‘Can’t you just cut him out?’ It hit me. I have to give birth to my dead son. He was so beautiful.’: Mom ‘didn’t get a conclusive reason’ for child’s death, ‘the autopsy showed a perfectly healthy, fully formed baby boy’

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Disclaimer: This story includes images of child loss that may be triggering to some.

“We first found out we were pregnant with Ari back on December 29th 2018, four days after Lokie (my now fiancé) and I had gotten engaged! I had no signs that I could be pregnant except for extremely sore boobs, which I kept complaining about. Lokie finally joked ‘we could be pregnant.’ I initially laughed it off until the realization hit me…’OMG, we could be pregnant!’ Five positive pregnancy tests later, we were both nervous but ultimately excited to become parents for the first time.

Courtesy of Vanessa Brooks

My pregnancy went smoothly, I still remember our dating scan in early January, as we had no idea how far along we were, and on that day we heard our beautiful baby’s heart beating for the first time. It was pure joy for both of us. We were five weeks and six days pregnant and we couldn’t wait to share the life changing news with our immediate family.

Courtesy of Vanessa Brooks

From the beginning Lokie knew we were having a boy. I’m not sure if that was just him hoping, you know how all men want a son. I, on the other hand, was convinced we were having a girl. In those early weeks the only signs of morning sickness I had was this nauseous feeling in my stomach first thing in the morning until I ate, which usually had to be some form of salty, dry biscuit. Jatz became my best friend in that first trimester.

At the twelve week mark we opted to have the Harmony test as an extra precaution and way to make sure our baby was healthy. All of the tests as well as our twelve week scan came back that our baby BOY (yes Lokie was right) was perfect. Growing well, normal heart functioning, no visible genetic abnormalities. Our beautiful boy was thriving. And I was loving being pregnant.

Courtesy of Vanessa Brooks

I was exercising throughout my whole pregnancy. I was mostly walking up until about 22 weeks when my lower back started hurting, so I swapped to swimming and aqua aerobics at our local pool and I loved every minute of it. It felt amazing to be able to continue to be active for myself and our baby boy. At our 20 week scan, the results did come back saying that our baby boy’s head and legs were both in the ninetieth percentile for size but his tummy was much smaller. Our obstetrician wasn’t too worried, but like she always said, ‘I would rather send you for 10 extra scans just to make sure, rather than miss something.’ So off we went for another scan at 25 weeks which showed that our baby’s tummy had continued growing in that time and had caught up a little to the head and limbs.

Courtesy of Vanessa Brooks

By the mid 20-weeks I had actually started showing, finally!! I think because I’m tall, I didn’t show until a bit later which meant I constantly got comments such as ‘are you even pregnant?!’ Once I did start showing I absolutely loved it. By the time we got to 35 weeks, my Obstetrician sent us off for one more scan just to make sure our baby boy’s growth was all good. And once again, everything looked perfect. In fact, our baby’s tummy size had caught up to the rest of the body, placing him in the eightieth percentile for size. I still felt amazing, still swimming or doing an aqua class most days.

Lokie and I took great pleasure in preparing our spare room for our baby boy, setting it up with his cot, change table, clothes and bits and pieces to make the room perfect for our boy. I was absolutely loving feeling our baby boy moving each day. I usually felt him most in the morning and evening when I was lying in bed, still. Lokie and I both loved to watch my tummy moving and bumps here and there poking out. It was absolutely beautiful to see and feel.

Courtesy of Vanessa Brooks

My last scheduled appointment at 38 weeks and one day showed that baby’s size was good and his heartbeat was strong on the dopplers. I still remember my obstetrician giving me the, ‘if you feel anything at all different, don’t delay, come in’ talk. I remember her telling me a story of a momma who went in every day for five days saying something didn’t feel right and on the fifth day, they did an emergency c-section to get baby out which saved her baby’s life. I left that appointment with that on my mind, that a mother’s intuition is always right. But I didn’t think it would ever be something I would actually have to deal with. Nothing like that would ever actually happen to me. Right? Wrong.

Three days after my 38 week appointment, our baby boy was moving as normal, I felt the same. I went to bed on that Saturday night feeling our baby boy kicking and moving as normal. I remember having a very restless sleep that night, waking up a few times where I don’t normally have that trouble. In the morning I didn’t feel our baby as normal. But it didn’t really occur to me until about mid-morning. I remember saying to Lokie, ‘I haven’t felt our baby boy moving today yet, I’m going to have a lay down’. After about 10 minutes laying down and still feeling nothing, I got up and said to Lokie, ‘I’m going to ring the hospital, I think we just need to go and get checked.’ Although I completely thought everything was ok, but we should just check to be on the ‘safe side.’

Up to the hospital we went, we were 38 weeks and 6 days along now. We went up together, it was a Sunday afternoon. I remember saying to the midwife who was on, ‘look, I’m sure it’s all good, but we just think we should check.’ So into the labour room we went and she tried to find the baby’s heartbeat with the dopplers, Lokie was standing next to me, and I think I just knew something was wrong. She couldn’t find our baby’s heartbeat. She changed the position of the doppler a couple of times before putting it down and saying, ‘wait here, I’ll be back in a minute.’ She returned and said, ‘I’ve called your obstetrician in.’ My eyes went teary and my heart sunk. She then said, ‘it’s ok, baby might have just moved.’ She left the room and I looked at Lokie and started to cry. He said, ‘it’s ok, it’s going to be ok.’ I just laid there for what felt like forever staring up at the sealing until our obstetrician arrived.

