Losing a child is every parent’s worst fear; the heartbreak it must cause is unimaginable to those of us who still have our precious bundles.
It has been said that coping with the death and loss of a child requires some of the hardest fighting one will ever have to do.
Kathryn Smithfield, a Melbourne-based mom, went through this unimaginable event when her daughter, Rosie, came into the world.
She’s now shared her story – though it was far from a given thing that she would open up about this heartbreaking event.
”I was so scared to share my story originally. Since doing so I have been inundated with people sharing their own stories and thanking me. It’s been a really special thing for me to do also and helped me with grieving,” Kathryn exclusively told Newsner.com.
She hopes that her and Rosie’s story can help parents mourning the loss of a child.
”Rosie’s story and sadly mine is far from uncommon and the more we are able to speak up the less alone we feel”, Kathryn says.
Here are her own words:
Disclaimer: This story includes graphic images of child loss and may be triggering to some.
“We were over the moon when we discovered we were pregnant while down at our best friend’s beach house. Her big sister Sunny, wouldn’t stop talking about ‘the baby’ since that very day… how long she had waited for a sibling. We chose her name halfway up the Hume Highway, on route to a beautiful holiday spent all together. Rosie Moon just felt so right.
We then remember receiving a phone call on Noni’s 70th birthday weekend away, two weeks later. Something was not right; we were told she was missing DNA. Over the next ten weeks, we navigated our way through too many tests, ultrasounds, appointments, second opinions, third opinions, and fourth opinions week after week. At each and every milestone appointment, we thought and hoped just around the corner, we would be told everything was OK and surely it was all just a mistake.
We remember so often just crying uncontrollably and realizing everything was not OK. I remember feeling her kick and wriggle around in my belly. In the bath. On the couch. In our garden. In our bed. How strong she felt. Sunny talked non-stop about all the things she would do with her baby sister and to help me mother her once Rosie was born. She planned on being (and still is) the best big sister anyone could have wished for.
We remember finally reaching the end of that ten weeks of uncertainty, at which stage I was twenty weeks gestation, knowing there were no more avenues to explore in the hopes of a different outcome. Our little girl was missing a significant chunk of DNA, which was considered incredibly rare, and simply put a ‘glitch’ in those first few moments of conception. We had to make the hardest decision we will probably ever have to make in our lives. Something I’m not sure I’ll ever really feel ok about. There was no easy answer, just an excruciatingly painful one that would remain with us forever. We made this decision in the hopes our baby girl would never have to endure any pain or suffering.
On Monday, December 9, 2019, we arrived at the hospital at 8 a.m. Once our admission was complete, we were taken up to the birth suite. We walked all the way down the long corridor to the room at the very end (away from the noises of crying babies on the ward). Our doctor talked us through everything that would happen, and then she began our induction. We filled the first few hours just talking and resting. It was lovely having our beautiful student midwife, Emily, (who had followed my entire pregnancy and been there every step of the way) with us. Our equally special birth photographer, Lacey, arrived a little later to be with us in this time.
The clock hand ticked by. By the time 3 p.m. rolled around, I had period-like cramping. Once 6 p.m. came, I was having proper contractions and bloody shows. At this point, I began using the TENs machine whilst laboring on the ball. Ned and Emily encouraged me to breathe my way through each contraction and held my arms, which I found incredibly comforting.
It felt like I wasn’t getting a break between contractions. Some contractions felt like they were lasting for over 10 minutes, and after moments of being able to look up, I was on to the next one. The intensity grew and grew. My hospital midwife stayed with me as well and connected the gas to try and encourage me to breathe my way through the contractions, which just never seemed to ease. I remember feeling panicked and frightened. I was crying and was questioning myself, feeling like I couldn’t do it.
Eventually, at around 7:30 p.m. when it all felt like too much, I noticed I was starting to have short breaks in between my powerful contractions. I started feeling intense pressure in my sacrum, and I knew she was coming soon. At this point, I think I completely lost the plot in my head. I desperately wanted the pain and labor to end, however, I wasn’t ready for her to come out. I just wasn’t ready to let her go, for I knew it meant she would be leaving me.
I remember feeling the need to push. I remember half pushing and half trying to hold her back. I was crying and just felt distraught. I remember my midwife telling me, ‘You have to let her go.’ At one point through a strong surge, I felt her. She was right there. I knew she was about to come out. I was sobbing. I knew I just had to push her out. Everyone was telling me I could do it.
