When I’ve referred to ‘baby loss is not a single story’ as part of this #DiversityInLoss series, it is because there are such a range of experiences and perspectives. Whilst, often there may be similarities in terms of what happens in hospital or other care settings each is unique – the hows, whens, and whats will vary. It is often the details, and the timeline, that we as bereaved parents are not invited to share from those around us. In Bhavna’s story she shares honestly and openly about the details of her labour story and how her and her families care could have been improved. Lessons need to always been learned in any case of baby loss and Bhavna is working hard to ensure that this is the case for her.
Please welcome Bhavna and Joshan to the #DiversityInLoss series…
I’m Bhavna, here’s my story.
On Sunday, May Bank Holiday, I went into spontaneous labour at 39 weeks 5 days. What should’ve been the most joyous moment turned into a trauma. The series of events are so clear and daily I replay them in my mind and the question is why and unfortunately we will never have the answers but I am hoping that we can make changes.
When I woke up that Sunday morning, the sun was shining and life was good. I had been experiencing some mild contractions but nothing untoward but I did call the pregnancy advice line as I had done most of that week. Any twinge, sighting of brown discharge, pain, I was on the blower. I was advised to carry on the day as normal and to call if the pains were more frequent.
We took our 6 year old to watch The Secret Life of Pets 2, followed by a spicy Nando’s! After a shower that evening, the contractions were beginning to get stronger and soon after I lost my mucas plug. I called the hospital to inform them and said I’d like to come in. Whilst we waited for family to see to my son who was asleep, I noticed that I had been bleeding and started to worry.
As we arrived in the hospital, I was sent to triage and by this point the contractions were bad – I was finding it difficult to lie on my back. Eventually the midwife said I was 7cm dilated and was ready to deliver my baby. As I was wheeled to the delivery suite, I felt the urge to push. Again, the pains were excruciating and I was having difficulty getting onto the bed and on my back. Midwives we’re unable to strap the heart rate monitor around my tummy, so it had to be hand held
My exact words were ‘this pain is something else‘. Given that I’d given birth before and had experienced labour pains before, I knew instantly that this didn’t feel right. With every push, nothing was happening. The terms decel and OP were used but I was in too much pain to understand what was happening.
The next thing I know is that I’m attempting to sign a consent form, which I wasn’t able to and my husband then signed. I was being rushed into theatre for an emergency c-section. Why? Well, we weren’t told. Communication between staff and us wasn’t particularly great.
In theatre, I remember hugging and being in tears to a midwife as I was in so much pain that the anaesthetist was getting frustrated as I was unable to hold still. I gritted my teeth and squeezed a pillow so tight – then the spinal block was done. The pain relief was almost instant and I was getting closer to holding my baby.
Well, not quite. I was told to continue to push. Trying to push with no feeling waist down was difficult. After a few attempts, the anaesthetist reassured us that in two minutes we would be holding our baby. Towels went up and waiting, waiting for the cries of a newborn. Instead, all we heard were compressions 3,2,1… 3,2,1.
Suddenly the theatre was filled with even more staff. Neonatal were being called and it was complete pandemonium.
My husband just continued stroking my hair and all I kept saying was ‘this is rubbish’. No one was communicating with us, we didn’t know what was happening, we didn’t even know if we’d had a boy or a girl. All we knew was that our baby was poorly.
After about 15 minutes a midwife informed us that we had a baby boy and they were trying to establish a heart rate. Teams were on hand to get him transferred to St George’s Hospital for further treatment. Why? We weren’t told.
I then went into shock, there were pools of blood on the floor, I was sick and slowly becoming unconscious The last thing I remembered was the consultant with a blood splattered visor.
As I underwent surgery, my husband was sat in a room alone, head in hands wondering what would happen over the next few hours. Not knowing if I or Joshan would make it through, he started thinking of what life would be like as a single dad. He started texting parents and siblings in hope that someone would be awake at 4am. He explained that both I and Joshan were slipping and to make their way to the hospital.
