Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mom to Hope Angel
Stillborn at 40 weeks, 5 days on August 19th, 2008
Melbourne, Australia

Entering in to the world of motherhood, I knew I would face many challenges. But none as gut-wrenching as this.

Like everyone else here I’m living the dark and unfamiliar life of a babylost mother after the stillbirth of my first child, a little girl, five days past her due date in August 2008.

My story, sadly, is not unique. There are thousands of us out there. The way my story unfolded was tragic, unforseen, unexpected and heartbreaking. This is how it happened.

My pregnancy was easy. I loved it. After nine years, we decided to start a family as we wanted our first baby before we both turned 30, if possible.

Lucky for us, conception was easy and after just two months of trying, I saw two pink lines.

It was December 2007 and we decided to tell our family on Christmas Day. It was the best Christmas we’ve ever had and we knew the best was still ahead of us.

We were due August 14. The eighth month of 2008, in the middle of the Beijing Olympics. A lucky time; or so we thought.

The pregnancy was a dream. I had mild morning sickness and the usual fatigue and cravings, but that was it. And anyway, I embraced it. I was pregnant! It was such a romantic and magical time. Everything about pregnancy just agreed with me.
I took yoga classes and did as much as I could to get my body in the best shape possible. Because I was such a low risk patient, I was put under the care of midwives.

The weeks of the pregnancy ticked down. I finished work. I was told from 36 weeks the baby was engaged and a good size. Now it was just a waiting game to see when the pains of labour would finally kick in.

And at 1am on Friday 15 August, one day past my due date, they did.

I woke from my sleep to unfamiliar feelings. Pains. Contractions. A feeling that birth was pending. These were new feelings. I could sense I was close.

Trying to stay calm and conserve my energy, I spent the day at home. I called the birth suite a few times to let them know my status, but I was told at this early stage, to stay home. But by about 5pm, my contractions were five minutes apart and this is when we’d been instructed to go to the hospital. So with our bags packed, we left our small home, left our dog and knew that we’d be soon returning as trio.

I arrived at the hospital and was shown to my room. The midwife examined me, took my blood pressure, my temperature and performed a rather uncomfortable internal examination to see how far dilated I was. To my disappointment, I wasn’t far enough along, so I was told I would have to go home and wait it out some more. I was still in a great deal of pain at this stage and I was confused as to why I had to go home. After all, I was a day past my due date and I was in labour.

But she said I’d be better off at home to let my body get in to a more advanced stage in the labour in a safe and nurturing environment. Before we left though, my huge bulging belly was strapped to the fetal heart monitor for half an hour. And my baby’s little heart was beating away nice and strong. The midwife said to me “happy baby”. If I had to go home, I was glad to be going home with a happy baby inside me.

After everything went so well for 40 weeks and one day, now things were strange. My labour stalled. I was always having contractions, but sometimes they were five minutes apart, sometimes an hour. Sometimes they lasted 30 seconds, sometimes a minute. I kept ringing the birthing suite, but they kept telling me to stay home because it was “normal”. I was always asked if my waters had broken to which I always replied “no, but I’m not sure”. I certainly hadn’t noticed a gush.

My husband, being a nurse, has a stethoscope. So over the weekend, we listened to our baby’s heartbeat. It was very reassuring as we struggled through those unknown times. We knew labour would not be what we expected, but we never expected this.

On the morning of Monday 18 August, I’d had enough. I was ready to throw my natural birth plans out the window. I wanted this baby out. I was tired, emotional and just so desperate to meet this baby. My weekly appointment was scheduled for 11.40am but I didn’t want to wait, so I rang the birth suite at 6am, this time a little more desperate. I was told to wait and go to my appointment. So we did. But half an hour before we left I said to my husband I couldn’t feel the baby move. My baby had always been so active, so I was worried. We put the stethoscope to my belly and could no longer hear the heartbeat. I was concerned, but just assumed the baby must have moved down to prepare for birth. My husband remained upbeat and positive. We got in the car to go to our appointment, but I had an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. I knew.

We arrived at the hospital, parked the car and made the trip up the elevator to the third floor, as we’d done for weeks on end. I felt strangely uneasy. I told the woman at reception I was in early labour, and could they please rush our appointment through. We often had a long wait. At our appointment and the midwife fussed around and took measurements, felt my belly and took my blood pressure. But I just really wanted her to get that Doppler. She did, but she could not find the heartbeat. She tried again, but still nothing. So she called for a more experienced midwife to come in. She had a go, too but there was only silence. I really knew now, but my husband still was clinging on to hope.

