Placental abruption, baby Quinn & pregnancy after loss
It’s been 2 years since Quinn, my baby boy died. It had taken us a few years to get to that point after previously suffering a miscarriage before him, I was 40 years old and over 38 weeks pregnant in July 2017. I believed he was our final chance of having our last baby, we were grateful to be having a boy and excitedly awaiting his arrival, picturing our life with him in it. I thought we’d made it by getting to the end of the pregnancy, he was perfect and ready to live life on the outside, then suddenly without warning my placenta fully detached while I slept one night. The events which followed were traumatic as I was rushed to hospital by ambulance and put to sleep for a crash c-section to try and save his life which subsequently lead to procedures to save my life too. As I was hurriedly wheeled down into surgery, I started thinking about my other three children needing their mother and asking ‘will I wake up?’ I can’t imagine what my partner went through sitting alone in a room wondering if he’d see either of us again. Hours later I did wake up and immediately asked if my baby was alive, he was in NICU and I was placed into critical care. Quinn deteriorated and we later had to make the decision to turn off his life support, I wanted him more than anything in the world but had to let him go, if I could of frozen time in that moment when we were all together I would of.
I already had three children, they’d all been overdue with spontaneous labours and uncomplicated births, I believed in my body to know what to do and do the right thing, I’ll never understand why I had a placental abruption and no reason or cause was found. One of the hardest things is not knowing why, I went around in circles trying to work out what could of caused it, wondering if I’d missed a warning sign, playing out different scenarios in my head for different outcomes, but I’ll never find an answer and I couldn’t of changed what happened.
I wanted to talk about my baby like any new mum would, what he looked like, his weight, his name, show his pictures, he was perfect and I was proud of him, but people didn’t ask or acknowledge his birth, it was like he’d never existed. All the focus is on the death, but he also lived and was born. I think some people feel uncomfortable and don’t know what to say or feel like if they acknowledge these things happen they could ‘catch it’ and would rather not look or think about it. I felt lost and alone and didn’t want to be parents of a baby who died, I wanted him back, I didn’t choose this new life and wanted my old one. I tried to do everything right during pregnancy and wondered what I’d done to deserve this. I looked online for stories like mine and was shocked to discover so many good people going through the same and wondered why we don’t hear much about it. There was a community out there I didn’t know existed and now I was part of it and found help and support.
Coming home with a memory box instead of a baby was one of the worst feelings imaginable. The months following his death were blurry, numb, confusing and draining, repeatedly going through the cycle of grief. It felt like being on the outside looking in on someone else’s life, wondering how the world can carry on when I didn’t feel part of it anymore. It was a feeling I never knew existed, emotional pain turned into physical pain in my heart, a heavy weight on my chest and finding it hard to breath. How would I feel joy/happiness and smile again without a sinking feeling that someone is missing? I was still here and felt guilty he didn’t survive and that my other children had lost their brother. I worried about how they felt and how I’d be a good mother feeling so sad and broken, but life carries on and I got up everyday doing what I always do, although I didn’t feel like me anymore. I wished I could fast forward to a different time where hopefully I’d feel better than I did.
My whole belief system had been turned upside down but after everything that had happened I still wanted a baby, I wanted the life we thought we would have but my age and what my body had been through worried me. I felt that could be the end to my motherhood journey, we were back to the beginning again and it felt hopeless at times
Eight months later after a long painful recovery from the surgery, we conceived again, which was followed by a lot of worry, fear, anxiety and a small glimmer of hope. I’d lost trust in my body, It didn’t get any easier as time past and the anxiety built towards the final weeks. I constantly felt like everything could be taken away from me again at any minute and feared another abruption amongst anything else that could go wrong.
I couldn’t think or talk about the future and could only concentrate on getting through one week at a time. A few coping mechanisms I used were a pregnancy diary to document each week, so I could look back and see how far we’d come. I gave myself small milestones to reach and used milestone cards to take photos. I had a ‘baby celebration’ with friends celebrating our baby being there at that moment, but didn’t want ‘baby presents’ and my partner and I went on a baby-moon. It was really hard to have a positive outlook and celebrate anything but I didn’t want to regret not documenting any moments and wanted to have some happy memories to look back on later.
The pregnancy wasn’t as smooth and worry free as my previous ones, I had spotting in early pregnancy, an 8 week scan confirmed the pregnancy was viable after a heartbeat was detected. After spotting again on week 11, I went for another scan and was scared it would all be over, but baby was lots bigger and moving around. The 12 week scan/screening test came back ‘high risk’ for trisomy 21 at a 1:72 chance, later a genetic blood test revealed ‘low risk’. At my 20 week scan I was diagnosed with placenta previa, my consultant didn’t think my placenta would move and said my best case scenario would be if it wasn’t over my c-section scar otherwise I’d have to go to another hospital for a vertical caesarian hysterectomy, but against the odds over time it thankfully resolved itself and my placenta did move up and out of the way of everything, I had delivery options again but decided on a planned cesarian section.
We made it to my scheduled c-section date at 37 weeks, anxiety was at it’s height as I walked down the corridor into theatre. I was really scared at the thought of the spinal, which I’d never had before and scared my baby could have breathing difficulties being delivered early. The surgery went smoothly without complications and our baby girl was born, we were able to go home the following day. I didn’t think any of this was possible after the previous abruption and surgery, I was terrified to try again, but didn’t want to look back later in life and have regrets or ‘what if’s’.
A few weeks after the initial relief of surviving the pregnancy and bringing home our baby my thoughts focused more onto the loss of Quinn again, holding a newborn and seeing her little personality and all the things she could do reminded me of the last time we held him and what we’d lost. I felt guilty he wasn’t here and guilty for my new baby that my mind wasn’t just on her like a new mum would normally be.
I think the pain of losing Quinn will always be there, just not as raw and It’s not something you can get over, I think you have to learn to live with it. I don’t know if time will heal or just make it feel different. Quinn isn’t here but he’s taught me so much, I’m more emphatic, patient, I don’t take things for granted and have a greater perspective of what’s really important in life. I’m now trying to learn how to live a happy full life without him here and how to manage the anxiety and panic attack’s left behind from the shock of his death. I don’t want baby loss to define me, it’s something that happened to me and is a part of my life. I’d like people to talk openly about my son and remember him, I hope to do some fundraising in his name in the future. There’s nothing morbid about my son, he’s just a baby like any other. I’d like to get to a point one day where I can think about Quinn and smile and would like to hear from other people further into this journey about how time changes your outlook and if it becomes easier to live with.
Our baby girl has brought us lots of joy and happiness which I do genuinely feel again. I’m loving being a new mum again to her and I’m trying to appreciate and document every moment. I’m grateful for what I’ve got today, but there’s always going to be someone missing, people see me with four children but I always see five.
Reading other people’s stories gave me hope when I couldn’t see through the darkness, so maybe my story could help somebody too. I’ve talked more about baby loss on my Instagram page instagram.com/happy_by_the_sea and also written blog posts on baby loss and pregnancy after loss here: https://bloghappybythesea.wordpress.com/
You can follow more of Louise’s story at https://www.instagram.com/happy_by_the_sea/