It all began on Wednesday, 15th February 2006.
I was having a relatively uneventful pregnancy. Symptoms were exactly as my first pregnancy. The only difference was that talipes (club foot) was spotted at my 19 week scan along with a couple of other minor things. Everything was explained away as probably nothing to worry about. Even the talipes was considered to be a minor issue which could probably be fixed with either physio or a small operation. Nothing could really be determined until the baby was born.
At 37.5 weeks gestation at about 5.30 am I started to get the contractions. At the time I thought it was very interesting, and still do, as this is the exact same gestation timing as my first child Eliza's arrival. So naturally I assumed that the timing for labour may be similar - of course a bit quicker. With Eliza I managed to sleep through the first few hours as they started at 9pm and then I managed to stay at home until 3pm the next afternoon. When I got to hospital I was 5 cm dilated. This time the contractions came on very fast which is understandable as it was my 2nd. However, I had a feeling and told my partner, Kevin, that I thought he had better not go to work just in case. I called the midwives at RNSH and after a short discussion with them decided we should leave for the hospital as it was a 40 minute drive in peak hour traffic. So with Kevin driving and Eliza in her car seat we set out on our way. By the time we got to the entrance of the emergency my contractions were very close indeed. It all came on so quickly and I was in a lot of pain. I made it under my own steam to the delivery suites and they could immediately see that I needed urgent attention.
Turns out I was 9 cm dilated and bubs was just about ready to be born. There was a slight problem in that my cervix had dropped and was blocking the baby's exit. They tried to manually push it out of the way but it wouldn't budge. It was then decided that I needed to be admitted for a caesarean section immediately. Unfortunately, Eliza was still with us at this time. I had called for my mother to come and get her but as everything happened so fast we had to keep her with us. I'm hoping she doesn't remember anything although her comment to her grandma when she did arrive was "Mummy's doing a big poo !!"
I have to admit that from this moment on a lot of what went on is a bit hazy so I will just recount what I remember. I was prepped for the op and we made our way down to the theatres. We were stopped outside in the hallway as they were still cleaning up from the previous birth which was twins so I can only assume it was twice as messy! So there was a wait at this stage and I really am not sure how long it was. At the same time Kevin was being scrubbed and gowned ready to come in and join me.
We finally were let into theatre and they informed me I would be given a block instead of an epidural as the labour was too far advanced. I was just glad for the pain to stop at this stage and was completely in their hands. At some stage during this procedure the doctor arrived. I later found out he arrived after 20 minutes due to another birth. Things were busy in maternity that day.
Kevin then arrived and we started chatting about the baby and what name we were going to use. I had no idea that Sophia had already been born before he arrived and they were working on her frantically. I was completely in the dark. Kev knew there was something wrong but didn't say anything. I heard no baby cries and didn't think to ask was everything OK. Why would there be something wrong? Finally one of the doctors, or a nurse, I'm not sure, came over to us and told us it was a girl. That was when we decided on the name Sophia. We had already picked it out only a week prior.
I never got to hold my baby at that stage. They indicated she was not breathing but had been intubated and they were taking her to the NICU. I still had no idea how serious the situation was. This part is still quite hazy.
After I was stitched up they wheeled me via NICU so I could see Sophia. It was a look and a touch and pretty much that was all. She looked so perfect yet helpless lying in the NICU crib. What still gets me today is that externally she looked like any normal baby. Better than the premmie babies that were there at the same time yet she was unbeknownst to us was sicker.
The next 4 days will forever be known as the longest of our lives. It was a slow, gradual realisation that things were not right and our baby was not happy and healthy. It's the number one wish all parents have for their newborn babies and it seems this wish was not to be for us. Tests were performed (MRI, x-rays, blood tests etc) over the next couple of days. Once they were completed it was a wait and see scenario. The real hinge was the MRI. A specialist came in on the Friday to read her MRI results and did not give us any hope. I suppose that's when it hit us that Sophia was in real trouble. Later that day when I was in sitting with Sophia and my mother, Sophia's paediatrician came by and I plucked up enough courage to ask the question "do you think she would be better off if she died? I don't want her to suffer". Her answer was quick and to the point - "yes". I think she was waiting for the right moment to break this news to us but I presented the situation to her instead and she jumped at it.
Mum & I went back to our room where Kevin was with my Dad and other members of the immediate family but I really can't remember who now. I told Kevin what the Paediatrician had said and we both burst into sobs and held each other whilst family looked on helplessly. This kind of tragedy had never happened to anyone in either of our families and we were in shock. We were not prepared. I am one of seven children and Kevin is one of six and even my mother said to me it did not occur to her that this could happen. How much we take for granted suddenly became very clear to us all.
Shirley, Kevin's mother hugged me and sobbed. She told me she thought of me like her own daughter and if she could take Sophia's place she would. It was just two days before that she had told us that in one week's time she was to be admitted to hospital to have both her breasts removed due to cancer. Shirl had also lost her husband 5 years prior and I know she misses him terribly.
There were so many tests done on our poor baby and the final results were due in on the Sunday morning. No false hope was given and we knew that Sunday was going to be very hard. That morning when we were told that nothing could be done and it was likely she would not be able to survive without the aid of the intubator and she would be severely handicapped Kevin and I decided that the tube would be taken out. Before that was to happen we hastily arranged a baptism. Not for me as I am a lapsed Catholic but I think Kevin wanted it and both our parents definitely wanted it.
