Saturday, December 15, 2012

Ellie's Birth - a different view

I'm really pleased to be able to share the story of Ellie's birth from the eyes of my birth support and best friend Laura.
Eleanor's birth

I woke up today with the same strange sense of calm that I felt last night while waiting for the announcement. Sitting in the hospital room next to my best friend waiting for a perfect wee baby to be born but we wouldn't hear the cry to tell us she was here. Instead we hear a wee whimper from a father falling in love with his wee girl.

I was honoured to be asked by Erin to support her birth all those months ago. We chatted about all the exciting things that would happen and how we could make the birth day a happy and memorable experience. Erin glowed with anticipation to meet her daughter who was named Eleanor well in advance. We could have never planned for the days that followed a simple text on a Friday night but those days have changed lives forever. My life will never be the same after the privilege of meeting Eleanor.

6.44pm 16/11/2012 "I need your opinion... No movements for 24 hrs. Midwife said: the thing is it’s probably fine, nature will decide how it all works out. If you think you want to be checked on the monitor at greymouth that's fine to. What do I do?

7.14pm Just putting the kids to bed, then 30 min drive to hospital

7.47pm little worried now

8.22pm No heartbeat on Doppler. Getting emergency scan

8.45pm She's gone.

This moment, reading this TX - changed my life! No words could express the feeling or sound of my heart breaking all those things you want to say, want to change but you can do nothing.

This is when the uncontrollable crying started with peeks every time I got a TX from Erin.

9.44pm I'm allowed to have baby at home but worried about pain. Can you find out about what will happen re birth and funeral

9.46pm and what to expect her to look like. She probably passed yesterday.

9.59pm At least she will be a tiny baby forever.

I could sense Erin's 'clear mummy head' coming through already. I felt the calm in all the chaos in my head, all the tears and gut reaching pain. I felt Erin's calm.

8.46 am 17/11/2012 Facebook announcement

"It is so hard for me to write this - but last night we found out that our wee darling girl has died at 35 weeks gestation. Of course we're all devastated. Will be home from the least later today and wait for labour and make 100 awful decisions. Thank you all for listening to my pregnancy rants, looking at my belly pictures and supporting me. I love you all."

66 people commented on this announcement but around the country, simultaneously, hearts were breaking. So many people had the same feelings, wanted the same answers and cried the same tears. Eleanor's tears.

Saturday was a real blur for me. I tried so hard to hold it together but I was just so overwhelmed with pain and heartbreak. I also felt terrified. My best friend was going through this, not just someone I knew but my best friend. I was her friend so I had to be there and support her if she wanted me and that terrified me. I had the same story playing in my head, I just wished every time for a different ending.

6.40pm 17/11/2012 being induced tomorrow at 9.30am

6.41pm would be nice to have some company

what an honour to be asked to support her during this time, even if it was just in the very early stages.

More tears and anxiety but this time it was for a different reason. How the heck was I going to do this? How was I going to hold it together for Erin and Andy? How could I find a place inside my body to get through this in a way that would keep it positive and help her to, despite the pain, have a positive birth experience? This was my job. I had to do everything in my power to make this a positive experience and help Erin and Andy welcome Eleanor into a world of love.

I had a different story playing in my head now. This story was of a confident positive person holding it together and being a great birth support who would advocate for Erin in every way possible.

I had my own cheering squad behind me keeping my head in the game and I'm so thankful for those people especially Sam who's mantra was 'Laura you can do this’. He was right! I could do this, because I had to do this and what ever happened I needed to be everything I could to this family.

I walked into the garden room at 11.30am on Sunday 18th of November with my game face on. I wiped away the tears as I walked out of the lift. Holding a little basket all made up with freshly washed linen and ready to be a bed for a perfect wee girl.

I had spent the morning rushing around trying to find the perfect bed for her. What size, what sheets, what colour! All while hoping no one talked to me so I didn't burst into tears

I walked into a room of love. Erin was looking relaxed sitting on a double bed surrounded in tiny balls of yarn; Andy was lying in behind Erin surrounding her being with love. Joy and Chris were sitting in the light of the window with knitting needles clacking. Yarn was being transformed from clothes knitted with love by Erin for Eleanor as she grew, into a blanket created with squares of precious yarn by everyone who felt love for Eleanor.

Soon after I arrived, Erin had her first dose of medication to induce labour and we started talking about the process. We were talking about how to welcome Eleanor into a room of love with respect and honour.

