Friday, October 1, 2010

Mummy to Catharine Ellen 
Born too early on June 11th, 2005 at 17 weeks
and Isla McKenzie 
Born sleeping on September 9th, 2010 at 23.2 weeks
Geelong, Victoria, Australia

Three weeks ago last night I gave birth to my second baby girl too early for life outside the womb.
Five years previous my waters broke and I delivered our second child, Catharine Ellen.

Catharine’s Story written in 2005.

After being diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and trying for what seemed like forever, we were pregnant.  Having a six year old daughter who was conceived quite soon after meeting my partner and carrying her full term made me relaxed and think that nothing would happen.

My first 2 pregnancies to another partner ended in early miscarriages at 7 & 8 weeks.  So we all had a focus of getting past that 12 week mark and boy was it rocky.  At 6 & 11 weeks I had bleeds and went off to the emergency department thinking it was all over.  But both times we saw our baby.  I had lots of nausea but not much followed through.  I was getting bigger and proud to wear my maternity tops that I had made.

I remember spending a lot of time fishing out in our boat and thinking that this kid will be one knocked around bubba but needless to say very sea worthy.

From around 12 weeks I was having lower back pain and just put it down to me and my ailments.  Friday the 10th June I was having lower back pains and he got me a heat pack and went off to work.  That evening my daughter took a picture of me and my belly and I did a few things on the computer.  At around 8pm I went to the toilet and felt a pop and then my waters rushed from me.  I knew straight away that it must have been nearly all of the waters because of how much there was.

I screamed for Kayla to get the phone and I rang my sister who drove straight over to take me to the hospital.  I also rang my partner and told him I would ring him when I got to the hospital.  I decided to ring the birthing suite as I wasn’t sure where to go as they say you can go there after 20 weeks and I was 16 weeks 6 days.  They told me to come there.

The whole time I was finding pads and towels Kayla was telling me to calm down, it would be ok.  Oh to be that innocent again.  I didn’t want to walk into the birthing suite because I knew it would mean losing my baby for good.  I still held out hope so I told my partner to wait until we knew what was happening.  Well I went to the toilet and was bleeding, so I rang him and he came in.

By the time he got there the Obstetrician came in with portable ultrasound machine and put it on my tummy.
I couldn’t look.  This doctor then told us that baby was alive but there was only a tiny amount of fluid surrounding him/her.  So he explains all of the things that can happen and what was most likely was that I would go into labour.  I asked if the baby was going to be alive and he said ‘no’ but what he should have said is that most babies of that gestation will pass before they make it out of the birth canal.
So that night we had a fantastic midwife that went through what our baby would look like etc.
We tried to sleep but I couldn’t.  I actually pretended I was so that my partner would sleep.  In the morning after having a long contraction lasting 10 minutes, I woke him up so that he could move our car and go home and shower.
While he was gone I went to the toilet and upon wiping I felt something.  I called the midwife and she had a look and told me it babies foot.  My heart broke.
The doctor came in and rang my partner to come back in.  He did and I just cried and cried because it was the end of this little life we had made.

In the end I said to him that I am just going to have push myself because I did not feel the urge.  I did and with every push, my heart broke more and more.  We didn’t see our baby straight away but I was told by the midwife that she was alive.  She cut her little cord and wrapped and gave her to me.  She was the most perfectly amazing little human I have ever seen.  She looked like her daddy and I marvelled at her tiny finger and toe nails.  Her nostrils were still closed as were her eyes.

We actually thought she was a boy as girls at that gestation can have enlarged genitalia.  The midwife took her and wrapped her and placed her in a sleeping bag for us.
I had to have a DnC to get the placenta out which was very traumatic.
We decided that they would take our baby and have genetic testing done.  So we were given her sleeping bag and when I got back from the DnC a midwife had done her foot and hand prints for us.  I left the hospital the next day without my baby to find our car had been stolen with the box we were given to bury her in, her sleeping bag and prints.  So we had to wait for my sister to come to drive us home.  Upon getting home we discussed naming her and decided to name her Kyle Joshua after my partner’s mate that had died just before we met.

The days after were a blur apart from having to work out the exact requirements for the box she needed to be in for cremation.  In the end a funeral home lined a box that we bought.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning, our car was returned with the box in the boot of our car.   They had stolen our CD player and CD’s.  Later that day we went to pick Catharine up from the birthing suite which was so hard with pregnant women all sitting around waiting to be seen.  I was an emotional wreck.  Plus I didn’t want the ladies to hear why we were there.
I wasn’t going to look at her but did and she had changed for the worst.  My partner placed his daughter in the box and sealed the lid.  We brought her home and placed her on the table.  I remember turning around to see my father kiss his lips and put his hand on her little coffin, as if to say goodbye.  Once Kayla finished school for the day, we drove out to the crematorium and left her there.
We now have her ashes in an urn with a carrousel on it in our glass cabinet.

