So many experiences happen in life; good, bad, both, and they always seem to serve a purpose, and usually, I have found, in a multiple of ways. A friend came over for a catchup, and we briefly chatted about my blog which led onto an even briefer talk about how Saudi hospitals (note I can’t comment on private Saudi hospitals) deal with stillbirths compared to European hospitals practice. I don’t really talk about Cacia’s birth day, for me it is a personal and intimate experience that I shared with my husband and mother, an experience that I am glad I had, despite the tragic circumstance.
However, after hearing about how some Saudi hospitals deal with stillbirths, I hope that by sharing my experience of birthing a still born baby and my after birth experience that maybe it will highlight that there should be a choice for the family, not a hospital dictat. Personally I don’t think there is a wrong way to deal with the circumstance of a still birth, however you get through it, the point is to get through it; the news, the tests, the birth, the afterbirth, the hormones, the missing space – all have to be survived somehow, because it is you that survived. Whether you choose to never see the baby or acknowledge the baby or not is choice. And it should be choice, not dictated by hospital policy.
So, my experience; I went in for a routine scan at 22 weeks, I knew the minute the sonographer went quiet that something was wrong, then when she raised her eye brows at her colleague to come over, my heart knew even though my head hadn’t caught up yet. They told me, “I’m so sorry, but your baby’s heart has stopped”. My head and my heart were all caught up then, and they were broken. Then starts the whirlwind of shock and medical stuff. Blood tests, urine checks, doctors, nurses, counsellors all talking at you, how sorry they are, telling you what happens next, how much time you have before your baby has to be born, what happens after your baby is born. You’re cosseted, protected, kept apart from everyone, given time. Given choices, suggestions for everything; when to deliver, as much pain relief as you want, see the baby, not see the baby, know the sex, not know the sex, name the baby, never name the baby, touch, don’t touch, hold, don’t hold, wash, don’t wash, dress, don’t dress, bless, don’t bless, photo, don’t photo, keep baby with you, let baby be taken away, full postmortem, part postmortem, no postmortem, funeral, no funeral. So many choices, all yours to make or not make if you don’t want to. Reading it all, it probably looks a lot, but it wasn’t, I wasn’t able to care at this point, it’s in the hours and days after the initial news that I started to think about all of the above.
I waited 3 days until I was ready to birth my girl, I knew I had to have a vaginal delivery, and I wanted to try and do it without pain relief. I went into the hospital and had a private room, I asked them to scan me one last time to confirm there was no heartbeat, again, I had already done this one day after the news. They were very good, scanned me, let me ask the same questions over and over again until I told them I was ready to begin. Never any pressure, never any impatience on or with me just kindness. They gave me the medicine to induce labour, told me that at any point during the delivery I could request any pain relief I wanted including an epidural. Turns out that 11 hours of full labour pain plus my emotional distress broke me and I started screaming for an epidural. Screaming for it now. They gave it to me. One hour later, almost exactly, I delivered Cacia. They asked did I want to see her, I said not yet, give me a second. And then I saw her, I held her until I had to deliver the afterbirth. Then my husband had her, then my mother. Then I had complications, so the nurses took her to clean her up, measure and weigh her and dress her. She never left my room, she never left my sight until I was ready to say goodbye to her and not see her again until her funeral. She lay next to me in her special cold cot all night and all the next morning. I could hold her, touch her, look at her, photograph her until I was ready to say goodbye. You think you’ll never be ready to say goodbye, but you do get to a point where you aren’t necessarily ready, but you realise she isn’t waking up and coming home with you. For me I couldn’t watch the nurse take her away, my husband did. The next time I saw her and held Cacia was in her casket at her funeral.
This was my experience, there are so many experiences that could be had, none right or wrong, good or bad, just experiences that are helpful or not. At the time it felt like a bad experience, sometimes it still does, but now I see that my experience was what it needed to be, I had time with my girl, I had time to feel like I had control in a situation that was out of my control, I was given the opportunity to have and do whatever I needed in order to accept that Cacia died. My experience gave me that, and I look back now and realise although I didn’t choose the circumstance I chose how I experienced it. For me the ability to have a choice of experience is what is important, whatever that choice may be.