Thursday 23 July 2020

The Hours After Louis

Oligohydramnios Tetralogy of Fallot

On the 22nd July 2020 little Louis tiptoed into the world, and 2 hours later he tiptoed back out of it again. 

I held him within me for almost 9 months, I grew him against all the odds.

I cradled him for the 2 hours that he spent here in this world, and I smile knowing that I was all he knew for his whole life. 

I was his person, I was his Mumma.

I am his Mumma.

I carried Louis for his entire life.

In the hours after Louis was born, I just stared at him. I found that I was scared, not scared of him, but I worried he was in pain, and I was scared that the way I held him, moved him or loved him could cause him pain.

In the wake of Leo, my brother and Carla leaving I told my midwife that I was pretty certain Louis was now gone. He was cool to the touch, the warm glow of life had gone away and I could see his veins starting to pool with blood that was begining to sit under his skin.

It was only then that Louis was taken from me, I hadn't moved in the time since I had been made comfortable in bed, cradling my newborn boy. I hadn't moved in 2 whole hours, my arms had been in the same position, with Louis snuggled tightly in my left arm. 

2 whole hours in the same position because I didn't want to move, I didn't want to disturb Louis or risk potentially hurting him. 

So we just sat still and together until he decided it was time for him to leave this world.

For a small baby his weight was certainly felt when they picked him up to take him and check for a pulse. While Louis was having this done I started to move, my upper body was in bits, it felt like I had just completed a exhilerating upper body work out, and my lower body too for that matter.

I couldn't wrap my head around how weak my legs now felt, and just how holding Louis in one position for so long had affected my left arm. I had been bursting for a wee for atleast the last hour, but I didn't want to move, I didn't want to miss anything. 

I didn't want Louis to close his eyes forever anywhere but in my arms. 

I can't remember if I went to the toilet while they were checking Louis's pulse, or after it was confirmed he had passed away. I have a feeling that I was still lay in bed for the initial check, weirdly though I can't remember exactly what was said when I was told he was gone... I can recall my midwife and the pediatrician being stood around the unit that would have been used to stabalise Louis if he had been born with a chance.

Only after this did I go to the toilet and feel ready to have a bath. 

Louis and I were then moved into the bereavement suite. Louis was set up in the cold cot so that I could spend that time with him, and it was at this point that I was left alone to catch some sleep and spend time with Louis.

Of course sleep didn't come, I believe the reality of what had actually happened was setting in. 

Suddenly the tears started to fall. Tears for the loss of Louis, tears for the last 8 months of fighting, tears for everything that we would never ever hear or see him do. 

Tears for a lost life. 

Oligohydramnios Tetralogy of Fallot

I would never hear what his cry sounded like, he never even tasted milk or had a feed. I would never see his beautiful face light up with a single gummy smile. I would never hear that adorable hearty tummy giggle. He would never crawl, take those first steps or start school. 

I cried for a whole life that we would never see grow up. 

A much wanted life that lit up the darkness like a candle in the night. A candle that was blown out prematurely leaving behind it emptyness and broken dreams.

Oligohydramnios Tetralogy of Fallot

I sat in bed with Louis beside me in the cuddle cot, and the next few hours passed in a blur. I didn't get him out to cuddle right away, I lay there wondering if I should... Then I knew that if I didn't cuddle him now, I was going to run out of time to hug him and hold him close.

I had an opportunity to memorise every little inch of him in the here and now, but this was time that would expire taking with it my little Louis forever.

I picked Louis up and just drank him in, I stroked his head, I spoke to him, but most of all I just held him close. 

Sleep didn't come at all that night, and when the sun rose on July 22nd... Louis's official birthday he had already been gone longer than he had lived. Louis arrived at 1:30am, in the night of the 21st but the early hours of the 22nd... He arrived somewhere in between 2 days...But was already gone by the time the sun rose.

My lovely midwife came in before she clocked out for the day, and I had another little cry. In fact there were lots of tears to be shed on this day with visits from all the amazing people who had cared for Louis and I.

I was a real mess when my consultant came to see me, but equally we laughed at how successful that stretch and sweep really was. 

I lost count of how many times I had to apply my make up that day, everytime I applied mascarra it would stream down my face through relentless tears that were induced by everyone's kindness and care for myself and Louis. 

Baby Loss Remember My Baby

A short time later Kevin from Remember My Baby arrived, a wonderful charity made up of professional photographers who come to the hospital and take photographs for you. Photographs that provide memories and capture a moment in time that although it shouldn't be... is fleeting and soon will be out of reach.

