Mom to Innocent
Lost sixth child, third son, at 12 1/2 weeks gestation and
Delivered at 15 weeks on April 10, 2011
I was more tired and more nauseated with this pregnancy than with any since the first one. Other than that, I had no problems and I wasn’t expecting any. I was planning a home birth with a midwife. This would be my first time as all of the others were born in hospitals, most being less than thrilling experiences. My husband and I went to talk to the midwife first before he made up his mind. A few weeks later I scheduled an appointment with her and went for my first visit. I was only 9 weeks at this point so we didn’t try to find a heartbeat. I needed to be seen locally for lab work so I set that up. Part and parcel with the lab work was a physical exam. By the time I went to this appointment I was 13 ½ weeks.
I had noticed that my fundal height was higher for gestation than with the other children, although not enough to seriously suggest twins. It did cross my mind though. The nurse practitioner noted I was measuring 16 weeks. Then the happy moment of getting to listen to the baby’s heartbeat. Except they couldn’t find it. I wasn’t at all worried because I’ve had babies “hide” before only to wave at us from the ultrasound later. They scheduled an ultrasound at the hospital for the next afternoon to check for the heartbeat and any reasons for the discrepancy in dates. I was actually happy about this because I was going to get to see my baby sooner than I had expected. I was hoping to get pictures to take home.
During the ultrasound the tech didn’t talk and I was unable to see the screen. I’m used to the techs doing all of their necessary measuring and such, then turning the monitor around and taking me on a guided tour. I stared at the ceiling while she worked and waited patiently. She had to leave the room at one point. When she came back she scanned for another ten minutes or so then put the scanner back and announced I was all done. I was surprised and asked if she were going to show me anything. She said that when I came in for a problem with the baby, I wasn’t allowed to see the screen. (Actually, I had peeked while she was out of the room and was able to catch a glimpse of head, torso and the measurement “12 weeks 5 days”.) My heart went cold and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I managed to get out of the hospital and to the car before I fell apart. I called my husband and sobbed out what had happened. We knew nothing was necessarily wrong, but I just knew.
I got a call the next day, the feast of St. Innocent, during Liturgy. I listened to the message afterward. It was one of the nurses asking me to come in at noon to discuss the ultrasound with the doctor. I knew this was it. There was no way this was good news. We dropped the children off with friends and went to the office. We had to wait an hour and a half. When we went in the exam room, the doctor and two nurses were in there. I clutched my purse in front of me like a shield. The doctor introduced herself, then said, “I’m sorry – there was no movement.”
I didn’t actually cry at that point I guess because I was in shock – even though I had known this was coming. The doctor talked about coming back to make arrangements for a D&C. I said I didn’t want one and wanted to pursue medical management. They weren’t happy with this, but I agreed to make an appointment to come in the next Monday. I think they thought I would change my mind by then. We went out to the car and I fell apart again. My husband dropped me off at home before picking up the children. I don’t want to detail the next few days. I didn’t eat anything, dropped several pounds, cried a lot.
I saw the doctor on Monday. He started talking about a D&C right away. Again, I said I wanted medical management instead. He too was shocked. He said that at this late date (Innocent measured 12 ½ weeks) that almost never worked and I’d have to have a D&C anyway. He had me make an appointment to come in Thursday for an ultrasound and to discuss it again. We dropped the children off again so my husband could come with me this time. I had had a terrible time Monday because the office was full of BABY things.
We had the ultrasound first. I knew the first one had been correct so I was hoping just to see my baby. I wanted my husband to share this with me too. Seeing him was the first bit of happiness I’d had in over a week. The tech was very sweet and printed photos for us. We saw the doctor together. I felt a little stronger with my husband with me so I held out on an immediate D&C. We made a date for surgery 10 days hence, just in case nothing had spontaneously happened by then. During the exam we found that my cervix was long and closed. I was very discouraged because this seemed to indicate it would be a good while (if ever) before I started to miscarry naturally.
I prayed that I would miscarry naturally. I couldn’t bear the thought of my child being torn apart by suction. I asked God to give me the grace to endure if it came to it. I had had absolutely no signs of miscarriage with the exception of the cessation of all pregnancy symptoms. It was surreal carrying him around knowing he was dead. It didn’t horrify me, but it was very strange.
Two nights later, Saturday night, I noticed some brown spotting at 10:30. I was overjoyed. I wouldn’t be needing the D&C after all! By 11:30 the discharge was a little more red and I figured I’d be up for the rest of the night. Everything I had read suggested that it would be anywhere from several hours to a few days before the miscarriage was completed. I was cramping pretty hard now, almost to the point of contractions because they were coming in waves. I considered taking some pain medicine and trying to go to sleep thinking that I would almost certainly not sleep through the worst of it. My husband was worried I would be too groggy if I did and unable to take care of myself. He doesn’t do well at all with blood so it was definitely going to be up to me. I had bought some super-overnight-massive pads and some chux at the store the week before in preparation so I went ahead and put one on and tucked a chux under me. This was good thinking.
