Where had the months gone? It seemed only five minutes that it was Easter and now here we were in the middle of August; the 15th to be precise and Charlotte was feeling fed up and frustrated. Charlotte knew it could be the case for first children to be born late but she had had enough and there did not seem any signs that the birth was imminent.
Alex had somehow been granted paternity leave from work so was with Charlotte, whenever she needed him and she hated to admit it but she needed Alex more now than she had in the first stages of pregnancy.
Charlotte was watching TV with Alex, later in the evening when suddenly she felt a sharp pain. Charlotte had barely time to think of what was happening to her before she felt something wet around her feet; her waters had broken.
Alex had never had much experience of seeing a woman pregnant but he knew what had just happened and that his babies were on the way.
“I know it is easy to say but harder to do but try and relax. Do not worry about the carpet that is the least of our worries right now. I am getting you an ambulance for as soon as we can”, Charlotte was amazed how calm Alex was being. He really had taken the pregnancy more in his stride, once he had got over the initial excitement but inside he was beaming, as he knew it was not be much longer before he became a dad.
“Who would you prefer to be at the birth with you, me, your dad or Holly?”
Charlotte did not really care who supported her, her main concern was getting away from the pain she was feeling. It was still early in her labour and the pains she had were not frequent enough for a quick birth, she knew that she was going to be in this state for quite some time.
“I do not care who comes with me”, Charlotte had not meant to snap at Alex but he understood and took no offence.
“I will call them all and then they can decide but be reassured I am not going anywhere my sweetie. I promise not to faint”.
That comment by Alex made Charlotte laugh because she knew there was a slight chance that Alex might pass out at the first signs of the birth, then again it was not something she was looking forward to either but she would not be able to faint and would have to face the pain as it came”.
Charlotte did not like the thought that she could be in labour for anything up to eight hours but her midwife had told her that it would depend on her babies’ feelings in the matter, as it could be much shorter or longer than that.
It was meant to be a reassurance by Charlotte’s midwife when she told Charlotte that once she was sure she was dilated by around 10cm, that it could take an hour or two of pushing. When Charlotte heard this news she was definitely not reassured and she was not sure where her next words to Alex had come from but she said “you wait the next time you are feeling frisky with me, I will make sure you wear something. You do not know what you are putting me through”.
Alex did not know how to react to that and so remained quiet. He knew that Charlotte was just talking through the pain but he was a little put out when Charlotte had said ‘the next time you are feeling frisky with me, I will make sure you wear something’, it was not just him who was in the mood the night of the conception and if that was how Charlotte felt then she should have said something in the height of passion. It was too late now but whatever she blamed Alex for he definitely would never be able to imagine how Charlotte was feeling. It was definitely easier for a man to become a parent than a woman so he understood that Charlotte had not meant what she had said.
Charlotte despite being in throws of pain, realised what she had just said to Alex and wanted to reassure him “I am so sorry for that Alex. I should not have shouted at you like that and certainly not blamed you, we both consented. Will you forgive me?”
Alex had to laugh out loud and reassured her by saying “there is nothing to forgive. I know you are not having a ball right now but just think when this is all over you will have two new lives to enrich your life and you will forget all about this”.
“That is why I love you Alex Burton because no matter what I am going through you can make me smile and boy do I need to smile right now”.
“That is what I am here for”, Charlotte smiled because that sounded like the cocky Alex that she had first met at work. Charlotte was still very much in pain but a nice kiss and cuddle with Alex helped.
“What are we like?” joked Charlotte.
“Not sure you tell me?” Alex replied. No matter how angry Charlotte and Alex could get with each other, they knew they could sort things out with a bit of sarcasm and a laugh and so yet again that definitely helped.
Charlotte was getting fed up of the pain now and wanted things over. The midwife would not let Charlotte return home for a while, as she knew that the babies were getting closer to being born but she still had a long way before that could happen.
Charlotte was just so tired but knew that sleep would be impossible, as though her labour was taking its time; the pain was too much for her.
Alex could only sit and wait but had been joined by Holly and Ian, Charlottes’ father who did not want to miss seeing his first born grand children but none of them could help Charlotte more than just being supportive to her. They really wished they could help ease her pain but that was never going to be possible and Alex was so proud with how Charlotte was coping.
The midwife appeared to do her checks on Charlotte when she finally omitted the biggest scream ever, this was it Charlotte was finally going fully into labour and though the pain nearly cut her in half she was almost mother to one of her twins. The first one was finally born a little girl, who from the moment she introduced herself to the world started screaming, almost announcing her entrance so one more to go thought Charlotte.
It was another hour before Charlotte started to give birth to her second child. She had been told that her little girl was perfect and healthy but obviously still being in labour she had not been able to hold her new bundle of joy. Alex could have held his new daughter but wanted Charlotte to have that honour first so baby lay to one side oblivious to the pain her mum was continuing to go through.
