I have never been one to write in a traditional diary so it is interesting to me that the one time I wanted to recount my feelings so vividly was during the time that I lost Penny. Fast forward a few years and a broken laptop that suddenly decided to switch on and all of these words I had written have now become front and centre once more.
6 years ago it would have been too painful for me to read this back to myself let alone share it with someone but time has softened the hurt enough to appreciate the person I was then and the little girl who couldn't stay but whose presence was felt (and continues to be felt) in all the ways she has made me strong…
Wednesday March 18 2015
I got out of bed carefully and awkwardly like I always do being full term and all. I hadn’t felt baby kick this morning which wasn’t strange because she moved through the night and usually saves her first strong kicks for mid-morning so I got ready to go about my day. Mid morning came and still not too worried, I texted my midwife to ask if I could come and see her just to re-assure myself and to monitor babies heart rate because I hadn’t felt her move. My midwife called me and within the hour I was at the birthing unit calm and collected, in fact we were both very relaxed joking about how baby must be tired today. I should also mention that throughout my pregnancy my baby has had a strong heartbeat, tracked completely normally size and scan wise and had very good movement so understandably we were confident knowing this. When the baby monitor was on my tummy, instead of a loud strong heartbeat, there was silence, nothing not a whisper just white noise. I could tell my midwife was holding back whatever she was thinking but I knew that this WAS NOT normal and I started to panic. She tried different areas and nothing, stillness, eery silence. I can tell you that hearing a healthy noisy heartbeat is one of the most beautiful things you’ll hear throughout your pregnancy, I didn’t know how lovely this was until I could no longer hear it. All of a sudden I was calling Joe to meet me at the hospital and I was whisked into the birthing unit. At one point I had 2 midwives, 2 doctors, an Obstetrician and a Sonographer in the room all looking at a screen that I couldn’t see but I could see them and it wasn’t good. Poor Joe walked into a room with all these experts and me on the bed crying my eyes out. We were in SHOCK, it was shocking, even my midwife was crying. It was so surreal. Please be a nightmare that’s what I thought, How is this possible? What is going on? I’m crying but I don’t know how or why or what for. It’s like I don’t know what to feel. Here we were, looking at all these doctors asking how can this be? Save her! What are you doing?! and they just looked back at us and said “I’m so sorry”. Later the OBGYN looked at my midwives notes and concluded that this, my pregnancy was a ‘text book pregnancy’ and there was no obvious explanation as to how or why this happened. They, like us were gobsmacked. It was and still is very unfortunate and very unfair. And now comes the process of telling my parents, preparing a farewell ceremony, preparing for a birth that won’t be how or what we expected or wanted. We’ve come home, my family is with me, Joe is with me, together we sit, we cry, sometimes we can find perspective and be rational and sometimes we can’t. I’m glad we have each other. I find I do most of my crying at night or in the shower, it helps. We watch movies, we watch TV, we aren’t really watching, we just don’t want to hear silence and somehow just when you think you’ll never find sleep, we fall asleep.
Friday March 20th 2015 In 24 hours I will go into hospital to give birth to a still baby. What should be the happiest time of our lives is now going to be the hardest. I’m already scared of what tomorrow means but I will all going well, give birth safely to her, treasure, hold and love her for as long as we can before preparing to say goodbye. I am writing this today because writing helps and it is the last day that she is with me, asleep but still with me, close to my heart (literally and always) and I fear that when she isn’t I’ll forget how she felt or what it was like to have her here inside me sleeping. I fear the emptiness (both mentally and physically). Giving birth to a baby for the first time is hard enough but knowing that your baby girl won’t ever open her eyes as if to say ‘Hi Mum!’ is heart-wrenching. Instead she will come into this world quietly sleeping which, if I can take anything from is her Mums favourite thing to do. A few close friends and relatives know now and we have been politely bombarded with well wishes and kind words. I am so grateful for this and I know that in their own way they are all hurting and thinking of us. I will face the world in a few days but I can’t talk to anyone right now because I know that if I do I will break down and as cathartic as it is to cry, I need all my energy and strength to give birth and even now I still don’t know where that strength will come from or if it will even come at all. I don’t feel like eating, I haven’t wanted to since March the 18th but I know that I will need my strength more than I’ve ever needed it so I eat and drink and take care of myself…and I do it for her. When I have too much time to think, I think of how unfair it is or what we could have done to change the outcome. Could we have done anything? Sadly, probably not. As someone who likes time to myself, I crave company now if only to serve as a welcome distraction to my thoughts and feelings. Being alone with my thoughts at night is the hardest, too much stillness and time to think and wonder why. Why us after trying for so long? Why me, vigilant, healthy and active? Why now…at full term within days of my due date? Why not early on when I hadn’t told the whole world? Why let me feel everything that expectant mothers get to feel and then take it away from me at the final hurdle? Why my parents? who only had a week to go before getting to meet their first and long-awaited granddaughter. Why my brothers? who were excited to be uncles for the first time ever. Yes we will still be all of these things to our little girl but it won’t be as it should be. I am scared to be by myself, with my thoughts. I am scared to go back to normal when I was so looking forward to being a Mum and making baby the biggest most important part of my world. Right now she is here with me and however still she is, I can pretend that everything is ok, I know it isn’t but forgive me this. She is and will forever be a newborn, forever still, forever sleeping. My moving tummy does not move any more and all I feel are the effects of the Mifegyne stirring and preparing me for the biggest test of my life tomorrow. Lord give me strength.