Not long after I felt a strange twisting ‘pop’ inside my lower abdomen. I wondered if something would happen. Nothing did. I picked up my book again. A few minutes later I felt something suddenly running out of me. I thought my water had broken. Trying to think clearly I realized I had better go ahead and get to the bathroom because this was it. My husband helped me, and about ten minutes later I was in a tub of warm water with supplies in easy reach. He left so he wouldn’t pass out but we left the door cracked so he could hear if I called. The tub was rapidly turning red and I had to manually remove a clot that felt glued to me. Not more than a minute later I felt a sensation of fullness and instinctively pushed. I felt something large come out. Even though I couldn’t see through the water I knew this was the baby. I was scared to reach down and feel around for it. I waited a minute, prayed for courage and after realizing that there was no one else to step in, reached down and gently picked up what turned out to be the amniotic sac with a large clot attached. I was unable to pick it up more than an inch above the water because I realized it was still connected to the umbilical cord. What a tiny cord! I thought that I would just support the sac until I delivered the placenta. Several minutes later it occurred to me that the placenta might be a good while coming. That’s when I realized I had forgotten something crucial: scissors. This was turning out to be closer to a regular delivery than I had expected. My husband edged into the room to bring me a pair and I cut the cord.
I balanced a chux on my knees and put the sac on it. The fluid was cloudy, not clear, probably as a result of the extended time since the baby’s death. I was kind of scared to open it but I didn’t want to put the whole sac into the container of saline I had waiting. The baby was still floating around in the amniotic fluid and I suddenly saw very clearly a little foot and then a little white hand. I cut open the sac (it was surprisingly strong), the fluid flowed out and there he was. He was just beautiful. He was actually more developed than I had expected. He was somewhat pinkish-gray, very delicate and some of his skin had ‘blisters’ where fluid was collecting under it. There were tiny shreds of skin, kind of like that you see on post-term babies, over most of his body, but they weren’t disfiguring. You mostly noticed these when he was in the saline later. After I held him for a minute and talked to him I put him in the saline and covered the container. Then I got down to the business of the rest of the delivery.
Over the next hour or so I passed about 10 clots of decent size. The water was so bloody that after about 45 minutes I let it out and refilled the tub. I still hadn’t delivered the placenta and I knew that I would keep bleeding until I did because the uterus was unable to fully contract to shut it down. I started fundal massage and after a minute or so of this I started having much stronger cramps. I passed another clot or two and then started trying bearing down. After a few pushes the placenta came out. I had to examine it to make sure it was all there and part not left inside. Now, placentas are not pretty. Frankly, they make me rather sick. Again, I realized that if I didn’t pick it up, no one else was going to (you don’t call the paramedics to pick up your placenta for you). I didn’t bother saving it for the doctor to look at because I was sure it was complete. I only passed one more medium-sized clot after that and blood, but the bleeding decreased significantly.
A few minutes after I got out of the tub and was cleaning up the bathroom I suddenly felt nauseated, hot and faint. I sat down but it got worse. I called my husband. I knew I was about to pass out and didn’t want to wind up on the floor. He helped me to bed (putting a chux down) and I lay there with my head down and my knees up and a cold washcloth on my face and something cold to drink. Fifteen minutes later I felt well enough to get up get dressed and finish cleaning up the bathroom. The last thing I did was spread out a clean chux and pick Innocent up out of the saline. I took pictures of him, taking full-body pictures of him in the saline and then in my hand and on the chux, then focusing on details like feet, hands, face, ears, etc. It also occurred to me to see if we could tell the sex. I wasn’t expecting to because of what I had read, but you could tell he was a boy. I put him back in the saline and wrapped the container before putting it in the refrigerator. I finally got to bed around 2:30. I was so grateful that my prayers had been answered that I just lay in bed thinking, “thank you”. My stomach felt so flat, and I felt so suddenly alone.
The next day was Sunday. I stayed home from church. I was hyper-conscious of the container containing Innocent’s body in the refrigerator.
Monday morning I called the doctor’s office and left a message for the nurse. She called back later and obviously hadn’t been given a very clear message. It took several minutes to convince her that I had delivered the baby on my own at home, was fine, and was only calling to let them know and see if they wanted to do a follow-up ultrasound. I went in that afternoon for an ultrasound and it was confirmed that the uterus was empty. I was also examined by the doctor. He too was amazed I had done everything myself and was fine. I brought the camera with me and showed him Innocent’s pictures. I also showed them to the nurse. She said I had “blessed her day”. I actually felt an odd pride when showing him off, rather like that you get when showing off baby pictures of your living child. They all said they hoped to see me back in in several months under happier circumstances. God willing.
We had the burial on Wednesday morning. I had converted a jewelry box I bought into a casket. On the drive out to the cemetery (a family one in the country), I held him in the box on my lap. I couldn’t quite grasp that I was carrying the body of my child to bury him. I looked out at the countryside and wondered how it could look so beautiful when my baby was dead. The burial service itself was lovely. I was unable to sing anything but a bit of “Memory Eternal” at the end. My throat hurt too much. I left part of my heart in the Mississippi earth that day.
On Pascha we went back out to his grave and planted an Easter lily. I feel better knowing that even after we leave (only God knows how long we’ll be anywhere) there will still be flowers blooming every year by his grave. I’ve had decent days and nightmarish ones. I’m trying to find a new normal and not focus on what won’t be. Since I’m still working through grief from such a recent event, I hope to be able to update this story in the future and share how I’ve done.
Anna can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org