Mom to Harris Grayson
March 22, 2011
I found out I was pregnant about a month after our daughter turned two. We were so happy to find out that she was going to have a sibling (which we later found out would be a brother!) and couldn’t wait to have our summer baby, due July 24th, 2011.
It was a different pregnancy than my first, with lots of different symptoms which I chalked up to how everyone says that each pregnancy is different. Unfortunately, it all started to unravel just before I was 22 weeks pregnant. I woke up on a Friday morning and started to panic when I realized I was spotting. Off to the hospital I went to get checked out and they couldn’t find anything wrong. I was told that “sometimes this sort of thing happens and we don’t know why”. I wasn’t having any contractions, just my regular Braxton Hicks which I’d been having from very early on in the pregnancy (another one of those mysteries…), and so I was sent home. I was also asked if I was leaking any fluid and I said that I wasn’t. However, hindsight is always 20/20, and I think that my membranes may have already been ruptured at that point but just didn’t realize it at the time.
By that afternoon, my spotting had stopped. I went to work the next day and felt fine, I felt as if I had had a scare, but had dodged a bullet. The day after that (Sunday) my husband and I made a trip to Banff for a night away. It was our first night away without our daughter (kind of a big deal for us!) who was being cared for at home by her Grandma. During our stay, I began to realize my Braxton Hicks were becoming more regular (about every 5 minutes apart). I knew this was not a good sign. My spotting had also started up again, and I thought I MIGHT be leaking a tiny bit of fluid, but really wasn’t certain. I was really scared at this point, and so we packed up in the middle of the night and left our nice hotel room and headed back home to go to the hospital.
We arrived at the hospital and I was taken into triage at Labour & Delivery. They checked me out and by doing a swab, confirmed that my membranes had ruptured. I was only 22 weeks pregnant. We were told that our baby would not survive if he was born before 24 weeks, and that I would likely go into labour before that time and deliver our baby. The shock of this news was just too much to bear, and we couldn’t believe that this was happening, that there was a good possibility that we might lose our much wanted baby. My uterus had been measuring large throughout my pregnancy (again, “sometimes these things happen…”) but at that point I was then measuring 32cm (10 weeks bigger than what I should have been!). Not a good sign, but up until this point they couldn’t determine why that was.
I was admitted to the antepartum unit and was told I would have an ultrasound in the morning to check on baby. I didn’t sleep at all that night, the horror of what was happening was just too much. Finally I got in for my ultrasound late that morning and they could see I had way too much amniotic fluid in my womb. The radiologist couldn’t understand how I could be leaking fluid when I had such an excess of it in there, and so they did another swab to check for fluid. This time it was negative and they figured the first one must have given a false positive due to blood (again, in hindsight the tear in the membranes had just temporarily sealed over). The plan was that I would have approximately one litre of fluid removed the following day and that perhaps that would settle things down. At this point I was hopeful that things might work out ok after all. Our baby boy looked happy and healthy on the ultrasound, so at least that was good news.
Throughout the day, my Braxton Hicks had turned into cramping which by evening had developed into contractions. I was given some morphine for the pain, and my husband was told by the nurses that he might as well head home and that I would just sleep and be fine until morning. Sometime late that evening, I was checked by an OB resident who once again confirmed I was leaking amniotic fluid and also informed me that I was 2cm dilated. I think I had somewhat been in some state of denial up until that point, that I wasn’t actually in labour and that things were going to be fine. But I think that is the moment when I truly realized it was game over. Up until that point our baby was doing fine whenever they checked on him, his heartbeat was strong, and he was kicking like mad, just like he always had.
Around midnight my morphine had started to wear off, but I was told it wasn’t quite time to have another dose yet. Right after I spoke to the nurse, during a painful contraction my water completely broke and I began to hemorrhage. The nurses were all freaking out, trying to get IV’s into me and yelling to get a delivery kit in there. I think they thought I might deliver right then and there, and I was bleeding so heavily. I was scared out of my mind and frantically called my husband to get back to the hospital ASAP. It was really difficult being so scared and having no one to reassure me and just be there for me.
Minutes after my water broke I started feeling a lot of pain and pressure as they wheeled my bed upstairs to Labour & Delivery. I was told I could not have an epidural since I was unstable due to the continued blood loss. I felt that since I knew I was going to lose my baby I did not want to feel any of the physical pain of labour, it would just be too unfair. There were so many people in the delivery room (doctors, nurses, anesthesiologist, numerous residents) and they all had very grave expressions on their faces. As every minute went by, they were trying to decide whether or not I would need to go into the OR since I was bleeding so heavily. It was very scary for me. Finally my husband arrived, driving through a storm and icy roads to get there. I began to feel the need to push, and after a short while delivered our son stillborn just 45 minutes after my water broke.
Our son Harris Grayson arrived at 01:50am on March 22, 2011 and weighed 1 pound 0.1 ounces and was 27cm long. He was tiny and perfect and looked so much like his daddy.
The heavy bleeding was determined to be from a partial placental abruption that occurred when my water broke. Because of the abruption, Harris passed away at some point during that 45 minute period before I delivered him. And because he was born at just 22 weeks, there wasn’t anything that could have been done to save him anyway.
I was unable to deliver the placenta as it wouldn’t completely detach from the uterine wall, and so I had to go into the OR to have it removed. When I finally woke up, I was back in my delivery room (which happened to be a special room specifically for parents who have lost their baby, a room which was donated by another bereaved family) and Harris was lying in a bassinet next to my bed. I asked to hold him and he was my tiny perfect little baby. We cried and held him for the rest of the day and I will cherish those few hours we spent with him forever and will never forget them. In this special delivery room were a few children’s books which were donated from another family who lost their baby and had wished they could have read their baby a story before they had to say goodbye. And so I sat in the rocking chair in my room and read “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch as I held Harris in my arms. I later found out that this book was written in memory of the author’s own two babies who were stillborn.
Some mementos we have to remember Harris are photos my nurse took and his tiny footprints stamped on a little card. He was dressed in a tiny outfit and hat and wrapped in a beautiful hand knit blanket (all of which me now keep in his memory box). The staff at the hospital were wonderful and we were very thankful to them and to the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Program here in our city who creates the memory boxes that we brought home. It was one of the saddest moments of my life walking out of the hospital later that day, without our baby and holding just that little blue memory box.
I write this as my due date approaches. Every year 200 babies are lost to stillbirth and neonatal death in my city. A rarity, and then again not so much, especially when I do the math and think about the number of babies that have been lost since we lost our own baby. It is an indescribable pain to think that any day now I should be giving birth to our son, and instead I am grieving for him and for the future that I dreamt for him. It has been helpful for me to share my story and so that is what I am doing now. Each time I do so, I feel that I heal just a tiny bit more.
Harris left us much too soon, but his short life has made such an impact on us, and we are forever changed. We will love and remember him always.
Wanda can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org