Sometimes you just know

I think most people thought our family was complete. I think we thought so too, despite having very different feelings about that. Thats another story. But with our youngest approaching 5 years old, we decided that perhaps we would, after all, have just one more baby. Sometimes knowing that we argued about that, about that one more, not knowing we were arguing over a baby who would die, breaks my heart. It seems more than a bitter end to that part of our life.

But we did decide to have him and it took a long time for it to happen, long for me anyway. When i was pregnant, things seemed to go wrong very quickly. When i was 6 weeks pregnant, by my reckoning (and i was being generously behind), i had enough bleeding to make me think it was all over bar the shouting. I knew from the moment i woke up that day that something was just wrong and sure enough it was. But somehow it hung on, though blood tests seemed to suggest that probably i had lost half of twins and a scan showed a much smaller pregnancy than i thought likely. Rather glibly i thought it was probably better there were not going to be two, but i was worried by how small that tiny tweeny thing with a heartbeat was. I put it out of my head. I wonder now if they were both babies who just shouldnt have made it further than that and if it is better that neither of them are here.

The blood tests i had collapsed a vein on to a nerve in my arm and i was in agony; because i had expected to lose the baby, i didnt particularly worry when the doctor prescribed me strong codeine for the pain and it was only a few days later i thought to panic about this, triggered by a dream i had that i was looking at a baby who wouldnt open his eyes. I only dreamed about a baby one other time in my whole pregnancy – the same dream. The first weeks were tense; i didnt tell anyone really, other than the people who knew when i thought i was miscarrying, i didnt tell the girls either and i certainly barely blogged about him the entire time i was pregnant. I find that odd now – i know i happily blogged my pregnancy with Josie. At the first scan i relaxed a little and we both started to look forward to it more. I was sure i was having a boy, the pregnancy was so, so different but i was incredibly tense about every test and scan, more so than normal. I just assumed something was going to go wrong. I remember brightkite-ing, when i realised it would be due in April, that nothing good ever happens in April and wed either have a tragedy or, if we were really lucky, finally something to make April better. We got both :/

In September i started to get really nervous. I thought i was being silly and maybe i was but reading Jeanettes blog and hearing of the desperately sad death of Baby Florence, my heart sunk. I read it, particularly the line about her children on the first night of knowing their baby sister had died and my heart just sunk. I thought Oh my god. This is going to happen to us. I didnt say anything because by that time my friends were definitely rolling their eyes at me (quite reasonably really) but i remember the moment so clearly. It was just, i cant explain it, a moment where the future felt like it rushed in at me.

So we carried on and a scan confirmed it was indeed a boy. How funny. Wed never wanted one and yet suddenly that seemed an exciting idea. Max took a while to come round to it but in the end he really fell in love with the idea. I was thrilled, but nervous, and was increasingly having very disconnected moments of thinking what have i done? which didnt make any sense because i had been quite literally desperate for a baby for 3 years. I thought i was worrying about the birth, i was certainly worrying about making the wrong decisions for us but in the end, i found that an easy enough choice. I wonder a fair bit about that now – it is the only time i have worried i would be in danger, not the baby and i had a lot of difficulty in imagining it happening. I couldnt seem to visualise myself being in hospital and having a baby, or leaving the house to make that happen.

Hitting the end of October, i got poorly with something flu-ey and went into minor meltdown. I have no idea why but somehow i was petrified; Swine Flu fever was rife and i was panic stricken about the idea of a vaccine. I couldnt shake the idea that if there was something wrong with the baby, i would wonder if it had harmed it. In the end, i just couldnt bring myself to have it and im so glad i made that decision. I know it would be a massive stick to beat myself with now. But sometime after that, i stopped believing i was pregnant. Despite my growing tummy, i just couldnt connect with it at all. I loved the baby and of all of them, he seemed the most ready to oblige me when i worried, but i just didnt believe i was going to have a child as a result of it. I even typed that somewhere.

Around about 25-28 weeks, i did notice that the baby was behaving just a little oddly. If i lay on my left side, he would get noticeably fretful and move an awful lot. I described it to Max as being as if he scrabbled away from that side of me and wondered out loud if perhaps the baby had his cord around his back and didnt like the feeling of lying on it somehow. I was very definitely aware i was smaller than normal and seemed to have far less fluid. It was never a concern but i knew my tummy was smaller and far tighter than i was used to. I wonder if he just didnt have quite enough fluid padding him; certainly when i went into labour, there was far less fluid than i was used to with the girls. And until the day before he arrived, i had no braxton hicks, which was very odd indeed.

