Eight years ago, Janine Rudin gave birth to a baby boy, Jamie. He lived for three days. His mum has loved and missed him every day since.
In 2006 I was pregnant, a third child to add to the wonderful chaos of our family home.
I was thrilled and fulfilled to be pregnant again, despite the sickness and the tiredness that comes with also looking after two small children. But something didn’t feel quite right: I was permanently nervous and anxious and kept expecting to miscarry. But my 12-week scan confirmed a healthy heartbeat, so I tried to relax.
We went to the 20-week anomaly scan, only to be asked to come back a few days later because the sonographer couldn’t find our baby’s stomach. At the next scan, still no stomach. The next day, still no stomach. And then my world started to fall apart.
The next day was our first visit to the Fetal Medicine Department and here began our emotional rollercoaster of scans, tests, consultants, hope and devastation, along with my journey into desperation, anxiety and panic.
“I don’t remember coming home or going to bed, I just remember walking on Tynemouth beach at sunrise, crying and feeling a pain I had never felt before.”
The consultant suspected oesophageal atresia, where the oesophagus doesn’t connect to the stomach, but this would need to be confirmed at birth.
The main concern became our baby’s heart. With each scan we lurched from one educated guess to another: was the heart developing properly? Was the left side too small? “No, it looks OK actually.”
And then finally, with a room full of consultants – which can never be good – “No, we were wrong; there is a severe problem with the heart and we think your baby will probably die.”
I truly can’t put into words how I felt: describing it as a combination of love, shock panic, anger, fear and absolute despair just doesn’t do it justice. As a parent I wanted to do all I could to protect my baby, but there was nothing I could do. I felt utterly helpless.
It was at this point that I refused to go back to the hospital for weekly scans – each visit destroyed me, each visit left me drained, struggling and traumatised. To carry my beloved baby, who squirmed and kicked with energy and life, and to know he may die and there was nothing I could do about it was the most desperate, panic-inducing state to be in. My last hospital visit was to see my consultant to discuss the birth; thankfully he was all for me being active and mobile, one less battle to have.
On a beautiful sunny morning in July 2007 my waters broke with an almighty gush and it was time to meet my baby. It was time to see just how poorly he was.
Birth was quick and easy and then he was whisked away with barely a cuddle for checks and his first surgery – to treat the oesophageal atresia. And then we had to deal with his heart. The next day Jamie was transferred to the Paediatric Heart Unit at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle where there was hope his heart could be fixed, that the defect wasn’t as serious as suspected.
I said a gorgeous goodbye to my boy before his big surgery and I swear he smiled. He died in theatre 12 hours later. He was three days old.
It was then I got to cuddle my son – something I hadn’t been able to do in intensive care – but I couldn’t bring myself to bathe him, I didn’t want to see his open chest or the many needles in his veins so we left him in the care of his brilliant nurse and I came home with my husband.
I don’t remember coming home or going to bed, I just remember walking on Tynemouth beach at sunrise, crying and feeling a pain I had never felt before.
Losing my son has been the most traumatic experience but I wouldn’t wish it away; I wouldn’t wish him away. I made him, I bonded with him, I birthed him, I loved him, I love him.
Life after Jamie has been tough; it has been a struggle. At times I have struggled to breathe, struggled to keep going, battled to stay sane. We helped our young children to grieve and to keep going, while letting ourselves grieve and trying to find a way forward: going back to work, coping with the pain and coping with some insensitivity (“you can have another baby”; “at least it wasn’t one of your older children”; “it won’t be long until you get over it” are just three gems I heard in the early days).
I didn’t know that grief could be felt so physically. At times my body has ached and there has been real pain in my heart. There have been – very briefly – times when I have needed it to end.
Eight years on and the pain can be as raw as the day he died and depression and anxiety have become regular companions of mine, but most days are happy, most days are good days. I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder but I have had excellent therapy. I have needed antidepressants but I now have effective coping skills for when anxiety and panic strike and I am also strong and secure and happy.
My son has left a legacy because his pregnancy, birth and death have taught me so much, and he has made me who I am. I have a greater empathy and he has had a huge impact on me as a person, as a parent and as a practitioner.
I miss my son every day. I think of him several times a day but I no longer miss him as a baby, I now miss the eight-year-old boy who should be causing havoc and winding up his sisters. I miss the bedtimes and all the cuddles I never had. I miss all the memories I didn’t get to make with him.
I live, I laugh, I love, I hope, I dream. I enjoy life, I am happy but I am also a little bit broken because he will always be missing from my life and he took a piece of me with him when he died.2963 Views
Antenatal teacher, postnatal group leader, birth & baby specialist, writer, mother, wife, friend, me. My time is spent with my family, working with parents and trying not to eat all the biscuits. @BirthandBabyCo