In Loving memory of Remi Brown.
On the 10th of November 2022, Josh, Archie, and I all eagerly awaited in a cramped waiting room to meet our sweet baby, whom I have been growing for 20 weeks.
This was our first ultrasound due to many personal reasons, both through my own research and through working in the birthing world as Doula and seeing the unnecessary interventions that women go through the moment they announce their pregnancy.
A 17-month-old boy, who was bouncing off the walls, made our appointment with the sonographer seem like a comical family outing. Josh was in and out of the room with Archie, and I lay there on the bed while the scan took place. I felt in my heart that something was not right in this pregnancy, I had always felt that maybe my placenta was low-lying or in an odd positioning would affect the chances of vaginal birth.
The scan was taking a long time, to the point where you could feel the tension in the air. The sonographer walked out of the room, leaving me, Josh and Archie waiting. He soon appeared with the doctor on shift and stated – There are abnormalities with your baby’s bladder, and we recommend that you contact a specialist imminently and have an appointment
That was it. This is all we were told.
I lay on the bed and knew that very moment that our worlds were going to stop, but to the severity, I was none the wiser.
We left the clinic, every step, I was fighting to hold back the tears. Just make it to the car, I kept saying over and over in my head. The moment we got into the car, I sobbed, and I sobbed. The pain in my heart was more than I could ever imagine.
Poor Josh, the reality of our situation was still to hit him. He couldn’t understand why I was crying and kept telling me it was going to be ok…
Once I explained that this isn’t good and if there is something wrong with our baby’s bladder, it can be life-threatening. It sunk in, and we were on a mission to find answers.
I called my private midwife to explain to her the little amount I was told, the sadness and urgency I felt again from her hit my heart over and over again, just confirming to me what I already knew.
The very next day, we went down to the hospital to meet an OB on shift. As we sat in the waiting room, which was full of families and mothers with beautiful bumps just like mine, the sadness kept washing over me that things were not ok and I was on a very different path from the same people in this room as me.
We were in the appointment for a whole 5 minutes to be told that this doctor had never seen anything like this and we needed to wait until Townsville Neonatal Unit call us for an Appointment, which could take up to four weeks.
The pain again, of not knowing and being told to wait. Being told that there is nothing we can do and we simply have to wait for a specialist appointment.
Two whole weeks passed. Two whole weeks of me calling the hospital for an update, just for someone to talk to me and help me. Just to hear that someone cared and that we were not alone right now.
I googled my way down rabbit holes that could come up with every possible outcome and answer with the little information that we were given. Maybe I could have surgery, and they could help my baby in my womb. Surely they would offer this to me? I thought the worst case possible could be a NICU baby, and we would make that work, doing anything for a chance at life with our sweet baby.
Again my life stopped. For two whole weeks.
24th of November, the day finally came, and we drove down to Townsville from Cairns for our specialist appointment. Archie Josh and I waited again in another waiting room, this time with no other pregnant mothers and families around, the sombre clinical setting with daytime TV playing as we waited.
We were called into the ultrasound appointment. Archie again been a normal toddler, bouncing off the walls and a dad who had to take him for a walk so we could have peace while they scanned our baby. I remember having a normal conversation with the Sonographer, talking about me being a Doula and my love for all things birth. I found out the sex of our baby here, knowing that I wanted to have a deeper closeness to him or her. A boy, she said; how lucky, I thought a brother for Archie.
She left, and the Doctor came in. It was just me lying on the bed, none the wiser about our situation, almost oblivious to what was happening.
His opening line – ‘This is serious, you need to call your partner in so he can be here for the news’.
Josh & Archie came back, and we watched on the big screen as he showed us our baby’s extremely enlarged bladder. It was seven times its size and causing backwash to his kidneys. The damage was irreversible. I lay there again in total shock. What does he mean there is nothing he can do? Surely he can operate because that’s what online said or even told me that our baby will make it just a few weeks more so we could birth and give everything we have for a NICU baby. I still couldn’t comprehend what was happening. They told us our options, to wait and see what happens, knowing that he won’t make it much longer and if he did, he wouldn’t survive post-birth, or to terminate our pregnancy for medical reasons.
We cried and cried. Knowing that there was nothing more to be done right now and that our whole world was ending at that very moment.
So we left and drove back to Cairns. A 4 hour’s drive with no music and a screaming toddler that just wanted his mum, the same mum who learnt that the baby she created and loved more than anything, she wasn’t going to be able to watch him grow like she did Archie. I was numb and dying inside.
Four days passed of laying in bed inconsolable, unable to stop the tears and unable to move. Simply feeling in that moment that I would give anything for this pain to stop and for our lives to back to how they were before this news. I couldn’t be a mum right now, four days of laying in bed while josh carried the whole load so I could hide away and fall into my dark hole, where one day I’ll be able to climb my way out again.
Monday, 28th November, we made the decision and agree to a Termination for Medical Reasons.
Thursday, 1st December, we arrived at Townsville hospital. A journal note from that day.
Today is the day we walk into the hospital, the day where we say goodbye to you forever. The very decision we have been agonising over for weeks now, the very one that has made it impossible to even say the words and let alone to even admit it to ourselves.
They said the prognosis of your life is likely that the damage to your kidneys is so severe that if we tried to go full term, you wouldn’t make it much past birth, minutes, maybe hours if we were lucky. Even with all the scans and professional advice, it was impossible to make the decision. It was impossible even to feel remotely ok about it. How do you feel ok about ending the life of your baby that you so much wanted apart from your family, a little bundle of joy that was going to fit perfectly.
