Francisca
Mom to Alejandro
Stillborn on December 30th, 2008
Barcelona, Spain
I decided I wanted to be a mom the day my little brother was born. I was almost 12 years old. But I wanted to be a good mother, so I waited. Twelve years later I found out I had a bicornuate uterus. The doctor told me I could have problems conceiving and that I was at risk of having premature labor. I did a very painful test to find out that, probably, I could only get pregnant when I ovulated from the right side ovary.  The good news were that right side had normal size and elasticity, but I would only know for sure I could have a full term baby if I tried. Meanwhile, I got a fellowship to do a PhD in the USA. I wanted to go, but I was afraid it would take too long and that I wouldn’t be able to have a baby before I was 30 or had a stable job. I didn’t want to wait too long to start trying given my weird uterus. My mom reassured me saying she would help me in any case. So I moved to NYC and my husband followed me a year later.

Fast forward a few years, I was 30, divorced, and coming from another, also failed relationship when I started dating J.. Only 3 months into this new relationship I asked J., bluntly, if he would be up to have a baby soon, giving that things were working fine between us. That was brave of me! J. said “Yes, but we have to get married”. I said “fair enough”. A year and 2 months later (when I finally finished my PhD) we got married. In another 3 months we would start TTC.

I got pregnant in April 2008, just after we moved to a new apartment. I remember myself crying the day before my period was supposed to come because I thought I wasn’t pregnant. If it weren’t that month I would have to postpone TTC for a while, because we were going to move to another country within a year. I was crampy and so thought my period was coming soon. But after a two-day delay (I was never late) I tested and saw a faint line. I couldn’t believe! I was so lucky! My husband wanted a boy. I wanted a girl, but I had a strong feeling J. would be the pleased one.

The EDD was one day before my birthday and 3 days before J’s birthday. It couldn’t be more perfect.

I am a worrier. I was afraid of miscarriage. So many women around me had early miscarriages. I told about the pregnancy to two very close friends who knew I was TTC and then my mom at her birthday when I was about 8 weeks along. I decided to tell everyone else after the 12-week ultrasound (u/s). The day after I got the u/s results I started spotting for the first time. I saw a doctor the day after, a Friday, and everything seemed fine. I went ahead and wrote to my friends and relatives about the news. On Sunday I woke up early to go to the restroom. Still half asleep I noticed the puddle of blood I left in the toilet. Oh no, I am loosing the baby! I woke up my husband while dressing up and cried all the way to the ER. The u/s machine showed the little heart beating and a very active baby moving around. I was not actively bleeding anymore, so they sent me home. In the following two weeks I had more spotting and two more of these scary bleedings. And cried a lot. I was already totally in love with my baby and very scared.

After those two weeks, everything was fine. No more bleeding or spotting. The triple and quad tests came out great. The anatomical u/s showed a perfectly health baby. And I was right, it was a boy! We were thrilled. I remember often thinking I had never been so happy before. My sister, my step-mother, my sister-in-law, and two friends had gotten pregnant meanwhile. I thought my baby was so lucky. He was going to be the first grandchild and would have two cousins, an uncle, and two friends of his age! We struggled to find the perfect name that we both liked and that sounded good in both our native languages. My mom bought her ticket to be
with me when he was born.

We went through the whole preparation for labor and newborn care, read books, went shopping, pregnancy yoga, and finally we were at week 39. It was December 23rd. Alejandro was head down and practicing breathing. I noticed he suddenly stopped and got worried for a second, but the doctor was so reassuring I thought it wasn’t important. That was the last time I saw him alive. I still blame myself for not asking for a NST. My mom was going to arrive the day after and my next appointment was on December 29th, the EDD. Then, we would discuss induction.

On Thursday the 25th Alejandro was moving a lot at night. On Friday I went shopping for the very last things with my mom. In the afternoon, after leaving the store, I noticed I hadn’t felt him much that day. Ale had been very active throughout the pregnancy. When I got home I drank something and felt some light movement. The doctor had said he would change his movement pattern, that it would be subtler. I worried, but J. said everything was fine. He said I had worried the whole pregnancy for no reason, that now I should just relax. I believed him.  I believed my mom. I thought they were probably right and that if anything was wrong there was nothing really I could do at that moment. So I relaxed and enjoyed my last two days with my precious baby.

As I got myself ready for the u/s on the 29th I told the doctor I hadn’t be feeling much movement. I was a little concerned indeed, but thought the worst that could happen at that point was to have an emergency c-section. We had ultrasounds on every appointment. All the scans and tests had come out perfect. I had neither high blood pressure nor diabetes. The chord was always between his legs and I had seen his heart beating just 6 days later! Why nobody told me things do not work this way? Why nobody told me that 80% of the stillbirths happen in perfectly healthy pregnancies? Why nobody told me about stillbirth in the first place?!!!

You know what happen. There was no heartbeat. They took me to another room with a better machine, two (?) technicians, an u/s specialist doctor, besides my regular doctor, and still no heartbeat. I gathered all my strength and asked “Is the baby dead?”. The specialist answered, “Yes”. I reached for J.’s hand. It was cold as never before or after. As the doctor walked me through the hospital to the labor room, I said to him “I don’t know what to do, I can’t cry”. He responded, “This is because you are in shock”.

Alejandro was born on my birthday. The doctors never found out what caused his death despite the autopsy and all the other tests they ran. I have cried a lot since I exchanged those words with the doctor at the hospital.

It has been almost two years. I still miss Alejandro everyday and my heart aches deeply when I remember the day I found out I would never see his eyes or hear his laughter. It has been a very tough road, full of ups and downs, and many curves. I am starting to accept life can still be good. J. and I are hoping we can have another baby soon.

You can contact Francisca at falmeida@amnh.org
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