Nicola Gaskin (Pea) Pregnancy, Labour and Winter’s Legacy for Relaxed Parenting
‘Guest Blog- Winter’s Legacy’
After finding Nicola on Instagram a couple of months ago, I looked into her story and was incredibly saddened to see she had been through infant loss, but I was also encouraged by her incredible strength in sharing her story of her son. Putting her story, his loss and his face out there for the world to see, to help even just one other parent who has been through the same thing. Such an incredible strong thing to do, putting something so personal and emotional out there for the hope that she can support other people. Follow her on Instagram to share Winter’s Legacy.
It is only now, having trawled through infant loss, trying to conceive and multiple miscarriage, that I can recognise just how truly fortunate we were through our pregnancy and labour with our son. I took my last pill on Christmas Day 2014, it all felt very exciting and grown up. I was pregnant by the February and 6 weeks had passed by before I even thought to take a test. We were incredibly laid back and optimistic, and ridiculously naïve. At the time I fell pregnant I knew it would be 9 months until my baby was ready, but I didn’t know it was calculated into 40 weeks, I had no idea that I needed folic acid, not a clue about fertile windows and ovulation sticks, and I had never changed a nappy or even read a single article on how to care for a baby. After 9 years together we simply said ‘ok, let’s have a baby’ and that was it, we did.
I loved being pregnant, I mean I just really loved it all. Everything was new and I revelled in my transition into motherhood. Myself and Dean talked endlessly about our future together as a family. We were untouched by loss and, naturally, the idea of our baby dying never crossed our mind. Once we were past the famous 12 week miscarriage window we felt certain a baby would be safely in our arms. We went through the usual and well documented pregnancy milestones; wondering if there really was a baby in there and finally believing it when we first laid eyes on them at our first scan, first kicks and a growing belly that resulted in surplus amounts of love.
I wrote about every single wedge of joy on my Instagram, life felt floaty and purposeful. Amongst my most treasured memories, is the day we decorated the nursery. Dean took the week off work with me and we wallpapered together, had the furniture delivered and assembled the rocking chair. I sat in that nursery every day until I went into labour, always daydreaming, rolling up blankets and folding up clothes, rearranging the wipes and nappies. I just felt very at home and ready, we had everything but the baby.
My labour began spontaneously at just over 39 weeks. It was 5.30am when my waters broke and I woke up questioning if baby had pressed too hard on my bladder or if it was the beginning of meeting them. We rang the hospital, I hoovered the whole house, we got in a taxi with a towel for a blanket. After soaking through a sheet it was confirmed that labour was beginning and I was sent home to wait for contractions with the instruction to return when they were close together and it became too painful. We went back to bed and napped, at 10.30am I woke up and told Dean it had started. After months of declaring I wanted a water birth and dreading being stuck on a bed, Dean lovingly ran me a bath only for me to sit in and get straight out and back into bed. I didn’t want a water birth anymore. That’s the thing about labour, I learnt, that really you can’t plan what you want and how you want it because it most likely won’t work out that way in the end. The birth plan I poured over for hours didn’t even make it out of my hospital bag. I was sick, a lot, it hurt, I told Dean “Don’t touch me!” as I grunted through a contraction. It’s not at all like the movies. We were back in hospital for 6.30pm, my contractions weren’t regular but I was tiring and ready for proper medical support. Once there I was hooked up to a monitor briefly as I had a period of bleeding, then guided back to the soft lights and big cushions of the birthing centre where I laboured for several hours. After two hours of exhausted pushing in all positions, cheer leaded on by 2 encouraging midwives, Winter was proving to be stuck. Eventually I was snipped and our son was born with the help of a ventouse. He was handed to us, a chubby pink crying baby. Dean said ‘It’s a boy!’ and he gripped our finger and blinked at us with his deep dark eyes. I lay there thinking ‘Oh my God, it’s an actual human baby, he’s so BIG!’. Needless to say, the rush of emotions came, we fell in love.
No-one could have anticipated what was to come next. Winter stopped breathing, as the midwife picked him up to weigh him, he went limp. The emergency buzzer sounded, the room filled with Doctors and Nurses, we couldn’t see what was happening amongst the crowds. He was whisked away and we were told ‘I need you to know that your baby might die’ and I said ‘But we’ve only just had him’.
