On the 21st of April 2014 our world as we knew it stopped turning. I was 36 weeks and 4 days pregnant with our first child who was conceived via IVF. When I woke up on that Monday I felt a small gush of fluid and figured that my waters had broken. At the time I wasn’t too concerned, plus I had always had the feeling that I would go into labour early. I had almost made it to forty weeks and I knew that my baby’s chance of survival was over 99% if she was to be born now.
We made our way to the hospital after speaking with the nurses and confirming that they believed that I was in early labour. By the time we got to the hospital I was getting cramping but nothing too severe. I also hadn’t felt bub move during the day but that was fairly normal. She liked to dance all night and had been dancing the night before keeping me up until about 3am. When the nurses put the scanner on my stomach to listen for a heart beat and they couldn’t find one I started to get stressed. They tried different machines all trying to pick up her heartbeat, none of them were picking anything up.
The OB then turned up and bought in the ultrasound machine. He placed the transducer on my belly and I knew instantly there was something wrong. Every other scan that I had throughout my pregnancy had shown her heart beat straight away. I could see nothing was moving. He then turned to us and told us the words no expectant parents want to hear ‘I’m very sorry but your baby has passed away’. They then took me into the delivery room and proceeded to induce me. Things were already under way but they wanted to speed things along.
After inducing me they took my husband and I through to another room. The gave us both sleeping tablets and told us to try and get some rest. That night was not overly restful for me as the contractions were getting stronger and stronger but I didn’t want to wake my husband up as he deserved the bliss of being asleep and away from the horrible situation we had found ourselves in, if only for a few hours.
At 3.58am on the 22nd of April 2014 I gave birth to the most perfect, beautiful little girl, Grace who was 5 pound 11 ounces and had the biggest hands and feet I have ever seen on a newborn baby.
As soon as she was born the doctor could see the cause of her death, there was a massive knot in the cord which cannot be picked up on ultrasound. This has since been confirmed by post-mortem examination of the placenta and umbilical cord. The chances of a true knot forming are just so unlikely that I think we were all in shock.
The nurses helped me to get up and have a shower and then we went back to our room with our daughter. We spent the day holding Grace and talking to her. Our midwife was absolutely fantastic. We arranged to have hand and foot moulds done and for Heartfelt to come and take pictures of us with our little girl. The hospital was happy for us to stay with her as long as we liked and it was up to us when the funeral home would come and collect her.
Once the funeral home had come to collect her I remember thinking this isn’t how things should be with your first child. The first outfit that I buy her shouldn’t be the one she is buried in, the first time I held her she shouldn’t be cold. The thousands of thoughts in my head just kept spinning around and around… they still do now but I have better control of them.
We drove up to Townsville where Grace’s funeral was to be held. The funeral home and our funeral director were fantastic. While we were there the funeral director asked if we would like to dress Grace. I was terrified at the thought of seeing her again. I knew she would be cold and I was worried that that would haunt my memories, however we decided that we did want to dress her. I knew that this was the only time I was going to get to dress my baby girl as the nurses had dressed her in the hospital.
When we turned up to dress her my heart started racing and I felt like I couldn’t do it. I took a deep breath and walked into the viewing room. My little girl was there waiting for me. I am so happy that I got to dress her and that I have that memory with her. I spent hours at the funeral home just holding her, talking to her and staring at her beautiful face and the strange thing was while I was with her I felt nothing but a profound sense of calm and peace and love. She was still my little girl and she was beautiful.
The day before the funeral we went up to see her again (by that stage I couldn’t get enough of spending time with her). The funeral director asked us if we would like to place her in her coffin. We wanted to do as much for her as we could so we said yes. On the day of the funeral after our parents and brothers and sisters had been to see Grace we spent a little more time with her. We sang her ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ and read her a book sent to us by a dear friend of mine ‘Guess How Much I Love You’. I used to read this to her when she was in my belly. We then placed her in her coffin, and read her the story again and kissed her goodbye. While it was upsetting to do this we felt like we were putting her to bed for the final time and who better to do that then us, her parents. We then followed the hearse to the crematorium where my husband carried her into the Chapel.
I suppose the reason that I am telling this story is I want people to know how helpful it is to spend time with your child when they have passed. When the funeral director asked if we wanted to dress her she was surprised when we said yes. Apparently most parents don’t do that. The comfort that both my husband and I take from the time we spent with Grace is immeasurable. We did everything that we could with our baby girl and for that we will be forever grateful.
I think too that parents of angel babies need to be aware that it is their choice what they want to do with their child. We were lucky, our funeral director and the hospital that we were at were both very understanding and were happy for us to do as much or as little as we wanted whereas other places can tend to brush over it and just take your child away. I want other parents to know that you do have a choice.
Grace will always be my first born daughter. I love her with all of my heart and I know that one day we will be re-united. Until that day, she is watching over us, and her younger brothers and sisters will know all about their big sister Grace.
Written by Ruth Poletto, Grace’s Mum.