Mom to Isaac Joseph

June 26 – June 28, 2004

Waterloo, Iowa

I am the face of neonatal death. In November of 2003, we learned Isaac Joseph was on the way. We were so excited.  This was our second child and we couldn’t feel more blessed. After an early ultrasound, his due date was set for July 7, 2004. I had a fairly easy pregnancy. With the exception of having low iron, everything went perfectly. 

On June 25, I realized I had not felt him move much. I called the doctor’s office and they gave me instructions to drink caffeine and lay on my left side. After two hours of feeling nothing, they told me to come into the hospital for a stress test. We got to the hospital around 6:00pm and Isaac’s heartbeat was about 180 bpm. Everything looked fine, but the doctor said he was “sleepy”. He wasn’t moving like he should have been. They sent me down to get an ultrasound done. For 30 minutes the technician scanned my belly and watched him. His heart rate was fine, but he wasn’t moving much at all. He scored 4 out of 8 possible points.

At this point, Dr. told me it wasn’t anything serious, but she wanted to get him out, because he was being “sleepy”. They induced my labor at 7:30. Mark had to go find someone to take our 2-year old, Nathan, so I was alone until almost 9pm. During this time, they put an internal monitor on Isaac and broke my water. They were pleased to see that my water was clear.   

My labor was slow and painful, due to the Pitocin, but everything seemed to be going all right. When I was about 5cm dilated, the internal monitor read out went blank. Isaac’s heart beat stopped. They hooked up a different internal monitor to make sure it was not just malfunctioning. The new monitor also showed no heart beat. What seemed like all of a sudden, I had doctors and nurses running all around me, prepping me for surgery and trying to find Isaac’s heart beat. I didn’t know what was going on- I was confused, scared, and no one told me what was happening. By the time they got me into the OR, I was shaking uncontrollably and crying. They had to tie me down. That’s the last thing I remember before being put under. 

Isaac was born blue and not breathing. He had an APGAR of 0 for the first 18 minutes before they revived him. When I woke up, Mark told me we had a little boy and that they were stabilizing him. We later found out he had had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck 4 times. When he descended during labor, he literally hung himself.

Isaac was 7 lbs, 5 oz and was 21 inches long. They baptized him within the hour. A neonatologist from the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital came in to conference with us. She told us Isaac had been without oxygen for a very long time. She told us of the possibility of cerebral palsy or severe retardation. I remember thinking- that’s ok, as long as my baby is ok.

They transferred him from my delivering hospital to the University of Iowa’s NICU about 5 hours after he was born. (He was stabilized at my delivering hospital during those hours, but they had to wait for a transport team to come and get him.) They brought him in for me to see him…he was so perfect. But his eyes were closed. He didn’t make any movements. And he had so many wires and tubes wrapped around him… I was able to touch him and tell him I loved him. They transferred me to the same hospital within an hour of Isaac.

We really didn’t know anything for the first day. They were waiting for the swelling in his brain to go down. The following day- on Sunday – the neurologist did a series of tests on him. We were in the room to watch. I think that was the moment we knew he would not make it. He had no reflexes or reactions to touch of any kind. He never cried, and he never opened his eyes. He did not respond to anything. They were going to run tests to check for brain activity, but decided against it because he was showing no signs of normal brain function. They told us there was no hope of him recovering or being able to live without some form of life support.

After agonizing over what to do, we both decided to remove him from his respirators. It wouldn’t have been fair to Isaac to make him live on all that machinery without a chance to live “normally”. Most of our family was able to hold him and love him up while he was attached to the machines. We took many pictures. We gave him a bath. Mark and I were alone with Isaac when they removed his machines. He was able to breathe on his own. The doctors told us this was because his brain stem was still functioning. The brain stem does not control any brain activity. He was able to breathe on his own for 6 1/2 hours before he died. He was in our arms, resting peacefully.

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  1. Your story is so similar to mine and your blog touched me.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story. I too am the face of neonatal loss and I am so sorry that you have to feel this pain. Many prayers to you.

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