As things went on, the feeling got worse. I kept saying, right up to a few days before i dont really feel like im pregnant, i dont feel like i am going to have a baby – and people clearly thought i had gone mad, or was being over-dramatic perhaps. Im certainly known for both but if anything, what Max noticed was that i was unusually calm, almost fatalistic, about it. I barely shouted, ranted, wailed or stropped – and frankly, thats not normal 😉

What i did do was knit. I dont knit, it isnt/wasnt me, but for some reason it was incredibly important to me that this baby have something special that was just his and i knitted squares and squares of stitches. I didnt do anything else; we didnt bring the cot down, i didnt nest, i didnt get nappies or clothes out. I packed a bag eventually and got a few things ready but i did nothing else. When my sister came, while he was in hospital, she said it was really noticeable that there was nothing prepared for a baby. But i did knit – and i know it sounds ridiculous but every square i knitted i thought about whether this blanket would be a shroud. I couldnt shake the idea of it.

There were other things; i bought a couple of outfits and some breast pads and i felt stupid doing it. I reluctantly brought home a few swapped baby clothes from a holiday but refused to think about booking him a place on a holiday later this year. I got a friend to show me how to wrap a sling and the entire time i wondered why she didnt just stop and say for goodness sake, why bother learning when you wont need it? and Max and i went out to buy a feeding cushion with me wondering what we were bothering doing it for. I know perhaps it might be easy to say that all this is retrospective – but it wasnt. It is how it was. I felt as if i had told a huge lie and very soon i was going to get found out. I felt like Mary Tudor with her phantom pregnancies. I never, ever felt like i was going to have a baby.

For all im a drama queen, i do try not to drag my children through it but for some reason, i kept telling them never to assume anything, to never assume that all babies come home from hospital. I told them about Florence, i told them about Joel and Benjamin, i told them about babies who died in the womb. I kept telling them about babies of families we know and love who didnt make it to life. Josie kissed my tummy every single night and i swear that every time she did i thought of Jeanette and Florence and thought oh god, this is going to break her heart. Nothing felt right and in my heart i know that towards the end of the pregnancy, i really knew it. Something wasnt right about how he lay in my tummy. He kept slumping from one side to the other. I told myself it was my old and saggy womb, but i dont think it was.

I dont really remember but in the last couple of weeks, i apparently told all this, and fretted like this, to Shona, our lovely doula. She tells me that in the early hours of labour she considered it a significant improvement that i only mentioned such negative thoughts a couple of times. I was worried then too; he seemed a little still, though i could feel him moving down, but i remember having a curiously fatalistic feeling by then that what mattered was that i came through it okay and there was nothing i could do other than try and make that happen.

A couple of weeks before he was born, one of our rabbits died – i wrote this Fretting that the cosmic supply company have issued warm up for something going wrong with baby :( on Brightkite – and i felt my friends roll their eyes across the country at me. And why wouldnt they? :) and then the night before he was born, in the midst of a hormonal weeping fit, i said to Max I want him out, he doesnt feel safe in there any more, i want him out where i can look after him in my arms or let someone look after him if hes sick. I cant help feeling that that was more than a wibbly pre-Labour mummy – id done it enough times before and never felt like that. Even as i got off to sleep that night, i debated staying up to do the end of the crochet on the blanket. I had it in my head that it was unfinished and if the blanket was, maybe he would be too. When we left for the hospital and when Max brought things in to the delivery room, i was thinking (i cant remember if i said it) that we had to have the blue blanket because if it wasnt there when he was born, he might never get to use it.

emEdited to add:/em Counting off the weeks, 12 weeks, 20 weeks, 24 weeks so hed have a death certificate if he died and be still born not a miscarriage (not sure where i actually got that from) 35 weeks so past when my midwife told me about a NFH baby. Not liking it when my midwife talked about having my little man here soon and feeling it was creepy to talk like he would make it, not wanting to book a place for him on a holiday in case it jinxed him, not being reassured at all when i heard his heartbeat (and argh, knowing i used that to listen to him and now wondering if, after never worrying about it, maybe it killed him somehow), not liking AT ALL the bit of the hypotherapy cd where the baby is put in your arms to visualise making it through a vbac. Not wanting to bring home baby clothes from a holiday that were offered and feeling creepy about bringing a couple of things reluctantly home. Not opening the bag of clothes i was given at all, not letting a friend bring over a Moses basket or nappies. Not buying nappies even when we needed more. Not buying a sling.

