Not trusting the six month old pregnancy test,Vince decided to rush off to the chemist and purchase another one. He hurried back and I again completed the test. The result was the same. I was pregnant.
As time went on the shock subsided, and the excitement for our new child grew. Our other children Giovanni and Nicholas were so excited. For many months they talked and talked about mummy having a baby and finally I was pregnant. Immediately Giovanni said he wanted a sister and Nicholas said he wanted a brother. As my tummy grew they talked to bubs and constantly touched and kissed my tummy. I loved being able to share this experience with them.
The initial trimester was pretty much non eventful. My tummy grew nicely and all seemed to be well. As I approached 12 weeks I was given the option to do the 12 week nuchal translucency scan. I never did this particular test with my other boys but this time took the referral from my doctor. However as the date approached to do the scan, I decided not to have the scan done. Partly because Vince didn't want to do it as we were always of the belief that we would rather not know if there was something wrong with the child (pretty naive). Also we knew our other boys were healthy so there was not any reason to believe that this child would not be healthy. So I dismissed the referral and went on with my pregnancy.
By this time the morning sickness subsided and my energy was back. I used this time to continue my studies as a Kinesiologist and start preparing for the birth of my third child . Christmas came and went and I remember packing away our Christmas tree thinking next time I put it up we will have the baby with us. I remember sharing this with the boys. They were so excited.
As New years eve approached we decided to spend the evening with close family at Star City Casino to watch the fireworks. That evening I remember feeling really anxious. Anxious for the new year . Anxious for my unborn child. My thoughts that evening were with my dear friend Sharene who had passed away on New Years Eve, 3 yrs earlier due to child birth and for some reason I could not help but feel that something was very wrong with my baby. I shared these thoughts with my husband and mother but they both just dismissed me as being paranoid because of what happened with Sharene. I did however get myself into such a state of anxiety that I ended up having a panic attack and passed out just before the 9pm fireworks. This evening, I believe, was the first sign that the new year was not going to be so great.
On the 11th of January, my 33rd birthday, I had an appointment with my obstetrician. My husband never missed a visit but that day he could not make it. I went along thinking "I'll be fine". I was in the waiting room and whilst waiting saw a women being wheeled away in a wheel chair off to the hospital. The women looked like she had been crying and her husband in a state of fluster. I remember looking at my Doctor and he whispered to me "She has had a miscarriage". At that moment my heart sank for this woman and I remember thinking "oh that poor women". I was filled with sympathy for her and also gratitude that my baby was Okay. Finally I walked into the surgery and my Doctor immediately got me onto the bed to check the babies heart beat. Initially he used a miniature ultrasound machine . One minute went by, then two. It felt like an eternity. He attempted to look for the heart beat. There was no heart beat. He mumbled some excuse that sometimes that particular machine does not pick it up and then went over to another machine that just detects the sounds. As he worked around over my tummy I started to become anxious. Still no heart beat. I questioned the doctor "what is wrong?" and he said "nothing dear everything will be fine". But even I could tell he wasn't so sure. After not getting a sound he went back over to the ultrasound machine and finally a heart beat was detected. Oh what a relief! I could tell even the doctor was relieved and ensured me that all was well. He gave me my referral letter for my 18 -20week scan and I went off happy that all was well but very shaken that it took so long to find the heart beat.
The next week we were off on holidays for eight nights to Forster. We had a really great time and thankfully returned all relaxed not knowing the events we would experience in the weeks to come. We returned from holidays on Sunday, the 20th of January and my 19 week scan was scheduled for the Wednesday the 23rd of January. I was full of apprehension the morning of the scan. I had decided to take Giovanni and Nicholas with me so they could meet their brother or sister and had also decided that I would find out the sex of the baby. For some reason that morning, whether it was due to my hormones or intuition, I was behaving rather strange. I was trying to convince myself not to go for the scan, initially saying I had no money after our holiday and then picking a fight with my husband so I would not go. It was insane but looking back probably my intuition at work preparing me for what was to happen. Regardless of my episodes of insanity, I drove myself there and together with Vince and the boys we made our way into the room where the ultrasound would take place.
