Stillbirth Still Loved: Reflections on our son, Pixie
It’s been just over 3 weeks since Pixie was born. He was stillborn at 41 weeks on 4th June, having passed away on 1st June. The first post I wrote about him was much easier to do. I think because I was stuck in hospital with nothing but my own thoughts and the immediate horror of the whole thing. Writing was the logical way to help me try and put some order to what had happened.
Ever since I have had this post rumbling around in my brain, but keep putting it off. It’s scary, it’s such a short time and already my memory is so fuzzy and full of holes. I’ve been told that it’s normal when you have been through a trauma, but it feels like the precious memories I have of our son are already slipping through my fingers. Like sand through an hourglass, I cannot stop time passing and the immediacy of being with him fading.
Trying to remember
We had about 3 days with Pixie in total. He was born at 8.15pm on the Tuesday and we left hospital at around midday on the Friday. It was enough time. It’s important for me to remember at least that. The Boy and I had both got to the realisation on Friday morning that by not going home we were just delaying the inevitable. At some point we would have to say goodbye. Putting Pixie back in his cot and walking out of the room was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but I knew that by staying I was just making things harder for myself. There was no benefit in holding his hand any more – it was just torturing myself with what might have been. And his little body was slowly deteriorating – we were being selfish by staying there.
But as ever I have got ahead of myself. There are other things I want to share, other parts of the experience that I don’t want to lose. One of the most important things was that as soon as Pixie was handed to me in the operating theatre, I remembered to look at his eyes. Of course, I had to physically lift his eyelids up in order to do that. He has the piercing, beautiful blue eyes of his dad. I’m thankful for that, and I’m thankful I remembered to look right away. I wanted to try and take a photo the next day but by then it was already too late – the lids were not as flexible and even with his eye opened the beautiful colour had began to fade. I wish I hadn’t tried to look that second time.
I remember being given more medication than I have ever thought possible. I had drips and injections and pills. Anti-D injections, antibiotics, blood thinners, painkillers. All manner of things to try and help my body cope with labouring and birthing my dead child. None of it helped my mind to cope. The worst thing by far was two tiny oval white pills, the shape of the eyes fallen from an Egyptian statue. These stopped my milk from coming in. I had made enquiries after we knew Pixie had died whether there was any way I could donate my milk to a baby whose mother was not able to provide her own for whatever reason. This does happen elsewhere in the country, but there is no facility locally.
So I took the pills, nominally to stop the psychological trauma when my milk did come in and there was no baby to take it. It is also aimed at stopping the physical discomfort of allowing the milk to tail off naturally. But I felt another break in my heart occur as I took them – it was accepting that I am not a mother. I am Pixie’s mum, but I’m not a parent as I have no child. I think of the little paper cup with those pills in often. Feeding my baby was a part of the new adventure to come that I was so excited about. Something so unimaginable when you haven’t done it. Something so tangible that brings you together with your new child. Another future joy that was snatched away from us.
Into the chaos
Ever since we were told that Pixie’s heart was no longer beating, my mind has been in disorder. Painful memories replay themselves in my head often and without warning. Suddenly I can be transported back to any point in the experience, reliving the loss of our son. It takes my breath away. This experience has left my brain fuzzy and without order. That probably explains the meandering nature of these posts.
I wanted to remind myself that The Boy and I put all kinds of random Woodstock bands on Spotify when I was labouring. Then when I finally went into theatre for the Cesarean, we had Jefferson Airplane on. I don’t know why that’s important for me to remember, but it is. We had all kinds of friends and family visiting while I was in hospital. I’m grateful to all of them for coming to meet Pixie. It helped make him more real, knowing he would be a tangible memory for them too. I worry constantly that I have dreamed the whole thing. The Boy and I still don’t think we really understand what has happened. I even sneaked out to meet friends at the pub round the corner. Only a swift half and then back to my hospital room, but that was half an hour of normality that I really, really needed.
Back to real life?
Then when the time to leave Pixie came, I suddenly realised that I had never sung to my baby. I was panicked that I had literally moments before we had to go and the opportunity to sing to him would be gone forever. Through a mist of tears, and with cracked lips and a bleeding heart I sang the first song that popped into my mind – “You are my Sunshine”. I might never be able to sing that song again for as long as I live, but I’m glad that I at least gave him that little piece of a normal baby’s experience – even if his ears weren’t able to hear it.
We also booped his nose and blew raspberries on his tummy. I’m glad we did.
Saying goodbye to Pixie was so hard. I think it was harder than finding out that his heart had stopped, and harder than giving birth to him a few days later. I don’t know if the funeral will be harder still. We still have that to come. Registering Pixie at the Town Hall was also a devastating moment. There is a special Stillbirth registration, so you don’t have to go through registering both a birth and a death on the same visit. We have his certificate and it lives in the memory box the hospital gave us, along with the hat I made him, photos, and all the various mementos we have been able to collect of Pixie’s short time.
At some point we will have a hospital review as well, where we find out the results of the post mortem and know if there are any answers. The chances are there is no answer as to why Pixie died. It will just be another awful thing that we have to get through so we can try and carry on out the other side.
Now I have been trying to physically heal. That’s not going well, but I’m hopeful that my third batch of antibiotics since being discharged will be my last. I’ve been worried that I’m going to die – at several points throughout this experience. I remember saying goodbye to my cats and the garden when we left for the hospital when I was due to be induced. If Pixie was dead it didn’t seem particularly surprising that I wouldn’t survive either. But I did. And the feelings that my recovery would suddenly cease have so far been unfounded.
Since coming home from the hospital I have realised just how much we all take life for granted. It’s not that I am amazed that we have all survived this long, it’s that now I am amazed that we were born in the first place. I remember stroking our little black rescue cat Gipsy and just marvelling at how she had been born and made her way into our lives. I’d never realised that was so incredible and so lucky in and of itself before. Every baby I see, I just think how lucky they are and I’m grateful for their little lives.
I hear a lot of cliches now, but some of them have stuck with me. One was a particularly poignant quote from another mother who lost her baby in a leaflet from the charity Sands. It simply said “I never realised not all mothers come home with a baby” and I get that so much. We take so much for granted.
Another has been from my lovely homebirth team midwife, who is still popping by to see us when she can (we suspect she might be a very jolly Suicide Watch, but they needn’t worry really). She pointed out that we have been through the very worst thing that life can throw at you. Nothing worse than the devastation caused by Pixie’s death can befall us, because there is nothing worse. So, in many ways, the only way is up. And I suppose that’s true but at the moment it’s too soon to take any comfort from it. But I suspect one day I will. One day it will seem like we’re not in the middle of The Horrible Thing. And I imagine that one day this will all be a little bit easier to handle. But I don’t know when that will be and at the moment it all just hurts.
I love our baby Pixie and I wish he was here.