So here I am, in my study, with some kinda relaxing classical music play-list on Spotify trying to gather my thoughts. I’m not sure why I’m writing this, or how I’m gonna even pen down how I feel, or if this will ever be published.
But I am here, and I think I am writing this mostly for selfish reasons. I need to get this out of my head and onto a page, I need to collect and structure my thoughts, try to distil them, feel them to the maximum of my capacity, then process them and move on. In some parts this whole thing feels surreal.
Some part of me feels like keeping this password protected, some part thinks I should do it as a Facebook note so only my friends on Facebook can see it, some part of me wants to not doing anything at all and just curl into a ball.
Also selfishly I want to avoid hundreds of separate, awkward conversations about this which will trigger a new wave of devastation each time I have to talk about it.
I also need to put a trigger warning here up-front, if you have lost a child, had a 2nd or 3rd trimester delivery (late miscarriage or pre-term birth) where you lost the babies or anything similar, this may be extremely hard reading for you.
Some people may think I’m over-sharing, or this is very private and should stay that way. You are probably right, but this is my way of dealing with it, I don’t really have any very close friends or support system and I have no other way to get through this. I can’t put it all on Kim, she has to deal with herself too and I truly believe it’s much worse for her than it is for me, and what I feel I already find unbearable.
For context, and for those that didn’t know. Kim was pregnant with twins, at first we were terrified because twins come with a lot of complications and our first child was already premature at 32 weeks although he made it through just fine with no apparent long term disabilities. They were due on December 22nd and we expected them to come out around mid November (around 36 weeks is normal for twins).
But we reconciled our feelings about it, we got excited about it, the magic of twins, we had plans, had accepted van life was becoming a reality, dreams, fantasies about our lives together. And we found out the twins were a boy and a girl – it could get no better.
The pregnancy was wholly uneventful, no spotting, no pains, nothing – no signs anything was wrong. Everything was going just fine, the twins were growing well, Kim’s cervix was fine and long – better than expected actually as they were both the size of regular babies at the last check-up. There were minor issues like the placenta was quite near the cervix, but not totally covering it (placenta previa) and Kim had low iron.
Honestly the pregnancy with Liam was far more stressful and showed many more signs of prematurity being a real risk. We were totally shocked when Kim went into labour at 32 weeks and we had to learn a whole lot about NICU and premature babies really fast, I wrote a little about it here: What It’s Like To Be The Father Of A Premature Baby (Premie).
He’s absolutely fine though, just past 2 years old and is developing into a smart, bright, loving, sweet little man.
We expected some level of prematurity with the twins, definitely not before 30 weeks (the danger zone) and hopefully after 34 weeks – for no NICU stay.
So what happened?
This is the most common question we get asked from the very few people we’ve told (currently single digits), and is fairly straight forward to answer – it’s also very unpleasant to answer over and over because it makes me or Kim relive the entire experience each time we have to tell someone about it. Which is really, really, genuinely horrible.
I’m gonna tell it as it happened from my perspective, it’s going to be detailed, gruesome in parts and emotional.
At around 6.10pm Thursday 1st September Kim sent me a picture of some discharge she had, she said spotting..but when I saw the picture, I very obviously saw a mucus plug (the thing which closes the cervix to the outside world). Which made me absolutely terrified, I was actually in the tail-end of a company off-site meeting and was already exhausted. I tried to stay mentally strong, and imagine it was thrush or just some mucus, or discharge.
But deep inside, I already knew this was bad, really fucking bad. It was the same thing that happened last time, and last time 7 days later Kim’s water broke in our bedroom and she went into labour and gave birth the next morning.
I quickly read up on it again to refresh my memory, but I was right, it was a bloody show, it looks exactly like everything on Google image search for “bloody show” or “mucus plug“. If there’s blood, it’s bad.
