We said goodbye to Eloise in our hospital room on our own and told her how much we loved her and what she meant to us. We wished her a safe journey to heaven and told her to come back to us when she is ready. Played her rockabye lullaby’s and read her some more Winnie the pooh. We also told her we would finish the story over the next few days and she must listen to it from heaven.
Everything she gave us was special, her kicks, her heartbeat, her story time that she enjoyed, her mummy and daddy cuddles, her naughtiness and moving away from the heartbeat monitor. Her first and last bath with us and being splashed and kicking in retaliation. Her waving to us on every scan and listening to us and our decision. She shared dancing in the rain with mummy, swimming with us and the pups, her gorgeous reveal party which was her very special day, when she amazed us with the news that she wasn’t a boy. She even gave us a wave on her MRI.
S went up to theater and we said our final goodbye’s. The aneathetist was wonderful and we could see it was going to be emotional for them as well as us. I gave him our camera and asked him to take a picture of her at birth and also afterwards. I could see the tear and hurt in his eye but he said yes and gave me a reassuring look that she would die peacefully and respectfully. She was our baby girl and he understood that we wanted the memories.
S was wheeled off into the theater with her heartbreaking and tears streaming down her face. The pain in my heart, that I would never see my baby girl in her bump and never feel her kick again, was excruciating.
I had to wait outside the theater for several minutes to see if I could see her and give her a reassuring look and blow her a kiss when the doors kept opening. I couldn’t as she was out of my sight. The thoughts of running in through those doors to see and feel my baby girl once again were there. To stop it all and to take them both home. My heart told me to let her go and to release her from her future pain. I knew we were doing the best for Eloise and she would understand that the body she had, would not be good enough for her soul to flourish.
I went to sit with S’s family. All I could do was to focus on those theater doors. Every time they opened I hoped for a final glimpse of S with our daughter in her tummy. The minutes started to tick by and I kept a watch on the clock as I knew that the procedure was about 30-40 mins and Eloise would be born about 20 mins in to the procedure. It was agony.
I had to take a walk away on my own and to try to control my emotions, for S and Eloise. I wanted to be strong and a fighter, a warrior like my daughter. If she has taught me anything it is to have strength for her. She never gave up on us after that 7 week scan when our hearts broke the first time. I wanted to say my goodbyes as a proper father and being strong for her and showing her I am the best daddy she could have chosen was my way of doing that. My heart will bleed and break but she will always be in my thoughts and in my heart. I believed in her and fought through that weekend. She defied the doctors to give us these experiences and I thank her wholeheartedly for that. Dr V’s e-mail of “slim to no chance” of surviving that weekend will always be in my thoughts yet she gave us the next 17 weeks to experience what she would and what she does mean to us. We will never forget you Eloise.
I found myself what I thought was a quiet corner. When I looked up I found that I was stood outside the NICU ward entrance! Irony is hideous sometimes. This is the place we should be. This is where Eloise should be going after having her shunt done. This is the place we should be living at in 10 weeks time. The beautiful pink entrance with all the kiddies photo’s was so different to the rest of the normal clinical walled and carpeted hospital. The stats on the wall of 90% chance of survival after a 28 week birth. This should be us. Eloise should be going there. I began to start hoping and dreaming that Dr Baker would take her out of S’s tummy and bring her straight here. He would see a glimmer of hope and she would be rushed past me. My daughter was a survivor and defied doctor’s before. She could do it again, even the world’s best. I then realised I was expecting too much and reality gave me another kick. My heart was so sore and had to leave this corner.
I returned to the family and it seemed that the clock had stopped and the minutes felt like hours. As I was returning Father Michael arrived and I welcomed and thanked him for coming at this time. Anything we could do to make Eloise’s trip to heaven easier for her, where she could be our little Angel looking over us and waiting for us. I updated father Michael and asked him what he would like to do. He said he would Christen her immediately and would do a blessing later. We then sat down and waited… I looked at my watch again and then spoke to my Eloise. I told her I loved her, told her I would miss her so much and she would always be so special to S and I and that we would cherish the time we had with her forever. She was our little miracle, even if it wasn’t for long enough.
Father Michael left us and went to see another patient for a short time. A few minutes later I heard a baby crying. I hoped it was my Eloise and Dr Baker would come rushing past. I then thought I hoped it wasn’t because it would mean she is suffering. I rushed to the theater door as if I wanted to reassure her that daddy was here and he loved her very much and that, although she wants to fight, she must make her way to heaven for us. I then realised it was a mother who had just given birth to her baby and the father was just meeting his baby for the first time. Another cruel blow for us but a wondrous moment for someone else. I returned to my seat and the family were taken out of theater and to recovery.
Shortly after that, a father then wheeled his baby back past from the Labour ward back to the NICU ward. I so wished that this would have been me in a few weeks. Lots of parents wish for a healthy baby. We knew Eloise was special and that this was never going to be easy and we could be potentially living at he NICU ward with her after she had had her shunt put in for her Hydrocephalus. We would have been hoping and praying for her every day but, we would have taken the chance.
A minute later I had the most surreal feeling. I knew at that moment that my baby girl had just left us. All the pain and hurt that was in my heart at that time left and I felt a release. I felt at peace that she was released. I felt she understood why we made the decision that we did and she agreed we were doing the right thing for her. This was her sign to me as her daddy, that she loved me and that we would get through this. This was her sign of taking the pain away and with her to heaven. It was the most wonderful feeling that I had a connection with my daughter. I felt great strength that I could do anything and that she gave me the strength to support S and the rest of the family. To be strong like her, to never give up, to get through the next few hours, days weeks without her. To be able to see her even though it would be hugely painful but to enjoy her while we could.