She came straight in with a transportable ultrasound machine and had a look. It must have only been 30 seconds before she took the ultrasound off my tummy, turned it off and said, ‘I’m so sorry, there’s no heartbeat.’ I remember after a short delay just breaking down into tears, literally just in shock hugging Lokie and shouting between my heavy, deep sobs, ‘what do we do now’ as if there was some way we could fix this. As if there was something we could do to save our baby boy.

Our obstetrician and the midwife stayed with us for I don’t know how long. I was literally distraught and inconsolable. After I don’t know how long, Lokie rang my mom. I will never forget watching and listening to him phoning my mom and my brothers and a bit later, his parents, to tell them that we had lost our baby. A phone call that should have been the happy news that we had given birth to our beautiful, living baby boy.

From there it was all a bit of a blur. We had another ultrasound to triple check. Soon my family were at the hospital hugging and sitting with us. We were all in such shock. It wasn’t until a bit later that my obstetrician came in and explained that we would be flown to Adelaide, our capital city, to give birth because our regional hospital couldn’t cope with the level of care that we needed. That’s when it hit me, OMG, I’m going to have to give birth to my dead son?! ‘Can’t you just cut him out?,’ I said. To which the answer was no, for my personal health and for future pregnancies it was best if I gave birth naturally. That same night, Lokie and I were both flown by air ambulance to Adelaide. From the moment we stepped foot in that hospital, we were given the best care. The midwives were nothing short of amazing in what was a terribly difficult time to say the least.

We arrived in Adelaide at 3 a.m. on Monday 19th August. I was induced at 9 a.m. At 3 p.m. I was given another lot of gells to bring on labour. At 3 a.m. on Tuesday 20th August my water broke naturally. By this time Lokie and I had changed our words from, ‘we HAVE to give birth to our baby boy’ to ‘we GET to give birth to our baby boy.’ This small change in our words was a massive change in how we got through the next hours and how we still get through three and a half months on. My mom and Lokie were both in the room when I gave birth to our beautiful baby boy, Ari Lachlan Jennings, at 5:18 p.m. on Tuesday 20th August 2019. He was literally the most beautiful baby boy I had ever seen. He was long, chubby and perfect. He had big hands and feet, chubby little cheeks, a perfect button nose, bright red lips and a little dimple chin. I remember Lokie bursting into tears the next night saying, ‘I’m absolutely heartbroken.’ We both were, we both are.

Courtesy of Vanessa Brooks
Courtesy of Vanessa Brooks
Courtesy of Vanessa Brooks

Both of our immediate families were there with us to meet our precious baby boy, to hold him and love him with us. It was the most devastating, exhausting and amazing few days. I am now 100% happy and proud that I got to give birth to my beautiful baby boy. We spent the next three days with him, cuddling him, kissing him, holding him and staring at him. Due to the amazing cool cots at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, South Australia, our beautiful Ari didn’t leave our sides until we left the hospital. Leaving our precious boy at the hospital was one of the hardest things I’ve ever and will ever have to do. Holding Ari for those last hours, minutes and seconds I remember the last words I said to our beautiful boy before we left were, ‘You are absolutely perfect our darling boy. We are so lucky to be your mommy and daddy. We love you so much.’ Instead of leaving with our beautiful newborn baby boy, we left with only photos, mementos and memories that we will treasure for a lifetime.

Courtesy of Vanessa Brooks

Initially I didn’t know how life could go on since that Sunday afternoon when we found out our Ari boy had died. I didn’t understand how life could continue. But it does. Initially, and some days still, I feel like I am stopped still in a fast-paced world. Some days still I have to remind myself that I was even pregnant because it feels like nothing has changed, even though so much has changed. I should be home right now with my beautiful and demanding baby boy but instead I’m sitting in silence writing about our precious boy while his ashes are next to me in the teddy bear that we got to keep him in. We didn’t get a conclusive reason for Ari’s death, the autopsy showed a perfectly healthy and fully formed baby boy. We are one of the terribly sad statistics of perfectly healthy babyies that die before they get to take their first breath.

Courtesy of Vanessa Brooks

Most people look at me with a look of complete sadness which I get. I get that it’s hard, it’s a devastating tragedy. But please, if you take away one thing from my experience, please, please speak to parents who have experienced stillbirth. For me, talking about Ari and sharing how precious he is, is hard, but it’s not as hard as not talking about my baby boy, it’s not as hard as the silence that we are left with. Talk to me about Ari, tell me how terrible it is and how sorry you are. Tell me how beautiful he is. Say my baby’s name, just as you would if he were living. Understand that for mothers like me, yes, I am feeling absolute devastation, confusion, anger and shock but I am also experiencing feelings of pride, joy and overwhelming love for my beautiful Ari boy.”

Courtesy of Vanessa Brooks
Courtesy of Vanessa Brooks

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Vanessa Brooks of Port Lincoln, South Australia, Australia. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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