‘Losing Cormac has shaped not just who I am as a parent but as a person’ – Laura’s story

Laura's son Cormac was born at just 23 weeks. Sadly, he passed away after a week in neonatal care.

"10cm dilated.”

That's what he said.

Swiftly followed by an announcement that the baby was coming and they couldn't stop it.

Eighteen minutes after getting to the hospital I was in a delivery suite with another doctor telling me: "If your baby doesn't breathe we won't intervene.”

I don't think I've ever hated anyone as much as I hated her in that moment.

Eighteen minutes after being in the delivery room our baby was born. I was 23+2 weeks pregnant and then I suddenly wasn’t. Our baby was here.

He let out the tiniest little cry, it may as well have been a roar because that's what I heard... a determined shout. Just like that our world was flipped upside down.

Our baby was here earlier than planned. We had so much to do; we had to name him for a start. The minute we saw him, after the NICU team stabilised him, I just knew he was Cormac. Cormac Brian Copeland, our beautiful boy, was whisked away up to the NICU.

I was given tea and toast like it was any other birth. I washed myself as best as I could; my scruffy t-shirt became a washcloth.

My hair tie snapped.

This of all things sent me into a spin. I began sobbing uncontrollably. I just wanted to tie up my hair, I just wanted to see my baby, I just wanted to still be pregnant, I just wanted to not be living this nightmare.

A midwife gave me a hair tie from her pocket, a hug and once we found my dressing gown she brought us up to see Cormac. He was tiny, 1lb 6oz, though apparently that's a good weight for his gestation.

Cormac fought hard for a week. It was an uphill battle for our fighter. That week was a roller coaster, each day, each hour saw its own highs and lows. Each time we walked down that corridor saw me giving myself an internal pep talk. I had to build up my armour each and every time to walk through that door. As soon as I saw him my armour fell away.

Trying to hold myself together for conversations with doctors was so hard. I just wanted to look at Cormac, read him stories, tell him I loved him, sing badly to him.

He suffered several brain bleeds. His kidneys began to fail and his lungs and heart couldn't cope. On 21 May at around 3.00am Cormac took his last breath in my arms.

I bathed him and dressed him. I put him in a little blue cardigan and hat that were way too big for him, a preemie vest and baby grow.

That outfit was his coming home outfit, his school uniform, his communion outfit, his suit for his wedding day... all the outfits for all the occasions we’d now never get to witness. My heart that had once been so full of hope, excitement and joy had been shattered into a million pieces.

I wanted to be one of the parents who got to bring their baby home in a car seat, instead we left the unit with a memory box and had to make arrangements with the undertakers for them to bring him home.

I became very depressed. I didn't want to see anyone, I couldn't go anywhere without my partner, I just wanted to hold my baby. Every so often I would feel able to take on the world but then it would hit me like a ton of bricks; my baby had died. I wanted to be with him, I wanted him with me. I was referred to the perinatal psychology service; it's a long waiting list.

When I fell pregnant again in March 2018 my anxiety rocketed. I cried down the phone to the psychologist’s secretary and I got an urgent referral. I felt so guilty skipping the very long queue to see the psychologist but I was holding on by my fingertips and I needed the help. Every twinge could send me into a spin; I was convinced this baby would be taken from me too.

A rainbow pregnancy is exhausting. I was in the hospital almost weekly for scans, psychologist appointments, and physiotherapy - thanks to sciatica and pelvic pain. When I was 29 weeks pregnant I was told my cervix had shortened, I was given steroids as a precaution.

The following day I was admitted into hospital as I had been having contractions and they suspected an infection. I was much further on than I had been with Cormac but they thought of losing this baby too terrified me.

I hated being in the hospital. The ward was below the NICU and beside the quiet room where I held Cormac the mornings after he died. One doctor kept calling Cormac a miscarriage, another doctor asked me during rounds if I was eager to get home to my other child. I said that of course I wanted to be at home with Cormac but he died in this very hospital.

I was eventually sent home only to be back in at 33 weeks pregnant with more contractions. After a week I was discharged again by reluctant doctors. I was more stressed in the hospital than I was at home but as I lived so close to the hospital they agreed.

Our daughter Eimear Martha Copeland was born at 34+6 weeks. Luckily she didn't need to be whisked off to the NICU. They brought an incubator to the postnatal ward for us. When she needed light therapy they brought it all to us.

Losing Cormac has shaped not just who I am as a parent but as a person. I thought losing my sister and my dad would be the worst pain I would ever feel but that pain paled in comparison to losing my son. I try and make him proud every day. I have become a volunteer for the charity Aching Arms. I am also involved with the Snowdrop Group in my local hospital. The Snowdrop group aims to improve the care of parents who lose a baby. I have also sent a teddy bear I bought for Cormac around the world, people know his story and as a result are more aware that baby loss happens and not every NICU baby makes it home.

If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this post and would like support, view our online support pages.

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