When time is not always on your side

I searched myself for why would this happen to me and my baby? What had I done? Should I have gone straight to the hospital instead of my G.P? Had I eaten something? Did I lift something heavy? Robert lived for three months. He never came home.

It’s January 1990, I am twenty-three years old very naïve, and six months pregnant with my first baby. I found myself in increasing pain in my back. So bad that I could neither sit nor stand comfortably. I went to my G.P with my husband and paced the floor of the waiting room for an hour before I was seen. My G.P gave me an internal told me I had a water infection, and to go home and hand a water sample into the hospital.

When I went home I could not pee. I got hot and cold shakes and felt ill. I remember saying to my husband I think there is something wrong with our baby and we then told each other that the doctor had said everything was fine. In the afternoon I felt a strange sensation coming over my body, and at forty minutes past one, our baby was born. In our bed, my husband delivered him. We felt totally alone and scared. What can we do for our tiny baby.? To add to our fears the ambulance men were on strike. The police came with a midwife and took Robert to the hospital wrapped in tin foil to keep him warm. The ambulance men came later for me. He was 2lb 60z born. The doctor said he was in quite a good condition considering.

He was put in an incubator and on a ventilator because his lungs were not strong enough for him to breathe. Living in a maternity ward surrounded by mothers with their babies while my baby was in neonatal was bad enough, but to have to go home and leave my baby was heartbreaking, soul-destroying, very, very hard. I searched myself for why would this happen to me and my baby? What had I done? Should I have gone straight to the hospital instead of my G.P? Had I eaten something? Did I lift something heavy? Robert lived for three months. He never came home.

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Ironic he was born there. He was 5lb when he died. He was blind and brain-damaged. But you know the saying where there is life there is hope. What kind of life I ask myself now would he have had? I longed for my baby in my arms. He was 12 days old when I was first allowed to hold him. The longest I held him was when he slowly died in my arms. How did my husband feel? He said I could hold him and selfishly I did not give him up.

I believe that it took me 5yrs before I could feel that I could smile and be happy again without feeling guilty. I can not say I have got over the death of my child, but I have learned to accept that I was the best mother I could be given my knowledge and experience of life at the time. I found that before this I searched myself for reasons why this could happen to me and this increased my bitterness and anger- my feelings that I was a failure as a mother. For me, it took time and learning to forgive myself.

After Robert’s death, I found support through the Samaritan organization who helped me to seek counselling. Eventually, when I was able to come out of the darkness I became a Samaritan to give back the help I received. This led to me going on counselling courses and wanting to help bereaved people. You could say that I had found meaning and direction from the death of my child.

This year my husband says “Have you read about Alder Hey I wonder if Robert….?” So, I got in touch with the hospital. We waited many weeks before the relevant parties came to our home to tell us that they had taken 8 tissues from Robert during a post-mortem. We were angry. We were told that we were not told about the tissue retention because we were “protected”. I said that that was a “cop-out”. If we were told that retaining tissues might help us in the future or others, we would have agreed to this retention. We were and are adults. We would not and do not want us or others to go through what we had experienced. We decided that we want to view the tissues. That was four months ago we are still waiting.

An understanding friend used the word “abuse”. We feel degraded in that we were not allowed to protect our child in this final act. So you see the holding of our good memories of Robert, the good memories of the supportive nurses, the knowledge that we did all we could for our baby is attacked. At this moment I have been searching to contact people who have gone through the same as myself and my husband. Mainly to share or to find a common understanding. I seem to have hit brick walls. Bereavement or retention issue or both? I feel that they are interlinked. I understand that some people have had organs removed from their children, which may seem worse than tissue retention. But to me, whether it is tissue or organ, they have taken a part of our children and ourselves, and I grieve for that. I write in the hope of reaching out to someone who may feel like me and need want to share. You are not alone…A mother.

Author: Lesley Armour

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