There were two sonographers in the room . One lady I was quite familiar with as she had completed the ultrasound for my other two pregnancies, and a pretty Asian girl who they introduced as a trainee. They began by explaining that the trainee would do the scan and the other lady would be there to supervise and should they start talking not to be concerned. So I relaxed and the scan began. Giovanni and Nicholas where so excited. They were asking the sonographer so many questions.
"Is that the head?", "are they the fingers?", "What is that?" and the questions went on and on.
Not much was being said and then the experienced sonographer took hold of the machine. She told me that she needed to take over as the baby was not co-operating and in an awkward position. As time went on not much was being said. The asian Lady left the room and after a few minutes so did the other sonographer. We did not think anything of it at that point. The Asian sonographer then returned, had another look and then left again. This time the experienced sonographer came back with a professor. When he walked into the room my heart sank and I remember looking over to Vince and he gave me the most concerned look.
He proceeded to tell me that they were not happy with the scans and that I would have to make my way to the fetal unit at Liverpool hospital for further tests. At that point they told me that the brain appeared dilated, they could only see one kidney which also was dilated and the umbilical cord only had two chambers rather than three. My heart sank as I broke down into tears. Vince, in complete shock, held my other sons tight as they looked completely confused as to what was going on. I got up and ran to the toilet, as the shock of the horrific news was to much to take and I cried uncontrollably. This was not supposed to be the way it happened. I was just supposed to find out the sex of the baby and be told all was well and go home to continue preparing. But from that point on my world changed, my life changed and my heart ached with this unexplainable pain. I cried and cried all the way home whilst we arranged for sitters for our two boys. I remember calling my mum and when she picked up the phone she immediately asked me 'Did you find out the sex of the baby?', not knowing what we actually did find out. I said to her "No Mum". We never even asked as it didn't seem important anymore. I proceeded to tell her that the baby was not healthy and that we were on our way to the hospital to find out more.
In the fetal unit at Liverpool hospital I sat there waiting. There were several women there waiting for the regular checkups. The wait felt like hours and I just remember staring at the beautiful pregnant bellies and feeling so sick inside. Vince and I sat there so numb. Neither of us knew what to say to the other but at the same time we knew that we were in this together. I felt so fortunate just to have him there with me.
After about a one hour wait the doctor finally called us in. He was a polite doctor, Almost funny looking with his thick black rimmed eyeglasses and red bow tie. He took me into a room for yet another ultrasound. This one was to be more detailed. He commenced the scan and I felt so much sadness. As I watched my precious child moving and playing around I began to see for myself that things were not right. He did not say much during the scan but was probing here and there to the point that I was feeling quite bruised and battered, both physically and emotionally. Once he completed the scan, he went on to tell us that that the baby had fluid and cysts in the brain . The baby's kidneys were in fact dilated and the baby was missing fingers and toes . He also confirmed that the umbilical cord did only have 2 chambers. He went on to say that any of those symptoms individually would be fine and could even either disappear or not cause long term problems, but the fact that they were all there together indicated a syndrome. By this stage I felt numb and did not respond. All I wanted to know was the sex of the baby. The doctor abruptly said to me that the sex was no longer important but he thought the baby was a male. In the scheme of things I guess it wasn't important but it mattered to me. I wanted to name my child. I felt I should at least be able to do that. There would be so much that I would miss out on.
He recommended that we now do an amniocentesis to confirm his findings and confirm exactly which syndrome my baby had. He said to me that it could be done right away, but the events of the day had taken their toll and I just wanted to go home to my boys. So we decided to do it the next morning.
I remember being home with my boys that night and being overwhelmed with love and gratitude for them. I reasoned that I would never ever take them and the fact that I am so fortunate to have them, for granted again. That day changed my life forever. Because of that day I am the person I am today. I have grown so much, learnt so much and cried so much, all in just one year.
On Thursday morning we woke and again drove back to Liverpool Hospital. I was a little afraid of doing the amniocentesis. I was warned that the needle was rather large and this frightened me, but I was mostly concerned about the welfare of my precious boy. By this stage Vince and I had decided that should the baby be confirmed to be a boy that we would call him Michael. I had this name in mind through out the entire pregnancy were I to have a boy, and I did not see any reason to change it. In fact the name is so appropriate for the angel he is, my little soldier.
