It was an unconventional start to a relationship which I would probably call more of a friendship now……. one of the first interactions I had with Emily was her putting a few stitches in my nether regions. That isn’t my usual approach to making friends. I will rewind a little here. Lenny was born following a straightforward labour where there were no concerns until the last few minutes, the room filled with people, he was born and immediately resuscitated. The medical team were incredible and acted so quickly (this has been confirmed by a national investigation) but Lenny could not be resuscitated and was pronounced dead just 27 minutes after he was born. All the staff were visibly shaken and no one in that room expected Lenny to die after I had walked into hospital only an hour before and everything was fine.
After we were told that Lenny had died we asked for some time alone. We were in complete shock. I had just given birth to our first child, it had been easy and straightforward, the atmosphere in the room had been calm and jovial and then everything turned on a knife edge. Emily walked into the room. Two completely broken new parents. A beautiful new born baby lying lifeless. And well I had just given birth so it was hardly the cleanest and tidiest of rooms. WTF! A week before Christmas, walking into that scene. Festive.
I often think about the morning handover, when all the Midwives on shift that day sit in a room and are handed over the patients from the night staff. Then the birth centre coordinator (Claire in our situation) would decide who was looking after who… I can just imagine the heartbreak everyone must have felt in that handover. Then deciding who takes on the, ‘challenge of a career’, or maybe Emily just got the short straw! Whatever the case. It takes Balls the size of Jupiter to look after us for the next 12 hours.
There was an aura around this woman, she was softly spoken and extremely gentle, its as if all the chaos of medical persons and equipment had been calmed by her presence. She said very few words, but what she did say was perfect, its was though she had prepared her whole life for this situation….. Lord knows how you can ever plan for such a situation. Every word that came out of Emily’s mouth was concise and to the point. There was not bullshit, but also everything she said was riddled with empathy, compassion and love. But, she didn’t even know us…. who is this woman!!!!! She managed to understand us without even knowing us.
Emily wore I mask but we instantly felt connected to her and could see every emotion she had in her eyes. She looked at Lenny with the adoration that all parents want to see when your baby has just arrived. She made Mim a brew and if you know Mim this is exactly want she needed. She carefully cleaned and tidied the room in a way that we didn’t really know she was there. She literally came into the room and picked up the pieces. I remember one part where Mim was in the bathroom and Emily was in the room with me and Lenny. I was looking over at him sobbing, I seemed to cry more when Mim was in the bathroom….. probs some manly crap about wanting to be strong??? But Emily came over to me and hugged me…..this wasn’t some half ass sympathy hug from someone you had never met before, it was like hugging a best friend or family member, I knew from then that this woman cared for us …….. like proper cared!!!
Emily bathed Lenny next to us, I couldn’t physically help and Roy couldn’t emotionally help. She bathed him where we could see and spoke to us as she was doing so. She handled our little boy with the loving gentleness that a mother would handle their own child. Her levels of kindness, compassion, empathy, calmness and bravery are rare and unique. I have a background in social work, I have worked with people in vulnerable situations, but nothing like this. One thing that stands out for me is her use of humour, or maybe it was mine? I remember she was bathing Lenny and she said, ‘he looks like his dad,’ then later she measured his head and I asked if he had a big forehead. Roy has a fivehead, its like a forehead but bigger. Knowing when and how much to laugh in that situation isn’t just a skill – its genius levels of emotional intelligence, she understood it was a coping mechanism.
Emily took us into a bereavement suite. In this room we spent more time with Lenny. In this room we also had to make some unthinkable decisions in a short space of time – do we have a post-mortem, what kind of funeral do we want?, when to say goodbye to Lenny, when to go home. We also had to break the news to family and friends (we were 40+2) everyone was expecting the ‘happy news.’
I particularly remember Emily asking if we wanted a hospital or private funeral, I remember looking at her thinking, ‘why is she talking about funerals?’ – sounds ridiculous to a civilian I am sure but I had just given birth, everything went wrong so quickly that even holding Lenny’s lifeless body I just couldn’t fathom that he was dead. I didn’t know the answer. She gently guided us and advised that most people in these situations have a private funeral, it was that kind of gentle guidance that was so helpful because nobody knows what to do in those situations.
In this room she looked lovingly at our son. She provided us with practical information about work, about what happens after we go home. She also looked after my physical health. Her calm confidence was the only thing which provided any reassurance that this – the most un-survivable of situations was survivable. When we had to do the worst thing we have ever had to do in our lives – leave the hospital without Lenny – she came out with us to the van. We gave Emily Lenny’s precious hat to be with him. She visited us at home a few days later. She never shied away from our reality and the obvious challenges but she listened carefully to the things which might bring us tiny bits of joy in our lives like being in nature
We arrived at Lenny’s funeral, having walked from home with Roy carrying him. I had a letter in my pocket that I planned to read to him. I don’t have the words to describe what that walk felt like – on the one hand it was one thing we could do for him and as we walked up the hill we saw a sea of woolly hats as we had requested people to wear. As we got closer, through my blurry tears I saw someone walking towards us. Emily. She said, ‘shall I walk in with you?’ – only then did I know I could go in and I could read my letter.