At 5am, the consultant came to see him and explained that my uterus had ruptured but luckily he managed to repair it and I should make a full recovery. As I come out of theatre, my husband informed me that unfortunately Joshan isn’t well. The prognosis doesn’t look good and the doctors want to know if we want to hold him with or without the ventilator.
I’m completely numb, emotionless and simply say without the ventilator, let’s not let him suffer any longer than he should.
I didn’t even shed a tear, must’ve been the shock, morphine, anaesthetic – no idea.
As doctors took Joshan out of the incubator, they placed him in my arms. He was absolutely perfect, beautiful hair and a little button nose that was red due to some bleeding. I was so weak and had canulars in both arms that I was unable to hold him for too long. I passed him to hubby and Joshan’s breathing became exasperated over time. He took his last breaths in my husband’s arms, which to this day I remember so very clearly. 7:45am to be precise, only 7 hours on this earth.
That Bank Holiday Monday was a bleak day indeed, parents and siblings came to visit me. What should’ve been a joyous visit was one of much sadness. We all cried and tried to comfort one another the best way we could.
Lydia, the Bereavement Midwife, came in to see us. All I remember was drifting off subconsciously whilst she talked through grief, support, memory boxes.
Jen, the Midwife post recovery, was amazing – she would bring Joshan into our room when family members would come for a cuddle, took a lot of photos and was a great support. Joshan left the hospital on Wednesday to go to Great Ormond Street for the post mortem.
During my six night stay, I had multiple blood transfusions, MRI scans, many antibiotics and restless nights. Being in the maternity ward probably didn’t help but all I wanted was to be home. Leaving the hospital was bittersweet, instead of leaving with our baby boy, I had a bag full of antibiotics and injections.
Entering the house was so emotional, thankfully, Vj had put all the baby stuff back into the loft. The only thing that was visible was the new changing table full of babygrows neatly folded, thanks to Marie Kondo.
During those first few weeks, we were visited by community Midwife’s, safeguarding teams, friends and family. The world kept on moving and all I wanted was it to stand still whilst I processed what had just happened. Instead of planning our first family photo shoot, I was planning a funeral. We decided on a simple service, led by a celebrant followed by afternoon tea. It was perfect with just our immediate family.
I did feel somewhat lighter after the funeral, knowing that Joshan was now at peace.
Changes do need to be implemented within maternity care following our story and the following should be considered:
- The processes in place for triage, telephone and on admission
- Actions following admission carried out in a timely manner
- Infrastructure and resources available within the organisation and the structure of maternity services within the trust
- Ensure that the perception of events are captured from the family, trust and staff directly involved in the care of the mother and the baby
- Signing of consent forms during labour (surely this can be explained/signed during booking in appointments)
- Being assigned 1 midwife during pregnancy
- What would a hospital do differently if another woman came in presenting the same symptoms I had?
The post mortem results showed Joshan to be a healthy baby, no genetic defects, he was simply perfect. He had Hypoxia (deprived of oxygen) when he slipped out of my uterus but for how long, we do not know and we will never know.
All I know is that I had all the symptoms for placental abruption/uterine rupture, which were constant pain/contractions, bleeding and deceleration of heart rate. They weren’t picked up by midwives/doctors until an emergency c-section was performed. I now urge pregnant ladies who present these symptoms to voice their concerns immediately during labour.
Three months on, the grief has subsided but certainly hits you in waves. We’ve had various debriefs with hospital staff and no one can explain why my uterus ruptured and how it did so on an unscarred uterus. Left with lots of unanswered questions which we may never get the answers for.
The support after loss is a struggle but have been so grateful to those who have reached out to me and shared their experience. Unfortunately we’re not alone and this makes me so sad that many have and/or will experience baby loss.
My mission now is to raise awareness and hope I’m able to save a baby’s life and parents heartache.