LOSING a baby is one of the most devasting things that could ever happen to a mum.
So imagine the rollercoaster of emotions that you’d be feeling if you then became pregnant soon after grieving for your first rainbow baby.
Caitlin and Tony Merrell have been on that ride for the past month.
They found out that they were expecting a baby less than a year after losing their first precious child – a topic they say many people find difficult to talk about or acknowledge.
When they discovered that they were expecting their first child in July 2017, the pair, from North Carolina, USA, was ecstatic.
All went well for the first three months, until a scan found that their unborn son’s heart was underdeveloped.
The doctor told them that their son had hypoplastic left heart syndrome – a birth defect where the left side of the heart doesn’t form correctly while the baby is in the womb.
Because the left side of the heart is unable to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, the right side has to take over all the pumping.
When babies are born, that can lead to breathing difficulties, a weak pulse and having a blueish skin colour.
If they survive, they may need to take heart strengthening and blood pressure lowering medications for their entire lives.
It occurs in around one in every 5,000 babies in the UK.
Babies can be operated on to restore heart function – but they have to be strong enough for that to happen in the first place.
“I was scared for my baby and disappointed, like I’d failed in providing him everything I could have for him to have a healthy body,” said Caitlin
Docs had hoped that the tiny baby’s heart might be operational after birth, but at a 34-week scan, they decided that it was too weak to do anything about.
“He would never survive the first surgery,” Caitlin said.
“The medical staff refused to operate on him knowing he would suffer and not survive, so Thaxton was born into palliative care.”
Caitlin was induced at 38 weeks and little Thaxton was born last February.
He survived for just two days – despite his vital signs initially seeming positive.
“For me, it was oddly peaceful in a way, but still devastating,” Caitlin recalled.
“I was so afraid he was going to suffer, but he was able to pass in his sleep.”
Despite having to deal with the heartbreak of losing her first baby, Caitlin was then shocked to find out eight months later that she was expecting again.
“I was totally not expecting to become pregnant again, especially so soon.
“Babies are three times more likely to have congenital heart disease if a parent or sibling has it, so I was so stressed for the anatomy scan.”
Earlier this month, however, the couple were told by an ultrasound technician that they were expecting a daughter with a healthy, four-chambered heart.
But this pregnancy has thrown up new challenges for the pair – namely that other people don’t feel comfortable talking about or acknowledging what happened to Thaxton.
MORE ON PREGNANCY
“Even though my baby passed away, I’m not contagious. I still want to be checked in on and involved in other people’s lives,” said Caitlin.
She’s speaking out about infant loss in a bid to help break the stigma.
“I want to know that you remember my baby because Thaxton will always be a part of our family, even if he’s not physically with us.”
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