Throughout my whole pregnancy, I’d daydreamed about that first moment we would meet our baby. I’d hoped for a water birth at home and would spend hours picturing that moment: lifting our baby into my arms; feeling that rush of euphoria; hearing my husband tell us if we had a boy or a girl and then replaying that moment over in my mind for years to come. I’d tried to be realistic and tell myself most births don’t go to plan but nothing could have prepared me for my first moment after birth. A moment I replay in my mind time and time again and a moment I’ll forever wish was so different.
Joe and I had met in our second year of university and it was pretty much love at first sight! We were inseparable, and I remember after only a couple of months of dating we were already talking about how many children we wanted and when. Because that’s what you do isn’t it? You plan how your family will look and then when the time is perfect, you get on with it… if only it was that easy for everyone.
After a perfect wedding day and a year and half travelling and living in Sydney, we decided to head back home to the UK to get settled into a new home, ready to start a family. When we decided the time was right, we were so grateful to get pregnant fairly quickly. We regularly say how the day we found out is still one of the happiest days of our lives.
After we had our 12-week scan, I thought we’d made it. I thought we were past the milestone where things could go wrong, and we were bringing our baby home in July. Our pregnancy was low risk, and we had no hiccups or concerns throughout our whole pregnancy. We were in lockdown for the majority of it which was a big disappointment – not being able to see friends and family at such an exciting time; cancelling my baby shower; not being able to go out baby shopping while showing off my bump. But we’d cherished what we thought would be our last few months just the three of us (Sully, our fur baby included, of course).
On July 18th 2020, 10 days overdue, I went into labour. I laboured at home for 14 hours and it was everything I’d hoped for – calm, powerful and magical. After I’d been pushing for 3 hours with no luck, my midwife told me my cervix was swollen and we decided to head into hospital. When we arrived and discussed options, I was given an epidural and we hoped I’d still be able to push baby out. But everything seemed to happen so quickly. Baby’s heartrate dropped, then recovered, then dropped again and didn’t recover. The room filled with people, I was rushed off to theatre and as they put the mask over my face to put me to sleep, I could hear the panic in the midwife’s voice as she frantically searched for baby’s heartbeat. I knew they couldn’t find a heartbeat just as everything when black.
When I woke up, the silence in the room was deafening. I knew something awful had happened but I was too terrified to even speak. The first words the neonatal consultant said to me was, ‘I’m so sorry but your daughter’s going to die.’ I’ll never forgot that moment.
Our perfect baby girl, Cora, was born weighing 8lbs 8 with a head full hair and the chubbiest cheeks. She was the most beautiful baby I’d ever seen. She had been starved of oxygen for over 18 minutes but she was such a fighter and they had managed to resuscitate her. We got to spend 24 hours with her in the NICU but had been told from the moment I’d woken up that if she didn’t die within a few days, the kindest thing to do would be to turn the machines off keeping her alive as she would have no quality of life. No one could tell us what had gone so wrong and why it had happened so quickly and the guilt and shame I felt was overwhelming. We spent as much time with her as we could, talking to her and stroking every inch of her soft, beautiful skin.
The following day, after just 24 hours on this earth, Cora took a turn for the worse. We made it to her ward just in time for her to be placed into my arms. She took her last breaths as I held her close to me and we watched her leave us, wishing we could keep her forever.
We spent another precious 24 hours with her and some of our family members who were allowed to come and meet her (despite Covid restrictions). We made such precious memories; bathing her, making hand and foot prints and having so many cuddles. 48 short hours making memories to last us a lifetime.
Six weeks after Cora died, we received the post mortem results which confirmed that she was a perfect and healthy baby (something that I still find hard to accept, knowing she should be here with us). What we were surprised to learn however, was that the placenta had some issues which would have made her vulnerable during labour.
Five months after her death, we also received the investigation results into the hospital which pointed out a number of things that the hospital didn’t follow guidance on. It’s hard not to replay those moments over your head, knowing how different the outcome should be. Through seeking professional help and the continued support from loved ones, we’re learning to live with the answers we’ve been given and those that we’ll spend a lifetime wondering about.
As we approach the ninth month without Cora – the same amount of time that she grew inside me – it’s sometimes hard to see anything but wasted time. When your purpose in life has been so cruelly and suddenly taken from you, everything else seems pointless. But then I think of everything we’ve achieved because of Cora. We’ve raised thousands of pounds for charities; I’ve made amazing new friends who have also experienced this loss (the type of friendship where you talk all day, every day); Joe finished his qualifications as an accountant and started a new job; we sold our house, relocated to be closer to friends and family and have had an offer accepted on a dream project. I started a blog and have connected with some incredible parents across the world. It’s not the nine months I would ever have chosen, but there is so much to be grateful for because of Cora and so much she has taught us.
I want anyone reading this who is in the early days of their loss (and I’d still class myself as fairly early) to know that it does get better. Not necessarily the grief. But life. You learn to live alongside your grief and accept it as part of who you are while being able to embrace the other joys that life can bring.
As I write this post, I am currently 14 weeks pregnant with Cora’s little brother. To say this pregnancy has been different to Cora’s feels like an understatement. The anxiety we feel can often be suffocating, but the hope we have that we’ll bring this baby home is what keeps us going. We didn’t want even our closest friends and family to know for a while. The 12-week point that so many people wait to reach meant nothing to us knowing we could lose a baby at any point. And most importantly, we felt like we had to protect Cora’s memory; that the announcement of this much wanted and needed sibling would somehow make everyone think we’d be fixed and Cora would be even less spoken about than she already is. But as we’ve started to tell loved ones, we know that Cora will always be seen as our firstborn and she will always be such a huge part of our special family.
I got pregnant six months after Cora died and while her death can never be outweighed by all the amazing things she has given us; I know this baby growing inside me wouldn’t exist if Cora hadn’t died. The greatest gift she’ll ever give us.
I’ll miss Cora with every breath I take until the day I die, and I know not a day will pass that I won’t picture her here with us. I’ll look for her smile and cheeky personality in her siblings and forever be grateful that Cora made me a mummy, gave us our second baby, and taught us so many wonderful things.
Cora’s Mama x
Thanks for reading – you can follow our journey on Instagram @han_sinnott and via my blog at www.motherhoodandme.co.uk