‘I had a horrible feeling that something was wrong but I tried to stay positive like people tell you to do. She placed the monitor on my stomach but couldn’t seem to detect a heartbeat. I now realise she had just tried to keep us calm by saying ‘where is he hiding?’. She disappeared from the room to arrange a scan’…
We were creeping closer and closer to our little man’s due date which was the 7th May 2014. We saw our midwife on the 6th May for our 40 week check and all seemed totally fine.
Baby’s heartbeat was normal, and apart from my blood pressure which was a little high things were running smoothly. Our lovely midwife said she would pop by to see me the following day just to make sure my blood pressure had dropped. I had noticed little man wasn’t moving around as much as normal, but he was still moving and I put this down to him being a little crammed in there, after all, he was full term!
That night I went to bed but woke up in the early hours at about 2am. I realised he had not moved at all. Again I reasoned with myself and put it down to lack of space and I managed to go back to sleep.
The following day I felt some slight movements but nothing compared to what I had felt before. I did all the usual things in the morning, had a shower (little man seemed to like the warmth of the shower) still nothing.
My midwife came by the house at 3pm and my blood pressure had returned to normal. I mentioned to her that I had reduced movements and she booked me in at Royal Bournemouth Hospital an hour later to be placed on a monitor to check baby’s heartbeat. We were greeted by our midwife who took us to the maternity ward and we waited for her to pop us on the monitor.
I had a horrible feeling that something was wrong but I tried to stay positive like people tell you to do. She placed the monitor on my stomach but couldn’t seem to detect a heartbeat. I now realise she had just tried to keep us calm by saying ‘where is he hiding?’. She disappeared from the room to arrange a scan.
We had to wait for a few minutes for the machine to be switched on. I lay on the bed and hoped to see his little heart flicker on the monitor. I could see my partner, Duncan, had full view of the monitor and the nurse didn’t say anything.
Then she told us the words no one wants to hear – that our baby didn’t have a heartbeat. Obviously our whole world caved in at this stage and we were left alone for a few minutes to let those words sink in.
The hours after that have become a bit of a blur. All I knew was that I now had to give birth to our little boy. We went to St. Mary’s Maternity Hospital, Poole and we were taken to the SPRING suite (a room away from the maternity ward with a private bed/living room area). I was given a tablet to stop the hormones from reaching the placenta and hopefully start labour. If this didn’t work I would have to return a few days later to have a tablet every three hours until labour started. So we went home.
In a way I’m pleased we went home, and little man came with us, still in my tummy. It was horrible not having the usual kicks and movements that I had felt just a few days prior. The day went on and still no signs of labour.
The next day arrived, the 9th of May which was my birthday, and slowly I started to get contractions. I almost didn’t want them to come as even though he was gone he was safe inside my stomach and he was still with me. I stayed at home for as long as I could and then decided to go back to hospital later that evening at 10pm. With Duncan and my mum by my side I knew I could do it. I owed it to our baby to give birth to him; after all I would have done the same thing had he been ok.
Again the next hours were a blur; all I know is that our perfect baby boy arrived quietly at 6.31am. I know I’m biased but he was totally perfect in every way.
We stayed in the SPRING suite for a few days, able to spend some precious time with our son. We named him River Kaya Skinner. We were able to hold him, he was dressed lovingly in a white baby grow and a beautiful green cardigan that my nanny had made. He was wrapped in a grey blanket made by my mum, River’s nanny. Although we didn’t want to let him go the time came when we had to say goodbye to our baby. He should have been coming home with us; instead we had to leave him behind.
The next few weeks we kept busy making the funeral arrangements for our little man. We decided to have him buried in Jumpers Road cemetery in Christchurch with all the other children and babies. A lot of my family are buried there too so I knew he wouldn’t be alone. We wanted to make his funeral as personal as possible, so Duncan and I took him to his final resting place in our pale blue VW Campervan, as we would have driven all over the place with our little man. All his flowers were beautiful and bright. Sunflowers were our main flower. He also had a beautiful wicker casket.
On the day of his funeral he was brought to us and we took him for a little drive around Mudeford Quay and through Christchurch. Looking back on it now it meant to the world to me having him with us in our van on that day. We were totally overwhelmed with how many people were there waiting for us at the cemetery. Duncan carried our baby into the chapel for the service, I don’t know how he managed to stay strong enough to do this, but he did. As we walked in our song for River was played, fittingly it was called ‘River’ by Joni Mitchell. We also had other songs played for him. ‘Go on Through’ by Afro Celt Sound System and ‘Morning Yearning’ by Ben Harper. It was a wonderful service.
We all made our way to the place where he would be laid to rest. A tiny little hole in the ground was waiting for him. I saved all the petals from the flowers that people had bought for us and dried them to sprinkle on his casket. All those beautiful flowers were all bought out of love for us, and River. The petals covered his tiny casket with vibrant colour. He was the most vibrant colour in our lives and still is.
We invited our friends and family to return to my mum’s house for the wake. It’s wrong to say wake really as I wanted it to be how we would have celebrated his first birthday, a little tea party with cake and sandwiches. It was just how I wanted it to be but the only thing that was missing was River. It was cruel to think of him all alone in the cemetery.
Now it’s just a case of waiting for the results of River’s post-mortem. Obviously the usual thoughts go through your head – Was it something we did? Did I not eat the correct things? etc. But what I have to think to myself is that he just wasn’t ready for this world and hopefully he will come back to us in some form in the future.
Duncan has now returned to work and I am still on my maternity leave. I say I am lucky to have this time off, but there is nothing lucky about it really. Maternity leave means being filled with joy, being able to spend time with your baby. I’m not doing that, I’m grieving for my baby instead of holding him in my arms.
Our little River will always be in our hearts – our beautiful baby boy with the perfect little nose.
Thanks to SPRING we were able to spend time together in the suite for as long as we wanted. It wasn’t until sometime later I realised that SPRING is a local charity based in Poole and that sadly, many women across the country in the same situation as us have to give birth to their babies in the normal maternity wards and that their partners have to leave them alone at night! Even though our story is devastating SPRING made an unbearable situation a little more bearable for us and we will never ever forget the precious moments we had with River.
We are trying to stay strong, he meant too much for us to just fall apart even though we feel like it at the moment. We are so proud of River and the effects he has had on so many people’s lives. It’s easy to forget about other people when you are suffering such saddening grief, but he was someone’s grandson, nephew, cousin, second cousin. It’s that rippling effect like a stone being dropped into a pond; it directly starts with you then ripples out to family, friends and even strangers. Duncan has been amazing throughout this whole process, he was so ready to become a dad and I do feel for him. We are so lucky, as women, to be able to feel life within us before our babies enter this world and quite often for the dads it seems to only sink in when that little baby is born. He only really met River when he was first born and that is all he was allowed to have and for Duncan that was saying hello and goodbye all in one day.
My immediate family have also been wonderful, especially my mum. Becoming a mum has made me realise just how strong that bond is with your children and I’ve seen my mum in a whole new light. She would give anything to make me feel better even just for a moment. And she has done just that. More than she knows.
Small things seem to ease the pain at the moment, for example my mum made us a grey blanket, exactly the same as little Rivers blanket so we can cuddle up together and remember him. A lot of our friends and family have also been to visit River and left him little things like china hedgehogs, windmills and flowers.
He may be gone from this world but he will never ever be forgotten.