October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I will honor my angel baby this year by telling her story.
In the fall of 2003, Hubs and I lived in Murfreesboro, TN. I was in my first year of teaching making a little more than nothing. Hubs was in graduate school full time. We had been married 2 years and were nowhere near ready to be parents. However, the pill failed us (or – as I have later come to discover- I am a fertile-mertle) and I got pregnant. Definitely not in our plans but we got excited anyway.
My due date was set for Memorial Day 2004. This posed a problem for my family because that is the beginning of “Lake Season” but I told them to get over it and plan a trip to the south.
I had morning sickness really bad. I also had afternoon sickness and evening sickness. I prefer to call it ALL THE TIME SICKNESS and it sucked. I lost a lot of weight. I actually ended my pregnancy 8 pounds lighter than I started.
Besides barfing up everything I ate and having really freaky death dreams, I had a great pregnancy. I looked super cute in my maternity clothes with only a basketball belly under my shirt. (Don’t hate me… I made up for it by gaining 65 pounds and exploding when I got pregnant with Bubba.) I was healthy… good blood pressure and stuff.
Around 20 weeks I had an ultrasound to find out the sex of the baby. Oh- and to make sure everything was going as it should. The baby was uncooperative so we ended up not being able to find out the sex. I had terrible insurance at the time so without medical necessity I would not get another ultrasound.
At 28 weeks, they grew concerned that I was still throwing up everything and decided to check my gallbladder. I was sent for an ultrasound. I hoped they would also get a look at the baby but the tech was a by the book person and refused to stray from the doctor’s orders. So there were NO looks at the baby. As I type this, I wonder how things would have been different had we gotten to see. Would they have spotted a problem earlier?
Around 34 weeks, I went in for a checkup and the nurse practitioner (who I saw on every visit except the 1st and last) thought I was measuring ahead of my due date. She ordered another ultrasound but the ultrasound place was backed up so it was almost 2 weeks before I got in.
On April 17th (a Saturday), Hubs and I went to a friend’s house for dinner. That whole day and night I felt very crampy and uncomfortable. It was my first pregnancy so I had no idea what to expect. I did not have a very good relationship with my doctor so I didn’t want to bother anyone by calling on a Saturday. I just assumed the baby was dropping and my due date was sooner than I expected.
The next day, Sunday, Hubs and I went for a drive through southern Tennessee. Everything was coming alive and we were out enjoying a beautiful day. I still didn’t feel good but thought that I would wait until my ultrasound/doctor’s visit on Wednesday to ask about things.
Monday after work I had some nasty gross stuff start coming out. It was after hours so I decided I would call the doctor… tomorrow. Tuesday, however, I was super busy during my plan time getting ready for a sub so I pushed it off figuring I would ask at my visit tomorrow.
Wednesday afternoon, I headed to the hospital for my ultrasound. Things were odd from the get-go. The tech wouldn’t let Hubs come in with me. When she got everything started, she immediately turned the screen. I couldn’t see a thing. Then she left the room a bunch of times. Finally she came back with someone; they popped in a video tape, and went through the normal process. They told me the machine was acting up and they needed to record it so they could show someone what it was doing. I had a bad feeling in my gut but I was naïve (aka stupid) and kept my mouth closed. Once things were finished they told me to head upstairs to see my doctor to go over things. I was hoping they were going to tell me the baby was coming in 2 weeks rather than 4 but my intuition told me something was wrong. I called my mom to share my fears but she helped me calm down.
When I got to the doctor’s office I had NO WAIT. That was unheard of in this office… even when I was the first appointment of the day I had to wait at least an hour. Then, I got to see the DOCTOR- not the nurse practitioner. He asked me, in a very weird tone, what had been going on and how I was feeling.
Immediately I knew something bad had happened. I blurted out “The baby is dead, isn’t it?” I don’t know how I knew. I just did. The doctor confirmed that there was no heartbeat on the ultrasound and then left the room. Hubs and I started sobbing. The doctor came back a few minutes later to tell us where to go from there.
We went home, called our families and cried. We had fried chicken from Sonic for dinner. I remember rubbing my stomach and begging the baby to wake up. The next day we went to the hospital to be induced. Fortunately (I guess), there was no baby to consider when giving me medications so I got a lot of “good drugs” to make everything go faster.
Unfortunately, however, I have a cervix of steel and it was more than 24 hours later before things started progressing. I had horrible back labor. They wouldn’t give me an epidural until I was 4 cm dilated because they didn’t want it to wear off before I delivered. I had a lot of visitors and a lot of support from my family as I waited.
Finally, in the late afternoon on April 23rd my water broke (only I didn’t know it and didn’t believe the nurse when she told me… I just kept begging her to let me get up and go pee.) They immediately ordered the epidural. However, I was progressing so quickly at this point that the doctor wasn’t able get it all the way in and had to hold it on my back while I pushed. He also got his hand squeezed pretty hard and yelled at me (I filed a complaint with the hospital on that one).
A thunderstorm rolled through right as I pushed our baby girl out. I am sure it was the angels in Heaven greeting her as she arrived. We named her Sarah. She was perfect with a ton of dark hair, her daddy’s chin cleft, super long fingers and toes (just like her brothers have).
So what happened? The doctor ruled it a cord accident. The placenta and umbilical cord were completely clotted. Sarah weighed only 2lbs 13ounces when I delivered at 36 weeks. I also had excessive amniotic fluid (which I later learned is a sign of a problem).
Six months later we had moved back to St. Louis and I went a new (and absolutely wonderful!!!) doctor. He took about 37 gallons of blood and ran about 4720 tests to find out why Sarah died. He didn’t think it was a simple as a cord accident. The over simplified answer is that I have blood issue the basically prevents my body from absorbing folic acid (Sarah may have even had spinal bifida) and another issue that causes my body to fight off foreign things (even if they are supposed to be there- like a baby). The solution to keep this from happening again is simple: take a ton of folic acid and vitamins that will help me to absorb it as well as a baby aspirin to prevent blood clots. Since then I have had 2 healthy pregnancies and have been blessed with 2 awesome little boys.
Have I felt guilty about what happened- like I did something wrong? Almost every day at first.
Could her death have been prevented? Maybe.
Would life be 1000% different if I had a first grader now? For sure.
Am I sad? Of course.
But this is God’s plan for us. He knows more than me. He is using Sarah (and Hubs and the boys and me) in ways I will never understand. I pray that this experience has molded me into a better mom and a more compassionate person. I hope that telling my story helps other women know they are not alone. I want to provide support to others who have experienced a loss like this. I want Sarah’s legacy to be one in which people find hope.