kids

'After losing my 4-month old baby, I was horrified by the comments from other mothers.'

Ankur Karn was just twenty-four years old when her son Aarush died of pneumonia.

Heartbroken by the loss of her baby, Ankur suffered with depression and tried not to speak about Aarush and the devastating trauma of his death for many years.

With this being Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Awareness (PANDA) Week, Ankur spoke to Mamamia about how she dealt with every parent’s worst nightmare, and some of the unexpected battles she had to cope with on her journey out of grief.

In 2010 Ankur was living in the city of Pune, India with her software developer husband Shantanu and they were excitedly waiting for the arrival of their first child. At six months pregnant, doctors established that all was not well and Ankur was admitted to hospital in her hometown of Ranchi.

“I was diagnosed with severe pre-eclampsia and because of my extremely high blood pressure, I was told I needed complete bed rest. I had to lie mostly on my left side and I wasn’t allowed to eat much or even watch television and as it was a particularly hot time of year, it was miserable. I didn’t know how long I could go on like that and I was very worried for my baby.”

As Ankur reached the seven-month mark, doctors made the decision to deliver her baby to give them both the best chance of survival.

“I was asleep when he was born by c-section on 26 March 2010 and he was immediately whisked away to a specialist children’s hospital. When I came around I was in agony, yet desperate to hold my new baby son.”

After three days on enforced bed rest to bring her blood pressure back down, then another few days of rest, Ankur travelled to the ICU to meet baby Aarush for the first time.

“He weighed just 1.2kg and when I saw him in an incubator covered in tubes I felt sick with fear. All I wanted to do was hold him or even touch him but due to the high chance of infection I couldn’t. I would constantly check for his tiny heartbeat, desperate to reassure myself that he was alive.

“I kept thinking ‘why is this happening to us?” and that I must have done something terrible. Up until those last few months, I had been blessed with a happy life and a loving family and yet there I was in a children’s ICU witnessing so much pain and suffering.”

After two and a half long months Ankur and Shantanu were allowed to finally take Aarush home. The extended family were overjoyed and the new baby was showered with generous gifts and much love.

“I could finally feed him, dress him and hold him. He was cooing and responding to me, it was a wonderful time.”

After a few happy weeks, Ankur became concerned that all was not well when Aarush began struggling to breathe.

“We raced him to the hospital as fast as we could. Doctors admitted and diagnosed him with pneumonia. It was agony as once again we had to wait and watch through a glass window as they tried and failed multiple times to put needles into his worn-out veins.”

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The trauma of seeing their baby son back in hospital compelled Ankur and Shantanu to make the decision to transfer Aarush to a specialist paediatric hospital in Delhi.

“We had to fly with an attendant while Aarush was attached to a special oxygen machine to help him breathe. I knew as soon as we boarded that it was very serious. I wanted the plane to hurry up and land and when we hit the tarmac, I was yelling at my husband to run to the waiting ambulance that was waiting to meet us.”

Aarush’s heart stopped beating briefly but he was revived by the waiting paramedic before being rushed to ICU. For 72 hours Ankur and Shantanu waited and hoped for any signs of improvement.

“We had accommodation booked but we couldn’t bear to leave the chairs outside his room. We tried to sleep but felt too sick to do anything other than sit or pray. One morning we went to a nearby temple and on our return the doctors called my husband in. Aarush’s organs had failed and we had to make the decision to switch off his life support. It was agonising and I just couldn’t do it, but within 20 minutes he had passed away.”

Four-month-old baby Aarush died on August 3 2010.

For Ankur and Shantanu, the grief was devastating as their whole world was turned upside-down. Ankur sought comfort from her family and retreated into a routine of medical appointments to try and help bring some relief to her mental and physical pain.

“I was depressed and lost and I needed to try and pass the time as best I could. In the months that followed Aarush’s death I saw numerous medical and alternative health experts for help. I had to deal with being told I should ‘just adopt’ when all I desperately wanted was my son back.”

After dealing with every parent’s worst nightmare and losing her only son, Ankur was horrified by the hurtful comments from other mothers in her local community who asked why a married woman of her age had ‘not yet had a baby?’.

“I got sick of being told to ‘go and see a fertility doctor’, especially after having seen so many doctors. While most of the women did not know what we had been through, it was hurtful and taught me never to ask personal questions of others when you don’t know their private pain.”

After deciding to take a long break from all the medical appointments, Ankur fell pregnant and found out on what would have Aarush’s birthday.

“I was stunned and happy to be pregnant again, but felt unconnected to the baby for the first two trimesters in case something went wrong. When I started to feel kicking and movement around the six-month mark, I couldn’t help myself, I was overjoyed. I prayed that after losing Aarush, I might again hold a baby boy.”

Thankfully Ankur’s second pregnancy passed without a hitch and she safely delivered a baby boy, Anush, weighing 3.42kg on 1 November 2012.

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“When the doctors handed Anush to Shantanu he didn’t want to hold him, he was so scared. I had initial worries too about how I would feel, yet as soon as I began to feed him, it was as if I forgot my pain for a time. I was so happy to have a healthy son in my arms.”

In spite of all their unimaginable suffering, Ankur, who moved with her family to Australia in 2015, remains strong and positive about the future.

"I was so happy to have a healthy son in my arms." Image supplied.

“Anush is six-years-old and enjoying his Kindergarten year in Newcastle. He knows he had a big brother and that our darling Aarush is now a beautiful star in the sky.

“Losing a child is the biggest loss an adult can ever experience, and the pain, even after eight years, can still be intense. I had to fight so hard to become a mother again and with Anush and our new life in Australia, we have found a happiness I could not have imagined in the darkest of days.

“For anyone else experiencing the intensity of the grief that we went through, know that while it may feel impossibly hard now – try to remain strong – there is hope.”

If this story brings up issues for you and you need to talk to someone, contact:

PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depresssion Awareness) Helpline (9am-7.30pm AEST): 1300 726 306

Lifeline Australia Helpline (24-hour support): 13 11 14

Griefline Australia 24/7 Online counselling service or contact the helpline from midday – 3am (AEST): (03) 9935 7400.

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