Moments of Life and Death

It’s been a while but I feel the need to write now, as today marks the one year anniversary of holding Elijah in my arms as he passed away.

Much has happened since my last post, especially the birth of Elijahs brother, Isaac. Our rainbow baby. Our hope. My little ray of sunshine that warms and comforts me on this tough anniversary date.

One year without my beautiful boy, Elijah. One shattering, life changing year. I have lived moments no Mother should ever have to see.

Moments of Life and Death.

I have witnessed as my body brought forth both.

I have had to hand my child’s body to a stranger and walk away, knowing I would never touch his skin again.

I have felt consuming, overwhelming love for a fragile little soul, who will never walk this earth by my side.

I have had mere moments to fill with a lifetime of love.

I have had to say Goodbye.

I have grieved. Above all else, I have grieved. For what could have been and should have been. For what was owed and what was taken. What was taken is so staggering, that I sometimes wondered if I could remain. How could I remain, knowing that my love was not enough to save him.

I have survived horror and been blessed with beauty.

I have gone from weeping with sadness over a tiny, white coffin to weeping with hope over the new life inside of me.

I have lived in that space between grief and hope.

One year without him.

I am still there.

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Holding out for a hero

About 20 years ago, I tried to save the life of a cat.

I was driving along the notoriously busy Stifford Road, in my hometown of Aveley, when the car in front of me hit a cat.

BANG, the cat was down & the car sped off.

“STOP THE CAR” I screamed at my boyfriend and as he swerved onto the kerb, I jumped out of the car and ran into the road.

I knew I had just moments to save the beautiful, black cat, lying in the road, shrieking in agony.

As I frantically waved my arms, standing in the middle of very busy, Friday night traffic, with my boyfriend screaming “GET OUT OF THE ROAD”, all I knew at that moment was that I had to stop the cars, get the cat out of the road and to a vet, to give it a chance to survive.

Then in one final moment, as I shouted “STOP” a sleek looking jag came screaming towards me. My boyfriend pulled me out of the way, the car drove straight over the cat and it was game over.

I was inconsolable.

As I sobbed into my boyfriends shoulder, him angry with me for being so reckless, he said one thing that now means everything,

“you tried babe”

I did try. He was right. As much as I regret not being able to save that cat, it does make me feel better that I did something. If I’d just driven past and not bothered, I think that would haunt me.

Would you?

Would you have done what I did and jumped into the road to try and save the cat?

There are many stories of people putting themselves at risk to save others. Stories of instinct taking over when lives are at risk. Adults jumping into freezing cold rivers to save a drowning dog. Friends jumping into stormy seas to save a friend. Stories of heroics and people TRYING to do the right thing. Even if it doesn’t work, human nature is to help others in need and try, right?

hero

Well, not always. Sadly, tragically, horrifically, not in the case of my baby boy.

Yesterday, we received a letter from the GMC.

They attached a letter from Mr X. The consultant who was supposed to have been looking after me and Elijah.

Firstly, he expresses his condolences and his understanding of what disappointment we must be feeling.

Yes, that’s right. Disappointment.

Yesterday morning, I told my very excited 3 year old that we would take the car through a car wash machine. We happily drove to the garage to find it not working and being repaired.

THAT was disappointing.

When I open the fridge to find the last Twix has been eaten by my husband

THAT is disappointing.

The death of my child….well, lets just say that “disappointing” doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel.

He then denies all knowledge of what happened on that day and lays the blame firmly on the shoulders of the midwives and the middle-grade doctors. He didn’t know I was in labour, he didn’t know I was bleeding. he thought my pregnancy was trouble free and so on and so forth.

Then, in his own words, at the moment Elijahs little heart couldn’t take any more and was taking its final beats, he describes being told by labour ward staff that we were in theatre, we were an emergency and to run.

RUN

So, at that moment, did he jump in like a man saving his drowning dog? Did he run to save Elijah, like I ran to save that cat?

No.

He took a back lift, not the fast lift and went to change his clothes.

What a true, all male, all muscles, Last Action Hero he is.

It’s just not the done thing to be seen in blue scrubs when everyone around you is wearing red, darling. No, I’m not kidding. As my boy was dying, he was changing the colour of his scrubs.

