My biggest regret over my baby’s death
WARNING: Distressing content.
GEORGIA Hansen gave birth to a beautiful, longed-for baby girl last July. But her baby had died six hours before she got to hospital. Today, as a senate inquiry into stillbirth wraps up, she has shared her story in the hope it might save another baby.
Warning, this story contains images of a stillborn child.
OUR daughter is baby number four following three little boys. She was so long-awaited and her brothers, Daddy and I were beyond excited for her arrival. After all, we had known of her existence since I first dreamt of her nine years ago, before we had even started trying to fall pregnant the first time. In that dream I was clearly shown her name.
On July 27, 2017, I was now one day overdue and very ready for our princess to arrive. It was a Thursday and I headed off to a play centre with my mum and youngest two sons to wear them out. It was a play centre that I was a regular at, and I remember the manager who runs it said to me when we arrived that he couldn't wait to see us next time with our baby girl. I haven't yet had the heart to return there.
Around 9am I started feeling crampy, but as I had been having Braxton Hicks regularly for weeks I didn't think too much of it at first. This time they were coming regularly, started out at 20 minutes apart and progressed to 13 minutes, 10 minutes and within a couple hours they were 7 minutes. I was in no rush, my previous labours were quite long and the early labours were always fairly drawn out. We headed home around lunch time and I finished packing the last few things in my bags. By the time I picked my eldest up from school at 3pm, contractions were 5 minutes and regular, but not yet painful. I spent the next couple of hours running around getting the boys sorted, feeding them dinner, showering them, packing their bags to stay at their grandparents and generally making sure everything was done to make everyone else's life easier. This is my single biggest regret.
Around 6pm I finally sat down and this is when I realised contractions were now 1-3 minutes apart and ramping up in intensity. I told my husband and in a panic he got all the bags and kids in the car and rushed us off. Dropped the kids off, then straight to hospital.
In hindsight, the memory of this drive was nothing like it should have been. I should have felt excited about our dream finally coming true. The only way I can describe it is just blank with a feeling of doom.
Upon arrival at hospital we were left waiting in the waiting area for what felt like forever, at least 45 minutes. We were finally taken into a consult room around 9.11pm (I remember looking up at the clock in the room) and she quickly did an examination and said I was 3cm and fully effaced.
Leading up to the birth I was preparing myself for a much more sacred birth than I experienced with my sons. I was the first person to participate in Mama Goddess' Sacred Birthing Program which was amazing and Kim Newing (Mama Goddess) provided lots of extra support through a pilot Facebook group and video tips as well as one-on-one support. It all just clicked and I knew Kim was brought into my life for a reason. I felt very prepared for a divine and powerful birth complete with soothing music, meditation, crystals and a powerful mindset to face anything that came my way, so at this stage I told the midwife I was hoping for a water birth and she started working on getting that ready with the birth suite staff.
While this was happening, she said we would get some quick vitals then we would head to birth suite.
As she put the doppler on my bump I was standing and contracting powerfully that were fully taking my breath away with their intensity at this stage. When after a few minutes of not being able to find anything, I wasn't really concerned as I was focusing on my breathing and calling in my guidance and goddess power. She got me to lay down on the bed and tried with the doppler again. After a few minutes she decided to call in the registrar doctor with a scanner. The doctor came, the midwife stood to my left, with the doctor to my right and the scanner facing both of them and my husband who sat on a chair next to me. All three were pokerfaced.
Another few minutes of silence passed and the registrar said she was going to get a more senior doctor. The next doctor came in and started scanning. I was still strangely calm. I looked at the first doctor who was stood at the foot of the bed and I remember so clearly, she slowly pulled out what looked like a walkie-talkie and held it close to her face. That was the moment I started to freak out and everything stood still. Time, space, the air in the room seemed to disappear. The excruciating pain seemed invisible for those few seconds. I blurted out "WHAT'S GOING ON" and that's when the second doctor put her hand on my knee and told me, "I'm so sorry, there is no heartbeat". This is the moment that changed my life. She told me she was going to get an even more senior doctor. Seconds passed and then there was a third doctor in front of me. He had dark hair with glasses and a kind face. He scanned for a few seconds while I screamed at them all they were wrong and to keep looking.
That's when he said to me calmly and softly, I am the most senior doctor in this hospital tonight, and the third doctor to make this confirmation. We are so sorry but your baby is gone.
If you've never heard the primal screams of a mother who has lost her young, I do not wish this sound upon your ears, ever. My husband had to listen to me expel those sounds from my entire body. I don't know how he remained so strong in those moments, but I am so grateful he did.
In the next few moments I felt my body start to shut down, now I realise this was actual trauma and shock. The pain was unbearable and I didn't think I would make it. I remember the head doctor talking to me calmly, I was demanding that he just cut her out of me. My natural birth plan had gone out the window and, all I wanted in that moment was to fall asleep and not wake up from this nightmare.
That's when the doctor calmly explained to me why he advised against a C-section (the recovery time is much longer, and I would have had to remain in hospital surrounded by new mums) and we decided to go ahead with a vaginal delivery.
After this talk from the doctor, something quite strange occurred in my being. I felt a sense of complete calm come over me and as an intuitive who hears Angels Guidance and Spirit, I clearly felt and heard in my heart and soul that EVERYTHING WAS ACTUALLY GOING TO BE OK. I remember in this moment, my husband's face was leaning down, just centimetres from mine and looking directly into my eyes. And I told him it's going to be OK.