5 weeks after her birth we found out she was a girl after naming her Kyle Joshua.  It was like grieving for another child.  We named her after my great grandmother and my grandmother on my dad’s side.  I like to think of Catharine Ellen as my butterfly.

If there is one thing that eats away at me now, is that no one took photos of Catharine.  I have sketched her from memory but it is not 100% accurate.  We also had a plaque made for her at our local cemetery with some of her ashes buried underneath.  We have the verse “A butterfly counts not months, but moments and yet has time enough” on her plaque and she has some very special friends at the cemetery with her.

I fell pregnant again after one cycle but we found out at 9 weeks that the baby had never developed, it was a blighted ovum.  It hurt because it brought back losing Catharine again.  Group B Strep was found on Catharine and the placenta.

After losing Catharine I have taken on roles such as implementing clothing packs for babies that pass away at both maternity hospitals where I live, arranged for beautiful hand painted boxes to be lined if needed for a burial of a 20 week baby and raise money for Sids and kids Victoria.

Isla’s story

On the 1st May 2010 we found out I was pregnant.  It was a huge surprise as I was not long into my new career as a nurse and had been accepted to study nursing further at University.  I had a very rough pregnancy with having a cerclage stitched around my cervix at 17 weeks plus some health issues including a urinary tract infection.

My doctor discussed the risks with the cerclage but I guess we thought that I’d got this far it would be ok.  At 20 weeks I was happy because no matter what happened our child would be registered.  I was not working due to the complications but was still studying.  I was starting to look pregnant and even had the waddle which I recall Kayla laughing at me.  Oh and not being able to do my own shoes up.

Wednesday 8th September I started having tightening and after 2 hours I rang the hospital and they told me to come in.  My doctor gave me lots of drugs to try to stop labour plus pain killers.  He also told us that if my waters broke he would have to remove the cerclage and most likely our baby would arrive too premature for life.  His goal was to get me to 24 weeks and get me to a tertiary hospital where they are equipped for premmie babies.

But at 5.30pm my waters broke and little did we know at the time but the amniotic fluid had a bad smell indicating infection.

My doctor attempted to remove the cerclage with me just breathing gas but the pain was so bad that I asked him to stop.  So they wheeled me to theatre and I remember thinking that my baby is so close to life and my doctor isn’t going to keep her/him alive.  I requested a spinal so that I could be awake and my husband could be there to give our baby comfort in her/his last moments.

The doctor said I dilated straight after the cerclage was removed and then our baby came out feet first (I think).  My husband tells me she didn’t move when she came out so we assume she had passed away during birthing and plus she would have had the infection and not been a well little girl.

So here was our beautiful third baby girl, Isla Mckenzie, weighing 628grams and 31cms long.  She had 4cm long feet which we didn’t know whom she inherited those from.  But she was perfect, from her little nose and mouth just like her Dad and sisters.

Because we didn’t take photos of Catharine and because I had 5 years of information we had a friend who is also a midwife bring us in several clothing packs to choose from and a teddy bear.  We took loads of pictures and spent time cuddling, kissing and talking to Isla.  At first Kayla was a little afraid of looking at Isla but eventually she picked her up when we weren’t looking.  Well I was looking out of the corner of my eye.

We had amazing midwives that we so caring and compassionate.  The midwife that looked after Isla at birth came in and did her foot and hand prints for us plus the midwife we had prior to Isla’s birth came in on her day off to see us.  My doctor explained about the amniotic fluid and he was very sure the swabs taken and the histology on the placenta would show infection as the cause or pre-term labour.
I’ve arranged to see a specialist to maybe get some answers but to assess the risks if we decide to try again.
We had arranged for Isla to be picked up by the funeral director that lines our angel boxes for us at 5pm Friday and I decided I wouldn’t like to remain in the hospital without Isla.  So we went home once again without a living baby in our arms.  We had a funeral to arrange and a 11 year old to be parents to.
We have so much support from the amazing women from my support group.  They catered Isla’s service, filled out cupboards and fridge and freezer with food and also bought me a ring with both girls names engraved in it.
Isla’s service was beautiful and I have photos of her little white coffin, the balloon release and even when Kayla got up to read out the reading she found.  She is my heart that walks the earth and Catharine and Isla are parts of my heart that walk with the stars.

You can contact Erica at


mel said...

you are the most courageous woman l know.

Ez said...

Erica here, I have realised Catharine's story is in a muddle due to us thinking she was a little boy initially. Please excuse me.

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