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Andrew

Andrew Rory Rochat entered into this world on September 17 1996. Rory and I were euphoric - our third child and first son had arrived! Rory remembers driving home from the hospital in the early hours of the morning thinking he must be the luckiest man alive. I can remember being on cloud nine - I had managed to give birth without an epidural, (something that had not been possible with my first two children). Little did we know that 20 hours later we would be in the depths of despair - our precious son taken away from us as a result of a Group B Strep Infection.

 

My pregnancy had been trouble-free up till about 30 weeks when the first Rhesus antibodies were picked up. I hadn't had any bleeding during the pregnancy, so their appearance was a mystery. I had also had an Anti-D injection after my second daughter Kate was born, so Rhesus Antibodies shouldn't have been a problem. At 35 weeks I was referred to Kings College Hospital for a Cordocentesis. The results showed that Andrew was getting more and more anaemic as a result of the Antibodies. I was advised to have an induction. If I didn't, the severe anaemia could lead to heart failure in the baby. The induction went well. I was adamant that I didn't want a Caesarean. I had one with my first child Nicole. Kate was born naturally and I much preferred that recovery.

 

We were able to hold Andrew briefly after he was born. He had to be given a total blood transfusion. I woke up early in the morning and asked to see him, but wasn't allowed as they were still busy with the transfusion. After breakfast, we were informed that Andrew was 'poorly' - a term that I detest. It sounds so innocuous, but in our case was anything but.

 

During the course of the day, we visited Andrew, but had very little time with him as the staff were so busy trying to help him. When the Group B Strep infection was confirmed, our immediate response was was to ask where it had come from. Imagine my surprise when I was informed it came from my own body - the same one that had nurtured my child all these months!

 

We grew more concerned during the course of the day - Andrew was not responding appropriately to treatment. An hour and a half before he died, some improvement had occurred and he appeared more stable.

 

We were told that he would spend about 4 weeks in the SCBU before going home. A half hour before he died, we were told that the staff had tried everything and felt that they were losing him. They suggested moving him from Kingston Hospital to St. George's as they had a slightly different type of ventilator that might be of benefit to Andrew. However, they stressed that they did not know whether or not Andrew would survive the journey. We rushed off to pack but we were called to Andrew's side shortly afterwards. We were with him when he died. All I wanted to do was to hold him. We took him to a room where we could bath, dress and hold him. All the love, cuddles, lullabies that we had planned to give him over his lifetime were now condensed into a few short hours. I was terrified that I would forget what he looked like. Our photos of him are so important.

 

Much too soon, we had to fetch our other children. The next morning we had to explain to them that the baby brother that they had talked to in my tummy, had died. Nicole, then 5 and a half was particularly upset. Kate, who was 2 and a half at the time did perhaps not fully understand what had happened. Both girls were acutely aware of our distress, and became very clingy as a result. I remember the agony of having to register Andrew's birth and death on the same day. We took a lot of care planning his funeral. It was all so quick and unexpected. Hardly had we received our first bouquet of congratulation, and all the sympathy flowers started to arrive. How could a baby that weighed 6lbs 15oz at 35 weeks die within 20 hours? Nicole had been born at 31 weeks weighing 3lbs, and had survived. Why did we not know that I carried the Group B Strep infection? If we had only known that a course of antibiotics during labour would have prevented all this pain.

We had moved to the U.K. from South Africa only 6 months before Andrew's birth. My mother and father-in-law came out to be with us. I was literally in a daze for months afterwards. Sands was my lifeline. I had a tremendous urge to meet other bereaved parents. I needed to meet people who had managed to survive this living hell. I wasn't scared of death, only of life. I often considered walking in front of a bus or train - it was only the love and support of my husband and children that kept me going.

 

Rory and I went on a beautiful overnight hike in South Africa in December '96. We scattered some of Andrew's ashes there. Some other ashes were scattered on a beach with Nicole and Kate. We have kept a few of his ashes with us. I was shocked at how few family members and friends were able to talk about Andrew with us. It is very important to me to keep his memory alive in our family. I want my children to grow up knowing that they have a brother, who has a name, and who is a part of this family. I often talk to Nicole and Kate and we try to imagine what Andrew would be doing in heaven. On his first birthday, we bought a "caterpillar" cake and sang Happy Birthday to him. When one of the children have a birthday, I always put Andrew's name on the card as well. These are all little things, but they keep his presence alive in our home. My children are much more aware of death than any other children their age. Nicole asked for a shoe box the other day - to use as a coffin for her Barbies! I am now pregnant with my fourth child. It is emotionally very challenging, but we are trying to take one day at a time and not dwell too much on what may or may not go wrong. The girls are thrilled. I only hope that this time there will be good news to share with them.

 

Sands is still vital to me. I can't tell you how much it meant to me to attend a meeting and be introduced as Andrew's mother! As time goes on, people expect you to be "over it", and opportunities to discuss one's feelings and memories get fewer and fewer.

I often try and picture Andrew as described in Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet, in the chapter entitled On Death


"For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then shall you begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance."

 

Aletta Rochat

 

UPDATE

 

Trevor Rory Rocat arrived safely on July 21st 1998 - on Mum's birthday. I was treated with antibiotics prior to the caesarean section. Trevor was delivered at 34 weeks due to Rhesus problems. He spent about 2 weeks in SCBU. He has brought our familiy much joy and happiness. We still miss Andrew a lot - our love for him and longing for him continue. We look forward to seeing him again.

 

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