The Path to Meeting Our Maisie Girl and Where to From Here
When should it ever be OK that a parent has to bury their child? Out of all of the horribly painful, unfair and cruel things in this world, burying your child has to be at the top of the list. If you had ever asked me if I thought that we would ever have to bury our baby, I would have responded like any normal person… No way! That would never happen to us! That only happens to other people. We’re just regular people with regular lives, we would never be the kind of people that would end up having to discuss what flowers we wanted on top of our newborns casket at her funeral and if we wanted to carry the casket from the hearse down to the grave site. Never... But we are and we did.
To go right back to where our path to meeting Maisie started, goes a long way. Scott and I have been married for 12 years in June. The best 12 years ever. Right from the beginning we always wanted kids. I never thought that we would be at this stage of our lives and STILL dealing with not having the family we imagined. We were so unbelievably lucky to have our son Hudson in 2010. He has been the most amazing thing to happen to both Scott and I. When Hudson was 4 in 2014, we started IVF. I was only 28, It’s been a long road. We’ve had over 70 eggs collected, over 50 embryos and have spent enough money to have a very nice kitchen in our home or put in a pool! Along the way we had 8 losses. Including the loss of Masie’s twin. It was hard to keep going. Hard to start over again. More needles, more operations, more drugs, more tears. It was all worthwhile when we finally made it to 12 weeks with Maisie and had that scan that showed us this little alien looking thing. We didn’t care that she looked like an alien, she was OUR alien. Finally. We couldn’t believe it. Even when we made it to 20 weeks, we STILL couldn’t believe it. I honestly think I was still in disbelief right up until the day we met her. We had a few hiccups along the way but we would do anything to get our baby girl in to the world safely.
We went to the obstetrician for our routine appointment. The last appointment before she was going to be born! Both Scott and Hudson came with me that day and we were so excited because we knew how close we were to finally meeting her, having our baby daughter and a beautiful little sister for Hudson. After being assessed by the midwife and during a scan by the obstetrician, I asked why her heart was beating so slowly!?! It was very obvious on the screen that it wasn’t right. That is when the worst day of our lives started. Everything happened so fast. Before I knew it I was being put to sleep in theatre. I was still fully dressed and Scott standing just outside the doors. Nothing we could do could help our baby girl. I had to just go to sleep hoping that by some miracle she would be ok.
Waking up to the news that she was ‘very sick’ and was on a ventilator was not the news I wanted. Especially because the midwife that had looked after me during the pregnancy was crying standing next to the doctor. I’m an emergency nurse, I understood what was happening when we realized her heart rate was so slow and had already started thinking about what this all would mean for my baby girl. I asked the doctor if she was going to die. What mother should ever have to ask that? He replied by saying he thought she had a severe brain injury due to lack of oxygen and had required extensive CPR as soon as she was delivered. She had likely occluded her cord. A freak accident. They managed to get her heart beating again and put her on a ventilator, but her outcome was not going to be good. I was lucky that they took me straight from recovery into the special care nursery so I could see her. She was perfect. So gorgeous. She just looked like she was sleeping. She wasn’t. A retrieval team from the Royal Brisbane Hospital were already there. An enormous amount of people were standing around us while we had to make some decisions about what to do for our girl. Her heart was hardly beating and she needed a ventilator to breath. The damage was already done. Even with outstanding medical care and such a short time from recognizing there was a problem to actually delivering her, it wasn’t enough. After discussing everything that had happened and what the outcome was likely going to be, we made the heart-breaking decision to withdraw treatment so she could be at rest. We could hold her until she passed away. After finally making this decision and having to come to terms with what had happened, everyone was amazing. They all looked after us so well. I got to hold Maisie on my chest, Scott got to hold her and Hudson got to hold her hand before she passed away. I’m thankful they came with me that day. Thankful they both got to love her and touch her. Still thinking though, why was this happening? Why was this happening to us? After everything we’d been through, what did we do wrong to deserve for this to happen? I’ve never felt such pain. Never in my life have I felt so desperate, so lost and so devastated. The path only got harder from there.
We now faced questions about what funeral company we would like called, if we wanted a photographer to come to take family photos with her, if we wanted to cut some of her hair to keep in her memory box and make footprints. Again, why was this happening to us? What did we do wrong? Why do I have to answer these questions? How were we going to tell our families that this had happened? How was I going to face the enormous amount of friends that were currently pregnant and would end up having their perfect little babies while I was dealing with having to bury my baby???? Unbelievable. We felt like we were in a nightmare. We still feel that way.
