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Amber's Story

by  Keren Walker

I am almost 8 years down the line now after losing my 1st daughter I have received lots of emails from mums that have suffered the universal loss of a baby. I had posted Amber's story on some msg. boards in hope that our experience will help others to come to terms with being pregnant again and living with the daily pain and sadness. If you wish to use her story on your URL that's fine.

6 Aug 1998

With four healthy boys all by normal delivery I had no reason to think that I would ever have problems carrying and giving birth I had started my family in 1979 when I was 18. In 1989 I had a miscarriage and I can remember being sad and upset and wondering, then in 1990 I gave birth to Amber Louise .

I will never in my life forget the events of the early hours of that date. I can see almost like a video replay ever single thing that happened from going to bed to the awful outcome of the birth.

Bill and I had gone to bed after a small quarrel and Bill had fallen asleep, I was lay awake in bed after eating pickles and hazelnuts and wishing I had not as I had a sickly feeling. I got up and went to the bathroom and then returned to bed and began t o fall asleep. I was only back in bed a short while before I had to get up again, this time I had a really bad pain in my stomach and palpitations, I felt very dizzy and ill.

In the bathroom I had vomiting and diarrhea and spent what seemed like hours very ill. I can see the blue linoleum tiling on the floor even today. I passed/blacked out and came to feeling as though I was dying. I managed to get back to the bedroom and wake up Bill . I told him to call the doctor I told him I wasn't in labor but I was ill. Bill rang the doctor who told him to get an ambulance. While this was happening I was lying on my bed covered in vomit and trying to call my sons who were sleeping in their own bedrooms.

The ambulance came and they took me off to the hospital telling me to "hang on, we would soon be there". From behind the gas and air mask I told them I was not in labor it did not feel like that - I was dying! We arrived at the hospital and I was taken into the delivery room.

Bill joined us almost immediately. The nurse put a monitor on to my tummy and asked when I had last felt baby move. The baby had always been very active and I told her an hour or two ago. From the look on their faces, they knew things were not ok. They broke my waters and put a clip on the baby's head and the fetal monitoring from that was ok. So off they went leaving bill to clean up the diarrhea and vomit and they came back in from time to time not looking pleased at the mess I was leaving. I kept telling them I was dying and that I was not in labor.

At one point a young, female doctor came in with the midwives to look at me - she seemed to think things were ok and so she left me.

I had been using the gas and air to control the pain and I was given pain relief in the form of pethadein too. The next thing I knew - they were grabbing the gas and air off me and making me use oxygen, they told me to push or "there'd be trouble!"

I pushed as hard as I could - I had no bearing down pains at all. I pushed hard and felt myself tear then I saw the spray of blood and the nurses grabbed my legs put them against their thighs and said "push!" My baby lay between my thighs - still. I looked at Bill and said there is something wrong. They told him to press the red button next to the bed.

Within seconds, a team rushed in and took our baby to a resuscitating machine next to the bed. Bill and I held each other and listened, praying for a cry from the baby. I said "Bill, it's a girl as well". As time passed I thought if they revive her now s he will be brain damaged but that did not matter - I wanted our daughter to breath.

She never did - I had had a placental abruption, apparently - and Amber had not survived it.

I feel so angry towards the staff that were involved with the birth. Amber should not have died. If they had done something sooner, like picked up on the inability to get a trace from my tummy or even listened to one word I was telling them, she may have lived. We were told "It's one of those things!" and that I had had an abruption and that was it. They had problems with me too and I still get nasty feelings when I recall the clots of 'liver like' blood that were all over the bed.

I was put in a room on a maternity ward with newborn babies crying. I had to have a blood transfusion too. Bill stayed with me as much as he could and it was probably as well he did as the balcony of the 3rd floor ward was so much on my mind. I knew I had to get out of the hospital and make Christmas ok for the boys.

