On the day of my baby shower, I woke up and couldn’t feel the baby move. I thought to myself ‘I’m sure he’ll start moving during the day’ and got on with the preparations. I remember thinking ‘I’ve got all these people coming over, I’ll just get through the day and then I’ll deal with it.’
It was around 4pm by the time everything settled down. I realised I’d been so preoccupied with everything going on that I hadn’t paid any attention to whether he’d moved during the day. I wasn’t overly worried, but I thought I’d better get checked out with a quick ultrasound. I thought that maybe he was just in a weird position.
My partner Matt was at his own version of the baby shower with his mates that evening, and I didn’t think he needed to come, but he insisted, so we went into the hospital together. The midwives tried to find the baby’s heartbeat with the doppler, but they couldn’t hear anything.
They went to get another machine. I couldn’t see the ultrasound screen, but I could see the midwife’s face change. She said, ‘I’m so sorry but there’s no heartbeat’. I didn’t even know that was a possibility.
Everything just went blank. I felt really confused. I remember thinking ‘OK, his heart’s not beating, so do something to start it again!’
I didn’t know what to do. I had this baby inside me. I knew he couldn’t just disappear. It dawned on me that I would have to give birth to this child. I had so many mixed thoughts and feelings.
Because it was a Saturday night there wasn’t a doctor who could confirm there was no heartbeat, so we had to come back the next day. We went home to a house filled with all the stuff from the baby shower, knowing that there would be no baby coming home to celebrate.
The next day I started the medication needed to induce my labour, but it didn’t work. It was four more indescribable days before our baby boy Riley was finally born. I don’t remember how we got through those four days. We’d go between being in a haze of crying and then being hysterical with laughter for no reason.
As soon as Riley was born, I knew I wanted to see him, but I didn’t hold him at first. After four days of labour, I was just exhausted, so I looked at him from afar. The midwives wrapped him up and put a little beanie on him and eventually I felt ready to hold him. It was a bit of a shock – I hadn’t expected his skin to be so fragile or for it to deteriorate so quickly. At the time I wasn’t offered a cuddle cot. I didn’t know they existed, but I wish I had.
We were given pamphlets from Sands and Red Nose, and a counsellor came to see us a few times. It helped so much, especially in helping us understand that we would grieve differently. Just knowing that someone else was there and that there is a group of people who understand what you’re going through was so comforting.
That’s why I’m getting behind Red Nose Day – to make sure that every grieving parent has this kind of support available to help them feel less alone.
Our lives have changed so much since we had Riley. We had our rainbow baby Piper two years ago and I have changed my career path.
We openly talk to Piper about her brother Riley, and she points at his urn and photo we have at home and says “baby Riley”.
To help with our grief, we talk often about Riley with our friends and family. It’s our way to keep his life significant with the people in our lives and helps us heal.