At this point, I’m unsure if it’s better to know more or less, I already knew a lot about this subject, what it meant and what was imminent. I’m not sure if that’s more terrifying, or not knowing anything would have been worse.
Either way, it looked really bad.
I rushed home as fast as I could, after crying hard in the car for a while to try and get my shit together. I wanted to reach home and present a strong, positive front to try and make the best of the situation.
I picked up some dinner on the way back, and shortly after I reached, Kim lost some more mucus plug. I think at that point we both knew what was about to happen, the last thing that we wanted and something that had honestly never crossed our mind as an option.
We were very likely about to lose the twins.
By this time it was about 9pm, we’d managed to eat a little and feed Liam.
And then Kim thought she started feeling contractions, I tried to believe they were Braxton Hicks contractions, but we started timing them…and they were coming 5 minutes apart.
And having gone through labour before, she knew they were real because they hurt like period cramps, which real contractions do – Braxton Hicks do not.
We quickly gathered some things and proceeded to the hospital, we reached there at I’d say approximately 11pm and they took Kim straight into the maternity ward. I waited outside with Liam and tried to stay calm, hope they could stop the contractions and prevent the onset of labour.
I couldn’t go in as Liam was with me, so I had no idea what was going on.
About an hour later they let me into the ward waiting area, where I sat with Liam for about 20 minutes. Of course I was still hoping for the best, but by that time I had very little hope left and was absolutely physically and mentally exhausted.
The doctor came, and sat opposite me, he said Kim had already given birth to both babies naturally (not c-section) and was fine, they were just cleaning her and the room up and I could go and see her. By the time we had reached the hospital, her contractions were less than 2 minutes apart and she was fully dilated at 10cm, the doctor said for babies this small she only needed 6cm dilation to give birth.
When the nurse checked her dilation she could already feel the babies fingers.
There was absolutely nothing they could have done to stop or slow down the delivery.
He said the babies were very small, there were some signs of life, but they were extremely premature and it really didn’t look good.
Even though I was fully expecting it, it was still a shock.
Strangely I didn’t really feel anything, I felt numb and emotionless. He kept telling me over and over it was not Kim’s fault, and I shouldn’t blame her. I knew that, but I also knew why he was saying it as most humans have a tendency to blame as a first instinct when anything bad happens.
By this time it was about 1am, and they let us into the delivery room, Kim looked fine and healthy and we sat and talked about what had happened a little. I think we both didn’t feel much at this point. Things were happening faster than our emotions could process it.
I think we slightly freaked people out with our stoicism, although in hindsight it was most likely shock more than anything else. We really couldn’t feel anything.
The paediatric doctor came in a little time after 1am to let us know neither of the twins had made it. They were born at 630 and 670 grams and were extremely premature, their eyes were still fused and they had no real lung capacity.
As we expected, we had lost them. They were born at around 11:47pm and 11:58pm and died before 1am, they lived around 45 minutes.
They kept asking if we wanted to see them, I refused, I honestly didn’t want to see any dead babies – even if they were mine and part of me. Kim didn’t want to see them either, she had seen them during birth and they were very purple.
The Doctor also warned us they were very bruised and in quite a bad way, especially the boy as he came out head first so the bruising was on his face.
We still didn’t feel much, we talked more about logistics than anything, the hospital staff were very empathetic but not very useful when it came to what we were supposed to do about the bodies, the registration of their deaths, was it considered a miscarriage etc?
They kept talking about Forensiks which I now realise is the mortuary and associated functions not actual forensic examination.
I went home a little after 2am as Liam was getting very tired and cranky. I think I passed out for a while putting him to sleep around 2.30am-3.30am with the front door and grill wide open, keys still in the padlock.
I got up and did some laundry (Kim’s bloody clothes), read up a bit more about related subjects, had a shower and went to be around 4.30am.
I slept fitfully.
The Day After
I woke up the next day with Liam around 1.30pm after sleeping on and off. Kim had sent me a list of stuff she needed on Whatsapp to bring to the hospital.
