***Please, if you are currently pregnant or have suffered a pregnancy loss, please be aware that this post may contain painful triggers or graphic details that may be upsetting or distressful. Please feel free to skip this post. My intention is to remember this time and to grieve in my own way so that I can begin to heal and move forward. I also think it is important to share stories of loss, so that others who are traveling the same road can feel less alone. It is not my intention to upset my readers or to cause anyone pain or distress. Much love, Carrie***
Since my miscarriage in October, a darkness has taken up residency here. I had hoped that my most recent pregnancy would bring some light to my world (and to this blog) once again.
My second trimester started with an ultrasound around 13 weeks. Everything looked normal, although the baby wasn’t very active and the ultrasound technician wasn’t able to get the measurements he needed to complete the screening for chromosomal abnormalities. So instead, they offered me a blood test that would screen for the same issues and would give me the added bonus of knowing the baby’s gender well before my 20 week ultrasound. Once we had that ultrasound in hand and had heard the heartbeat once more, I felt comfortable sharing our good news with the world at large (aka, my facebook community). This was the week before Valentine’s Day.
In the week to follow, I had my blood drawn for the test, and about 1 week later, I received a phone call from my OB’s office. They called to share the good news that the baby was at low risk for chromosomal abnormalities and the surprising news that we were expecting a BOY! I was completely taken aback because I was pretty convinced that we were having another girl, but I was happy just the same and I knew that Michael would be elated. I ran out to the store that day to buy a cute little boy outfit and some bibs, wrapped them up, and gave them to him as a way of sharing the good news. We were so very excited and even though Evelyn was in denial for a few days (she was convinced that she wanted a sister), she came around to the idea that she would have a little brother. Michael had told me in our early days of dating that if he ever had a son, the baby would be named after his father and his oldest brother, who shared the same name and who had both passed on years before. So, we already knew what we would call him and Evelyn was excited to help us decide what his nickname would be. She started telling everyone about the baby in mom’s belly named Robbie. So, shortly thereafter, I shared the good news once again.
By this time, I was about 15 weeks pregnant and was finally starting to feel better after months of being sick. But then I got sick once more with the 24 hour stomach bug. Finally, on a Thursday, I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, starting to feel better again. I put my hand to my belly and was overcome by the “feeling” of not being pregnant anymore. At the moment, I brushed it off as just a silly paranoid feeling, but now looking back, I believe that was the moment my baby boy’s heart stopped beating. I was exactly 16 weeks pregnant. I guess it was that moment in the middle of the night that prompted me to pull out the fetal heart monitor that my friend gave me to use. I never had one with Evelyn and I had only used it a few times to hear his little heartbeat for a few seconds at a time. But this time I couldn’t find his heartbeat at all. I tried again a little later and still couldn’t find it. I started to worry, but convinced myself that it was just a fluke and that my anterior placenta was probably blocking me from hearing him. I tried again several times the following day and still couldn’t find anything. I was really starting to worry now and Michael suggested that I try to move my next doctor appointment up a little bit, so that I could have some reassurance. So I was able to schedule my appointment for Tuesday instead of Wednesday and I just did my best to convince myself that everything was fine while I waited to see the doctor.
First thing on Tuesday morning, I went in to see the midwife. I told her about my worries and she tried herself to find the heartbeat, but couldn’t find it either. At this point, I kept telling myself that everything would turn out ok on the ultrasound. She walked us to the ultrasound room and the technician put the wand on my belly. Michael was trying to wrangle Evelyn, so he didn’t see most of what transpired. But I knew right away that something wasn’t right. When we had gone for our ultrasound at 8 weeks, the technician assured us instantly that the baby was there with a nice heartbeat. This time, he didn’t say anything. I knew. I couldn’t see the baby moving on the screen and after a few seconds, I saw him look at the midwife and shake his head. She frowned and looked at me whispering, “I’m so sorry.” I couldn’t believe this was happening. Part of me already knew that he was gone, but the rest of me didn’t want to believe it. I got Michael’s attention and gave him the same head shake that told him the bad news. I think we both wanted to just break down, but we had to keep it together for Evelyn.
Next, I met with the OB and he explained the next steps. I could either have a D&E, which he said was not advised at this stage in the pregnancy, or I would have to be induced to deliver the baby. There really didn’t seem like another choice. The idea of waiting for a miscarriage to happen on it’s own seemed unthinkable and dangerous. He told us to think about it, not to wait too long, and to call to schedule the induction when we were ready.