Dean helped me to shower and I cried. We called parents and stemmed the flow of excitement with the reality that our son was dying just after his birth. Everyone arrived and for a while I felt hopeful. Over the course of that day we were told several times that it was time to say our goodbyes, but he always seemed to surprise the Doctors and make small improvements. I was exhausted from labour, numbed by shock. We stood by our son’s incubator willing him to live, please just live. I was wearing the pyjamas my mum had bought me that buttoned down and were perfect for breastfeeding, my eyes were swollen from tears. Later that day I became unwell myself, dehydrated, exhausted, heartbroken. I was hooked up to a drip and separated from my baby boy. Dean spent that night between the 2 of us, until Winter was transferred to another hospital to be cared for. I was discharged around mid-morning and we drove to Leicester to be with our son, I was full of hope and new energy, I felt sure he would pull though and we would take him home. We arrived just in time to hold him as he died. Dean held him as his heart drummed its last beat.
I remembered holding him the day before and thinking he was so big, but now he seemed so tiny. He looked just perfect to me. We bathed him and dressed him and I tried to kiss him enough for a lifetime. As family arrived, we invited them in to hold him. For a while it was as if he was still alive, we cooed over him and I smiled, I was a proud mother showing off her creation. We left our baby at the hospital and instead carried out a memory box. Closing the door on him for the final moment was as utterly soul destroying as you can imagine it would be. 30 hours earlier I was welcoming him into the world, now I was stepping into a world without him in it.
The days, weeks and months that followed were filled with funeral preparations, autopsy reports, collecting ashes, packing away the Moses basket. I took tablets to stop my milk coming in. It was, and remains to this day, an absolutely devastating life event. But I am also proud to say that Winter has created an incredible legacy. My little snowflake baby has raised over £20,000 for our local hospital, and writing about him and sharing his story has enabled me to connect with other loss mothers and raise awareness of infant loss, and inform and educate the ways we can prevent it. Sadly, Winters death was concluded as a natural failure of his body and unpreventable or detectable, but writing my blog and posting on Instagram has kept his memory alive and is helping others to understand the grief and emotions that come with the sudden death of a baby.
He was only here for one day, but I miss him every day. I miss his first smile, his first giggles, his first steps, his first day at school. To bare a baby and be left with empty arms is truly one of life’s cruelest twists and it leaves with it a lifetime of grief.
I hope that Winters story helps others who are treading this path as much as their honest and openness has helped me. And to those who are lucky enough to escape such an experience, I hope to share with them a piece of my heart that enables them to understand the long-term effects, the volcano of emotions – grief, anger, jealousy, guilt, loneliness – so that we can support loved ones around us as they wade through grief themselves.
After 14 months of trying to conceive and 2 early miscarriages, I am now able to include Pregnancy After Loss as a topic for writing, as I grow a rainbow baby brother or sister for Winter. I’m 6 months pregnant and both terrified and hopeful.
But most of all, I would like people to know that I will forever love my son and be proud of him. I will continue to share his photographs and talk about him. Even if I knew he was going to die and I couldn’t save him, I would go through it all again to have that day together and have him as a piece of my life.
I want people to know that I like it when his name is mentioned, and I love an opportunity to speak about him. That is probably one of the biggest messages to come from our experience; in a western world where grief is too frightening to talk about and death of babies is tucked away for being too sad, please say my baby’s name and ask me about him, as the saying goes – you aren’t reminding me that he died, I live with that knowledge every day, you are reminding me that he lived.
Blog links from Nicola’s Blog Page (onedayofwinter) –
- A WINTERS TALE – WHY I CHOOSE TO OPENLY SHARE MY SONS STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS
- A BIGGER TABOO – FACING OTHER BABIES WHEN YOU HAVE LOST YOUR OWN
- WINTER ONEDERLAND… HAPPY 1ST BIRTHDAY WINTER
- WHAT I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT PREGNANCY AFTER LOSS
Guest Blog @ Relaxed Parenting Blog by Nicola from Derby, UK