Bonnie Hart's Birth Story
Chapter I: The Birth of Bonnie
My husband and I tried to conceive for almost two years. After a diagnosis of unexplained infertility, we started IVF in September 2020. We were over the moon when our very first cycle of IVF was successful. Soon after, we found out we were expecting a little girl, and it felt like all of our dreams had come true.
Thursday 8 April started like most other days. I was almost 32 weeks pregnant. I woke up, went to the gym, followed by my weekly chiropractic appointment. I was working from home that day and powered up my laptop to get started. It was then that I went to the bathroom and saw two spots of blood. Knowing bleeding can be normal during pregnancy, I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, however I called my obstetrician’s office just to be sure. They directed me to call my hospital’s birth centre. Before doing so, I walked upstairs to our bedroom. I felt a sudden wave of dizziness and heat come over me. Knowing this feeling oh too well (I’m a fainter) I sat down so I would not pass out. I think I knew it then, deep down, that something was not right.
I called my husband, who was already on the way home from work. Then I called the birth centre. They asked for my symptoms and when I had last felt movement. I frantically searched my memory trying to remember when I had last felt her kicks. Was it the night before? The birth centre instructed me to monitor the blood loss and call back in 30 minutes. I laid down and held my bump. Hoping and wishing to feel just even the slightest movement from our girl.
My husband arrived home 15 minutes later. I was so prepared for this baby, but not wanting to be “over prepared” for birth, I hadn't packed our hospital bags. My husband quickly threw some things in a bag for me. When I stood up there was a significant amount of blood loss, so we got in the car and drove straight to the private hospital. During this time the pain started. My bump became rock hard and was cramping, but I was wondering why there was no break in the ‘contraction’.
Once we got to the hospital, I was greeted with a wheelchair and taken inside. I got onto a bed and the midwife started scanning my bump for a heartbeat. I was told that my belly was too hard, and they needed to get the ultrasound machine. After an agonising 10 minutes, an obstetrician arrived with the machine and started scanning. That’s when we heard the words…
“There is no heartbeat.”
“Please check again. This can’t be happening.”
My husband and I looked at each other, helplessly. Surely, it was not possible. It had been a short 45 minutes between the spotting and the scan. “No! No, no, no, no! This is not happening.” I kept repeating. I begged, “Please check again. This can’t be happening.”
We were told that the public hospital was better equipped to manage my care. An ambulance was called, I was put onto a bed and wheeled off. Once in the ambulance, my husband and I blankly stared at one another, holding onto a little piece of hope that the obstetrician had it wrong. That our baby girl was going to be ok.
I was wheeled straight into a birthing suite at the public hospital. After what felt like an eternity, an obstetrician performed another ultrasound where they confirmed our worst nightmare. Our baby girl had passed away.
I was told I had experienced a placental abruption. My placenta, our baby’s lifeline, had burst away from the side of the uterus depriving our girl from oxygen and causing me to haemorrhage. Along with the abruption, my body went into DIC, a condition affecting the blood's ability to clot and stop bleeding. This is very rare in labour and made my condition extremely high risk.
After that, I feel like I entered a time warp. Where time simultaneously stood still, yet sped up all at once. Midwives and other doctors started to talk about delivery and pain relief options. They were pushing for an epidural, but I was against it. I wanted to deliver my daughter naturally. I wanted to feel every contraction, every ounce of pain. I wanted to feel every part of bringing her into this world, and never forget it. I thought that if there was anything I could do for her, it was this.
My condition was monitored closely over the next few hours. I had multiple cannulas poked into each arm. I was being pumped with fluids. My blood was taken regularly for testing. I almost fainted every time I stood up. The pain was intense and relentless. Now I have experienced labour, I can say that it felt like I was having one never-ending contraction. Going through all of this, was truly an out of body experience. I am sure my body entered a state of shock.
After a while, an obstetrician wanted to progress labour by breaking my waters. But I felt so unprepared to have a baby. Plus, we hadn’t packed a bag for her. I wanted her special things from home; swaddles and some clothing. So at around 4pm I sent my husband home. The midwives could not believe it. I must be one of the only women in history to send their husband home from the hospital while in labour. But I knew my baby was not coming any time soon.
When my husband was back by my side at around 7pm, an obstetrician broke my waters. I was already 4cm dilated. An oxytocin drip was started to induce labour and I was set up with a PCA and gas. With the help of this pain relief, I was able to rest for a couple of hours.
By 10.30pm, the oxytocin drip was finished, and I started to have regular, intense contractions. I started pleading for an epidural, but due to my condition and blood loss, it was now out of the question. I begged the midwife to check how far along I was. I didn’t think I could go through any more pain, knowing that on the other side of birth was only death.
