I had expected to feel much more relaxed after we knew that our baby was safe from complete heart bock at our 29 week scan and whilst that was true on many levels, I was completely unprepared for the continuous and deepening anxiety that was rapidly escalating. I became obsessively paranoid over our baby's movements and whilst I wouldn't necessary expect this to be a bad thing, it was taking its toll on my mental health. You see, although over coming heart block was a massive challenge for us, my understanding of reality had now changed. I had gone from barely knowing anyone whose baby had died to knowing (on a personal level) hundreds of babies who had died for hundreds of different reasons, and at different stages in pregnancy and after birth. I felt all too aware that there was no guarantee of bringing our baby home, heart block or no heart block.
So the paranoia took over, my anxiety medication was increased and I spent many hours at the maternity day unit being monitored. Whilst our baby's movements almost always gave a perfect trace, my answer to the question post monitoring, 'are you happy with baby's movements now?' was always going to be 'no.' I was never going to feel reassured that my baby's movements were okay until he was here, alive and breathing because no amount of movements was ever going to reassure me that this baby wouldn't die too.
The two weekly scans continued with a few extra scans thrown in here and there for reassurance. I was desperate for an induction date because I needed to know when this turmoil would end. I needed my baby here now and opting for an induction was my way of trying to regain some control in the pregnancy. My anxiety worsened until another episode of reduced fetal movements saw me being seen by my consultant who decided to book me in for an induction the following day. I was 36+4 and finally I dared to dream that we could be meeting our breathing baby that weekend.
Throughout the entire pregnancy I had been terrified of giving birth again. I'd had an epidural with Eleni, my first, and so other than feeling some pressure down below, the actual birth was not painful. Holly's birth however, happened so quickly that I felt it all and to this day I still do not know if the agony of knowing she was dead made the whole birth feel more 'painful' than it would have been in other circumstances. Holly's birth had traumatised me and I was scared to give birth again. I was therefore pretty certain that I would chose an epidural for the upcoming labour as I knew that I couldn't go through feeling it again.
It wasn't until we started the induction procedure that the extent to how Holly's birth had traumatised me became apparent. I could now barely manage internal examinations without crying out. I really struggled to not associate any feeling down there with the pain of losing Holly. I didn't know if it was physically or mentally hurting me but I look back now and recognise that I was experiencing PTSD. I am not sure I would have thought about internal examinations being traumatic for those whose previous baby's had died, during my career as a midwife. I would have probably carried out examinations with a usual amount of care and dignity without really thinking about any potential triggers or understanding how real the emotional trauma would be. The trauma is so real though and even now the thought of Cervical screening fills me with a similar amount of distress and whilst I will always have screening done (I have fought far too hard to have my babies here to then leave them), I think it is so important that triggers and PTSD is understood by ALL healthcare professionals...
So my induction procedure started but unfortunately after 3 doses of Prostin, my body was just not ready to go into labour. The doctor came to see me in the early hours of the following day and offered a 24 hour break followed by a repeat of the induction procedure or a Cesarean Section. My husband had gone home at this point but instinctively I knew I wanted the latter. I was emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted. I had been experiencing irregular contractions for almost 24 hours but more painful than that was the ongoing worry. I just needed my baby now.
As I was being prepped for theatre, the midwife who I'd had the previous day came onto shift. She hadn't acknowledged Holly the day before, she had only briefly acknowledged a previous loss. Whilst some people may say that 'no one really knows what to say in this situation' I stand up and say 'talk to me about what happened before and acknowledged that it matters'. This was a prime example of why I blog and why I talk about Holly. A simple question of 'would you like to talk about what happened with your baby' and 'how are you feeling right now?' could bring so much support to a situation that is as scary as fuck. I hated that Holly's name was not asked for and the lack of empathy towards the struggles we may experience in delivering this baby was just such a shame.
Unfortunately the lack of understanding continued as upon hearing that I had opted for a c-section, the midwife began arguing with the doctor (who had come back into the room at this point) saying that it was ridiculous to offer a c-section. She walked out the room shaking her head before telling me that 'this isn't what most people would do.' I didn't let myself get upset by her as to be honest I had bigger things to think about but it was just so disappointing. Being a midwife I was well aware of the risks involved with the surgery and I would never make the decision lightly but I had my reasons. I needed support and empathy not judgment or comparisons. Luckily, I had the most wonderful ODP keep me calm during the c-section. She asked me about Holly and was so understanding. I am so thankful for the kindness she showed.
Three attempts at a spinal later and we met our beautiful baby boy. I couldn't possibly describe the love and the relief that I felt. It was just the most beautiful moments of my life.
Despite the fact that I was recovering from painful surgery, the two days in hospital were the most calm my mind had been in almost a year. They were the most beautiful days were I began to get to know my son and I cherished every second because I understood all too well how easily it could be taken for granted. I thought about Holly so much in those first few days and those thoughts were filled with so much love for her. Kobe was her parting gift to us.
I chose not to sugar coat anything in this life after Holly because life is too short and far too precious to waste time in not telling the truth, especially when the truth can help others. My rainbow pregnancy was hard, scary, upsetting, full of triggers and mentally tiring but it was worth it because our children are always worth it. I am so lucky that I got my rainbow and I won't ever lose sight of how fortunate we are.
I will always be protective of Kobes. He is the baby that made it and the baby who was born out of a sisters love.
He is my rainbow.