So, I asked before and I’ll ask again, would you have tried to save the Stifford Road Cat?

Would he?

I think you & I both know the answer to that.

On the eve of Christmas

These are unusual times.

As Christmas approaches, I spend my days moving between despair and hope.

Dickens said it best in A Tale of Two Cities..

It was the best of times

best

It was the worst of times

elijah2

it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair….

I am now like those two cities.

One city is full of memories of Elijah, despair and regrets. The other city is full of Gabriel and the joy and laughter he brings to my life every single day.

Christmas is a lonely time as a bereaved parent.

The whole world is drinking, laughing and celebrating birth, at a time when celebration feels wrong.

But…then there is hope.

The hope that comes from watching the little face of a 3 year old boy light up, every time I switch on the Christmas tree lights. Hope in the squeals of excitement, every time he rips open a Christmas card and hope in the 1,000th time he has told me “Father Kissmass come down the Chimney for pie”.

So today, on the eve of Christmas, I’m embracing that hope. To all of you who have suffered loss and are surrounded by darkness and despair today, I’m sending you peace and I’m sending you some of my hope.

I am with you.

You are not alone.

HOPE

Written by Gabriel & Elijahs mummy.

Hello Hope
You went awhile
Now you’re back
With a promised smile
I abandoned you
Gave up for dead
Washed away
With the tears I shed
I’ve lived despair
so time to stay
surround me Hope
each and every day

Draw Your Sword

During the age of the samurai, dishonoured warriors would perform “seppuku”, a form of ritual suicide.

It was part of their code of conduct.

Shame, cowardice and dishonesty meant that a samurai would fall on his sword rather than bring dishonour to his clan.

Samurai generally could carry out the act only with permission.

If he was samurai, he would have my permission.

You dishonour your profession.

Shame on you.
Shame on you.

“To see the right and not to do it is cowardice”….Confucius

A small snapshot of the 19 page report we received today:

Investigation into the care management of a neonatal death after a breech vaginal delivery at the RSCH

  • Unit on divert to PRH because of workload. Elective procedures should have been postponed or cancelled in accordance with Maternity policy
  • Prioritisation of elective over emergency cases by Registrar X and Consultant Y
  • Registrar X categorised Nicky Swan as emergency (immediate threat to life of mother or baby), delivery should have taken place within 30 minutes of this decision.
  • Difficulty contacting Consultant Y
  • No review of Nicky Swan by Consultant Y despite requests from senior midwives
  • Thorough review of Nicky Swan was not carried out by Registrar X, who reported Nicky Swan to have a normal CTG when this had not been carried out
  • Ineffective communication between professionals at all levels
  • Consultant Y and Registrar X did not acknowledge that Nicky Swan (being multi-parous and having ruptured membranes around her baby) was likely to labour rapidly and should have been prioritised over elective work. This was despite concerns raised by the midwife caring for her, two senior midwives and Consultant Anaesthetist

Recommendations

  • Referral of Registrar X to her educational supervisor regarding decision making and communication
  • Referral of Consultant Y to obstetric consultant lead regarding decision making and communication

I had a dream…

When I was almost 10 years old, my best friend died from Leukemia.

My memories of her are hazy, as it happened 30 years ago, but I remember spending Saturday afternoons at the back of our local football club, drinking Coca-Cola from real glass bottles, trying to make our armpits “fart” with our hands and dancing on the stairs, pretending we were Legs & Co from Top of the Pops.

Legs & Co!

To be honest, I haven’t thought about her much over the years. I was young when she died. I remember the shock when Mum told me and feeling lonely on Saturday afternoons as I sat drinking Coca-Cola alone, but life carried on and the memories faded with time.

Then last night, I had a dream about her.

I was sat in a huge white and grey auditorium. A beautiful woman with short dark hair, walked up the stairs and sat down beside me. “Hi”, she said and I knew it was her. “Look behind you”. Behind me were rows and rows of bright, white lights.

They were mesmerising.

I just sat and stared for ages and then I told her “I don’t understand”. “This is what I do”, she said, “I show the little ones where to go” and as I stared at the beautiful lights, she said,

“I knew he was yours the moment I met him”.