I collected all the stuff (well most of it, I forgot some because my mind was a mess) and went to the hospital.
I arrived around 2.30pm and went to the ward, I couldn’t go in though because of Liam – no under 12s allowed as it’s an infectious disease centre.
Fortunately the guard helped me take Kim’s stuff inside.
And then something good happened, Liam’s Paedatric Doctor showed up, and asked me what I was doing there and who was warded, I said Kim and he said why? So I explained the situation to him, he looked genuinely sad, asked a bunch of doctor-ish questions, confused me with his big words (He asked if Kim is ambulating) and said it sounds like Incompetent Cervix.
He went inside and tried to sort things out, which he did. He’s the head of NICU in the hospital, so he said Liam could wait in the NICU counselling room with the counsellor while I went and got Kim sorted out, got a wheelchair, paid and so on.
I was and still am very grateful for his help, he made a terrible situation a lot less stressful.
We had decided we would let the hospital deal with the babies bodies, so we had to make a police report for that, which the hospital staff very kindly helped with.
By this time, the feelings were starting to sink in, and break through the numbness.
I got a wheelchair, made the payments and collected Kim, we got Liam on the way back down and I took Kim to the car.
And then we went to eat Texas Chicken, for some reason that felt comforting, and it was good, hot fried chicken, sweet tea and butter biscuits. We both felt a lot better after that.
We got home around 5pm.
Kim was in quite a lot of pain from her uterus contracting and we were both exhausted and the emotions were starting to come.
Seeing our Children
Kim’s dad just got back from Thailand and came straight over, we were grateful for that as it meant we could go back to the hospital to settle the death certs without Liam (we DO NOT want to take a 2 year old to a mortuary).
We also decided together to see the babies for one last time and say goodbye, I also rationalised that it’s possible I would regret not seeing them in the future but it’s very unlikely I’d regret seeing them – so logically it makes sense to see them even though every fibre of my body screamed no.
I think it was just fear of seeing them dead, perfectly formed would just make it too real, and be too traumatic. Although rationally I knew it would help me have closure, help me heal faster and I had to pay them respect, they were my children, however short their lives.
We went after the traffic had died down, I fell asleep for a while with Liam while he was napping, the stress of preparing myself to see them…was really hard on me.
I couldn’t speak.
We drove to the hospital and located the mortuary around 9pm, I just totally broke down, I couldn’t cope with what was about to happen.
It made it real, final. My babies were never going to grow up, they were never going to feel my love for them, I would never find out who they could have been. It destroyed me.
By the time they prepared the babies and brought them out, I had gone numb again, whilst in the viewing room Kim went into the state I was just in.
We spent some time with them, told them we loved them, touched them (they were cold and slightly clammy) and very bruised. I took some pictures, Kim was racked with guilt that they hadn’t survived, and I think she somehow blames herself even though it’s not her fault at all.
She kept saying sorry over and over.
The girl was so beautiful, tall and elegant with more hair than Liam had when he was born – with perfectly formed eyebrows.
The boy was absolutely battered, he looked like he had finished a boxing match. His whole head was terribly bruised.
But they were both perfectly formed, with high noses and they looked a lot like Liam when we was born.
Kim signed all the paperwork for the death certificates and the release to allow the hospital to dipose of their bodies.
We decided not to have any ceremony.
I’m gonna run through the emotions, internal and external dialogue below in no particular order, because they just come in waves, sometimes one at a time, sometimes many at once, either way it’s very overwhelming.
They are all very intertwined and lead to each other.
This is obviously the predominant emotion, and in comes in waves, not even waves, tsunamis – it’s like being hit with a sadness freight train travelling at 200mp/h.
When it comes it’s completely debilitating.
It’s deep, it’s almost like it physically hurts in your heart, your soul, your spirit or whatever you want to call the deepest part of your own self. You’ve become attached to these little people, you have aspirations, dreams with them, fantasies of them playing with Liam, imagining what their faces look like, imagining the love you will have for them.
