To write about my son William is extremely hard and emotional for me. Today is his 5th birthday and the 5th anniversary of his death.
I want to warn readers that some people might find my story very distressing. It is just such a sad story, there is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. Just raw emotion and heart break. I want to write this though and put myself out there because the incidence of miscarriages, late term miscarriages, still birth & neonatal death is so prevalent but not spoken about and if you are one of the unlucky ones, it’s a very lonely and daunting experience.
The statistics tell us that one in four of us will suffer one of the above in our child bearing years, that’s a huge statistic!
I’m very nervous about writing about this because it is something I am still so sensitive about and I feel very vulnerable and unable to deal with any criticism about anything to do with the situation.
Please read what I have to say with kindness in your heart.
My Pregnancy Started Out Normal
My pregnancy with William was not a planned pregnancy, it was a spontaneous pregnancy and we couldn’t have been happier.
Due to my previous problems with fertility we were very surprised to have fallen so easily and so unexpectedly so we just saw it is as the blessing that it was and were over the moon.
Everything was going well, our twins were 3 years old so that was a good gap, I was working full time and besides being tired (and maybe a little bit lazy) I was in great health, not a day of morning sickness. We tripped into our 12-week scan feeling confident and were told we were having a girl and our Down Syndrome Risk was very low and we were overjoyed. We had reached that elusive 12-week mark where you just assume that everything will now be perfect, and you can start shouting it from the rooftops. The thought of anything going wrong past this point in the pregnancy didn’t even occur to me. So, we did the obligatory announcement on Facebook with the ultrasound picture telling everyone we were expecting a precious bundle of joy in January.
How exciting!! A couple of weeks later we went away to Queensland with the kids and my mum for a holiday.
A couple of days into the holiday I started spotting and without bogging you down with too many details, we were advised by our Doctor in Melbourne to visit a GP clinic and obtain a referral for an ultrasound, which is what we did. The radiographer did a full ultrasound and confirmed that everything looked fine, my cervix was closed and everything else was all okay. It was such a relief!
Just as we were finishing up I asked her if she could confirm we were having a girl and she looked at me with a big grin on her face, a girl she asked me, are you sure??…….
She had another look and said that it looked like a boy to her, she even had another colleague come in for a second opinion and they too confirmed that the baby was a boy. We didn’t care either way, we were just so relieved to know that the baby was okay, and we were amused that our daughter was now our son. We were even more amused that we had spent a fortune on girl’s clothes at Cotton On the night before. A trip back to Cotton On was on the cards to change all our clothes over!. The rest of our holiday was non-eventful, and we returned home and returned to normal life.
Then The Blood Came
One night when I was getting into the shower I felt pressure in my lower abdomen and proceeded to lose an awful amount of blood.
I didn’t know what was happening and called in DH and I thought he was going to faint. We took a photo of it (I know, ew!!) and rang our Doctor. He didn’t seem at all concerned. Just said to keep and eye on it and go to emergency if it got any worse. Are you kidding me??, my bathroom looked like a blood bath, you cant tell me that doesn’t indicate that something was not right.
He organized to see us the next day and examined me and said the blood was coming from within my uterus but didn’t offer much more advice. I continued bleeding and was needing to wear sanitary napkins, the amount of blood I was losing was consistent with having a heavy period. I knew it was normal to lose small amounts of blood during pregnancy for a whole host of reasons, but this wasn’t anywhere near normal. My doctor didn’t seem too concerned but my instinct was telling me this wasn’t right.
By this stage of the pregnancy I was 17 or 18 weeks along, I couldn’t sustain this amount of blood loss for another 20 weeks.
I didn’t have any faith in my obstetrician (who we were paying a lot of money to) so I went to the GP who sent me for an ultrasound, I found out from my GP that I had a sub-chorionic haematoma which is a blood clot that forms between the uterine wall and the placenta.
The blood being lost was my own, it wasn’t the babies blood so that was a relief. It was also a relief to find out that these blood clots are relatively common and are usually passed by week 20 of the pregnancy. This only applied though if they were below a certain size which apparently mine was. So, I walked away thinking I should be happy to hear this but knowing something just wasn’t right. I was losing too much blood daily.
A week later I visited the GP again and told him how heavy the bleeding had become, and he sent me off for an urgent ultrasound. The sonographer did an internal and as well as external this time and advised me to go back to my Doctor that afternoon for the results.
I rang my Private Ob and informed him of the latest update and again, he didn’t seem too concerned. That night I was lying in bed and started to feel cramps in my uterus, like early period pains. It took me awhile to realize they were coming every 2 minutes. Holy shit I’m losing this baby I thought. I had only ever had a C-section and never gone into labour before (not that it is recognized as labour before 24 weeks gestation) and didn’t know what to do. I messaged my best friend who has had a couple of babies naturally and she advised me to get to the hospital. By this point I was losing blood clots and bleeding very heavily. I woke my husband up, he got himself dressed and rang my parents to let them know we were bringing the twins down. Once we got there I was in a fair amount of pain but didn’t know what to do, I had lost all confidence in my private doctor and didn’t want to go to him and have him to tell me to go home and rest, so we went to the Hospital and didn’t mention our Doctor. They were amazing. My memory of the first couple of hours there is hazy because I was in a lot of pain and I was being asked a lot of questions and being examined.
