On the day I lost my baby to stillbirth, I was just about 39 weeks pregnant. I had cleared my last few office-related tasks and was finally on maternity leave. It was just like any other day, and I was up and about albeit with a bit of cramping that started around dinnertime. The cramping was intermittent, and although rather uncomfortable, was far from unbearable.
I didn’t think too much of it as I assumed that such pain was completely normal in the last few weeks of pregnancy. As the night progressed, the pain started occurring more frequently and more intensely.
At about 1am, I started having the faintest thought that I might be going into labour. My first child was induced so I had no idea what naturally going into labour was like.
I didn’t wish to stir panic so I calmly walked around the house with my face contorting every few seconds. At some point, the pain was occurring in regular intervals and it was almost excruciating. That’s when my gynaecologist’s words flashed through my mind.
It’s your second c-section in less than a year and a half. If you go into labour and your stitches rupture, it can become a life-threatening situation for you.
Just as I was fishing for my phone to give my doctor a call, I felt warm liquid gushing down my legs. I stared in horror as I realised that it was bloody and it finally dawned on me that my waterbag had burst and yes, I was in labour.
Much to my surprise, I was feeling calm and went to the washroom to put on a sanitary pad and get ready to go to the hospital. I noticed that along with the brown, there was some greenish discharge. I thought that was odd, as never had I been told to expect any green discharge. Again, I shrugged it off and assumed that all sorts of strange things happen in pregnancy, let alone labour.
Never did I have the slightest inkling that I might have lost my baby to stillbirth.
Just after I had kissed my older child and was putting on my shoes, I had a strange realisation.
I couldn’t remember the last time my baby had moved! From the time I had started experiencing pains, I didn’t recall a single movement.
I asked my mum if it was normal to not feel the baby move when in labour. She told me that maybe I was in too much pain and thus didn’t feel the baby’s movement. Then it seemed as if she was dismissing it.
Only in hindsight did I suddenly recall her staring at me aghast, for a split second, before trying to conceal the panic that was stirring within her.
So there I was, skipping into the labour ward, giddy with a frisson of excitement. I had a fifteen-month old son, and with my daughter my family was about to be complete. What more could I ask for? I couldn’t wait to meet her!
But shortly after getting into the labour ward, I started to have a sick feeling in my stomach. I knew that something was terribly wrong. For one, when I was made to collect a sample of my urine, the nurse mentioned something about the green discharge. I still remember her words.
This is meconium. It’s not a good sign. It means that your baby is in distress.
Of course this sent multiple warning bells ringing in my head but again, the possibility that I had lost my baby to stillbirth didn’t vaguely cross my mind. But I knew then that things were not sailing smoothly.
Next, when they had me all strapped up, I could tell that they were struggling to find my baby’s heartbeat. It didn’t take me more than a minute to realise that the sound I was hearing was that of my own heartbeat. I asked the nurse candidly,
You can’t find her heartbeat?
She stared at me, ashen-faced, pressed my arm and said,
I may be wrong dear.
This went on for a few more minutes before the head nurse said those five chilling words to me.
We can’t find her heartbeat.
It took a while for it to make sense and when it did, the truth hit me like a tonne of bricks and I turned into a crying wreck. Nothing made sense anymore and my world plunged into darkness.
In a haze of events, my doctor arrived and confirmed what had happened. She did the ultrasound and showed me clearly my baby’s heart, and that it was not beating. I cried and sobbed and told her that it must be a mistake and that I could still feel flutters but, to no avail.
I had lost my baby to stillbirth. Nothing was going to change the cold, hard truth.
They put me to sleep and performed an emergency c-section. That led to the discovery of the cause of the stillbirth – it had been a cord accident.
When I came around I removed the white blouse my daughter was wrapped in, and placed her against my bare chest fervently hoping for a divine intervention. I recalled moving stories about how skin-to-skin contact had miraculously revived babies. But alas, nothing would change the cruel twist of fate.