Then all of that is ripped away, it leaves a big hole.
It’s constant at a low ebb, apart from when I guess it gets too overwhelming and you get numb again, which happens. And sometimes, usually after being numb for a while it comes back really hard, fast and abruptly.
The sadness also leads into a lot of other things, when you are in that deep darkness, you start questioning, your questions lead to confusion, guilt, frustration, anger and more.
Honestly I feel this one is only in check and under control because of Liam, he’s such a bright little spark, so full of laughs and giggles and physical affection, it just makes it impossible to become too self pitying.
I still need to feed him, bathe him, care for him and his life goes on – he has no idea what just happened and honestly I think that’s really good for us. Because coping with this whilst also copying with a grieving child who has less developed emotions would be really, really tough (selfish thoughts again).
My first reaction was so deeply sad, I just didn’t even want to be alive any more.
But with Liam, that’s not an option.
I do suffer from depression sometimes, so I have to be very careful not to slip into a depressive state (another reason why I’m writing this), keeping active, the house is spotless..and I’ve been avoiding drinking as it’s a depressant.
I believe this sadness will get less and less as each day goes by, but never completely leave us. It will probably re-emerge at their birthdays or due dates.
I don’t think Kim feels this one much, but I do, I think deep inside me there’s still a lot of rage somewhere, and this brings it out. I don’t even know what I’m angry at, I just feel intense anger bordering on hate sometimes. I’ll be more specific about that below.
Angry at the world, angry at myself, at Kim, at the doctors, at random people on the road.
I just want to do violent things, hurt people, destroy things.
It’s totally irrational, and I don’t feel it much after day 1.
Even sometimes I’d feel pure anger at Liam, for being alive – which is ridiculous.
This was my default state at the hospital the night it happened. It felt weird, surreal, like a bad dream, I guess that’s what shock feels like.
I’ve never experienced it before.
It brings with it guilt as you wonder why you aren’t feeling sad, or angry or anything really.
After reading about it a bit, it seems normal and it’s when your emotions overwhelm your concious ability to keep up with them, which is basically some form of shock.
You shut down your ability to feel until you can catch up, when things happen too fast, and are too emotionally intense, you just can’t deal with it.
It’s probably the most bearable of all the feelings/emotions, but also the least useful when it comes to moving on/processing/grieving.
I think writing this post has put me in this state, as I don’t really feel anything right now – probably because my brain is using all it’s horsepower in recollection, ordering, typing and so on.
This is possibly the most horrible one and this also encompasses a whole bunch of “What ifs?”, self-doubt and some hate.
- Could we have done more?
- Should I have been stricter with Kim?
- Why didn’t we put a Cervical cerclage and force the issue with the Doctors?
- Should we have had more regular appointments at the hospital for a high risk pregnancy?
- What did we do to deserve this?
- How did we fail our son and daughter?
- Did they die because of us?
And on an on. All these questions lead to more sadness, more hate, more anger..
I also feel horrible, that in some way, as soon as I knew Kim was really going into labour I hoped for them to die painlessly and quickly. Which sounds really inhuman said out loud, typed or even thought about consciously.
But it’s the truth. And it’s the thing that makes me feel most guilty. It’s also based on facts, stats and in a way is an extremely selfish and overly-pragmatic view. But it’s also my character.
The facts are, only 63% of 24 week old babies will survive and out of those 63% almost all will have some form of disability (84%). And with twins, the figures are even worse.
Source – PENUT Trial
No parents want their kids to just survive, you want them to live and thrive. And with children born this premature, they won’t have a good quality of life (they can be blind, or almost blind, have really bad breathing problems and have spastic muscles, low IQ etc) and most likely will die within the first few years.
You can judge me for this one, but trust me, I already feel way worse about it than you do.
