Monday 18 December 2017

One mother's devastating story of stillbirth - 'I was told: "There is his heart and there is no heartbeat"'

Anne Marie Gillooley with her husband John and her baby Max
Anne Marie Gillooley with her husband John and her baby Max
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

A Dublin mother has spoken on radio about the trauma of losing her stillborn baby son Max last January.

Anne Marie Gillooley (32) from north Dublin has told of her devastation at learning that Max had no heartbeat at 41 weeks.

Max was due on New Year's Eve, but Anne Marie realised she wasn’t having any movements when she was 41 weeks and four days pregnant, so she called the hospital.

“We had everything in the world bought for him. We didn’t buy anything until after the 20 week scan because you have that fear that the anomaly scan, that something might show up there, but after that we had everything bought and had it sitting in the room,” she told Today FM's Anton Savage.

“My friend came over with her little girl and we watched Frozen. I don’t think I really thought about movements that day although I had been really conscious of them before and counting them all the time… I often didn’t feel a huge amount until I’d eaten properly and I hadn’t really eaten properly so I had a drink and something to eat and I poked and prodded. And I used to play music to him that would always get him moving a bit. That didn’t happen. At the same time I felt like I could feel something but I wasn’t 100pc sure so I called the hospital and they told me to come straight in.”

“They met me at the door which I remember thinking was a bit OTT at the time.”

“[A nurse] said you’re going straight in for a scan… I went into the first room where I was joking and laughing with the midwife… It never crossed my mind at this stage that there was something wrong. She put the bands around my stomach and she couldn’t get a heartbeat and she said that he might have been lying awkwardly so we would go in and get the scan done.”

Read more: Irish Doctor Bláthnaid (28): ‘I never fully understood the trauma of miscarriage until I had one myself’

Anne Marie was brought in straightaway for another scan where it was confirmed that Max had no heart beat.

“She put the gel on and it was a different scenographer at that stage, and she just rolled the machine over my stomach and she just started pointing out the parts of him. So she started pointing out the legs and the arms. And then she just said, there is his heart and there is no heartbeat.”

“I didn’t really believe her. I just felt really angry at her that she would say something that could potentially panic me, and I just thought she doesn’t know what she’s talking about and how dare she say something like that to a heavily pregnant woman.”

“But I could see the four chambers of the heart and I could see that there was no movement… but even still, they never said to me that he’s died, they just said to me that there’s no heartbeat and I know that’s the same thing, but in my head it wasn’t the same thing.”

“They tried to get me to take a tablet to induce the labour and I was pretty stubborn and I refused to take it and I said I wasn’t going to take it until I had a different scan with a different person and I just needed to go and think about it.”

Anne Marie went into labour naturally that night, and Max was born the next day at 5.21pm on January 12. He was seven pounds five ounces.

Read more: Dealing with Bereavement: 'Sometimes at night I would creep out of bed down to the kitchen to wail out loud where I wouldn't wake anyone'

“I actually went into labour that night at 3am in the morning… I phoned the hospital and they were amazing. They really looked after me and took me into a private room. I never had to be around other women giving birth or newborns.”

“It was a beautiful thing to be able to give birth to him and it was amazing to see him. I’d waited to see him so long to see him. He wasn’t the way that I wanted him to be. In my head I look back and we were chatting to the midwives and I was really proud to see him, and John cut the cord. In my head it was a really happy time. We took a few photos of him and they’re actually incredibly painful to look at because I can see that that memory that I have isn’t really accurate.

“I can see that my face in the photos is just devastation, just completely like the world had fallen apart. But it was still such a special time to be able to spend the time with him.”

With the help of Féileacáin, the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Association of Ireland, Anne Marie and her husband John spent 36 hours in the hospital with Max.

“[The hospital has] these cuddle cots in the hospital, they’re like Moses baskets with a cooling system so as long as the baby is mostly in there then you can keep them for quite a while.”

Read more: An unspoken grief and terrible pain of miscarriages

“We just sat with him and talked to him and spent time with him. We left him on the Wednesday [for a post mortem to be carried out].”

“The nurse who came in to take him picked him up as though he were any other baby, with such tenderness and love and it felt like they were really going to look after him.”

Anne Marie and John held a naming ceremony for Max, surrounded by their family and closest friends.

“We went back into the hospital on the Friday and we had a naming ceremony and our parents and brothers and sisters and sisters-in-law and our niece and a few of our closest friends came to the naming ceremony and they were able to see him and hold him.”

“John had recorded some music that we played at it and we read from a book and it was lovely and really personal. I felt like at the time I was showing him off… people said how beautiful he was. People were able to see that he was a real baby and not just a pregnancy gone wrong.”

Anne Marie writes a blog on her experience, l4stars, to share the story of her and Johns’ loss and to keep Max’s memory alive.

Online Editors

Promoted Links

Life Newsletter

Our digest of the week's juiciest lifestyle titbits.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in Life