The time I had with her was soon over. I had to bid her goodbye. Forever. I pleaded vehemently for her to open her eyes. I begged for her to stay. I sobbed uncontrollably in pure unadulterated pain. For of all that I had planned for her, I had never planned what flowers I would place over her grave or what I would write on her epitaph.
The weeks that followed were a concoction of anger, grief and bewilderment. My mind was riddled with questions. My nights were long and I often found myself waking up abruptly and staring out of the window, searching desperately for her face in every star that twinkled against the black of the night. I was lost. Maddened. Infuriated. Those were some of the darkest hours of my life. I felt trapped in a deep abyss.
After some time, I came across a video promoting an application that kept track of fetal kicks and how it saved someone from losing their child to a cord accident. It bore an eerie resemblance to what happened to my baby and that’s when it hit me so hard.
I could have saved my baby. I lost my baby to stillbirth but maybe, just maybe, I could have saved her had I reacted in time.
This realisation was the most painful part of the entire ordeal and it leads me to share with all expecting mothers, a few important things to take note of, especially in the last trimester.
Keep track of your baby’s movements
Mums, I cannot emphasise this enough. Please keep track of your baby’s movements. Your doctor will advise you how much movement to expect and how often and if, for any reason you feel that your baby is not moving as much, please make your way to either your doctor’s clinic, or the labour ward, fast.
Cord accidents do not take your baby’s life away immediately. They wrap around your baby’s neck slowly, but surely, and will kill your baby if you wait long enough.
A mum who nearly lost her baby to stillbirth, shares her experience;
It was just 3 days to my due date but I felt that my baby’s movements were not as much as before. I attributed it to the fact that the baby might have less space as she was now bigger and dismissed any reason to be alarmed.
But maybe it was a mother’s instinct, maybe it was a gut feel, I had a nagging feeling at the back of my head that something wasn’t right. I made my way to the labour ward and was horrified to find out that my baby’s umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck not once, but thrice!
Had I waited until the next morning, I might have lost my baby to stillbirth!
There are applications that can help you to monitor your baby’s movements. Download a reliable app and keep track. You can never be too safe and you’d much rather be safe than sorry.
Amniotic fluid levels are important
A week or two before I lost my baby to stillbirth, during a routine check, my doctor was concerned that the amniotic fluid levels were dropping. I was then 37 weeks pregnant and it would have been fine to have just delivered the baby.
We discussed the option but decided to wait for a few more days. When I returned, the fluids seemed fine and we didn’t have to push the delivery earlier.
Now when I look back, I wish I had not delayed. I might not have lost her to the lack of fluids passé, but it could have been an indication, or a sign, that I should just deliver that baby.
Had I acted upon my initial instinct, I would not have lost my baby to stillbirth.
Take it easy in the last lap
I was repeatedly told to take it easy and not move around too much during the last bit of my pregnancy. This might not be the case for everyone, but given my risks of the previous c-section stitches rupturing, I was told to relax.
Again, it was not because I was moving around too much that I lost my baby. But, if I had not moved around so much, I would have been more aware of the lack of movements.
After replaying the entire day in my mind, I found out that I had last felt my baby move in the afternoon. And when she was born, I was told that her heartbeat had stopped some hours ago. Time was of essence. It I had gone to the doctor within an hour or two of not feeling movements, things would have been different.
I might not have lost my baby to stillbirth eventually.
Trust your gut
For reasons beyond which I can explain, I had a terrible feeling towards the end of my pregnancy. it didn’t help that when we were scheduling the date for my delivery which was supposed to be an elective c-section, my mum was insisting that I deliver the baby at 37, or 38 weeks latest.
It was for work reasons that I requested to wait it out a bit. My doctor gave me the option to deliver anytime after 37 weeks. I wish I had listened to my mum, and my gut feeling that something wasn’t good.
But then again, would I have imagined what was in store?
So mums, do take the information in this article seriously. Of course, there are some things that are far beyond our control and there are greater powers than we can contradict. But we must ensure that we do all that we can, and take every possible precaution to ensure that safety of the life that we are carrying!