Finally Charlotte was progressing and baby number two was finally on its way but would things still remain happy when this one was born?
Charlotte lay back, exhausted but thoughtful. Her labour was finally over and she had two children unfortunately Charlotte was not aware of the problems that the midwife was having with her second child. Charlotte had thought it slightly odd that it had not cried instantly like her first child had but was too tired to really take things in.
Alex was worried too. On one hand he was delighted that he had a baby daughter but on the other hand he was worried about the second of the twins, as he thought it odd that the second one had not cried when it was delivered.
Charlotte and Alex never really put two and two together and so what they were to be told by the midwife would rock their worlds forever.
“Now you are probably wondering what is being done for your son. Unfortunately he suffered complications, we are not sure when or how this happened but regretfully he was too little to fight the complications and was still born”.
Neither Charlotte nor Alex could take in what the midwife had just told them, more so Charlotte she had carried twins for 9 months, went through all that pain for labour of them to find out that she would in fact only have one child that was going to survive. It was a cruel blow and Charlotte naturally broke down in tears. Alex took her in his arms but he could not be a man any longer and wept too for his son, which they had lost. Alex would have loved to do the fatherly things with his son, taking him to the park, teaching him football, how to build things and what to do when he found out his son had first met a girl that he really liked but he would never have that opportunity to discover these emotions. Charlotte had given him a girl but at the sacrifice of their other child and that was not fair.
“I know you are both devastated and it will take time for you both to come to terms with what has happened. You will need to see your doctor, who will normally say that you need to rest, to take it easy and to give your body time to heal. Like all women when pregnant you will of course have breasts with milk and we would say this would disperse within a few days with a normal still born but under the circumstances of having a surviving twin it will be your choice if you wish to breast feed your little girl”.
The information, which Charlotte and Alex were being given was too much all at once but there was more from the midwife.
“I know that you are both upset and confused at the moment and that you probably will not take in all the options but I will discuss them anyway, anything you do not understand or missed just ask me to go over it again. The first thing I need to ask is if you want a post mortem to see if we can determine the cause of the still born”.
The midwife was right that Charlotte and Alex did not want to think of their baby as passed away and both preferred not to know what happened and to let baby rest in peace. The couple knew something they could not keep referring to their little boy as baby and though it would be hard they would have to come up with a name, this is something, which for both they had never really agreed on yet for either baby so at the moment their little girl remained nameless.
It was hard for Charlotte to stop crying so Alex being slightly stronger but still with tears in his eyes replied to the midwife “I think we both agree that we would rather not know”.
“That is perfectly understandable and I respect your wishes. Having a stillborn baby is hard to understand so all the information we can get is grateful but I totally understand your choice. There are more things we can do for little one”.
Charlotte and Alex tried to smile but the midwife understood, as she had seen so many couples in the position that Charlotte and Alex were in so continued with advice of what to do.
“I know there is a lot to take in but it is all in your interest for me to tell you what you can do to preserve the memory of your son. You may find a lot of comfort in looking at, touching and talking to your baby. It may sound strange but a lot of parents find this helpful to make memories of the precious time that will last a lifetime”.
Neither Charlotte nor Alex had thought they could do that and though it scared Charlotte a little she wanted to hold her baby and asked the midwife if she could do that.
“Of course you can” replied the midwife passing Charlotte’s son to her.
Charlotte found it a strange sensation holding a baby; her baby which was not moving, that was a feeling that no mother should go through and with tears in her eyes she said “I love you Andrew”, where that had come from Charlotte was not sure but when she looked over at Alex he was smiling, his smile said that he agreed and that it was beautiful. It was then Alex’s turn to take his son into his arms and he wept like he never thought a man could weep. He looked at the sleeping face; if Alex had not known that this was a dead baby he would have taken Andrew as just sleeping. The reality was something that neither of the couple could face.
Charlotte again looked at Alex and this time she spoke about their little girl, who had almost been forgotten in the emotions of baby Andrew.
“I have thought of a name for our little girl, Alex. I would like to call her Amy, because I know that means beloved one, which is something she will always be. Her brother, Andrew was taken away far too soon and will never be forgotten but we can never forget Amy either. We cannot have her living in the shadow of being one of twins and never knowing about her brother”.
Alex agreed on Andrew and Amy and was pleased that Charlotte had accepted what had happened and he knew she was breaking inside but she was showing so much courage and seeing that the brighter star will shine, they never imagined that the new brighter star in the sky would be for a baby they were to have, which had never even had a chance to breathe.
“If you are in agreement there are a few more things we can do to honour Andrew’s memory and the sooner we do them, the sooner you can both become more at ease, knowing you did all you could to remember your precious, Andrew. I know you will never forget but when Amy asks about her brother you can show her all you have of him”.
