9 June 2017

Losing Lexi

I was 18 when I fell pregnant. Still a baby myself but a grown up in my own head. The pregnancy was nothing short of miserable. Sorry for the small amount of TMI but my nipples were so sore. I had to wear a bra to bed to hold my boobs in place because if the bed sheet so much as brushed over them, I was in tears. I have never in my life (even after being pregnant again) felt something so painful and uncomfortable!!! I was sick from 6am to 9pm. I vomited everything. Water, food, everything. The normal amount of weight for a woman to put on during her first trimester is about the amount of weight I lost. I spent 90% of my waking hours driving the porcelain bus.

At about 8 weeks I had my first bleeding episode. I rushed to the doctors who said there was nothing I could do but go home and put my feet up. Once the bleeding stopped I was sent for an ultrasound to make sure that tiny heartbeat was still racing. It was. I had a number of bleeds through the pregnancy. The outcome was always the same. After a few days rest and an ultrasound to check on the baby’s heart, all was good. Then the fluid started leaking. Only periodically, and in small amounts.

In hindsight I probably should have been put on bed rest, but because I was a secretary, and I wasn’t overly “active” due to the fact that I spent most of my days sitting at my desk, or vomiting in the toilet, the doctor said I would be fine to continue working.

Because of my bleeding and the leaking fluid, I was referred to a specialist hospital in Brisbane. Being a high risk patient is so very exhausting. Every week we had to make the hour long trek to visit the high risk doctors. It was an all-day event (we all know how doctors like to run on time!) An hour to get there, waiting for anywhere between one and 3 hours, then all my scans and tests, then another drive back to the coast. Through everything, the sickness, the travel, the stress of being high risk, nothing could take away our excitement. Feeling that baby move inside me was the most incredible, unbelievable feeling in the world. I couldn’t even fathom how it was possible. Here I was, utterly in love with this incredible man and we had created life, and I was growing it! It wasn’t until about 23 weeks that the joy turned to fear.

I presented to the hospital with mild contractions, about 4 minutes apart. I was sent via ambulance to Brisbane. I wasn’t dilated and they managed to stop the contractions. I was kept in for a few days so they could monitor me. Over the course of my stay, I was told that there was not a lot of amniotic fluid surrounding the baby. This would mean that in the highly likely event that I was to deliver her early, her lungs would not be as strong as they should be. I was given steroid injections, and before I was released, I was issued instructions to come back in a week for another lot.

I was in hospital for my 19th birthday. I got flowers from my family but it was still the loneliest birthday I have ever experienced. Once again, because I was a secretary and pretty much sat in my chair all day, I was told that I could go home and continue working but if I felt any more contractions or had any other concerns; I was to come back immediately. I wish it wasn’t the case, but I would be back sooner than any of us expected.

I was 24 weeks and 5 days along. It was the 3rd July 2006. I was at work. I started getting a queasy stomach. I went to the toilet and as I sat down, my waters broke. I walked out to my boss and he saw my pale, panicked face. I told him my waters broke. He literally picked me up and put me in his car, and sped me to hospital. He ran every single red light on the way. He took me to the hospital and I was once again given some drugs to slow my contractions and whisked to Brisbane via ambulance.

When I arrived I was taken to the birth unit, I was hooked up to a drip, and given antibiotics (just in case). They did a swab and some blood tests to check for infection, and gave me the steroid injection that I was due to have the very next day. My contractions slowed down a little but didn’t completely stop. I had to wait for what seemed like forever for the swab and blood results to come back. Somewhere between my arrival in Brisbane and those results coming back, my temperature spiked to almost 45 degrees and my contractions came back with a vengeance. I have never felt so sick in my life. I actually thought I was going to die.

In my messed up state I can remember them telling me that I had a massive infection raging inside my body and they needed to get the baby out. If they didn’t, we would both die. I had to sign a consent form. Let me tell you I have no idea what that signature looked like because I wasn’t even able to see properly, let alone write my name in cursive font! As I was being whisked to surgery my man and his mum, who had managed to pull off an hour drive in about 30 minutes, arrived. He touched my hand as I was wheeled past him. I can only imagine how scary that moment would have been for both of them. The last thing I remember before they put me to sleep was lying on the operating theatre, hooked up to all sorts of machines, the lady on my left wiping my tears and telling me that “everything is going to be OK, you are in good hands”, then darkness.

