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No Heartbeat

By Cassie Thistleton

The 12th of October 2012 marks the birth of my second baby, our beautiful baby boy Dex.

Dex was born at 37+3 weeks gestation at a healthy 7lb 2oz and perfect to the eye. His shoulders were broad, a chiseled chest with defined biceps, short black curls, perfectly puckered lips and chubby cheeks. Mummy and Daddy couldn’t be more proud, he was the image of a strong man in the making. This year would mark Dex’s fourth birthday.

Leading up to Dex’s birth, the pregnancy was progressing just like any other. I had been told at our morphology scan at 20 weeks gestation that Dex had a Single Umbilical Artery (SUA), we were told it was common and the only real concern was restricted growth. I had attended an antenatal appointment at the hospital three days prior, 9th October, for a check-up. The doctor performed the usual standard checks, heartbeat, measurements and my blood pressure and then I was on my way.

The next day, 10th October, I had travelled to Brisbane from the Gold Coast with my husband and whilst he had a few jobs to do, I rushed off to the shops to get some last minute items in readiness for the new arrival.

Wondering around the shops, I was stopped in my tracks on three different occasions with sharp pains shooting down into my vagina and radiating down my leg. I cut the shopping short and headed back to my husband for fear my waters would break in the middle of the shops! I wasn’t too concerned at this point as I had a preterm labour with my first baby and just assumed that this was a high possibility again.

Heading home from Brisbane that afternoon, I sat in the passenger seat with my husband and not long into the trip I started to experience some really erratic movements from my baby. Dex was usually a pretty active baby but on this occasion his movements were different.

My husband giggled and commended Dex on his strength but I wasn’t smiling. I looked at my husband and said, no no it’s not funny this really hurts. The erratic behaviour ceased moments later and the worry left me soon after. We arrived home, collected my eldest child from school and went about our evening as usual.

That night I remember having a restless sleep. I remember waking several times tossing and turning because I felt queasy and not quite right. It wasn’t enough to completely rouse me.

The next morning, I woke earlier than usual with cramps like the onset of labour. I had been to the toilet two or three times with loose bowels and having been through labour before I was positive this was it. I told my husband to head out for his last surf but to check in with me every 30 minutes, meanwhile, I went about getting my daughter ready for school and headed off on the school run.

Until this point, Dex was displaying normal behaviours. I dropped my daughter at school and gave her the rundown of what to expect after school as I was sure I’d be in the hospital delivering our baby.

Heading back on my 15-minute trip home, I felt Dex throw quite a strong kick, I was still having contractions every five minutes but still very mild. Within an hour of arriving home, I didn’t feel right. The contractions had dwindled away and I felt that Dex was being still – too still.

My husband called to check in with me and I expressed my concerns with him, he reassured me that Dex was just going quiet because of the pending labour. I wasn’t convinced but I didn’t want to overreact. I was eager to get Dex to move so I started with the at-home tips to get baby moving. I had icy cold water, laid on my left side and ate something sweet but nothing. I poked and prodded my belly and still nothing. By now my husband was home, he was still convinced that labour was coming and that we would be having him today.

That afternoon we had our antenatal class at the hospital. We sat in the classroom with 14 other couples. At this point, I still hadn’t felt my baby move so I leaned over and said to my husband that I wanted to have the baby checked at the end of the class if I still hadn’t felt him. He agreed.

The class came to an end and still nothing so we headed up to the maternity ward to get checked over. Heading into the room the nurse was optimistic. She had me lay up on the bed and fumbled around to find the Fetal Heart Doppler. The Doppler went on and a heartbeat was picked up, my husband looked at me and gave me the  “see I told you so” look, but straight away I knew it was mine. I stared blankly back at him and shook my head. The nurse tried to reassure me and said that their machines are not always accurate. She hurried off to get the mobile ultrasound machine. As soon as my baby came up on the screen it confirmed my worst fears and instantly my world was turned upside down, he was gone. “I’m sorry. There’s no heartbeat” are the words that will haunt me forever.

The next day, 12th October, I birthed my baby boy Dex Gregory Thistleton, 6.02pm, 7lb 2oz, 50cm in length and absolutely perfect in every single way.

Looking back I knew that morning that our little boy had gone, call it mother’s instinct, I just knew. We ordered an autopsy on Dex but unfortunately his cause of death was never found, they also did not relate the SUA to his passing.

It’s important to note that there IS a cause of death, but as it stands stillbirth is lacking research to be able to explain the 40 per cent of deaths that go unexplained.

If I knew then what I know now, the things I wish I could have changed…

I would have quizzed my doctor at the appointment two days prior with more questions. Why was I measuring ahead? The doctor was very wishy-washy and the appointment was so rushed.

One day prior, when I experienced the shooting pains then the erratic painful movements, I wish I had been educated by the medical professionals that these were signs of distress. I wish I had gone to be checked.

The day he passed away, I wish that I went to the hospital as soon as I had a feeling that something wasn’t right. I wish I had trusted my intuition and been checked. I could have saved his life.

Life for me since has been a never ending circle of acceptance, regret, anger and questioning what went wrong and what could I have done to save him.

My life has changed forever, I am not the same person I once was, I fight my own inner battle to choose life or death, I struggle with the bad day just being a bad day and that the universe is not out to get me.

The desire within me to have my baby back in my arms is so intense that I could let out a blood-curdling scream. All my dreams I had for our life together and for him were shattered that day. I will never see my little boy again and that is the most agonising feeling I will ever endure in my whole life.

I love you more than anything in this world, Dex. I would give it all up to be with you again, but I have a duty to your three beautiful sisters. I will see you again. I miss you every single moment of every day. The emotion stuck within me could make me fall apart.

Until we meet again. Please watch over your sisters. I love you baby. Love Mumma xox.

_________

What is stillbirth?

A baby is stillborn if it passes away after 20 weeks’ gestation, or weighs more than 400 grams.

Statistics

Every day, six babies die of stillbirth in Australia, one every four hours.

For every baby that dies of SIDS, 35 are stillborn.

In Australia, stillbirth is the most common cause of death in children under 12 months old.

Stillbirth Foundation Australia

“One child is dying from stillbirth every four hours in Australia and more needs to be done to invest in research and education campaigns,” said General Manager of Stillbirth Foundation Australia, Victoria Bowring.

“It is vital that parents know about the risk factors, warning signs and possible prevention measures that can save their baby’s life.”

What can be done?

For more information on stillbirth awareness and prevention or to donate to the Stillbirth Foundation Australia, please visit: https://stillbirthfoundation.org.au/donate/

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