Bringing Luka home (New Zealand)

The story of our Angel – Luka Pixie Morris 13 December 2012
My name is Ashleigh. I am 31 years old. I have two children – Maya, 12years, and Jakob, 9years. I am no longer with their dad. My darling partner Shane and I, we have an Angel – Luka.

My pregnancy with Luka was ok – I had low iron, which I took supplements for, and I failed my initial polycose test (for gestational diabetes), but passed the second one. Luka grew perfectly, scans were all perfect, blood pressure was perfect, everything was perfect. We were having a girl. I was more uncomfortable being pregnant with Luka than with Maya and Jake, but I blamed being ‘older’ for that. I worked up to 37weeks.

A couple of days before Luka was born, I had a night of Braxton Hicks – I was excited, maybe I was in labour! I was scared, maybe I was in labour!? I was disappointed when they stopped. Luka was pretty quiet the next day (Tuesday), but so was I, we’d had a tough night. She was still moving well. On Wednesday, she went crazy! Making up for Tuesday I thought. I was 38weeks.

On Thursday, 13 December 2012, Luka woke me up at 5am, with her beautiful kicks. I got up about 7:30am to get Maya ready for school, Jake was staying home, he had tonsillitis – I felt a little uneasy that Luka wasn’t moving so much, but she was a night owl so I pushed the thought aside. I got back home from dropping Maya off, the unease came back so I lay down and jabbed my belly, I stood up and jabbed my belly – I got an almighty boot around 9:30am… and that was it, Luka’s final kick, her kick goodbye.

About half past ten, I got worried again, I think because there were no reactions to my jabbing – Luka was usually quiet in the mornings but I could always ‘make’ her move, always get a reaction. This morning I couldn’t. I was seeing my midwife at 12:30pm, for a routine visit… I thought if I rang her I would just be advised to kick count anyway… half past twelve couldn’t come quick enough.

The first thing I said was she isn’t moving much – my midwife took my blood pressure, it was high. I lay down so we could listen to Luka’s heart – it was beating, but far too slow. When my stomach relaxed – my tightenings had started at 17weeks, regularly every day – her heartrate picked back up. We went up to the hospital; my midwife said we were probably having a baby today! The CTG at the hospital showed the same – decelerations with every tightening… we WERE having a baby today, and we were having it now! A lot of people were suddenly in the room, prepping me for theatre – I was having an emergency caesarean section.

Nothing could have gone any quicker or smoother than it did – our little girl was delivered at 2:02pm. It was very quiet in theatre – they were working on her, my midwife said. Her cord was twice around her neck and there was a lot of meconium. They have intubated her, my midwife said. I asked if her heart was beating – they are doing compressions, my midwife said… that’s when I knew it was over. I am a paediatric nurse. The week before Luka was born I completed my Advanced Paediatric Life Support certificate. I knew deep down my little girl was gone. They tried to bring her back for 25 minutes – I’ll never forget the paediatricians face when he told us he was sorry, there was nothing they could do. I didn’t cry. Did I want to hold her, he asked… of course I did, what else was I meant to do? This was my baby.

He placed her on my chest – she was perfect. She was warm, and soft, and smelt like a new baby. She looked like she was sleeping. I breathed on her face, I watched her wee shoulders for movement, I watched her eyelids for movement, I watched her mouth for movement – there was no movement – I was holding an Angel – My Angel.

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Everything is a little hazy for the rest of Luka’s birthday – I know we were transferred back to our room and family and friends were suddenly with us. We all cried, a lot. We all held her, we all kissed her and smelt her and stroked her fuzzy head. The Drs came back, and did their checks – Luka was a perfect 3170g and 51cm long. They also got some hand and foot prints for us. We dressed her. We held her. We cried. I begged her to breathe. I forgot to ask what colour her eyes were.

A hospital midwife came in and said she was taking Luka at 8:30pm – she had to go to Wellington (we were in Rotorua) for a post-mortem. I wasn’t happy with that – Id only had her for 6hours. I begged the midwife not to take her, and got to the point where I refused, I refused the post-mortem, I refused to give up my baby. The midwife left. The midwife returned – Luka was a neonatal death, an unexpected death, an unexplained death. My right to refuse was gone. Luka was under the coroner, she was having a post-mortem and she was leaving that night. They took her from us at 10:30pm.

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The night and next day are a blur – Luka arrived back from Wellington that afternoon but was picked up from the airport by the funeral home, who kept her for the night, embalmed her, got her ready to come home. We put a beautiful birth notice in the paper – it told the world she was born sleeping.

Luka’s grandparents picked her up on Saturday morning, they took her Moses basket and she travelled back to the hospital in that. They bought her in to me – she looked different, she smelt like chemicals, and she was cold. We cried. I held her close and warmed her cheek on mine. Then we took our baby home.

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We spent the next few days holding Luka, taking photos, crying. We moisturised her face to keep her looking beautiful. I did not undress her as I did not want to see the evidence of the post-mortem. We put her in her moses basket at night, while we attempted sleep, but every waking minute, she was safe and warm in someones arms. On Monday they bought around her casket and spoke about what we wanted for her service. I wanted none of it; these were the things I wanted to run away from. We decided her service would be on Tuesday 18 December at 2pm.

On Monday night my uncle came to do hand and feet castings. I also got him to change her nappy. The kids decorated Luka’s casket. It stayed in the lounge, closed. I wrote on it once, then I pretended it wasn’t there. Tuesday came far too quick. We had her service at home – I held her the whole time. Her service was bearable; I don’t think I cried, possibly because she was still safe in my arms. I’ve been told a lot of people came, I don’t remember who was there. We have a book that people wrote messages in. We have photos. We released helium balloons. Then we took her to the crematorium. I held her in the car.

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We had an open service – anyone who wanted to come was welcome. Our home was also open to anyone who wanted to visit. I felt that the more people who met our precious Luka the better – it would make her ‘real’, give others memories of her. Maya and Jake were absolutely fantastic with her, devastated that their baby sister wasn’t here to stay, but so loving and natural with her – they both spoke at her service. I feel so very humbled by the amount of people who put their lives on hold and spent Luka’s five short days with us, everybody was just so ‘there’ for us. Luka bought everybody together.
At the crematorium we prepared her for her final journey. I changed her hat, wrap, and blanket – I kept the ones she used, they still smell like her, 3 months later. I kept her bracelet; her cuddle-bunny holds it now. We put her in her casket – this has to be the worst thing a parent ever has to do, putting their baby to bed for the last time. Ever. We wrapped her snuggly, put a few soft toys in there with her, and kissed her goodbye. We cried. We walked away before the casket was closed.

It all still feels like a dream, albeit a bad one, everything just ‘happened’. And I am glad I didn’t have to think much. Luka did change a lot over the few days we had her, I think by the day of her service we were ready I guess, ready to let her go – as much as we wanted to keep her, we knew she wouldn’t last forever at home. I don’t have many regrets at all surrounding the days we had Luka, and I think that helps with the grieving. I can look back without too many ‘hindsight’ moments. We ordered cremation jewellery, so we each now wear a wee pendant that has a bit of Luka’s ashes in it. We have our moments, and wish more than anything that our Luka was here – but we are at peace that she would have felt our love and warmth in the days she spent in our arms.

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Sweet Dreams, Luka Pixie xo.

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