You’re probably thinking “come off it Nicky, do you really think your old dead friend has found Elijah?”. I don’t know. Maybe. I don’t have the answers. My husband thinks it’s all “bollocks”. When I told him we were destined to be together because our palm lines cross at exactly the same places on our hands, he says “babe, it’s bollocks”. When I tell him a Tarot card reader once told me our first child would be a boy and be a musical genius, he says, “babe, listen to me, it’s bollocks”.

Maybe he is right and it is all bollocks. You will have to make your own minds up about that.

I do know that I rarely remember my dreams but this one has stuck with me today and has given me comfort. As I danced around the kitchen with my toddler, to the theme tune from Madagascar, I thought about those mesmerising lights and imagined my old best friend and my baby boy maybe doing the same.

Dance away my darlings!

Happy Birthday?

I received a beautiful bunch of flowers from a friend today.

One of our builders said to me “you’ve got some lovely flowers. Is it your birthday?”
“Well yes” I said “but not yet. Next week”. “Happy Birthday” he said.

Happy Birthday.

Just two simple words and yet for me it’s not really going to be a “Happy Birthday” year.

To be honest, I’ve had a few weird birthdays in the past.

There was the year my hubby gave me an Action Man for my birthday because Action Man had a spy camera, which apparently is “cool”. Then there was the year he wanted to give me birthday tokens that I could redeem for sex at any time. I think one of the tokens actually said “this entitles the bearer of this token to a quickie” 🙂

I’ve had some GREAT birthdays. Like the year he took me to Paris as a surprise for my 30th.

This year? I’m not sure how to describe how I feel this year. I think it’s the year that time should forget but I never, ever can.

I had an idea of what I would be doing on my birthday this year.

If I close my eyes, I can actually see it.

Tim and Gabey come into the bedroom. They’ve made me birthday breakfast. Elijah is in a white sleepsuit and Tim is holding him in the crook of his arm. Gabey shoves a piece of toast in my face and shouts “Happy Birthday mummy” and blows me a kiss. He then tells me how he made me breakfast and a card. He says “Eli helped too Mummy”. The card is hilarious and wonderful. Its got Gabey scribble all over it and Tim has held a pencil in Elijahs hand and written “I love you Mummy. Eli xxx”. Tim smiles and says “he wrote that all by himself you know. He’s very clever for a 3 month old”.

I guess the truth is, now Elijah has gone, I never get to have the birthdays I imagined ever again. Although honestly, just between us, how many of us really do get the birthdays we want or imagine? My friend Debbs got a box full of her own computer from her hubby one year. I love you Debbs and that STILL makes me giggle. Best birthday present story EVER. I doubt anyone can beat that?

So this year, I’m going to share a birthday Bucks Fizz with a few of my dearest friends, let Rekha feed me cake & laugh when Gabey shoves birthday toast in my face. I might even buy Gabey his first ever Action Man to celebrate.

Well, he is “cool” after all.

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Being Arnie

I wish I was Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I’ll explain.

If I was Arnie then I wouldn’t be lying here at 5am, dreaming of revenge, I’d be doing it. I’d be hardcore.  Camo on, uzi in hand and kicking down doors,

“I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle.”
Image
I can’t even get a copy of my maternity notes from the hospital!
The Governator wouldn’t have that problem.
“if I think somebody owes me something, I take it.”
He wouldn’t be sending emails politely requesting information about the death of his child. Have you SEEN Collateral Damage? If you haven’t, don’t, it’s awful, but you get my meaning.
“I hope you leave enough room for my fist because I’m going to ram it into your stomach and break your god-damn spine!”
THAT’S how Arnie gets things done.
I was raised to be polite and well, British. That means I don’t like making a fuss. We just don’t do that. It’s uncomfortable being demanding. The question is, at serious times like the death of a child, is it really being demanding wanting answers? Wanting the people involved to explain themselves, to be accountable, to care?
The problem is we’ve fallen into a big, grey area. There is no-one fighting our cause. No-one helping us. No-one demanding answers (other than us) as to why our baby didn’t come home.
No Arnie.
No-one.
We are on our own.
Which means we will have to get demanding because if after 3 months, we can’t even get a copy of my maternity notes, then it’s probably going to start getting really, really uncomfortable.
“Hasta La Vista, baby”.