My baby died. Three words that even when I speak them out loud now, still totally and completely destroy me to my core. Everywhere I seem to look there are babies. Babies on the TV, babies being born to friends, babies in the supermarket, babies at the bus stop. Yet, my baby never came home with us. There are still moments in each and every day where the shock of the fact that Phoebe is no longer with us still takes my breath away. My legs lock to the floor and the reality of this very real existence for us causes me to ground to a halt. A year on and the shock and trauma of losing our much wanted daughter is still very real and very raw.
Our journey to having Phoebe was not easy. After 3 years of fertility treatments, doctors’ appointments, miscarriages, chemical pregnancies, 3 rounds of IUI, and a round of IVF; we finally got the news we had feared we’d never get. We were pregnant. The fear that this pregnancy would be taken away from us, like two previous babies had, crippled me daily. We had numerous extra scans but I just didn’t allow myself to actually accept the fact that we would be having a baby. It was finally going to be our turn to be able to be the ones to announce the birth of their child. No longer would we need to avoid friends’ children’s birthday parties, or smile whilst congratulating a friend on being pregnant when inside the news destroyed us.
My pregnancy began normally until I began bleeding at about 10 weeks. I bled heavily and consistently from about 10 to 16 weeks, but every scan told us that Phoebe was fine. However, on January 15th 2019, Phoebe decided to make an early entrance and was born at 23weeks+5 days gestation. The shock of being in labour so early was a whirlwind. I was absolutely terrified and then suddenly she was here. We had been prepared that Phoebe may not be born alive and the relief was overwhelming when I saw her move her fingers straight after birth. She was whisked into an incubator and after eight long minutes she took her first breath. The team of doctors were incredible, and to this day I am in awe of each and every one of them. They brought her to me and I kissed her and then she was gone. I remember being taken to the NICU a few hours later to meet her; in an incubator surrounded by wires and machines, her 526g body, tiny and fragile but perfect.
For the next 6 weeks we sat by her. I didn’t dare to move and would spend 20-hours a day just sitting with her; talking to her, reading her stories and begging her to stay with us. She was so very loved. We had her bedroom ready and I had to believe she would be coming home. After 6 weeks however her fight proved too much. We made the heart breaking decision to take her to a hospice where she could be free from wires and a breathing tube, and she could fall asleep peacefully in our arms. It was the hardest decision we ever made, but we could not bear to see her suffer anymore. As I looked at her the night before we went to the hospice, I felt she was saying to me “I’ve had enough, Mummy.” My brave and strong baby girl had defied the odds, and fought so hard, but I could see she was tired and I couldn’t put her through anymore unnecessary suffering.
On February 26th 2019, Phoebe fell asleep in my arms whilst listening to The Little Mermaid’s ‘Under the Sea’. She looked so peaceful, and we could finally see her beautiful little face free from the constraints of the wires and breathing tubes. We spent an incredible week with Phoebe at the hospice, where she stayed in a cold cot. We could bath her, kiss her, change her nappy, dress her and do the small things that so many new parents take for granted.
It’s been a year since we lost her, and we’ve had to navigate this new life without our child. My life is so different to the one I had imagined living. I smile at family gatherings and have slowly begun meeting up with friends again, but there is a deep sadness in me now and a pain in my everyday existence which I don’t know will ever leave me.
I would do anything to have her back. My friends will sometimes text saying that they saw a beautiful sunset and thought of Phoebe, or they lit a candle in her memory and these moments mean everything to me. I want people to say her name, to remember her and love her. She was my daughter, and I am her mummy and that will always remain. I have learnt in the hardest way how fragile life is, and that no amount of love can save someone. The days where I cannot even get out of bed are fewer now. The fear she’ll be ‘forgotten’ in some way by friends and family however still haunts me. I don’t want her death to be in vein, and since she died we have raised money for the NICU and the hospice she was in, and continue to do so with my hope being that we can begin a foundation in her name supporting other bereaved parents on this impossible journey. Through social media I have read amazing stories of bravery, resilience and strength from other mothers in similar circumstances. I am now part of a club I never wanted to join, but one that is full of hope and reminds me that I can have a bright and positive future, and that I am allowed to smile and feel happy again.
I carry my beautiful, strong, brave, wilful Phoebe in my heart, always. She made me a mummy. My baby. My daughter.