Mommy to Brandon Thomas
Stillborn on December 29th, 1997
Bowling Green, KY
At 18 years old, I found out I was pregnant. I was a month out of high school and supposed to start college in the fall. My pregnancy went forward like something out of a textbook: very healthy, no complications. I gained an acceptable amount of weight. I was four days overdue and had to be induced because my amniotic fluid started leaking. The delivery of my 1st child was completely normal. The only thing that was surprising was my son’s weight – he weighed in at a whopping 10 lbs 6.5 oz and was 23.5 inches long! His blood sugar and temp were low at birth, but after a few hours he was fine. My midwife told me that I “was born to have babies.”Fast forward a couple years later. I was 20 years old. I was going through a divorce and found out I was pregnant. I was heartbroken! My first reaction was that I didn’t want to be pregnant. I was now a single mother and a college student with a full time job. This wasn’t going to be easy! However, after some time I began to feel excited about this new baby. I had a feeling that I was having a boy.
I went to all my prenatal visits and, according to the doctors, everything was going perfectly. I was due the 2nd week of January. Fetal growth was right on target. I had a couple ultrasounds to check the baby’s size, due to my first child being so large at birth. In October, I had a scare. I started spotting at 28 weeks. After examination, the ER doctors told me that it was “old blood” and that I should just take a day off and rest. After the next day, the bleeding stopped.
My ultrasounds looked great, including the one at the ER. At that time, we took in VHS tapes so ultrasounds could be taped and played back at home. I was scheduled for an ultrasound 2 weeks before Christmas, at 36 weeks, just to get a better idea of the baby’s size closer to term. The measurements were great, the baby was growing normally, no issues with lungs, heart or other internal organs, etc. I still didn’t want to know the sex of the baby, but I was pretty sure I knew what I was having – his name would be Brandon Thomas.
The holiday season that year was busier than usual. I had Christmas shopping to do, had a couple different baby showers to attend and a bit of travelling to fit in. My son was old enough to see the magic in the holidays and was excited about getting to be a big brother. He would be 3 in February.
Christmas was amazing! I still think of it as one of my favorite Christmases with my son. We got up that morning and opened gifts. We then had to travel about 2 hours north for a family holiday get-together. That lasted a couple hours and we headed back home. He was going to go for his visitation with his dad that evening. Two days later, on the 27th, I went to my mom’s to house sit for her pups. My parents and brother had flown out of state to visit my older brother.
I had noticed some decrease in movement on Christmas morning, but had attributed that to the fact that I was too busy to have noticed much other movement. I had no worries then. The day after Christmas I hadn’t felt the baby move, but I had slept almost all day. I was worn out in my third trimester! I felt a small amount of alarm at this time because there was not much room for him to move and I stayed asleep so much that I might have just missed it. On the 27th, I rested. I changed positions. I laid on my left side, drank sugary drinks, etc. I think I wanted to feel movement so bad that anything seemed okay. Looking back, I think I knew deep in my soul what had happened and had already begun denying it.
Finally on the morning of the 28th I called my brother’s phone and left a message for my mom and told her that I was concerned about the baby because I hadn’t felt the usual movement. I let her know that I was going to the doctor and that I was sure it was just me being tired. I would call her later. I was trying to comfort my mother; I didn’t want her to worry being that far away.
On a whim, I called a friend of mine who worked for the hospital. I wanted to know where labor and delivery was (this was a different hospital from my previous delivery). She said she would meet me there and hang out with me. She was off that day and didn’t have much going.
I went upstairs and told the nurse what had been going on. She told me that this sort of thing happens all the time. My friend and I waited for about 30 minutes for the nurse to come back. She brought the Doppler machine to find the baby’s heartbeat. She told me that she thought my heartbeat was making it difficult to pick up the baby’s. She told me that it would be just a bit, but the ultrasound tech would be up shortly with the ultrasound machine. She again told me that she was sure it was nothing. I had no problems with my first pregnancy and had no reason to doubt her. I was pregnant, but she was the professional.
About an hour later, I was on my back looking at the ultrasound screen. My heart started beating harder when the tech gently repositioned the machine so that she could “get closer to the picture.” She told me to “hold tight sweetie…I am just going to get the doctor and make sure about what we’re seeing.” She smiled and seemed so nonchalant that I was sure my dread was for naught.
