Life stories: Remembering Belle
This time a month ago, exactly, I joked to my mother-in-law that it was the first day I couldn't do my jeans up, so that must mean the baby was coming in the next few weeks. I was nearly 34 weeks along and was very round. She laughed and hoped we had everything ready in that case. That day was like every other day: I got the kids to daycare and school, did some housework, and then put my feet up. My tummy did feel different, Braxton Hicks contractions, I assumed.
When Bronson, my partner, got home from work, we argued a little - nothing out of the ordinary, we had been arguing for months. We had only just got back together after eight months apart, with me living in Carterton and him in Levin. Things had been hard on me. Pregnant, with three kids at home, I had gone a little crazy and was resentful that I had been left in that position. We were trying, but it looked as though we were still on a downward spiral.
That evening, while my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter napped on me, I lay on the couch while Bronson and my sons decorated the Christmas tree. I complained to Bronson that my tummy hurt and that I was over being pregnant. The tree looked great. The kids were so excited to be getting a new baby sister so close to Christmas.
Once the kids were in bed, Bronson and I played computer games, Facebooked and chatted. About 11pm I started to get intense pains in my lower back and stomach. I complained to Bronson that his cooking was shite and I must have a bug or something. I went to the toilet and that’s when I noticed the blood. I called to Bronson to get help - there was a lot of blood. He called his parents and an ambulance.
I walked around the bedroom, thinking I was in labour, and started packing a bag. I hadn't even got that far; I was a little mad at myself for not being prepared.
The ambulance arrived and the officer looked me over. My mother-in-law was a bit dismayed that they got her to look down below while I was leaning over the bed - I don't think she knew what she was looking for. The ambulance officer called Levin Maternity, which was full, so he decided to take me to Palmerston North Hospital. To do that he would need a second officer so we waited for one to arrive. When he did, we had to go and drop off his ambulance at the ambulance bay and then finally we were off.
I look back and am angry at myself for being a bit staunch. When the officer asked me what scale my pain was on from 1 to 10, I told him it was maybe a 4 or 5, when in reality it was an 8 or 9. I had some Entonox and felt a little woozy.
We got to the hospital and into maternity. There was a flurry of blue, midwives and a doctor or two. I was in a good mood. I figured the pregnancy gods had heard my wish, and though 34 weeks was a little early, I thought everything would be okay.
The doctor asked me when I had last felt movement. It was then I realised I hadn't felt her move for a while. Which was strange, she was such a wriggler. (I thought back and remembered it was during the 6pm news, my daughter had just climbed on me and we laughed when her baby sister kicked her through my tummy.) I felt something, and I said to the doctor "Oooh, there she is". I saw a look on her face I will never forget and she started scanning my tummy again. I remember saying "or maybe not…" secretly knowing what was coming next.
"I'm sorry, but I'm afraid your baby didn't make it. Sometime between 6pm and now, she died."
Bronson grabbed me, and I just stared at the doctor, then looked at Bronson, who was crying, and my world fell apart. I don’t remember much after that. It is all a blur of tears and people and pain. I had a placental abruption. My tummy was filled with blood, and the placenta had torn away from the uterus. They don't know what caused it.
I had an epidural and gave birth to a beautiful 4lb 11oz baby girl at 6.22am on December 8, 2012. She was perfect. I cried and begged her to open her eyes. Bronson was a mess; I tried to be strong for him, and he tried to be strong for me, but we both crumbled.
I remember thinking she had Jim Morrison's birthday and shared John Lennon's death day. I thought that was pretty cool.
We called her Belle. Belle Margaret Rose. She had black hair, and the tiniest toes. I held her for the longest time, we all did. My sister, who had arrived at the hospital to be with me, washed her and dressed her for me, as I was still attached to tubes and wires and I couldn't move my legs.
Sands arrived and bought with them a photographer, who took amazing photos of my precious angel.
We took Belle to Bronson's marae in Nuhaka, where we buried her with her great-grandfather. It was a beautiful day, yet one of the darkest days of my life. I couldn't hold her anymore. I would never see her again.
Through all of this, through her entire life, her short 34 weeks of existence, Belle has taught me love. Love and patience. I saw Bronson for who he really is - a kind and wonderful father and partner. I saw how strong I had become during our time apart and how, because of her, I held on, I made sure to not give up on Bronson, or on myself.
Belle brought our family back together again. She came to us to do that. I wish she could have stayed. We miss her every day.
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