Today is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day. When I started this blog, I told you all that I was going to keep it real. I never knew how difficult that would be. There are things that I have been through that are hard for me to share with you, for various reasons. This is one of those topics. I have lost two babies, one very early in my pregnancy, a little over a year after I got married. And one at 16 wks gestation, back in 2005. They were both devastating losses, both children were very much wanted and loved.
Miscarriage and pregnancy loss is like a dirty little secret…no one talks about it. Those of us that have been through it are trying to change that. I am not ashamed of losing my baby. I did nothing wrong to cause the loss of my child. 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage… 1 in 4! Many lose their babies very early on in the pregnancy, before they even realize they were pregnant. I'm going to share my story with you…
I will never forget the day. It was Sept. 22, 2005, a Thursday. I left work early to go to my 16 week check up. When I went in for my appointment, my OB asked me how everything had been going. I told her everything was fine. The only question I had for her was when would I start feeling the baby move, I hadn't felt anything yet. She told me I would probably start feeling "flutters" around week 19. She then asked me to lean back so she could try to hear the baby's heartbeat. I had heard my baby's heartbeat for the first time a few weeks earlier, at my 12 week check-up, and I was eager to hear it again. Nothing. She kept moving the stethoscope around, but could not locate the heartbeat. "It's probably those darn uterine fibroids of yours blocking the heartbeat," she said. "Let's go into the other exam room, we have a sonogram machine in there, let's see what this little peanut is up to!" I was so excited, I was not scheduled for a sonogram for another few weeks. I was going to get to see my baby a few weeks early!
We got into the other room and she got everything ready. She applied the gel to my abdomen and started the sonogram. Silence. She kept moving the wand around on my belly. Finally she spoke. "I'm going to get the other doctor in here and maybe he can see something that I'm not seeing. Honey, I don't see a heartbeat." Instant panic. "Ok," I quietly replied. She stepped out of the room & I looked at the sonogram screen. There was my baby… but no heartbeat was visible. I immediately started talking to the baby. "Move, show them you're ok." I started moving my belly around, trying to wake the baby up. I knew what I was seeing on the screen, but I refused to accept it. If I could just move my belly a little, then the baby's heart would start beating again and everything would be all right. "Please God, please- this can't be happening!"
The other doctor came in, he quickly introduced himself and starting doing the sonogram. "Hmmm … no, there's no heartbeat. I'm very sorry but there's no heartbeat." He said something to my ob and left the room. "I'm so sorry," I remember hearing my doctor tell me. "Do you want me to call someone for you?" "No, I'm all right. I can do it, I need to call my husband." Through tears, I dialed his phone number. "There's no heartbeat- they can't find a heartbeat." It must have been awful for him, receiving a call like that from me. "What are they gonna do?" he asked me. I told him they were trying to get a hold of the hospital and I would meet him at home. We needed to pick up our son from school. I told my husband to get him, I just wanted to get home.
My doc told me they would call around for me. I would either have to have a D&C or deliver the baby. She said the D&C would be easier on my body. I really did not even know what a D&C was at that time… I told her my husband & I would decide and let her know our decision. She said if I went forward with the D&C, we would not be able to see the baby afterwards. She said someone from her office would call me in the morning. I left her office in shock, tears streaming down my face. That's also how I made the drive home, tears streaming down my face.
When my husband and son got home, we all sat down and I told our son that the sibling he had been waiting over a decade for, was gone. He tried to put on a brave face, but I could tell he was crushed- like the rest of us were. I called my BFF and told her I would not be in to work in the morning and asked her to pass along the message. That night was awful, to say the least. I called my parents and my brother and told them the news. I spent the rest of the night weeping silently, not wanting to upset my son.
