'We feel our baby Jesse is still very much with us' - heartbroken mum who lost baby in second trimester
Not all twins walk side by side, sometimes one has wings to fly and this became true for our family in August 2008 when I experienced a heterotopic pregnancy.
It's a rare complication of pregnancy in which an ectopic pregnancy and a pregnancy in the womb exist simultaneously.
It was my fourth pregnancy. I had a scan in the early pregnancy unit (EPU) where a pregnancy in the womb with a heartbeat was seen, but the ectopic pregnancy wasn't picked up. Not long after the scan, I was at home one Friday night and suddenly experienced the most horrific pain, I took a Paracetamol but the pain continued to worsen and I was taken to hospital by ambulance where I became quite ill.
That night I was seen in three different hospitals, I had X-Rays, scans and blood tests but no one could figure out what was going on. The decision was made to take me to surgery where the ruptured ectopic pregnancy was discovered and part of the tube was removed and clipped off.
I was told there was a chance I could lose the remaining pregnancy but somehow I knew he would be OK and we welcomed Kai into the world on 25th February 2009. I often wonder what life would be like had his twin not been ectopic.
We went on to have three more healthy baby boys and when I became pregnant for the eighth time I went for an early scan but there was no heartbeat present and the measurements of the pregnancy sac didn't match my dates which I was sure of.
My consultant told me to try not to worry - it happens sometimes. And they would book me an appointment in the early pregnancy unit for two weeks’ time but I knew in my heart I had already lost my baby.
Two weeks passed by and I was scanned in the EPU. I knew the sac had increased in size since my previous scan but I didn't push for any further information as I had an appointment with my consultant later that afternoon and, as I went off to wait to see her, I desperately wanted to hope it was positive news.
I had the first clinic appointment that day and as I waited in the waiting room a couple who had just had their anomaly scan walked in with their photos.
The consultant confirmed what I already knew – it wasn't good news and I opted for surgical management (ERPC) as I felt emotionally this would be the least traumatic option. I had the procedure a few days later and left the hospital a few hours after it was done.
It seems like such a small thing and over so quickly for something so huge - the loss of a pregnancy. My eldest child's parent/teacher meeting was scheduled for that evening and I insisted on going to it myself with my hospital bracelet still on.
In hindsight, that probably wasn't the best decision and not something I would advise someone else to do. When my results came back from the lab after the ERPC it was discovered the pregnancy was a partial molar pregnancy and I was told I would need to attend the hospital for blood tests to monitor my HCG levels and not to get pregnant until I was given the all clear.
Once I was given the go-ahead to conceive again I was so lucky to become pregnant almost straight away and we had a beautiful baby girl Lara on 14th September 2015.
I had always loved the idea of having a January baby so was thrilled when I discovered I was expecting again and due in January 2017. All seemed to be going well - I had experienced some spotting in the pregnancy and the scan dates were slightly behind my own dates but, as everything looked fine, I never worried about it.
Tuesday 19th July 2016, my birthday and the best present I got, was having a lovely scan and getting to see my baby. I left with my scan photos not knowing that would be the last time I would see my baby alive.
I continued to have spotting and on the Saturday of that week I had what looked like a show that you would experience before labour. I showed my husband who reassured me that it was fine and I had experienced bleeding when I was pregnant with Lara too.
I wasn't actively bleeding but when I went to the bathroom, there was almost always blood there. A couple of times I even thought I noticed small clots in the blood and it might sound strange but I felt heavy. When I was still experiencing the same symptoms the following Monday I decided to go to the Rotunda for reassurance.
I thought maybe I might have a urinary tract infection (UTI) or thrush. It never really crossed my mind I was having a miscarriage - I was past the magic 12 weeks and all my scans had been fine.
It was visiting time so the waiting room was buzzing with people holding gifts and balloons waiting to visit their friend or family member with a new baby. The midwife assessed me and checked my blood pressure and urine sample (there was protein and blood found in my urine) and assured me I did the right thing by coming in and they would get me seen by the doctor and hopefully all would be OK.
I went back to the waiting room and when I was eventually called back in, I suddenly felt a rush of nerves. The doctor was so lovely and caring. I watched as she scanned me with the screen facing towards her and looked from every possible angle - I will never forget the look on her face. I knew.
She printed a scan photo, turned off the machine and walked away to wash her hands. She asked was there anyone with me. I was alone. She came over to the bed, placed her hand on my shoulder and said "I'm so sorry Rosemary, I can't see a heartbeat".
I still hear those words and re-live that moment in my mind. It's procedure for a second doctor to confirm the diagnosis and I agreed to another scan as long as I could watch the scan being done and they turned the machine to show me - baby looked just like on the other scans, but still, and nothing where the heartbeat is meant to be.
