Orla’s birth story

Given the reason for this blog, it makes sense to start with Orla’s birth story. It seems surreal to be sitting here writing this post, exactly a month after she was born, as this was in no way how I had anticipated her first month birthday to be. I had already written a lot of our story in the days following losing Orla for our justgiving fundraising page. These words were written in a fugue like state with tears streaming down my face onto the laptop. I have read our story over and over again and it continues to bring a mixed sense of disbelief, pride and overwhelming sadness.

There is so much more I could write about those days; how we found out; how we told our family and friends; my thoughts throughout those 48 hours. But I’m not sure I am quite strong enough to go there yet. For now, I will tweak what I feel able to share and hope that this is a helpful start to the next part of my journey….

On Sunday 1st May 2016, the unthinkable happened to us; on the day that our baby had reached full term, we were told that their little heart had stopped beating – no explanation, no apparent cause and nothing that could be done.  Absolutely nothing can prepare you for the shock and pain of this.  We had experienced a wonderful and smooth pregnancy with absolutely no indications of any problems and were just days away from meeting our much loved and wanted baby.  And in moments, this was cruelly taken away from us.

What followed was a flurry of words about next steps. Induction. Natural birth. Pain relief. In our shocked and distraught state, it was almost impossible to believe that we were now expected to go through labour and bring our child into the world knowing that they had already gone. Statements such as ‘its best for you’ and ‘if you want to have other children…’ were made, but in that moment how could we possibly think about that? What we wanted was the child that I had been carrying for the past nine months and for this not to be happening to us. How could they be giving us medical advice now when just days ago they had said that our scan had indicated that everything was okay and our baby was progressing well? We were told that ‘sadly these things happen’, that ‘it’s not your fault’ and to be prepared that a cause would likely not be found. A further punch in the gut when all you want to know is ‘why?’

We went home, packed a bag and came back to the labour ward where we could hear the sounds of other people welcoming their healthy babies into the world. We were put in a side room, which was to become our haven for the next two days, medication was administered and the waiting began. The following hours were a blur of tears, pain and ‘why us’? We were scared of how it would be meeting our baby for the first time knowing that she would arrive asleep – how would we feel?  How would we react?  We didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl – would this news still be as exciting to hear as we had hoped all these months? I have never before felt so out of control of my thoughts.

Being told that we had lost our baby and the passage to meeting her was undoubtedly the most difficult and painful experience of our lives. Our beautiful baby girl arrived asleep on Tuesday 3rd May at 7.30am, peacefully and quietly.  You know that you won’t hear the cries and screams that the other parents on the ward will get to hear, but there is a tiny flicker of hope that maybe, just maybe, they had got it wrong and she would be okay. As our daughter was handed to us to hold, the physical and emotional exhaustion of the previous 36 hours gave way to a sense of peace and serenity that we hadn’t quite anticipated. I will never forget the moment that we were told that we had a baby girl and how beautiful and special it was able to hold her hands, stroke her feet and explore who she looked like. She had her daddy’s little folded over ears and her mummy’s crooked little fingers, a head of black hair and a little button nose.  She was perfect in every way and looked so beautiful and peaceful that it was hard to believe that she wasn’t just sleeping.

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We spent the whole of that day with our daughter, holding her, smelling her, taking photos and savouring the limited time that we knew we would have with our special girl.  We named her Orla, which seemed so easy despite us having struggled to agree on any girl’s names for the last nine months!  We had her dressed in clothes and wrapped in a blanket that had been lovingly chosen for her just weeks before.  We took a cutting of her soft black hair and prints of her hands and feet and the staff at the hospital made us hospital wristbands with Orla’s name.  It was bittersweet being able to do many of the things that we would have done if Orla hadn’t been born asleep. The feelings of joy and love alongside unbearable pain were overwhelming.