We got there and the session was pretty emotional as I knew in my heart of hearts that this would in fact be the last time I would see my boy alive. They hooked me up to an ultrasound machine and I watched the needle penetrate and the levels of amniotic fluid reduce. I felt so numb. It almost seemed pointless at the time because the physical evidence made it very clear that Michael was not well. I did not want to put him through any suffering. However it had to be done and I knew in the long run I would need confirmation.
I was sent home with the confirmation that the baby was in fact a male and also the promise that I would have the 'FISH' results by Friday afternoon. I waited in anticipation for a phone call on Friday and at about 3pm after not hearing anything I decided to call the hospital. They told me due to the Australia Day long weekend I would not get my results until Tuesday. That long weekend would prove to be the most excruciating wait I'd ever have to endure.
Tuesday came and went and so did Wednesday. Still no results! By this stage my anxiety was at an all time high. The nights were endless and the days where absolute torture. Then on Thursday at about 1pm I received the call. Even though I knew that there was no hope, I guess I still had a glimmer. I answered the call and my doctor said to me "I am so sorry but your baby has full blown Trisomy 18- Edwards Syndrome " The shock and the reality of the news hit like a tonne of bricks falling on me one by one. I felt the intensity of what he was saying hit me straight in my heart. I hung up the phone and just whaled the loudest cry. One weeks worth of anxiety and the shock of the reality that my son was ill were released in the one loud cry. I called my husband and my parents and they all hurried over.
My parents were the first to arrive I remember looking at my mum and just falling into her arms into one small heap, almost wishing like I was a child again. Hoping she could take my pain away, like she used to when I was a child. But this was my journey. My journey with Michael and I knew that there was nothing anyone could do for Vince and I.
Vince then walked in and he just held me. No words needed to be said. We just cried together. We knew in our hearts what this meant for our son having done countless hours of research on Edwards syndrome. Vince decided to call the doctor back and get all the information that I did not wait to hear. He told us to come and get a referral letter to see a genetics counsellor. He also said they would explain to us how this happened and further discuss our options regarding the pregnancy.
On Friday the 1st of February we went to see the genetics counsellor . This very gentle loving woman walked in together with a social worker. She proceeded to tell explain to us how a Trisomy 18 cell is formed. She also went on to explain that this condition was a one off unexplainable event that is very unlikely to happen again and not a hereditary condition.
She also went on to explain that babies with full blown trisomy 18 (This is when every cell contains a trisomy 18 chromosome) are very unlikely to survive in the womb and if they do will only survive a few days after birth. On the rare occasion that our baby survived beyond that, the baby would have no brain function. He would never recognise us, never eat, never walk or talk and not have any quality of life. They described my boy as completely incompatible with life. We left with the option to interrupt the pregnancy or continue with the pregnancy and run the risk of him dying in the womb or to be born with no quality of life. It didn't feel like much of an option but regardless a decision had to be made. The hardest decision Vince and I would ever have to make and one which we did not make lightly. The most heartbreaking choice of all.
We so badly wanted to continue with the pregnancy and have our son with us but I knew that there would be no quality of life for him and through my spirituality knew that this soul was only meant to be with me for a little while. He came here on a short journey to learn what ever he needed too and mummy and daddy had to be strong. He needed his mummy and daddy to set him free.Through his short journey he also taught me so much. I just kept picturing him in a wheel chair watching his brothers run and play while he suffered. I could not do that to him. I also had my other boys to think of. They were already devastated as to what had happened. I could not put them through anymore. As parents our decision was completely selfless yet one we felt was the best for all our Children. Either way for me the road ahead was to be difficult.
The next day I used to gather my thoughts and absorb my final moments with my baby. I felt every kick and every little movement. He seemed to be moving alot more that day which was like adding salt to the wound but at the same time having those last moments with him are moments I will cherish forever.
The Sunday morning I woke quite apprehensive. I was to be in hospital by 9am. I remember showering that morning and speaking to Michael in my tummy. I remember letting him know that I loved him and he would forever be in my heart. This was now to be our journey and together we would get him to a better place. I felt honoured to be a part of that process . Michael was to become an angel and chose me to help him get there.
