Baby loss: the story of Poppy Sunshine
Lisa Crear shares her story of baby loss, in the hope of raising awareness for other mums.
My fiancé and I were expecting our first child together; she was due on 30 December, 2018. My older daughter had mixed feelings as this date was also her birthday - she made it clear she would not be sharing a cake! We’d decided to keep Poppy’s gender a surprise. My daughter was hoping for a little sister and her dad had said she’d be a girl all along, although I hadn’t been so convinced.
19 November is a day I will never forget. I was 34 weeks pregnant and I’d felt very little movement from my baby. I knew something was wrong so I rang my midwife in the afternoon and she suggested I head to the hospital and get checked. She rang ahead and had someone meet me there. I went to the hospital and was put on the CTG machine. My baby’s heart rate was sitting around 160 which was okay, but it had a few dips whenever I had Braxton Hicks contractions. These contractions were not uncommon for me - I had a severe case of polyhydramnios (extra amniotic fluid) and I was measuring very large for my dates. They couldn’t find a reason for the polyhydramnios in my case.
Dips and spikes are normal for a healthy baby’s heart rate - they show when the baby is active or resting. But in Poppy’s case there were no spikes which showed she wasn’t moving. The midwife thought this was cause enough to call the hospital’s on-call obstetrician. My CTG results were described as having, ‘several abnormal features’, ’un-reassuring’, and ‘not normal’ (midwives are always very well-trained at reading these machines). The obstetrician had a look over the CTG results and said, "Well the results are not perfect but I don't think that the results are cause for an emergency". I was discharged and asked to return to hospital for another check up in the morning, about 12 hours later. I was a bit shocked because I thought I’d be admitted to hospital for ongoing monitoring. I said to the obstetrician, “I still haven't felt my baby move”. The obstetrician suggested that I go home, “have a Moro bar” and to come back if I was still concerned in the morning. It wasn’t exactly reassuring, but my attitude was, well, they are trained in this, and wouldn’t discharge me if they weren’t confident it was the right decision. I later found out that one of the lovely midwives who was caring for me that night was so uneasy about the decision to send me home that she documented her concerns and spoke with others about it.
That night my partner and I lay in bed, silent apart from the occasional "have you felt baby yet?". We had our hands on my huge belly, willing for movement, even just a small one. We thought we may have felt a kick, but it could have been wishful thinking. The next day was my partner’s first day at his new job. I asked him for the contact number at his new job “just in case”. As I headed back to the hospital that morning, horrible feelings washed over me: panic, fear and anxiety. I had hope but wasn’t hopeful. I could feel a hard lump in my belly, maybe it was Poppy’s little bum. I pushed firmly on this thinking ‘If you were alive you would move.” I went over the worst case scenario in my head, thinking “You know about baby loss, but this wouldn’t happen to you, would it?”
At the hospital I was hooked up to the CTG machine again. They moved the monitors around but the only sounds it picked up were my racing heart and my sobs. The poor midwife working the CTG machine looked so concerned but was also trying to keep me calm. My amazing midwife arrived as an emergency scan was being booked. She said that we needed to call my partner, but I couldn’t do it and asked to have the scan first. I remember the lady doing the scan was a bit abrupt at first, saying "don’t ask me what I'm doing, I will tell you when I know". I felt like it took forever to hear the words "sorry your baby has no heartbeat". Our dear wee Poppy had passed. My heart broke, and the script for my life was rewritten. All my hopes and dreams for our future with her were screwed up into a little ball and chucked into the fire.
My midwife and I both broke down. She said we needed to call my partner again, but I was frozen and numb and wanted to protect him from this unbearable pain. This was his first child and he was a deserving, loving and doting father-to-be. But I just couldn’t call him, and asked my midwife to make the call. The obstetrician reappeared and said that they were sorry for our loss, but nobody could have seen this was going to happen, and they still stood by their decision to send me home. Who knows if we could've changed the outcome, but all I can say is, if you find yourself in a similar situation, make sure you are heard and don’t stop trying until you feel reassured. Your baby’s movements are so important and nobody knows your growing baby like you do so trust your own instincts.
We don’t know why we lost Poppy; her autopsy was unexplained. Poppy Sunshine – the beautiful name given to her by her daddy, the name that will never be forgotten. She was a baby who knew only love and warmth, and who was ever so loved and wanted. Poppy your memory will always live on in so many hearts. We love and miss you so much.
Lisa Crerar is a community support worker who lives in sunny Nelson with her fiancé and daughter. She is passionate about raising awareness of foetal movement, and about encouraging pregnant women to trust their instincts.