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NIAGARA CLOSEUP: Honouring the life of a baby

By Cheryl Clock, The Standard

The ultrasound gel was still smeared over her pregnant belly when she sat up and screamed.

The wail she let out was instinctive. A volcano of spontaneous anguish that erupted from her heart in one prolonged, screamed word: “No!”

Her mother, in a waiting room on the other side of the door, heard. And she knew.

Bailey Paddy, 21, had come to the hospital because she had not felt her baby move in a day. She was overdue by a week and a half. And she was very worried.

One nurse listening for a heartbeat quickly became a flurry of medical people surrounding her. She was sent for an ultrasound. A nurse held her hand.

“Is he moving?” she asked the woman holding a wand on her belly.

Bailey was taken to a private room in the labour and delivery ward. A doctor examined her. She already knew her baby was dead, but searched his face or hope anyway. There was none.

She was asked to decide if she wanted to go home and let nature take its course or stay at the hospital and be induced. Either way, she would endure the pain of labour for a baby that she would never hold in her arms alive.

Chris Hume, the baby’s father, drove from Oakville anticipating a normal delivery. When he arrived at the hospital, he was told his baby had died.

They cried together.

“What are we going to do?” he asked.

“I have to deliver him,” said Bailey.

Then she told the nurses matter-of-factly: “Do it now. I want it done and over with.”

She would be induced.

Her amniotic sack was punctured. An IV drip of Petocin was started to help the uterus contact and begin labour.

And as she lay in the hospital bed, a heart-breaking numbness took hold.

Bailey wants people to hear her story. She wants other mothers to hear her words and be empowered to talk about their babies despite a society squeamish at the very mention of miscarriages, stillborn babies and infant loss.

On Sunday, she will recognize the international Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day by organizing a candlelight vigil at City Hall in St. Catharines at 7 p.m..

The memorial is part of a series of similar events held around the world to acknowledge and remember the deaths of babies in pregnancy or as infants.

In Canada, one in five pregnancies end in loss, said Michelle La Fontaine, program manager of the Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Network at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Around the world, at 7 p.m., a wave of light will be created as candles shine for one hour. The result will be a continuous chain of light around the globe.

While PAIL was founded some 20 years ago, it became a provincial program to provide support to families who experience a loss and educate health-care providers with funding in 2016 from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. A year later, it joined the Women and Babies program at Sunnybrook.

One of its most critical goals is to educate the medical world about infant loss.

Studies have shown that parents heal faster if they don’t have the additional trauma of unintended yet hurtful words and actions by a medical community that simply doesn’t understand their unique needs, she said.

“They might say things that don’t validate the loss or honour the life of the baby,” she said.

“You have one chance to get it right. What you do and say to a family will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

Case in point: a baby that dies in the first trimester is sometimes referred to as a product of conception and is “put into a basin and taken away,” while the mother is advised to “give yourself a month and try again.”

Parents should instead be offered an opportunity to see, to hold, to take photographs. “To mark that a life existed and validate their grief,” she said.

“Families feel isolated in grief.”

People should say the baby’s name. “Treat the baby with the same care as if it had been born alive,” she said.

Families need to be guided. To be offered suggestions gently, with care. “Often families have never ever imagined it could happen to them.”

When La Fontaine’s twins, Elora and Joseph, died at 20 weeks in 2005 — the day before her 30th birthday — she had a caring nurse who asked if she wanted to see and hold her babies.

At first she did not.

But the nurse understood, waited and had the foresight to ask again. It was exactly what La Fontaine needed. “That’s all you have,” she said.

A year and a half ago, about to deliver a baby, Bailey felt separated from herself and detached from the ordeal as if she was a voyeur watching another woman endure unbelievable physical and emotional suffering.

She laboured for six hours.

Her mother, Sandi Paddy, held her from behind pushing against her back. Her other mother, Carrie McKenzie, and Chris held her legs. She’d had an epidural but it was wearing off. And the baby was not coming.

“I just wanted it out,” said Bailey. “I wanted to get it over with.”

“At that point, you feel like such a failure as a person.

“You’re supposed to be able to protect him. I couldn’t protect him and he was in me. That should have been the place he was the safest.”

Exhausted. Defeated. Beyond drained. The decision was made to take her into the operating room for a C-section.

Baby Logan Alan Paddy-Hume was born at 7:33 a.m., a day after Bailey had been admitted to hospital. It was her 20th birthday.