The midwife told me it was time to have this baby. It was 11pm when I started pushing. I kept repeating that I didn’t know how to do this. That I didn't know what I was doing. Looking back, I know I was saying this because I couldn’t feel my baby moving down. Every push felt as hopeless as the last. I was completely drained.
After a while of pushing, an obstetrician checked our baby’s position and realised she was presenting brow first - basically coming face first. Our baby was stuck, so during a contraction, the obstetrician tried to flex her head to get her into the right position. In that moment I truly thought I was going to die from the pain. It was unsuccessful and attempted two more times unsuccessfully. An obstetrician then tried to apply the vacuum to her head which was also unsuccessful.
At 12.40am, the head obstetrician entered the room and tried once more to get our baby in the right position. When he realised how much pain it was causing, he told us that I would be put under general anaesthetic, and they would deliver our baby. Being that I had been put under before, general anaesthetic was the only familiar aspect about birth, so strangely I was so happy about being put to sleep. I was prepped and wheeled down to surgery.
With her daddy watching over us in surgery, baby Bonnie Hart was delivered at 1.46am on Friday 9 April 2021. She weighed 1675grams. She was briefly placed on my chest for skin to skin before her daddy cut the cord. She was then wrapped and placed in her daddy's arms.
While I was under general anaesthetic, a team of obstetricians used my contractions to get our baby in the right position, and she was delivered with forceps. I had a slight internal tear which required stitches. Throughout the labour and delivery, I lost 3.6 litres of blood. Over the following 24 hours, I had a total of 6 bags of blood and 9 bags of cryo (cryo is rich in clotting factors, which help to slow bleeding) pumped back into my bloodstream.
I woke up in recovery at around 6am, still in a lot of pain. My husband came in with tears running down his face. He told me our baby girl was perfect, and that she looked just like me.
I was taken back to our birth suite shortly after, and Bonnie was placed in my arms for the very first time. My husband was right - Bonnie was perfect in every way. She was everything we dreamt she would be and more. A head full of sandy brown hair, daddy’s feet and little nose, and my blue eyes, lips, and long toes. Ironically, in that moment I felt joyous. There are truly no words to describe the feeling of seeing and holding your baby for the first time. But I will never forget the silence of the room, and the heartache of seeing no life in her perfect little body.
As birth took such a toll on my body, I was kept in hospital for the following four days. During that time, we were cared for and supported by a team of incredible, compassionate, and thoughtful obstetricians and midwives, some of whom held us and cried tears of their own for our loss.
We should have had a lifetime with Bonnie, but we had to fit a lifetime into those four days. We were given the precious gift of time thanks to a Bears of Hope Cuddle Cot. A Cuddle Cot is a cooling system that is designed to fit within a bassinet. The cot is essentially an extension of time, allowing bereaved parents the opportunity to create special memories and shower their baby with love after they have passed. Our cot was kindly donated to the hospital by a local mama of an angel baby. We could never be more grateful for that gift.
We created some beautiful memories with Bonnie in the short time we had with her. We stared at her perfect face for hours on end, bathed and dressed her, took many photographs, had castings of her tiny hands and feet taken, had family snuggles until we fell asleep together, played special songs to her, sat in the sunshine and just held her close. When I was discharged in the days following, my husband and I said our final goodbyes, placed Bonnie in the arms of a midwife, and walked out of the hospital. Though we left with empty arms, we left holding each other just a little more tightly. And we left holding onto something else - hope. Hope that next time we walk out of those hospital doors, it will be with our rainbow baby in our arms.
Having self-diagnosed white coat syndrome, and fearing needles and hospitals, I was terrified in the lead up to birth. And although my experience didn’t go how I ever expected or wanted it to, having Bonnie placed in my arms made it all worth it, even though she only stayed for a short while. Her birth was simultaneously the best and worst day of my entire life.
Chapter II: After Bonnie
Now while this is Bonnie’s ‘birth’ story, typically so much focus is placed on pregnancy and birth, not what happens after. I’m sure other mamas know postpartum all too well; the engorged breasts, the bleeding, the sleepless nights, the deflated belly and not being able to sit normally for weeks on end.
After Bonnie’s birth, not only was I wrapped up in immense grief, I also had constant physical reminders that she was no longer here. I hated looking and feeling like I had just given birth, but my baby was missing. I didn’t recognise the person without the bump in the mirror. I was trapped in a postpartum body, with no baby to show for it. Nothing prepared me for that.
It was certainly not the fourth trimester I had planned in my mind; navigating life as a new mum, endless baby snuggles, family outings and play dates. Instead of bringing home a bundle of joy, we came home to plan our baby’s cremation, pick out an urn and find the perfect little outfit for her goodbye service. Instead of fun mothers' groups, there's only support groups and counselling sessions. Instead of waking up to a crying baby through the night, I lie awake, thinking of Bonnie every moment and seeing her every time I try to close my eyes.
