parents

One of the most raw, most honest stories we've ever published on Mamamia.

Shelly

By SHELLY MURDOCH

I lay here as Dan impatiently paces back and forth in front of the bedroom window, stopping only to peer anxiously through the blinds, out of the window and down our dark street.

I lay here waiting, for what seems like much longer than 15 fearful minutes. I lay here in shock, wishing this was just another one of my weird pregnancy nightmares, hoping to wake up to normality.

I lay here with no movement inside my belly. I lay here in a pool of my own blood, the sheets soaked to the extent I question the quantity remaining inside my body. I lay here too petrified to move and too afraid to say out loud what I am thinking.

I lay here. I lay here assuming our baby is gone.

I lay here as some of the fear is replaced by relief as the ambulance lights flicker through our bedroom window. I lay here and hope that Lara isn’t woken by the commotion. I hope that she is spared this sight and I am spared the many questions that would inevitably follow. Even if she did wake I have no explanation for her. I lay here with many questions of my own.

I lay here on a trolley as I’m wheeled from our home. I see my mum running up the driveway, she is trying to comprehend what is happening.  I lay here and for the first time I cry as I try to speak, saying it out loud is just as hard as I imagined. I lay here and hug my mum who also starts to cry. I lay here in the early hours of the morning in my own world of turmoil as the rest of the street sleeps.

“I lay here freezing, shivering as the ambulance officer takes my blood pressure yet again.”

I lay here freezing, shivering, as the ambulance officer takes my blood pressure yet again. I lay here and for the first time I feel my belly contract into a tight ball, my body has just caught up to the fact something is not right. I lay here relieved the trip to the hospital is a short one.

I lay here covered in blankets as we rush through the emergency department doors and into the care of a waiting midwife. My entire body is shaking and never before have I been so cold.

I lay here as Kris, the midwife, folds back the blankets and manoeuvres her doppler around my belly, searching for the sound of life.  I lay here in the midst of any pregnant woman’s worst fear.

I lay here. I lay here and listen to the precious sound of my baby’s beating heart. Tears flow down my cheeks, never before has a sound provoked such emotion. My baby is alive. I lay here so relieved yet still so scared.

I lay here yelling for Dan, who hasn’t followed me past the entrance of emergency. Where is my husband? I lay here scanning the room, previously oblivious to the number of people circulating around me. Dan rushes into the room, swearing about fucking paperwork. I lay here squeezing his hand, he too looks terrified.

I lay here and sob as Kris explains that for now our baby is okay but will need to be born immediately and transferred to Adelaide. My brain is in overdrive, 32 weeks gestation, what does this mean? I lay here uneducated about prematurity and terrified by what is about to take place, uncertain what the future will hold for our baby.

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I lay here as Kris cuts my pyjamas from my body. I lay here as wires and monitors are attached, my blood pressure and heart rate are scrutinised.  Every part of me shakes uncontrollably as cold fluids intravenously flow into my body.

I lay here, I lay here and wait. We wait for an anaesthetist, a surgeon, an obstetrician, a pediatrician and theatre staff. I lay here and wait, I lay here and bleed.

I lay here as Luke, the anaesthetist, explains how he is going to put me to sleep. There is no way I am going to sleep. I lay here and protest. I cannot sleep through the unknown. I lay here as Luke agrees to allow me to stay awake. I lay here and panic. I lay here and regret the last few minutes, regret my stubbornness. I want to be asleep now, right now.

I lay here and scream to anyone who will listen that I have changed my mind.  Luke is calm and reassuring, he explains that Dan can be in theatre if I am awake but will not be allowed in if I’m asleep. I lay here as Luke makes it clear there is no time for procrastination. I lay here, the decision made by my unwillingness to let go of my husband’s hand.

I lay here as I’m wheeled through the hospital corridors to theatre, desperately hoping Julie, a friend and theatre nurse, is on call. I lay here relieved, so relieved to see her waiting for me that again I break down. The tears rolling down her cheeks tell me that this is not easy for her either. Never before has a hug brought such reassurance. I lay here grateful for the familiar face in an unknown place.

“I lay amongst the stream of people running around me.”

I lay here and momentarily lose Dan who re-appears a few moments later wearing scrubs. I lay here amongst the stream of people running around me, freezing, nauseous, scared and still bleeding. I lay here not at all prepared to meet my baby.

I lay here and quickly lose feeling in the lower part of my body as the spinal block takes effect. I lay here nervously as the surgeon announces he is about to make a test cut.

Dan looks over the top of the blanket, which has been thrown over my drip stand to create a make shift screen, in a time precious moment.  I lay here and watch Dan quickly step back, realising his immunity to gore does not extend to his wife. Julie gets him a chair, aware of his increasing uneasiness.

I lay here, Dan holding one hand, Julie holding the other. “What is that smell?” I ask.  “You don’t want to know” Julie quickly responds.  I try not to breathe through my nose but the putrid smell of burning flesh is so strong it makes me feel queasy. I lay here feeling light headed, irrelevant chatter goes on around me in an attempt to offer a distraction. I lay here, close my eyes and pretend to be somewhere else, anywhere else.