We got to the hospital at 9am promptly but they did not have a bed for me until about 10am. My Obstetrician came to visit me and gave me a run down on the process and what was about to happen. The paperwork took a while to process and we had to wait till about 2pm for the first pessary to be inserted. This was so frustrating because now that we were there and our decision was made we just wanted it to be over. Yet it seemed to drag out. Thankfully so many of our friends and family came to visit us in the meantime and at times in between the chatting, we almost forgot why we were there. Oh how nice it would have been to forget why we were there!
At 2pm the first pessary was inserted. When the doctor left I just cried and cried and cried, I knew that this was to be the first step towards my angels last living moments. I tried to fight the guilt as I knew I had no control but It was there. I was told they would give me 5 pessaries and should I not give birth by the 5th one I would have to go home wait for a day and then return for another 5. I couldn't think of anything worse. I just wanted this over with and thought I'd be done after two....boy was I wrong.
The first pessary really didn't do to much . I had to wait four hrs for the next one. The Midwives during this shift were so lovely. I could tell they really felt for me and although what was about to happen was going to be hard on me, I knew by the look in their eyes that it too was hard for them. I was so glad this particular midwife said she would be there till 10pm. I thought to myself "My baby will be born by then". By 6pm I started feeling a little bit of pain but nothing major and the 2nd pessary was inserted. This had to be the most violating process. I truly hated it. With every pessary came a different doctor and I just felt like a piece of meat. The 2nd pessary started to kick in and the pain started to intensify. The midwives were very helpful and began a dose of panadine forte but when they didn't do anything a shot of pethidine followed 2 hours later. This went on for the rest of the night. I was not going to be a martyr. The emotional pain I was experiencing was enough and we all agreed that their was no need for me to feel the physical pain.
As the clock struck 10pm, with this came another pessary, another midwife and more pain. I was informed that I was only 2cm dilated which was quite discouraging. I think they had hoped I would have been further along. The midwife that came in was an older women perhaps mid 50's. Looking back she probably did not know how to handle the situation but at the time she was quite annoying.
She was trying to make light of the situation by joking and being funny. But as the night progressed, her jokes became less funny and I became more and more irritated with her.
I managed to fall asleep with Vince beside me on a fold out bed, and again by 2am another one was inserted. I was checked again and they told me that I had not dilated any further. They warned me that the next one would be the last and I would have to go home if I never gave birth. There was no way I was going home. This was hard enough as it was I could not prolong it any further. I prayed and prayed that this one would work and with a heavy hearted plea I fell asleep.
At 5am my water broke . I was so relieved but at the same time I went into complete shock and started panicking. My breathing became quite heavy as a pleaded with the midwife to just knock me out. I couldn't do this. Loosing my dear friend 3 yrs earlier to childbirth had absolutely terrified me of the process. I was afraid of child birth as it was and knowing that Michael was to be born asleep really gave me no motivation to continue. I begged and begged but needless to say the midwife didn't listen and Vince managed to calm me and I again fell asleep.
And then it happened! At about 6.45am I was woken by an urge to push. I screamed out to Vince who I woke and was in a delirious state of panic. I buzzed and buzzed the midwife but she was no where to be seen. Vince just stood in the door and was torn between going to find the midwife and staying with me. I pleaded with him to go find the midwife and as he was about to leave I could not hold it anymore. With one push Michael was born . I lay there in complete shock as the midwife finally decided to return to her post. She waddled in announcing that she was off having a cup of tea and didn't hear the buzzer. I was not impressed and as she investigated the situation I gave her the most horrid glare. I felt her tugging at the umbilical cord to try and remove the placenta and begged her to stop. The cord had snapped and as she fumbled with a pair of surgical scissors(not sure why) I felt her clip my leg . I did not feel safe in her arms and felt so afraid . I just wanted to hold Michael .
She finally placed Michael on my chest after Vince cut the cord. He was so beautiful. I could not believe how much he looked like his brother Nicholas. He was a true angel and had such a strong wise look about him. With tears rolling down my face I said to Vince "He is Perfect!" and to my surprise the midwife said to me "Well he is not his fingers and toes are missing" I was horrified and again with quite an awful glare said to her "Well he is perfect to me!" .