I can't put into words how thankful I am to Kevin and Remember My Baby for coming out to me and taking these photographs. With Covid 19 running 2020, I didn't know if this would even be possible. As it happened I was the first person since the pandemic that actually was able to benefit from the amazing opportunity that the charity offers. 

Kevin took detailed and beautiful snaps for me to treasure and remember my beautiful boy. Some of these photographs I have shared today, other's are being kept back for myself. 

Baby Loss Remember My Baby

Baby Loss Remember My Baby

David the Chaplain was kind enough to come and see Louis and I, and perform a blessing for my little fighter. By this time my parents had arrived with Leo, I was so glad to see my biggest boy, and I was blown away by just how amazing he was with everything that was happening around him.

In a strange way something that was so out of the norm, was normal. It was the most surreal day, it was beyond emotional, it was all so raw, but even with that complete vulnerability completely exposed, I was content just being near Louis and Leo. 

Baby Loss Remember My Baby

Although tears were never far away, it wasn't all sadness and falling apart. Sometimes there were big smiles, sometimes there were even full on giggles. There was no way to predict what you would feel next, because there is no right or wrong way to deal with your emotions when the worst does happen. 

The blessing was beautiful and I had another cry throughout the words that David bestowed on my Louis. We had a naming ceremony and it was all so lovely, all so heartbreaking. 

Baby Loss Remember My Baby
We were already well into the afternoon and I knew that I was going to have to invite Louis's Dad to meet him. Given everything that has happened on that front, this was always going to be a difficult situation. 

The original plan was that the midwife in charge of my care for the day was going to take Louis into the second bereavement room, so that I could stay seperate to the meeting. In a twist of events that didn't happen, and I think in the grand scheme of things that this was fate stepping in. 

It was horrible watching my ex fiance fall apart over our baby boy, and in another twist to the story, somehow I found myself feeling compassion for him, even pangs of guilt that he had missed Louis's arrival into the world, the only hours that he lived and of course the days events that had all proceeded without him.

I had to keep reminding myself that this was all because of his own personal choices, there had been no compassion or even remorse for me when he left me at 28 weeks pregnant.When he left me to face all of this on my own, and navigate each and every feeling I felt when he turned his back.

There was not even a glance over his shoulder as he rode off into the sunset for his new life.

Suddenly it was all as real for him as it had been for me throughout the entire pregnancy. Suddenly he had an idea of how I had felt for the last 8 and a bit months. 

Suddenly he was catapaulted into reality, my reality. 

I offered to take photographs for him, but he didn't want them. In the end we left and gave him time with Louis on his own. 

The reality was that neither of us should have felt alone at any point in this, I should have had his full support and he should have been by my side for the labour and the birth. He should have been there to drive me to the hospital, hold me tight and tell me it was all going to be ok. He should have had the opportunity to meet Louis alive.

Sadly I was alone, sadly he stopped being the person I go to for help. Sadly he made a hard sitution even harder by leaving me for somebody else in the midst of an already heartbreaking time. 

I had one final snuggle with Louis, I kissed him on the forehead and then I left the room to go home. 

Leaving that room on July 22nd is perhaps the hardest thing I have ever done. Harder than being pregnant with Louis and pondering the eventual ending to the story, harder than the labour and birth, harder than Louis taking his last breaths.

Leaving your baby when you should be bringing him home to start his life is not a normal thing to do. 

It goes against every instinct in your body. 

Leaving my ex fiance and Louis together as I walked out of that hospital room completely broke my heart. I was so angry and sad that he made any of this a possibility, he should have stood by me, supported me and loved me. He made it so I had to do this alone, when neither of us should have had to do this alone.

I do have to ponder the question of whether it was harder than being left all on my own at 28 weeks pregnant, scared, without fight and at that point with lost hope... I think the answer to that is that they were pretty much on par with each other. 

Two impossible moments in time.

I really did believe that when I left the bereavement room that day, that would be it. I thought I had said my final goodbye to Louis... But as soon as I walked out of the door, I knew I would be back the next morning.

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Louis Christopher - A Birth Story

Birthing Ball Labour 37 weeks pregnant

Back in November when I first saw the faintest of second lines on a pregnancy test, I had no idea what the coming months were going to throw at me. As I lay in bed the other night I almost managed to convince myself that 2020 had just been one big bad dream, that Covid 19 had never really taken place (because let's face it... It does seem so very far fetched!), and that my pregnancy progressed without a single hitch...

There have been times during this pregnancy that it felt like the world stopped, just so my life could fall apart.

I have come a long way in 10 weeks, my mindet has become clearer and I managed to make peace with what may come to pass.

