The Baby Loss Hub - Neonatal Death - Everett's mum
We were so excited to be expanding our little family to include another boy due in August of 2018.
I had a fairly uncomplicated pregnancy, despite having Type 1 Diabetes and ITP (low blood platelets) and being a high risk pregnancy- which means I need to have a lot of regular monitoring, blood tests and check ups. Each scan showed everything was perfect and our boy had no issues.
On the morning of the 8th of August 2018, a routine CTG scan showed slight decelerations in his heart rate, and it was decided that I would need an emergency C- section right away.
My heart started racing, and in that instant I felt so confused and so scared of what might happen...but I never thought he could die. It’s not something you think could ever happen to you.
At 12.22pm our beautiful son, Everett Dean Carleton was born alive, but during the operation there were unforeseen complications and devastating issues with his care that changed everything, and we lost our precious little boy.
He was so gorgeous. He had big chubby cheeks, lots of reddish/brown hair and my shaped lips. He just looked like he was sleeping. He looked so peaceful. His dad and I kissed his adorable face as our hearts broke. We fell in love. We were in awe of our son.
The hospital did an investigation into this death and we were given that report 3 months later. What we read in there was completely devastating and no words a parent should ever have to read about their child.
Knowing your baby’s death was entirely preventable is something that will always cause us immense pain; he should be here, laughing, learning and growing up with us. The shock surrounding his death and the details of what happened that day will never leave me.
We started legal action in 2019 and will hopefully have the case settled mid 2022. It has been a lengthy and drawn out process by the hospital and their legal team, further adding to our trauma and distress over these years.
I hope there comes a day soon, that those responsible for his death are held accountable and changes are made within our health system that will prevent this from happening to another family in the future.
Nothing can prepare you for those first weeks and months after going home from hospital. These are all a blur to me now. It was just survival mode. I remember crying myself to sleep for many weeks, and waking up during the night whaling and holding my husband as we both shed tears. We also had to explain to our 3 year old son that his baby brother, who he had excitedly been waiting for, wouldn't be coming home and that mummy and daddy might be sad for a while.
You can’t imagine how you’ll ever get through the pain; or how you’ll ever continue on... but somehow you do.
In hindsight the hospital did not do enough for us to create memories or keepsakes with Everett. I wish we had the opportunity to bathe him, to put him in the outfit I lovingly picked for him weeks before, to have had Heartfelt (heartfelt.org.au) (a volunteer organisation of professional photographers) come and take photos of him, and to have been able to get casts made of his hands and feet.
I guess in reality there will never be enough mementos for us to have, but I really wish we had these.
Below are a few things I found that helped me navigate those first few months of pain and grief.
These women provide rawness and strength in the face of baby loss & grief.
Although I found it difficult to read in the months following Everett’s death, I did manage to slowly get my way through two books. I’ve since had to go back and re-read them again.
“It’s Ok that you’re not Ok” by Megan Devine - A book based on grief in general that gives you permission to feel what you need too and provides some insight into how today’s society isn’t capable of dealing with the hurt and suffering that comes from losing someone special.
“Empty Cradle, Broken Heart” by Deborah L Davis. - A book focused on baby loss and covers different types of losses from miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal and the death of one or more babies from a multiple birth. It was a support guide for me, and helped me feel less alone in my grief.
Bears of Hope
When I first met Everett, he had a soft toy bear sitting next to him, with ‘Bears of Hope’ written on its foot. I looked it up online and found that they are an organisation here in Australia, who help support bereaved parents and their families.
From the time I left the hospital, I began utilising their support services. I gained so much knowledge from their website, I saw a wonderful counselor for over a year, our family and friends helped raise more than $8,000 to provide a cuddle cot to a local hospital and also helped raise over $1,700 when I took part in their annual ‘Walk of Hope’ in October 2020. Raising these funds and awareness around baby loss in honour of Everett has helped me feel a sense of purpose in such a helpless situation. If you feel up to it, I urge you to try and do the same with a charity close to your heart.
Finding other bereaved parents
No one ever wants to feel alone, especially when the worst thing that can happen, happens to you. The best thing I did was open my heart and create strong friendships with other loss mothers. You just know they will always listen with an empathetic ear and without judgment. Even though everyone’s story is different, walking this harrowing road with the support of another mum who ‘just gets it’ has been insurmountable for me.
Retreat- Take some time for you
Four months after Everett died, I went on a two-night yoga retreat on my own to the Blue Mountains in NSW.
I went there feeling a little nervous of being on my own, and having to explain my story- how would people react? Would I feel more isolated? but what I found there was compassionate people who held space for my grief. I was able to connect with Ev during meditations and I had the time and space to journal. I had a relaxing massage, ate healthy food and went on a beautiful bushwalk to reach a huge waterfall. This retreat was exactly what I needed at that time and although I had to face the empty cot again upon my return, it was nice to have a break from sitting in my house for those two days.
I hope by sharing these, they might help you to find strength and comfort in whatever way works for you.
To finish, I so dearly wish your baby was still with you and you weren’t a part of this awful club. I know there are never any words that can make you feel better, but I hope you find a way to keep moving forward; to find the light through the cracks and to hold onto any thread of love and joy you might find on this new unwanted path.