Written by a proud mother, Angelica Fricot, (edited May 2018)
Birth can be described using many different adjectives. For some it is empowering, joyous and amazing and everything goes like nature intended. However, for others, birth can be fought with many challenges and difficulties on the day, where things don’t go exactly as planned leaving some parents traumatised by their birth experience for many years to come. And for those parents whose baby is stillborn, they don’t get to take their new born baby home, and are left to grieve for their loss, a loss that they nurtured, loved and protected for nine months before their birth.
A Calmbirth mother, Angelica Fricot, shares her very powerful stillbirth story about the tragic loss of her little baby girl, Bridget Makayla. She tells her story bravely to raise awareness about stillbirth, to shed light on her experience and to give hope to others.
For those who may feel uncomfortable engaging in a conversation about Stillbirth, awareness on the issue can actually help prevent Stillbirths from occurring. “I think preventing a stillbirth is much more important, than feeling uncomfortable talking about it”, Angelica says.
She powerfully shares her lessons learnt from her daughter’s stillbirth journey.
To trust your intuition.
To trust your body.
To be aware and get to know your baby’s movements and if they change.
To not be afraid to ask questions & voice your concerns.
To understand why certain birth choices are more appropriate than others.
To be well informed and supported by your caregivers in those birth choices.
And, to not take one’s pregnancy for granted.
When Angelica was faced with the brutal reality that her baby girl had tragically died in her womb, she honoured her beloved child by refocussing her energy into lovingly birthing her baby into the world. “It was the least I could do for Bridget and it became the greatest honour of my life”, says Angelica.
Angelica explained that parents of a Stillborn baby want to talk about their precious child, share the wisdom their baby has brought into their lives and parents yearn to keep the love for their baby alive.
For more information on stillbirth prevention visit stillaware.org
I have birthed two beautiful children.
My first, Yanek, a gorgeous boy. My second, Bridget, a beautiful girl.
Yanek, two and a half years ago and Bridget, 7 months ago.
I birthed Yanek at 41w, Bridget at 39w.
Both induced. No pain relief. Both birthed calmly. I say calmly because I remained focused and in control of my breath. This was crucial. And I wouldn’t use the word painful to describe my births, rather intense sensations.
My labour with Yanek was about 8hrs, and under an hour with Bridget.
Yanek 3605g, 49cm. Bridget 2685g, 51cm.
Unlike with Yanek, where I managed to silently breath through the entire labour. I groaned through Bridget’s… But it’s time to point out the tragic difference between birthing my two dear children. I was birthing Bridget stillborn.
I’m writing this piece keeping in mind, first time mums or mums who have already experienced a difficult birth and are seeking guidance for a Calmbirth. It would please me, if by reading this, it may help your perspective on how you might approach your birth. My story is an example of no matter what a birth experience may entail, whilst carrying your child, whilst birthing your child and the years of rearing your child, nothing is more important, nothing is more powerful than the innate love you share with your child. Nothing. Truly, no unexpected intervention or circumstance can hinder that bond. Yes, I’m 100% into natural birthing, skin to skin, breastfeeding and all those beautiful things, but if nature can’t provide, sometimes intervention can ultimately save our babies lives, and on the contrary it can jeopardise our babies lives too. This is why statistics should not be the primary source of information given to mothers, nor how midwifes and doctors make assessments when needing to make critical decisions about the birth of a baby. Individualised care is desperately needed to help reduce the numbers of preventable stillbirths and neonatal deaths
Two key words to describe Yanek’s birth; clinical and exhausting. My waters broke on a Monday. I was 40+3d, (right after my husband and I had intercourse; we were trying to promote labour). I think my hospital’s policy was to induce within 24hrs of waters breaking. A midwife on duty told me that other hospitals have a longer waiting period of 72hrs+. So, I felt there was no real need to hurry for an induction, and I was hoping for a spontaneous labour. The concept of being induced was very foreign, I didn’t feel comfortable with it. The medical staff appeared to be a bit anxious and impatient with me regarding my hesitancy to be induced. Yet, none of them took the time out to clearly explain why an induction is being recommended. I think the ‘risk of infection’ after waters breaking was mentioned, but I didn’t think it would happen to me, additionally, I sensed the doctors were driven by policy and fear. Something I was very unattracted to. I didn’t feel I was being treated as an individual, but rather categorised by statistics. I experienced the same thing during my pregnancy with Bridget.