Time seemed to occupy a different space and the day passed by so quickly. Making the decision about when to leave felt impossible – you know that you have to go at some point, but leaving felt like we were abandoning Orla. It felt too unbearable to leave the room with her there, so we had to ask for one of the midwives to take her away, which was only marginally more tolerable.

That was when the tears came hot and heavy and the gravity of there being a life ‘before’ and a life ‘after’ this immense trauma and loss became a sudden and intense reality.

Seeing your baby being carried away, packing your bag and leaving hospital without them in your arms must be one of the most painful things that a parent could ever experience.  You move quickly through the corridors, down the lift and onto the street, desperately trying not to make eye contact with anyone.  You seek comfort and safety in your home, but the emptiness and silence is devastating.  The heaviness in your heart is overbearing and you spend the following days in a haze of tears, thoughts and broken sleep, whilst trying to make sense of what has happened when there is no sense.

And this is where our journey ‘after’ began.

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  • Reply thelegacyofleo June 8, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    Orla is such a beautiful name, and what lovely cherished photos you have. I am so so sorry that you are on this journey too. Leo was born at 37 weeks in Jan 2016, and I’ve found blogging such a support since then and I really hope that writing your story helps you as much as it does us. Noone wants to join this club, and I wish that no one else had to – but I will say that this unfortunate club of baby loss parents is a life line and I hope you find support. Feel free to keep in touch should you want too. Jess xx

    • Reply dearorla June 20, 2016 at 3:47 pm

      I’m only just working out how to reply to messages on here but thank you xx

  • Reply lkosullivan June 22, 2016 at 11:22 pm

    You write so beautifully, Michelle. Thank you so much for sharing the story of your precious Orla. I have experienced loss through multiple miscarriages, which I know isn’t on the same scale as what you are going through but I can identify with lots of what say. I am so so sorry for your loss. Hope you are being kind to yourself and are being well looked after x

    • Reply dearorla June 27, 2016 at 10:45 pm

      Thank you lkosullivan – I am so sorry that you have also suffered. Although losses are different in the varying stages of pregnancy, they are all losses and can all have such a profound impact. I hope that you have had lots of support and care too.

  • Reply Taryn's mummy June 27, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    What a perfectly written blog. My beautiful baby girl, Taryn, was born sleeping on 16th April 2016. We held her funeral on 3rd May, the same day that your beautiful Orla was born. I completely relate to all that you say, you have reassured me that I’m reacting “normally” to these horrific, abnormal circumstances, so thank you. I am very sorry for your loss xxx

  • Reply dearorla June 27, 2016 at 10:49 pm

    Thank you Taryn’s mummy – I am so sorry that you too are treading the same path as have had to say goodbye to Taryn. It’s so strange to think of people going through such awful situations at the same time as you – I often find myself thinking ‘I wonder who is being told today that their baby will be born asleep’. It’s just so heartbreaking.
    I have found it so comforting to read other people’s words to feel reassured that what I am feeling is ‘normal’ – whatever that actually means in a completely abnormal situation. I hope that you are getting all the care and support you need.

  • Reply Lauren June 30, 2016 at 5:45 am

    I am so very sorry for your loss. My experience of miscarriage and then a kind of infertility which makes genetic children impossible, was heart-shattering.
    I don’t think the pain ever goes away, but you learn to live with it. Somehow.
    Orla is exquisite and so is your writing. Keep on writing. It was sometimes the only damn thing that kept me going from moment to moment. Write, share, connect. Through my blog I have made genuine friends, some of whom lost a baby at term. I’d be happy to connect you with these fine women if you would like me to. Much love and many hugs.