We were taken for an ultrasound with an Obstetrician. They wheeled in the machine, applied the warm gel and put the probe on my big round belly. Stillness. The obstetrician wouldn’t speak. I kept asking her what was going on. The walls were closing in around me. I was screaming. I looked over to my husband and he nearly collapsed in a pool of tears. The Obstetrician put her hand on mine and just said: “I’m so sorry”. We were then taken for another ultrasound, just to be really sure, on one of the bigger machines. Of course, it confirmed our worst fears and plunged us in to a world of darkness and debilitating, soul destroying grief.

I now wanted to know the sex, but I was told there was no fluid left so it wasn’t possible to get a good look. I was shocked – I was pretty sure my waters had not broken.

We now had to make some tough decisions. We were being asked about funeral options when just moments earlier we’d been thinking about taking our baby home. I was asked if I wanted to be induced, have a c-section or wait for things to happen naturally.

I was advised against a c-section but I really did not want to wait. However I also didn’t think I was strong enough to birth that day. So we decided to go home and “get a good night sleep” and go back the next day to live out the horror of birthing a dead baby.

Our family made their way to the hospital to be with us and sat with us all night as we prepared for our big day ahead.

I was induced at 8am on Tuesday 19 August and after an epidural, and intense and gruelling labour with almost two hours of pushing a baby who was terribly stuck, our precious daughter arrived at 4.35pm. We named her Hope Angel. Not the name we’d intended, but it now seemed entirely appropriate. She was 8 pounds, 51cm long with a head circumference of 33cm. Every bit the real baby we’d been dreaming of and waiting patiently for all those months. She had my looks but her Daddy’s chin, toes and brown wavy hair. We held her and kissed her and talked to her. Our family did as well. We tried to pour a life time of love in to the briefest of moments. My husband bathed and dressed her. We spent the night with her in the hospital in a ward away from all the other happy Mummies and babies. And the next day, after having her blessed, we let her go and came home empty handed and broken hearted.

Her funeral was six days later and attended by 200 people. She was the first baby in our family and to say she was highly anticipated and wanted would be an understatement.

Autopsy results later revealed our precious Hope died of a severe, acute bacterial infection, which got in due to my ruptured membranes. It acted swiftly and probably only took a day or so to claim her life. Those were same days I laboured at home alone without any assistance or guidance. On the Friday night when we first presented at the hospital, there is every indication she was perfectly healthy. Her heart rate would have shown otherwise. So she picked up this infection at some stage after this. I’d had a clean swab at 36 weeks so the bacteria made its way to my body very late. It must have got in to my uterus through a tiny hole in my membranes, which my fluids, her safe watery home, slowly trickled out of without my knowledge.

I didn’t think at age 28, after an incredibly healthy pregnancy and carrying to term I had to worry about a stillbirth. I thought these things happened in the “olden days”. Not in 2008. Not at big and modern hospital in the city. Not with all the medicine, monitoring and expertise.

Every woman who goes through this seems to say the same thing – that they were completely blindsided. You go to the hospital thinking you are about to give birth to a live baby, but you end up giving birth to death. It is the biggest anti climax possible and the cruellest thing for any mother to endure.

But in my daughter’s brief and beautiful life, she taught me so many lessons. And she gave me the greatest gift imaginable – she made me a mother. She also made me view my living son Angus, born just 15 months after she was, in a whole new light. I have the greatest appreciation for him imaginable. She was a true blessing and it was a pleasure to have carried her as long as I did. I’m so proud to be her mother. But I’m just so terribly sad she’s not here.

Sally blogs at
You can contact her at


Lilly's Mom (Desiree) said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Sally. How heartbreaking.

Dana said...

Thank you for sharing your story. It is absolutely heartbreaking.

I'm so glad you got your rainbow baby, but I know a piece of you will always be missing.

Jenn said...

Like the others have said, thanks for sharing your story. Many similarities to mine and it was cathartic to read. I also thought that at 28, with a healthy full term pregnancy that nothing could go wrong. Ah, how heartbreaking it is to find out how naive that is.

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