We actually tried to entertain ourselves for the rest of the day by taking Evelyn to visit her aunt, going out to lunch, and riding the carousel at the mall. We didn’t have it in us to be cheerful around our daughter and the thought of going home just meant that we would probably break down. I was scared. I didn’t want to schedule this induction…ever. But Michael had to go back to work in two days and suggested we schedule it for the next day so that he could be there with me. I called later that day and we set it up for the following morning. I tried to do some internet research to find out what this process would be like, but it was difficult to find any two stories that were similar. I had no idea what to expect and lots of scary possibilities floating around in my head. But the one thing that echoed through every account that I read was the importance of seeing and holding the baby and taking pictures, for closure and to aid the healing process. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep very well that night.
At 7:30 the next morning we arrived at the hospital to start the process of delivering our baby. My plan is to write a separate post about the medical aspects of this whole process, for those who are interested. But I think for now it’s sufficient to say that the induction didn’t go as planned. A process that was supposed to take 12-24 hours ended up taking 48 hours because the medication that they used for induction didn’t work on me.
During my stay in the hospital, I joked with the nurses, visited with family, and tried to be strong. But in the moments that I was all alone, I cried for what I was about to lose…what I had already lost…the baby boy I would never rock, sing to, or nurse to sleep…the little brother that Evelyn would never see, never tattle on, and never teach to dance, as she once asked to do.
The waiting seemed endless. My body just would not cooperate. Michael and I spent time crying and laughing as we talked about all the people who were already holding Robbie in heaven and what each of them would teach him.
As I waited to deliver my baby, my fears vacillated between being scared to endure any pain and being afraid to actually see the baby when he came out. I wanted to get it over with, but I was afraid of what I would endure and see. I felt stuck, trapped. At the end of the second day, I still had not made any progress with the medication. The doctor started offering other options that were scary to me, but I started to feel like I didn’t have a choice. If nothing else worked, I would have to have a D&E, and that meant I would never get to see and hold my baby. I cried, prayed, and gave myself permission to let go. I begged my body to let go of my son, so that I could say my goodbyes.
I agreed to try a different method to induce labor. The doctor inserted a balloon device around my cervix and and I settled in for my second night. For the first time since I entered the hospital, I was relieved to finally feel pain. I slept through the cramping and woke every three hours when the nurses came to deliver my medication. Finally, around 4:30 am, I woke up to a severe cramp and then felt a “pop.” Finally, some movement, but no baby yet. I started to feel a lot more pain and requested some pain relief around 5am. I think that the pain meds allowed my muscles to relax enough to just let everything go. Finally, at 8:20am, I sat up in bed and felt my baby enter the world.
I was afraid to look, but had to confirm that the baby had arrived before I called the nurse. I peeked under the blankets that covered my legs and saw his little body lying there. I called the nurse and she and the OB came into the room. As he examined our baby, the OB showed us how the umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around his neck and there was also a knot in the cord. It was a relief to know that there was nobody to blame for his death. While I was waiting to deliver, I wrestled with the idea that I might have done something to harm my baby. Maybe it was something I ate, maybe it was the medication I took when I had the flu, maybe it was that one time I scooped the cat litter or drank those few sips of wine. It is comforting to know that I had done nothing to cause this. At the same time, it seems so unfair that there was nothing wrong with our little boy. He was perfect. He died from a freak accident, in the place where he should have been safer than he would ever be on this earth.
The nurse wrapped him in a blanket and put a tiny hat on his head. Then they left us so that we could have some time alone with our son. We looked at him for a long time and cried. We didn’t really exchange any words. There was nothing to say. Our beautiful, perfectly formed little boy was dead. It felt strange to do it, but I took a few pictures. I’m glad that I did, even if it’s hard to look at them now. This was my one chance to hold my little boy’s hand…and his tiny hand looks just like Evelyn’s.
Because I had reached 16 weeks, we were told that we would have to take care of making arrangements for the baby’s body. I was glad for this because I knew that it would be hard to just let him go and leave him at the hospital. We live about a block away from a funeral home and when I called them to ask about our options, I was told that they would provide cremation free of charge. It was such a blessing to discover that there would be no financial burden attached to the loss of our son. Today we chose a heart shaped locket to contain his ashes and I feel so at peace about the fact that he will be at home with us. I can’t even express how grateful I am that this part of the ordeal was so simple and handled with such compassion.
I have no idea where we go from here. It’s been one week since we learned that our baby no longer had a heartbeat, but the wound is still so fresh and I don’t think that I will be ok for very long time. I know that I have to be strong and keep going for Evelyn and for my marriage. I know that Michael is grieving too and we have just been very gentle with one another over the past week. As much as I would never wish this on anyone, it’s a comfort that I don’t have to go through it alone and I know that he understands my hurt because he is feeling it too. I know that God has a plan in all of this. I know that my son is in a better place, but it’s going to be a long time before I can even begin to understand why this happened…and maybe I will never understand it at all. But just like any child would, my son has profoundly changed me already.