My story began in August 2017 when by surprise, two pink lines appeared on a pregnancy test that I had taken in work on my lunch break. To say that I was surprised was an understatement. I had only taken the test as I had been having a few of the familiar symptoms that I experienced with my little boy Oscar 5 years previously. Never in a million years did I imagine that it would come back positive! I was both elated and nervous at the prospect of becoming a Mummy again, particularly as things hadn’t been easy for me over the previous years. I had experienced post-natal depression following the birth of my little boy and I was terrified of this returning, something that I thought was the worst thing that could happen… If only I knew! I had also had a succession of stomach operations to remove a lymphangioma (a rare cystic tumour) the latest one of which was open surgery and although I had recovered extremely well it had been tough. Once the shock had worn off and I had informed my husband we then began to become excited at the prospect of a new little addition arriving into our family… A blessing.
Time seemed to move very quickly and I celebrated my 30th birthday with a party where we announced that three would become four in our little family, and everyone was completely delighted for us, particularly after the health struggles that I had been through. My pregnancy itself was relatively uncomplicated, apart from I once again experienced the awful sickness that is hyperemesis gravidarum. I spent most of the time feeling extremely nauseous or vomiting, however, as my pregnancy progressed I began to feel slightly better. We then received the news that we were having a little girl! A beautiful baby sister for our little boy and a much longed for little girl for us. I dreamt of the fun we would have when I took her to ballet classes and on endless shopping trips, I even let my mind wander as far as watching her walk down the aisle as a beautiful bride one day… We were so excited at the thought of her arrival.
Just before Christmas I began feeling unwell in a way that I had never felt before… I was experiencing both back and stomach pains. It all came to a head on January 18th 2018, when I was rushed into hospital with severe vomiting and excruciating pain… Following this I was admitted, and after a horrendous evening in hospital I was rushed into theatre for what became life-saving surgery for myself. It was during this surgery that I lost the majority of my small bowel due to a band adhesion that had formed causing my bowel to go necrotic, it therefore had to be resected to save my life. It was following this surgery that an ultrasound scan was performed to check on our daughter. Devastatingly it was found that at 7 months gestation she had lost her life due to the fact I had gone into septic shock, which had caused major placental problems. A true fighter like her Mummy though… She fought strongly all the way through until it became too much for her little body.
My family was given a less than twenty percent survival rate for myself, and I was put onto a life support machine with everyone praying that I made it through this next stage. Preparations were also made for the fact that if I did wake up, then my life would be full of many difficult challenges. Due to my surgery, I was given an ileostomy stoma, I was also put onto something called Total Parental Nutrition to give me all my nutritional and fluid needs because of the sheer amount of small bowel that had been removed. I was taken off the breathing machine and I woke up two days later, to find out the extent of the horrendous news of everything that had happened to me. I was told that I would probably never eat or drink again and I would be completely reliant on TPN to keep me alive. Can you imagine how that felt after I originally thought I was going into surgery for an appendectomy? That was all incredibly painful enough, however, then came the most traumatic and excruciating news of my life… I woke up from my morphine-induced sleep to a strange feeling of not being able to feel Isabella moving inside me. I turned my head to look at my husband and asked if ‘’the baby was ok?’’ The agony and tears running down his face said it all. I wailed a painful cry, like I had never done before in my life. I could take anything else. I had no choice… But not this. Not my precious baby girl.
Isabella Jayne Duran-Smith had been delivered via caesarean section at 1.17pm on the 20th January, whilst I was still on the life support machine as they had to wait for me to be in a stable condition before my body could endure more surgery. I had even had the opportunity of being there whilst she was born taken away from me because of what had happened, and due to this I spent so much time in denial and shock. Why me? Why my precious, loved and longed-for baby? It was all just too much for me to take, and I just didn’t know which way my mind was going. I was so incredibly terrified of meeting Bella for the first time, but I am so glad that I got that time with her; to hold her close and sing ‘Tears in ‘heaven’ by Eric Clapton to her. One thing that I don’t think any parent is ever truly ready for is to say goodbye to their child. It isn’t the natural order of things, and is without a doubt the most excruciating pain I have ever felt in my life. She was perfect; everything that we had ever hoped and dreamed for. We almost had it all, and then our lives turned upside down overnight. This is something that I really find hard to believe, still to this day.
I was in my local hospital for a further four weeks whilst they awaited a bed to become free at a hospital which is the Centre of Excellence for intestinal failure. Once I was eventually transferred there to plan my future, the team there did all they could at such a traumatic time for me and their aim was to have me out of hospital and home as soon as they possibly could. They could see how painful it was for me being torn away from by little boy, who needed me as he was so frightened of what had happened to his Mummy, and he needed me to comfort him whilst he grieved for his little sister. I was discharged home just over three weeks after arriving there on HPN (Home Parental Nutrition), with a nursing team who came to connect and disconnect me daily from my feed. We were then. after a long eight weeks, finally able to lay Isabella to rest, and give her the funeral that she deserved.
The last two years of my life have been traumatic to say the least. In terms of recovery, I have had stoma reversal surgery, which in-turn has miraculously allowed me to come off HPN. Something that we never thought could possibly happen. I have a life-long condition now called short bowel syndrome, and each day is still a struggle both emotionally and physically. I am also left with the psychological scars of everything that has happened, and the never ending grief of losing someone so special to me, our beautiful little girl. Living each day without my baby Isabella is by far the most tortuous, however, being Mummy to my incredible little boy who makes me smile each day is what keeps me going.
Thank you for reading my story. I hope that it has given you some reassurance that even through the dark times in our lives, we can still see light at the end of a very dark and scary tunnel. If you have found yourselves in similar circumstances to me and are trying to navigate your way through child loss… I wish you love, comfort and many prayers in the hope that you too may, in between the tears, be able to smile again.
Instagram – @oscar_and_bellas_mama