When Mim got pregnant again a few months later with Bhai, we knew that there was one person that needed to be involved in delivering our second child. We found out just before Lenny’s post mortem that Emily was working in the community midwife team in Chesterfield, we knew then that this could work out and Emily could look after Mim as her community midwife. Our previous experience of the community midwife were much to be desired, so much so I went to all the appointments, however I knew Mim would be so looked after by Emily. Mim came home from her 1st booking appointment with such reassurance that our dearest Emily would be with us all the way…. and she most definitely was!
The weekend Bhai died was shit to say the least. When we went into hospital because of the bleeding, the experience from some of the staff was not up to the standard of compassion we had come to expect. After the examination where we found out that Mim was miscarrying (shit word I know) we got sent to a more comfortable side room, which was in fact very similar to the room Lenny was delivered in, so this felt rather triggering. Mim and I were lay on the bed together and I said ‘have you told Emily’, Mim then messaged her and she arrived within an hour…. She wasn’t working!, She again brought her aura of calmness and professionalism to the room, things got sorted and began to settle. Words really cant explain the feeling that this amazing woman brings to a room.
When Bhai was born Mim, Emily and I were all in the room together, chatting about how we met, Lenny’s legacy and most importantly dogs. Emily made this absolutely heart-breaking situation, survivable. We felt cared for, supported and understood, she allowed us to feel emotions without the fear of judgement.
Bhai’s death was more traumatic and complicated in a medical sense than losing Lenny. Even after we found out, I couldn’t fathom that once again I would have to go through childbirth and leave the hospital without a baby. Last time I managed labour well but I thought I was bringing Lenny home, this time I knew I wasn’t bringing this baby home. I was scared. Emily asked me to text when I felt cramping and she would come in. As Roy says, the three of us talked about everything, Emily doesn’t try to avoid hard topics and she knew she couldn’t ‘distract’ us – we talked about everything, what was happening, the hard stuff, but also gentler topics like how gorgeous Lenny is and dogs, lots about dogs.
During labour, I asked Emily if I should meet the baby, I asked what an 18 week baby might look like. She explained that the baby would be fully formed but very small and with translucent skin. I had decided the night before I didn’t want to meet our baby, I was too scared, we had been through too much I thought maybe if we didn’t meet the baby, didn’t know the sex of the baby or any details we could leave and it wouldn’t harm us so much – I just couldn’t bare the thought of being a mother to two babies who have died. Deep down I knew though, I knew it doesn’t work like that – I couldn’t bullshit myself or pretend my child never existed. I asked Emily because I trust her, and she knows me well. She said she thought knowing me that I would want that. I still hadn’t fully decided. She knew I wasn’t really asking a question, I was communicating my fears.
When Bhai was born Emily took him away, she came back and described him to me, ‘like Lenny but tiny.’ She brought him in, lovingly wrapped up and sat with us. She always gets it right offering you the right amount of privacy but also support.
During the time we spent with Bhai, the student (also called Emily) who had helped deliver Lenny came to see us, the birth centre co-ordinator Claire and Emily all spent time with us – these are the three people aside from Roy and I who have met both of our children. We all talked about how Bhai looked like Lenny – small details that I thought only I noticed as their mum but they noticed them. They are three people who provided us with exemplary levels of care, not only in terms of competence but from a very human point of view – they really care, you can’t fake that level of compassion and empathy. They are three people who have trained in a profession where they hope to bring new life into the world, that is their job, that is the most usual scenario and yet they normalised the most abnormal of situations. They are three people who will always have a little piece of my heart because they met my boys.
Nothing and no one will ever replace our boys but we do so hope that one day we will bring a baby home from that hospital – I know that somehow in some way all three of them will meet any subsequent children if we are fortunate enough to have them.
Emily is an experienced, knowledgeable, competent and confident midwife but its more than that – its pure kindness. I am so glad she was brave enough to support two broken people through unimaginable shock, trauma and pain on the 18th December. I am forever grateful that she willingly put herself forward to do that for a second time. The pain and grief of losing our sons could not possibly be eased by anyone. But the trauma surrounding their deaths was certainly eased by Emily’s presence – it is amazing what good care and communication can do. Emily allowed us to create memories of our boys so that our memories and thoughts of those times are filled much more with love than they are with trauma or sadness, what a beautiful gift for bereaved parents. She saved our lives – twice.
Very sadly, it is not always possible to prevent babies dying, despite efforts to prevent this happening, it happens every day. What we can do is ensure that those facing this most heartbreaking of situations are cared for well. As a midwife, it must be easier, nicer and more comfortable to handle situations where babies are alive. The ones who choose to be there when the very worst that can happen to a person happens must be some of the most selfless people on the planet – it is much easier to look away from this level of pain as so many do.
This is one of the first blogs I wanted to write when we first set up this site but I couldn’t find the words, that is before the second half of our story and our second child. We need more words, this time not the shit words but words to describe Emily. Emily – I can’t do you justice but you really are one in a million and that husband of yours is the luckiest man alive! And if you thought reading this was gushy – just wait until we write about Julie!
There was a time just before Bhai died, we were on holiday and I got a little drunk, obvs. I said to Mim there is only one other person on this planet that matches up to you in levels of amazingness – Emily. Emily is such a special person in our family and always will be ….. I also wish she was not a part of our life, in these circumstances. But, the way that it is I’m infinitely grateful that she is.