My Baby Shower.
I woke up thinking about what an amazing day I was about to have. It was the day of my baby shower. I have sat through my fair share of baby showers and now it was my time to bore my guests with baby shower games like ‘guess the nursery rhymes’ and ‘labour or porn’. I was mostly looking forward to the presents to help finish off our collection of stuff for our little man.
Wow, did we get spoilt! We ended up with so much stuff for our son. I had a great day with my family, Matt’s family and my girlfriends. I left all the presents out in our living room to show Matt when he got home from the pub with his friends.
Once everyone had left it was time for me to relax and watch some of The Office. Halfway through the episode I was watching, I thought to myself that it was strange I hadn’t felt little-one move that day. He’s usually most active first thing in the morning when I wake up, but I hadn’t felt him kicking that morning. I had been too busy with setting up the baby shower to notice the lack of movements.
My last midwife appointment at the hospital was two days earlier and the midwife had said that if movements had decreased that I should call and come in. I thought to myself, ‘I’ll just call and go in to check, he’s probably just in a weird position that I cant feel, or he’s just sleeping. I’ll go to the hospital while Matt’s out and it’ll all be fine.’
I called the hospital, the midwife on the phone told me to come into the ward in an hour because they were quite busy. I rang Matt just to tell him where I was going and he immediately left the pub to come with me. I told him he didn’t have to and that everything was fine but he insisted on coming. I honestly didn’t want him to come because I knew he had been drinking all afternoon and he was going to be drunk. But looking back, I am so thankful for his insistence.
An hour later, Matt’s friend had dropped him home. His friend looked worried and asked if I was okay and I told him ‘yeah, yeah, everything’s fine! I just haven’t felt movements all day and need to go into hospital to check its all good.’ I honestly thought everything was fine. I had no worry, no premonition that anything was going to be wrong at all.
As we drove to the hospital, I remember taking a lot of notice of the moon while we drove. It was a big yellow full moon. So yellow, it could’ve been the sun at night. I have dreams of that moon every night. I think it was Riley’s way of telling us he had gone before we even knew.
“Sometimes it just happens”
The doctor looked at us with ‘that’ look that we would soon get used to seeing from people when we tell them that our son died. It’s that look you give when someones upset; we all give it. It’s a slight upturn of one corner of your mouth and your lips purse against each other. Your eyebrows turn into each other to give a frown of sympathy and your eyes are full of sorrow. It’s like a look of pity because it’ll be worse if you smiled.
“I’m so sorry guys, I can’t find a heartbeat,” she said, holding back tears. I stared at her, waiting for her to turn around and say ‘Oh, wait, no, there it is’ or laugh and say something sick like, ‘only joking!’ but it never came. I looked at Matt who was staring at her as well, I only assume waiting for the same thing I was. It felt like a lifetime had passed until any noise had been made; it was just pure silence. It felt impossible to take a breath.
Since finding out we were pregnant, there has been a running dialog in my mind to Riley and a constant thought of things relating to him. As soon as the doctor told us his heartbeat was gone; the conversation stopped and everything in my mind went quiet. I was suddenly alone in my mind.
I don’t remember who spoke next but I remember thinking that there must be something that can be done. Can we deliver him right away and get his heart beating again? Can I jump up and down to get it beating? What could I do? There was nothing that I could do. I remember asking why his heart stopped beating. The doctor could only shrug and say that she couldn’t tell us ‘why’ right away but that ‘sometimes it just happens’.
“But I just had my baby shower” I told her, as if that would bring him back. As if because I had already had a baby shower that meant that I was entitled to have a living baby.
Matt and I went home that night to sleep. We cried ourselves to sleep. It was a light sleep, I kept waking to remind myself that my body had failed and my boy was dead inside me. I wept all night and all morning before we went back to the hospital.
That was the only night I let myself feel my emotions. From Sunday onwards I became a different person for the next five days. I went into ‘okay, it’s time to deliver this baby’ mode and went through the steps and motions I had to go through to deliver our baby boy safely.
Secretly, I was holding onto a false hope that once he was out he would be fine and breathing. I was broken at the thought that he was gone, but I didn’t let myself feel right then and there. I ignored the world; all the texts and phone calls from friends and family who didn’t know what was going on but knew I was in hospital. I took all the painkillers available to ease my pain but no drug could stop how I felt in my heart.
Once he came out, the silence was definite. He wasn’t alive anymore.
I always pictured what giving birth would entail. Lots of pain, lots of midwives running around, Matt would be there by my side trying not to look down (as I had been telling him to do) and a healthy baby being born into the world. The midwives would put him on my chest for skin-to-skin contact; he’d look up at me and see his mumma for the first time and fall back asleep knowing that he was safe in my arms.
Instead, I had one midwife, Matt was by my side trying not to look down, my boy was born and then complete silence. Nothing can explain how intense the silence is. Just like the silence when we were told his heart had stopped, a lifetime had passed until our midwife broke the silence to tell us how long Riley’s toes were. Her comment made me smile immediately because it was the first time someone would compliment me on my child. I knew in that moment that I had become a mother and I could finally see what and whom he looked like.
I had spent 28 weeks wondering whom he would look like. We had a 3D ultrasound booked in on March 17th, I would’ve been 30 weeks but I was looking at him in the flesh at 29 weeks. Sometimes I think that I wished too hard to know what he looked like that the universe decided to show me when he wasn’t ready.
We named him Riley James. He weighed 1.37kgs and looked just like me but with Matt’s hair.
During the first few weeks of my pregnancy Matt had come home from work one day and almost immediately after walking through the door he had asked, “how do you like the name Riley?” It was the first name he came up with (that I liked) and the first sign of excitement of our pregnancy. Riley was a name I hadn’t thought of yet and I loved it! We were going to name the baby Riley for either gender.
Our time with Riley.
We spent 6 hours in the hospital with our sweet boy. The midwives told us that we could spend as much time as we want with him, however, I looked at Matt and he was exhausted. He had spent 4 nights on a recliner and refused to leave me to go home to rest. I was exhausted from being in hospital for 4 days and wanted to be in my own space. Looking back, if my labour hadn’t taken so long I would’ve stayed in hospital with Riley longer.
There was only so much that we could do with Riley in the hospital except look at him. I held myself back from touching him too much because his skin would blister and bleed if touched or rubbed too much. I wanted to keep him perfect.
He was the most peaceful and beautiful thing I had ever seen. I could finally understand what people mean by a mother’s love. It’s indescribable how much you can love your child.
The night shift midwife washed Riley for his photos. She asked if I wanted to but I was too scared. I didn’t want to hurt him or cause any more damage to his skin so I put my trust into her to wash him and she did a lovely job preserving his skin for me. She dressed him, wrapped him up and put him in my arms. I looked down at him and all I could think of was how I both loved my body for giving me the most beautiful child I had ever seen and hated my body for taking his life away.