A 27-year-old mother has opened up about her anguish after giving birth to her baby son at 36 weeks knowing he was going to be stillborn.
Brooke Campbell, from Brisbane, nearly died after she lost more than 1.7 litres of blood when she suffered a severe haemorrhage in the early hours of August 28.
But after she was taken to hospital, the young woman completely broke down when her obstetrician found baby Darcy no longer had a heartbeat.
WHAT IS A PLACENTAL ABRUPTION?
Placental abruption means the placenta has detached from the wall of the uterus, either partly or totally. This can cause bleeding in the mother and may interfere with the baby’s supply of oxygen and nutrients.
The cause is unknown in most cases, but risk factors may include maternal high blood pressure, abdominal trauma and substance misuse.
Without prompt medical treatment, a severe case of placental abruption can have dire consequences for the mother and her unborn child, including death.
Credit: Better Health
‘I looked at the ultrasound screen and could see Darcy’s lifeless body just hanging there inside me,’ Ms Campbell told Daily Mail Australia.
‘There are no words but gut-wrenching and a vivid picture in my mind that I will never forget.
‘It was too late to do anything as he was already gone.’
The cause of her unborn son’s death was a haemorrhage caused by a placental abruption – which occurs when the placenta separates from the uterus.
‘The placenta just blew off from the uterus wall, causing Darcy to go into cardiac arrest. And he passed away due to no oxygen,’ she said.
‘I was in complete shock and I just didn’t believe it. But I knew while we were waiting for the ambulance at home with the amount of blood and clots I was losing and that I couldn’t feel him… something was very very wrong.’
Her husband Elliott, 34, was bringing their bags in from the ambulance when she told him about the tragic news.
‘I still remember the look on Elliot’s face when he walked into the room and I said: “Darcy is gone, he doesn’t have a heartbeat”,’ she recalled.
‘He just said “No you’re wrong, how does this happen”. He just dropped to the floor hysterically crying. He took it really badly. Three nurses helped him back to his feet.’
Darcy looked healthy and beautiful except he didn’t cry like a newborn… He just looked like he was asleep which shattered my heart into many pieces because I just wanted him to gasp and take his first breath
The distraught mother was transferred to a birth suite where she had to deliver her baby knowing he was going to be stillborn.
‘There are no words to describe the pain and heart break knowing he was going to be stillborn. Horrific and gut-wrenching won’t even cover it,’ Ms Campbell said.
‘We chose not to do an unnecessary caesarean section. We continued on with a vaginal birth as my first was also vaginal.
‘It was such a cruel thing I had to go through with the labour and delivery. Knowing Darcy would be gone when he came out it killed me so much but it had to be done.
‘I just burst into tears knowing what would be coming next. Three big pushes and he was out… 53 centimetres long and 3.3 kilograms just like his big brother.
‘Darcy looked healthy and beautiful except he didn’t cry like a newborn. He just looked like he was asleep which shattered my heart into many pieces because I just wanted him to gasp and take his first breath.’
The infant was stillborn, leaving his parents and his two-year-old brother with a few moments to build memories of him in candid photographs.
‘The hospital offered us as much time with Darcy as we wanted so we spent the whole of Monday and Tuesday with him,’ Ms Campbell said.
‘He even got to stay in our room with a bassinet which had a cooling system that was also provided but I’d refused to let him go.
‘I cuddled him on my chest all night with my arms wrapped around him. I woke up many times that night just to cuddle, kiss and silently cry, trying not to wake Elliot up.
Cradling the tiny boy in her arms for the final time, Ms Campbell was comforted by her husband as little Noah planted a tender kiss on his stillborn sibling.
‘He was wrapped and placed on my chest, it was a beautifully tragic time,’ she said.
‘I had such a rollercoaster of crazy emotions because it just wasn’t fair that he wasn’t alive… he was so healthy. He looked perfect and just like Noah which made it harder.
‘Noah was very gentle with him but was confused why the baby wasn’t moving. He’s still too young to understand but he kissed Darcy a lot when he met him in hospital.
‘I was holding Darcy so tightly and sobbing. My heart felt like it was shattered beyond repair.’
Her blood test found Ms Campbell had a rare clotting, genetic disorder called Factor V Leiden, which affects one in 20-25 people.
‘If this test was to become mandatory during pregnancy for all women, then I would not have lost my healthy beautiful son,’ she said.
‘The test informs you if you have Factor V Leiden – and then you can have injections throughout pregnancy to prevent suffering a placental abruption.’
‘Women just need to have the option there to get tested for this disorder otherwise they may hold the gene and be risking the life of their unborn baby, themselves and future grandchildren.’
By sharing her story, Ms Campbell said she wanted to raise awareness about the dangers and the possibility that people, including pregnant women and men, could be carrying the genetic disorder without knowing.
‘The pain and suffering we endured through the past six weeks are just horrendous and no parent should ever have to ever bury their healthy child,’ she said.
‘I don’t want people to risk their own lives or the lives of their unborn children so I just want to get the message across this disorder does exist,’ she said.
‘It’s common and no one even really knows about it until its too late. We didn’t even know what it was until we got the results back after Darcy had passed away.’
For other women who have suffered a stillbirth, Ms Campbell said: ‘You don’t have to be strong but get the support you need.
‘Talk to friends and family about your loss. Keeping it bottled up inside will just make it worse,’ she said.
‘I didn’t leave the house for a few weeks after because I was too much of an emotional wreck talking about what happened so I waited until I thought I could.
‘I would be totally put off if Darcy was our first child but we are lucky to already have our son Noah to distract us and get us up each morning.
‘I am keeping positive by telling myself: “I will have another baby or two in the future and I will get my rainbow baby”.
‘I know Darcy would want me to be happy – and for me to grieve is to get pregnant again sooner rather than later.’
The family’s photographer Natasha Thaelser has vowed to double donations to little Darcy’s legacy on the Bears of Hope campaign.
To make a donation, please visit Art for Darcy.