Mum to Florence Violet
July 22nd, 2009
Florence was a wonderful surprise baby. We had four children, and didn't plan on having any more, though it was no secret I wanted at least one more! Finding out we were pregnant, was a surprise, I'm still not quite sure how it happened! I felt so lucky to be pregnant again, and enjoyed every moment of my pregnancy...ok maybe not the morning sickness!
Tuesday 21st July 2009, three days after my “official due date”, I woke in the early hours to strong contractions and period type pains. The contractions were only coming about every ten minutes, and I was managing to rest, even doze between them. I knew there was a way to go yet. Woody had already booked the rest of that week off work as I was struggling with the school runs. I was very glad he had.
Things slowed down a little once all the children were up, and I managed to get the middle two off to school without arousing any suspicion. I just had to keep my excitement from India, who had already finished school for the summer, and from Sid.
We spent the day quietly pottering about the house, and went for a gentle walk to a local park. We fed the ducks and simply enjoyed some quiet time. By tea time the pains were stronger. Woody prepared a delicious chilli and flat-breads, and my best friend, Heather joined us for dinner.
We were all quite jolly. Woody and I were amused that Heather had shown up not knowing I was in the early stages of labour. Once she realised, she looked rather nervous, and I tried to hide when the contractions came.
Later that evening once all the children were tucked up in bed, my contractions got a lot stronger, and I decided to try out the tens machine I'd borrowed from a lovely friend, Maxine. I was trying to watch TV while bouncing on my birth ball or standing using the bedside crib to lean on and rotating my hips.
I also spent a lot of time on the loo, I think Florence was pressing on my bladder, I seemed to constantly need to wee. That position though would then trigger more contractions, as would Florence's constant wriggling! She'd been enormously active all through the pregnancy, and during labour was no different. She'd kick and wriggle so violently sometimes I'd shout out “you little bugger!”. She was going to be just like her big sister, Eden. I was sure of it.
By about 1am, the contractions were coming about every four minutes and were lasting about a minute and a half. Woody and I decided to go downstairs to the lounge where I planned to give birth, and where Angus and Sid were both born.
I decided to give the hospital a call and warn them I might need a midwife sometime soon. Mary, my wonderful midwife was already in with a birthing woman, so I said I'd call back when I thought things were more urgent in the hope she'd be free by then.
Meanwhile Woody had woken India to go and sleep in with Sid in our bed. Eden and Angus also woke briefly, but I told them the baby was coming and they should go back to sleep.
Woody and I settled down in the lounge. Woody in the arm chair with a blanket, and me sat on my birthing ball, leaning over the back of a dining chair. By now the pains were very intense, and I was struggling to get in a comfortable position. I felt overwhelmed and began to cry, telling Woody I couldn't do this...classic transition maybe?
Woody gave me some rescue remedy and a homoeopathic remedy from my birth kit. I stopped crying and gave myself a severe talking to. I was now standing and leaning over the back of the dining chair. Woody had started to doze in the arm chair,but I couldn't wake him as now the contractions were one on top of the other, and very intense. I was half keeping an eye on the time and decided if these contractions kept coming like this until 4am, that would be when I'd wake Woody and ring for Mary.
I kept telling myself “you can do this”.
Just before 4am my mucous plug came away, and I woke Woody to check...I couldn't move, I was rooted to the spot and clinging on to my chair. We then phoned the delivery suite, but I couldn't speak, and before I'd even passed the phone to Woody, the midwife was already sending Mary out to me.
Mary arrived very quickly.(I live very close to the hospital.) I was so pleased to see her. A week earlier she had hurt her leg and I didn't think she'd make it to my birth, I was so glad she did. Mary wanted to examine me, I was really nervous, but she was gentle and caring. She said I was 5cm's dilated with waters bulging. Florence was in a great position and her heartbeat was strong.
As I stood up from the sofa, there was a whoosh of amniotic fluid! Mary again listened to Florence's heartbeat, still good and strong.
I was managing with the Tens machine, but Mary thought I might like some Entonox, so popped out to her car to get a mouthpiece for the canister. Almost immediately I could feel Florence's head crowning. I said to Woody “Here comes the head”, but he didn't believe me! (I have since told him that when a woman says a head is coming, she's not kidding!).
There was another huge gush of waters, and I could feel Florence coming with them. I didn't push, just breathed deeply. I told Woody to go and get Mary, then said “No stay, catch the baby”. Woody was holding out his hands to catch Florence, (she had one hand up near her face) as Mary came back in. Mary said the cord was tight around Florence's neck and she may have to cut it, but Florence had other ideas and was born in a flash into both Woody and Mary's hands . (little did we know, that had she cut the cord then, we might not have got the time with her we did.)
Mary passed Florence up to me, I held her warm slippy body in my arms. Woody said “It's a girl”. I knew it! I held her close and scolded myself for any doubts I'd had while pregnant that she might never make it earth side.
Woody and Mary helped me to the sofa. There had been no time to put down all the towels I'd been saving, so Mary hastily put down stepping stones of inco pads for me.
I sat on the sofa with my beautiful baby girl against my breast. She looked just like Eden. I knew her already, just like the other children.
It was 4.54am.
While we waited for the placenta, I held Florence skin to skin. I offered her the breast but she wasn't ready to feed yet. She had been born very fast and was a little mucousy. I wasn't concerned about her not wanting to feed straight away. All of my babies had waited a good hour before wanting their first feed. I was happy to feel her body against mine, and study her little hands and face.
She passed meconium all over us both, and I started to feel a little uncomfortable after about thirty minutes or so. This was when we decided to cut the cord that had stopped pulsating, and I asked for syntometrine to help the placenta come away.