The doctor walked in. She was young and beautiful – and obviously pregnant. She sat on the stool and scooted up to the machine. She had a smile plastered to her face when she sat down. The smile faded quickly. The next moments were the worst I’ve had in my life. The doctor stood up – looked directly into my eyes and said, “Ma’am. I’m sorry but your baby is dead.” She then turned around and, with the two nurses, walked out of the room.
My friend was in shock. I was by myself and just remember screaming. Over and over. The nurses came and shut the door to my room. Whether to give me privacy to grieve or because I was scaring the other patients, I don’t know. My guess is that it was a little of both. I finally, abruptly calmed down and went to sleep for about 30 minutes. I think that was out of self defense.
I woke up and went on auto-pilot. I had my friend try to reach my mother. We were unable to reach her until much later that afternoon. We called my ex-husband and his family. The doctor came back in and told me that I was going to have to deliver the baby. I’m not sure what I expected to happen, but being in labor for 15 hours with no precious bundle to take home was devastating news. I begged and pleaded and cried to the doctor to knock me out and let me have a C-section. I was told that I needed to deliver vaginally for two reasons. The first reason was that I would heal faster. The second was that “I was not stable enough emotionally” to handle anesthesia or surgery well.
They began inducing my labor. I was mentally numb and needed my mom. At the beginning of my labor, I told jokes, did crossword puzzles and tried to pretend that the doctor was wrong. I felt fine. The baby was fine.
My mother had finally gotten my message and called the hospital. I talked to her and we both cried. I needed her to hold me and tell me it was going to be okay. She and my family took a red-eye flight back to town and arrived around 2 in the morning. To that point I hadn’t considered taking pain medication. It’s not that it didn’t hurt, but that I honestly just never thought about it. I was a wreck. She convinced me to at least take some meds via IV to help me relax. She then held me and didn’t let go until he was born. My mother is my angel.
By the time my labor had progressed to the pushing point, I was very alert. Hormones in child birth do strange things to us, regardless of the circumstances. I told the nurse I was ready, and the doctor walked in about the time that I started pushing.
It was only a few minutes before my son was in front of me. I had only the emotion of being a proud mother. I was sure he would start crying. He looked perfect. Seconds went by and he didn’t move. The doctor’s didn’t try to save him because he was already gone. It was December 29, 1997. All the information from the previous day came crashing back down on me, and I relived the grief all over again.
The hospital took his handprints and footprints and pictures. They swaddled him and brought him to me so that I could hold my beautiful son. He looked like he was simply sleeping. I didn’t want to let him go.
When they finally took him from me and took me to a recovery room (on a different floor than the nursery), I was able to see outside. It was snowing so hard and turning the world out there white. I somehow felt very peaceful watching that, as snow is one of my favorite things on earth.
I asked what I needed to do next. I wasn’t prepared for the answer. I was told that I could have him cremated, have a funeral or “the hospital would dispose of him.” Again, I lost it. “How could they say something like that to me?” I wondered. I could no longer process information and went to sleep.
I woke up and decided that he would be cremated. I was the one that carried him in my womb for 8 and half months. I was the one that talked to him each day, that touched my stomach and let my son imagine what life would be like when he was born. I didn’t feel that I could make it through a funeral.
When the funeral home arrived with his ashes, I couldn’t take them. I sent them with his father. I regret that decision still, because his father was never willing to scatter them with me or return them, but I have come to grips with that. His father needed to hold that part of him, and I don’t have any ill will toward him for that.
It is not something you ever forget about. It’s not something that you “just get over.” I never did get a reason for his life ending. It was not a cord accident – he just died. But life goes on, the days still pass. You will drive down the road one day and start crying years later. My son would be 14 this year. I miss that I never had certain opportunities, like seeing him walk, hearing him say “Mommy,” watching him start school.
I would have to say that it never gets easier. The terribly hard moments become fewer and further between, but when they show up, they are still hard. I can think about him without crying every time now, but the hurt is still there. I still cry sometimes when I least expect it, but I have gained a peace in my soul that I know is him still being a part of me.
I have since had more miscarriages, but my last pregnancy was a healthy baby girl. Her birthday was 1 day after Brandon’s. That was hard, but healing at the same time. My oldest son is 16, my daughter is 5.
Throughout everything, I realized that I am stronger than I ever thought.
You can contact Kasey at firstname.lastname@example.org