Our perfect Rosie Moon entered our world and took her first breath at 8:14 p.m. I immediately saw her tiny arms and legs moving around outstretched, as if she was searching for me. It was like everything paused. I couldn’t see or hear anything but Rosie. I was desperate to hold her. I just stared at her, tears streaming down my face, reaching for her as she wriggled and reached for me. However, her umbilical cord was too short. I then tore my eyes from her to my midwife, at which point I felt like I re-entered the room. Ned was sobbing too, and my midwife was asking me if Ned could cut the cord so I could hold her. Of course, I desperately nodded yes.
Ned through his sobs was trying to hold the scissors steady to cut her cord. He was so emotional I was worried he was going to cut Rosie. In what was probably no time, but felt like forever, the cord was cut and I delicately brought Rosie to my chest. Once again, everything around me seemed to disappear. I couldn’t believe how perfect she was. Her tiny little hand clasped my finger. We sobbed and sobbed, loving her with all our hearts. We told her all about the love in this world for her, repeating over and over, ‘we love you,’ and telling her about the love she owns in this world. Our love. Her big sister’s love. Her grandparents’ love. Her uncles’, aunties’, and cousins’ love. And all our wonderful friends’ love. She felt it in the touch of our hands, our hugs, our kisses, and our tears. When she heard and felt our love, she cried out with the tiniest, sweetest little cry. In that moment, I just desperately wanted them to save her. She was so perfect, so beautiful, and seemed so strong. But I knew deep down, it could never happen.
At some point, I birthed my placenta. I was just sobbing and sobbing, my face streaming with tears. All this time, I was oblivious to the fact I was hemorrhaging, due to a piece of retained placenta that remained in my uterus. Suddenly, I was aware of my doctor and anesthetist in the room. They were telling me I was bleeding too much and had already lost a large amount of blood. They had a consent form for me to sign, which I knew (and they knew as we had discussed this ‘rare outcome’ earlier in the day) I would never do so with Rosie still alive. I knew I could never leave her to die without me.
Within a minute, I had a clipboard with a consent form ready to sign. I had to reluctantly pass Rosie’s tiny, precious body to Ned. He took off his shirt and held her skin to skin. Before I knew it, the trolley arrived to take me away. As I sat up slightly to wriggle across to the trolley, I felt the blood gush out of me. I was whisked out the door and we were off, racing all the way down the long corridor to the other end where the operating room was. Tears were streaming down my face. I watched fluorescent light after light flash by. Trying not to look at families and staff in the corridor. Trying not to listen to the laboring mothers and crying babies as we whisked past each room.
We went into a holding booth, and I was so grateful Emily had come too. However, I found out she wasn’t allowed to stay with me. I desperately wanted to say something so she might be able to stay. I just couldn’t seem to find the words or the energy to speak. They wheeled me into the operating room where I felt so alone. It was so bright and there were people buzzing around everywhere. I just lay there with my eyes closed, not wanting anyone to look at me, as the tears continued to stream down my face. All I wanted was for them to put me to sleep.
They slid me across onto the operating table. I kept my eyes closed. Then someone pushed on my belly. I felt a massive gush of blood come out between my legs. At that moment, the intensity in the room picked up. It seemed some of them panicked. Someone shouted, ‘Where is he?’ And someone else, ‘He should be here!’
The lovely anesthetist, who had popped in on us a few times that day, was there. He said, ‘This is ridiculous. I’m starting.’ He looked down at me and told me I had to keep my eyes open now and he was going to put me to sleep. I was to count down from 10… I don’t remember anything past 7.
I woke up all alone in recovery. The whole ward was dark and empty around me. The nurses were bustling. I began to throw up on myself, unable to lift myself up. A kidney dish was thrust under my chin and medication was injected into my intravenous drip. One of them said to me, ‘Lucky you didn’t do that during the operation.’ I wanted to cry. I desperately wanted to go back to Ned and Rosie. After a few more vomits and what seemed like an eternity laying there feeling so alone in the dark, they told me I was able to go back.
From what they estimated as 1.5 hours, I was actually away from Ned and Rosie for 3 and a bit hours. (I was later told I had ended up losing around half of my total blood volume.) They wheeled me back down the never-ending corridor. I once again closed my eyes so I didn’t have to look at anyone. By this point, it was after midnight. Behind them, I could see Ned still holding Rosie. She was still nuzzled into his bare chest. The most beautiful music was playing. He was just swaying with her in his arms, like he had just been dancing a lifetime of daddy-daughter dances.
