Today is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I am going to be completely honest with you. I don’t recall having this day on my radar last year. On this day last year I was wrapping up The Pilbara Goddess Retreat with my co-creators Mamatree, Cracker Jack Paddle Sports and Food Remedy, my entire world revolving around that. Which was perfect actually, as the intention behind the entire retreat was in honour of Ernest, my son who was born far too early to have ever lived outside of me. He was born on 1st February 2017 and died very shortly after.
I would like to take the time and honour Ernest publicly today. I do this in the hope that other women who have had similar experiences may let go of any shame they may feel and be free to talk of their loss. I do this so I can highlight that according to SANDS 3000 babies die each and every year, either stillborn or within 28 days of their birth. I do this so I can highlight that a further 1 in 4 pregnancies lead to miscarriage. I do that so that as women, and men, we can feel a deeper sense of connection through the vulnerability of sharing our pain.
I offer a massive TRIGGER WARNING should you continue to read as I shall be sharing part of my experience of his life.
On what could have been any old unremarkable Wednesday evening whilst 19 and a bit weeks pregnant, I began to feel a little strange in a way that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I wondered if it was that I hadn’t seen my husband for 2 weeks? He had been in Japan ‘shredding the rad’ with his old snowboard buddies and he was picking me up after this class. I was teaching a yoga class at the time so decided to stop demonstrating and simply taught my students with my voice, walking around the room adjusting, and trying to check in with how I was feeling. I decided that I probably just needed to go to the toilet. So I finished the class, waited for everyone to leave and did just that. It was then that I felt every Mother’s nightmare. Membranes. In a blur of anxiety and panic I called my husband, made it to the hospital and relayed my full obstetric history to them. The words ‘incompetent cervic’ kept being branded around. This made no sense to me, I had carried my first son to term. I went into labour with him on his due date. Why were people now saying that my cervix was too incompetent to carry a baby?
We decided to just agree, neither Jimmy (my husband) nor I thought it mattered why. It only mattered what to do from here. What we knew? My cervix was fully dilated. My membranes were intact and I needed to be transferred to a bigger hospital for my cervix to be surgically closed. What we didn’t know? If I had Chorioamnionitis. A bacterial infection which leads to amniotic fluid, placenta and baby becoming infected. If this were the case, the pregnancy would come to an end.
The next few hours were a bit of a blur to be honest. We were in the emergency department of Nickol Bay Hospital waiting for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and I was on strict bed rest. I had an ultrasound which showed a healthy baby kicking and squirming around. The nursing staff had kindly put me away from all the buzzers and monitors and chaos so we could have some privacy. A beautiful Maori nurse who’s name I can’t remember but who had a really sweet face and soft manner came to tell me the plane would be on the ground in half an hour. Before she had even left the room I knew it was all too late. I had felt the unmistakable tightenings of a contraction. Immediately intense, their waves were continuous, and shortly after they were accompanied by the harrowing feeling of my pelvis opening. The nurse went to notify the Doctor and shortly after I felt a gush, believing it was my ‘waters breaking’ I asked if I could now get out of the bed & go to the toilet.
In the bathroom I realised my membranes hadn’t ruptured at all. I was haemorrhaging. I was experiencing what is called an anti-partum haemorrhage. I could hear lots of stern voices telling me what to do, to get back in the bed, but I shut them all out. I knew what I had to do. I went and sat on the edge of the toilet for the number of contractions that flowed continuously, and delivered my perfect little boy into my own hands still in his embryonic sac, an ‘en cul’ birth. My hands were shaking so much, I accidentally burst the sac. I went into shock feeling his tiny heart beating in my hands. I begged the nurse to hold him for me. I literally couldn’t handle the pain of waiting for his heart beat to stop.
Then I complied, I got back in the bed. I let them do whatever they needed to save my life. For the second time in my life I I had my placenta forcibly removed, causing damage to the pelvic floor and the cervix. You see, we had been here before, after the birth of my first son Archer, my placenta didn’t deliver so the doctor removed it with her hand. Both times this act was done in order to save my life, which I do not regret or hold any ill will towards. I just wish someone had told me how preventable Ernest’s death was. How easy it would have been just to monitor the cervical length throughout future pregnancies.
While this was occurring I told my husband just to look at me, to look at my face. Don’t look anywhere else. I heard the most heart wrenching sounds come from both of us. If pain had a voice, this is what it sounded like. Once the placenta was removed and I stopped haemorrhaging everyone left us with our son. I don’t know how long his heart was beating for. I just knew that we were never going to feel the same.
To Ernest Aanadi Cameron-Daniels, my greatest teacher and second son. You came to me easily and you left me far too early. When I think of you I will always think of this quote and hope you felt the same.
To the two babies I loved and lost in the first trimester of their pregnancy, while this feels like it was in a different lifetime to now, I hold your lessons and your love so closely to me.
To all the Mamas, the Papas, the Brothers, the Sisters, the Aunts, the Uncles, the Grandparents, the Cousins and the loved ones who have experienced loss through miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death, may we hold each other with compassion, without comparison and know that we are united through our grief. Let us share our pain and hope that our united strength finds a world where these statistics no longer exist.