Friday morning came and went without a call from my doc. I finally broke down and called them some time after noon. They said they would get right back to me. A few hours later they called and said they were trying to get me scheduled for a D&C, they were talking to "the place" and it would cost around $900. I was listening and thinking what kind of "place" are they talking about, why aren't they saying hospital? I quickly put two & two together and realized they were trying to schedule me at an abortion clinic! That's the last place I wanted to be. I hung up the phone and prayed. A couple of hours later, they called back saying the "place" refused to get me in because I was too far along and they might rupture my uterus. "We're going to call the hospital and see when they can get you scheduled to be induced. We will call you back tomorrow." Tomorrow? You mean I have to go through another night here at home, with my dead baby inside me?! I could not believe I was going to have to endure another night like the one I had experienced before. It was cruel and so unfair.
Saturday I received a call from my OB's office. "The hospital can squeeze you in Sunday morning." Sunday morning?! I found out my baby died on Thursday and the hospital would not be able to squeeze me in until Sunday morning? I was told they were booked solid with other moms that were going to have C-sections or be induced. It was then that I realized I was on the bottom of the totem pole. My baby was already dead, there wasn't much else that could go wrong for me. The babies that were still alive and ready to be born were the hospital's main priority. "Sunday morning at 6:30am, ok, I'll be there."
Without warning, there was a knock on our front door. It was my brother- he had driven across three states to be with me. He told me he didn't want us worrying about our son, so he told his boss that his sister needed him, got in his truck and drove 18 hours non-stop. I have the best brother in the world, and would do anything for him. Knowing he was there for us meant everything to me. Sunday morning came, hubby drove me to the hospital. We went through registration and settled down in our room.
One of the nurses came in to start my IV. She asked me all these questions beforehand, one of them was if I wore glasses. I told her I did not. She looked at me and smiled, "You're so lucky!" Yeah, that's me… funny I don't feel very lucky right now. Lucky? Was she serious? I know she didn't mean anything by it- but I really wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake some sense into her. Lucky? Yeah, right. After several attempts to start my IV, (apparently I have bad veins, another sign of how lucky I am) and after "blowing" one of my veins on my left hand, my IV was started. The nurses did not check on me very often. I was mostly just left in the room by myself, hubby was there with me, of course. I started thinking that they were probably at the nurses station flipping a coin to see who would have to check on me next. I don't imagine they like having patients like me, patients whose baby's did not make it, patients waiting to give "birth" to their dead babies. Every so often they would come in, hook up another IV bag and then be on their way. Pitocin was not working for me. We had told the doctor on duty that Pitocin did not work for me when I had my son, but they did not listen. They came in to the room at about 2am, ready to try something else. My husband was mad- asking them why they hadn't taken what we had said into consideration. "Look at her, you're just prolonging this for her! We just want to get this done with and go home!" They said they were going to try a pill, called Misoprostol. I took it and waited.
Monday morning, around 10am, it felt like I had to use the bathroom. Hubby was on the phone. I went into the bathroom… nothing. I came back out and got back into bed. A few minutes later, I again felt the urge to use the bathroom. I got up and went in. I sat down on the toilet, and then I felt it. I could feel my baby moving down the birth canal. Before I could say anything, it was done. They had one of those urine measuring devices on the toilet- my baby was in that. I stood up and was making my way out of the bathroom, when the doctor came in the room. I opened the door to the bathroom and told my husband I had just delivered the baby. The doctor heard and came rushing towards the bathroom. "Did it hurt? Were your contractions bad?" he asked. "No, I didn't have any," I replied. "You're lucky!' he responded. I could not believe what I was hearing yet again. Yeah, doc- I'm the lucky one… now go fish my dead baby out of that urine cup! Jerk!
The nurses got me cleaned up and I started yet another IV. The nurse brought me some food. No one mentioned my baby. When the nurse came back to get my tray, I asked her when could we see the baby. "Oh, are you ready? Sure, I will bring the baby right in for you. Just understand that the baby may not look like you might expect it to. The head is no longer round, it's flattened out…" I told her I understood.