We had a funeral to arrange and all the other worries. I did not want to leave Amber in the hospital over Christmas. I hated the idea of her being in a morgue. We were in contact with the hospital staff who would not leave me alone to my thoughts and kept asking me to think about taking grief counseling. We were told by the social worker that we could have Amber's body taken to a funeral chapel of rest and that she would sort it out.

On Christmas Eve, I was told I could go home. I walked down from the ward with Bill - but no baby. We could not find any staff to help us with the arrangements as they had all left for the holidays - they had finished work early and had gone for drinks.

Eventually, we got an undertaker to agree to come and get Amber but we needed a release from the hospital - but the morgue, we were told, was closed - closed for Christmas no less!

We could not believe what we were hearing. Apart from the fact that we had to do all this from the hospital on a pay phone and no-one we had been contacted by was available nor knew our situation, we had to get the arrangements done there and then. In the end, poor Bill had to go to the hospital administrator and demand the release of our daughter. We finally got all this arranged and went home to the boys.

My Mum and Dad had arranged to come home from Australia for a holiday to be there for Amber's birth - they got on the plane in Australia as I was in hospital, not knowing I had been taken to hospital. Along with Bills Mum and Dad, they were there for us . I will never forget how upset Dad was after going to see his first granddaughter.

I chose not to see Amber once she was taken to the chapel of rest as I had all these crazy feelings that she was going to decay in front of my eyes. Bill had the awful task of taking the family to see her - the boys by choice went along too. The younger two were shocked as she had "black lips" and it was heartbreaking to see the pictures they drew of her - they drew a baby in a basket with black lips and a huge cross. To this day the boys remember Amber's birthday and mark it in their diaries.

I suffered all the effects of having gone through a traumatic experience, and of course my body did not realize Amber had gone. I had milk and I was regularly flooding with gushes of blood. We lost any faith we had in God and we went through so many boxes of tissues. Bill and I had to go along to the registry office to register Amber's death. That was also painful for both of us.

All this time Bill stood solid, but suffered terribly; he was the one that had to take people's calls, he was the one who had to tell the whole of our family and he was the one who had to be there for the boys.

We arranged the funeral - the people were great with us, they let us make our own choices and we only had to pay for the cars - everything else was complimentary - apparently, they do that for children. We were asked if we wanted to carry the coffin on our laps going to the funeral - I decided not to and Bill went along with this.

On New Years Eve day, before her funeral, I needed to go and see her. I am glad I did. She was so tiny, she looked very red and felt so cold. Through my tears I saw a happy little face - it was as though she had a contented look now that mummy had visited her. We all had colds and were taking cough lozenges - the smell of lozenges always reminds me of that morning. We had Amber cremated and her ashes scattered in the garden of remembrance.

Closing the year on such a tragic note then waking up the next day to find a new year had dawned was strange. I could not face another year but knew deep down we had to get on with life . Things were strange - I became more protective of the boys and had morbid thoughts of them having accidents. I started to stay in the house more - only going out if I had to. And I would often slip into my bedroom to cry. As time went on I would find that I yelled at the kids to be quiet just so that I could be alone with my thoughts. This was not good and I decided I had to do something to help myself cope with this.

It was bad enough going out and having people ask me what I had had and then as soon as I said a girl they would start to congratulate me without giving me a chance to say "but.". Friends from school would avoid me, not knowing what to say to me. And too many people would try to get me to join groups of other mums and dads that had been through this. I had my pictures of Amber and I had my family - I wanted to get through this with them and not others.

As time passed, I raised some money for the Special Care Baby Unit at the hospital in Amber's name but this was not a good thing - I hated the hospital and the bitterness did not fade. Eventually I decided that I would name my product after Amber and that's what I did. I named my facial treatment Amber Louise Essential and have a product that has her name and a product the whole family helps make, pack and market.

I became pregnant with Gemma and went through the guilt of having a new baby growing inside me, but a baby we wanted so much. Naturally this pregnancy was different and difficult - any pain, any ache and I was in a panic.