On Tuesday July 21st 2020, I went along to what I half expected to be my last scan and consultation appointment. I had woke to find that I had a bleed during the night, so I was glad to be heading off to have a check up.

As always the scan didn't really tell us much due to the low/no fluid, but as I had now reached 37 weeks pregnant. I was considered at term, a point in my pregnancy that no one ever really expected us to get too... I had been pushing for a potential induction from 37 weeks, but due to the bleed and how far gone I was, my consultant decided to examine me and see if she could perform a stretch and sweep.

I was told that I was already 1cm dilated and was so favourable that she had been able to touch Nugget's bottom! Nugget was of course still breech, but as far as breech birth's go, he was the good kind of breech. This meant that his bottom was firmly engaged and ready to go, just like the head would be in a normal delivery.

I wasn't overly surprised that I was already starting to dilate in one respect, I had wondered if the bleeding was a show, and it was pretty much confirmed during this appointment (Although later on I disovered that Nugget's placenta could have been starting to come away!)

After the scan I met up with my bereavement midwife Trudy. Trudy has been absolutely wonderful and given what may happen after Nugget arrives, Trudy offered to show me around the bereavement suite in case the worst does come about...

The bereavement suite was like a hotel room, it had a fridge stocked with sandwiches, cheese and biscuits and there was even ice cream in the freezer. It had doors that opened up to an outdoor garden space, and a private bathroom. 

We then walked through some double doors and into a delivery room. It was decided that I would labour and deliver in an actual delivery room as opposed to the bereavement suite, and then depending on what happened... Potentially move to the bereavement room after the birth.

It was nice to see where we would be and have a plan of action.

I had the stretch and sweep around 11:30am and then I made my way to pick Leo up. We went and met Leo's Aunt and Uncle at a local farm shop for brunch, and I told them that I thought I may be in early labour.

We decided that after a bite to eat we would head out on a nice long walk to try and get things moving along, I was hoping to be able to have a spontenous labour... If I didn't have Nugget by Friday, my midwife was coming out to perform another stretch and sweep, if that didn't work I was due to be induced on Monday 27th July 2020 (A whole month after Leo's birthday!).

37 weeks pregnant Oligohydramnios
I was pretty certain that I was starting to have niggles, and following the stretch and sweep I was losing more of the plug... I didn't want to jinx it but I had a feeling that I was going into spontenous labour!

At just before 16:00 on Tuesday 21st, I headed out on a 11k walk to hopefully really escalate things.

By the time I arrived at my parents house for dinner just after 18:00, I was confident that the contractions were most certainly happening. 

I am really lucky with how I feel contractions, they aren't painful. They are just not comfortable, my body seems to respond well to pregnancy, labour and delivery (just ashame that poor Nugget has had such a devastating prognosis). 

I did have to chuckle when my Mum told me what I was feeling was Braxton Hicks, I knew they weren't as I have never felt Braxton Hicks, it was then that I decided to download a contraction timer and start tracking how long the contractions were coming and how long they were lasting. 

Leo and I decided that we were going to have a movie evening, so I decided to pop to the shop and stock up on some snacks. I had a feeling I probably wouldn't be going to bed if things were going to go the way they went with Leo...

I strolled around Lidl with my contractions and wondered what might happen if I suddenly went into full blown labour. I had a chuckle when the friendly shop assistant realised I was actually in labour and out picking up snacks.

Leo and I came home and popped a film on, I hopped onto my birthing ball so I could bounce up and down and hopefully encourage Nugget along. My snack of choice was eating ice lollies like they were going out of fashion. Leo was wonderful and completely understood what was going on, and what may be about to happen.

37 weeks pregnant oligohydramnios

I was quite happy bouncing on my ball through each of the contractions, I was timing them as I went and everytime I got up for another ice lolly, Leo would cheekily steal the ball to have a go himself. I text my sister in law a screenshot of the contractions, they were happening on average every 3 minutes and lasting for 30 seconds. 

I didn't think this fell into the criteria of 'GET TO HOSPITAL ASAP' but my sister in law thought that I should call and let them know, as she thought Nugget might have plans to hit the eject button... So given the nature of our pretty unique situation, I did ring up the triage number on my notes. 

I spoke to a midwife just after 23:00 and explained how I was definetly having regular contractions, and I knew things were definetly progressing (despite how I was talking and holding myself), and that I thought I probably should come in to be seen due to the underlying issues...Especially since when I got in with Leo I was already 9 and a half cm (They told me not to come in as I was talking through the contractions!)

Contraction Timer

I had planned on driving myself but my second brother's girlfriend Carla had very kindly offered to take me over to Worcester hospital, my brother was coming to sit with Leo and the dog. After I had taken the dog out for a pee, showered and double checked my hospital bag (which I had finally packed and managed to keep the snack stash topped up on!), we made our way over to the hospital.

