I’m reclaiming my daughter’s birth.
When I went into labour at 23+4 weeks, I was scared and sad. I’d been on strict bed rest almost two weeks since my membranes ruptured and we had moved from ‘no hope’ to ‘some hope’ in that time. But in the moment I realised I was having contractions, all I could think of was my failure to keep my baby safe inside me. I could no longer protect her. That day, there was nothing good about Emily’s birth. My little girl was whisked straight away from me to be resuscitated and briefly brought back for a kiss before she disappeared into the NICU for the rest of her three week long life.
It took me days before I could see her for more than a few minutes at a time. It was a week before I was happy that she’d been born, before I could stand to hear ‘congratulations’ without wanting to vomit or throw something. In the end, though, I embraced my daughter’s story and her path in life because they were part of who she was; someone I loved wholly and without reservation. Throughout that time, though, and after, her birth continued to be a symbol of my failure as a mother. As a mother, I expected that I would protect my baby from harm. I felt guilty that I couldn’t do so, felt that my body had betrayed me or failed me.
One day I decided that I was going to take back my birth story, and own it. I had only been given three precious weeks with Emily and there were so few stories of her life that I could share or remember that I wasn’t willing to discount a single second, particularly not one so momentous as this. I spent many years trying to conceive Emily and had always felt locked out of the Mother’s Club because I hadn’t experienced birth. Now I had, and I found that I could be proud of some things. I’d held onto her after my membranes ruptured for almost two weeks, I’d had a vaginal birth, my husband had cut the cord and I’d had one treasured kiss. I’d had an experience that was profound and life-changing.
Since reclaiming Emily’s birth story, I’ve had more in common with ‘normal’ Mums. There are stories that we can share together that allow us to bond and help those women get past their fear of saying something wrong. It’s been a gateway into discussion about the daughter that I desperately want to talk about as often as I can. It’s opened the door for me to talk positively and happily about my pregnancy and the bond I developed with her during that time. It’s given me back not just that day but the months that I spent with her tucked away safe inside me.
Honouring her arrival now feels like honouring my daughter, a part of the magic of a short but powerful life.
Sue Dagg is 34 years old and lives with her husband Rob and bulldog Lilly. Their daughter Emily Beatrice was born prematurely at 23+4 due to PROM and died after only three weeks of life. She was a fighting spirit who beat many odds to be born. For Sue, part of bringing meaning to Emily’s life is found in breaking the stigma of talking about pregnancy and infant loss, and ensuring others know they’re not alone.