I lay here as Kris announces our baby is being born. Luke pulls out his phone to determine the time of birth, 4.34am. Dan stands up from his chair and looks over the blanket again. I lay here and for the second time I am emotionally overwhelmed by a sound. I lay here and hear the tiny but strong cry of our baby.

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I lay here and look up at my husband as he sits back down in his chair, leans forward and gently kisses me on the lips. I lay here and take in his beaming smile, I know Dan so well that no words are needed, that is the smile of a man with a son. A strong son whose cry wasn’t expected to be heard.

I lay here and watch as our tiny baby boy is whisked past my head. At this point meeting him, touching him is sadly not a priority. Behind me, out of my view, Dan watches on as a group of doctors and nurses provide all they can in a hospital not equipped for a baby of his gestation.

I lay here as Dan holds a phone in front of my face. There he is, the first photo of our baby boy. His immature lungs have tired quickly and his little face is covered by an oxygen mask. His chest appears sunken and his belly bloated. I lay here as one of the doctors tells Dan they need to go. I lay here and panic, I yell at Dan to go with him, please go with him. I don’t know where they are taking him but go.

I lay here, I lay here for a long time. I lay here and begin to sense that things are not going to plan, I come to the realisation that getting my baby out was the easy part.  I lay here and wish I couldn’t hear Dr Roth and Dr Phil talking to each other. I look up at the huge bright lights above me but quickly look away when I realise I can see the reflection of my body and its contents. I lay here and cry as the pain intensifies, I squeeze Julies hand tighter than before and Luke gives me more drugs. I lay here scared, nauseous and light headed. I lay here and vomit.

I lay here still in theatre as the post-surgery clean-up process begins around me. I am not taken to recovery, instead I lay here as Julie keeps me company.  I lay here in a haze of drugs, shock and fear, my body is running on empty.

I lay here as they wheel me to a room in the maternity ward where Dan is waiting anxiously.  Our baby boy is being cared for in the nursery and Dan is torn between which room he should be in, continually running between the two. I lay here as nurses stream in and out of my room with sympathetic faces and I watch as they glance at each other with concern.  I lay here and continue to lose blood faster than it can be replaced.

I lay here and wait for the Flying Doctors to arrive. I lay here floundering between surrealism and unforgiving reality. I lay here trying to concentrate as Dr Phil talks about taking me back to theatre. He mentions a hysterectomy but I am too exhausted for the enormity of his words to sink in. I lay here as the dosage of hormones in my IV is increased in a last minute attempt to stop the bleeding.

I lay here and smile as Lara walks into my room holding mums hand, however that’s where she stops. I lay here and wonder what I must look like as she clutches mums leg, reluctant to come any closer, let alone hug me. This certainly isn’t the arrival I had prepared her for. There was no warning, there is no present shopping with dad, there will be no big sister cuddle.  Joy and excitement have taken a back seat to fear and uncertainty.

I lay here with Leesa, my sister, and watch as the Flying Doctors MedStar retrieval team lug all their equipment past my room. I am relieved that they are finally here, their arrival brings the best care available to my little boy. I lay here glad to see Dan back at the hospital after his quick trip home to pack me a bag. He carries Lara to the nursery to meet her brother. Her mind is far more intelligent than her 2 and a half years would suggest and I lay here and worry about what she must be thinking.

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I lay here reassured knowing Leesa is in the nursery with our baby as he is prepared for the flight. I know no information will be missed, no question will go unasked with my big sister watching on. I lay here knowing my little boy is only a few doors away but the distance between us feels immense.

“I lay here knowing that my little boy is only a few doors away but the distance between us seems immense.”

I lay here and listen to the MedStar nurse explain to me that my baby boy is about to leave but I must stay. I lay here in a state of complete confusion. I am going to Adelaide, I am going with my baby!

What is this woman talking about? I lay here and try to speak but all I can do is cry. The nurse is stern with her words as if to let me know that no amount of emotion will change the outcome.

I am not stable, I cannot fly. It’s straight forward for her, heart breaking for me. I lay here slapped in the face by harsh reality.

I lay here as my baby boy is wheeled into my room to say goodbye. His tiny body is covered in tubes, wires and a seat belt which straps him to the specialised portable humidicrib.

I reach out my arm to touch him but I cannot reach. The nurse manoeuvres the trolley of technology holding him, I stretch out my arm again and I am able to reach just enough to touch his tiny foot. I never want to let go.

I lay here and try to be brave for my little boy, I swallow hard but the lump in my throat escapes and the tears begin to flow again. I know in this moment I am going to have to be stronger than I previously knew possible. I lay here feeling as though my heart is on that trolley. “Stay strong little man, mummy loves you”.

