Written by: Tennille Welsh
I was eagerly counting down the final days left of work before I could ‘relax’ and prepare for the birth of our first child. I was 33 weeks and 2 days when our whole life changed forever. My obstetrician said “I’m sorry there is no fetal heartbeat”. From that point on my life became utter chaos yet my memory for the next few days remains crystal clear.
At times I find myself using ”I”, then “we” when I write about Oscar, it is difficult to disentangle myself from my feelings, our feelings, that of my husband and I and also in a way the grief our whole family felt. Together we will always remember Oscar.
Wednesday night, that fateful night, after seeing the obstetrician we were advised to go home and go into hospital the next day. Each midwife we met over the coming days was lovely. Aside from the necessary medical needs each offered support in their own way, often sharing a tear with us.
After some encouraging, the delivery itself went relatively smoothly and Oscar Mark was born at 6:55am on Saturday 11 November 2011. He was perfect in every way. Having several days to prepare for Oscars birth in hindsight was helpful as it allowed us to gather our thoughts and make some decisions about how we wanted to celebrate his short life once he was born. I am eternally grateful to our photographer, who arrived shortly after Oscar’s birth to photograph our family. At first I was unsure about this but once I saw my baby I wanted to remember every second, to be able to look back and see so many emotions in these pictures. Each time I look at them I see new emotions, notice new details. In the early days after coming home from hospital I would often become panicked, especially in the early hours of the morning that I would somehow forget Oscar, that I couldn’t see his face and these photos were a great way to reassure myself.
We had two days with Oscar. To describe them as happy is not accurate but to describe them as sad is also not a true reflection of the time. Perhaps at peace, calm, still would be more fitting. We were able to finally meet our son, introduce him to our families, hold him like all proud parents. We had Oscar blessed. We bathed and dressed him. We had time alone with him. We looked at him. We stroked and kissed his tiny hands, his lips and the fine hair on his head.
At times I thought that I could keep the door of our room closed forever, the three of us could live our life from there, and Oscar would be with us, forever. What I had not yet understood was that my son would be with me, in my memories, in my soul, forever.
I received excellent advise from the pastoral healthcare team at the hospital and that was “you will never get this time back again so take your time, don’t rush and remember, you can have whatever you want”. While I definitely wasn’t thinking clearly, taking my time over two days to touch, wash, hold and kiss my baby have allowed these memories to etch into my heart, memories which need to carry me through a lifetime.
When the time came to say goodbye to my baby’s body, I wrapped him in a soft bassinet and carried him proudly from the hospital to the undertaker’s car, gave him one final kiss and went home with empty arms.
When I entered hospital three days earlier I thought this would be the end of my baby’s story, little did I know it was only the beginning of creating a new life, and a new story for myself. That of a mum, a mum who lost a baby and who desperately wanted to have another baby.
An estimated one in four pregnancies (103,000) ends in miscarriage in Australia each year, while approximately 3,000 babies are either stillborn or die in the first 28 days after birth.
Sands is a not-for-profit organisation that provides support, information and hope to parents and families who experience the death of a baby. All Sands Parent Supporters understand the heartbreak and devastation that follows the death of a baby, as they too have experienced it. Sand also offers resources and education for healthcare professionals.
Anyone affected by the death of a baby can ring the 24/7 Sands support line 1300 0 72637 and talk to a Volunteer Parent Supporter or visit: www.sands.org.au. T: @SandsAustralia F: www.facebook.com/sands.australia
Tennille Welsh is a mother to three beautiful boys. Mark (her husband) and Tennille experienced the stillbirth of their first son Oscar, at 33 weeks gestation in 2011, cause unknown. Tennille lives on a hobby farm with her family and enjoys horse riding, swimming and playing with her children.