gone,” I told her.
“It comes in waves,” she said gently, “you know that.”
“I’ll have a look under the sheet, if I see baby is coming I will press this button for some help…” she lifted the sheet, “baby is here,” she said gently, pressing the button. The shaking began. I felt sick. They took him away, wrapped in a towel.
It was bizarre. Even though I knew he was dead, I felt the usual rush of post birth emotion, I wanted to meet him, I was almost excited, happy… I went to the loo to clean up. I stripped my wet bed.
We wanted to see him. I hadn’t known up til then if I wanted to or not, but I did. We sat together on the sofa bed and they brought him in. I asked not to see his defects. He was dressed in a tiny pale green cardigan, a hat, and tucked under a gorgeous blanket with little lady birds on it.
“Hello Gabriel,” I said softly, not knowing what to do. He lay in a tiny Moses basket. So peaceful. She showed us his feet which she thought were gorgeous. We stroked his little face. Delicate, soft, cold. I was so pleased to see him. My tiny boy, perfectly imperfect.
“Can you take him?” I asked her, “I don’t want to see him when his colour has gone…” I’m a nurse, I know what happens. She nodded, and he was gone.
My husband slept. I lay awake listening to the screams of some woman elsewhere on the delivery suite, wishing I could swap with her, wishing she knew what was going on in our room. Our midwife apologised.
The screaming stopped. Her baby was here. Her baby would be wriggling, nuzzling in to her, clutching her fingers. My baby was cold. My baby was dead. My much wanted, longed for second son. Loved from the moment those two lines appeared.
We left early in the morning. I had to do it quickly, like ripping off a plaster. The thought of leaving my beautiful boy with strangers threatened to tear my heart in two.
We had a memory box from the hospital, photos, candles… footprints. But no baby. No car seat to wrestle in to the car. No balloons from excited visitors.
We went home as if nothing had happened, I had the usual after effects, bleeding, pain… but no baby to show for it. My head went in to meltdown, tormented with grief, guilt, isolation. My best friend arranged Gabriel’s cremation, made sure he had the bunny we had bought him with him at all times. I had one to match. I squeezed it tight, when I needed it, hoping he could feel my cuddle too. The funeral directors were kind, they looked after him when I couldn’t. They kept him safe.
And then I realised. He was gone. I was empty.
There is only one way to end the stigma of termination for medical reasons. Talk about it. Raise awareness. It happens so much more than you realise. I felt so alone… and then I spoke to someone else going through the same thing and the relief was enormous. We held hands through our grief. Even on the darkest days, I know she understands.
My darling boy. My angel. I hope your bunny is giving you cuddles the way I should be. I hope someone is caring for you, wherever you are. I hope that. I don’t believe it, but I hope that.
You sit in an urn by my bed. It feels better to have you home with me. I stroke our matching bunny.
The milestones are coming… I dread them. I think of you every day, my beautiful boy. I am now used to being in pain. It overwhelms me.
But you were born. You are our son. And I miss you, sweet boy.