I lay here holding my mum and cry, we both cry as the MedStar team and my baby boy disappear out of sight. I lay here knowing this is not what Mother Nature intended, this is not how things are supposed to be.  Dan takes Lara out of the room to shield her from the raw emotion and distress, and I think to also keep his own emotions in check.

I lay here feeling physically and emotionally shattered. I lay here and watch as the fourth bag of blood is hooked up to my IV. I lay here and watch as people walk in and out of my room. I lay here being poked and prodded, the day is painful but I avoid a return trip to theatre.

I lay here and talk to Dr Roth, the opportunity to ask questions has finally risen after the chaos has somewhat subsided.  “What the hell happened?” I lay here and listen to Dr Roth explain my placenta had ruptured. “When a placenta ruptures like yours did, babies die, you lost a lot of blood. You are very lucky to be alive, the fact your baby is alive is nothing but a miracle”.

The Royal Flying Doctors Service.

I lay here unable to sleep, the night is long. I lay here, my mind starts to wonder what if? What if Dan had been on one of his fishing or shooting trips and not been home?

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What if we had been camping like we were the month before? What if they hadn’t been able to stop the bleeding? What if Lara had been left without her mum?

What if my little boy is not ok? I lay here and quickly realise the ‘What if’ game is not fun to play yet hard to stop. I lay here exhausted but wide awake as night turns back into day.

I lay here listening to the cry of a newborn baby, someone else’s baby. I lay here listening to the usual joy of the maternity ward and the excitement of new mums and dads.

I lay here and watch as visitors stream through the corridor, I watch as flowers and balloons walk past my room. I lay here and listen to a big brother help his mum bath his new sibling. I lay here. I lay here without my baby boy and think this must be what hell feels like, hell disguised as a maternity ward.

I lay here and wait with such impatience it is almost painful. I have been cleared to fly but now must wait for a plane to be available. I lay here and hug my husband tight, we say goodbye as he leaves to drive to Adelaide, unsure when I will get there.

I lay here in the late afternoon with my sister, my agitation increasing with time.  I lay here as she makes me a cup of tea, insisting I eat something. I lay here surprised as two ambulance officers wheel a bed into my room, they arrive without notice. I lay here, excited to be leaving, however I know my hospital days are not over, they have only just begun.  Anticipation temporarily overshadows the fear, stress and uncertainty.

Saying goodbye to Archie with the MedStar nurse before he was transferred to Womens and Childrens Hospital, Adelaide.

I lay here as the ambulance officers wheel my bed through the hospital corridors and out the front door.

I lay here and think of Lara, the opportunity to say goodbye to her is lost in the unpredictable nature of The Flying Doctors.

I lay here unsure of how long it will be before I see my daughter again. I lay here and wave to my sister through the back doors of the ambulance as we drive away.

I know her huge smile is a reflection of my own excitement and relief at finally being on my way to be with my baby boy.

I lay here and smile as I think of her offer to push my bed all the way to Adelaide or steal a plane if that’s what I needed.

I lay here on board the Royal Flying Doctors plane. My blood pressure is taken yet again and I know my unease of flying will increase my blood pressure if nothing else can. I lay here and grimace as my seat belt bounces against my wound. Excitement puts a bandaid over my pain, soon I will be with my little baby boy. I lay here, close my eyes and listen to the loud humming of the engine.

I lay here 12,000 feet in the air, in the middle of a miracle.

POST SCRIPT:

Our little baby boy Archie spent the first month of his life in hospital, half the amount of time anyone originally predicted. Parenting through a plastic box was a world I knew nothing about, everything I learnt about motherhood from having my first child was rendered useless. Knowing my baby boy was receiving the best care available, yet feeling so helpless at a time when my child was supposed to need me the most, was a real battle of emotions. Having to leave the hospital night after night without Archie was heartbreaking and against every one of my motherly instincts.

Archie taught me how to be brave and his strength surprised and inspired me.

I will never forget the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I will never forget the relief, nerves and love of that first precious hold. I will never forget the distinct smell of the hand sanitiser or the unrelenting beeping of monitors. I will never forget the excitement of a 50 gram weight gain or the uncertainty of a feed not tolerated.

I will never forget how truly lucky we are.

Archie is now 11 months old, he is happy, he is beautiful, he is even chubby. He is perfect. So why is it still so hard?

I think about the past with sadness way too often. I think about it every day, and even when I’m not awake it finds its way into my dreams, it haunts my sleep. It grabs at my heart and pulls the pain to the surface at the most unsuspecting and inappropriate times. It certainly isn’t my aim to forget, for that would be impossible and an insult to my son’s strength. My aim, my wish, is to not have the memories of the trauma and his early life, consume my mind.

As my son’s first birthday approaches, I wonder, have I bypassed the preconceived timeline appropriate for grief? Is grief even the right word, after all I got to bring my baby home, others did not?

Does the recipient of a miracle have the right to complain?

 Shelly Murdoch is a stay-at-home-mum who lives in country South Australia with her 2 gorgeous kids and husband.

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