Lentil was due on the 24th of June but I always thought that he would come a bit early. This was mainly me being optimistic! I’m fairly small and my bump was fairly large so I guessed that he would run out of room at some point before 40 weeks. I told him that he should wait until 37 weeks but after that it was fine, he could arrive whenever he wanted.
On Friday the 12th of June I woke up at about 4.30am. I felt a bit weird and I was having very mild, irregular contractions. I had been having quite a few Braxton-Hicks type contractions in the previous weeks, these felt a bit different but I decided they were probably nothing to worry about. If I was going into labour my husband and I would need all the sleep we could get! So I went back to bed and fell asleep. My husband’s alarm woke me a bit later. He was working from home that day and I told him I thought that might be lucky as I felt like today might be the day.
Around lunchtime I was enjoying my daily dose of Neighbours (yes, some people do still watch it) and I felt a very odd sensation. It felt a bit like a period starting. I managed to get to the bathroom just as my waters broke, this was something of a miracle as the bathroom is upstairs! I was a little disappointed as I was counting on using my waters breaking as an excuse to replace the upstairs carpets or the sofa.
We called the midwife as we were worried by the amount of blood in my waters but she came and reassured us that everything was fine. She checked me over and told me that I was having mild, irregular contractions every 2-3 minutes. I couldn’t feel them at all but she assured me they were happening! She told me to go on as normal but to call when the contractions got stronger. I went back to watching the rest of Neighbours and began the waiting game.
The contractions didn’t become any stronger until the following afternoon. We had completed a Hypnobirthing course so had been listening to the birth affirmations a lot, in the afternoon I decided to listen to them in a darkened room to try to get the contractions going. This worked and we called the midwife. I was having moderate contractions about every 6 minutes. I put some of my favourite music on and got comfortable. We were planning to have a home birth and had borrowed a birthing pool from some friends. Paul had already inflated the pool but it needed to be filled so he took to running up and down the stairs between contractions filling the pool.
Our midwife was fantastic, I felt calm and in control, she kept monitoring me and the baby. Everything was going well, my blood pressure had even dropped (not that it was high before) as I had relaxed now that labour had begun properly and all was well. Then, after about an hour, everything changed. Lentil’s heartbeat was checked but it wasn’t returning to normal after my contraction. It had slowed right down. An ambulance was called, it felt like it was there instantly. I had been adamant that I didn’t want any drugs during the birth but I accepted gas and air in the ambulance. Mainly because I wanted to distance myself from the situation rather than because I couldn’t cope with the pain. The actual contractions weren’t really painful at this point, I just had a pain in the front of my pelvis that I hadn’t been prepared for and a feeling of panic.
At the hospital I was told that Lentil’s heart had slowed to 20 beats per minute. I was asked whether I wanted a caesarean or to keep going naturally. I said I wanted whatever was safer for Lentil. They prepped me for a c-section, it all went so fast. They tried to get lines into my arms, foot and neck while the obstetrician kept monitoring Lentil’s heartbeat. Then everything stopped, I was told that my baby’s heart had stopped beating. They couldn’t continue with the c-section, it wouldn’t be right. They needed me to deliver him naturally. I felt like my heart had shattered. I remember repeating over and over that I couldn’t do it.
They brought my husband into the room and then took us both into a special room at Derriford Hospital, it’s for parents who lose a child before, during or soon after birth. Lentil was born a few hours later. A perfect little boy. I expected him to be blue, to be small, to look ill. None of that was the case. He was huge! 59cm, I’ve since discovered that this puts him in the top 99.2% of newborns for length. He weighed 8lb 11oz. A head circumference of 35cm. He had all his fingers and thumbs. He was just perfect except for the fact that his little heart wasn’t beating. He was born at nine minutes past midnight. I held him for hours. Just after seven my husband had to go and phone our families to tell them the news. I don’t know how he found the strength to make those phone calls. I am constantly in awe of him and his strength.
We took photos with Lentil, the midwives took hand and footprints. We didn’t like the way that after a while Lentil started to feel cold so we put a hat on him that we’d brought with us. The hospital also gave us two bears, one to keep with Lentil and one for us to keep.
Members of our family were able to come and meet Lentil. This was really important to us and to our family as well. Some of them were worried about meeting Lentil but they are really glad that they did.
The next few days were really hard but Paul and I decided very quickly that we wanted to do something positive to help other people. Ideally we wanted to stop anyone else from losing a baby but unfortunately we realise that isn’t possible. We discovered that the special unit for grieving parents where Lentil was born was only there because of a fundraising campaign started by other parents who had lost a child at Derriford and we decided to try to add to their fundraising efforts in memory of Lentil Bear. We set up a just giving page with a target of £5000. The unit at Derriford needs £200000 and we would love to raise all of that money but we wanted to make sure that our target was achievable.