As it turns out, I had a few complications and was admitted to hospital several times in a lot of pain for no apparent reason. I was in hospital and in a bad way when Bill came to visit - he was really annoyed that I had been left in pain. He went off an d got the head of the maternity unit who got a midwife to put on a monitor - and from the trace, I was taken to have an emergency section at 34 weeks.

Gemma arrived and was taken to the Special Care Baby Unit. This was again a hard time - I was on the ward with no baby and familiar staff - and to make things worse, the staff obviously remembered me. It was only then that the nurse from the special care unit explained to us how Amber had died - because of the blood loss, her veins had shut down so there was no way of getting a line in to transfuse her. I would look at Gemma and see Amber and could not bear her to be put in white clothing. I felt the guilt of loving this new baby so soon after Amber and of course we were so worried that things would go wrong and we would lose her too.

Gemma was discharged 11 days later and we all went home. It was hard to take my eyes of her for a second. As she grew bigger this became a little easier and we all got on with family life even though we all had our bad days. When I became pregnant with A my, we changed hospital and her birth was so different - the room was filled with laughter - I actually had a great time giving birth to Amy.

When we moved to Australia four years ago, I was not upset at leaving the place we visited as a family so often - the garden of remembrance. I was glad we had chosen to have Amber cremated, I don't see how we could have moved to Australia if she had been buried. Our view was that our little girl would always be with us wherever we were.

I became pregnant for the final time in Australia and had Meggan - a perfectly normal pregnancy and birth. She, like the other two girls, reminded me of Amber. Meggan is now three and 'full of beans'.

I am glad I chose to name my product after Amber. I am happy that we can work as a family. Naming the product after her gives me the will to keep working at marketing the facial. It also stands to show that even though this was the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life I am managing to go on. I just needed to find a way.

Some people miscarry, some people will have been through what I have lived through. I don't know what's worse - losing a child early like that or losing a child later on in life. I cry, not knowing how Amber would have grown up, not knowing the colour of her hair and eyes, not seeing her smile and not being able to hug her. Other people who lose children later on in life grieve for the child they know and miss them so much. One thing is for sure - losing a child, at any age, is a terrible thing.

Last year I finally felt strong enough to see a solicitor about suing the hospital, only to be told it was too late - it had to be done right away. This was unbelievable. I know that it would not bring Amber back but it was something I needed to do and w as told I couldn't. It takes a long time to be in a position to face this head on, and they took that right away from me with legal time limits. I can only imagine how many cases go unheard for this reason.

My children are all healthy (most of the time) and are great looking, nice kids. My family is close and apart from normal family hassles, we get along. I do find myself still worrying. If an ambulance drives within earshot, I count the children to see w ho is in and who is out and worry. At night, I worry about accidents and if ever the boys are late home, I fear the worst - maybe all mums do this, I don't know, I know I will never be the same as I was before Amber. She will always be my baby, she will never grow up to make me shout at her, she will never raise her voice to me.

When I was a teenager I chose the name Amber for my first baby girl - but had four sons. The name Amber had always been my choice name from long ago, when I was a teenager - taken from the book Forever Amber - and it's sort of ironic, but that's exactly what she will be 'Forever Amber'.

This is a insight into how things went wrong and how we, as a family, but more how I have survived the trauma. Bill has his own thoughts but in this case we do seem to be very connected. My mum gets weird on me, she dislikes the way the children talk about Amber - her opinion is "It was not meant to be". In fact, I think that both sets of parents and the sisters and brothers Bill and I have feel awkward at the mention of Amber. I think there is nothing wrong with keeping her name alive and keeping the reality that we have a daughter and the kids have a sister that is not with us - but is still a part of us.

If you have experienced losing a child and this text makes you sad, at least you know your pain is shared by others and for every child lost there is a new star in the heavens that parents look up at each night and remember. Your child lives on in the memories of each of those parents. If you have never gone through this, but feel sad by what you have read, you understand what the pain must be like and how much of an effort goes into getting on with it. So if you're reading this because you have had a loss or know people that have been through this, remember, there is an inner strength in us all that will help you survive.

Keren.

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