This is my account of things as I remember them. It was a very traumatic and exhausting time for me, so my memory of events might be slightly off….
My husband and I were married in July 2011 and 2 days later we moved to Italy on a military posting. About 2 weeks after being in Italy is when we found out we were expecting.
There is a British midwife who helps with the care there, but my care was mostly done in an American naval hospital, which is where I would deliver.
I had early scans at 7 and 9 weeks, then the regular scans at 12 and 20 weeks. We had the detailed scans at a private clinic in Naples, as the American hospital did not have machines that would scan in enough detail. At the 20 week scan, it was observed that there was high blood pressure in one of the arteries in the cord, which was giving reduced blood flow to our son. The American doctor was not overly concerned by this. We were told he would likely be small though. I was also told I would be closely monitored and that if at any point they were concerned, I would deliver in an Italian hospital, as they don’t have the facilities to deal with high risk situations in the American one. I went on to have more scans at 24, 28, and 32 weeks. By 32 weeks, although Finley was small (approx. 25th percentile), the pressure problem had corrected itself and they were happy with the consistency of his growth. I was put as low risk.
When I was 38+4 I went in for my normal checkup. Everything was fine and we were pretty much just waiting for me to go into labour. That evening my waters broke, and after calling my family in Canada, and Steve’s family in England and Spain, we went straight to the hospital. This was on 22nd March at about 9pm. When I got there, I was put on the monitors. Everything was fine and I was contracting regularly, though still quite far apart. By the morning the contractions had all but stopped, so I was put on the drip for induction.
Eventually the contractions were quite painful, so after being asked, I agreed to have an epidural. It took around 40 minutes to place the epidural while I was having very strong pains. I started to have the urge to push during this time. When eventually it was placed and the pain was gone, I was checked and was 10cm dilated. They wanted me to push, but I could not feel my contractions, and physically could not push despite trying to because I couldn’t feel anything. The epidural started wearing off a little and I was able to push. My husband saw our son’s head. But after 2.5 hours of pushing, he still wasn’t down quite far enough for forceps, and he was getting a little bit stressed. This was around 9:00pm. They decided to do a csection, which I didn’t want, but agreed to. It wasn’t an emergency, as Finley’s heart rate was still stable, and it was about 45 minutes from this point to when they started the procedure. My husband was allowed in the room.
Finley was delivered at 10pm exactly on 23rd March. After 2 minutes or so I still didn’t hear him cry, and started to get scared. A code blue was called, a nurse was crying and calling doctors at home to come in. I could hear them attempting to resuscitate him in the same room while I was being stitched up. I was so stressed that I started to be sick, but all of the medical staff were busy, and my husband was left to deal with me. Steve and I were sat there crying, and weren’t really being updated with what was happening.
We were told afterward that the cord was wrapped twice around his neck and there was a true knot. He came out pink though. It was only when the cord was cut he didn’t breathe.
This carried on for 15 minutes until they were able to resuscitate him, at which point he was taken to another room. Eventually my husband went to see him while I was still being stitched. I had no idea at all what was happening. Once the doctors were finished with me, someone suggested that I get to go see Finley, as he would soon be rushed by ambulance to an Italian NICU. They wheeled my bed in and my husband was there. Finley was fitting from being so long without oxygen, but I was allowed to sort of hold him for a couple of minutes. At this point a few photos were taken of the three of us, which I am so grateful for.
I was wheeled into what I think is a recovery room. Steve was with me and we had both been crying. I was still full of hope though, and I asked the paediatric anesthetist who had been working on him if he would be ok. She told me he would.
One of the nurses wanted to check my bleeding at this point. I told her I knew I was bleeding as I could feel it. She looked and the look that came onto her face was not good. She called the doctor over. I was hemorrhaging very badly. I saw one of the sheets that they took from under me and I have never seen so much blood. It was decided I would have to go for a second surgery. When they took my blood pressure, it was only 79/37. That made me worry. There was somebody putting an IV in each of my arms. I was begging to be put under general anesthetic for this one. The doctor who delivered Finley came over and told me that if they couldn’t stop the bleeding quickly, that they would have to remove my uterus. I absolutely lost it at this point. It was as though the entire weight of what was happening hit me. Steve told the doctor off for scaring me, and said that if they had to take it, to do it, but not to worry me unnecessarily. I had a moment with Steve then and confessed I was so afraid we were going to lose Finley, and also that I’d not be able to have any other children. We both want to be parents so badly.
I don’t remember anything from this point on until I woke up after the surgery. Apparently they asked my husband to leave as it was so gruesome. I woke up to a million tubes in me and the blood pressure monitor going off every 2 minutes. I was in the midst of a blood transfusion. This was in the same recovery room as before. I overheard them saying that I had lost over half of the blood in my body. One of the only things I asked was if I still had my uterus. Luckily I did.
