Of all the dates we’ve been counting down to, there hasn’t been a bigger day for us than Avery’s post-mortem results.
Her funeral, her ashes coming home, Christmas – they all were impending countdowns full of sleepless nights and butterflies, but none quite compare to the countdown to finding out what caused our little girl to pass away.
We waited 13 weeks for the letter to come through the door, its an agonising wait but I think in hindsight it gave us the time to accept that Avery has gone, which in turn has prepared us for the appointment. St Mary’s is one of the biggest referral hospitals for post-mortem results, so despite the wait, we were reassured in knowing that it was all being handled by the best professionals in the field.
Preparing for the post-mortem
On the build up to the post-mortem consultation, every single concern and scenario played on my mind. Was it my fault? Did she suffer? Could it have been prevented? Will it happen again? Can we have more babies? … Over the past month I’ve driven myself crazy with these questions.
Me and Steven obsessed over slightly different concerns. More than anything, he was terrified that it would be something genetic which killed Avery, something which will haunt us for the rest of our lives and prevent us ever having kids. I had more faith that this wouldn’t be the case given our healthy family histories. My sleepless nights were caused by the thought of Avery suffering and ‘was it something I did?’. It is pure maternal instinct that causes those thoughts, they’re poisonous if left alone with them for too long but I just couldn’t shake images of my baby suffering and me casually going on with my day not knowing a thing about it.
We speculated on all the things it could be, I spent hours researching causes of stillbirth. Despite nearly 50% of stillborns being caused by placenta issues, we pretty much cancelled this out given that she was just above average size meaning had been growing perfectly and getting all the nutrients she needed.
When we arrived at the Rainbow Clinic in St Mary’s, we were shaking wrecks. We met our bereavement midwife Vicky who we’ve come to know very well and sat down in the room waiting for our consultant Dr Alexander Heazell.
He started by chatting with us, making us feel comfortable and letting us know what the results would entail, I started crying the moment he said Avery’s name, I’m incredibly emotional at appointments and I think the nerves took over me too – as usual I warned him I would probably cry throughout the whole appointment and not to feel like he needs to stop, it’s just how I cope.
He started very compassionately by letting us know that nothing came back as a clear issue with mine or Avery’s health, we were both as should have been – that instant feeling of sheer relief was the first we’ve felt since our little princess passed away. After 20 minutes of talking about all the different tests, most of which came back healthy and negative, we asked him to summarise what happened and to our surprise it was a placenta malfunction which caused Avery to pass away. They think there was ‘sticky blood’ around the placenta which meant that the bloodflow to Avery became limited, so the placenta couldn’t quite give her the the oxygen she needed. After the tears and acceptance, I couldn’t help but see the ironic side that she was too demanding like her mother, and in the end the placenta just couldn’t keep up.
I can’t explain the feeling of getting answers, it’s a big relief knowing that what happened to Avery was a very unfortunate event and unlikely to happen again. But, getting answers also means we know exactly what killed our baby, and from time to time it will give me something to play out in my mind in times of sorrow, whereas before I didn’t imagine how she died as we just had questions and no facts.
Because I didn’t quite understand at first what lack of oxygen to a baby really means, My midwife could still see concern in my eyes and sat on the floor with me and told me the best thing I could have ever heard in the moment. She said that she can hand on her heart guarantee that Avery didn’t suffer, that the best way to describe what happened to her was like when an adult slips off into a coma. She peacefully drifted off – my little sleeping beauty, and my heart will genuinely be able to heal now knowing that.
** Needless to say, we certainly enjoyed a nice expensive bottle of red that night!! **
With regards to going forward and having babies, we’re good to get started and I am privileged enough to be a part of the rainbow clinic going forward, meaning we’ll have tailored treatment to avoid this ever happening again. My placenta will be closely monitored, I’ll have more scans and I’ll be given aspirin to thin my blood throughout – simple as that.
Whilst it’s frustrating that it takes my baby to die to get that level of inspection and care, I’m just relieved that we are in a position where we can say we will have children one day. There is no point obsessing over the negatives.
For anyone dreading post Mortem results for their baby, just remember that it should only be seen as a positive, you’re getting answers and a plan for the future. You can’t change the past, take it back or save the precious baby you lost, but you can find solace in knowing there was nothing you could have done and you’re certainly not alone.
One day at a time .. XO Nicole
NOTE: Since this post, we had some more test results come through which changes things slightly, take a look here