  • Reply Danni Watson July 4, 2016 at 8:40 pm

    Im so sorry you are now in this club, oral is very precious xxxxxx
    I’m reading your blogs identifying exactly how you feel. We welcomed Bethan into the world March 5th 2015, she was born sleeping at 37+3 weeks.
    What you describe emotionally and physically is all that we have been through and in a flash I can be right back to the very moment our lives changedforever when they told us the devastating news.
    It’s life changing, it really is.
    I’ve changed as a person hugely, so has my husband.
    It’s an incredibly tough journey that only others experiencing the same thing will understand. We have found friendships have changed, family have changed, and our whole outlook on life has changed. It’s incredibly difficult adapting to a “new normal”. I reflect back through old photos of myself before Bethan and notice how care free and pure I was. Now, I have to find strength everyday to live with this pain that on occasion eases but mostly plateaus. I speak of Bethan most days, and think about her everyday. She is very special. We too have raised money and continue to raise money for Petals. Petals is a charity from our hospital that has provided councilling for us. Fundraising Creates some positivity to keep Bethan’s memory alive and does provide some comfort.
    Im So terribly sorry for you and your family. I have connected with every word you have said in your blogs and my heart goes out to you and your husband.
    You are not alone.
    I found comfort in these words, perhaps you will too
    A tiny flower,
    Lent not given,
    To bud on earth
    And bloom in heaven
    Love and strength
    Danni x x x x

  • Reply Lucy July 7, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    It was 3 weeks ago today that we were told our son Reuben had died at 36+3 weeks. I gave birth to him on Father’s Day. I completely identify with everything you have said in your blog which at least makes me realise everything I am feeling is normal. I hope there are happier times ahead for all those families who have experienced loss X

  • Reply TheMumblings February 8, 2017 at 6:13 pm

    Your bravery takes my breath away. And the other ladies on this thread that have experienced such heartbreaking loss. I cannot imagine it. I cannot fathom it. Also, I am not religious but I read this poem at a charity ball that I hosted – in memory of my sister Ellen, who died of cotdeath when she was 3 weeks old. Despite not being religious I have always found the words comforting :
    “I’ll lend you for a little while
    A child of mine” God said –
    For you to love the while he lives
    and mourn for when he’s dead.
    It may be six or seven years
    or forty two or three
    but will you, till I call him back,
    take care of him for me?
    He’ll bring his charms to gladden you
    and, should his stay be brief,
    you’ll have his nicest memories
    as solace for his grief.
    I cannot promise he will stay,
    since all from earth return
    but, there are lessons taught below,
    I want this child to learn.
    I’ve looked the whole world over,
    in my search for teachers true,
    and from the things that crowd life’s lane
    I have chosen you.
    Now will you give him all your love,
    nor think the labour vain,
    nor hate me when I come to take
    this lent child back again?
    I fancied that I heard them say,
    “Dear Lord Thy Will Be Done”
    for all the joys thy child will bring
    the risk of grief we’ll run.
    We’ll shelter him with tenderness,
    we’ll love him while we may,
    and for the happiness we’ve known
    forever grateful stay.
    But, should thy Angels call for him
    much sooner than we planned,
    we’ll brave the grief that comes
    and try to understand.

  • Reply Michaela March 14, 2018 at 10:47 am

    I just listened to you podcast with Gi Fletcher and was so moved I just had to start reading your blogs. Orla is such a lovely name for such a beautiful baby xx

  • Reply Rosanne March 15, 2018 at 12:11 am

    It is slightly surreal, finding this blog – which I have only just discovered.
    Orla was the name we had picked out for our daughter, we had planned it for months. She was due on 24th Feb, just gone. Then on 21st December 2017, things went very drastically and suddenly wrong with my pregnancy, and we were told she had to be delivered by C-Section on 22nd Dec, in order to give her any chance at all. At that point, she claimed a new name for herself – she became Holly Rose, for all sorts of reasons.
    She only lived for around 15 minutes, and I have been blogging about her ever since. At the moment I am still using my photography blog which I had set up (and later abandoned) previously. I may eventually move her story and future blog posts to a new location, but you can find her here: http://ro-ro-to-fro.blogspot.co.uk/
    It is comforting to read your story, though I wish things were different for both (for all) of us.

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