Thank you so much to Radio X and Toby Tarrant for making lots of noise about World Prematurity Day, and for shouting about Tommy Blue and his story and the support we offer to the baby loss community!
Laura really doesn’t do surprises. We could sit together buying the kids a birthday present, and she struggles so hard to keep it secret. Only because she lives for sharing magic..
The very same could be said when we decided to find out the sex and reveal the gender of our baby to our friends and family. We are two families that have come together to become a wolf pack. So this occasion was extra special to us both, because it tied us all closer together as one. Which has been our focus from the very beginning, to be as one!
A paid private scan, was our route to finding out we was having a little boy. When we arrived at the clinic, someone else must have had the same news because I stepped out of the car and straight into blue confetti.
It was a magical feeling to get the news, although, we left with caution with a note from the consultant that Laura had showed very slight signs of a haematoma and to push the query further with her midwife.
We did, and after an extra sonogram, as well as an examination, we was assured that Laura’s cervix was perfectly fine and that there were no longer any signs of the haematoma mentioned. Which was a massive relief.
That was until Tuesday, 12th November 2019, where after having an unsettled night in abdominal discomfort, Laura chose to drive herself into A&E, while I stayed at home and got the kids fed, watered and ready for school. I honestly expected to soon receive word that all was fine and the usual aches and pains and distortion of the body were the cause.
Sadly I was miles off the mark, and after a handful of tests, it was concluded Laura was showing signs of going into early labour, at 25 weeks. I sat with her while the midwife at Torbay Hospital administered the magnesium IV, and witnessed her entire body burn on fire. I have never seen droplets of sweat on the neck, form in front of the eyes before. The midwife was right when she said it will feel like you are heading towards doom. Her timing with the comment was terrible.
It was decided they would blue light her over to Derreford in Plymouth because they had much more adequate facilities, but I was to make my own way. I remember the day so vividly. The rain was blinding and cold. It was November. My head was racing like mad with worry. Those pair were in trouble and heading towards Plymouth, Laura full of that horrible magnesium and all sorts, and I was diverted via our home in Brixham, to sort out the kids and pack them bags to go and stay with family in the Midlands. We don’t have many family members near us, and Laura is the driver, so after packing a hefty rucksack, as if knowing we was in for a camp at Derreford, I set off via a couple of trains and made it just after 11pm in Plymouth to find my darling tucked up in bed.
There we stayed for the next 6 days, me on an armchair, Laura being continually pumped with pain killers and mags, and where Laura’s waters finally broke. What was frustrating was witnessing the approach, being completely void of prevention. We had educated ourselves enough to know that a persons waters breaking does not necessarily mean its time. But every case is different, and after nearly a week long stay, instead of reacting to what her body was saying, it was decided by doctors, that they would sit tight until she showed signs of infection. Labour wasn’t enough to react. She would have to get sick instead. We watched, along with a room of health professionals, as on the sonogram, Tommy literally kicked his leg back over and over, down towards Laura’s cervix, with the surgeon joking that we would see a foot in a minute. I now feel in hindsight, that he was giving us a massive clue that something was up.
It wasn’t a quirky performance of forward development. He wanted out because something wasn’t right. I will never understand the intellect in that approach. Because after going faint and pale in the shower the following day, she instantly showed spikes of infection in her obs, and then the rush to get her down for a C Section was finally decided.
Even though we were fully prepared for a lot of complications, especially because Laura’s placenta had made its way to the front, and made the risks of hemorrhage extremely worrying, Tommy was delivered without a hitch, being lifted like Simba in the Lion King, clutching his cord for balance as if he were on the tube or the like! We watched on amazed as the team from the NICU unit took over and whisked him away for the extra care he now required. We spent a couple of hours in recovery and then the midwife cheekily helped me steer Laura’s bed through a labyrinth of corridors and into the NICU ward that housed our little boys incubator and life support. We sat aside him as he held our fingers. Treasured unforgettable irreplaceable moments.
After settling onto the ward, we had agreed that instead of telling family and friends 1 by 1 of the good news he was here and as healthy as can be, we would instead share with a single post online. Tommy had been left for a couple of hours, Laura was beginning to express milk for him and I was just wrapping up writing a post when the consultant came behind the curtain with the life changing news that she didn’t think Tommy was going to make it, and in fact, time was of the essence and we needed to get back to him asap to say goodbye. Laura still had a lot in her system and its fair to say, that the information really wasn’t accepted. We got to the ward and they kindly setup a reclining chair and bought Tommy out of the incubator to rest on his Mom, close to the heart he had just spent 25 weeks learning and connecting to its rhythm.
Something that medicine cannot ever attempt to explain happened, and I witnessed on his monitor, all his Sat’s adjust back into place. He slept soundly, as did Laura, and the consultant crouched at my side and quietly, with tears in her eyes explained that there was not a chance that she could give up just yet, because the monitor informed her he was showing fight.
I sat for 4 hours while they both slept and I would have gladly left them too, if it wasn’t for the midwife staff insisting we both left the ward and got some rest. I really wasn’t okay with leaving him, because from our last experience, things went wrong once we did, but again, more assurances that all would be okay and if it were to go wrong, they would fetch us immediately. We were back at the room for no more than 20 minutes when again, we were called for, but this time, there wasn’t time for explanation. If we didn’t say goodbye now, it would be too late. We made it just in time, where he was handed to us, by a standing circle of teary eyed midwives. It was surreal. Life could never be the same again.
He passed away, in our arms, on World Premature Day. Tommy Blue Barnes.
Our trauma is one of a daily occurrence all over. But now we have a brand new experience that families have had to contend with, which is Coronavirus. It has forced couples to deal with their own loss in a locked down scenario, which along with many people losing their livelihood, can cause irreparable destruction to a family right now.
Myself and Laura decided to make our own experience and loss, the catalyst of a charity launched in Tommy’s memory. Which offers woodland healing, support and counselling to couples, people, families, who have walked in the same shoes as we. Forever Young Forest is a space where people can finish their own stay by planting a young tree in memory of the loved one lost, and that tree in time, will go on to grow, and offer fresh air for future generations. We have to do something.
Everyone deserves that after care that could be the difference in a family making it to next Christmas, as one.