Knitting, chatting, laughing and eating. It was just like a normal catch up with Erin but today we were in a hospital. I was really surprised at Erin's state of mind but the body is so well designed that it is able to put mothers into a state of calm. This calm enabled Erin to focus on the positives and keep passing very funny comments.

We talked about farting into the gas tube so that others needing some nos would have a fart mixed in. We talked about shooting spud guns at people incorrectly installing car seats in the car park below. We had a delivery of McDonald's for lunch which made for more entertaining comments about delivery methods to the room! How the job as a blood pressure psychic would work out for someone!

After a surprisingly nice day I went home to my extremely supportive family and tried to prepare myself for the following day. I finished knitting a lovely wee hat for Ellie which I felt so much pride in.

Monday started with a TXT to Erin asking how she was and if she still wanted me to come up. 30min with no reply (which felt like hours) I was having an internal battle with myself, maybe Eleanor had been born, maybe Erin had decided they just wanted to keep the experience to themselves, maybe something had happened? Nope Erin was just asleep! Turns out the sleep pill let her relax enough to get her first good sleep since Friday.

Sam dropped the kids at school and kindy and we drove into the hospital via a few baby shops because I really wanted to find a singlet for Eleanor but I was unsuccessful. I arrived at hospital and felt very calm and excited to see Erin again. I walked in and she was lying on the bed with Andy. She looked very refreshed and so so calm. It instantly made me feel very really excited about the day ahead. I was in a 'it’s a normal birth' head space and I think that really helped me over the next few hours. The nurses were coming and going and I settled into the seat by the window and started knitting.

The mood quickly changed at the nurse and midwife got prepared for Erin to have an IV inserted. This was really going to test Erin as her fear of needles was overwhelming. Lying in the bed with Andy by her side, gas in hand, she started to zone out and let the 14 viles of blood be drawn. Erin later talked about the internal battle she was having with herself but it didn't show to us watching. She looked in total control of herself and I was very proud of her.

Once the IV was in, I left Erin so that she could have her second dose of induction medication. This was the good stuff that was going to get everything started. It was lunchtime and I wondered around the delivery floor listening to the sounds of labouring woman and the occasional baby cry. Staff drinking tea and chatting about their day. All while down that long hallway, right at the end was my best friend holding her precious wee baby safe inside her belly. The only place she has ever known and only Erin knowing how she felt and who she was.

The knitting continues with me, Erin's mum Joy and Chris the midwife knitting up a storm. I'm so thankful for this knitting; it really took away the silence and gave a real feeling of a connection between all of us supporting Erin.

Around 3pm things started to get going and Andy was looking really exhausted. We made the decision that Erin and I would go for a walk through the hospital and Andy could try and have a sleep. It was so nice to have a few moments with just Erin and I. We walked and talked, sharing our feeling about how the day was going and how the night might play out. Erin was so open about how life would be after Eleanor arrived; we talked about what other people should say or do how to help people not feel so awkward. This was so meaningful to me because I really felt I could be the support person Erin needed and I could make sure people around her offered support in the most meaningful way they could. We talked about celebrating Eleanor's life and letting Erin be excited about meeting her new baby. It was about congratulating a new mum not grieving a lost baby. This was very important to Erin.

We went and sat in a waiting room and I expressed off some milk for Freya. Trying to to let the weird guy come in a get a free show!

Erin stayed with her mum and Aunty and I went down to the cafe to have a chat and coffee with Jess. Jess was my first 'outside' person who I was able to chat openly with. This was so good for me; I needed to share with someone how calm and excited I was feeling. Not a feeling I would ever of thought I would have in this situation but it all came back to the fact I was still birth supporting Erin to meet Eleanor despite the sadness that surrounded her passing. I could see the fear that Jess had toward what Erin was going through and also the anxiety around how she would feel when she sees Erin again. This was my first moment of seeing that 'I just don't know what to say' feeling from someone. The 'it's such a sad time and I'm sorry' feeling, but the problem was that was almost the opposite of how it felt in the birthing room. I felt like I could be the go between for people feeling like this and help bridge the gap so no one felt that huge sense of awkwardness.

I headed back into the garden room and Erin was in a much more distressed place. She was in more pain and it was starting to become more real. She was hooked up to the PCA which helped with pain relief and we all settled in for the hill we were about to help Erin climb.

At around 6 it was all calm again, Erin was still contracting regularly but she was so much more relaxed and was talking about wanting to make sure she watched Shorthand Street. The inappropriate comments were coming thick and fast and it was so so funny at times. Staged photos sucking on the gas and comments about being an over achiever may of accrued.