We were then moved to birth suite, and although there was a bustle of lots of people, the mood and atmosphere was quiet and sombre with low light. There were doctors, midwives, and an anaesthetist already in there waiting. Once the epidural was in, there was suddenly only one midwife, plus a student midwife and the anaesthetist. The pain was still extremely intense and after an hour I begged them to know why the drugs didn't seem to be working. Apparently when your body is in shock even something as strong as an epidural doesn't work properly.
After that hour, I started to feel calmer, I could breathe through contractions again and although I could still feel them, it was bearable. This is when my husband made the devastating calls to my mother and his father to tell them what was happening.
Before I knew it, only an hour or two after finding out the news, I was fully dilated and ready to push. I started pushing and as her head emerged the midwife and my husband were taking wipe after wipe to remove the meconium that covered Amelia's entire body. It only took one push for her head and another for her body. This is incredible given my son's births took hours of pushing and two of them required a ventouse.
Amelia was born on July 28 at 12.40am. She was 3.8kg, (or 8 pounds 8 oz in the old scale).
Our baby girl was absolutely perfect. She was blond with the most beautiful lips and round cheeks. Everything about her was divine.
We got to spend the next few hours holding her, crying together, loving every inch of her body. My husband bathed her with the midwife, and the midwife dressed her in the first of two outfits she wore in her entire life. A gorgeous pink Bonds onesie with a pink beanie and beautiful pink muslin wrap.
The doctor who first told me the news came in to do the post-death examination, while we slept for half an hour.
Around 6am I was taken to a private suite on the ward and my husband went home for a couple hours rest, and so he could make calls (and cry) in private.
As I was pushed into the room I saw what appeared to be a real baby bassinet waiting in the room. This is the moment that broke me, I hadn't expected that - as all my other babies stayed in the clear plastic hospital cots during our hospital stays. This beautiful bassinet was called a cold cot, and served a specific purpose.
The next few hours are somewhat a blur but I do remember calls and messages of love pouring in and knowing that my life had changed in ways I couldn't fathom.
I held my baby girl, stared in wonder at her perfection, wept, wondered why, questioned everything including what I possibly could have done to cause this.
It was so surreal wanting to hold this baby forever but at the same time wanting to be so far away.
A beautiful photographer from Heartfelt was arranged to come in and take photos. The photographer was so gentle and warm and the photos are the only memories we have of our darling girl, they are just stunning.
We left hospital at about 2pm. As we were walking out of the lift on the ground floor a midwife was walking in and saw our trolley with bags and the pink memory box with the stark absence of a baby capsule. She let out a small gasp and I will never forget that, as now I realise she knew exactly what that pink box meant.
Next to come was probably the very hardest part of the whole ordeal. We sat on the balcony at my parents' place, and my boys arrived, bounding up the stairs with such joy and anticipation to meet their baby sister. But as soon as they got to the top of the stairs and saw our faces, their little faces dropped into sadness and my youngest 3-year-old came running over to me, sat on my lap and said: "Don't be sad Mummy, I love you shhooooo much." There are some moments in life that will never leave you and that is one of them.
The following days, weeks and months after Amelia's birth and death me, my husband and my children have dealt with things that are just not natural. An autopsy, and deciding whether to allow her brain to be removed, planning a funeral and writing a eulogy for your child. Saying goodbye to her body forever and watching your other children deal with death in a way they shouldn't have to but seeing how strong it has made them.
The day of her funeral there was so much light. We were surrounded by loved ones, old and new friends and swarms of butterflies. It was perfect and every time I hear the songs we played I still stop in my tracks.
At 10 weeks after her birth, we returned to hospital to learn the results of the autopsy. The results showed that Amelia was absolutely perfect, with no abnormalities or issues, but there was an issue with the placenta. It had a condition that caused it to give way at the last minute. It had probably started to deteriorate in the last 48 hours, but she had only died six hours prior to birth. This condition is rare and random and there is no known cause. It happens in 5.6 per cent of pregnancies, but of those only 2.7 per cent end in foetal demise. It usually only happens in very overdue babies, gestational diabetes or extremely large babies (none of which were the case for us). It was just part of her journey and something that was written in the stars.
This is the saddest part of the story. There have been extreme lows (I had a trauma breakdown six months after her birth) and extreme anxiety following that. But there have also been incredible highs, and life continues to become easier, calmer and more amazing as each day passes. Grief is a funny thing - you don't know how you will deal with it until you are facing it head-on. No way is the right way, so long as you continue to take one step at a time.
What I want others to know who are facing loss of this magnitude is that it is possible to not only survive following an event like this, but to thrive. This journey has shown me a power, a strength and a magic beyond what I ever thought I was capable of. It has changed me, and my family, and numerous people around me, as well as my perception of life and all of it is for the better. I am able to see the beauty that surrounds us in every single moment and I choose every day to show up. Show up for the lows and to feel them, not to quash those intense and raw emotions, and to move through them. For once you move through those lows, you feel the highs.
There is a saying I heard as a child which always resonated with me, and even more so now. Those who have suffered are able to see the stars shine that much brighter in the night.
I am constantly told how strong I am and how gracefully I am dealing with my grief, but the truth is I believe the universe doesn't give us these experiences to punish or destroy us, rather it shows what we are capable of in service of our growth. Our Light. Our ability to love unconditionally, no matter how broken our heart is. And to forgive, for when we know this power, we know the blessing of what it's truly like to be alive and I will never ever take that for granted. Life is a miracle. And I am so grateful to my daughter for showing me.
The senate inquiry into stillbirth closes today. There have been 28 submissions so far.