Our 6 week follow up appointment with our obstetrician provided us with some answers and further clarity around what happened to Bonnie.
Bonnie was a healthy baby, perfect in every way. However, tests on the placenta revealed that it had a development issue. The placenta likely had this issue from the start of the pregnancy. It had simply gotten to the point where it could no longer function, and that is why the abruption occurred.
My obstetrician refers to what happened as a ‘catastrophic event’. I had a textbook perfect pregnancy. There was no indication that this was going to happen. The abruption occurred so quickly, it never could have been prevented, nor Bonnie's life saved.
It is incredible that I got as far along in my pregnancy with Bonnie as I did. In a weird way, I feel grateful. As heartbreaking as it is that we never got to bring her home, she defied all odds. Bonnie gave us 32 amazing weeks of her. 32 weeks of pure sunshine and happiness. She gave us the beautiful gift of becoming parents.
Having the answers to what happened doesn't make it feel any less painful. It certainly still feels cruel and unfair, and we ask ourselves every day "why us?". However, it does provide comfort knowing that this could not have been prevented and that we did nothing wrong. We have been given reassurance that it was an extremely rare event, one that is unlikely to happen again with the right care.
Chapter 3: Rainbows
And with our beautiful baby girl watching over us, the next chapter of our story begins.
With hearts full of hope, my husband and I began our second cycle of IVF a week after Bonnie’s due date. A short time later, we found out that we were expecting our rainbow baby, due early 2022.
Pregnancy after loss was a long journey, with a rollercoaster of emotions felt every day. However, I always held onto hope that this pregnancy would be different. That everything would be ok. Bonnie sent us a multitude of signs throughout the pregnancy, from white feathers that would show up in strange places, to butterflies and magical little rainbows. We truly felt like she was guiding this baby earthside.
However, the world came crashing down around me again in the early morning of February 14, about 5 weeks before my due date. I woke to a “pop” and gush of warm fluid. When I turned on the light, I saw red. I had suffered a second placental abruption.
My husband and I rushed to the hospital. When we arrived, we prepared ourselves for the worst news, but instead were told our baby was alive and their heart rate stable. I needed an emergency caesarean. At 2:07am, our little ray of sunshine Inka James was born. The sweetest Valentine’s Day gift from her sister above.
Inka is now a cheeky one-year-old. And Bonnie still sends us rainbows.
Chapter 4: Bonnie’s Gifts
Much of Bonnie’s death still does not feel like reality or make sense to me. However, I have (mostly) come to a place of acceptance and know that my grief will be forever a part of me.
Grief has made our lives richer in unexpected ways. Bonnie has brought us so much and taught us much about ourselves and the people we are and want to become.
Bonnie gave us the gift of becoming a mummy and daddy. Something we had wished and hoped to become for such a long time before her. She brought so much love into our lives. She taught us how to love more fiercely, and made our marriage unbreakable. Some of our relationships became stronger and more meaningful, whilst others were tested. However, for the people we lost on our journey, in their place came the most caring, wonderful strangers who have helped heal our broken hearts.
Bonnie showed us that magic exists. That if we believe and are still enough, beautiful little signs and gentle whispers from angels will appear in the form of butterflies, feathers & numbers. She inspires us to be more grateful. To become better, more kinder, more generous people. Because of Bonnie, we know that life is short and precious. We live our lives with more meaning, with more passion, purpose & intention.
Through Bonnie, I now understand that my purpose on earth is to be an advocate and break the silence on stillbirth, and to support other families who have experienced baby loss.
Tragically, six babies are born still every day in Australia. We never imagined that we would be part of this statistic. Whilst nothing could have prevented Bonnie’s death, sadly some stillbirths are preventable. If you are pregnant or supporting someone who is pregnant, please familiarise yourself with these three proven behaviours that can help reduce the risk of stillbirth:
1. Sleep on your side after 28 weeks
2. Monitor your baby movements and contact your health care provider if they change
3. Quit smoking and avoid cigarette smoke.
Finally, if you ever feel that something is not right with you or your baby, do not delay in contacting your healthcare provider.
You can find more information about stillbirth prevention through the wonderful resources:
If you need support, please visit these pages for their amazing help and support services:
Bears Of Hope:
If you'd like to help us support our favourite charities and help as many parents going through loss as possible have those special moments in the Hospital with their babies, please follow the charities links below do donate.
CUDDLE COTS - BEARS OF HOPE
PHOTOGRAPHER - HEARTFELT
KEEPSAKE'S BOX - PRECIOUSWINGS