Falling through the gaps

I don’t know where this blog belongs but I know I have to share it so please forgive me as it’s not my usual subject matter.

Today was perhaps one of the saddest days of my life.  Today I walked into a beautiful garden full of toys that will never be played with. Today I stood with my friends and their family and wept.  Today we said goodbye to a baby boy that never was.  Today we hugged and kissed and wept.

From personal experience I know that that miscarriage causes such a deep loss for mothers, one moment you have all the hopes, dreams, expectation and aspirations of a new life and in the next moment all you have is emptiness.  A few weeks ago now my dearest and closest friend sent me a brief text saying “my baby has died” she was 20 weeks pregnant and her baby was the most wanted and cherished thing in all the world.  Things went quiet for 12 hours and though I sent regular messages to let her know that I was there for her I knew that she was probably in hospital and unable to answer – but never the less I kept sending them.  But I was wrong! She had gone to hospital with her partner but as her partner was unable to stay with her had then come home having arranged to go back the next morning…

My friend gave birth to her little baby son that night at home.  By the time the ambulance arrived the baby was lying in a toilet.  The ambulance crew took my friend to hospital but left her son where he was.  The next day I had a phone call and a cry for help.  As a nurse friend she asked if I could retrieve her son.  This was probably one of the most harrowing things that I have ever had to do as a nurse, as a mother and as a friend and I clearly remember taking a deep breath and thinking “have courage”  I was able to lift the little boy from the toilet but my heart broke in two when I saw what I had to put him in – the hospital had supplied a white bucket.  I sat on the floor of the bathroom for the longest time, holding this little baby boy, no bigger than my hand in my arms, not wanting to place him into the bucket.  In the end I took and deep breath laid him in it and stroked his head goodbye.

I am not a midwife and have no experience of midwifery except for the birth of my three beautiful children and the loss of my one beautiful baby, but I don’t think that this should have happened.  I cannot even imagine the trauma of having to do what I did if I was the mummy of this little baby – it would have torn me in two. To place a little life into a bucket is not dignified, it is not compassionate, it is heart breaking.  Because my friend was only 20 weeks pregnant she fell through the system, her baby was not officially a baby, her midwife stated was unable to do anything and that if she was 24 weeks then there were processes and support in place, so she was discharged form midwifery care.  She was no longer under the care of the midwife and no one picked up her care, until another nurse friend called the GP.  It makes me very sad and made me reflect greatly on my own practice as a nurse – who cares for the people who fall through the gaps? Should we not all take responsibility for these people when we see that there is no place for them? How many others fall through and have no health care professional to guide and support them? I don’t know the answers to these questions but I do know that the next time I see someone falling I will do my best to ensure that they get the support they need.

I wept today – but I wept with joy.  The little baby boy I had rescued and placed in a bucket was resting in peace in a tiny white coffin, he had flowers and teddies and love of his mummy, his daddy and all his family and friends….and I count myself very privileged to have been the only one amongst them to have held him in my arms.