It was all very sudden. We had only just begun to prepare for induction in two days’ time and now, just hours after we had left the hospital, we were on our way back.
Making our way numb through the hospital corridors, past the hateful mothers-to-be merrily puffing away before they returned to the maternity ward to give birth to live children, we were ushered to a quiet room tucked away from the main ward.
Despite having prior warning that we were coming the room wasn’t ready so there was an eternity of faffing before we could get started. It would be our base camp for the next few days. A self-contained bubble designed to minimise the need to go into the main ward.
One of the things that TV and movies get wrong about labour and birth is the waiting. It’s always so quick. This is probably due to the fact that watching people pace around and chat nonsense (“do you want some crisps? No? *rummages in pockets, produces mysterious package* What about strawberry laces? I have strawberry laces. What do you mean they look like a canula?! Ugh”) doesn’t make for compelling viewing. Having said that One Born Minute does exactly that and plenty of people watch that so maybe they should.
We had to constantly struggle to get the staff to take us seriously. Whereas in a healthy pregnancy she would have been checked to see progression in this case they only checked at the point before the epidural was fitted despite multiple family members having to intervene. With contractions usually there is a trade-off that the pain will result in a good outcome but here there were to be no healthy baby boys at the end.
Whilst the labour itself was relatively quick there was still lots of waiting. Waiting for nurses to take bloods and blood pressure. Waiting for equipment to be located made the hunt for a blood pressure monitor feel like a trainee being asked to get a ‘long stand’.
Even with all the waiting there wasn’t time to be ready. Before I knew what was happening it was time to change into scrubs and get to theatre for delivery. Although she had finally managed to get her long asked for epidural she was still expected to move onto the surgical bed until one of the surgeons saw sense and helped.
Once in there I still didn’t know what was going on. They put a screen up to block the view but a badly placed light meant that my wife could still see everything and had to ask for it to be moved.
My wife was heavily sedated and dropping fast and I panicked thinking she may die. I tried to keep her awake when my wife was so exhausted she just wanted to sleep. She saw the panic in my eyes and fought against the tiredness until the anaesthetist finally told me that it would be ok to let her drift.
I clutched at hands and mopped brows whilst the surgeons worked at the grim task of delivering our dead sons all the while they chatted about their new fucking iPhone. I was glad when they got splashed when the second set of waters went (and hit the wall too!). I get the need for gallows humour in medicine but that was not the time. That was taking the piss.
Once the babies were delivered it was back to the room to wait for them. Looking back that was a really hurtful decision. At least then they may have been warm when we first held them.
A nurse came in with a moses basket and our two boys dressed in what should have been their going home outfits.
They had been cleaned up from the birth but were still a little bloody from their injuries. I have no great faith that they had been delivered with any delicacy. They weighed practically nothing and their outfits swamped them. As I held my son for the first time a trickle of blood leaked from his mouth. No-one ever told us about the blood. It just kept on coming until I just absent mindedly wiped when needed. Of the two of them he was the smallest. Almost immediately we started to build stories for them. The smaller was the bruiser of the two whilst his bigger brother was the gentle giant.
We took it turns to hold them both and pretend that this was ok, that this was what proud new parents did. We worried we weren’t holding them right and that we might drop them. Normal healthy parenty concerns.
No one showed us what to do. We practiced swaddling without a clue what we were doing. In the end we settled for a burrito style approach. That night I slept on the camp bed with my hand resting about the basket unwilling to let go.
I do remember the bizarre need to accompany a nurse with our boys across the ward to find a set of scales. I have no idea why they didn’t just bring the scales to us rather than make us slink through the maternity ward afraid that I might bump into a new mother and scare her with our tiny unmoving children.
I was the only one of us to see them naked. My wife only knew that they were boys because I had told her. It felt like no-one really knew what to do with us. One of the few times any of the ward staff came to check on us was when we were all laughing so much they thought we had gone into mass hysteria.
It wasn’t all bad. We did have welcome visits from our consultant and main midwife amongst the revolving door of people walking into the ward to see how we were doing and pay their respects to the boys. It’s a shame that they would then be replaced by dull-eyed jobsworths with the emotional connection of a sponge that failed to take bloods properly let alone acknowledge our loss with any care or respect.
We took crap photos using our crappy camera phones and the chuck away number that was included in the memory box provided for bereaved parents.
There are some truly heart breaking photos in there along with some unintentionally funny ones. The photos follow their own sort of timeline and it’s interesting to see that you can pick up on changes in body language even in the blurriest photos where it becomes clear when we get tired of having our children passed around for photos and make it obvious that we wanted our time with them. Alone. Sadness was slowly being replaced by a growing irritation at the constant interruptions.
Eventually our patience wore thin and when asked “is there anything I can do” we screamed in unison, “YES. GET. OUT”.