He was a big boy. Nine pounds and 15 ounces. A long 21 inches. He had hair and the brightest red lips she’d ever seen. The newborn cap provided by the hospital would have to be cut to make it fit over his head.

She heard a nurse tell Chris: “He’s beautiful and he looks just like you.”

What seemed like an eternity passed as she remained on the operating table. “I remember laying there just wanting to hear him cry,” she said.

“And waiting for them to say, ‘Oh, we got it wrong. You have this beautiful baby boy’.

“When it didn’t happen I just shut down.

“I just wanted to sleep and forget about everything.”

Bailey didn’t want to look at her son.

“I didn’t want to see,” she says. “It made it too real.”

The couple moved back into their private room and a community of friends and family had gathered nearby to offer hugs and tears and hold baby Logan. A photographer from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep arrived and took pictures of Logan. Closeups of his hands and feet. In the arms of people who loved him. Swaddled in a crocheted blanket from his great-grandmother, he was dressed in the dinosaur pyjama set that Sandi and Carrie had bought for him.

At some point, a blue forget-me-not card was placed on her door, a gentle reminder to hospital staff that inside was a family in grief.

Eventually, Bailey felt she needed to hold him, too.

She cradled him in her arms. He felt heavy. Smelled wonderful. She looked at his face; he had her nose and chin.

She held him the whole afternoon. On occasion, people came into her room and had their own snuggle with him. The photographer took many photos. The nurses made ink hand and footprints on small white cards. They crafted a bracelet with tiny white beads that spelled his name and snipped bits of his hair and sealed it in a tiny zipped bag. They helped her create memories.

Carrie called the funeral home. On Bailey’s request, Sandi and Carrie went home to take apart and pack up the crib, play pen and high chair. They wrapped everything in plastic and carried it out to the garage.

They left Logan’s clothes hanging in a bedroom closet and in the drawers of a dresser where Bailey had lovingly organized them by size. At the hospital, Bailey felt comforted by holding her son.

“I am an unconventional mother,” she said.

“My child physically isn’t here. So to have that physical contact, it made me a mom.”

About 8 o’clock that night she let him go.

A big burly man from the funeral home came to her room.

“How will you get him out of the hospital?” she asked him.

“I’m going to carry him out of here as if he’s my own son,” he replied.

Once home, she faced a world that didn’t understand or was unaware of her pain. A photographer whom Bailey met at a baby show called asking when she’d like a photo session. Samples of baby products arrived in the mail.

“I was just trying to make it through to the next minute without breaking down,” she said.

Grief arrived in waves. At times, it consumed her but when it eased off she was able to begin to heal. She would immerse herself in touching his clothes and allowed herself to embrace the happy memories of pregnancy, of her family, and of being a mom that flowed into her conscience.

Later on, she was able to donate some baby items like diapers and formula and keep the things that spoke to her most. She brought the crib, highchair and playpen back into the house to store. In the fall, she returned to Niagara College to finish her community and justice services diploma.

Her mom, Sandi, is proud of her daughter.

“She’s my superhero,” she said. “She has grown up like you wouldn’t believe.

“She’s picked herself right back up. She has a purpose. She was so looking forward to being a mom. She is mature and strong.”

Her home is filled with Logan. Photos on the wall. A memory box on a hallway shelf. A scrapbook her mother made for her at Christmas.

“To the rest of the world he doesn’t exist,” she said. “By having his stuff around me tells me he does exist.

“It’s not a bad memory.”

She hopes Sunday’s vigil and her story will give other parents who have experienced the death of a baby permission to talk about their children. To not be silenced by the discomfort of society.

“Stillbirth is a bad word. Dead and baby do not belong in the same sentence,” she said.

“I don’t want people who have been through this to feel they can’t share their experience.

“I want people to own their title of mom and dad.

“You don’t all of a sudden lose the title because your baby passes away.”

Cclock@postmedia.com

Candlelight vigil for pregnancy and infant loss

A vigil will be held Sunday at 7 p.m. at St. Catharines city hall to honour the babies who have died through miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss. The event is part of a series of vigils worldwide to mark Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.

For details see the Facebook page: Candlelight Vigil for Pregnancy and Infant loss.

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network

An organization dedicated to improving bereavement care and providing support to families who have suffered the loss of a pregnancy or the death of their baby/babies.

pailnetwork.sunnybrook.ca