I joked that at least my water's wouldn't be going in Carla's car, and kept timing my contractions on the car ride over. We arrived at the hospital just after midnight, Carla asked me what I wanted her to do, did I want her to come with me and stay while I laboured, or did I want her to go home? 

I had said all along over the last 10 weeks that when the time came for Nugget to make his appearance, I would do it on my own. As Carla had very kindly brought me over, I thought it would be nice for her to stay, but I did warn her that this wasn't going to be your typical labour and delivery... And as she is yet to have a baby, it would probably be best not to base any future pregnancy's on what she may see...

Due to Covid I first had to be confirmed to be in established labour, and then it would be cleared for Carla to come in. I plodded over to the triage and ran into the midwife that I had spoken to on the phone, they decided that it would be best for me to be checked out on the labour and delivery ward.
37 weeks pregnant oligohydramnios

I was handed over to Kate who was going to be my midwife that night. I found I was in the same delivery suite that I had been shown earlier that morning. I hadn't anticipated being back quite so quickly!

Kate was lovely and I soon had a cup of tea in my hand. Everything was set up and then it was decided that we should see how I was dilating. I had guessed that I was probably about 4cm by this point, and Kate soon confirmed this! 

It was discovered that Nugget had a tiny pocket of fluid around him, I asked if it was enough to make any difference to his lungs... But sadly I was told that it wasn't.

We had already discussed my birthing plan and what that meant. I had opted for an un-monitored birth as I didn't want to be told during the actual labour if Nugget hadn't made it, I wanted to get the hard part over and done with and then have chance to hold my baby.

I could feel that the contractions were getting stronger, but I could still maintain a conversation. Kate said that she had been surprised anything was actually happening due to how I was holding a conversation and not screaming the place down. 

I remember asking 'How long do you think it will take to be fully dilated' and Kate responding, 'maybe a few hours?' So I paced around, sat on the loo and paced some more. The contractions were certainly progressing but I had given up timing them by this point.

Kate said that she was going to give me some time with Carla, the one instruction that I was given was 'give me some time to get back in if you think something is happening'. Which of course I dutifully promised to do. 

I was getting so warm, I asked Carla to whack the air conditioning all the way down. She looked like she was freezing, but I felt like I was on fire. I was missing the birthing pool and just how easy that made everything with Leo, but I knew that it sadly was not an option with little Nugget.

37 weeks pregnant in labour - Oligohydramnios

I spent most of my time just sat on the loo, and then suddenly I felt like I probably shouldn't sit there anymore... I plodded out of the toilet and told Carla to press the buzzer because the baby was coming and I didn't have any control...

I had been instructed that when the time came, the best position for me to be in for a breech birth, would be on my back. I knew I was going to struggle with being on my back, because although the contractions are ok when I am standing (or sat on the loo), I really struggle with sitting and laying down...I think this is because of the pressure.

So as I reached the bed, I threw myself onto all fours and knew that I had now lost any and all control. Thankfully Kate made it back into the room and just managed to get her gloves on as Nugget bombed into the world bum first. 

I can quite honestly say that I didn't push, he just arrived. And he arrived fast, around 45 minutes after I asked how long the actual labour may potentially take...

In the end I had only a few puffs on the gas and air, before I decided that I didn't like it and ended up just forgoing pain relief.

Louis Christopher was born at 1:30am exactly weighing a tiny 3lbs 5oz.

Louis was born alive and in his membranes, despite the worry being that he wouldn't survive a natural birth. 

Louis was born quietly and never let out a cry.

 I remember asking 'Is he alive? Did he make it?' I was told that he was alive but his heart rate was slow.

There was a little worry that I may be losing a little more blood than they would have liked, but it was later said to me that the placenta might have been starting to abrupt. This could have lead to a very different type of labour and delivery. It is possible that given a few more days.... Weeks... That the placanta could have abrupted and Louis's life support be turned off while he was still in utero.

Oligohydramnios Birth - Pulmonary Hypoplasia

The moment Louis arrived, the contractions stopped and I was suddenly freezing.

I knew that if Louis was handed straight to me that medical intervention wasn't going to be pursued, and once the pediatrician entered the room (part of the reason I was supposed to give them as much time as possible, was so that the pediatrician could be outside and ready to come in! But Louis had other plans!) it was quickly decided that little Louis was too poorly and I was told that he was going to be handed straight to me.

I knew exactly what this meant.