I woke up to the recovery nurse pulling a tube from out of my throat. It sent be in to a massive coughing fit. She put a trigger in my hand and told me that was my pain relief and to click the button if I feel I need more… I responded to this news by clicking that trigger about 50 times, only to be told it cuts off after a certain amount has been administered to prevent people overdosing. Go figure!

Once I came slightly out of my drug haze, I was surrounded by my man, his mum and my mum. The nurse came in to tell me that I had delivered a tiny one pound 9 ounce girl and that even though she was so premature, she was doing ok! I could relax then. She was ok. My man went with his mum and dad to get something to eat while I recovered a little more, and when he got back we were to go and see our little lady. My rest and his dinner were to be short lived. Our little lady had other plans.

I will never forget being wheeled into that Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to see her, surrounded by doctors, covered in tubes. It was the most confronting, traumatic experience of my life. I was wheeled up next to her tiny crib. I could not stop the tears. I reached out and touched her little hand, and I’m certain that if I was standing, I would have collapsed. It was in that instant, that my heart broke. Nothing prepares you to see your tiny one pound nine ounce, baby having drips, oxygen masks, and CPR.

Nothing prepares you for having to turn off her machines either. That decision was thrust upon me in that instant. She was fighting, but she was fighting against them. That day, only one day after my perfect little baby was born, I had to make the most gut wrenching, world shattering decision that any mother could make. Turning off my child’s life support, goes against everything that I thought was my motherly duty. It was like trying to walk forward in a hurricane; you know you need to keep pushing forward but that wind just keeps pushing you back, no matter how hard you try to fight it. My duty was to protect, raise and nurture, and here I was about to make a decision to end my baby’s life. My head and my heart battled against each other. I knew she wouldn’t survive anyway, there was not a chance. But having to actually voice it, and give them the go ahead shattered my already broken heart. When the inevitable happened, I wanted her to die wrapped in my love. Not with strange doctors hands on her, and tubes all over her tiny body. My angel girl took her last breaths in my arms.

I was in hospital afterwards for about 5 days, to make sure I recovered fully from my surgery and the infection. In those few days, I literally don’t know how I would have coped without the incredible nurses at that hospital. My mum and my man were able to bathe my baby and dress her in the most beautiful little outfit. I was able to hold her and be with her for as long as I wanted. They never pressured me to give her up. Those moments were so difficult, but as I know now, so very important.

I was very, very uneasy about leaving the hospital. Not only was I leaving without my daughter, but I was leaving the nurses who had helped me through the last week. I actually had to force myself in to the elevator to go down to the car. I can remember one of the nurses (Kathryn) walking me to the doors, and giving me a hug. I did not want to let go. How was I going to survive without her? How was I going to cope when I needed to see my baby and she wasn’t there to bring her to me? How was I going to survive when I needed to break down and her warm arms weren’t there to scoop me up and make me feel ok? Needless to say, it took a lot of strength for me to let go and leave. A lot.

Planning a funeral is never easy. But having to choose that coffin was something I would never wish upon my worst enemy. How do you choose a coffin for your child? How do you take the idea that you will provide every single thing your child will ever need or want, and have the first and last thing you will ever do for them be planning a funeral.

I arrived at the funeral home early. I had to be the one to tuck her in to her coffin. It had to be me to lay her to sleep for the last time. No stranger could do that for her. I didn’t feel it was right for that to happen. I was her mother, and that was my job. It was that moment that my whole heart and my whole being were shattered. Putting her down in that coffin was nearly impossible. That was to be the last time I would ever be able to look at her, cuddle her, smell her, kiss her. I knew it would be, and it killed me. It literally killed my soul. I wanted nothing but to curl up inside that tiny coffin with her and die.

Heartbreak is called heartbreak for a reason. My heart felt like it was being ripped from inside me. I struggled to breathe. I felt as though I had been shattered into a million pieces on the floor. I really didn’t think I could let her go.

Looking back I see that it was that moment, that my life fell apart. It was a complete downward spiral from this moment. My final good bye. That final kiss. That final touch. Then it was gone forever.

