Ned William Geoffrey Johnston – our gorgeous rainbow baby boy – safely entered the world on Monday 8 October 2012. Although this is his story, it’s impossible to tell without also talking about his older sister, Daisy, who was stillborn at 41 weeks in February 2011. Our children are intertwined – you can’t have one without the other. So here’s their story.
My husband, Nick, and I had been trying for a baby for over four years when I fell pregnant (naturally) with Daisy. My pregnancy was described as ‘text-book’. Everything was so low-risk, we opted for a home-birth so we could have a water-birth in a relaxing and serene environment. I went into labour on a Sunday evening. At 10.30pm, we had a midwife at our house, and I was already 3cm dilated. Everything was going so well – I was coping really well with the contractions and we were excited that we would soon be meeting our baby. But just a few hours later our world fell apart.
A different midwife was with us now. I was in the birthing pool and, although comfortable, the labour was definitely more intense. When the midwife checked me, she seemed surprised that I was fully dilated – brilliant we thought! ‘We’ll just check for baby’s heartbeat,’ she said. And that was when our lives changed forever. The midwife couldn’t find a heartbeat and it was obvious from her face that something was seriously wrong. An ambulance was called to take us to Poole Maternity Hospital where I gave birth to our beautiful baby girl. Her still, lifeless body was placed on me before she was rushed off by doctors who confirmed she had died. Even now, I still can’t believe this happened – it still doesn’t seem possible. The post-mortem revealed that although Daisy was healthy in every way, at 6lb, 6oz, she was small for her age – evidence of the placenta not functioning properly, which had not sustained her during the labour.
The initial hours, days, weeks and months were hard as we came to terms with our shattered hopes and dreams, and the terrible sadness that poor Daisy would never get her chance at life. And we cherished (still do) the precious time we got to spend with Daisy in the SPRING suite. It helped to cement Daisy’s place in the hearts of our family.
We always knew we wanted to Daisy to be a big sister, so when nothing had happened naturally by the end of 2011, we decided to try IVF. We found out our first attempt had been successful at the beginning of February 2012. Although our happiness of being pregnant again didn’t take away the pain of losing Daisy – it certainly made life less dark. It also gave us some optimism when we marked what would have been Daisy’s first birthday later that month.
Being pregnant again was very different. All naivety was gone, but I still wanted the baby growing inside me to experience the same happy vibes I hoped Daisy had felt for nine months, so we did some things the same – like not finding out the sex of the baby until the delivery and going to ante-natal yoga classes. At the same time, although we didn’t want to be completely neurotic and scared, we weren’t taking any chances – we had additional scans to check the placenta was functioning properly and to check the baby’s growth, especially towards the end of the pregnancy. I also regularly went along to ANDA to listen in to the baby’s heartbeat. We also said we wanted to have the baby by caesarean section (I couldn’t face the uncertainty of going through labour again – and we couldn’t put our family through it either), which we agreed with our consultant would be at 38.5 weeks.
We got fantastic support from my community midwife who had been with me through my pregnancy with Daisy. It was obvious she wanted us to have a happy, healthy baby this time – she couldn’t do enough for us. When my waters broke in the early hours of the morning I was due to go into hospital to give birth, I called my community midwife who, amazingly, got out of bed to meet us at the hospital so she could be with us throughout the delivery, as planned.
And so at 5.15am (a few hours earlier than originally planned), our rainbow baby was born by caesarean. I can’t describe how overwhelming the feelings of happiness and relief were. It was just so incredibly special. Looking at our baby boy, we couldn’t believe how much he looked like Daisy – so obviously brother and sister. I’m so pleased about that.
Ned is a really sweet natured boy and brings so much joy – not only to us, his parents, but everyone that has been with us on this emotional journey. We’ve always spoken openly about Daisy, and it’s important to us that Ned knows he has a big sister – that way she’ll never be forgotten. I talk to Ned about her often, like when I’m watering the tree we planted for her in our garden, or when we do things that Daisy never got a chance to do, like going to the beach or dancing to our favourite music.
Daisy will always be part of Ned’s story. Even his name includes a connection, as a friend pointed out – he asked if we’d picked the name, Ned, because of the initials: N (Nick), E (Emma), D (Daisy). We hadn’t, of course, but what a beautiful coincidence – further evidence of how our rainbow baby will always be connected to our first-born.