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Putting a face on miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss
When I was 35 weeks pregnant, I gazed at my son for the first time. But it was too late, he was already gone…
We were SO excited to bring our 3rd child into the world. Our pregnancy with Jairus was the 1st we had planned in advance, and in some ways I think I was the most excited about having him. Because with our first child, Emma (now 4 years old), we were thrilled but didn’t know what to expect and with our second child, Hazen (now 2 1/2), we were surprised by how soon after his sister he was born (18months) and spent much of the pregnancy happy but nervous about having two little ones in less than 2 years. When we decided to try for a third baby, we felt ready. Ready to expand our family again, ready to expand our hearts and ready experience the intensity of the relationship with our new child.
The pregnancy went very well. I have experienced morning sickness with each one, but even that was less intense the 3rd time around except for the fatigue (who has time to feel sick with two kids running around?!). I found myself struggling with being irritable much of the time, but was so thrilled to be having another baby, I figured a few months of being crabby was definitely worth a lifetime with a child. We did some extra monitoring with Jairus’ pregnancy. I have a blood clotting disorder and so extra monitoring had been done with the first two kids as well. Both of our births so far had been induced due to complications that the doctor had thought at the time were independent, random issues. Emma was induced at 40 weeks when the amniotic fluid level in my womb dropped. Hazen was induced at 36 1/2 weeks when I developed a kidney infection and my blood work showed some slight changes. Nothing to worry about though.
Starting 32 weeks into my 3rd pregnancy, I received an ultrasound at each checkup, which I enjoyed very much, who wouldn’t love to see their baby as often as possible!? Baby was VERY active and was always doing somersaults and rolls in my belly, and this baby even more so than his/her older siblings. I remember thinking this was such a joyful baby!
My belly, and excitement, grew each week. The kids were excited about the new baby (we did not find out gender with any of our pregnancies) and Mark and I spent lots of time getting our home ready. At my 34 week check up (Wednesday, December 22) baby was measuring great and received a perfect health score during the ultrasound. Placenta, fluid level, blood pressure, everything looked good. I looked forward to the last few weeks of being pregnant and planned for my first natural delivery.
Sunday and Monday I did not feel very much movement, but was not concerned as I assumed that Baby was getting into position for delivery in a couple of weeks. Monday afternoon we came home from celebrating Christmas with our family in Wisconsin and went out to dinner. We laughed and talked through dinner about how it was possibly our last time eating out as a family of 4. All that was left to do was set up the crib, install the car seat, and wait. We headed home and put the kids to bed.
I had trouble sleeping that night, couldn’t get my brain to turn off and had a stomach ache, as well as the random contractions I had been having for a couple of weeks. Mark felt restless too. We managed to drift off to sleep eventually. At midnight, I shot up in bed and had the distinct feeling “something is wrong!!” No, I told myself, I’m just uncomfortable, I’m 35 weeks pregnant so of course I am not sleeping well and have some aches and pains. After being up for awhile I went back to bed and fell asleep. At 3:30 that morning, my water broke in bed. I woke Mark and told him what I was sure had just happened. He turned on the light. But it wasn’t clear like it should be when your water breaks. Our bed was soaked in blood.
Panic started to rise in both of us, we managed to throw together a hospital bag and prepare to go to the hospital. But it was 3:30am on December 28th, Christmas was barely over and of the 5 families we had lined up to watch the kids at a moments notice, all of them were out of town (on the seemingly safe assumption that we had about a month until our child was born). After many unanswered phone calls and my husband running around the neighborhood knocking frantically on doors with no answer, we finally got a hold of friends visiting family out in Portland, who called a mutual friend from church whose phone number we didn’t have. She immediately got in her car and came to our home. We left for the hospital.
My contractions were coming very close together in the car, and with more intensity and duration. By the time we reached the hospital my abdomen was in constant contraction, with no break at all. We were ushered into a delivery room by a nurse already in scrubs (ready to take us in for an emergency c-section if needed). She checked for a heartbeat, and couldn’t find one. She said it may be that my abdomen is the reason for this, because it was still contracting constantly and felt like a rock to the touch. An ultrasound doctor was called in. His wand passed over our baby and I noticed immediately what I thought was the heart, but he moved passed to the placenta, as if stalling for time. A large, white mass on the monitor showed that my placenta had obstructed. My baby’s life support system had detached itself from the uterine wall. They call it a placental abruption, and this one was “catastrophic”. The doctor went back to our child. He held the image on our baby and said somberly, “There’s the heart.” There was no movement. Our child’s heart had stopped beating.
The intensity and pain of the next couple hours is too much to write about, but I will just say that our whole world collapsed with those words. All of our dreams and hopes for our baby and our family were gone in an instant. In their place was only the pain of our hearts breaking, of our souls screaming, of our searing tears pouring out. How could it be real? We had entered a nightmare we could not wake from.
Our own doctor arrived and labor progressed very quickly. I felt very little of the physical pain, I was in such shock. Very quickly it was time to push, but how could I?? How do you deliver your baby when you know you have lost them already? I knew delivery was really the beginning of the end, of having to say goodbye. But I had to. And with my amazing husband at my side encouraging me, we delivered our baby at 7:34am, Tuesday December 28th. The delivery room was silent. There was nothing to say. They lay my child on my chest, and Mark told me through tears, “It’s a boy.” The nurse asked if the little guy had a name yet, and I told her without hesitation, “Yes, his name is Jairus.”
He was so, so beautiful. He looked amazingly like his big brother Hazen, but with a shock of dark hair that neither of our first two babies had had. He weighed in at 4 lb 1.2 oz, 18 inches tall. He was perfect. But I have never heard his cry, I have never seen his eyes. All of my hopes and expectations and dreams for him died with him.
We had Jairus with us for about 10 hours that day before we said goodbye to our baby. It was just the 3 of us, our only day with our son. And then, it was time to let him go.
I had no signs or symptoms that anything was wrong until that night. But when they looked back at my first two pregnancies and what happened to Jairus, they told us I had had pre-eclampsia with all of my pregnancies. But that they don’t know why I have never become ill the way most women with the condition do. And because they don’t understand why not, they don’t know what to predict for the future. So we don’t have definitive answers. We may never really know the full story.
In the last 5 1/2 months since losing Jairus, we feel like we’re only beginning to understand the impact of his death on our hearts and our family. We’re trying to cling to the hope of heaven that we see in Jesus. We’re putting one foot in front of the other. We’re taking it one breath at a time.
Our older children have been amazing. They are so young and to walk through this with them, seeing it through their perspective of trust and innocence has been healing for both Mark and I. We’ve got a long, uncertain road ahead of us. But we’re together. We’ve got each other and we’ve got our faith in a good God. And that will get us through today.