A special blog written by my incredible mum on her experience of watching her baby lose her baby
Nicole has asked me to write a guest blog from a grandmas perspective. Im a little apprehensive, as how do I put it into words what it is like to watch your daughter go through the experience of losing a baby.
But here goes………
Before I talk about losing Avery I think it is only apt to give a little background into mine and Nicole’s relationship and what she means to me. She was my first born and I was only 18 when I had her……and boy was it a struggle !!! I was a single mum by choice. I had been in a very violent relationship and at times feared for both our lives. I had no money, no job, I had nothing…. Except for Nicole. This precious little girl was my responsibility and all I knew was I wanted to be a good mum and give her the best I could. It was just the two of us for a few years and over the years we had lots of challenges. I went to university and Nicole spent quite a bit of time in nursery and with family while I studied. She never grumbled and was always such a happy well behaved child – I always felt blessed and lucky that I had a child that was so well behaved – however she did make up for it later on in life !!!
We are so very close and of all the achievements in my life….she is by far my greatest. I am so proud of the woman she continues to be. I am in total awe of her. One of my worries when she grew up was that she would follow my footsteps and have children young. She knew how I felt about it, but it was purely because I didn’t want her to struggle….ever. She did warn me when they started trying to get pregnant – and I know she probably struggled to tell me this as she will have thought I would think shes still too young, and Nicole being Nicole, she would never want to disappoint me or feel that she was letting me down – which couldn’t be further from the truth. So she forewarned me I would be a grandma in the next year or so. I was glad she told me and this is how our relationship is; I am always honest with her and she knows she can tell me anything. If she couldn’t confide in me then I would feel I had failed as a mum as I always wanted to have that special trust and bond with her. When she did get pregnant I was so happy for them and for me as I was going to be a grandma and I was really excited at the prospect – And so excited for them as they wanted it so much. Over the coming weeks I got great pleasure in watching Nicole enjoy her pregnancy and grow in size. She was even more beautiful when pregnant.
It all started at about 11.15pm on Monday 10th October 2016. Chris my husband was away with work and I had just got into bed. My phone rang – I looked at the screen and it was Nicole. Mother’s instinct but I knew that something was seriously wrong. Nicole had been so tired in the last few weeks due to the pregnancy and her job, and she was normally in bed by 8pm! Why was she ringing?? My heart sank……I answered the phone: “hey Nic….” All that was at the end of the phone was tears…..a heart wrenching sobbing. I couldn’t get any words out of her. I think I started shouting a little at her to tell me what was wrong. It hit me like a thunderbolt. “she’s dead mum” Nicole was ringing me from the carpark, she had just left the hospital; I remember feeling confused and disorientated saying “what do you mean Nic…..are you sure??” What a stupid question!! I asked Nicole if she wanted me to drive to her and be with her, but understandably she wanted to be alone with Steve. I knew from that second on that our lives would be impacted by this forever. That night was a bit of a blur and I remember pacing the house all night wailing ridiculously, trying to make sense out of what was happening. My poor dog Marley didn’t know what to do, he wouldn’t leave my side as he knew I was distressed. He licked the tears off my face all night.
So many emotions were running through my body – How, why, but most of all my biggest emotion was pain for Nicole. I knew what being a mum meant to her and I knew this was going to change my little girl forever and that broke my heart. How would she deal with this…..
I arrived at Nicole & Steven’s the next morning after no sleep at all. I tried my best to hold in the tears and try to be strong for the both of them. The last thing they need is a wailing mum to deal with. I went into mum mode and thought RIGHT…what do we need to pack to take into hospital with us. Nicole had not thought about anything, she was too distressed at the thought. I got back in my car and drove to the supermarket to buy some essentials. Toiletries, nightie etc. As I walked into tesco I swear every aisle had baby items in them – nappies, formula, clothes. It made it all seem real at that point. Reality set in half way down an aisle and I set off crying. People were starting to stare and I thought I should get out of there. There was a costa in Tesco so I sat and had a drink, still sobbing, but trying to pull it back together, I couldn’t go back like this! I was frightened of what would unfold over the next few days. An event that we would never forget and change us all in different ways. I drove back and Nic asked what I had bought. I had sanitary towels in the bag and I remember trying to hide them, she saw them, I felt guilty I had bought them as it was a stark reminder that she would soon be bleeding because she would no longer be pregnant. I felt my chest tighten with pain for her.
