When I told Flynn’s story to my own support group 11 years ago, I focused on the months and even year leading up to Flynn’s death. I actually only allowed for 2 sentences at the end of two pages to talk about Flynn. I was devastated by his loss but at the time I was also struggling with the guilt, blame and anger that fertility challenges and hospital politics contributed to our story. On the 11th anniversary of his birth and death, my perspective is different, the loss is the same but my focus and what I want to share today has changed.
Our first son, Rhys, was 2 years and 6 months old when we found out we were pregnant on Boxing Day of 2001. The first four months of the pregnancy were normal. We heard a heartbeat at 10 weeks and the midwife had commented how early that was and how lucky we were. I felt the first taps at 14 weeks and by 16 weeks I was joking that our baby had a soccer ball in utero with him. I felt a deep bond with this baby; I talked to him, dreamed with him and told him constantly how much he was awaited. In retrospect I was much more connected to him than I had been during my first pregnancy, when I was just in awe of the whole process.
At 17 weeks pregnant, we flew to Calgary for my best friend’s wedding. I hate flying but I remained extremely calm and tried to keep my stress at bay for the sake of my baby. The flight was fine. I was a groomswoman in the wedding and right before the ceremony I started to spot and cramp. Some of the other bridesmaids were pregnant too (3 to be exact) and they told me that it was probably nerves and that this was not abnormal. I think I believed what I needed to, to get through that day.
The next day was spent in the Banff emergency clinic with a non-stress machine locating the baby’s heartbeat and a doctor telling us how lucky we were and that we had a “missed miscarriage.” He told us to have an ultrasound when we got home.
We were barely landed when our midwife called with an ultrasound appointment for the following day. We took Rhys with us to the appointment and I remember the ultrasound technician telling him that he was going to have a brother. The baby was growing normally and there was no evidence of trouble. Our midwife called later that day to tell us that everything looked fine but they were sending us to a specialized hospital for a better diagnostic ultrasound just to be sure.
The next four weeks would take hours to describe. What I will write is that we spent days in the hospital as my spotting turned to bleeding and “no evidence of trouble” turned to placenta previa with a placenta abruption. My husband tried his best to juggle being a dad to a 3 year old, housekeeper and employee and visit me in the hospital when I was admitted for a week. We had 6 ultrasounds in total and at times we knew more than we wanted to know about every blip and hiccup. However, the baby was progressing normally and seemed unaffected by my body’s inability to carry him.
At 20 weeks gestation I was in the hospital with contractions, hooked up to machines with nurses rubbing my back or holding my hand. The attending doctor came into the room and told me that I needed to relax and everything would be fine, he said I was being dramatic. I don’t think he had even left the room when I began to cry uncontrollably. A very sympathetic nurse called my midwife to come in and calm me down. My midwife sat with me and let me know that things were not looking good. It was the first time that anyone had said that to me in the three weeks prior and up until that moment I had believed I was going to be fine. She told me that my blood count was extremely low and that the continued bleeding meant the abruption was not healing. She suggested that we start to think about what we wanted to do with the time we had left in this pregnancy and to make tough decisions about the baby; she gave us the grave reality about his chances for survival if he was born. My husband came to the hospital that night and we sat down and thought about this little boy’s name, what we would call him and we discussed what we would do if we were faced with him arriving too early. We came to the conclusion that we would not go to the specialized hospital, we would not try to sustain life or resuscitate him if he arrived early. We made some of the toughest choices we will ever have to make. When we thought we would be picking out nursery colours, we were choosing whether to intervene with our son’s quality of life.
I talked to Flynn daily; he kicked all the time which gave me peace of mind that he was listening. I begged him to stick with me, to stay put if he could because we so desperately wanted him with us.
At 22 weeks, 5 days my water broke at home, and by the next day, surrounded by my parents, my husband and his mother I went in to labour. The doctor on call offered to send us to the neonatal hospital. She gave us the statistics that Flynn would only have a 1% chance of surviving his birth at the neonatal hospital and his chances of any quality of life were less still. If he were born in our local hospital he would not live very long. I was in transition at the time and my husband had to face the decision on his own. He decided we would go to the neonatal hospital; he could not be responsible for not giving our son a chance.
The ambulance arrived, we were preparing to leave and I had the urge to push. Everything became very chaotic at this point, but moments later Flynn was born. He arrived at 9:35pm on May 3, 2002. He was 11 inches long and weighed 1 pound 6 ounces. The paediatrician let us know that he had very little time and the nurses wrapped him in a quilt and brought him to us. He looked just like his older brother, with fuzzy white hair, a little button nose and a pouty lower lip. His arms and legs were long for his size and he kicked us a couple of times while we held him. Those tiny movements brought me comfort that I cherish to this day. I watched his chest rise and fall and held his tiny hand around my index finger. I heard the nurses as they let us know how many beats per minute his tiny heart was taking. My parents got to hold him and my husband’s parents got to hold him. Flynn was in his daddy’s arms when his little heart beat for the last time. He was so loved on that day and every day since. Although I remember him every day, it is on his birth day that I stop and cherish the time we had.