By: Nicole Barsky for Little Tsunami.
I didn’t know that he had passed away. I was at work and I said to my teaching partner, “I just don’t feel right today.” It was a strange feeling, just a funny inkling that I had. I’d been seeing my obstetrician weekly for scans because of past losses and fertility struggles, so I rang and said that I wanted to come in for a quick scan, just for reassurance.
As soon as he started scanning I saw the look on his face. I could see there was no movement, I could see there was no heartbeat. He said, “Look my machinery is probably not the greatest. How many weeks are you?” I was fourteen plus four. Archer measured fourteen plus four. If we were looking at a fetal demise I wouldn’t be measuring to date.
My obstetrician wanted to send me for a proper obstetric scan but it was about 6.30pm at night. A beautiful woman who was still open in Heidelberg said she’d wait for me. Eric, my husband, came and met me and took me down to her clinic. The minute the 3D image went up on the screen I could see that there was absolutely nothing. She said, “I’m really sorry.”
I’d had an early second trimester miscarriage and it had happened that very day. I was given medication to be induced, told to go home, and to wait and see if anything happened overnight. I went back to hospital at 8am the next morning and started having contractions. At 2pm I said to Eric, “Something’s happening” and at five minutes past 2pm, Archer was born.
The birth experience in itself was the most bizarre feeling. I had all of the contractions with labour but the delivery was totally different. He was just such a little baby. Everything was just swirling around and I remember saying to my midwife, “I’m going to…” and then I passed out. I had blood loss between 500ml to a litre – which they call moderate – but enough for me to feel completely woozy. That, and the shock of delivery.
In the maternity ward, I could hear all the babies crying. It was brutal but I wanted to meet Archer and this is where I had to do it. That’s when one of my beautiful midwives walked in with a bear from Pregnancy Loss Australia. There was a mum who’d provided the hospital with some bears in memory of her daughter, Skye. I sat with that bear all night.
This week as part of Never Forgotten: Mamamia's Pregnancy Loss Awareness Week we're remembering the babies we've lost. Post continues below.
Late that evening, after my mum and dad and the kids had gone home, Eric and I said, “We’d like to meet him”. He was this tiny, tiny, tiny perfect little thing. I said to Eric, “He’s got the most perfect little fingernails!” He had tiny, tiny hands and a little yellow hat on, all rugged up and gorgeous. We didn’t get to spend that much time with him, just a couple of hours. The next morning we said we’d like to bring him home.
They had to make sure the corridors were empty so that they weren’t going to put anyone else into stress. I thought, “I’m leaving hospital with my little boy in a box and you’re worried other people’s distress?” My thoughts were purely selfish at the time which is probably reasonable, all things considered. The hospital’s beautiful Nurse Unit Manager said, “C’mon, I’ll walk you out”. She helped us to the car and was more than generous and compassionate.
I’d had an early miscarriage before conceiving William. We lost that baby at nine weeks, but its heart had stopped at seven weeks. It just happened at home and I dealt with it like it happens to many, many women. But this instance felt completely different. I’d birthed Archer; I’d met him; I’d gone through surgery; I’d been in the labour ward. My midwife had explained that one of the things people often do in my situation is give the baby a name.
Archer came about because it was the only name Eric and I could agree on. He was always going to have James as a middle name, just because we liked it, and Steven, after our obstetrician. We had a little burial for Archer at home, just a temporary one because we knew we were going to be moving house and I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him behind at our rental. Once the garden is put in our new home we’ll have a proper burial for him. At the moment he’s in a big rosemary bush in a beautiful little coffin. This option was given to us because he was under 20 weeks.
Doing the day-to-day stuff and having to chase after the kids gave me the fire to keep going and get me through the grief. The support has been unbelievable, and from people I didn’t expect. So many people that have read my story and reached out and said, “Me too. But I don’t really talk about it because nobody else gets it.” That’s been an incredible way to gauge support.
Just three weeks before Archer passed away we’d put the announcement of our pregnancy on Facebook, a photo of our five little pairs of shoes, to say there was one more baby coming. Eva had gone to Kinder and told everyone for show and tell that we were going to have a new baby. You just get your head around the excitement that there’s a new baby coming, for it to be immediately ripped away. It’s not like any other death. It’s not like knowing someone who’s 80 years old and seeing them deteriorate.
The bear that was given to me by Pregnancy Loss Australia is what started the ball rolling. I thought, “Something good has to come out of this.” We started a Bear-Drive for Pregnancy Loss Australia so that other bears could be donated to other mums who’d gone through the same thing. Within a week we’d raised $1,000 which means 40-something bears. They’re just about to be delivered to hospitals throughout Victoria, all with Archer’s name on them.
At the Pregnancy Loss Australia memorial walk a couple of weeks ago I noticed on the back of someone’s t-shirt we were walking near said, “Walking In Memory Of Baby Skye”. I approached her and asked if she had baby Skye at Northpark Private and she replied, “Yes, I did.” I told her that her Skye bear was given to me the night I had Archer and that I just wanted to say thanks. There were tears all round.
The Cuddle Cot we’re raising funds for are Archer’s legacy. A Cuddle Cot is a cooling system attached to a cot and rather than the baby having to be cooled in a traditional mortuary, a cuddle cot is transportable. They’re expensive – $5,500 – and I know it’s a cost that smaller hospitals probably aren’t able to outlay. In the past week I’ve managed to raise $530 which is a great start. Knowing that there will be other families like ours that will benefit means the world to us. A Cuddle Cot will give families the chance to spend up to a few days with their baby. Some parents might want to bring their baby home – parents who’ve had losses at 40+6 weeks who’ve got their nursery set up. It gives your family time to meet your baby while they’re still looking like a beautiful little tiny bub. It gives parents the opportunity for choice.
It’s kind of an exclusive gang. One that you never want to be a part of, but once you’re there you want to do all that you can because you know the hell that family is going to endure. I won’t say we’ve made it through, but we’re making it through.
Nicole, 35, mum to Eva, 4, William, 2, and Archer, born sleeping 6.5.2015.
Nami Clarke is the pint-sized powerhouse that fuels Little Tsunami, an online project exploring the raw, real and often unspoked stories of motherhood – dive in at www.littletsunami.com.au. She is a mother, writer, business woman and conversation starter. She is an official ambassador for COPE (cope.org.au).
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