Neonatal Death (medical): when a baby dies in the first 28 days of life.
The neonatal mortality rate in England in 2018 was 2.8 deaths per 1,000 live births
It is so hard to document my last week with Summer, and I’m aware that most of my friends and family still don’t have a clue what happened. How the heck do you lose a baby at nearly 20 weeks? Aren’t you past the danger zone? Isn’t it incredibly rare? Yes, yes it is. It’s the first time I haven’t wanted to be top decile in anything.
Thinking about how I processed and articulated my first two miscarriages, it’s no surprise that I turned to writing. So again, here is a letter I posted to my friend, explaining what had happened.
This particular friend is a special one. If she saw you stranded on a desert island, she’d swim out to get you. If she couldn’t swim far enough, she’d build you both a raft. What I mean by that is, she perseveres. She persevered with me in my grief, continually letting me know that she was there. And one night, I sat in bed, stranded on my desert island of thoughts and just knew I wanted to tell her the story of my little girl.
Sunday 19th April 2020
F, I haven’t told you much about our daughter, but I’d like to. Before I do, you probably need a bit of context about what happened, so here’s the message that James sent to some friends the evening before Summer was born.
“Just to give you the full picture to keep you updated: Anj went in to hospital on Wednesday due to a scan on Tuesday showing very little fluid around the baby. On top of the pain and heavy bleeding, they admitted her, suspecting that her waters had broken.
As the week continued, her condition deteriorated and her haemoglobin continued to drop to worrying levels. She needed an iron infusion and two subsequent blood transfusions.
Further scans confirmed that the membranes had ruptured prematurely, and would not likely replenish themselves.
Discussion with various consultants suggested there was incredibly little chance of a positive outcome for the baby and suggested a termination for Anjulie’s safety.
This was an incredibly difficult discussion to have, and something Anj just refused to do, as the baby’s heart was still beating. So we agreed not to do anything medically to prolong the pregnancy, but not to do anything to quicken the end either, despite the risk to Anj. But they have been regularly monitoring Anj to check she is still stable.
At this point we are hoping that things will take a natural course to avoid a painful decision, and Anj is having regular scans. The last scan still showed a heartbeat but all the fluid has gone and cervix has started to dilate so some process looks to be happening. We don’t have a great idea of time, but either way, Anj will have to go through a full labour.”
So, we knew Summer wouldn’t make it and spent that week mentally and physically preparing for that eventuality.
While I was in hospital, a bible quote I’d seen on Facebook kept playing in my head: “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him”. I just kept agonising over it, why doesn’t He want to reward us? What have I done wrong? But I now feel like Summer rewarded us for believing in her.
I thought I’d played out all possible scenarios in my head, but despite spending a weekend saying goodbye to my little girl and telling her that it was ok to let go, against all odds, Summer was born, heart still beating, alive. She breathed for an hour, showing some classic R resolve: the sporting stamina of her Daddy and the stubbornness of her Mummy. She had the longest fingers (for playing the piano, no doubt), a lovely and normal sized nose (despite us both having honkers) and a hairline that looked like it was coming in more like James’ than mine.
Our hour with her was incredible. I didn’t even cry, I was just so overwhelmed by her and just so comforted. I remember saying to James “look, we did it. This is our baby. Even if we never have another, we’ve done it.”
As you can imagine, the memories that were so comforting at the time, have become so painful. But I know it won’t always be this way.
There’s no making sense of any of this, so I just need some positives to come from it. This isn’t saying “I’m glad I lost my baby”, this is saying “some good things came about, that I never would have thought to do, if it weren’t for my daughter”. So I’ve been working on and thinking a lot about her legacy; some of these are ways for me to feel that Summer left a mark and others are simply ways to acknowledge that she was here.