It had taken two years to get to our boys and they were gone before we had even really understood what was happening.
Finding out that my wife was pregnant again was a huge shock and one of the best kept secrets we’ve ever had.
Wary of getting excited and still wounded from the previous experience we kept it all very closely guarded telling only those that needed to know and only when it became obvious that baggy jumpers can only go so far.
We were lucky to still be in counselling so we had help to try and deal with the twin challenges of coping with bereavement and expecting a baby. We had excellent continuity of care and it was only when we hit the postnatal ward that care collapsed totally. The subsequent pregnancies were very different.
I’m getting ahead of myself.
The point is more that, much like well-intentioned people seeking to minimise loss, many health professionals along the way worked on the basis that live children were magical. The birth of a new life would heal all the wounds, the pain, sadness and rage of stillbirth. All of our meekly raised concerns it would happen again were baseless! Ridiculous! Preposterous!
It could all be airily dismissed as parental neuroticism and our irrational fear defeated by the cold, unquestionable certainty of statistics.
Statistics are not our friends. We had been told that it would be nearly impossible to conceive.
The chances of twins, tiny. Identical twins, tinier still. Acute twin to twin transfusion syndrome occurring at such a late stage in pregnancy also statistically unlikely.
In every way we fell into the improbable sometimes for the good but where it mattered we fell into the wrong percentile. The one where you go home with empty arms.
So, no. Telling us the chances of stillbirth occurring are small doesn’t reassure us. It doesn’t erase the image of unmoving children on an ultrasound when we go for a scan. It doesn’t stop me mentally preparing a eulogy.
When my wife scoured Dr Google for assessment on risk factors, care guidelines and options for early induction she did so because no-one else would listen to her concerns and answer her questions. These weren’t quack websites but peer reviewed journals, official materials on perinatal loss. All of it cast aside as if it had no more credibility then the back of a cereal packet.
When we raised concerns that measurements weren’t being tracked, that referrals weren’t happening to follow up and that there were reduced fetal movements we were ignored or treated for the wrong thing.
“Well, you’re not in labour and it’s not contractions. Go home and take some paracetamol for the pain”
“I know I’m not in labour and I’m not in pain. I’m here because I can’t feel my baby”.
*puzzled* “There are movements. Look” *taps print out*. “See? Nothing to worry about”
We know from the latest research that we were right to be concerned. That basic care guidelines are being ignored. It’s so draining to be asked for the nth time “is this your first?” and having to explain over and over what could have been answered by reading the front page of the maternity notes or just looking at the big sticker used to alert staff of previous loss.
So many pointless deaths not from malice or disease but shortcuts and sloppy practices. There is a yawning gap between the public lip service paid to initiatives like Count the Kicks and actually acting on it when parents are brave enough to risk the derision, ridicule and disbelief of the people they are counting on to help.
We are far from being an isolated instance. Other blogs, message boards will tell similar tales of woe.
There are good people out there acting with compassion and professionalism but they are in danger of being eclipsed by the bad.
There is no triumph in having your worst fears realised.