The hardest part and the reason we decided to start Made for Maisie was when we were discharged home from hospital. We have received no follow up care in our home. No contact from anyone to make sure we were doing everything we could to be ok. I had contacted my GP who has been amazing and organized for me to see a psychologist before the funeral so I could somehow cope and get through that day. I don’t qualify for lots of services because my baby has died. If I was struggling with depression or any mental illness and my baby was alive, I would have been able to access a significant amount of free services to help me. How does that even make sense? Shouldn’t a woman who loses her full-term baby qualify for mental health services and support? There is also no support for the father either. Nothing. We were made aware of SANDS by being given a piece of paper at the hospital. SANDS are amazing. They’re a service that helps people like us but it’s either over the phone or they direct us to some support groups we can attend. They do have loads of information on their website and it is fantastic and very informative but when the pain is so raw, the last thing I want to do is read information on a website or find a group meeting to attend.
I have always been aware of the importance of looking after your mental health. That is why I got in touch with my GP. Both Scott and I have been linked in with services and are receiving support and Hudson will receive the support he needs as well. This has only happened because we went and sought out help. Not all people know what support is available and not everyone would think to contact their GP after going through a situation like this. I also didn’t qualify for any nurse or midwife follow up, that isn't a service my hospital provided. Who was going to check my wound? Who was going to just check on me physically after the delivery of my baby? No one. It was again up to me to seek out someone to check on me after the delivery of my baby when the thought of having to face the world was overwhelming. I know some hospitals have services that a woman in my situation can access some form of midwife follow up but not my hospital and not enough hospitals provide that service. You'd think a women who loses her baby would be more at risk of neglecting her own physical issues during this time and should have people ready and waiting to ensure the woman is healing and healthy.
Why aren’t we as a society so outraged that families who lose their baby don’t get any help or support? Why are we so reluctant to put services in place to help people when they are so vulnerable? The death of a child can ruin marriages, cause suicidality and ruin the lives of siblings if action isn’t taken. How is that not important? The future of our son, the future of our marriage, the future of our mental health!
We need change. We need awareness.
I want to provide families with support. Provide them with information on what the next few weeks after the death of their baby will look like and discuss the awful things that they will have to do but provide ways that they can mange it and get through. Most importantly I want to provide them with information on how to get help. How to make sure they are OK and can work towards a positive future, even when you feel like life will never be OK again.
I’m a dreamer, a planner and a doer. I have big plans for what we can achieve to provide families with support. I want to develop a service that provides an in-home counselling session, a nurse/midwife visit to check on the mother and we want to organise food services to provide a month of meals for families during this time. If people are given support, information and care, the outcome for that family will be so much brighter. We know we will need lots of support from businesses and will need donations to help us provide this service but we will keep working towards our goals and work towards providing what families need during this time. There is so much planning and learning to be done but we know we can make change.
We never would have survived this situation without the support of my family. My brother and sister came to our rescue. They took over many of the awful jobs that Scott and I just couldn’t face. Having to tell my parents what had happened, making that first call to a funeral company and ensuring everything was still moving so life could go on. They made decisions that we couldn’t make and provided everything we needed to be able to function. Hudson got to spend extra time with his cousins and his Aunty Tracey who loves him like he is her son.
We are thankful for our family, without them we would not be in the position we are in today. We are thankful for our amazing son who has cuddled us when we’ve been sad, who always talks about Maisie and tells us the things he thinks she would love, who makes us get out of bed every day. He has given us so much strength to keep going and Maisie has given us so much determination to help others.
The issue is, not everyone has family like we do. Not everyone has support and not everyone has the knowledge to get help and how to get that help. We want to do what we can to make this horrific journey easier for other families that will have to face this. Babies die. Stillbirth is real. Women have miscarriages. It’s uncomfortable to talk about but it is one of the most important things we should be talking about. We should be focusing on making sure families can not only survive after this tragedy but making sure they can thrive.
We have a long life to live. Maisie will be the reason other families won’t have to suffer without support when they desperately need it. Maisie is the reason I want to make sure mothers get the help they need and families can still look forward to the future.
We have a long way to go on our own journey. All I know is I love my husband, my son and my daughter. I want to be happy. I want to help others and I want to make sure our Maisie girl is never forgotten.