The doctors told me that my cervix was starting to dilate so it looked like I would have the baby that night. Because we were only halfway through the pregnancy, we knew there was no chance for survival. I also remember there being a lot of importance being placed on me having an ID tag around my ankle as well as my wrist, because you have ankle ID tags for surgery (in my confusion I thought they were talking about taking me to the morgue). So, after being told all this and not really understanding any of it, we were left in a room alone to await the worst possible outcome.
We lay there for hours and the cramps stopped, the bleeding didn’t but it appeared that everything was calming down. An ultrasound performed the next morning confirmed this and we were very pleased to have made it through the night. We were told that I must have passed the blood clot because they couldn’t see anything unusual on the ultrasound and the baby (who we had already named William) was fine in there. I was worried that the trauma may have caused his little heart to stop beating but he was still in there fighting strong. Phew!. The feeling of relief was immense, but I should have realized that I still wasn’t feeling well, and the doctors had decided to admit me and observe me for a couple of days. I would have to spend the rest of the pregnancy on semi strict bed rest but if that’s what it was going to take then so be it. After resting in the hospital for a couple of days, it was late afternoon and I went to go to the toilet and lost a huge blood clot. I started to panic, thinking it was the baby and started yelling and screaming for help.
I was assured that it wasn’t the baby, just a large clot. Because I had been in bed for the majority of Saturday and Sunday that was the result of gravity. In fact, my bleeding hadn’t stopped at all and I wasn’t out of the woods.
That night I didn’t sleep, it was a night filled with contractions which I realize now were very mild but at the time I thought they were painful, but I was able to breathe through them. Before going to bed I had two doctors come to the room with a portable ultrasound machine to check that William was still okay in there and he was fine. He was bouncing around seemingly unbothered, so I felt like we still had hope for the future. The doctor spoke to me about what our options were from here and suggested a medical termination as a sensible option. She explained if we did make it to stage of viability (approx 24 weeks) would we want to intubate and keep the baby alive and explained the challenges that micro prem babies faced. Without even having to discuss it with my husband, we were both adamant about continuing with this pregnancy, it wasn’t a question for us. On every ultrasound William was healthy, it was just the placenta that was giving us troubles and it hadn’t affected him in anyway, he was growing and measuring to dates, so we wanted to go ahead.
After a night of contracting on and off for hours and then a relatively easy day with very minimal blood loss we had a visit from another team of doctors who thought we would be okay, I would be okay to go home and stay on bed rest and there was no reason why the pregnancy shouldn’t continue. I wasn’t too far away from the baby potentially being viable and I guess they couldn’t do much more for me. This team of doctors were all female and they were very upbeat and positive and we all had a good laugh together and I felt good after seeing them and was looking forward to going home the next day.
When I woke up the next morning I wasn’t feeling very well but psychologically I was feeling great.
A nurse had been in with the Doppler to check William’s heartbeat and found it easily and was happy with the reading. I was looking forward to going home and felt safe in the knowledge that William would be okay. I was chatting to my mum on the phone and telling her how positive I was feeling, and she too felt the same and then I felt a blood clot pass. I had passed so many I wasn’t too worried about it. I finished up on the phone and went to the toilet but as soon as I stood up I felt pain. It felt like period pain.
I Was in Labor too Early
I went back to bed and couldn’t get comfortable and the pain was becoming more intense, it still felt like very strong period pain. I called the nurse in and she gave me some Panadol and I asked for something stronger and couldn’t do that without an order from the Dr and they were all in surgery, so I had to wait. The pain continued to intensify, and I tried getting up all fours and was getting myself into some strange positions to try and take the pressure away. It wasn’t until I was lying on the floor of my room screaming that I realized the gravity of the situation. I called the nurse in again and she was very nervous because she couldn’t do anything drug wise. I was losing my baby, but I didn’t realize yet. She left me alone again in the room and I got back into bed and by now the pain was so intense that I couldn’t speak. My phone started to ring, and I could see it was my husband. I couldn’t answer because I couldn’t speak, and I didn’t want to scare him even though I don’t think I even knew what was happening at that time. The pain continued to intensify to levels I didn’t think possible and DH says the first thing he heard when he walked into the ward was me screaming in my room. Once he arrived everyone seemed to get their shit together and people came rushing in to help me, but nothing could be done.