I was desperate to have Rosie back in my arms. Ned passed her back to me and I just lay there with my baby. All I wanted to do was hold her. Emily, who had beautifully stayed and waited out in the waiting room for me to return, came to say goodbye. I was beyond grateful. I wasn’t even able to put it into words to tell her how much it meant to me to have had her there.
Ned went to sleep, and I was alone with Rosie at last. I lay there staring at her perfect little face. I felt such overwhelming love, the tears silently streamed down my face. I thought being so exhausted, sleep would soon overcome me. But it never came. Each hour rolled by, marked by the presence of my midwife returning to check my vital signs, IV fluids, catheter, and bleeding. I lay there staring at my baby girl, wondering how I had found myself here, in so much pain, and wondering how I could possibly continue on and ever feel happy again.
The next few days we spent in a little room on the antenatal ward, which had a double bed for both Ned and I to be in together, and Rosie in her cool cot next to our bed. Time just rolled by in a blur. Sunny and our mums visited, which happened to be at the same time as our heartfelt photographer (a free service offered to anyone whose babies have died). Sunny loved meeting Rosie, it felt so special to be able to share her. I had blood transfusions every day along with many liters of fluids. I pumped my milk often, saddened I was no longer able to donate Rosie’s milk (as I had to have blood transfusions). My heart was struggling (very high heart rate and very low blood pressure). I was very unsteady on my feet and unable to walk around. Day and night rolled into one as I just stared at Rosie in her little cool cot next to our bed, holding her as often as possible.
I was frustrated that as the days passed, my body didn’t seem to be improving. We were shattered to hear they still were not planning for my discharge the day before Rosie’s scheduled service. We spent much of the day trying to figure out what to do. Whether it was my genetics counselor popping in, our midwives, my lovely anesthetist coming back in to see us, or any of the doctors, we pleaded with them to go home that day. In the afternoon, they put up another unit of blood over the next two hours, which was then followed by an iron infusion. The doctors then returned in the late afternoon, where we made an agreement they would allow us to go home with Rosie for her service on the condition we would monitor my blood pressure and heart rate and we would come back to the hospital if I wasn’t coping. We were so relieved they agreed and so grateful to be going home.
At 7:00 p.m. the moment came for us to leave our little safety bubble. As I was wheeled in the wheelchair, my eyes were locked on my Rosie girl as silent tears rolled down my cheeks. I was grateful our midwife took us down the staff elevator rather than the regular one, where there would likely be other babies on their way home. I felt so protective of Rosie. I didn’t want anyone who didn’t deserve to see Rosie to stare at her.
After what felt like an eternity, shaking like a leaf with anxiety, we arrived at our car. I climbed in with Rosie still in my arms, and they closed the door. I felt safe again. Finally, we were on our way home. As we drove through the city, we played Rosie’s special songs. The evening’s golden sunlight streamed through the car windows. It felt so surreal to be driving through a buzzing city with couples wandering around hand-in-hand, groups of people here and there laughing and joking out in the beautiful sunlight. And then there we were, sitting in our car watching the rest of the world roll by out of our windows, as they were all oblivious to our beautiful daughter lying dead in my arms and the tears streaming down our faces.
I remember feeling utterly heartbroken as the extent of our reality hit me in that moment. Even though we got to bring Rosie home, we would never get to hear her laugh or cry, or see her beautiful smile, or listen to her little snores, or watch her grow. This was it. Tomorrow was our last day, and from then on, she will remain in our memories and live on only in our dreams.
We spent one night with her at home as a family of four. Sunny slept in-between us and Rosie in her little cool cot next to me. The next morning was the morning of her service. It was honestly the hardest thing I have ever experienced. I didn’t really take in anything that happened; it all sort of happened around us. I held Rosie in my arms for most of her service. All I was thinking the whole time is, ‘Soon I will have to place her in her little casket, and Ned will carry her to the back of the car to be driven away forever.’ I broke. There are honestly no words to describe the moment they drove her away.
We are devastated she is not here with us today. We are all here, and know she is up there among the stars. In her fifty minutes of life, we hope she knew nothing but love. No pain, just love. All the pain she might have had throughout her life, is now ours forever.”
This story is heartbreaking & beautiful at the same time. Heartbreaking to lose just a perfect little baby girl & beautiful knowing sweet Rosie knew nothing but unconditional love & acceptance.. a perfect gift from her parents & big sister♥️
Bless you and bless your family, Kathryn. Thank you for sharing your incredibly raw and tender story. I’m sure Rosie felt all the love surrounding her. God has wrapped His loving arms around her. ❤️🙏🏼