We arrived at the hospital and I remember the ladies at reception looking at us with pity as they knew only to well why we were there and the task Nicole and Steve had ahead. We arrived with Avery and wouldn’t be leaving with her. We were shown to the room and I just remember thinking, shit this is it. The start of a journey on a rollercoaster of emotions. None of us spoke much in the room. It was very surreal and sombre and all I remember thinking is OMG I cant believe how strong they are both being. But my fear was that really it hadn’t sunk in yet and when it does then its going to be bad….very bad. Nicole was induced and over the course of the night we all managed to grab an hours sleep here and there.
At around 5.30am on the Wednesday morning, one of the midwives came in to check on Nic and it was good news as she was dilating. I say good….I remember thinking how is this good??? In reality her body was preparing for childbirth in the normal way and in some small way it was a blessing as she wasn’t going to have to go for a c-section to deliver her. I cant remember the exact time but at approximately 8ish Nicole was moved into the room next door – the delivery room. It was as a normal delivery room would look. Nicole was now feeling the full throws of labour and was using the gas and air to cope. She was doing amazing. I was so proud of her, and at the same time still so frightened of what was about to happen and how she was going to be when Avery eventually came into the world. This is not how it was supposed to be. At this moment we should all be excited……Averys entrance into the world was imminent but it was going to be so sad. At around 10am Stef the midwife wheeled a cot into the room, but kept it hidden behind the curtain. Nicole didn’t see it but myself and Steve did. Steve asked me to push it back a little as you could just see the wheels popping out from under the curtain. I think Steve didn’t want Nicole to be scared. He was doing such an amazing job of getting her through this and it was evident to everyone in that room how much in love they were. And that broke my heart. This should be such a special moment in their lives. The birth of their first child, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. It was so unfair. I remember Steve telling Nicole how much he loved her and that he was so proud of her – I had to leave the room at that point as the tears started to flow uncontrollably. I had a pain in my chest and I just kept on thinking that this was all a dream and any moment now I was going to wake up, I didn’t. After 5 mins next door and a big cuddle off Stef the midwife I proceeded to go back to Nicole. At around 10.30am Avery came into our lives…..not in the way any of us had ever imagined. But she was here and Nicole was ok. She was so strong and at one point said to me “oh for god sake mum stop crying!!” Typical Nic……trying to hold the fort even after all she was going through. It was all very quiet, no cry, no hustle and bustle of wiping baby down. Avery was swaddled in a blanket, placed in her little cot and taken away. I didn’t look at her at this point because I was frightened of how she may look. I thought I’ll let the midwives deal with her and then ask them how she is – as I knew I wanted to meet her and have cuddles with her. Nic was exhausted and her trauma was by far nowhere near over. The placenta was stuck and it was announced she would have to go into theatre and have it removed – When was this nightmare ever going to end. Why was this happening to my little girl. I remember talking to god at this point and asking him why???? I never got an answer.
Before Nicole and Steve went to theatre I asked them if it was ok with them if I met Avery. I had told them in the beginning but wanted to double check that they were ok with this, because at this point nic was still adamant she didn’t want to see her. They were happy for me to though, so off Nic went and off I went to meet my granddaughter for the first time. Avery was waiting for me in our little room in her cot. The midwives came in with me at first to make sure I was ok. I peered over the cot and there was a little face peeping out. She had a little woolly hat on and a pink cardigan. She was perfect and beautiful and looked as though she was sleeping peacefully. I picked her up and kissed her on the nose. She looked like Nicole and it brought me back to the moment Nic was born and first placed in my arms. But this was very different. The midwives left me for a while and I sat down with her. Cradling her in my arms. My tears started to drop on to her and I had to get some tissue to dry her face. I unwrapped her from the blanket, as I had a burning desire to look at her feet !!! As a podiatrist I have an obvious fascination with them. Her feet were so tiny but perfect. She had all her toenails and I remember thinking about Nic when she was little. We would spend ages painting our toenails, and Nic loved to prance around the house in my high heels when she was a little girl.