Mary then suggested I go for a quick shower to rinse off the meconium, and Woody took Florence. He washed her gently with warm water and a soft cloth before having a cuddle with her while I showered.
I was so excited in the shower, I think it was the quickest shower of my life, I just wanted to get back downstairs to my new baby, to give her that first breastfeed and to settle down for the new day with my family around me.
The children had all gone down to say hello to Florence while I was in the shower.
When I got downstairs, Mary said Florence was a little cold and “dusky” and she wanted to put her back skin to skin with me. I immediately tucked her under my pyjama top.
Mary took her temperature, and it was only 34 degrees, she was by now whimpering a little. Mary called an ambulance and I held an oxygen mask over Florence's face. Initially I think we all thought it was the fast birth and the mucous on her chest causing the problem, but I remember my hands shaking as I tried to put a nappy on her, and knowing in my heart that things were very wrong.
India found me some shoes and a fleece to throw on over my pyjamas as the ambulance arrived.
Mary held Florence into the ambulance, and I was helped in by the paramedic, and strapped into my seat. The sirens and lights were switched on. I couldn't believe this was happening, I was overwhelmed with dread.
We arrived at the A&E department just minutes later. I climbed out of the ambulance first, but Florence was already on the table by the time I got there.
It was 6.05am
This is where details get very blurry. I have flashes of the next five hours , but exact time lines are lost to me.
I remember a wonderful nurse, Jo enveloping me in her arms and holding me so tightly. I think we both thought that holding on like that might make it all ok. (I've since learned that Jo sadly lost her father just a week later and he is buried close by Florence.)
I remember Woody arriving soon after us. He had waited at home for his step Mum to come and look after the children, then raced to the hospital to be with us.
I remember Florence's tiny body on that table, wires and tubes from every limb, from her nose, her mouth and her umbilical.
I remember stroking her tiny hand and her soft cheek as the doctors and nurses worked on her.
I remember knowing she was leaving us.
I wanted it all to stop. I wanted to hold my baby in my arms.
Finally, after five hours Florence decided she was leaving us. Woody had taken me outside for some air. He was holding me up, and I thought I was going to wake up any minute. That is when the doctor came to fetch us. She told us Florence was making the choice to leave us.
Woody held me up as we walked towards the table. Another doctor was still trying to resuscitate her. The first doctor told him to stop and to give us our baby. Woody and I were both sobbing and holding our beautiful girl as a nurse hastily cut all the tubes and wires.
We sat together, huddled, crying, me unwrapping my baby to get a good look at her. I wanted to study her as I would've at home during that first feed.
Time stood still in our little bubble as the nurses cleaned up around us.
She was gone.
She never had that first feed, she never opened her eyes.
It was 10.55am
After a while we were moved to a relatives room, and a midwife was left with us. We were worried sick about our older children, and I made that awful phone call home to Grandma to let her know our baby girl had left us.
We were moved again a while later to the bereavement suite in the maternity department.
I was wheeled through the hospital holding my baby and trying desperately to hide in her blanket the tubes and wires still left in her body.
Woody walked behind carrying my bags.
It's a long way from A&E to the maternity department, but our lovely bereavement midwife, Annie went as fast as she possibly could.
The bereavement suite is a quiet comfortable space in a distant corridor away from the bustle of the maternity wards.
Annie helped me to weigh Florence, 9lbs 3.5 ozs.
We were left alone in that room for a while. Woody made a cup of tea. Annie had left us sandwiches, but we were not hungry.
We undressed Florence, and I washed her carefully before dressing her, and hiding all the wires I could in her nightgown.
I kept asking for the wires and tubes to be removed, and being told it was impossible until the coroner arrived and gave permission. Woody stopped me several times from ripping them out myself.
We held Florence in our arms, I walked with her and rocked her and we cried.
Eventually the coroner, Rita arrived and gave permission for the tubes and wires to be removed. Finally we could see our sweet baby's face.
She was so beautiful,and I swear I could see her smiling.
We had to then endure the SUDIC (Sudden Unexplained Death In Childhood) team, their questions, their intrusion into our grief and even into our home, as Woody went home with two detectives and a specialist paediatrician so they could see where Florence was born. (Granddad and Grandma had by now taken the children to their house, they still didn't know what had happened.)
Finally the time came to leave Florence. We had to get back to our older children, but to do that we had to abandon our precious girl.
Annie's colleague suggested she hold Florence in her arms on the sofa, so we could leave her that way instead of having her taken out of the room.
We kissed our baby girl goodbye and forced ourselves out of that room, down the corridor, into the lift, down another corridor, forcing one foot in front of the other. Holding a memory box in my arms instead of a baby, my dress spattered with blood.
When I got into the car, there was the baby seat.
We arrived home to an empty house, but the children arrived soon after. We sat on the sofa, we all cried.
The children wanted to see Florence, so later that evening we went back to the hospital. The children all got to hold and kiss their baby sister, and we took photos.
The girls both took her gifts to keep with her. India gave her a little pink bunny, and Eden gave her a cushion she had made and embroidered for her.
That night the older three children cried like I never want to hear them do again. They all slept together in the same room for several days afterwards.
The last time we saw Florence was two days before her burial. She was lying on the quilt I'd made for her while pregnant, wearing the gown I'd made for her in the days after she was born, and the bonnet I'd knitted for her on holiday.
She looked like a little sleeping pixie, delicate and beautiful.
Florence was buried on 7th August 2009. The sun was shining, we watched the balloons float off into the clouds and we wept.
We are all broken hearted at the loss of our Florence Violet. She was a part of our family from the very moment she was conceived. We miss her so very much and will love her forever.
She will always be our fifth child.
Jeanette blogs at www.lazyseamstress.blogspot.com
You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org