I disappeared when Shorty street came on to do some more pumping and I was thankful for the midwife who allowed me to pop up to the maternity ward and use one of the hard core pumps. I sat like a cow looking over the park in the room that I slept in after having Freya. How weird that of all the rooms I was put in that one. I had a flood of memories about the first night I slept in here with my beautiful wee girl next to me and I wished Erin was able to share in this feeling, little did I know how the next few hours would make this dream come true.

The 9pm dose of induction drugs were administered and the conversation was started about the possibly of rupturing Erin's membranes. This would speed things up and help her body get through this stage easier.

9.16pm Were done

This is when shit started getting real! Contractions were long strong and very close together and Erin was really showing off her kick arse labouring skills. She was so strong and even let me have a couple of sucks of gas between contractions. There was the 5min interval reminder to press the PCA, passing comments about how easy labour was and a little bit of warm chocolate brownie eating. Around 10pm I got to do some hands on supporting as back rubber and not long after this the contractions were staring to change. Erin was commenting on feeling a little bit pushy and said it felt nice to let go and push a little. This was our cue to leave and Erin asked for some privacy.

Joy, Aunty B and I pulled up some chairs and sat out in the foyer. We were talking about how amazing Erin had been doing and I sent Sam a TXT to say that Eleanor was going to be here very soon.

Within about 10 min of us leaving the room we felt the presence of Eleanor. She had been born and Chris came in and told us she had arrived. I was so excited and cried with joy, just as I would at any birth but being Erin's baby was even more exciting. I didn't feel sad that Ellie was still I just felt excited that Erin and Andy could finally see and meet their wee girl. I asked Chris one question

"Is she beautiful?"

Such a stupid question but I just needed to hear that she was perfect and Erin was in love.

11.15pm 19/11/2012 I met the wee girl who would change my life forever. Erin was holding her beautiful wee girl in her arms, Andy was looking at her and the tears were flowing freely. I must have had the biggest smile on my face but I was so honoured to meet Eleanor and she was just so overwhelmingly beautiful I couldn't help it. I put my arm around Andy and gazed as a mother fell in love with her daughter. It was magical.

Eleanor Rose Maxwell was born at 11pm surrounded in people who love her so much. She was still and peaceful yet so perfect. I had a moment I thought she was going to open her eyes and cry. I walked out of the hospital at 11.30 with tears streaming down my face but my soul was full. I felt full and so much love for Eleanor. I also felt a sense of closure because the knot in her cord took away any chance of blame or regret and meant her placenta could stay intact.

As I sat in the taxi home I cried, I cried so much for Eleanor and her family. But I hold onto the look of pure love that was in Erin's eyes. She sat on the bed holding her gorgeous wee girl whom she had carried for 8 months. So proud and happy to finally hold her.

When I woke up on Tuesday morning I wasn't crying or sad, I felt a sense of contentment. I have such emotional memories of Eleanor's birth but Erin's reaction has changed me forever. I no longer feel as much sadness surrounding the loss of an infant, this may change in the coming days but right now I'm at peace. I feel now that the sadness from other surrounding Eleanor is a very different to how Erin was feeling and now how I am feeling. The more I think about it the more I just see a mother proud to be holding her baby for the first time.

The days following have been a real mix of experiences for me. Everyone expressing their sorrow and grief followed by Erin and I having a lovely chat while Eleanor was lying next to us, just as if she would be if she wasn't still. I love that I feel so comfortable around Erin and Eleanor that it’s so special to have that time together with my best friend and her newborn daughter.

I finish writing this at the same time that Erin and Andy arrive at the crematorium to say good bye to Eleanor for the last time. I miss her already and will forever remember the moment I got to hold this amazing wee girl.
Laura - words can't express how appreciative I am for all your help. Not only did you make yourself available to be with me every step of the way, but you put aside your emotions to stay strong for me. I don't think I could have done it without you!
The way you understood my attitude towards pregnancy, birth and parenting helped me to know I was in safe hands, and I completely trusted you and your opinions. It helped me to relax and not worry, I knew I was being looked after and you headed my team of supporters beautifully! You helped them know how to support me, and made everyone feel at ease.
You continue to amaze me with your devotion, friendship and mad organisational stkills (that no one would expect when they see your house ;) ) and I'm forever gratefull that you have come into my life, and not run screaming when you realised how mad I am!

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