Eventually I was taken to what would be my room for the duration of my stay. There was another bed for Steve and we both went to sleep.
Everything is a bit of a blur. Steve went with the American doctor that day to see Finley. Steve’s mum also made arrangements to fly to Italy the following day from Spain (that’s where she lives with Steve’s step dad). I was still very poorly and receiving blood, etc. I had a few friends visit. I slept a lot, and to be honest although I knew Finley was critical, it never occurred to me that he would pass away. After Steve went home later that day, the nurses made me get out of bed for the first time. It was agony. But I walked to the bathroom, and one of the nurses washed me and braided my hair. I got back into bed and stayed there until morning.
That morning (25th March) I managed to call my parents, which I had been dreading. I knew they would know something was wrong, as it had been SO long since I had spoken to them to say my waters had broken. That was a hard call to make.
We were told that Finley was doing better and the ventilator had been turned off. He was breathing only with the cpap and his heart was beating on its own. He was still heavily sedated as they were worried about fitting. He had had an ultrasound of the head, and his brain was very swollen in some places. Steve confessed to me that while I was still being stitched up after the first surgery, the paediatrician had warned him that Finley would most likely be brain damaged because of being without oxygen. We were waiting for him to go for a full brain scan later in the week.
I was told that if my bloods came back good the next day, I could possibly leave to go see Finley. They were doing everything they could so I could go see him, and I was desperate to get to him.
The next morning (26th March) my lab results came back, and my levels still weren’t where the doctor wanted them to be. He wanted to give me two more units of blood in the hopes I could leave the next day. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to see Finley yet, but I still wasn’t feeling great.
Steve got to the gate of the naval base with his mum, and the guard would not let him sign her on as a visitor. I got the patient welfare officer involved, and after quite awhile, they managed to get in to see me. We showed his mum the photos, and she agreed how much Finley looked like Steve. I was really looking forward to getting to go see my baby. I had dreamt of just being able to cuddle him and stare at him and be so proud of the little person we had created.
At some point during my second pint of blood being transfused, the doctor who delivered Finley and the pediatrician came in. We were told that Finley had had a cardiac arrest, but the doctors at the NICU were able to resuscitate him. They did advise though, that if he had another, they would find it very hard to bring him back again. We were then told he had another less than an hour later. I was holding my breath hoping that they would say they managed to resuscitate him again, but instead we were told he had passed away. My heart broke in that moment and I was inconsolable.
I had text my friend to tell her the news and ask her to come see me. I could not face talking on the phone.
Everything for the rest of the day is a blur. I told Steve I didn’t want to live in Italy anymore. There was some conversation about whether we wanted the funeral in the UK or Canada. The patient liaison officer, the pediatrician, etc. went to the Italian hospital to see Finley and speak to the doctors. When they came back, the patient liaison officer said they had been allowed to take some photos on our behalf and asked if we wanted to see them. I did and Steve didn’t. He said he wanted to remember him as the last time he saw him. I feel so much regret that I couldn’t be there.
The next morning my bloods came back pretty good. Steve came to the hospital and I was discharged. The patient liaison officer took us to the hospital where Finley was. The roads in Naples are really bad, and the car journey was so painful for me. We were led into a room where Finley was laid, and I just broke down. I cuddled Finley and put a little hat and booties on him. The patient liaison officer took a couple of photos. He was so tiny (only 5lb6oz). We also got a lock of his hair and some footprints taken.
I felt I needed to leave then, and Steve and I sat outside on a bench in the sunshine. He just kept telling me we would get through this together.
After that we went home. Walking in was so hard for me, seeing how empty it looked with all of Finley’s things put away.
Everything was hard, I felt like I was in a bubble. We were waiting until the doctor said I was fit to fly before we could book flights to go to Canada.
The midwife visited and was asking us about a post mortem. We originally had decided not to have one done, as we didn’t blame anyone. But she mentioned that if it turned out to be something genetically wrong that it could be a possible problem in any future pregnancies. That sold us on having the post mortem done.
I had a few small problems with my scar, but everyone was eager to get me home. I was given a fit to fly letter and was in Canada a couple of days later.
I avoided seeing almost everyone at first. I didn’t feel like I could deal with anyone else’s grief. We didn’t know when Finley would be coming, as we were still waiting on the post mortem to be done.
The day he arrived, we spent some time sitting with him in his casket. The sight of it, being so so tiny, made my knees buckle. We were advised to not see him as so much time had passed.
On 21st April, we had Finley’s service. It was as lovely a service as we could have hoped for. We did a balloon release and picked poems and songs. It was heartbreaking to see so many people upset because they loved him too. And also sad that our friends and family from UK and Italy couldn’t be there.
Since then, Steve and I have both moved back to the UK. I am now trying to figure out what my new normal is, and to try and live my life without my son here with me. It’s hard to carry on living, but there isn’t anything else to do.