At some point, the same midwife empowered me and told me I didn’t have to get induced, that it was my choice. And so, I signed a waiver form to state I was going against hospital protocol. I was asked to come in daily to monitor baby’s heart rate on the CTG. Yet, now to my surprise no doctor explained to me that if contractions don’t start spontaneously within 24-48hrs after waters breaking, for some women they may not start at all, or may be too weak and will need to be induced anyway.
Eventually I finally made the decision to be induced after the conversation I had with a doctor.
The whole birthing experience felt very clinical. I had to fill out paper work, I had anxious or impatient medical staff around me, different doctors in and out of my room. During labour I was restricted to monitoring machines. I had what felt like way too many internal examinations by a handful of doctors. At one point (probably during the transition stage) I had enough of it all. It all felt so clinical, I was exhausted and I wanted it to be over. For a while, I began to think ‘I want a cesarean’. But I quickly coached myself out of that. At times, I was highly irritated because it was far from the natural birthing picture I had in my mind.
Again, the same midwife stated that I can get in the bath as that was my wish, I was told I just need to sign a waiver form. And so, I did. It was against the hospital’s policy to get in the bath if waters have already broken; for risk of infection. If it wasn’t for this midwife, I would not have realised that I can speak up and re-think set protocols and procedure of the hospital to better suit my birthing wishes. Throughout the whole process, from waters breaking on Monday to birthing Yanek just past midnight on the Friday, I felt in my body, my baby was very safe. But now, after losing Bridget, I look back and wonder if I was being stubborn and too ridged about my birth plan or whether in fact my body knew, and was telling me my baby was safe. In this case, I’m leaning towards that I allowed my instincts to guide me. Either way, after experiencing the absolute worst outcome with Bridget, with any possible future births, I will have to contemplate very carefully between what my body is telling me, what research says, ask the doctor a lot of questions, take time out to reflect; and finally synthesis a decision.
The birth. Eventually, I dilated quickly (thanks to my husband’s acupuncture treatments) but Yanek wasn’t making much of a move down. In hindsight, even though I was induced, the labour felt stagnant. Which is interesting because with Yanek I felt like I could literally be pregnant with him forever. Going over 40w, I was big but I loved being pregnant and I had a strong sense my baby boy would happily stay in my womb forever if he could. Looking back, I don’t think my body would have contracted efficiently, if at all. After being in the bath, on the toilet, on my knees and trying various things, in the end I was ordered to lay flat on my back, legs up and clench onto the bed rails and push. Initially, I didn’t like the orders, but against all my expectations, this stereotypical method you see in most movies worked so well for my labour. My husband placed massive amounts of counter-pressure on my lower back, this provided incredible relief. Ow and infusing lavender oil was very soothing too.
Sometime after, I was told I had 1 hour to push baby out otherwise intervention will be needed (eg. Vacuum/forceps). On 2 separate occasions, the same doctor that ordered me to lay on the bed, offered to do an episiotomy. Something I said a hard no to. To be honest up until this point, I refrained from pushing hard as I really wanted Yanek to find his own way down, but once I heard ‘intervention’, with each contraction I pushed as hard as I possibly could. My baby needed my help. My husband said my face literally turned purple, and both my husband and midwife got shocked at how hard I was pushing. Having said that, I was in control, I remained silent with my breath. I remember the doctor coming in and looking quite impressed with the progress I was making. Once I knew I had to be serious about pushing, I was. Yanek was born healthy and my placenta came out very quickly. The first words that came out of my mouth when I saw my baby boy, ‘O my God!’. He was so beautiful and gentle. He rested on my chest for over an hour, exhausted and just stared into daddy’s eyes. He wasn’t interested in feeding, it took over a week for him to latch on without the help of a nipple shield (breastfeeding was difficult, but I loved it). The clinical aspect did aggravate me, but putting that aside, I embraced the birth experience.