My feelings immediately changed to worrying about S. It was as if Eloise told me that she was ok but to now think of her mummy. That her mummy now needed me. My eyes were glued to the theater ward just waiting for a glimpse of S being ok.
A couple of minutes later and I could see a Sister walking towards me in her scrubs. As she came towards me I got up and went to her. She told me that she was going to clean Eloise and bring her past us. This was so nice as I knew Eloise was being cared for and looked after in the way that she deserved. The sister was so respectful and it gave me the feeling that Eloise was safe. I prepared Father Michael so that we were ready to Baptise her. I prepared myself and stood close to the doors, as I wanted to walk her to her Baptism and be close to her, to keep her safe. The theater doors opened and I could see the Sister walking with Eloise, in a small basket, towards me. Dr Baker was walking next to her and I could see from a distance that he was red in the face and in tears. The emotion got to me and I could feel tears streaming down my face. As they got closer Dr Baker came over and gave me a huge hug and said “I am sorry chap”. I thanked him for being so caring and looking after Eloise, the best that he could.
We walked to the Labour ward and in to a private room which the sister had pre-prepared. Father Michael, Dr Baker, the Sister and myself were all present for Eloise’s Baptism. The Sister and Dr Baker both said that she didn’t suffer and that they were sorry for our loss. We were ready to Baptise Eloise.
Sister Betts handed me some tissues. Dr Baker then started to roll back the Towel which was covering my baby girl and keeping her warm. Her teddy was with her and keeping her safe. The first time you see your child is always a special moment and even though it was in these circumstances, to me, she was still the most beautiful daughter ever. She had my black hair, which got me straight away. I stayed strong for her somehow and focused on her gorgeous little face. She had such a cute face with S’s nose. Father Michael started the Baptism and I just listened and couldn’t take my eyes off my little Angel. He blessed her with the Holy Water and then we prayed for her. It wasn’t until after we finished the prayers, that I could feel the tears running down my cheeks. I promised Eloise I would be strong and I was, for her. Dr Baker and Sister Betts then left the room after again giving their condolences. Father Michael then told me that we, as a family, would always have our Eloise looking over us and that we would stay strong and we would always be her parents. He offered his condolences and told me that he would be there for us, in anyway that he could, over the following weeks.
I bent forward and, for the first time, gave my daughter a kiss. It was beautiful. She was warm, and felt like she was sleeping. Her smell will stay with me forever and was amazing. To this minute that I am writing this I can still smell her. I told her I loved her and that she was on her way to heaven. I asked her to make sure that her mummy would be ok, so that I could look after her, for her. I then stroked her beautiful cheek and head and promised her that I would never forget her and that she would always be in my heart.
I then made sure that she was comfortable, with her teddy bear and covered her back over with the towel to keep warm. Like many fathers, this was my biggest concern, that she would get cold. Unfortunately my daughter would, but it was still my gut instinct straight away. I left her in the room and said that I would see her soon and introduce her to her mommy. Sister Betts was waiting outside and told me that she would take care of her, until we were ready to see her downstairs in our room.
I left the Labour ward, with a mother being wheeled in the entrance, with her baby who was only a few days old, again agony at this time. It was nobody’s fault, just fate has a way of kicking you in the teeth over and over again. I returned to where the family were, Father Michael was telling them that we had Baptised her and that she was now at peace. They were in tears and their hearts were breaking, they all gave me a look that we had done the right thing for her. They asked what she looked like and the immediate thing that came into my head, was her black hair.
I had to walk away before I broke down and my thoughts were for my gorgeous wife. I wanted to make sure she was okay. Dr Baker had said that she was ok and coming around, when we walked to Eloise’s Baptism. I walked to the theater just as the doors opened and I could see S’s hair. I rushed to the doors but didn’t know whether I was allowed in. I put my foot in the door when the doors started to close, the nurses looked up and saw me. I called out to S and she looked up and they allowed me in. I went in and gave my wife the kiss and cuddle that I needed to give her. To reassure her that her daughter was gorgeous, just like her. To try to ease her pain and tell her that she was Baptised and on her way to heaven. We just hugged so tightly for our baby girl and told each other that we loved her so much.
They were checking S’s chart and ready to release her back to the ward. We rolled her out and took her back down to the room via every wall, chair and lift they could bump her into! I could see the pain on her face, with every bump, but she was so brave and we finished up in our room. Father Michael came in and spoke to S to tell her that Eloise was Baptised and to give her some beautiful, reassuring words. He then said a prayer and a blessing. S’s family then came in when she was ready and many tears were shed. S and I both wanted to see Eloise together and we wanted to make sure that S was awake and feeling ok, after the trauma she had been through with the surgery and anaesthetic. Within 10-15 mins,we felt the time was right.
We could have called for Eloise to be brought down from her sleeping room, but I wanted to fetch her and guide her to her mummy. Sister Bridgett, who was now on shift in the Labour ward greeted me and I explained that I was Eloise’s father and had come to bring her to our room. She was very compassionate and extremely respectful with our beautiful girl. She asked me if I wanted to take her or if she could bring her for us. I asked if she could come as I felt it would be too much wheeling my baby through the ward, into the lift and downstairs. I would be taking the same route as the father earlier, who also brought his baby from that ward. He turned right to NICU. I would turn left into the lift and downstairs to a broken hearted family and a grieving mother.
(Part 2 will follow in a few days)