Learning through Life

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Hampshire, United Kingdom
I love how our day-to-day life can teach us lessons to help us understand our past, challenge our today, and inspire our future. We can learn through experiences, situations, conversations, songs, books, nature ... the list is endless! Live with eyes ready to see, ears ready to hear and a heart ready to be touched.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Please Let me be Me

Ten years after this was originally written - I still think its important to understand and put into practice. It is because of this that I have decided to share more of myself than comfortable with, and post here!

Please Let me be Me

Recently I watched a programme about Kings College Hospital in London with great interest.

You see, last year I was a patient at Kings College (Harris Birthright Centre, a hospital specialising in difficult and unusual pregnancies and births).  I had been referred there by my doctor when I found out I was expecting my third child. The year before I had been looking forward to the arrival of my second child, thinking of names, getting excited, preparing myself to be the mother of a new-born again, but when I was 16 weeks pregnant all my hopes and dreams were shattered. The bottom of my world fell out.

Strangely enough I had always felt that something wasn’t quite right, but put it down to paranoia. Why would things go wrong?  I already had a healthy baby and the pregnancy seemed fine, so why would this be any different?  I don’t know how, but I knew.  At 16 weeks I developed a pain around the area of the scar received after an emergency section with my first son.  I went to the doctors, and was referred to the local hospital for a scan.

As I lay on the bed preparing for the scan, fear took over me.  I somehow knew that a bumpy ride lay ahead.  However, nothing could prepare me for the next half hour.  The scan commenced and an uncomfortable silence filled the room.  The silence fled as the sonographer told me that there seemed to be quite a lot of fluid under the babies skin.  All I heard was things weren’t right.

I was left alone as the senior sonographer was called.  During this awful wait, I lay there looking at a still picture of my baby on the screen.  I knew it and loved it.  I wanted this baby so much.  As I stared at the screen I can remember praying, not that things would be okay strangely enough, but thanking God for life, and dedicating the life inside me back to Him.

My baby had a thorough examination, again in silence, and I finally heard the words … “There is a very serious problem ...”  That was all she said at first, I guess to give it time to sink in.  This annoyed me … I wanted to know more, what was wrong, what was going to happen etc.  I forced it out - 'So?' It was explained to me that the baby had a lot of fluid under the skin, all around, but the major concern was the large amount of fluid around the brain. This baby was very unlikely to survive the pregnancy and if it did it would almost surely die at birth.  I sat myself up, and waited for a consultant to come and speak to me. I was in shock.

Once the consultant started speaking, I wanted to know everything.  I asked questions and went through various scenarios.  Yes, I was terribly upset, but I didn't fall apart, I needed answers.

I was offered a termination that I refused. I believe God gives life and I couldn’t do anything that would take it away.  I was told that it would be hard having a baby grow inside that I would probably never see alive.  I knew, but I would cope, I had to.  Several times the termination was offered and in the end I felt like it was being pushed on me, so I made sure that 'Will not consider a termination' was written clearly at the top of my notes.  I would leave it with God.

They wanted to see me at the hospital once a week to check if my baby was still alive.  I was warned that I might miscarry at any time.  I didn’t. I carried on at home knowing that it wasn't the same as most pregnancies.  There would be no baby to bring home at the end.

I tried to carry on as normal.  I was scared and hurting.  I didn’t understand.  I just somehow managed to cope.

Two weeks later I felt my baby move its last.  The following day at the hospital they confirmed my baby had died.  In a way this was a relief,  especially when I thought that the baby would no longer be struggling.

The consultant talked me through the next events.  I would go back into hospital the next day to have labour induced.  They warned me that even though my baby was still quite small, it would be very painful.  I went home, told a few people I wouldn’t be about the next day and prepared myself. I had to think about whether or not I wanted to look at my baby, hold it, give it a name … such a lot to consider.

In hospital the following morning several people explained what would happen. The hospital Chaplain also visited to discuss whether we wanted a service, burial, cremation etc. I made as many decisions as I could and labour was induced.  I won’t go into detail of the next bit, but after over twelve hours of labour I gave birth to a tiny baby boy.  Alfie.  He was taken away for a while as I had to go under general anaesthetic to have the placenta removed.

When I returned and was fit enough, Alfie was brought into me in a tiny Moses basket.  He was beautiful.  I looked past the obvious swelling around the head and saw my little baby.   Our Pastor and close friend visited us, and before Alfie was taken away, we held a short service for him.  We gave thanks and said goodbye.

The purpose of sharing all this?

We all know we are unique and cope with things in different ways, and that includes how you deal with the loss of a child.  I found losing Alfie the hardest thing I have ever gone through, grieved him immensely.  However, during all that time I didn’t cry.  I am not super human, neither am I hard and unemotional.  I hurt, my mind was a mess, and I needed support from friends and family ... but I didn’t need to cry.

I found it very difficult when my close friends and family told me I needed to 'stop bottling it up and let it out'.  Hadn't they been listening?  My feelings weren’t bottled up, they just didn’t come out as tears. I wanted to talk about Alfie.  I didn't cry, but this in no way meant it wasn't difficult, or that it wasn't a big deal for me.

If you ever have to offer support or friendship to someone in a similar situation then please just let them be themselves.  They may need company, or they may prefer solitude.  They may need to talk, or they may prefer silence.  They may need to cry, and probably will and if tears fall, let them.  But if, like in my case, the tears don't come, don't make things worse by trying to force them out.  It might not be what they need for that time.

It is also important that you are yourself as well.  One of my friends would walk away when we were talked about Alfie, because it made her cry and she didn't want to cry in front of me.  Her crying helped not hindered.  I wanted her to be herself too.

To this day I still haven't cried about it.  I often think about him and question why.  He is still in my memories and I wont forget him.  Tears haven't fallen, but this doesn't mean he isn't missed.

Alfie had Downs Syndrome, and had he survived would have been seriously ill with no quality of life at all. I don’t know why things like this happen, and don’t pretend to have the answers.  I just know that when things like this happen, people grieve in different ways.  Be sensitive, listen, and let them be themselves.

Jan 18, 2002


  1. Jo,
    Firstly how did I not know about this blog until now and secondly you almost made me cry at work! This entry is so moving and such a surprise - I had no idea what you had gone through in the past and sharing that helps me know that we all go through hard times but there are ways to make it through in the end!
    Thanks for the inspiration,
    Becky Miles

  2. Thank-you Jo for sharing this.

    Emma xx

  3. you shared this sad story in such a compelling
    manner that i will never forget your sweet

    i will be a better friend now, too.


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