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TRIGGER WARNING: Some images and information may cause distress to readers
On my husband's 30th birthday we conceived our fourth child.
Two weeks later, two pink lines greeted me. It was confirmed – I was pregnant.
I knew. I always know!
Having three beautiful boys already (all under five), I secretly prayed this would be a girl. I would have been over-the-moon to have a baby girl to add to my tribe of boys.
Months passed, and we dragged all our boys along with us to the 20 week morphology scan. My prayers were answered as a perfect little girl flickered on the ultrasound screen. She would be the completion of our beautiful family. But a long, 20 week wait was still ahead of us, which we filled with much pink shopping!
My GP tried several times to talk me into birthing in a hospital two hours drive away, which was more equipped to handle births around Christmas time – when I was due. But I'd birthed our three boys in country hospitals with beautiful midwives who knew their patients. And I didn't want to be away from home at that time of year. Not even the promise of an earlier induction could sway me.
The birth was booked-in for our beautiful, rural maternity ward, and so the wait began.
My third son was born at 42 weeks gestation so I wasn't too hopeful for an early delivery. Sure enough Christmas and New Year came and went. In 40 degree heat I was impatient and still pregnant.
Finally came the eve of my due date, and I couldn't sleep. No one sleeps when they're heavily pregnant, but I wouldn't have drifted-off even if I'd wanted too because the child in my belly was OVERLY active!
I couldn't understand how a baby could move so much without busting out of the amniotic sac and right into the world then and there! She was so active that I took videos of my tummy moving on the couch.
The next morning was finally my due date. I met my doctor at our quaint, local hospital and she checked me over. "You're still high and hard! You're not going into labour today, love". She checked my baby's heart-rate on the Doppler – it was perfect.
I told her about the craziness of the night before and was dismissed with "Yes… They do that!"
With that I waddled out of the hospital and went home to sulk for a few hours. It was hot. Really hot! I had waited a lifetime for this baby girl and I wanted her out! TODAY!
Rebecca, 40 weeks pregnant with her daughter
After a few hours of sulking I noticed I hadn't felt her move for a little while. I decided she was getting ready for labour, so I went for a small, but rigorous walk for an hour.
When I got home… Still nothing.
I laid on an exercise ball with my massive tummy against it… Still nothing.
I made my children's dinner… Still nothing.
I had a shower and got into bed… Still nothing.
And that's when I knew. The deal was done. I didn't panic. I just knew.
I couldn't form the words in my mouth to tell my husband. In those hours I knew the worst secret of a mother's life, I knew once I shared the secret my world was going to implode. It did.
The next morning we got up and took the boys to swimming training and dropped them at daycare.
Walking out of the gate at daycare with my husband the words fell out of my mouth, "We need to go to the hospital." No explanation was needed. It was only three blocks away, but we drove. I knew we'd be there for a while.
As I walked into the hospital I was greeted by my favourite midwife. She looked at me and asked me one question, "What's your gut say?"
"It's no good," I quietly replied.
She laid me on the bed in a consult room. She didn't bother with any patronising, useless words of empty promises. She calmly got out the Doppler to check for a heart beat.
There wasn't one.
She started to cry and called another midwife. They rang my doctor straight away who was there in an instant. My doctor tried again for a heart beat.
She called another doctor who used a small, bed-side scanner.
That's when we clearly saw our baby's still heart. There was no movement in the chambers.
The deal was done. She was gone.
I vaguely remember hitting that doctor. He just hugged me and cried.
I made him promise to order me a c-section at the hospital I was being sent to. Painfully, it was the same hospital I'd denied birthing at with a promised induction scheduled two weeks prior.
I numbly walked back to the car. The world was going on around me. People were talking, driving, smiling, eating, breathing… but I was paused. In horror.
I called my mother who screamed, but I didn't know why? In hindsight I think reality hit her a lot faster than it did for me.
I didn't end up accepting the offer of the c-section delivery. I wanted to be back on my feet to help my boys as soon as she was born. So they drugged me up and gave me an epidural…
Rosie May Schwarze was born in silence on the 9th January 2013. She was utterly perfect. An angel in every sense of the word.
As soon as she was born her demise was obvious. Amniotic Band Syndrome. The inside layer of her amniotic sac was wrapped around her umbilical cord strangulating her blood flow.
In my heart I believe the sac broke when she was super active on the night before her due date. She died on her due date.
Rosie stayed with us for 25 hours. My husband made arrangements for her body to be cremated, and he contacted our families to come together for a celebration of spirit in the following days.
Having Rosie for the split second in time in my arms was a lot like having any other baby in hospital. We bathed her, we dressed and wrapped her.
Rebecca's husband gently wraps his angel daughter
We took lots of pictures and didn't take our eyes off her. I was as proud of her as I was of all of my children. I wanted to show her off, but I couldn't take her out into the real world, she only existed in that little room.
"Heartfelt" came and took photos of Rosie, and offered some kind words to us. A few family members came, but it was brutal. Her body degraded very quickly and it was soon time to say goodbye. Forever.
I don't think I had any concept of forever in that moment. I can certainly say it feels like it's been an eternity since, but forever? How can a mother fathom forever in terms of never seeing her child again?
A man took Rosie's tiny body, still wrapped in both her daddy's and my own T-shirts. He took her out of the room and she was escorted by a security guard to the mortuary for the official paperwork.
My husband took my hand and walked me out of that hospital. Neither of us looked back because we knew she wasn't there. She lived in our hearts now.
In that moment I prayed that no other parent would ever need endure the hell we were facing in life without our daughter.
The months after losing Rosie passed in a time warp of pain and disassociation of reality. We had to learn a new reality.
With time, as promised, we did smile again. We laughed. We lived. We answered many questions from little minds trying to process where their little sister was. We did the best we could with our broken hearts.
After a few months of ups and downs, closed nursery doors, boxed-up pink newborn clothes and many, many, many tears, we threw ourselves once again into pregnancy. Were we ready? Probably not.
I grieved heavily for Rosie, until the day we learned that she'd sent us a baby sister. I knew it was her way of saying "it's time to get on with it mum."
And so I did.
With much anxiety, over-planning of birth factors and sleepless nights, our beautiful Abby Louise was born on the 6th of May 2014. It was long and arduous labour, but that's another story for another day.
Abby has healed our heart in a way that only Abby could. I know for a fact that her beautiful, big sister sent her to us. And I'm OK with what our life has handed us. We live with greatfullness in our hearts every, single day for what we had, what we've been through and what we have now.
Losing Rosie was as close to hell as I care to get, but coming out the other side is pretty bloody awesome.
She was stillborn, but she was still born, and we're still standing.