I had looked forward to doing all those things with Avery when she would come and spend the weekend with grandma whilst mummy and daddy had some quality time together. I cried more as this was never going to happen now. I whispered to Avery that I loved her and that she was wanted so much. I told her how special her mummy was and that she was going to have to look down on her mummy and look after her. After a while the midwives came back in for her. I didn’t want to let her go. I broke down and said to Stef that this was so unfair.
I went into the corridor to find out how Nic was and by this point Steve was walking down the corridor on his way back from theatre. We stopped and he completely broke down. He was heartbroken and exhausted. Heartbroken at losing his daughter and heartbroken at watching the love of his life go through this ordeal. He had managed to hold it together until now, and it was painful to see him hurting so much. We stood in the corridor and just held on to each other for a while. Nic was wheeled back from theatre and was asleep. Steve needed some fresh air and asked me to stay with Nic whilst he went outside and made some calls to his family. So I went back into the room and climbed into bed next to my little girl. I wrapped my arms arms around her and just held her. I wished there was something I could do to make this all go away. For me this was the hardest thing. Not being able to change it or make it better. As a mum I’ve spent my life protecting her. When she has a problem.… I fix it !! I just couldn’t fix this though.
Over the next few hours Nic and Ste discussed seeing Avery as Nicole initially didn’t want to, she thought it would be easier to deal with if she didn’t meet Avery. I knew this was the wrong thing to do for Nic and that she would regret it later on, but I had to stand by her at this point as it was her decision. I described to Ste how Avery looked and he then went to meet her, and as a result of him meeting Avery he could describe to Nicole how special it was and Nicole went on later that night to meet her daughter. I stayed around when Nic met Avery in case she needed me. Nicole and Avery were left alone, just mother and daughter. Nic already had a bond with Avery as she had carried her for 7 months and I was trying to imagine how Nicole was feeling finally meeting her daughter that had been inside her for the last 7 months. I was a bit numb by then and overwhelmed by everything that had happened in the last 24 hours. I thought they needed to be alone now and I left them at around 9pm to go home and let them be a family for the short time they had with Avery. I cried all the way home.
Over the next 2 days I visited the hospital and was just there for Nicole and Steve. There were lots of plans and decisions to be made and I was so proud of the mature way they handled everything. On the day Nicole came home from hospital it was a quiet journey back. We were all still trying to process the events of the last few days. I remember thinking that this was only the beginning of a very long emotional journey. Back at their flat Steve and I were trying to hide all of Averys belongings. The flat was full of reminders everywhere. I tried to fit as much as I could in my car as I knew it was distressing Nic seeing all the clothes and toys and books. There was so much stuff. Avery was a lucky little girl even before she came into the world. When I got home, Chris my husband had bought some boxes to put all her belongings in. We started to pack the boxes with Averys clothes. I broke down. There were so many beautiful things, and I was imagining Avery in them, and thinking how we would have been sat together reading her Disney books when she came for a girly weekend with Grandma. All these little reminders were too painful and Chris had to finish off the packing and hide it all in the loft. There they will stay and hopefully in the not to distant future can be used with Nic and Stevens future children.
Its now March, 6 months after losing Avery. For me this experience has been life changing too. You never think these things will happen to your family and when it does it makes you re evaluate everything in your life. When I’m having a bad day at work, I remind myself that actually no……nothing will ever compare to the pain and stress of losing Avery. Watching Nicole battle through her emotions and learning to deal with her death has left me the proudest mum on earth. Nicole never ceases to amaze me and I wonder where she gets her strength from. If I had to sum up the experience in one word it would be HELPLESS. That’s how I felt and continue to feel sometimes when Nicole is having a down day, I am unable to help her through her grief. I’ve never experienced losing a child. I feel helpless as I can’t help my daughter come to terms with it or suggest ways that might help because I have no idea how she must feel. And this feeling is alien to me. All I can do is be there for her.
Nicole I love you around the world and back. You make me proud every day and Avery was blessed to have you as her mummy.
And to all the stillbirth grandmas and grandad out there,
One day at a time .. XO Amanda
To read losing Avery from my perspective, read ‘5 weeks ago today’
To read the experience of losing Avery from Steven’s perspective, take a look at ‘From one stillbirth dad to another’