My husband remarked that he forgot to bring the camera. The nurse quickly returned with the baby. Our baby weighed 8 oz and was just 5 inches long. We could not tell if it was a boy or girl, although I saw the umbilical cord and thought it was something else! In my mind, I knew it was a boy, boys run in my husband's family, everyone has boys. I remember the nose, it was a perfect little button nose… and the lips, perfectly formed. I believe my baby had passed away at least a couple of weeks before- due to the condition of the body. Keep in mind, neither my husband nor I were "grossed" out or squeamish about seeing our baby. That was OUR baby- there was nothing offensive about it. I remember looking at the feet, the toes on one foot had started to whither away. Even then, looking at my baby, I was still telling it to breathe. I knew in my mind that was not possible, but my heart… I just wanted to see my baby take a huge gasp of air…it would've been a miracle! But it did not happen.
The nurse told us that a photographer would take pictures of our baby and they would be available to us later. She asked us if we were going to have funeral services for the baby or if we wanted the hospital to take care of it. She explained that the hospital took care of babies under 20 weeks gestation… they would give the body to a funeral home and they would cremate the baby and spread the ashes around at a nearby mountain. I was still in shock, I believe, and I could not picture having funeral services for our baby. I remember asking my husband, "Where are they going to find a coffin that small?" We decided to let the hospital take care of it. (I often question that decision.)
Here are a couple of cropped photos of my baby… I did not want to post the full photos, as I did not want to upset anyone. The first one is the baby's arm wrapped around a little 5 inch teddy bear they gave us to bring home. The second photo is of the legs and feet.
The nurse told me I could stay the night or go home if I wanted to. I wanted to go home. I just wanted to get out of there and go home to my son. I left the hospital about an hour after delivering my baby. When I left the hospital, they gave me a single white rose… the nurse said it was so I didn't have to leave the hospital empty-handed.
While I was at the hospital, my BFF came to visit me. My job (I worked in a doctor's ofc) never called to see how I was doing, no card, no flowers. In fact, when I went back to work a few weeks later, I actually had to argue with my boss in order to get my 2 days of bereavement pay! One doctor came up to me and asked how I was doing- that was it. No one mentioned it- it was taboo. I was very pissed off at that. I had lost my baby! My baby died- and no one at work seemed to care. (I realize some of them probably did care, but just didn't know what to say.) We need to put a stop to that. Just because my baby is gone, does not mean I have forgotten her (I found out 2 years later, that my baby was a girl. I only found out because I went to pick up my records and found a lab slip from a genetic test that had been performed after the baby was delivered.) I think about my baby all the time, that will never change.
If someone you know has lost a baby, don't be afraid to say something. "I'm sorry for your loss," is a great way to start a conversation. If the parent of the baby wants to talk about it, they will. Send them a card- send them flowers, let them know you are there for them. Let them know you care. It will mean the world to them and might help them to heal quicker.
The weeks that followed the loss of my baby were the darkest I have ever experienced. I would literally cry out to God asking why. At the same time, I know I would not have made it through that time without God. I know that my baby is in Heaven, I know I will see her again.
If you have lost a baby, my heart goes out to you. I've been where you are… if you need to talk to someone, I am here for you.
Don't let them say, I wasn't born, That something stopped my heart, I felt each tender squeeze you gave, I've loved you from the start.
Although my body you can't hold, It doesn't mean I'm gone.This world was worthy, not, of me, God chose that I move on.
I know the pain that drowns your soul, What you are forced to face.You have my word, I'll fill your arms, Someday we will embrace.
You'll hear that it was "meant to be, God doesn't make mistakes"
But that won't soften your worst blow..Or make your heart not ache.
I'm watching over all you do, another child you'll bear.
Believe me when I say to you,That I am always there.
There will come a time, I promise you, When you will hold my hand,
Stroke my face and kiss my lips, And then you'll understand.
Although, I've never breathed your air, Or gazed into your eyes..
That doesn't mean I never "was"
An Angel Never Dies