During one very strong contraction I felt my waters break and I knew William was coming and there was nothing we could do to stop it. I also knew he had no chance of survival but at the time my brain was mush. I wanted to stop the urge to push but I was powerless to fight it. I was in so much fucking pain I would have sold my soul to the devil for some pain relief. One of the nurses helped me to undress and told me the baby was coming. The contractions were so intensely painful and were coming so close together until it just felt like one huge contraction. Suddenly, the room was full of people and I was screaming my head off from the burning pain of passing him through the birth canal. Once he was born, I felt such physical relief from the horrendous pain, but I think it took my brain awhile to catch up to what had just taken place. It was almost like having an outer body experience where I was standing in the corner of the room watching myself.
One of the nurses announces in a very jovial voice ‘It’s a Boy!!’ Are you kidding me, in a situation like this you might say ‘you’ve had a boy love’ or ‘would you like to know the sex’, not announce it like its something to be celebrated. I rolled over and turned my back on everyone, Matthew was holding William who had been wrapped in a towel, but I couldn’t look at anyone. I was on auto pilot and I just wanted everyone to leave me alone. I felt so sick, distraught, vulnerable and like I had been hit by a truck, I didn’t want an audience for that. The nurse offered me a hold of the baby, but I just shook my head. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I don’t think my heart could have taken anymore hurt at this point. The room was filling with Doctors because the placenta was stuck, and they were all taking in turns on pushing very fucking hard on my uterus to try and push it out but were unsuccessful, so I had to be taken to surgery to have it removed.
My poor husband, my poor poor husband. He had just watched his wife in the most horrifyingly amount of pain push out his baby who was born alive and lived for the shortest amounts of time and then he watched him die. I can’t even imagine. My heart had already broken into a million little pieces, there wasn’t a spare inch for anything else. I wasn’t even scared about going to surgery, I welcomed being put to sleep and being taken away from this nightmare. I just wanted to get the hell out of that room and escape the horrible situation. I don’t think I took it all in properly. I felt like I was a spectator in the corner of the room watching what was happening.
Whilst I was whisked off to surgery, my husband contacted my parents who arrived at the hospital shortly after.
They were able to spend some time with William together. The pastoral care worker at the hospital is one of god’s angels, I’m sure of it, and she made this possible. She also took photos of him for us and did foot and hand prints. When I arrived back from surgery I think I was still in la la land and couldn’t quite get my head around what had taken place in this very room only hours ago.
I wanted to get out of there and go home but had to stay overnight for observation. I found it impossible to sleep and after my husband left, I spoke to my best friend on the phone for a couple of hours and I cried my eyes out telling her of the days events. Once we got off the phone, I wanted to go and meet my son.
The nurse offered to bring him to my room, but I didn’t want him to come back to that room where all the horror had taken place. William died in that room and as far as I was concerned it was tainted after the horror that had taken place, I didn’t want my baby to have to come back there again. The nurse took me to a private sitting room and bought him in wrapped in the most beautiful quilt. He was beautiful, so very small but so very beautiful and I just held him against my chest crying and kissing his forehead feeling so sad for him and for our family who wouldn’t get to take this little treasure home with us.
My husband and I were able to spend the most beautiful time with William the next day, the pastoral care worker wrote a little blessing service for him and made him his own candle and we spent some time in the chapel with him. I can’t explain the absolute utter heartbreak at having to hand him over for the last time, I would have given my both of my arms and legs to have had this work out differently and to be taking home a breathing healthy baby, but it wasn’t to be.
Coming home no longer pregnant but without a baby was horrible.
I’m so glad we hadn’t set his room up yet. We had purchased quite a lot of stuff for his nursery and were going to have a robot theme but thankfully my dad was able to return those items to the shop they were purchased from.
We explained to our 3-year-old twins that their little brother was in heaven, up in the sky and was the brightest star in the sky at night. They were too young to understand but enjoyed looking for their brother in the sky each night.
A week later we held the most heart breakingly beautiful funeral service and William was buried with my husband’s mother, his grandmother. That gave both Matthew and I both a sense of peace knowing he was buried with his grandmother and wasn’t alone.
This was going to take a long time for us to process and get our heads around.
I had some grief counselling and was diagnosed with PTSD. I continued my counselling for the majority of the first year after losing William and I’m sure I went through all the stages of grieving. There was disbelief, shock, sadness, depression and some anger too.
My husband was my rock at this time and was such a good support to all of us, I hope he can say the same about me.
We Were Blessed
Nine months later we were very blessed to fall pregnant again, with another set of twins!
We were overjoyed but still felt immense sadness for William. He will always be a part of our family, our older two kids know about him and talk about him and have asked a lot of questions etc, our twin girls are a bit too young yet to understand but as soon as they are old enough we will tell them all about their big brother William Daniel (who was named after my beloved older brother).
Thank you for reading my story. Even though it breaks my heart each time I open this file, I want to help other women & families who have unfortunately suffered a similar fate.
In Australia you can contact a charity named SANDS who have trained counsellors to speak to you on the phone & they have other resources available.
They can be contacted in Victoria on 03 8652 5020
firstname.lastname@example.org & www.sandsvic.ofg.au
You may also be able to use funds from your superannuation to help with funeral costs. The Pastoral Care & Social Worker at the hospital should be able to advise you according to your circumstances.