On the night of the 21st of April 2017 my husband and I were up finishing last minute jobs around the house as we knew Benjamin’s arrival was approaching. Earlier that day I was busy and in full nesting mode, I noted that Benjamin wasn't moving a whole lot but put it down to me being busy and not paying attention, I also kept recalling people telling me that babies "run out of room" or are quieter right before labour... boy were they wrong and how I wished I knew better.
Benjamin was booked to be induced on the 25th of April as he was a larger baby than my first and due to tearing with my smaller baby, they wanted to induce me so that Benjamin didn’t grow much bigger therefore would be easier to labour. On the 21st we went to sleep at 11.30pm. At 3.00am I woke with the most strangest of feeling that Benjamin wasn't moving. I made the decision to wake and tell my husband. We both agreed that he must just be “sleeping” and while I struggled to go back to bed I managed to sleep again at 5.30am.
At 7am my 2.5 year old came in to wake me up and we had what I told him was “our last Rueben and mama date before Benjamin arrived.” Sadly, I wasn’t wrong. We went to IKEA to get last minute items and return a few things and it was there that it hit me even with an icy cold drink that Benjamin didn’t move, I tried to shift him using my hands full force and he didn’t kick back like he usually would. I panicked, looking for my parking ticket. I rang my husband to tell him I’d be going in to the hospital to check on Benjamin.
He met me there from work and as I was lying on the nurses bed, he held our toddler and we both stared at each other in a way we never had before. Blank, almost second guessing our entire existence, but holding on for results. The nurse used the Doppler to look for a heartbeat... but minutes in she had a blank look on her face mentioning that she would go and get an obstetrician with an ultrasound machine to get a “closer” look. When she left I said to John “it never takes them long to find his heartbeat” but I still didn’t want to believe my boy was gone.
The obstetrician pulled her machine out and began the ultrasound on my womb, probing and pressing harder than usual. I was looking at her face to read the results but she didn’t give away much. Two to three minutes of scanning in, I felt my heart sink with the question I knew was about to change our world forever...I asked “please, as soon as you know anything can you just let us know”. She reached out her hand to place on my shoulder and this is the moment I just knew he was gone. I thought to myself there’s only one reason she’s comforting me and there were the words that shattered our entire family “I’m so sorry, there’s no sign of life”. I began weeping uncontrollably, screaming an internal scream that I’ve never screamed before. My husband fell apart still holding our toddler.
Grandparents arrived quickly to take our son away to distract him but he witnessed his family fall apart. He witnessed the moment his brother was pronounced no longer. I had my hospital bag in my car as I was already prepped for an induction but only a very different kind. I stayed and at night they began a process of induction that would see Benjamin born on the 24th is April, only a day shy of his impending arrival. Apart from being deceased, he looked absolutely perfect, I was so baffled! Why was my boy gone? My pregnancy was so textbook, perfect in every way.
Eleven weeks later we received our autopsy results confirming that his cause of death was “GROUP B STREP”. I said Isn’t it that swab test? I tested positive to at 36 weeks? (To be placed on IV antibiotics during labour) “Yes” they confirmed. How did it reach him? I thought it was only dangerous for babies during labour or post labour! They said it could've been a slow leak of waters and that it was so rare. They weren’t able to tell me how it got to him and I grew so frustrated so I took research into my own hands. I later learned that group B step can travel up and pierce your intact membranes where baby lives.
I had an internal “cervical” check at 36.5 days gestation with Benjamin. The day later I noticed a really thick discharge as I wiped and I took a photo of it as i thought I’ll mention at my next appointment. Turns out this was my mucus plug. The plug's function is to act like a cork to help prevent infection reaching the baby. I also quickly learnt that babies movements should never “slow down". They should be regular throughout pregnancy from about week 32 on.
I am now 21 weeks pregnant with our third little boy and the treatment I’m receiving is far different to my first two pregnancies. I’ve been swabbed from 11 weeks gestation for group B strep. Each time it comes back positive they place me on oral antibiotics along with probiotics to protect the gut flora. The antibiotics are working as for the first time in all my pregnancies. I’m swabbing negative to GBS. I have a new swab test every 3 weeks to confirm if it’s back or not and treatment accordingly.
The devastating part comes from knowing my son had to die for me to receive this kind of treatment. I've read through my hospital handouts on group B strep and it’s found in the last pages of their large booklet that was published in “2002” and it states only two ways GBS can infect a baby... during labour and post labour. My wish is that they educate women that it can also cause stillbirth and to STOP putting it into the “too rare, too hard” basket. I wish they would also be educated on prevention, monitoring and treatment of group B strep. I had no idea of the above and I felt failed by the system because "it's too rare."
I ache to have my boy back every single day, so does his father and brother..we know that can’t be but this story is In honour of Benjamin and all those born still due to group B strep,
- Sandra Dagher