Cramming a Lifetime into Three Days - by Abbie Sydenham

Born on the 26th January 2021 at only 36 weeks and 2 days gestation, our daughter, our creation, our little sunflower – Frankie Marjorie Knox entered this world in silence.

Here is our story….


On January 19, 2021 I was 35 weeks 2 days gestation when I noticed Frankie was not making many movements as she would normally. Nothing I did would make her respond. I waited until I got home from work that afternoon so I could use the home doppler to see if I could hear her move around and most importantly her heartbeat – midwives do not recommend using a home doppler as “we do not know what we are listening for” however after hearing Frankie’s heartbeat for the last 36 weeks I was confident I knew what was and was not her heartbeat. Michael and I sat down together and picked up on Frankie’s heartbeat which gave us both reassurance that our little girl was ok. We carried on the rest of our afternoon as usual and agreed to go to the hospital to get checked out “just in case”.

We got to the hospital and had a CTG for the full 30 minutes, Frankie was doing fine, and the midwives were all pleased with the monitoring and variables shown throughout the 30 minutes. I was hoping for an ultrasound just so I could see our baby girl, but we were not able to get a bed side ultrasound as there were “more urgent” matters at the time and if I wanted one, I would have had to stay the night. Michael and I decided to leave as the tests were all fine and in normal range. We were unsure when I would be able to get the bedside ultrasound the next day and I did not want to put work out over to what I thought was “nothing”. The doctor on duty gave me a referral for a wellbeing scan and growth scan to be done – my last scan was at 30 weeks, everything perfectly fine and Frankie measuring as per her gestation.

The next day I called around for a scan to be done but was not able to get in as it was not “urgent”. I finally got an appointment on Monday 25th January. I once again could not feel Frankie’s movements on the Wednesday and Thursday but thought nothing of it as I was only there Tuesday night and had an upcoming midwife appointment on the Friday.

Friday 22 January came around and I had my midwife appointment booked in at 8.30am. Everything was once again normal, heartbeat perfect, measurements were perfect. The only thing was the midwife swore that Frankie was on my right side, but the heartbeat was being picked up on the left, she did not think anything of it as she was still picking up on a heartbeat. I showed the midwife my referral for a wellbeing and growth scan and asked if I could get one while I was there, unfortunately I was unable to get a bedside ultrasound again as they were short doctors and fully booked. The midwife offered another CTG, but I decided not to as everything was fine during my appointment and  I left it as I had an appointment booked on Monday anyway and everything seemed to be fine.

Saturday 23 January came, and I knew something was not right, I still could not feel Frankie moving around. I knew her movements I knew her patterns, but this happened all week and when I was checked she seemed to be fine. I called the hospital that morning for advice, I posted on Facebook for a student midwife to contact me so I could ask their opinion, I called the hospital AGAIN later that afternoon – all advising to go in for checking. Why didn’t I just go in? I was home alone in the morning until around 2pm as Michael was out and uncontactable. I wait until he got home to let him know my concerns to which he was certain Frankie was fine and I was overreacting. We both were in the mind frame of “we will go to the hospital again and waste time for everything to be ok like it was the last two times!” Michael and I umm-ed and ahh-ed all day about whether I should go into hospital or not, against all odds I was so indecisive. I got the home doppler out once again and struggled to find any sort of noise, I panicked, and Michael reassured me everything would be ok and we both agreed to go to the hospital first thing Sunday morning. Within the next few minutes, I was about to walk out the door to go to the hospital, but something changed my mind – I was sending myself crazy and decided I needed to relax and not stress, and we agreed we would go to hospital first thing the next morning. Sunday 24 January we were at the hospital by 8am, Sunday the 24th of January was the morning we found out you were no longer with us.

The midwife on duty was struggling to find a heartbeat on the doppler so called in the doctor on duty to check, she too could not find a heartbeat on the doppler so a bedside ultrasound was done and then is when the doctor said to us “Look I am concerned, we can not seem to find a heartbeat” she called in another doctor to also see the ultrasound, a few moments passed and the doctor once again turned to us and confirmed she could not find a heartbeat and that our baby was no longer with us – our girl was gone.

The emotion that took over our bodies was excruciating. It was something unimaginable. My heart was torn – one side filled with heartache and the other side died with you. Although we couldn’t hear your heartbeat, it is of some comfort that the last sound you heard was the beating of mine.

In my womb, you thrived in every way. You always had a strong heartbeat. You were active and responsive, and you seemed to relate to the outside world, incredibly well. Suddenly all of that changed without any warning… you were gone and there was nothing I could do to protect you.

Michael and I made our calls to our family and we were transferred to a birthing room where we sat there and cried in silence while holding each other. I blame myself every day – I took Frankie for granted, I ignored her signs to me, and I should have gone in every single day I could not feel her. I chose Michael and I over our daughter, I chose work over our daughter.

We stayed the night in hospital that night to gather our thoughts and go through everything that was about to happen. Letting the fact that I still had to go through labour and prepare for as if I were having a baby sink in.

One memory I will never forget is that night when I showered, and I felt a “thump” in my stomach. I thought for a second it was Frankie kicking, but reality set in and although it was Frankie, it was her lifeless body that had moved around inside of me. It was a truly disgusting feeling and I just screamed out to Michael to get her out of me.

Monday 25th January came, we waited around for another ultrasound to be done for the final confirmation that Frankie was no longer with us. During the ultrasound there was a sound of hope that we could hear but the pulsating was not her heartbeat and it was once again confirmed that Frankie was not with us. We went back to our room and gathered our things to go home. We were going home with our child still in me and spending the time at home packing Frankie’s bags and packing my bags for the next few days ahead.

Tuesday 26th January we were at the hospital at 10am. Shortly after a doctor came in and inserted a tablet into my cervix to soften for me to give birth naturally. 6 hours passed and another tablet was inserted at 4pm. Nothing was happening and then suddenly around 9pm I was getting period cramps and had to get out of bed with the urge to poo. On my way to the toilet my water broke. I was not ready for this.

Michael called the midwife in who confirmed it was happening. I laid back in bed and the pain started. Gas was doing nothing; contractions were only 2 minutes apart. Endone was given and soon after morphine which did not kick in. There was no time for any pain control, in an hour, Frankie was here born at 10.06pm in silence.

Michael got to hold her first, I was not ready to hold my lifeless daughter, I was too scared, I did not want to know. The only way I would look at her was through photos that Michael took. Finally, I got the courage to look at her for the first time and when I did, I broke down. So perfect, so tiny and innocent.

The midwife took Frankie away to do all her measurements and checks. Morphine finally kicked in and I woke up the next morning to Frankie next to me dressed and rugged up just like a newborn would have been and that is when we began our 3 days with our daughter, cramming a lifetime together before saying our goodbyes.

Written by Abbie Sydenham – Mother of Frankie Marjorie Knox