At 1.30 on the Sunday afternoon my mother and father, Kevin's mother and eldest brother, 2 of my brothers, Kevin and I all made our way up to Sophia in the NICU where she had spent the whole of her short life. An on-call priest met us there and conducted a quick but succinct ceremony. We were devastated. I didn't really know how to deal with it all. It certainly knocked Kevin about as well. All of us felt so helpless. She looked so lovely and pink. I wanted to cuddle her but couldn't because of all the tubes and wires. I had dressed her in a little white dress I had brought with me, a pair of socks and a tiny white hat with a teddy bear on it that had been given to us from my best friend, Catherine.
With the baptism certificate in hand and the ceremony finished we all went back to our room to recover. The hospital had provided us with a suite so we could deal with all this in private. We said our goodbyes to the family and then braced ourselves for the inevitable.
A short time later we were advised that they were ready for us and we made our way back upstairs towards the NICU. We were directed to a different corner of the floor to a private room where we could all be alone. Next thing I know they bring in Sophia and it was the first time I'd seen her without all the tubes attached and she was wrapped up in a lovely little bundle and a patchwork quilt that was hers to keep and donated by one of the Ladies Auxiliary groups called the Friendship Quilters. They placed Sophia in my arms and then left us alone. I held her tight and touched her as much as I dared. She was still breathing at this stage but only just and I have to admit that when I heard her gasping for breath I immediately panicked. I wanted to know if she was in pain and they assured me she wasn't. I held her for a while and then passed her over to her Daddy. My guess is that he had her for less than 10 minutes when she took her last breath. It was a peaceful and quiet death and the first that I had ever seen. It was exactly 3pm on Sunday the 19th of February. We kissed her and held her some more and when we felt that it was time we put her in the crib that was provided in the room and then very slowly and reluctantly we left her in the good care of the hospital. That was the last time I or Kevin saw her. That was the last time we wanted to see her as I wanted to remember her as a normal looking baby. Pink and sleeping.
That was it. After 9 months of pregnancy, dreams and excitement it was all over. We will always have Sophia's memory and I will NEVER EVER forget her but I look forward to the day that I can see her again. She will never experience life as we know it.
We packed up, got into our car and drove to my sister's place. She had been very kindly looking after Eliza throughout all of this. We went home and to this day have done our best to get on with things.
We had initially said no to a post-mortem as the doctors said they doubted that they would come up with any more answers and I didn't want her poor little body to go through anything else. I wanted to leave her in peace. Trouble is, we really didn’t, and still don't, have any answers as to why. A couple of days later the paediatrician phoned us and after she had consulted with another expert they decided that there maybe something else they could look at and pleaded with us to reconsider. The mere fact that we were told we may get an answer is the reason we said yes.
Her body was taken to Westmead Children's Hospital where we were assured the post-mortem would be carried out by a caring doctor who specialised in post-mortems with children.
We organised the funeral and it took place one and a half weeks after her death. Not many people know that but as a result of continual tests the hospital needed to keep Sophia's brain so she is actually buried without her brain. It upsets me somewhat but we really had no choice in the matter. We wanted to bury her and put her to rest as soon as possible.
One of the things that I will never forget is that we had to go shopping for the outfit Sophia was to be buried in. We went to the local Myer and spared no expense. After all, it was the last and only time we were to shop for her. I'm not sure how I managed to keep it together. If only the lady behind the counter knew the story behind our purchase.
The service was to take place at one of the cemetery chapels. She was in a tiny white coffin covered in pink roses and when I saw it already placed in the chapel my heart sank. All our family and friends were already there waiting for us as we had gotten stuck in peak hour traffic. We wanted a small ceremony but even with just immediate family and close friends it's quite a crowd! A few words were said by the chaplain, after all, what can you say at a time like this?... After a few words were said Kevin carried her coffin by himself back down the aisle to the limo waiting outside. I was so proud of him. It must have been the hardest thing to do. Sophia was buried in the baby lawn section and I'm hoping she has made a few angel friends there.
It's now been 5 months since Sophia died and we still don't have the final results from the post-mortem back yet. We've been told we can expect it to take another couple of months.
What we do know is that there were cells within her brain that had not developed properly which means that there was a problem from conception and not purely lack of oxygen during the birth which is what we first thought. Because she was not completely well prior to the birth the doctors think she panicked during labour as she was unable to cope with the extra stress. This is why my labour was so quick and she stopped breathing. Also, the talipes was what's called 'structural talipes'. This means that her brain was telling her feet to grow the wrong way rather than positional talipes which just means they got squashed in the womb and could be fixed with physio. Of course, the latter is what the doctors hoped it would be. This reinforces the fact that there were issues with her brain development.
I wish we had an easy answer like the cord got stuck around her neck or something like that but there are no easy answers. I just hope that our next baby, if it happens, is happy and healthy. I don't think I can go through this again.
This story was written for a number of reasons. I wanted there to be a record of my memories of our darling daughter, I never want to forget even the little things. I also want Eliza to be able to read this in the coming years so she knows what happened and understands why her Mummy and Daddy were and are so sad. And finally so that others can understand as well.
Edited by Nicola67, 28 July 2006 - 07:31 AM.