I opened my eyes at 3.00am just as Samantha was giving me another check. At this point I’d had a bit of show and my waters broke, so she said it wouldn’t be very long until I was ready to give birth to Frankie. My husband rang my parents and they said they were on their way.
I suddenly had loads of tightness and while the epidural was working I was in a bit more pain than when I first had it. With hindsight I think this was Frankie getting ready to make his appearance in the world, but I closed my eyes again and had a little bit more sleep.
When I opened them again my parents were in the room and I could hear Samantha say I was ready to have him. But I was baking hot and felt like I was going to pass out, so much so that my husband had to go to the Fay Turner Suite and get the fan that was in there. Once I’d had that on me for a few minutes, I felt much better. Samantha asked if I wanted my Dad in the room when he was born, my Mum was going to stay with me and my husband but I said yes, my Dad could stay. I was torn between not wanting him to see me in pain and him being on his own in the corridor, and I didn’t want him to be on his own.
When Samantha had a look to see how I was doing in terms of having him, she said his head had crowned already so she called in a second midwife. Apparently there are always two midwives present at a birth when the head is about to be born, something I didn’t know.
She asked me to push and I remember pushing a couple of times, and then the second midwife came in. When she had a look at me I vaguely remember her saying something like she needed to get prepped quickly!
I pushed again and then Samantha asked me to breathe quickly to help Frankie’s head out – I again vaguely remember my husband telling me how to breathe and breathing with me to help. The next thing I knew his head was born, and one more push later he was in my arms on my chest, at exactly 4.43am on Friday 29th November 2013. I was given an injection to help the placenta come out, which it did very quickly. I also had to have a few stitches, as I had a 2 degree tear, and was given some tablets to stop my breasts from producing any milk.
I remember my parents bursting into tears and Samantha asking my husband if he would like to cut the cord, which he did. I willed Frankie to cry and open his eyes, I prayed like mad that he would, but I knew deep down he wouldn’t, and that unlike Dallas, this wasn’t a nightmare I was going to ever wake up from. This was real and actually happening to me.
When I was finally able to have a look at Frankie, I was struck by how big he was for just under 32 weeks. He had very long legs and arms and looked as big as a baby that had gone to full term. Samantha took him from me to weight him and I was shocked to hear that he weighted 4lbs 10oz. When my husband held him, he was the length of his lower arm.
Another thing I wanted to have a look at was the extent of his cleft lip and palate. I could see the cleft lip on his left side very clearly, and I gently and delicately had a look inside his mouth. The palate was very badly affected and the gap in the roof of his mouth was a good half an inch in size, if not more. If nothing else the poor lad would have had to have had a lot of operations and surgery to put it right.
I also couldn’t get over how much hair he had. It was black, thick and looked wavy, like it would be curly hair one day. I’m not sure if he inherited his black hair from his Dad or from my Italian side of the family! He had perfect ears feet and hands, although the consultant who picked up his talipes was right about it, it was positional and his right foot was completely bent over. That probably could have been put right, had he lived.
As Frankie was 8 weeks premature they couldn’t wash him or clean him as his skin was too delicate, so my Mum and I put a nappy on him and dressed him in a special outfit she had bought him from Mothercare, a hat and a blue blanket that my Aunty Lena gave him. Throughout all this I cried my eyes out, knowing that my son would never open his eyes and see me. He had grown his angel wings, and I had to make the most of what time I had with him.
A nurse came into the room and asked me if I would like some tea and toast, so I said I’d love some toast and a coffee instead of tea. When she brought it in, and I had my first mouthful of toast, it felt like it was the most comforting thing in the world. I watched the Midwives series on BBC1 earlier this year, and one of the episodes was from Birmingham Women’s Hospital. One of the midwives said in the programme that she’d broken the toaster and that it was a huge disaster. At the time I thought “oh for god’s sake, the toaster is broken, so what”, but the minute I had my first bite of toast I knew exactly what a disaster it really was. There was nothing more comforting at that precise moment than toast and coffee.
My husband had had no sleep at all for two nights yet somehow kept going and took as many photos as he could. I just didn’t want to let go of Frankie, but of course my husband and parents wanted to hold him and spend time with him too. When I had him in my arms I kept thinking about how I would never see him take his first steps, or hear him say his first words. I would never see him go to school, make friends, grow up, have his first girlfriend (or boyfriend, we are in the 21st Century after all), his first pint, see him get married or go out on the town with his friends as lads do. None of that would ever happen for him.
My Dad had to go for a doctor’s appointment as he has type 2 diabetes and just after he left my husband called David Southall, and let him know that “there had been a new arrival in the world”. Half an hour later when David got to work, he came to see me in the delivery suite.
“May I hold him?” he asked, and I was honoured to place him in David’s arms.
At that exact moment, I stopped blaming God for taking Frankie from me, and felt strangely at peace.