Charlotte and Alex thought that was a lovely idea and were prepared to do whatever they could to ensure that Andrew’s place in heaven was celebrated in style. It was actually a comforting thought and Alex replied, “what do we have to do?”
The midwife, did not like having to face this part of her job but it had to be done and she liked being able to be a comfort in what was a dark time for the grieving parents but despite that it was never easy to have to say what she had. She could be comforted knowing that it really helped.
“There are quite a few ways that we can make memories with your baby and so if you are willing I would like to help you do these”.
Charlotte and Alex looked at each other, before Alex spoke “we would love to do that”. He then turned to Charlotte and said “I know this will be hard for you but it will hurt me too but we have to remember Andrew and give him the love that we cannot shower on him”.
When the midwife was certain that the couple were ready, she began with the first of the things, which Charlotte and Alex could do.
“I do not know how you feel about this first one but would you like to bath Andrew and then dress him in a special outfit?”
Charlotte was the first to agree that it sounded lovely. It sounded weird too but she wanted as many special moments with her baby boy, as possible and was willing to do whatever it took to remember him.
It felt strangely weird to Charlotte not hearing Andrew cry, gurgle or make any noise as she bathed him but it made her feel good doing it. When this was done and the baby was dressed the midwife spoke again.
“There, all clean. I will tell you now that when you leave hospital you can take the baby grow with you as a keepsake”
Charlotte was very happy at hearing that. It would be sad to have only seen her little boy dressed in it once but she was happy knowing that it would have her sons smell to it.
The next thing the midwife said was “I know, you might not want to but you can take a picture of your baby”.
Charlotte and Alex had not planned this and was not sure if it was something they wanted to do but knew they had to, so Alex took a couple of snaps and the midwife took one of the new family.
“That was not so bad was it?” commented the midwife “the next thing you can do is take an imprint of the handprints or footprints or one of each”.
Charlotte loved that thought too and agreed with Alex that they would have an imprint of a hand and a foot together.
“This is something next, which many mother’s want to do and often keep in a necklace but this is your choice. Would you like a lock of babies’ hair as a keepsake”?
Charlotte felt like she was forever saying ‘yes’ to everything but it was all lovely to be able to collect anything and everything she could on her baby. She did not feel like it now but it would become a comfort when she was missing him. This had been done and the midwife spoke again with another suggestion.
“This may seem a little odd but would you like to read a book or sing a lullaby to your baby”.
This was one of the things, which Charlotte could not face doing so she and Alex just kissed little Andrew on the cheek and commented “stay safe with God”.
“I will now give you baby’s measurements so that you have a record of those too”.
“My next step is naming the baby but you have told me that so we can have the necessary documents made up with his name in them”.
Charlotte was getting tired but the last few questions were coming up.
“Would you like Andrew christened or blessed whilst he is here?”
Charlotte had never discussed with Alex whether they would have their twins baptised so was not sure what to say but decided to go ahead and get him baptised so that she had a certificate saying he had officially been accepted by God”.
“You can take your time saying goodbye to Andrew but at some point you will need to say goodbye forever. I know this is one of the most challenging things to do to make it all final but I will offer you more words of advice. Do not be afraid to cry, let your emotions free, expressing your grieve is a natural part of the process and the keepsakes will remind you that a part of your baby will always be with you”.
“When can Charlotte come home?” asked Alex
“Charlotte is free to leave when she is physically ready but this may be filled with mixed emotions. Charlotte may feel ready to go back to safety and security of your own home, but there will of course be sadness that you will not be taking home Andrew but you have Amy so you will both find that having a supportive family around will help you through”.
Alex did not want to ask the next question on his mind but it needed to be asked.
“What about funeral arrangements?”
“You can have a social worker or a chaplain here at the hospital who can help you make arrangements for a funeral. Most funeral homes will provide a free coffin, burial or cremation for stillborn babies. The date of service will depend on how many people you want present. I know this is all difficult for you both but you will find it comforting to know your baby is at rest”.
Charlotte and Alex took a few moments to cry, hug and agree how they wanted to handle the one thing they never imagined that they would have to do, burying a child so young. It was a tough decision and might hurt people but they decided that they wanted a quiet sending off for Andrew.
The midwife had finished all that she needed to do and so left Charlotte and Alex alone to take in what had happened.
“We will get through this”, promised Alex, kissing Charlotte’s hair before holding her tight.
Charlotte knew that Alex was right and that they would get through the death of Andrew, their little baby Andrew but there was a lot of grieving to be done before she could even contemplate moving on through this.
