Kaitlyn Paul tells of the day her stillborn baby girl, Addison, came into the world.
“There's no foetal heart.” Those words will forever repeat inside my head. I woke up at 4am that Thursday morning with a funny feeling, realising I hadn't felt much movement. I called my mum to collect our two year old and went for a scan. Our first child had been born at 33 weeks due to being small. Twice-weekly scans kept an eye on his growth, I had three lots of steroid injections, and he was born weighing 1.74kg. He was a beautiful, healthy little boy.
What I was expecting to hear that Thursday morning was that it was time to take our little girl Addison out. All of our previous scans had shown no signs of anything amiss. She was healthy and looking good for a 35-week-plus delivery. The minute the screen turned on this time, we knew something was wrong. The sonographer pulled away, put her hand on mine and said, "I'm sorry, there's no foetal heart." Ben grabbed my hand and we both had tears streaming down our faces. I wanted to scream, but I just clenched up as our sonographer looked for a cause. All I could say to her was, “It's okay, it's okay.” I look back and think: what was okay in that moment? Really, what was okay about it? Nothing. My whole world had just come crashing down in a second, and all I could say was it’s okay?
I still had to deliver this baby somehow. We decided her birth would be just like her brother’s – a C-section. I couldn't bring myself to experience a natural birth when the end wouldn't be as it should be. A C-section meant it would be over quicker. We booked in for first thing the next morning and I remember walking out of the doctor’s office covering my belly with my cardigan – I was hiding my baby. I wanted her out, I wanted it to all be over, but we had to go home.
Morning came, Friday 13 February, and we walked into the hospital. I sat in the waiting room, tears rolling down my face. A nurse came over with a box of tissues – he knew why I was there. I was the one who'd lost their baby. It was time to go to the theatre. It was cold in there, and soft music played in the background. Ben was by my side, watching the moment his little girl came into the world. Ben says, “She's got lots of hair”, and she did. This is when normally you'd hear a little cry, but there was nothing – just silence. The beautiful nurse wrapped her up in a blanket I'd bought at 20 weeks, after finding out we were having a girl. It was at that moment I realised every little bit of my baby was real. A beautiful baby girl who I had so many hopes and wishes for, the baby girl I'd been growing inside me for the last seven months. She had arrived and was absolutely perfect, but she couldn't stay on earth with us.
I’d prayed to have my second baby in the hospital room with me, and not down in the special care nursery. I got to have her in my room, but it wasn't how it was meant to be. As we got back to our room, our baby girl in her crib, it was a very surreal moment. Our nurse helped us to take photos, prints of her little hands and feet, and we even got a lock of her beautiful dark and curly hair. She told us how beautiful and perfect she was. We can’t thank the nursing staff enough for being so wonderfully caring.
That first night, I cried and cried. I knew we'd have to say goodbye to our baby girl the next day. My incredibly strong husband held me and wiped away my tears. We decided together that it was time. Mum, Dad and our little boy came to say their goodbyes too. We had a few more days in hospital, which felt like a little, very safe bubble. When it came time to leave, we walked out without our baby, just like we did with our son – only we knew he'd come home once he was big and strong. This time, we were going home to plan a funeral. Addison's service was beautiful. Not only did we lose our baby girl but a sister, granddaughter, niece, great-granddaughter, great-niece and a little friend.
Six months on, there are still days that hurt just as much as the day we lost her. She’s our little angel in the sky, watching over us. She will always be part of our family, her birthday will be celebrated every year, and she will be forever loved.
Stillbirth: need to know
Every day, six babies are stillborn in Australia. That is one in every 135 babies. For every one baby that dies of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), 35 are stillborn. In 40 percent of cases, the cause is never known. The Stillbirth Foundation Australia is the only organisation in Australia solely dedicated to researching possible causes in order to prevent stillbirth. Visit stillbirthfoundation.org.au
Common associated causes include:
- Maternal medical conditions such as diabetes and pre-eclampsia
- Women having their first baby, and women 35+
- Premature birth
- Problems with the placenta or cord
- Foetal growth restriction
- Congenitally acquired infections like rubella
- Multiple gestations, such as twins.
Download the Why You Need To Know About Stillbirth flyer for information on common risk factors, preventative steps and what to say when someone has lost a baby.
Heartfelt Presence Heartfelt is a group of volunteer photographers who help families keep their stillborn children with them through beautiful photographs. Their ‘Let Us Run With You’ program prints tasteful jogging T-shirts with your child’s name and birthday subtly printed. This helps encourage grieving parents to find aid in exercise. They also donate high-quality camera and printer kits to hospitals that often only have a low-quality camera on hand, and inkless print kits, so that hand and foot printing do not leave ink on the baby. Are you a photographer? They are looking for more volunteers, heartfelt.org.au
This article appeared as Loved, Always in the October 2015 issue of CHILD Mags