Chapter 4 Why so nervous?

I have spoken to my friend Rachel about this part of the blog and about my anxieties during pregnancy. She knew why I was so scared. And she is happy for me to talk about her experience here. Rachel’s story is hard to hear but it is real and it happened to her and it happens more people than it should consideringg how advanced technology and medicine are.

(In 2014 in the UK: one in every 219 births was a stillbirth; one in every 384 babies died within the first 4 weeks of life  *Data from the Office for National Statistics, 2016).

This blog is about raising awareness, sharing life changing experiences and supporting each other. Please read with caution, this is heart breaking and talking to Rachel about this has been tough for me so I know it will be difficult for some people to read, but please try. Rachel wrote her experience down for me and she is happy for me to use her words here.

Being worried through pregnancy I understand is normal, but I don’t think other pregnant people have (at least not very many) watched one of their closest friends go through their entire pregnancy, expecting their first child, a little girl, and to lose her right at the very end.

When me and Fluff (Fluff is my best friend, more on her later) were 22, our other best mate Rachel got pregnant (she was 21). At that young tender age, I was perhaps a little naïve and we were all just excited. Me and Fluff even did a baby shower for our Rach, something I have since grown to hate and refused point blank to have one myself. This was the first friend we’d had that had gotten pregnant and it was a happy time for all of us. She was happy. Her parents were overjoyed. She had and still has a supremely close relationship with her own mother, they live together still (although Rach and her hubby live in an annex but it’s attached to her folks house). So, the idea of adding another little girl into this family was just a dream come true. She would be adored and loved and probably spoilt rotten, and rightly so.

Rachel’s experience is raw, torturous and painful. In Rachel’s words:

“3 days passed my due date I was invited for a sweep. Great, I was ready. I was swollen (extremely) and fed up. My BP was up and I had slight protein in my urine….. Here is where the me today is screaming at myself to go to hospital. But I didn’t and the midwife decided I was fine. Later that evening I had some niggles, I was so focused this that when I turned my bedside amp on (to which she’d always kick in protest to) I realised I hadn’t felt her. But everyone told me babies slow down during labour so that’s ok, right?

The next day (40+4) I went shopping (not before tapping my belly in front of my lamp 100 more times, feeling satisfied with a few twitches) still safe in the knowledge that ‘babies slow down before labour’ (this was the advice back then and is in no way todays antenatal world thank god).
I bought one last thing, a little cow comforter thing, and waddled my way off to a Dr’s appointment.
He placed the Doppler on my bump, swirled around vigorously with a desperate look before sending me for a scan. The Doppler once again placed on my bump and before he could tell me, my words were “I know, she’s gone”.

I received a phone call from her mum and I stupidly answered all giddy and excited, not a clue that I was about to be delivered a whacking great punch in the gut. Her mum simply said “no Mandi, it’s not good news”. I don’t remember the rest of that conversation, but I know I was told what had happened and it’s very likely that I called Fluff straight after to let her know. My dear friend went home that day, with her baby still inside her, and spent time with her family coming to terms with this devastation.

“I went home in a daze trying to convince myself it wasn’t possible. I was about to give birth for god’s sake, now you’re telling me I have no baby? How is that even possible? Still in denial, I arrived at the labour ward and naturally gave birth to my beautiful angel, Imogen, all 5lb 6oz of her. They weren’t wrong, there handy been a mistake. There was no new born cry when it was all over, there was no skin to skin, no grasping little finger or new born eyes gazing at me. I had laboured like any other mum. I screamed, I cried, I laughed at myself screaming and walking through trees in the haze of gas and air. I even worried that I’d shat myself!
I did it though. I was now given the title of mummy. For 24 hours I held her. I changed her and took photos of her in her coming home outfit she would never come home in. I loved her. I went home with a deflated bump, leaking boobs and no baby to feed. My heart physically felt like a weight in my body.
Empty arm syndrome became a feeling that would stay with me for the next 2 years. How I got through the following years I can’t even tell you. I just don’t know. I don’t know if I’ve forgotten or blocked it out….I know I cried every day, and for days I didn’t cry I relived it all until I did cry because I felt guilty for not crying”.

I remember as clear as yesterday her saying to me ‘the weirdest thing was the silence once she was out, you always imagine a cry, but there was nothing’. This is significant in my story also, so when I get there you’ll understand.
When I saw my friend after having Betty, I asked her if we were any good as friends back then. Did we really appreciate the gravity of what had happened to her? I am not sure that we did you know. Of course we were deeply saddened by what happened and our hearts went out to our friend, but did we really ‘get it’, I don’t know. When I think of the details, that my young friend planned her darling little girls funeral. I still can’t comprehend that. I don’t think I ever will.
My experience has made me feel much more able to connect with and relate to Rachel and what she went through, although my baby survived, there is something in the desperation, fear and love that pulls us together. As women, as mothers, as humans.
And she remembers her little girl, of course she does, she is a part of her family. Rachel has since had 3 boys and they’re all happy and healthy. But her first child is with the angels and knowing this put the fear of god into me during the pregnancy and our 5 week battle.

This is Fluff, me and Rachel (from left to right) we were in our early 20’s here.