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Andrea Duncan’s Story of Grieving and Hope

June 29, 2022

“We held him and we wept. We were wrapped up in a whole range of emotions—in some ways we still are.”

Gary and Andrea Duncan: “While we will always feel the grief of the loss of Kaius, today Gary and I live our lives in gratitude and joy.”

My beautiful son Kaius was born at HSC Women’s Hospital on January 9, 2020. He was silent. He was still.

My husband Gary and I had no reason to suspect that anything was wrong during my pregnancy. I had some nausea and discomfort during the early weeks, but the final weeks were wonderful! The last month in particular was a time of joy and comfort as we prepared to welcome this new soul into our lives. I felt great!

On January 6, I visited my doctor who sent me the same day to HSC Women’s Hospital for what’s known as a “nonstress test” to check on Kaius’s health. He was a week overdue and we were checking on him regularly.

His heartbeat was strong and his positioning was good, and we went home confident and assured.

The next day, we returned for a pre-scheduled fetal assessment. I could tell almost instantly that the technician was concerned. A doctor came and examined me further. Gary and I soon heard these devastating words: “There is no heartbeat. He’s gone.”

We were shocked, angry, and sad beyond words. We found out later that Kaius passed away from chorioamnionitis, an infection of the amniotic fluid. Because I had no symptoms, and Kaius was doing well, there was no reason to suspect it, let alone treat it.

A shelf in the Duncan home honours Kaius’s memory: “We held him and we wept. We were wrapped up in a whole range of emotions—in some ways we still are,” says Andrea Duncan.

The two days between hearing that Kaius was gone and the actual delivery were agonizing. A C-section wasn’t advisable in my case, and inducing wasn’t an option. We went home knowing that I would soon go into labour to deliver a child we would never know.

We returned to HSC Women’s Hospital the next day and 25 hours of labour followed. We were treated with skill and compassion, which was so important at this terrible time. Our family and my three dearest friends were with us through much of the labour and the actual delivery just after 5:00 a.m. We felt so much love and support.

Kaius’s birth was surreal. He was with us, but not. We held him and we wept. We were wrapped up in a whole range of emotions—in some ways we still are. The hospital staff respected our needs and our space, and we were able to spend about eight hours with Kaius before he had to go.

We came home a couple of days later, and I withdrew in sadness. I put the bouncy chair and other toys and supplies we had ready in the nursery and kept the door closed for months. Other than family and a few friends, I saw no one. I did, however, find some important comfort and empathy in a pregnancy loss group on Facebook. It was there that I first heard about “cuddle cots”.

A cuddle cot is a cooling unit that preserves a stillborn baby’s body so that parents can spend a few more hours with their lost newborn. Those eight hours with Kaius were precious and powerful; more would have been better. We couldn’t do a proper celebration of life or a memorial service for Kaius because of COVID-19, so we thought we would honour Kaius’s memory by raising funds for a cuddle cot for HSC Women’s Hospital. By helping other families cope with the tragedy of a stillbirth, Gary and I could create some good out of this experience.

We’re grateful that HSC Women’s Hospital accepted our offer and we’re grateful that the HSC Foundation helped facilitate the effort. Through the generosity of friends, relatives, and workmates, we were able to raise close to $5,000, about the cost of one cuddle cot. We hope to raise funds every year around Kaius’s birthday to support families that are going through what we went through.

While we will always feel the grief of the loss of Kaius, today Gary and I live our lives in gratitude and joy. We are grateful for the support we had from family and friends, for the compassionate caregivers at HSC Women’s Hospital, and for the people who have supported the Kaius Duncan Fund for Stillbirth Support.

Gary and Andrea Duncan chose to honour Kaius’s memory by raising funds for a cuddle cot (shown here).

Our joy comes from a bundle of love named Kinsley—our daughter who will turn one at the end of July. She is constantly happy and laughing, and she’s already loaded with attitude. Gary and I love every minute with her.

These last few years have been a roller coaster of emotion for Gary and me. What has remained constant and unflinching is the importance of family, friends, love, and community.
We are grateful.

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By Andrea Duncan