Charlotte had never dreamt of the idea that one day she would be burying one of her children, before it had even had a chance of life and that was the main thing that hurt, that she had spent nine months carrying Andrew and had nothing to show for it. There was of course Amy and Charlotte did not mean to be thinking so cruelly but she would have preferred if God had taken both her children and not just the one. This was definitely grieving calling and the shock of the death was sending Charlotte’s mind into stupid thoughts like that.
Alex just sat wondering what Charlotte was thinking. He had done with thinking, as the more he thought about what happened the more upset he got so he could not imagine what was going through Charlotte’s mind at this moment but he was going to be true to his word and be there for her whatever, or however she felt.
Alex’s dream of meeting a very special lady had come true when he met Charlotte. He had always imagined that he would marry whoever the special one was, well that was still in the pipeline. It would have been achieved if Charlotte had not fallen pregnant but he was not blaming her for that as the news of her pregnancy had delighted Alex but he never thought he would have to cope with the death of a child but it supposed it was one of the many tests that God gave out to see how you got through it, but it was sure a vicious way to do this. Alex knew Charlotte and he would grow stronger and be protective of Amy but there would always be a sad sensation in their hearts.
Amy’s crying snapped Alex out of his thoughts. It was his turn to reassure her but he soon realised that he would not be much help to his little girl. She was starting to try and suckle against him indicating that she was hungry.
Alex stepped over to Charlotte and said “I do not think I can help Amy with what she wants”, handing his daughter over to Charlotte.
Charlotte had made the decision that she wanted to breast feed her children before she knew she was having twins. She was never sure when the news was announced how she would cope feeding two hungry babies at once but that dilemma had been taken away from her so there was only Amy plying for her attention.
Alex was a bit unsure of what Charlotte needed him to do when she did her first breast feed. Alex was not naïve, he was just not certain if Charlotte would be needing some privacy but Charlotte just wanted Alex to share in the moment. She was a little embarrassed and nervous that she would not be able to oblige to her baby’s needs.
It had felt a little weird the first time that Amy had tried to suckle from her mother and Charlotte was very anxious when the newborn was having trouble finding or staying on Charlotte’s nipple but she knew that breastfeeding was a new experience for both of them and eventually she managed to be able to coax her daughter to feed.
Once Charlotte had turned Amy’s chest to hers and touched her upper lip with her nipple, she felt the most amazing feeling when Amy opened her mouth so that Charlotte could pull her to her breast and start suckling. It was a proud moment for Charlotte and the first time it took place she cried with happiness.
Alex, well Alex was just there for the couple. He thought he would be embarrassed by watching Charlotte breastfeeding but he could see from her eyes how much of a bond was being forged between his baby and his new baby and he felt immensely proud to be able to watch such a natural process of becoming a parent.
Alex had to admit to himself that he had been a typical man eyeing up a woman’s breasts and how excited he got when he first saw them but now that they were doing what God intended he was realizing they were more than just a visual thing for a man to take a fancy too.
“Oh look” cooed the midwife approaching Charlotte’s bedside “baby looks very comfy there, Mrs Burton, this made Charlotte giggle a little because the midwife did not need to know that she and Alex were not married but it was a nice thought. In fact Charlotte was not really sure how the midwife had assumed that but Charlotte liked the sound of being Charlotte Burton.
There was one question, which Charlotte needed to ask, which was going to be difficult indeed.
“When can we arrange for a funeral for Andrew?”
“First of all we will need to issue you with a Medical Certificate of Stillbirth and also the paperwork necessary for you to arrange a funeral, which includes a certificate for burial or cremation. The certificate should be taken to the nearest register office within forty-two days, so you will have more than enough time to do this. You can take a bit of time because it is only then when you realise that things are final”.
The midwife continued, “I know there is a lot of information to give you but you do not need to make arrangements immediately, if you do not want to. You baby will be kept safely here until you have decided which arrangements you wish to make. We can however, help you to arrange a funeral, which is free of charge, with just a donation requested”.
Charlotte turned to Alex with a tear in her eye but whatever she was trying to tell Alex, he could not tell, he just knew that they were both feeling each other’s pain.
“What I will do is get you in touch with Sands, who are the Stillbirth and neonatal death charity, who will help you through this, they can answer any questions you may have and offer you support”.
Alex managed to say “thank you so much for all your advice and information you have been a lifeline to us in this difficult time”.
“That is okay and part of my job and has been a pleasure to meet you, Charlotte, Andrew and Amy and I know that you will both be strong and I wish you well”.
Charlotte and Alex really appreciated all the thought and caring that the midwife had shown them and both agreed that they would be strong as long as Charlotte and Alex were together throughout.
“I have good news that you can go home now. It is time for the family to start their new life together. Amy is doing well and I know you were scared for a time but you have been great breast feeding Amy so you should be proud of yourself and Andrew will find his perfect place in the nursery in heaven”.