This is probably the second most horrible, and totally irrational much like the anger which in a way manifests as hate.
I hate myself, I hate the doctors, in some part I hate Kim and her stupid cervix (please note I do not blame her at all in any way – this is just how I feel).
I hate that we didn’t do more, I hate that the doctors didn’t make us take more preventions (cerclage, progesterone shots etc).
Sometimes I just hate everyone, I hate people for having healthy kids, I hate Liam for surviving, I hate myself for being weak.
Thankfully this one passes pretty fast, and I know it’s totally irrational, so I just let it go as fast as possible. It’s now day 2 and I don’t really feel much anger or hate any more.
Just acceptance and sadness and sometimes numbness.
Don’t Be Insensitive
If you do choose to speak to us about this (which is not necessary, more below), please don’t be insensitive or inappropriate. People need to learn to speak with compassion to the broken hearted.
If you are a parent, you probably have some idea how this feels, but unless you’ve been through the same or a very similar experience, you have no idea how it actually feels. And even if you have been through it, don’t tell us you know how we feel, because you don’t. We all deal with things differently.
- Don’t tell us we are lucky, we already have a child.
- Don’t try and minimise our loss by offering platitudes like telling Kim she’s still young she can try again.
- Don’t assume there will be another pregnancy.
- Don’t think because they were so pre-mature it makes it somehow easier to deal with, it doesn’t.
- Don’t try and ‘cheer us up’, grief is powerful and needs to be expressed.
- Don’t fear making us cry, it’s part of the process.
- Don’t be cheery and bright about it
- Don’t be nervous and keep talking, silence is better
If you want to understand more read these:
Don’t Feel Obligated to Care
Honestly, if you don’t really care I’m 100% fine with that. I’m not hugely empathetic so I understand. I’m writing this part as a form of emotional protection for us based on our characters, and it may sound harsh but I’m writing it in the most straight forward, honest, open manner I can without beating around the bush, being subtle or avoiding the subject.
You’re not obliged to console us, or even talk about this with us, I’d prefer silence over shallow or insincere condolences.
If you aren’t genuinely feeling something about this, that’s perfectly fine, don’t feel weird, and don’t make it awkward by feeling some social obligation to say something to me or Kim
Just don’t say anything, please.
The last thing I want is a stream of “Condolences” on Facebook that are completely meaningless. If you do that, I’ll know you probably didn’t even bother reading this far and that will make me sad.
Even if you do feel sad or upset by this, but don’t know what to say, that’s fine too and as above silence is best. The whole reason I’m writing this post is to avoid having to talk about this over and over, endlessly.
So yah, if you do need to say something to us, that’s fine too, but please read up first how to be compassionate, do’s and dont’s and be careful. Because we are really tender right now.
I feel like I feel much better after writing this, even though I may just be feeling numb from reliving it all.
Certain parts did bring a tear to my eye.
Kim has read this and is ok to publish and let the world know. And I do have to write/publish/do something so people won’t wonder why we disappeared and won’t wonder why we look so sad and why we will be out of contact with the world for a while. Also I do know a lot of people do care about us, have been following our pregnancy and are excited for us.
Honestly Thursday and Friday were the worst days of my life so far, I hope to never relive them and for anyone that’s been through a similar experience, I am so so so sorry.
No one should ever have to feel this.
I imagine at some point Kim might write things from her perspective, as it would be very different from mine as she did with Liam: I have popped and this is how it went down.
As for cause, it really does look like Incompetent Cervix as the labour was much shorter than last time and the babies are more premature, which are both strong indicators.
We will have to seriously consider our future options, right now I’m torn between never wanting to go through this again and being fine with 1 child, to wanting to have another go. I think I have 1 more fight left in me.
It’s too soon now though, so we’ll have to see.
If you read this far, thank you, it’s half a dissertation (over 4400 words) – and is hard reading. If you want to talk to me about it, with the above caveats, please go ahead.