My experience of loss and bereavement care at St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester – Part one

Recently myself, Steven (and Hudson) were interview by Amanda Holden as part of her campaign ‘Theo’s Hope’ whereby she aims to improve bereavement care in the UK after the loss of a child. I was honored to be asked to join her in this campaign, as I am a strong ambassador for all women receiving the exceptional NHS care I received at St Mary’s hospital in Manchester. Not only during the loss of Avery, but during the pregnancy and birth of our rainbow Hudson, so I want to share my experiences.

I’ve decided to write this story in three parts, as there’s a LOT to say. So here’s part one, the day we lost Avery …

The day our baby girl died

The worst day of our lives, the one I struggle so much to talk about. What started out as a normal day turned out to be a day I’ll try to block out for the rest of my life.

I knew in my gut something was wrong, I called the hospital and told them the steps I’d been through to try and get my normally active baby moving. The lady very calmly said “If you’ve not felt her all day, pop in and we’ll examine you.”

We drove quite calmly, we laughed in the waiting room. We went through the standard questions in triage before the women said: “Ok, lets have a listen in” and got a Doppler out. 1,2,3,4 seconds in and there was no pulsating heartbeat noise, one that usually jumped out as soon as the Doppler hit me. She tried to assure me it can take a while but my breathing started to quicken and deepen and my heart was racing. I knew in that moment something was wrong, this never happened. We normally joked about how fast dopplers would pick up our daughters heartbeat.

She prodded and prodded but couldn’t find anything, so she left the room to get a consultant. The moment she left the room I looked at Steven and started to panic, I was shaking profusely and breathing erratically, “It’s ok Nicole, Its ok” Steven just kept repeating but I looked at him and said: “She’s gone, I know it.”

My lifeless baby

Moments later the midwife came back with an older consultant and a scanning machine. I looked up and that’s when I saw her ….

I’ll never forget what I saw – my little baby curled up, face down and still. I turned away, my eyes couldn’t take what was in front of them. I remember the consultant pointing to the screen and looking at the midwife (she was pointing to her still heart). And then the consultant took my hand, looked at me solemnly and said those dreaded words that will haunt me forever: “I’m so sorry, there’s no heartbeat.

After that I never heard a word they said. I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t hear, my vision was blurry. When I think back to that moment and try to remember what went on all I remember is hearing Steven saying: “Nicole, we’re going to get through this” on loop, like he was trying to reassure himself too.

I was given a tablet and told to go home and get some rest, and someone would call us tomorrow. Out of all my amazing experiences of bereavement care, this was the one I’d change. I left that room in a haze, not knowing what on earth was happening. I had a deep rage inside of me at being told to “get some rest and sleep” … Are you fucking kidding me? (sorry, but it still angers me to this day).

A world of the unknown

Steven had kept it together up until half way home, when reality hit him and he had a break down in the middle of the road. We had to pull over and that’s where I kicked in to tell him we’d get through it. All the while I was very aware that Avery was still in my tummy and I couldn’t look at it or touch it .. It just hurt too much to acknowledge it. I kept praying and hoping that i’d feel a kick and that they’d got it wrong … It never happened.

I rang my mum on the way home and told her, she was in just as much shock, I could hear her crying and pacing the corridors: “What happens next” and that’s when I realized I had absolutely no idea. I left the hospital with no clue whatsoever, I didn’t even know what tablet I’d taken and what it was doing to me. I was terrified.

When I got home I had to text my best friend who was a trainee midwife at the time. I said to her: “Will I have to deliver her?” I can only imagine how painful it must have been for her knowing what was ahead for me and having to be the one to explain. “I’m not sure how St Mary’s works, but at Leeds it’s a induction and birth process yes … I’m so sorry.”

It just kept getting worse and worse. I couldn’t fathom having to deliver her – I was under some illusion that they would somehow put me to sleep and take her out of me.

That night

Steven had to run upstairs when we pulled up home. He needed to hide all of our baby’s things we’d been buying for the past 7 months out of sight – I just couldn’t take it.

I remember telling myself and Steven lots of silly things to make us feel better:

“We’ll get through this, it’s only 7 months of our life, we just have to block it out”

“I can’t see her, if I do that it makes this real”

“It’s just 7 months, if we don’t meet her then it will be so much easier”

I was convinced that not meeting her would make the pain go away and I could get over 7 months of ‘a bump’ – Oh the naivety!

We said our goodbyes to my belly that night, I turned away and put some music in my ears while Steven said his. I just remember closing my eyes and feeling him cuddling my tummy, his warm breath talking to her. Then we just cried and listened to a recording of her heartbeat all night … I think we got an hour or so of sleep, waking up every time praying it was all a bad nightmare.

IMG_7714
Steven secretly took this on ‘that night’ me listening to Avery’s heartbeat in her bear on repeat

He was so supportive in that evening, I’ll never be able to thank him enough for how he put me first in that situation, and pushed his heartache to the side to look after me. I can only imagine how scared he was for me.

The next day

I woke up to my mum arriving, as soon as the door opened she shouted my name, her voice breaking as she did. She ran into my bedroom and fell onto me, cuddling me for about 5 minutes before letting go. We sobbed for about an hour.

Steven eventually came in and said he’d spoken to a woman called Vicky from St Mary’s. She was the bereavement lead there and would be looking after us when we come in. She’d asked us to come in at about 3pm. By this point it was only 7am and I couldn’t bare the thought of waiting that long so we called her back asking if we could come sooner. She apologized for us even having to ask that, we could come whenever we needed. She had explained to Steven that I would be induced and deliver our baby girl as anybody else would a live child. She had offered to explain to me (I think she wanted to talk to me) but I just wasn’t ready yet.

I remember thinking “oh shit, I’ve not even got a hospital bag yet” … Something my mum had obviously already thought of so she went to Tesco and got everything for me. Later she told me she accidently walked onto the baby aisle and broke down in the middle of the shop, something that breaks my heart to imagine. When she came back she kept hiding the shopping bags from me. She didn’t want me to see the sanitary pads she told me later on, as she was scared for how it would break my heart (if it was possible to break any further). When I reflect back I realize just how much my mum and Steven did for me in preparation for delivery Avery. In essence I didn’t do a thing, I just cried in bed. They both, heartbroken themselves, got everything ready for me to spare me any more pain. I’m forever grateful for this.

Eventually we got everything ready and set off, not knowing what was ahead, but knowing it was the last time Avery would ever be in our home …

 

Read part 2 of my blog tomorrow which will focus on the 2 days which followed finding out about Avery, and the care I received from the hospital teams.

To read my mum and Stevens’ blogs on their experiences, follow the links.

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