I had written a letter for the funeral director to read out. He had given me the option to stand up and read it myself, but I honestly don’t think I could have gotten the words to fall from my mouth. Breathing was enough trouble for me. As he started to read the letter, the most incredible thing happened. It sounds so very cliché, and I had to look 3 times to believe it myself, as did everyone else in that room. The second he read the first line of my letter: dear baby girl; a white bird flew from out of nowhere and hovered at the big cathedral window directly behind him. It stayed there looking in at us until he said the final words: love mummy; and then it flew away. I didn’t think it was real. I thought I was imagining things. Wishful thinking maybe? But it was real, and I wasn’t the only one to see it. I still believe to this day it was her, letting me know that she could hear me.

From that moment, it seemed that life went on for everyone, but I was left behind. I was left behind in my grief and my sadness. I was told time and time again that I would have another baby, so it would be OK. I wanted to scream every time someone told me that. I wanted to punch them in the face. I didn’t want another baby. I wanted that baby. How come when you lose a parent or a friend, people rally around to support you and no one would even consider telling you that you would be fine once you found a new friend, or maybe you could just find a replacement mum?

I still find it absolutely ludicrous that people would even insinuate that having another baby would “fix” your heartbreak. I honestly felt like since her funeral, I was frowned upon for not being over it. I decided that I would just pull myself together and hold it all in. This way people wouldn’t judge me. This was not only my mistake. It was also theirs. They complete lack of compassion drove me to not deal with my grief. It drove me to the brink of insanity. Maybe it wasn’t a lack of compassion. Maybe it was a lack of understanding or even a lack of education.

We are “trained”, through years of experience and lessons from other people’s lives that we are to expect that people get sick and die. That freak accidents happen. You are eventually going to lose your mum, your dad, your friends. No one questions your grief or advises you on how they think you should deal with it when those things happen. No one tells you that it’s a possibility that you might have to plan the funeral of your child. Maybe that’s why no one helps you cope. No one really knows what to say.

I often have people ask me what they can say when someone loses their child. My answer: just be there. Listen. You don’t have to say anything. Just don’t cringe when they mention their child’s name. Don’t avoid them. Exactly the same as when someone loses a family member. Advice on how to cope, when you haven’t been through the same experience isn’t necessary. A shoulder to cry on, and freedom of speech is plenty.

It has been 10 years since she left me. It has taken me that long to realize that I will grieve forever. I got so caught up in “moving on” and pretending that I was OK, at the request of everyone around me, that I never let myself come to terms with it. I held on and carried that burden very secretly for a lot of years. It took me very close to the edge. If it wasn’t for a few very close friends, I would not be here to share this with you today. Not releasing your stress is a terrible, terrible thing to do to yourself. It will eat you up, from the inside out. My stress literally sent me bald. It ruined my relationship with her dad. I began to resent him. He was one of the ones whose lives carried on like nothing had happened. It ruined my life.

I felt like I was 80 years old. I became a recluse. I drank every single night. I stopped taking care of myself. I had nothing left.

I struggled with guilt for a long time after Lexi died, and sometimes I still do. Maybe I could have waited to turn off her machines… maybe a miracle would have happened… it has taken me a very long time to be able to move forward in my life, to understand that the final decision I made for her was the right one. If I had of held on and not allowed them to turn off her machines, she would have suffered for a long time before dying. For everyone who told me that it’s OK because I would have other children… You lied to me. I have gone on to have 2 beautiful healthy children, and I still grieve. I grieve often. On her birthday, I struggle to think of anything else. Who would she be? What would she look like? The day after her birthday is even harder. It’s the day she left me.

To everyone that told me I needed to move on, I have many choice words for you. But for now, just know I’m giving you the middle finger. You contributed to the loss of many years of my life. You contributed to the depression that ensued when I couldn’t keep my pain hidden any longer.

To the very few people who stood by my side when times got tough, thank you. You saved my life. Your shoulder to cry on when I was on the edge was a god send. To the people who are in my life now who allow me to still grieve and to cry when I need to, and to talk about her (because she is still, and will always be, my child) I thank you too. You keep me sane.

This little girl changed me in ways I cannot even explain. I am not, and never will be the same girl I was before and even though it hurts me, and breaks my heart with every breath, I am grateful. I am grateful that this perfect little angel came in to my life. She has taught me so many lessons. Lessons about empathy, love, depression and even friendship.

I am also grateful that she is with me every step of the way. Even though some days I wake up and cannot shake the overwhelming feeling to see her little face, hold those tiny little hands and lay kisses on her perfect cheeks, I am grateful that for 6 short months I was able to feel her growing inside me and I will cherish every single kick I felt, and every second that I spent with her in her short life.

Written by Carli @thatsinglemum 


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