Now to my precious baby girl, Bridget. Two key words to describe Bridget’s birth; abrupt and unity. Abrupt because it all happened so quickly. It was a Thursday afternoon when I was confronted with the savage news that Bridget was without heartbeat. Bridget had died.
Induction with gel started on the Friday, at midday. At 7pm I was offered a sleeping tablet as we didn’t anticipate that labour would start overnight, and I needed rest. I woke up at midnight, couldn’t resettle, so at 1am I asked for another sleeping tablet. Soon after, I started to feel period like cramping and was offered a panadeine forte. Not long after I felt a little pop in my abdomen, it was my ‘waters’, but hardly any fluid came out. Soon after, I started shaking, I was feeling cold and I started getting very strong cramps in my thighs, then in my lower abdomen. My husband was giving me acupuncture to help reduce the intensity of the pain and to help with dilation. I remember pacing up and down in the birthing room, it felt incredibly uncomfortable to stay still, I just managed to text my midwife to say Bridget is on her way, but Bridget arrived minutes after. I climbed up on to the bed and was on all fours. Unlike my first birth to Yanek, my body knew what it needed to do. I stripped off my clothes as I was getting heat waves, asked for the bath, but again Bridget came too quickly. I birthed her at exactly 39w in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Let’s take a step back to what happened. Bridget had died in utero at 38 weeks and 3 or 4 days. I received the horrifying news on a Thursday afternoon after a routine antenatal visit, we were 38+5d. Looking back, I know I hadn’t felt any movements since Tuesday evening; earlier that same Tuesday I had an ECV (External Cephalic Version) because Bridget was breech. I was advised to do the procedure. The circumstances surrounding Bridget’s Stillbirth is a rather long story, which I will not focus on here. But it’s important to explain that from Bridget’s autopsy, we now know that my placenta started to fail around the 35w mark and by the time she was born my placenta was severely insufficient. Meaning Bridget didn’t get the nutrients she needed to keep growing, to stay alive!
I had an ultrasound at 36+6d to check if Bridget was breech, she was. At this ultrasound her growth was looked at, but painstakingly the doctors did not identify that Bridget was at risk and that she needed further monitoring. I feel responsible for not questioning things more and for not following my gut instincts. From about 35w I felt that my bump wasn’t growing and Bridget was increasingly quieter in my womb. I did raise this with my midwife, but obviously things got overlooked by everyone, myself included. It’s been the hardest lesson to learn. Don’t take your pregnancy for granted, don’t assume the medical professionals know everything and most importantly listen to your intuition! Mother knows best. Every day is incredibly painful without Bridget.
Now, back to the birth. My focus was solely on birthing Bridget. I received some wonderful guidance from a doctor when I questioned, ‘how am I going to do this?’ The doctor reminded me that Bridget deserves an honourable birth. And that became my focus. The labour was so fast and intense that there was no space to get overwhelmed and emotional about the fact that I was about to meet my precious dead daughter. My focus was entirely on what my body was doing; giving birth. I tried to keep myself calm and focused on my breath. My birth to Bridget was sacred. She was beautiful. I kept telling her that, and still do.
As soon as Bridget was born I asked to hold her. As I held her limp warm body against my chest, I released a cry to the heavens. But was shortly redirected to look back down and see what beauty lay in my arms. She was pure. Innocent. Full of grace. Even though her heart was still, her presence was strongly felt. I kept repeating, like a mantra, ‘I’m so sorry’ and ‘you’re so beautiful’ followed after. I held Bridget for almost 10hrs straight, but had to leave her at the hospital to rest, as she was starting to deteriorate.