It all seemed to happen so fast. It was a lot to take in. I initially wanted to go home and get a scan somewhere else the next day in case they were wrong. I remember phoning Stephen. He answered and straight away said ‘all OK, you on your way home?’ I paused before saying the baby has died. Had I actually just said those words?
I was given a tablet to take to prepare my cervix and I was told to come back to the hospital two days later to be induced. The following day I was bleeding like a light period and felt a bit dazed - like I was in a dream.
I didn't go to bed that night until around 4am and was woken up just a couple of hours later by a pain that felt like a mild contraction and a gush which I knew was blood. I felt scared - I didn't know what to expect or what my baby would look like.
I was unprepared for the amount of bleeding and clots that I would experience. It felt like it took forever to get to the Rotunda that morning and I arrived at a busy time as lots of ladies were arriving to book in for inductions and C-sections. Not wanting to make a fuss, I waited and suddenly realised I was bleeding all over the seat in the reception area.
I think I was slightly shocked at this point and felt guilty that the other people in the waiting room had to see that and the cleaning staff were left to clean up.
A male receptionist helped me into one of the admissions rooms where they take details to book people in. He went off and came back and said they were just going to take me straight back to a room in the emergency room.
A midwife met me with a wheelchair and I just remember her saying “Hi honey, my name is Shona what's yours?" I felt at ease with her straight away and told her it was OK, I knew I was miscarrying. It was almost as if I wanted to reassure her that she didn't have to give me bad news.
She helped me get my leggings off and get onto the bed. Quite soon after this, she told me my little baby was there. I felt it was all very respectful and it was up to me what I wanted to do - I wanted to see him straight away.
He was tiny but absolutely perfect; he was still warm when Shona placed him on my chest and I felt he looked peaceful. I was given an injection to help with the bleeding and I experienced awful afterpains, the same as on a full-term birth. I was given gas and air in the emergency room and pethidine once I was in a room on the ward to help with the pain.
We named our little boy Jesse and I spent two nights in a private room in the Rotunda. I was given a Féileacáin memory box and I was able to have Jesse in the room with me on a cuddle cot. Those two nights spent with Jesse are so precious. I got the chance to hold him, take photos and make memories.
I felt privileged to be his Mum and to have gotten the opportunity to meet him. His hands in particular amazed me - so perfect, and I have a beautiful photo of his hand on my finger. The mortuary staff were able to get prints of his hands and feet even though he was so tiny.
The day I was leaving the hospital, the bereavement midwife and chaplain came to take Jesse to the mortuary as I had requested, they asked if I would be walking over with him and I said ‘no’ as I felt I wouldn't be able to leave once we got there. I was left in the room alone once they had left with my little boy. That was hard. I think I would have stayed there with him indefinitely if I had been given the opportunity. No time would ever be enough time. I was told Jesse passing away would have been very quick, like a light switch turning off and I found that thought comforting.
We had a lovely ceremony for Jesse in the Rotunda chapel. I picked the readings and poems which were read by the chaplain, Ann, we lit a candle for all our children including the pregnancies we had lost and I prepared Jesse for his final journey by taking him from the Moses basket he was in and placing him in a little wicker basket that we had chosen for him.
We had kept one of the teddy bears from the Feileacain memory box with us and the other teddy bear had stayed with Jesse, and we swapped them over at the ceremony. We chose the book ‘Guess how much I love you?’ to bury with him. We took Jesse's basket in our car to the Garden of Angels in Glasnevin where we had decided to bury him. We thought it would be nice to play some music for him on the way and the first song to come on the playlist was what we call Jesse's song - Maroon 5's Daylight. It was the song I listened to the night before he came and I also played it to him in the hospital room.
We will be forever grateful for the fantastic, compassionate care we received at such a sad time.
Just two months after saying goodbye to Jesse, I became pregnant with our rainbow baby and I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Britney, on our ninth wedding anniversary, 21st June 2017.
It meant so much to me that my obstetrician remembered Jesse when Britney was born and acknowledged that she was our rainbow baby. The day we brought Britney home from hospital when we got in the car, the first song to come on was Jesse's song and because of traffic diversions, we ended up right beside Glasnevin, so we took Britney to visit her big brother Jesse. I like to think of those as signs that he is still very much connected to us.
I love how my older children remember Jesse and often mention him. At Christmas, his siblings hang up his stocking and check to see what Santa has brought him.
I'm now pregnant again and even though all went well last time I still hold my breath when I go in for a scan and I don't think I'll fully relax until I'm holding a baby in my arms. I'm very lucky in that I feel very well looked after during my pregnancies. I get regular scans and my consultant is very understanding and reassuring.
Once you have a miscarriage I don't think you ever trust your body the same way again. I very much felt my body had let me down and I had let my baby down. Despite being told numerous times it wasn't my fault, I wondered if I had done things differently, could I have changed the outcome? But my logical mind does know that the babies who couldn't stay just weren't meant for this world. Our forever babies are always loved and always remembered.