Christmas excitement was building in our house, not only because of Finlay preparing to see what Santa was leaving him but also because he, along with the rest of the family were building up the anticipation of seeing the latest little lady to join our family. It was early evening on December 19th, we'd just finished watching Finlay play his last tennis group for the year and Michelle was starting to get labour pains. We took Finlay home, bathed him and read him his bedtime story, then Finlay gave his Mum lots of cuddles and kissed her belly telling his unborn sister that he would see her tomorrow, before we left we took one last photo of Michelle, Finlay and the bump...
A short while later, we arrived at my parents house, I prepared them for the news that 'things were happening' told Finlay that I loved him and made my way out, just as I was leaving Finlay stopped me and asked me to 'look after Mummy for me', I promised him I would and then left.
Upon getting home Michelle's labour pains were getting stronger, so I contacted the midwife who told me to do the usual counting and let her know when things got closer. In what seemed like no time at all, Michelle's contractions were at a rate that suggested we needed to be making our way to the hospital, whilst I had seen Michelle in labour with Finlay some five years earlier, the pain that Michelle seemed to be suffering was severe.
We arrived at the hospital and for what felt like a lifetime Michelle sat in the car unable to move. We then cautiously made our way to the labour suite, where we were greeted and shown to a side room, by this time Michelle was in need of gas and air to sooth the pain she was getting from the labour. Within about 5 minutes, we were taken to a delivery room and the midwives started to do an assessment on Michelle's labour. All indications were suggesting this was going to be a quick birth...
The first midwife tried to get a heartbeat registered but couldn't find anything, having seen similar when Finlay was born, it didn't alarm us but when a second machine failed to find a heartbeat you could tell on the faces around us that things might not be right...
It was at this point the consultant arrived with a portable scanner, I looked to the midwife for a sign of positive news but she just gave me a reassuring look that said 'we're doing our best', only minutes later we heard the news that every parent-to-be dreads, the consultant spoke slowly and clearly to Michelle...'Michelle, we are going to take you down to surgery but I need to tell you that we think your baby has died, we will do everything we can' even as I write this blog, I can feel that same sinking feeling of disbelief hit my stomach.
For the next hour, the world went into slow motion, my mouth said the things that I thought a bereaved father should say but in reality my mind was racing; is Michelle OK, is she going to make it through whatever is happening??? What the hell am I going to tell Finlay??? How I am going to tell our family and friends???
Then she arrived, our gorgeous baby girl was delivered, she was taken over to the side to be cleaned, I was waiting for some sort of resuscitation process to begin or for a machine to help her breath to be used, my eyes were fixed on this little baby just waiting for the midwife to turn around and say, it was all a mistake and 'she's fine and congratulations, you have a gorgeous baby daughter', but that never happened. Instead, this beautiful sleeping baby was handed to us to cuddle, kiss and just look at.
After a short while the fantastic consultant that night, finished the procedure on Michelle and we moved to the recovery area. The midwife stayed with us at all times, Emily lay in Michelle's arms and I stood by the bed, sometimes talking none stop about a whole manner of things, then suddenly falling into moments of silence.
We then got wheeled in the labour suite room, a room that would host memories that we will hold for the rest of our lives as we think of Emily and our time with her. The midwife that looked after us that night was truly amazing, we both think of her with great affection.
We took it in turns to hold Emily, but due to the nature of the room, we could never have that moment of the three of us cuddled together, I would sit in the chair waiting for my turn to hold Emily whilst Michelle was in bed and vice versa, after about 3 hours I realised that at some point I had to ring both sets of grandparents and deliver the news that I would have given anything not to have to deliver.
First I rang my Mum and Dad, I could hardly get the words out of my mouth; having told Mum that we had lost our little girl, it somehow meant that I had to face the truth, it was real...up until that point everyone who knew Michelle was in labour just assumed we were busy looking at our gorgeous healthy baby girl. I then rang Michelle's Mum and Dad, the reaction was equally heartbreaking.
I returned to the room with Michelle and Emily, it was still very dark but this time items around the room started to jump out at me and to be frank offended me. The first was all of the 'spare' baby clothes and nappies on the shelf in the corner, then there was the advice of breast feeding and other such essentials, the final and most poignant was the empty cot, all prepared to house a little bundle of joy - my nightmares today, still feature that empty cot.
The next chapter of my worst 24 hours on this earth, focused on telling Finlay, he had always been the centre of our world but now, he had just taken a new status that I never realised could exist! He came to the room a couple of times but never felt very comfortable, so didn't stay long.
Over the course of the next 24 hours we had visits from every possible professional, Emily was blessed in that room and we had to make our final emotional goodbye's to say to our gorgeous baby girl.
Maybe at some point I'll expand on the days that followed and the trauma that the simplest tasks can create and how hearing other women going through child birth is like rubbing salt into your deepest wound but most of all, I wanted to show why a bereavement suite is so urgently needed for the Queen's Medical Centre. Parents of stillborn babies and parents who suffer baby loss, need somewhere that accommodates the most intimate moments with their child, whom they will spend so little time with.
£100k is a lot of money and is going to be hard to raise but what is the right environment worth, when you are sharing it with your child for a few hours before the leave your side forever...