By this stage the Placenta still had not dislodged. She placed me on a cold pan in a squatting position to try and get it out. I was so tired and so over it . All I wanted to do was just hold my baby. I prayed and prayed for the placenta to come out but it would not budge. Thank fully at about 8am the midwives changed shifts and a younger more competent midwife came in. After 1 hr squatting over a pan, I begged her to remove it . She tried massaging my tummy but nothing worked. At that point my Obstetrician walked in. When I saw him I felt a huge sense of relief. I knew I 'd be OK.
With a great deal of sympathy he manually removed my placenta and told me that he is sure he removed it all but should I bleed heavily in the next couple of hrs I would need to go into surgery. That was the last thing I wanted . Thankfully at this stage the bleeding slowed.
Vince and I spent the next few hrs with Michael . We took photos of him , held him and tried to absorb him as much as we could. A priest came in to bless him and Vince went with the midwife to have him weighed and dress him in the outfit we had bought him. In those few hrs we formed a life time of memories.... but it will never enough .
By about 12pm a social worker came to see us. She had a little talk to us about what had happened and gave us a list to help us with the funeral arrangements. And then after a little while she left and took my baby. At that point the reality of the situation set in . All huddled up in his bunny rug and a beanie the hospital gave to me, I felt like he was slowly being ripped out of me ..taken from me. It was one of the most gut wrenching, heartbreaking moments. My baby was gone..he was no longer inside of me. No longer safe. There was nothing I could do but cry.
The next day I requested that Michael be brought up to be with me one last time. He was cold but still looked so gorgeous . I was to go home that day and really wanted to hold him one last time. Vince and I held him and smothered him with love for one last hour before I had to return him back to the social worker. At this point my discharge papers had been processed and I was told I was right to leave.
The hospital had promised me a little book with the photos they had taken, his foot prints and hand prints and the details of his birth weight, time and gestation. I requested this upon leaving and to my disappointment it was not complete. The midwife asked that I give her 15 minutes and in the time she hurriedly completed the booklet and with this sent us on our way.
Walking out of the hospital was another one of those gut wrenching moments. I mean, I just gave birth. Should I not be going home with my baby. As I clutched onto the book, the only record other then these memories that he was born, that I did not dream this horrid nightmare, I walked out of the hospital in a state of shock. Tears streaming down my face . People where looking at me but I didn't care. I was leaving him behind. This just did not make sense and played havoc with my mind and my heart.
However, despite the tears and the heartbreak, through out this all I had one hope, one inspiration and one will to get through this. My two beautiful boys at home. I did not come home with their brother but their mummy was home. And I swore to my self that I would be OK for them. That mummy would be fine. I was so grateful that I had that. I was going home to them and could not wait to take them into my arms.
The next day we spent with our children and organising the funeral for Michael. I wanted him to have a beautiful service but also decided to keep it small and private. We managed to organise it all for the very next day. That evening to my surprise I started to bleed quite heavily and had quite a bit of pain. But I did suspect that perhaps the Doctor did not remove all the placenta but determined not to miss my sons funeral, I took 2 Naprogesic (which seemed to help) and just dealt with it.
The morning of the funeral the rain just pounded down. I didn't really bother me as it pretty much represented how I felt. Prior to the service, Vince and I had one last private viewing of Michael in his resting bed. I requested that only my father come and see him, thinking my mother would not be able to handle it. But to my surprise my mum was their too. This meant the world to me. More then she'll ever know as I knew that this was not easy for her. He looked so beautiful and peaceful. I placed a beautiful blue Blanket around him that I used for all my boys and put a photo of the four of us in there with him, a little teddy and some other gifts that were given to him by family members. With that the casket was closed and the service began.
Through the service the thunder was rumbling and the rain just seemed to get heavier. Regardless It was a beautiful service . Vince read a beautiful eulogy and my sister Catherine read two poems that I had written for Michael. With the sounds of Rob thomas' "Little Wonders", Vince carried his son to the car to be driven to his finally resting place.
As we approached the buriel site the rain thankfully stopped and the sun started to shine through. The priest continued with the service and as Michael's body was returned to mother earth, Vince and I, together with all our family and friends released about 30 blue and white balloons representing his spirit returning home. This was such a significant moment. At that point I felt a sense of relief that he was home and that I had set him free to a place where he will know only happiness and good health.
That evening we found solace in the arms of our two precious boys. We also felt a sense of relief that the ordeal was over and that now we could get on with our lives and begin to heal. We knew from previous experience that this process would take time. But our gratitude for our two precious angels we got to keep would get us through.