We waited for 5hr in the birthing ward, in our private room, in the hospital, where we could hear other newborns cry and their mothers tending to their every need.
5hrs of numbness and waiting for our procedure to stop your heart.
Feticide, they call it. A name so clinical and medical that it removes the fact of you being the beautiful boy that I love more than anything in the world.
We walked down the same corridors that we had walked the week before to the same ultrasound room with the same doctor and midwife.
Lying on the bed, I kept telling you over and over in my head that I love you so much, and I’m so sorry. I love you, my sweet boy.
Using the ultrasound machine, they guide a needle through my belly into your heart, placing a solution that stops your heart from beating. Josh at my head, holding me tight, telling me that everything was going to be ok, but none of it was, everything was far from ok, and I wanted nothing more than to be far away from this moment.
20 minutes later, It was over. Your heart stopped beating, and the needle was removed.
They were all sorry, and so was I. I was so sorry that I couldn’t protect you and make everything better. I was so sorry that this happened and that you never got a chance at life.
8 pm, the first round of vaginal inductions started. They warned me that this wasn’t anything like a normal birth or normal induction. The strength of these tablets would bring on Labour harder and faster. What type of pain medication did I want, they asked. Giving me all the options because I didn’t have to worry about the risks to my baby because he was already dead.
Apart of me wanted to feel numb and not feel a single thing. I didn’t want to physically feel what was happening because the pain was so great I couldn’t bear to be in my body.
9 am on the 2nd of December, the second round of vaginal induction tables was administered. This time I couldn’t rest, and the pain was becoming overbearing. This was nothing like contractions with Archie, the pain and discomfort were unbearable, and the pain in my heart made it so much harder to cope. I moved to the shower for pain relief, using the gas to help with contractions. Josh, my dear girlfriend and beautiful midwife, by my side.
By 10 am the pain was becoming increasingly unbearable, I wanted it all to be over, so I stopped feeling the way I was. Josh was there by my side the whole time, always touching and always making sure I knew he was there. The pain that I was carrying for us weighed heavy on his shoulders. He not only lost his son but he also had to witness the love of his life in pain that didn’t seem right, pain with no reward at the end, just only pain.
My birthing photographer arrived, I wanted to document Remi’s birth because I didn’t want to lose any memory of him and our birth together.
Sometime around 11 am, my waters broke, the relief was instant, but so was the feeling of knowing what was next. Pushing him down my birth canal, a lifeless body inside me not helping move through, and my body trying with all its strength to birth him.
Finally, I felt his head coming through, I cried to my midwife and josh, telling them both that I could feel him. I held his head in my hands, the first one to touch him, just like his brother.
The overwhelming sadness hit like a ton of bricks, crashing hard on josh and me knowing that we weren’t going to hear his cries and his body would be lifeless and limp.
It was all over at 11:53 am. Remi Brown was born, at 23 Weeks gestation, weighing 575gms & 26cm long.
I was broken, and a part of me died that very moment.
We spent 24 hours holding you and keeping you close in a cold crib. I couldn’t stop crying, I could no longer feel my heart beating in my chest, all I felt was a heaviness so strong that I never thought I would make it through.
3rd December at 9 am, we left you behind. A journal entry from that day –
As we dive out of Townsville, we leave your body behind. We leave it in the hands of strangers to take care of you and ensure you make it back safely to us. I left my heart behind with you, not feeling it beat anymore and unsure if I ever will again. When you died whom I have died too, I would give anything to be with you. The grief of losing you is so unbearable, making every part of my body hurt. People are here, but I honestly wish I was alone, alone to cry until there are no more tears, alone to feel close to you without anyone else here. I don’t know how to make it through this pain, I don’t know how to keep doing life without you.
Walking through the hospital with our bags & your placenta and no baby in our arms. Again I just had to make it to the car and get out of there, make it to the car where I could sob and keep crying.
I will always remember this moment so vividly, the pain of walking out of the maternity ward without our baby is something that I will never be able to put into words.
Remi Brown, I left you behind in the arms of someone whom I didn’t know, waiting for you to return to us weeks later in your beautiful urn.
This is our story, a story of loss and a story of pain so deep that I’m learning each day to carry with me. Grief never leaves you. You just become more resilient at carrying it around with you.
Joy slowly starts to creep back into our lives, and each day I feel more and more at peace in my body with our story and what has happened.
Remi is forever with me, every moment, in my heart and all around me in nature. Archie is a beautiful big brother who loves his baby and shows him this love daily through me and through kissing his urn.
I am slowly climbing my way out of my grief hole, the very one that kept me dark and able to hide away so I could feel the weight and heaviness of losing you, Remi. Months have passed, and joy fills my heart once more. I am finding myself again, and I am a new version of her, someone that can hold space for others more for others and someone who wants to make this life that I live greater than before. Because when you lose a child, you see life differently, you know that at any moment, things can change, so why not, in this very moment, make them the best they can be.
Forever and always with us – Remi Brown 2.12.22
If you have experienced loss or are in the process of termination for medical reasons, please know you are not alone, for I have walked the very path that you are on.
I am here for you.
Sands & Red Nose have combined services, they are beyond phenomenal in how they support grieving parents and extended family members. Please read out to them because you are never alone on this journey. www.sands.org.au