On the 8th of February 2015 my husband and I arrived at the hospital full of fear and concern after realising that we had not felt our baby daughter move for a while. We were quickly ushered through to a bed to check for a heartbeat. Mia was our third child so I knew what I was supposed to hear and it wasn’t there. First silence, then the slow swishing of my own blood circulating around my body. I didn’t need to look at the nurses concerned face to know. I turned to my husband and sobbed.
The doctor came in with an ultrasound and began moving the paddle around. Again the slow swishing of my blood stream and a crushing absence of that quick little galloping beat. This time both my husband and I sobbed together, quietly holding each other as the doctor explained that she wasn’t really qualified to do ultrasounds and that we would need to go to the radiologist. We all knew that we were now in a process of confirming our daughter’s death and nothing else. Even though irrationally I hoped that somehow the midwife and obstetrician had managed to stuff up their desperate search, we all knew our reality.
I was wheeled down to the radiologist in a daze, quietly hoping, hoping, but really knowing that this was a cruel process without hope. “Do you want me to turn off the monitor?” the radiologist quietly queried. I wanted to see her, and there she was, her still little heart. Cradled in my womb, it felt so cruel that she was gone.
As we slowly made our way back to the maternity ward, my husband called my mother and broke the news. Our neighbour was watching our other children and we needed her to come into town and look after them because we weren’t coming back from the hospital. It was a surreal mishmash of practicalities and emotional devastation.
Once in the hospital room we had weird moments of being left to sit quietly alone and then moments of doctors and midwives almost surrounding us. We began the process of being induced, taking all sorts of test, a weird collection of data to assess causes and effects. Explanations and risks. Expectations and planning.
Sleeping tablets and gel, night time interruptions, and in the morning, the dull, grey waking to a detached, numb reality. The silent torture of wanting to do something, intervene in someway and yet there being no way back, no solution, no cure.
That morning I rang my best friend and she immediately knew something was wrong. As I struggled to tell her want had happened, she wept at the other end of the line, at the other end of the state. With four children of her own, she quickly made arrangements with her husband and jumped in the car. When she arrived, she looked like she’d cried the whole 3 hour trip but somehow had also miraculously got, a jumbo sized box of soft 3 ply aloe vera infused tissues, muffins, cheese and bacon bread rolls, chips, and a card signed with heartfelt message. She was a beacon of strength, practicality, and profound friendship.
That afternoon my children were brought to visit. They knew something was wrong. My 3 year old son asked if there was something wrong with he baby the moment he walked into the room- he didn’t quite get it and was easily distracted by chocolate muffins but my 6 year old daughter understood exactly what was being said and immediately despaired our loss. She grieved in my arms, and we wept together.
That day was the worst of my life and my best friend and my husband held my hand through the entire ordeal. I had delivered both of my babies with no more than some gas and sheer will power. I felt conflicted, part of me felt I should be honouring her with a similar birth, how I would have birthed her had she survived to her due date but part of me was so devastated that the sheer thought of laboring and enduring the pain only to hold my dead child felt so pointless.
That night my labor pains began to peak, I had come to terms with taking morphine. A bitter little voice inside me sniped, so what, it doesn’t matter, she’s dead! I was aware of my labor the whole time but there were moments of fuzzy hazes and panicked nausea, due to the huge doses of morphine. When Mia was born I was heard the panicked nurse asking for help and the room seemed full of people. She unwound the umbilical cord and carefully placed Mia in my arms. Even though I knew it was pointless, I ached for a miracle, I remembered the tales and Facebook videos of babies springing back to life in response to the warmth of their mother’s chest. And as I lay there cradling my perfect and beautiful little girl on my chest, swaddling blankets over her, I hoped and hoped and then despaired as I felt her little body slowly grow cold. Days after I left the hospital, that video taunted me as friends and acquaintances shared it continuously in their newsfeed. I hate that video.
The day after Mia was born was weird and painful, as we were visited by doctors and social workers and handed fistfuls of forms. I dressed Mia. Spoke with the funeral director. Took photos and hand prints. My children came and met their sister, I was appalled by the idea at first but it became apparent that it was the best course of action for our children. It was a process, a cold, calculated process to put things in order and formalise the events of the last days.
The last moments of our stay were confused and sad. My husband and I agonised over deciding on her name but felt that Mia was the one we had liked the most- we thought we would have more time to decide. The midwife who had taken our very first call at the beginning of this ordeal and had been with us throughout came to say goodbye, I asked her to repeat her name thinking it had been Lisa. “No,” she replied, “it’s Mia.” I burst into tears and quickly tried to explain. “That’s ok,” she cooed, “it’s a great name, you can still call her that.” And she hugged me tight into her chest.
I miss my daughter. And with mother’s day tomorrow I feel her absence more than ever. I am grateful though, for my close friends and family who actively supported me. I know that this will be with me for the rest of my life, it was one of the saddest realisations, that my grief won’t ever end, but I know that the pain lessons and that as I build on what I feel is Mia’s legacy, I know this will grow my strength. Know that I am sharing this story as just that, my strength. I am not asking permission to grieve, I’m not asking for approval of my manner of grieving and I am in no way in need of reassurance. This is what it is. A very sad story.