The next day I was determined to reintroduce some normality into my children's lives. They were understandably rattled by the experience and whilst they seemed to comprehend that Michael had died, they at the same time seemed to have associated this with the fact that mummy was going to die too. So i dedicated the day to playing with them and helping them to feel secure as possible. But whilst playing PlayStation with my eldest son, I curled over in pain and began to bleed quite heavy. With this, Vince once again took me to hospital, leaving behind once again my precious angels with confused looks on their little faces. I could not believe this was happening.
Once I arrived and after waiting several hrs in emergency the doctors finally concluded that I would need surgery to remove placenta, membrane and tissue which had been retained. After a 16hr wait , no food and in a room that I could not contact my children from, I was at my wits end. The events of the previous week, coupled with the fact that this ordeal just did not want to end had completely drained and sent me over the edge. Completely frustrated , I insisted that I go over to the private hospital where I could have the D&C done immediately. At that point someone heard my plea and within one hour I was over to the private were the operation was scheduled within the hour. As they wheeled me into theatre, I begged the doctor to take care of me and get me home to my babies. I just needed this over.
I remember waking after the surgery to see three beautiful African women cleaning the theatre room. I looked at one of the women called Edna and asked " Am I alright?" and she answered "You sure are!" with the most beautiful smile. I knew at that point that I was in fact alright and although the healing process emotionally would take time, I knew physically that I was OK. With a sigh I was relieved that this ordeal was over and eternally grateful that I was going home to my boys. Going home to really begin to heal.
The last 12months the journey has been some what of a roller coaster. I have had some ups and many downs. I cried myself to sleep a many nights only to be woken with the sound of my two precious boy laughing. There were many mornings that I just did not want to get out of bed and very thankful that Giovanni ,Nicholas and Vince gave me the strength to do it. And although in the dead of the night I sometimes thought that the sun will never shine through the clouds of grief, I have so much faith that it will.
I am so thankful for the family and friends who have unconditionally loved and supported us through one of the toughest times in our lives. Thank you to those who have taken the time to ask me how I was really going and for those who have genuinely cared about me and my family to support me the entire year and did not give up on us. You were all crucial in our healing. You will always have special place in my heart. It is times like this that you learn who is there for you and who isn't, I am eternally grateful for this wisdom.
I am thankful that I had the means to see my counsellor Patricia and I thank her for all your emotional and spiritual guidance. I also thank SIDS and kids for their bereavement support during the early days and I am also grateful for the amazing women on Essential Baby were I found so much comfort through women who had experienced similar circumstance.
I am proud . Proud of what my family has had to endure and survived. We have survived because of our love and respect for each other. The love Vince and I share has grown because of this and I know nothing or no-one will ever come between us. God has united us and given us the strength to endure so much at a time in our lives which should have been only full of joy. But we are better people for it . I thank you Vince for always loving me and being by my side through it all. I could not have done this without you and I know I have become a better person because of you.
I look forward to a future of happiness and also understand that sorrow is a part of life but where there is sorrow, happiness is just on the other side. Life is but a journey, a journey with choices and because of this experience I have learnt so much. Whilst at times the pain was so intense and the grief so overwhelming, I would not change a thing. My baby has given me the most wonderful gift .The gift of life. The gift to live and appreciate what I have and be grateful for the beautiful family I have been blessed with.
My wish would be for no family to ever have to experience the loss of their Child and should they go through that as part of their journey, they have the means to survive the grief and despair and the wisdom and strength to know that with every roller coaster comes ups and downs and as the wheel of life promises. The good times will surely come.
I hope by sharing my story that someone will find comfort in knowing that they are not alone and also find some comfort that should they travel down the same road where a gut wrenching decision needs to be made that they can come to know what to expect.
And my final words are to Michael . My precious angel. Please know that mummy will forever carry you in her heart .As your First angel birthday fast approaches I want you know that you will always be my 3rd Child and no-one will ever take that away. You are my baby forever. I pray that you watch over us everyday of our lives and I know in my heart of hearts that we will meet again. So my beautiful child, no one can hurt you where you are. You are safe in the arms of the angels .So until you can be in my arms , a piece of my heart is with you. God bless my precious boy