Saturday March 21st 2015 I wish I could tell myself that it was for the best that she stayed sleeping because she had an unsurvivable problem or detrimental issue etc but truthfully she looked perfect. She looked like she should be here with us. The birth was everything I had known it would be. Hard, painful and just when you feel you have nothing left, you try again and somehow you’re there. When she came into the world, still and quiet, it was a beautiful experience. It probably sounds strange but for me this was true. I was surrounded by my Mum, Joe and two doting midwives and despite the circumstances, she was here, she was real and she was special. We spent all night and all the next day with her, dressing her, loving her and fussing over her. Wondering whose nose and lips she had and trying to figure out what colour her hair was. From the way her feet had dug into my boobs I knew she would have long legs (like her dad) and boy did she ever! Long hands, long fingers and toes, long limbs and a beautiful if not petite face that hinted at none of those things. As sad as the circumstances were no one could take away this private and special moment because she was finally here and that was all that mattered. We named her Penny Ngawaiata Te Paa. Everyone who cared for us was incredibly respectful and made sure that Penny was never alone for too long, especially when we had to leave her at the hospital. My family stayed with us for the next week and in that time we chose to have a post-mortem before Penny was returned and laid to rest in a beautiful place amongst other angel babies. Some nights I can’t hold back the tears and I won’t because crying helps. Right now I feel a little lost and sore and empty but I have made and am still making my peace with what happened. Since March 18th every day I have seen a monarch butterfly and I like to believe that she is reminding us of her presence whenever she can. I will never understand why such tragic things happen without cause or warning but I choose to believe that everything happens for a reason even if it’s not clear or fair as to what that reason was. But I have to believe that she was needed elsewhere and that place is exactly where she needs to be even though my heart aches to think that anyone would need her more than me. Our time together in this life was fleeting, but I felt her move for most of those nine months, and we made videos, she heard me talk and laugh and sew and sing badly to loud music. She heard Ziggy and Luca barking at strange sounds outside and she heard Joe busy working away on Mums’ latest DIY project. She knew only of my heart beating beside her and she knows that she was loved. She was our first and always will be. We will visit her often, talk to her everyday and treasure her for a lifetime. Until we meet again.
The weeks that followed Some people, sometimes strangers have offered their thoughts once they hear of our unfortunate situation. Things like ‘nature has its own way of saving your suffering, sparing you now for what might have happened had she lived’. Another, ‘that babies choose to come and they choose to go’. There are a lot of helpful reasoning’s and analogies that I can cling to and mostly I do but ultimately as strong as we are, this is HARD, this is HEART-WRENCHING, this is REAL and this HURTS. Friends please don’t hide your happiness or your babies away from us thinking that its for the best. The truth is, seeing you all and sharing in your happiness won’t make us jealous or resentful. Remember we have a baby girl, she is our first and there will be no other, so please don’t feel like you have to protect our feelings and don’t be a stranger. Right now our baby is at rest in a special place with other special angel babies who were too precious for this world and as cruel as it is that is the hand we were dealt and somehow now, we have to find a way to make peace, heal and move forward.