This quite possibly is the hardest blog for me to write so far. I have avoided writing this one up until now but as much as it destroys me to acknowledge the birth of Holly, it so very important for me to share this.
When my I found out that I would be induced to deliver my stillborn baby, I searched and searched on google to find peoples experiences to help prepare me for what would happen. Being a midwife, I thought I would already know the answers, but I didn't. I didn't know how it would feel to deliver a stillborn baby. My eldest daughter was born via a suction cup and I couldn't feel a thing for having had an epidural. Going through labour for my stillborn daughter terrified me beyond words. How long would it take? Would I still have to get to fully dilated if shes only 25 weeks? What happens when shes here? How long do I get to keep her for?
I found some information online but it was only really through speaking to a friend of a friend that I got the honest answers that I needed. While some people live in denial or don't want to know what will happen (which is fine!) the honest answers were exactly what I wanted. I remember when I was pregnancy with my eldest, I had all these expectations on what labour and motherhood would be like (I soon came to realise that it is nothing like what 'they' say!) and I made a promise to myself that I would only ever be honest from there on out. I appreciated the information that was given to me so much that I knew one day I would need to share my experience too.
A lot of what went on the day Holly was born, I had forgotten. For about a week after her birth I would sit there and be able to vividly go through every single thing that had happened. I cried to my husband numerous times because I was terrified that I would forget all the details, I didn't want to forget any single thing about that day as it was the only thing keeping me close to Holly. I decided to start a diary 2 days after having her. I wrote down everything that had happened so that I knew I would always be able to remember. Since then I've written in Holly's diary whenever I have wanted to remember something or talk to her. I keep it hidden away in her memory box and I hadn't yet re read anything I had written, until now. I won't share it all because like I have said before some parts are too precious but I do want to share the parts that might help others, as these are the parts that helped me, prior to September 7th.
On the day a star was named;
Having two days previously taken some tablets to help induce labour, myself and my partner turned up on the labour ward ready to have our baby. As soon as we had pressed the intercom to get through the security doors, we were met by our bereavement midwife and swiftly taken to the room we would be staying in, which was separate from the other labour rooms. I will always remember how thankful I felt that they were there, ready for us. We didn't have to make any awkward conversations about who we were or even walk past a lady going through labour. It was the little things like this which make a devastating situation a teeny, tiny bit easier to process.
The room we were staying in was lovely. Much like a hotel room joined by a bathroom to a more clinical 'delivery' room. It might seem irrelevant what the room looked like but it actually isn't irrelevant at all. That room was to be our 'home' for the next 24 hours and where we would make our memories with our daughter. It was to be her first home and the place which I will remember for as long as I live.
I remember feeling like, although I was there, it still wasn't real. I could talk to the midwives without crying, I could laugh, a little bit of me even felt excited because I was still going to meet my daughter. It felt like a special day, like something out of the ordinary and something to be cherished. Of course I was nervous and inside my heart was preparing to break but it surprised me how much I was coping. I had something that I actively needed to do, I needed to deliver my baby and that was what kept me focused and through the next few hours.
After numerous blood vials had been taken from me and a quick examination, I was given a pessary to help my body get into labour. My husband and I decided to try and keep ourselves distracted so we played games and chatted. Anything to take our minds off what was happening was a blessing and much welcomed. I was due to be given another pessary in 3 hours time but after only an hour or so I started to get contraction pains. I knew it was the start of it all but I didn't tell anyone. I didn't even tell my husband at first. I wanted to drag this out for as long as possible because I wasn't ready to not be pregnant. I wasn't ready to accept what was happening and I wasn't ready to meet our daughter.
So I ignored the pains and I carried on acting as 'normal' as I could. Suddenly though, the pains rocketed and my focus was dwindling. We called the midwife and we discussed pain relief. I opted for gas and air as I didn't want to be spaced out for when my baby came. They offered to give me strong analgesia but I knew I wouldn't have long with her and I wanted to be as aware with her as I could, I didn't want anything affecting our time together. I knew the labour was progressing quickly and with wanting to carry on being pregnant, I ignored the increasing pressure to push for as long as I possibly could.
Four hour after my induction had started and after a 24 minute labour my second daughter was born into this world.
I won't lie to you, it hurt. It hurt a lot. The contractions don't feel any less because it was a shorter labour and the pushing, well, I take my hats off to you ladies who have delivered a term baby! I turned into something of an animal, I truly thought I was dying.
Holly was born in her sac. She had come out completely protected in her waters, membrane and placenta so we couldn't yet see what she looked like, only the outline of her shoulders and head which was covered in tiny black hairs. I remember thinking that this right here is my entire pregnancy. This is what I have been carrying for the last 6 months. Our midwife got an amnihook and broke the membranes revealing my daughter. My beautiful, fully formed little daughter.
I couldn't talk. I couldn't cry. I felt like everything was suddenly moving in slow motion. I knew my husband was there, distraught, but I couldn't comfort him. I knew the midwives were moving Holly on to my chest and I don't remember breathing but I must have. Slowly it all came into focus. My husband cut Holly's cord and I sat there and just cuddled and cuddled her. She was perfect.
What followed were the most precious moments of my life. We dressed our daughter in the most beautiful dress my sister had made for her and wrapped her in a blanket my mum had lovingly made. We cuddled and kissed her. We took photographs ourselves and we had photographs taken professionally from the hospital and supporting charity. We took hand prints and footprints. We cut a lock of her hair. I spent time alone with her and read her a story. I wrote her a letter. The care the midwives provided for us and Holly was meticulous. Every single thing we could do for Holly any single memory we could make, we did.
We spent the night with Holly and left the next day. Saying goodbye to my daughter was the hardest thing I have ever done. I didn't want to leave her. I didn't feel right and it went against what every part of my soul was saying. It screamed out for us to stay together. We left with our memory boxes and details on how to register her birth and death. It was the hardest thing I will ever do.
I can't share everything. Some of it is just too hard but I will share what I can as the friend of a friend did for me. It's the little things, the honest things and the kind things that keeps this world turning and saves people when their lives are in turmoil. I will share, support and spread love to those who need it, whenever and wherever I can.
Four weeks after Holly's birth some friends came to visit me. They had done something truly special. They had given us a star name deed. Star 1406112 - Aquila, named Holly Dao - 7th September 2016. On the hardest day of my life, on the day my daughter was born, a star was forever named, my life forever changed and a legacy forever born.
"But then there was a star danced, and under that I was born"
On the 7th September 2016 at 25 weeks gestation, Holly was born, still after a battle with complete heart block.