How quickly everything changes.
There I was on Friday, sitting in a meeting with colleagues from other related bodies, drinking coffee and chatting about the impending birth of our second daughter. My wife was 37 weeks pregnant, having survived two scares during the time first when she was sent to hospital with suspected heart/circulation problems at 24 weeks, and then when she started having contractions at 33 weeks while I was home in South Africa. Our first child had been born at 33 weeks and had assorted complications as a result, although she is now a beautiful, healthy toddler (thank God), so we had been really worried that there would be problems this time round as well.
We set ourselves the goal of getting to 37 weeks, because then Pixie could have the water birth that she'd been dreaming of, and had been mightily relieved when that milestone had been reached on the Wednesday. Doubly so, because the baby had moved on Monday, and we were worried that it was now lying transverse, which would have meant that we would have had to have had a C-section instead of a natural birth. The midwife couldn't be sure by feeling, so Pixie had been to the hospital for a scan, and everything had been good - the head was down, the spine in the correct orientation, a good heartbeat. Things were looking up. Pixie was feeling big and sore, and we joked that it would be a good thing if she could be born this weekend, as my mother was on holiday the next week, but my father would only be on holiday the week after, so she (my mom) would be free to come and stay with us to help look after us, our toddler and the new bairn.
On Thursday evening, Pixie mentioned that she couldn't remember feeling the baby move that day, so I said that she should call the doctor if she was worried. She said she'd think about it and we went to sleep.
But back to Friday - there were several mothers amongst the group, and they all assured me that second pregnancies were MUCH easier than first time around. "Like shelling peas from a pod" one lady said. The meeting started, and we got lost in the details of what tactics were best to get Councils and Committees to give out money for unglamorous projects like upgrading switches and firewalls. Lunchtime came and there was a call on my mobile (always by my side after the 33 week scare):
"Where are you?"
"Still at the meeting - how are you doing?"
"I'm at the hospital"
"They can't find a heartbeat"
I'm surprised I didn't knock anyone down as I ran from the building to the bus stop. It was the most frustrating journey down Regent Street, with Westminster Palace in view (we were booked into St Thomas', just across the Thames), and traffic going nowhere. When I got there, it took me some time to find the right reception area to go to, and then (being British) I had to wait my turn to be seen and told where my wife was. The consultant arrived shortly after I did and confirmed what we feared the most - our baby was dead, there was no heartbeat to be found.
We left to collect our daughter from her daycare and to call our parents. And to weep.
We went in the next morning (my parents came up to babysit) and had a frustrating wait while the NHS deigned to notice our existence. From then on, however, the care we received was excellent. Pixie's waters were broken and contractions began. It is Nature's ultimate act of cruelty, to make a mother go through labour when there is nothing to look forward to at the end of it all. Fortunately, the mothers had been right, the labour was much easier, and, because we no longer had to worry about the health of the baby , we had access to stronger painkillers. Five hours in total and there she was...
She looked exactly like her big sister did at birth - uncannily so. She weighed 2.78kg (6lb 2oz) and was 52cm long. She has blue eyes, curly ginger-blond hair and is perfect in every way. The midwife left her with us and we held her close and wept some more. Our pastor and his wife came and prayed with us, blessed and named her. Zoe means "life" apparantly - not that I'd been aware of that when we'd settled on the name, not that it makes a difference - the name fitted her when we saw her, and Zoe she is and will be forever.
And then you leave her, and go back to a house that should contain four of you and only has three. And hold your daughter, who should be enough and just isn't anymore. And weep without really knowing who you're crying for. And think about going back to the mundane world of work and friends and wonder if you'll ever be able to face them again.
The autopsy will be happening today or tomorrow, but they won't have the final results for 6 to 8 weeks - but the initial results don't look too promising, and we have to prepare ourselves for the possibility that there will be no answers. About 5 babies for every thousand live births die without any apparant reason - sort of like cot death I suppose. In some ways, that would actually be easier to deal with, no way to blame ourselves (if only we'd gone for the scan on Thurs instead of waiting) or anyone else (why didn't they pick up that something was wrong). We could blame God I suppose, since He's supposed to be in charge of our lives. Why He would let her survuive the first scares only to take her away at the last minute makes no sense to me, but then very little relating to God does at the moment.
And there it is - two days from heartbeat to dead.
Go hug your kids now.
Thursday, 26 April 2007
This is a post I made on a message board that I belong to, a few days after Zoe was delivered - I'm not sure I can bring myself to re-word it... I will add more posts soon enough, but this will do for starters...