When Freddie was born, in a slither of simplicity unlike any labour ive had, i took one look at him and said hes going to die. And i was right. I cant equate 3 hours of active hard labour and a good heartbeat throughout with a baby who was damaged by his birth. I just cant.

All this is true, none of it is retrospective looking for reasons and answers. I know i had all these worries, i just know i did. I told people. Im a worrier, but i didnt do this with any of the others, i just didnt. And in the end, i have to try to hang on to it. Im seeing my consultant this week, who is a lovely man but i know he feels responsible, i know that the logical conclusion is to blame the birth but i just cant get past all these things. I dont believe i can have felt so negative about Freddie without some reason that is clinically unprovable. Either i decide it is all co-incidence and retrospective anxiety, or i wished him out of existence, or i had a genuine supernatural premonition (which i dont believe in) or i have to believe that somehow my body just told me that Freddie was not going to make it, that i had a genuine mothers instinct.

Poor little boy. Poor little boy who wouldnt open his eyes.

a href= memory of Freddie – a Just Giving Page for Hinchingbrooke SCBU/a

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  1. San says

    Heart breaking and eloquent.
    No words just a cyber hug for your bravery in sharing your heart and grief with others.
    San xx

  2. says

    I think sometimes we do just know.I knew and I can’t explain why. I don’t believe in premonition,but I think sometimes we just know.
    My heart breaks to think that you knew, I know how that feels and I’m so very sorry.
    I can tell you that sometimes I can think of Florence, and I know that she was who she was. She wasn’t here long enough,but she was here..I can’t explain it,but she was, and she is.

  3. Joanna says

    I think you have very good instincts and are very sensitive to all that your children are, and ‘knew’. I didn’t have quite the same, but I did have a ‘moment’. Neither Bill nor I wanted a boy, really didn’t want a boy, but a few days before my 20-week scan I knew that I had to start preparing myself that it might be a boy and if it was, I didn’t want him to feel any disappointment from me. “After all,” I thought, “he might die, and then I’ll not care what sex the baby was at all, I will just know that, boy or girl, s/he was very very precious and unique and so, so loved”, and I had such a clear picture of myself holding and grieving for a dead baby boy. It didn’t feel quite like a normal thought, it felt like something that came to me, and in my language it was God preparing me for what was to come. Who knows.

    BTW, what a painful joy it was to see B’s name there. Not to make this all about me, but it is such a precious thing to see his name uttered or written by somebody else. Bless you xxxx

  4. SallyM says

    I don’t think any of us rolled our eyes at you. I believe that you knew and I don’t know why or how but I believe you. *hugs*

  5. says

    Jo, we spoke about him two nights before Freddie was born – i don’t know why i said it. But knowing about him really helped the girls afterwards. I’m glad you didn’t mind me using his name; i only used names of babies i know are spoken about openly on the internet but there were at least 3 other babies we also talked about. What a lot of lost babies we have :(

    Sally, it isn’t a slight on your friendliness, i promise, more a reflection of how well people know me. I acted like i do, over-anxious – only this time i knew i was right :/

  6. SallyM says

    I wasn’t taking it as a slight, I was trying to reassure you :) But then again I do over anxious pretty well too so maybe I just get where you come from when you do it!

  7. says

    Oh Merry – mother’s instinct is just SO powerful. At 28 weeks pregnant I wrote on the vbac board about how terrified I was of stillbirth. I got so many reassuring responses – just my way of processing the difficult choices I was making about my baby’s birth – but I wasn’t reassured. I. just. knew. When Emma was born and they took her to the resus unit, Sarah (my bff and unofficial doula) said she looked at my face. Afterwards she said, “you knew didn’t you? I looked at your face and you knew they wouldn’t be able to resuscitate her.” I did.

    Does it make a difference? A little. Like you, I don’t look at my birth choice as being a factor in her death, even though we think her death might have been a birth event. But I think that no matter how I had birthed her, I was never going to keep her. I don’t know what I believe any more about the way such tragic events unfold but I do think that somehow this was always going to be her story.

    I wish it wasn’t hers, or Florence’s or Freddie’s or any precious child’s.