Oligohydramnios Birth - Pulmonary Hypoplasia
I was still on all fours at this point, so Louis was passed back up through my legs. I just kept telling him how sorry I was, over and over again. He looked just like Leo, he had a beautiful little face and little button nose, he was gorgeous.

I suddenly noticed that his leg seemed to be in a funny position, I asked if that was because of the low fluid, and it was explained to me that it was a common injury from a breech birth. Louis had disclocated his hip and his leg was actually up over his broken heart. 

Both of Louis's feet had been affected by the low fluid, and he had what they call Club Foot or Bilateral Talipes. 

I stayed in the position I had given birth in snuggling my little fighter and drinking him in, unsure just how much time I would get with him. I was asked if I would like to be the one to cut the cord, but I think I was in shock at just how fast things had escalated. So I watched as Louis life support for the last 8 and a bit months was cut away. 

It was decided that due to a fibroid in my uterus that it would be best for me to have the injection in my leg to bring the placenta on, as this carried less risk. In my hyped up state, I was certain the placenta looked just like a steak!

Oligohydramnios Birth - Pulmonary Hypoplasia

Louis was put into the outfit I had brought in for him to wear, It was a preemie outfit with little blue teddy bears on it. It was made to fit baby's who weighed between 1.5lbs and 3.5lbs. 

I wrapped him up in Leo's favourite blanket and just held him. I was so scared to move, so scared to hurt him, so scared he may be in pain from his hip and leg.

Louis never ever cried, and he never ever opened up his eyes.

He had fought all these months, and he had fought all the way to be in my arms. 

I just stared at him, and wished I could make him better. 
Oligohydramnios Birth - Pulmonary Hypoplasia

Carla had been amazing, she had rubbed my back and been there for the whole labour and very quick birth of Louis. Then she rang my brother and decided to go and pick Leo up in the deep thick of night so that he could hopefully meet his baby brother in time...

I was given some time on my own with Louis, I said so much to him, but I don't really recall what I said, I whispered to him and the labour play list rumbled away in the background. I wanted to take so many videos of him, so many photos, but I was so scared to move. 

I don't remember what I said to him, I know I told him I loved him over and over. I stroked his face and felt his warmth... It was like time had stood still, but it was actually running away.

Leo arrived and met Louis, and somewhere in that meeting, I touched Louis's little cheek and realised that he had started to go cool...

I knew that my little fighter baby had gone to sleep forever, and he wasn't going to wake back up again. 

Weirdly I didn't cry, the adrenaline was still buzzing round my body. I held Louis until Carla, Chris and Leo left and then Kate took Louis over to the table for the pediatrician to check his heart rate. I already knew he was gone, but Louis's little broken heart was confirmed to have stopped at around 3am.

Louis lived for 2 whole hours, we both fought so hard to meet each other. 

It wasn't the ending that I wanted of course, but it was an ending that I had been mentally prepared for. An ending that I think on a subconcious level I knew was going to come to pass.

I had some full on deja vu moments in the hours and days since Louis threw himself into the world. One of these instances was when I was sat in the bath in the delivery suite, not long after little Louis had left, it was a feeling of complete familiarity that washed over me and consumed me. Something that I felt I had dreamed at some point, or perhaps even lived. 

It was just like some prophecy was coming true, that perhaps I always knew I was going to get to meet Louis, but sadly keeping him was not on the cards.

I wished so hard for Louis to keep breaking the rules and for a miracle to keep him safe and here with me...

Oligohydramnios Birth - Pulmonary Hypoplasia - Tetralogy of Fallot

It turns out that a miracle did happen, and that miracle was his couragous fight and surpassing all the milestones that I was told he would not. The miracle was him making each and every appointment, the miracle was us having a sponteneous labour and Louis actually surviving the birth. 

If this was the way it had to be, then I am so glad that things worked out the way that they did. Louis made it all the way to his Mumma's waiting arms, and he spent 2 hours wrapped up in love and warmth, before his closed eyes remained closed and my beautiful fighter went off to sleep.

I am so proud of my little warrior baby. 

Oligohydramnios Birth - Pulmonary Hypoplasia - Tetralogy of Fallot

I will love him forever and I will carry each and every lesson he taught me for the rest of my life.

It has been a busy week in the time since Louis left and I am currently in the process of planning his funeral which takes place on Friday 7th August - 2 days before his due date, and a day before my birthday.

I have an acceptance of what happened because the whole pregnancy shaped me for what was going to happen, but my heart is truly broken and part of me has died with him. 

Keeping busy is my only way forward right now, I will update on the rest of last week and this coming week in a seperate post, but I just wanted to let everyone who has willed him on, prayed for him and lived this with me, know that he made it all the way into my arms <3