Yanek was 22 months old when he met his precious baby sister, about 5hrs after she was birthed. 7 months on, we talk about Bridget every day and will continue to do so. Bridget is an incredibly special person in our family. Our immediate family came to meet Bridget at the hospital. Something I initially didn’t think I would feel comfortable with, but after birthing and meeting her, I had to share her. We had a very supportive funeral director who offered to bring Bridget home to us anytime we wanted prior to the funeral. It felt so right to have her home, in my arms. She lives deeply in our hearts and both Yanek and Bridget give me the strength I need to live with this grave suffering.
I have 2 main messages regarding the various important decisions that often need to be made before a birth; follow your intuition and ensure your pregnancy and birth is individualised, because no 2 pregnancies, babies or births are the same. Be accepting of intervention if it’s needed, because there is a place for it. But more profusely go with your instincts, not so much with any set expectations. There’s a good chance had Bridget’s deteriorating health been identified, had the appropriate care plan been implemented (early delivery etc.), had I listened and explored my intuition more, Bridget could have been physically here with us today.
To give you some examples what I mean by listening to my intuition, one of those inner voices clearly said, ‘you’re going to have a caesarean’. I received this inner knowing around the 36w. And in the first trimester I had an inner voice say I must get an ultrasound in the final weeks to check my placenta. Also, I always had a sense that I would go early at 37weeks. All of this tells me, my baby and my body was trying to tell me what was needed. If anyone asks me my opinion, I say Bridget needed a caesarean at 37 weeks.
Because I love birthing naturally, the thought of a caesarean never sat well with me. I remember the couple of weeks leading to Bridget’s arrival, given that we were speculating that she may be breech, if I did go ahead with an ECV the generic statistics say there’s a 1 in 200 risk of emergency caesarean. This statistic did not sit well with me. I spoke to my midwife about it, her view was I was just focusing on the 1% and dismissed what I had previously shared with her, that I had an overwhelming thought (intuition) that’ll I’ll end up with a caesarean.
I wasn’t even aware that an emergency caesarean means baby’s wellbeing is at risk, it was simply the delivery method I was very uncomfortable with. Yet in hindsight if Bridget’s declining health had been picked up, it’s highly likely a caesarean would have been the safest option for Bridget. If I’m blessed enough to carry and deliver another baby, the thought of a caesarean won’t concern me so much. I have learnt that pregnancy and birthing is very complex, unique and sacred. I cannot expect a particular birth, I cannot foresee the unexpected, but I can be present and respond to my baby and birth calmly.
Whether being induced, an (emergency) caesarean, going early, epidural, whatever unexpected situation may arise, these things need not be your focus. Now with Bridget’s Stillbirth as my hindsight, having experienced the loss of my baby girl, I wish to say, in preparing yourself for birth, let the love for your baby be your focus and guide. Being present to that love will be the anchor you need to accept whatever your birth story is and more importantly once you meet your baby that love won’t be hindered by any false guilt or disappointment. Being a mum is a love story, all the things that happen in-between are just parts of your experience together.
Whilst delivering your child into this world, no matter the circumstances, let them feel your love and know your strength and allow your baby’s wisdom to guide you too. This will serve you both. Try not to allow any fear or a set ideal of what your birth experience needs to look like, take away the focus on what is truly most important, and that is the safe delivery of your child, and your wellbeing. Irrespective of how your baby is birthed and the circumstances surrounding it, the most important thing is that you have each other.
Lastly, though I don’t have Bridget physically here with me, we do share an eternal love story. This powerful motherly love I can humbly say, was magnified after meeting, loving and perpetually yearning for my baby girl, Bridget. With the grief I carry each living moment of my day, emerges a raw strength. A strength to keep loving her, to walk with her. To honour her.
Even if the life-giving substances which make me mother is broken, and keeps me deeply wounded, I can be strong. I know my yearning for mother ultimately will give me the direction I need to fight my way through this trauma.
As I continue to grieve for my daughter… and be a loving and present mother to my son, Yanek, and working towards creating space for new life… I wish you much peace and blessings as you and your baby embark on your journey of love and life.