  8. says

    Sometimes we know. Oh, yes, absolutely. Not just about our wee babies who aren’t going to live but other big things too … Seven weeks ago I began experiencing intermittent bouts of severe behind-the-eye pain, unlike anything I have ever felt before. When I saw the ophthalmologist he referred me to neurology. And in that moment, still sitting in the exam chair, I knew — absolutely knew inside my core — that I had a brain tumor. My 21-year-old knew too, though we tried not to talk about to anyone much — so histrionic, you know? And yet, and yet … Well, three weeks ago, when I was finally able to have an MRI, sure enough, there it was: a brain tumor. (Which does not, as it turns out, have anything to do with what is wrong with my optic nerve).

    Sometimes, we know. There is grace in that, I believe.

    I am so glad that you are able to write. Your worry did show through, here on this blog, when you were pregnant. I remember hoping against hope that you were wrong. It was clear to me, just a reader who doesn’t know you at all, that you were filled with an unshakeable disquiet.

    I am, as ever, so very sorry.

  9. says

    Jill :( I think it is so particularly awful for it to happen after a vbac. All that shroud waving that you fight against and then a dead baby and us never able to know for sure if it could have been different. As people have pointed out to me i a) would have had a repeat section for my safety, not his and b) had it been a first baby, that labour would not have caused me to have a section. But even so… i just can’t help knowing i had a choice, i made a choice and now i can’t help wondering.

    Ellie – oh my goodness. Am thinking of you. Hugs.

  10. Lindy says

    Dear Merry, how I wish I knew you personally… In March 2009 I had a beautiful baby daughter, Evie, who was stillborn…. My heart broke and my life stopped and I knew I would never recover…. I have 3 other young children all under 7 who needed me so of course I had to carry on, in effect they saved me.
    Now, I know I was right, I will never get over losing Evie and each time I steal a few moments to visit the church where she lays my heart breaks all over again… However, I think I have perhaps learnt to live with what has happened, I can laugh with my children, I dont feel so sick when I hear a new baby cry and I can manage to walk past an expectant mother without having the most overwhelming desire to rush up and tell her to take care of herself and her baby… So perhaps it does get a little easier, like you I would love to have another baby but Im 46 tomorrow and think perhaps my biological clock has other ideas.
    You will never be the person again who you were before you had your beautiful son and things will never get back to normal because you will find a new normal, but you will find a place where it hurts a little less…
    I will think of you in my prayers tonight xxxxxx

  11. says

    You did NOT wish him out of existance, you just knew.
    I remember you saying before the birth how you hadn’t got anything ready and I thought… hmmm?! You mentioned how you didn’t feel like you were going to be having a baby, or brining a baby home, or something like that. and I though – hmmm.
    not because i had any experience of that, but because I HADN’T and I just thought….hmm. that’s doesn’t sound good.
    So it think you just knew, and did all the prerparations – as you detail here – acordingly.
    (((HUGS)) you were – and are- a wonderful mother to Freddie, the best, and just what he needed.

  12. says

    A mothers intuition is incredible. I too had a strange feeling, I never could imagine Bella as a live baby, I just couldnt picture it. I read about Florence too and I remember thinking my god that could happen to me…how would I even begin to handle that? Its amazing to me that we somehow just know there is something not quite right when all the medical tests say everything is just fine. Expecting it does not make the loss any easier or the grief any less raw to bear though.
    *thinking of you*

  13. Catherine W says

    I just don’t know. If I could have willed both my girls to live with my own certainty that they would, well . . .I still wouldn’t know what a blog was and I wouldn’t be here. I don’t think you wished Freddie out of existence, just like I couldn’t wish my G to exist. No matter how strong my faith that everything would be alright was.

    I am also prone to anxiety but, at my core, I thought everything would be fine. Despite it being a high risk pregnancy because it was twins. I was terribly shocked when it wasn’t fine. Still am.

    Perhaps, if I had been a more experienced mother, I might have know. If, like you or Jeanette or Jill or Katie, it hadn’t been my first pregnancy? Perhaps, if I had been less naive, I might have known. I’m still terribly haunted by a couple I know, both doctors, who were absolutely devastated to find out from their first scan that twins were expected. Even before anything had gone wrong, devastated. Thankfully, in their case, nothing did. And how I wish nothing had gone wrong for your poor little boy either. x

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