Lightning can strike twice

Rachel with Portraits of Caden (left) and Ava (right). 265123_01

By Melissa Meehan

They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, but when it does, Rachel knows its a rough journey ahead.

The Woori Yallock woman is a mum to three, but only three-year-old Kai is earthside.

Her other two children Caden and Ava live on in their memories.

Rachel, and her husband Blake, have had more than their share of heartache.

After a routine pregnancy with Kai, they decided to expand their family.

They got pregnant quickly and were excited to share the news they would soon welcome a baby brother for Kai.

Rachel did all the usual testing, including the genetic checks at 11 weeks and they all came up normal.

But, in the throws of the Covid-19 pandemic, her 20 week scan raised some concerns.

Alone and afraid, Rachel lay in silence as the radiographer scanned her belly for two hours without saying a word.

She knew then something wasn’t right.

Later a specialist scan would confirm her deepest fears and she was told the baby wouldn’t survive another two weeks.

A doctor told her that the baby would be born stillborn and there was nothing anyone could do.

“I don’t think we’ve processed it still, and it’s been two years,” Rachel told Kids Today.

For weeks Rachel and Blake, with nine-month-old Kai at home with his grandparent, would get a scan every three days to see if the baby’s heart was still beating.

They were met with the false hope that maybe he could survive.

But serious chats were being had with the medical professionals about what that would look like if he were to survive, whether it meant severe disabilities or being in a wheelchair for life.

They were also asked whether they would want to cremate or bury her unborn child if he didn’t make it.

“That was really overwhelming, like we had prepared ourselves for the worst, but deciding whether we cremate or bury a baby I could still feel kicking me was devastating,” Rachel said.

Just after she reached 24 weeks, Rachel was having lunch at her parents house when she started to bleed.

At first she thought it was her waters breaking, but she knew something wasn’t right and they called an ambulance.

She went into labour that day and Caden was born alive.

He was rushed off to NICU while she received blood transfusion after losing more than three litres of blood.

Caden wasn’t well the entire time he was in NICU, he had a minor brain bleed in his first few days but on day six the found a level four brain bleed.

Rachel and Blake chose to cease life support and held him as he slipped away.

“I felt angry because I didn’t want to decide, I wanted my body to have made that decision,” she said.

“But he was too sick.”

They were told that there was no genetic reasoning for Caden to have not made it.

That they had been unlucky, or struck by lightning.

Eight months after Caden passed, Rachel and Blake decided to try again.

They knew being pregnant would bring back a lot of the trauma, but were reassured that it couldn’t and wouldn’t happen again.

But it did.

Again the first part of Rachel’s pregnancy was pretty textbook.

Sure she had a bleed early on, but many women do.

They even held an extravagant gender reveal to celebrate their final pregnancy and welcome their little girl into the world.

Again, at the 20 week scan the couple received some devastating news.

“Because of what I had been through Blake was able to come with me even though lockdown rules didn’t allow him to,” she said.

“So we were just in shock when they told us many of the same things they had said about Caden.”

They were soon told they didn’t think their baby girl would make it either – exactly one year from Caden’s death.

The Mercy Hospital did everything they possibly could to give their baby the best chance of survival; including an inter-uterine infusion.

“It was like a scene from Greys Anatomy – doctors and nurses everywhere, medical students watching on in awe and a giant needle going into my belly while I was wide awake,” Rachel says.

“It helped for a few days before they needed another.”

Ava was born at 27 weeks, via caesarian section.

But to everyone’s surprise she cried when they lifted her out.

“The whole room heard her cry,” Rachel said.

“And she did so well for a few days – she was breathing on her own and crying lots.”

But on day eight, Ava’s heart and kidneys started to fail.

The medical team did everything the could, but there was nothing else they could do.

The same doctor who had delivered the news about Caden was there beside her again telling her she could either watch Ava flatline or take her into the butterfly room and watch her slip away.

With such unimaginable heartache its difficult to process how Rachel and Blake could get up each morning, their burden of heartache all consuming.

But they have Kai to look after and care for. And he’s there on both the good and bad days. And can even force a smile on the toughest days.

Social media has also played an important tool in Rachel’s journey.

She wants to share her story so others don’t feel so alone but uses it as a way to share how she feels without burdening friends and family.

“I don’t think some people understand why it helps, but after being stuck in lockdown after both losses, I had no real way to express my heartache and frustrations,” she said.

“And there is only so much you can burden the people you love with this stuff – so I found it really helped me.”

For now, she just wants people to acknowledge that Caden and Ava existed. And share her story so that others don’t feel so alone.

Follow @our_rough_journey on instagram