At 27 weeks my partner Milan and I had everything we needed for our baby girl. Her wardrobe was full, her cot was built and now it was time to relax and enjoy the rest of my pregnancy. That week during my aqua-natal class I rubbed my bump and smiled, it suddenly felt so real. I would never be lonely again. My best friend was just waiting to meet me and I couldn’t be happier.
Over the next few days I noticed a reduction in movements. Luckily I had an independent midwife who I called and expressed my concerns to. She came over and listened in with the doppler and I was relieved to hear that familiar drum sound, like galloping horses, it was so fast.
However, my movements continued to decrease and a few days later I had felt none at all. Again I called my midwife and she promptly arrived with the doppler in hand. But this time… nothing. I looked over at my partner, desperately looking for some reassurance, but he looked just as nervous as I did. My midwife told us we would need to go to St. Mary’s Maternity Hospital, Poole for a scan and we left straight away. The whole journey there I tried to remain positive. I clung to the hope that a scan would reveal that she was in fact alive and that we would see our little monkey kicking about like we had previously. As I lay on the bed being scanned I remember saying hopefully, ‘I think I just felt a kick’ and looked around the room at my midwife and doctors, but no one made eye contact with me.
They all knew my baby girl had passed away. I caught a glimpse of her still silhouette on the monitor as the doctor explained to me that what I was actually feeling was my baby’s body shifting weight from side to side in what little fluid was left around her. They left us alone in the room and I sobbed. I howled in fact. ‘Why? Why? Why?’ was all I could say. I was given a tablet to soften my cervix and sent home. I was to return in 24 hours to begin the induction process. My family immediately arrived from the Midlands early the next day to show their support. My bump had already softened and I felt sick. That morning whilst picking my clothes, I grabbed the biggest sweatshirt I owned despite it being a swelteringly hot summer’s day. I’d loved showing off my growing stomach before, it was something I was so proud of, but not that day. That day I felt sadly ashamed of my body, of the lifeless bundle inside me. I went to the shop to get out of the house and bought some magazines and snacks to take with me to the hospital the next day. The lady behind the counter looked at my not very well hidden bump and smiled. ‘Make the most of reading these in peace while you still can’, she laughed. I smiled back, but inside I was screaming.
The next morning I got up, showered and dressed as normal and put my make-up on. I tried to act normal and brave. I sat at the kitchen table and forced some cereal down. Every spoonful stuck in my throat, tears rolled down my face and into the bowl. I was about to face the hardest day of my life. It was a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. On the way to the hospital my partner made a detour and stopped at Mothercare. I sat in the car whilst he went in and bought the tiniest outfit he could find and a Sophie La Giraffe. To others this may seem ridiculous, but to me it touched my heart. A sentiment I will never forget.
We were lucky enough to be able to use the SPRING suite. It was comfortable, had a separate lounge area for my family to sit in and most importantly, it was away from the other mothers – the normal mothers with living, crying, breathing babies.
My midwife gave me my induction suppositories and I ate some lunch. The contractions started thick and fast and I promptly vomited up my lunch, partly due to the medication and partly due to fear. Luckily, I was given a drip which administered a small dose of morphine every five minutes. I let the morphine wash over me and felt relief. No more pain, no more fear, I even managed to laugh and joke with my mum and my sisters. But soon, the morphine started to wear off and I regained clarity. I knew it wasn’t going to be long until my baby arrived and I made it clear that I wanted privacy, quiet and calm. My family went back in to the adjoining room and I held my partner’s hand tight. My eyes didn’t leave his gaze until she was placed in my arms. ‘Can we call her Havanna?’ I asked whilst marvelling at how perfect she was. Somehow on July 12th 2013, I experienced the worst and the most beautiful day of my life, all in one.
Unfortunately my body wouldn’t birth the placenta and I was taken down to theatre and put under anaesthetic whilst the doctors removed it. I was grateful for the escape that the deep sleep provided me with. When I woke up Havanna was placed once again in my arms. She had been wrapped up and a pink knitted hat had been placed on her head. In a dreamy haze I leant forward and kissed her forehead. It was cold and so soft. I’ll always remember that touch on my lips. Both my partner and I were able to stay in the SPRING suite that night. I was so grateful that I didn’t have to be alone. The next day we were given a memory card with tiny hand and footprints in and we had to sign a form to say that we were happy for Havanna to undergo a post-mortem. We left the hospital childless parents.
The days that followed were hard. We immersed ourselves in arranging Havanna’s funeral. I cancelled my antenatal classes, and tried to go on as normal. Everyone around me appeared to be having healthy babies. Pictures of the new royal baby were everywhere I looked. I was angry. So angry! Why me? Some days I felt as though I would drive my self crazy questioning why. At night I replayed Havanna’s birth over and over until the sleeping tablets finally kicked in and I could rest, only to wake up and realise it was all still real.
Three months later we needed a change of scenery and decided to book a holiday to Japan. We wanted to be as far away from reality and normality as possible and Japan seemed like the perfect destination! The day before we left we scattered Havanna’s ashes over Hengistbury Head, Bournemouth. It was a beautiful sunset and the sea was calm. We placed pink roses next to her ashes and I prayed for another chance – a chance to be happy and to love another child. What I didn’t realise was that our chance would come a lot sooner than expected and whilst enjoying our adventures in Japan, we conceived again.
Frightened, but excited, I started the journey of pregnancy for the second time. It was bittersweet. I still grieved the baby that I’d lost but felt renewed hope for the baby that was growing inside of me. We had the same midwife again, which was hugely comforting. I was offered extra scans and tests for peace of mind. Havanna’s post-mortem results had confirmed that there was nothing wrong with me or with her and that it had just been ‘one of those things’ that nature can cruelly throw at you. At our twelve week scan we were given the due date of our second baby, July 11th, the day before Havanna’s birthday. I saw this as a good luck omen, things had to be better this time and strangely I felt calm.
On July 2nd at 6.30pm my waters broke. I called my partner, my mum and my midwife and then took a long hot shower. My contractions had already started, but I went in to my bedroom and took out Havanna’s memory chest. I sat and quietly looked through everything in there – every photo, card, poem and keepsake. For that short while, I wanted to think only about Havanna, for this was my second chance and I owed it all to her.
At 10.08pm that evening, at St. Mary’s Maternity Hospital, Poole, baby Sofia was born. The labour was intense but perfect. Everything went to plan and I stared down lovingly at our second child. She looked like her sister. And thanks to Havanna I like to think that I’m just that little more grateful for Sofia, that I hold her that little bit tighter and love her that little bit harder.