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“No Heartbeat”: The Grief of Losing My Unborn Baby

Intra-uterine fetal death: a mama's story of her grief of losing her unborn baby
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“When you lose a baby, you also lose all the hopes and dreams that you had for them”

Our family suffered a devastating loss at the end of December when we lost our third baby when I was five months pregnant. We are slowly piecing our lives back together but when you lose a baby, you also lose all the hopes and dreams that you had for them, the first smiles, the sound of their cry and their voice, the first steps, the first day at school, the interaction with siblings and so on. The easiest way to explain what happened is with an extract of the post that I shared on my social media. From there, I have gone on to mention some of the things that I have done to help remember our baby and to help with the grief.

“Many of you will know that we were expecting our baby girl at the end of April 2019. Under the saddest of circumstances, Simon and I ended up becoming parents for the third time yesterday (27 December 2018) when our perfect little Summer Marie Street was born at 3:05am, as a sleeping angel.

Summer’s heart was confirmed to have stopped beating when we went in for a scan on Boxing Day after I realised I had felt little fetal activity in the previous 24 hours. As she was perfect in every way, our Doctor is fairly certain that a cord cyst that had been identified early on in my pregnancy and was thought to be of little concern, in a rare case, actually caused a restriction of the blood flow to our baby girl.

Summer spent nearly 23 precious weeks with us on earth in my tummy and will now forever watch over and be with us when we need her, just sadly not in our arms. She was already much loved by her big Brother and Sister who, if you see them, will likely tell you matter-of-factly that our baby has died but also that they really really wanted to go to Japan on their first ski trip today but now they are not able to go and they are really sad about that.

Our hearts are shattered into pieces. But please do talk to us about Summer if you want to — we wish to remember her as the child we love, not as a secret or an unmentionable loss. We know our hearts will take time to heal and our tears may flow in front of you but we truly appreciate your support in our grief. Hug your loved ones tightly, they are truly precious.”

The day we lost our baby

Trying to take it in
There was firstly shock followed quickly by devastation when we heard the words “I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat.” Thank goodness for our doula Tania, who I called immediately after we left the doctor’s. Tania gently took charge and guided us through the next 24 hours. On her advice, when we went home, we broke the news to our two children (then 5 and 3) and asked them to draw pictures and to give some toys that they thought their baby Sister may have liked. Tania had also been in touch with my best friend Kate who came over and took a last photo of the 5 of us. We then headed to hospital to start the induction process for me to give birth

Photos, cuddles & footprints
Ten minutes after I gave birth, Tania and Kate were by our sides. They are both integral to the lives of our other 2 children so it warms my heart that they both also met our youngest Daughter and I am grateful that Tania suggested that Kate also be there. This is especially so in a situation where my parents and sister were sadly not in Singapore so were unable to meet our baby. When Tania arrived she encouraged me to have “skin to skin” with Summer, as a Mother would with a living baby. Simon cut the cord and was the one to hand her to me. We held her and took photos* for about 4 hours as we sobbed but also laughed at things like her inheriting her Daddy’s weird long second toe. Tania and our midwives took all her measurements and were able to do some footprints. It was a truly special time; the photos are heartbreaking, but so precious. I chose when our time with Summer was to come to an end and placed her in the box in which she would be cremated together with the drawings and toys from our kids and the family photo.

*There’s a company called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep that has a representative in Singapore who provides free photography to stillborn parents. Although we didn’t need to use these photographers it may be helpful to others.

The days that followed

Announcing our baby’s birth and death
I had an image made to depict what had happened to our family and put together the above social media post quite quickly. This was partly because I wanted people to know and to encourage them to talk about Summer, but also partly because I didn’t want to have to tell people in person. Whilst not for everyone, in this situation, social media acted as a way for us to get our message out without having people ask us where she was or where my bump had gone.

The cremation, a baby urn and candles
Two days after I gave birth we had Summer cremated. It was a horrible process to go through, but I am so glad that we have Summer’s ashes with us at home. We regularly light the candle in her urn together with another beautiful scented candle and still do this 6 months on. Smells are so powerful — this candle will always make me think of our angel baby girl.

Releasing Balloons
My family had done this in the UK and it was something I also wanted to do. I was blown away when we received some balloons from a friend with a message to release them for Summer; it was like she read my mind. A week after Summer was born, we went to the Botanic Gardens with our children, the balloons, and cupcakes and called it “Summer’s Day.” It was a really nice thing to do to involve our children in saying goodbye. We all made silent wishes as we watched the balloons float away.

ntra-uterine fetal death a mama's story of her grief of losing her unborn baby
Print by The Little Lenny Company

All our children together
As we had Summer’s footprint, we also decided to take the footprints of our other two children. It was a way for us to have some sort of visual of our children together and the end result is beautiful. Summer’s foot is so teeny tiny next to her big brother and sister — they will always be there protecting her, exactly as they would have been had the outcome been the one it should have been.

The months that followed

Holidays & Summer’s name in the sand
We holidayed a lot over the next four months. At Chinese New Year, we extended a family holiday to Margaret River to soak up the family time and allowed the ocean to soothe our broken hearts. Simon and I did an adults-only few days in March; it was so important for us to re-connect as a couple on where we were with our individual grief, as “normal” life had slowly resumed and we had started to drift in different directions.

We took a trip for Summer’s “due date” to Batu Batu, one of our favourite holiday destinations. Our family talked at length about Summer and looked out for “signs of Baby Summer” whilst there. A baby gecko, butterflies, and bright sunshine all played their part. In all of these places we wrote Summer’s name in the sand. Seeing her name against the backdrop of a beautiful ocean feels so special.

Noise-cancelling headphones and long walks
About four days after we lost Summer, I think Simon thought I had well and truly lost it when I bought myself some Beats headphones that are clearly designed for 20-somethings! I really wanted to walk but, at the same time, I wanted to block out the world. The headphones have proved to be my favourite walking companion. I put together a Summer playlist soon after we lost her and listened to it on repeat. I then moved on to podcasts about baby loss. I was hesitant as I didn’t want to “wallow,” but it has been so helpful to embrace the grief and listen to people whose stories and feelings truly resonate with me and give me comfort and understanding about the journey that I am on.

A tattoo
A month to the day after we found out Summer’s heart had stopped beating, I had her name tattooed on the inside of my left arm. I have no other tattoos but had an overwhelming need to have this done. I had a colleague comment that it means that Summer will forever be in my arms, which gives me the loveliest feeling whenever I catch a glimpse of it.

Moving forward with grief

Six months on, the grief is still relentless, suffocating and always there. Summer is never further than the next thought in my mind, particularly because there is still so much of my life that has been planned around her being here. There’s a pre-baby loss me and a post-baby loss me, and, with the help of a tight support network and my counsellor, I am learning how to live with and accept that. The main thing with the new me is that I am putting no pressure on myself. I cancel plans at the last minute, I don’t attend things that I think may be tough, or I leave halfway through if I am finding it difficult. Mostly though, I take a lot more time for myself. I have also stopped putting pressure on myself to “get over it” because that will never happen. The thing that I do know is that my third baby will forever be carried in my heart and we will always talk about her.

If you know someone who has experienced a late term miscarriage, intra-uterine fetal death or still birth, look out for my next article on recommendations on what you may want to do/say. I hope that someone you know never finds themselves in a similar situation but if they do, it may help a little.

Read more: Resources for Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss in Singapore

Lead image by freestocks.org on Unsplash

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