Mom to Andrew
Died November 30, 2011, and born December 12, 2011
I found out I was pregnant with Andrew a few days before Innocent’s due date. I had not been expecting it because I had been disappointed so many times. I was very happy, but was, of course, worried as well. We hadn’t known what happened to Innocent, so I worried the same thing would happen to Andrew.
My pregnancy with Andrew was uneventful. I checked his heartbeat with a Doppler almost every day from 9 weeks on. At my 11 week appointment the ultrasound showed a perfect little baby. I started to relax as I approached the 12 week mark. I was still checking with the Doppler frequently and was reassured every time. The last time I heard his heartbeat was the night of November 29th . The next day he turned 13 weeks. He also fell asleep in the Lord. I didn’t check that day so I didn’t know until the next morning, December 1st, when I couldn’t find the heartbeat after searching for an hour. I called my doctor and we confirmed with an ultrasound that Andrew had died the day before, the feast of St. Andrew. I already knew that he was gone, but there was that tiny bit of hope that was destroyed when the doctor quietly put the ultrasound wand down, turned around and said, “I’m so sorry.” The four younger children had had to come up to the hospital with Father and me, so now we had to tell them the baby was dead.
Because Christmas was coming so quickly we decided to set a date for induction of labor on December 12th.I began losing my pregnancy symptoms, although I still had a pregnant stomach. I started making a tiny shroud, tiny blankets, anything I could do to take up the time I was waiting. I typed out a birth plan. I wrote e-mails to the doctor asking for details of how the hospital handled the baby’s body. I cried a lot. I didn’t eat. I just couldn’t believe this was happening to us again.
Friends took the children to stay with them on the 10th. The morning of the 12th, we headed to the hospital very early. I made it clear from the beginning that we wanted to take Andrew’s body home with us that day and that we did not want to have any testing done on him. The staff was agreeable. They started an IV and double-checked with an ultrasound (confirmed by two doctors) that Andrew was not living. Even after all this time an irrational part of me hoped a miracle would happen and he’d wiggle around. He didn’t, of course, but the doctor took her time and printed out several pictures for us. I wanted pictures in case I had to have a D&C and wasn’t able to see his body.
They inserted the misoprostol tablets vaginally, 400mg to start with. They also attempted to place a balloon catheter between the cervix and the wall of the vagina, inflate the balloon, and thereby encourage my cervix to dilate. Instead, what happened was the beginning of a hemorrhage that took awhile to stop. They removed the catheter and waited for the bleeding to slow down. I was in danger of having to have a D&C to avoid dangerous blood loss, but after prayer the bleeding stopped. After that, they simply relied upon the medication to induce labor. I had some contractions off and on but nothing steady. They placed the medication at 8AM, again at 12PM (400mg) and then again at 4PM (600mg).
The time went by very slowly. Father stayed with me the whole time except when I sent him to get some lunch for himself. I was fasting, of course, in case I needed surgery. I tried to read but couldn’t concentrate. The little shroud and blankets were laid out on the bedside table. I wanted the staff to see that I was going to deliver a BABY, a person, my beloved child, not a blob of tissue. I needn’t have worried because they were very kind and sensitive.
By a little after 4 the contractions were painful and steady. They placed the balloon catheter again, but this time inserted it into the cervix itself and inflated it. The pain was terrible. I stood it because I desperately wanted the medical induction to succeed – I did not want a D&C. I had refused all pain medication because I wanted to have a clear head. After an hour and a half of almost continuous contractions, as painful as any I have had in my term labors, I called out to say that I couldn’t stand the pain any longer and either wanted the catheter removed or some pain medication. Father was in agony watching me in this much pain and felt helpless.
The doctor and nurse came in and removed the catheter. They checked and I was 4 cm dilated. They asked if I wanted pain medication or if I wanted to try to push. I thought about the pain medication, but the pain had diminished so much when the catheter came out that I decided to wait. I waited for one more contraction to start and then I pushed. Andrew was born in the sac at5:45. After waiting for another contraction I pushed out the placenta. I was surprised the placenta was so small but they said it was a normal size. (It was much smaller than Innocent’s had been.)
I sat up to see Andrew. I was immediately struck by the silence. None of my other births in the hospital had been attended by complete silence. I could see Andrew floating gently inside the sac which had been placed on a towel between my legs. Because I had requested it they permitted me to cut the cord and cut open the sac. I did so and carefully lifted Andrew out of the sac. He was the same size as Innocent and beautiful. Dark fluid had collected under his skin in places, including around his neck and over part of his head. This was distressing to me and I nicked his skin in an inconspicuous place to let the fluid run out. After this I could see his features better. We checked and the consensus was that he was a boy. It was a little less obvious than it had been with Innocent. We decided that Andrew looked closer to 12 weeks gestation than 13 weeks.
The staff did some minimal cleaning up and left quickly so we could be alone with Andrew. Once we were alone we both broke down. Our son was dead. I held him in my hand on one of his blankets (the blue, since he was a boy) and kept telling him how sorry I was. He lay there, helpless, his tiny head lolling to the side unless I held it.
In a few minutes when the nurse came back in she checked my bleeding and was worried that it was too much. She put another pad on and within a few minutes it was soaked. I was still contracting but I thought it was the influence of the medication that they had placed right after delivery to encourage the uterus to clamp down. She called the doctor back in. She checked and realized I had retained some placenta. They brought an ultrasound into the room and one doctor controlled that while my doctor manually removed pieces of placenta and clots. This was very painful but I knew there wasn’t really time to get anything for pain. I was very grateful that the nurse recognized the situation so soon while I was still dilated to 4 cm. Otherwise, I probably would have had to go to surgery to have everything removed. They were successful and removed at least as much placenta as I had delivered to start with. This explained why the placenta had been so small. When they were done, the pain was essentially gone and the bleeding was much less. I received additional medication to encourage the uterus to clamp down and some Ibuprofen for pain (I refused the narcotics).
The nurse did a more thorough job of cleaning up (blood was everywhere) and this time Father and I were able to be alone with Andrew for much longer. I took several pictures of him before I tried to dress him. I knew he would be fragile and I thought that once I got the shroud on it wasn’t going to come off. Once I felt like I had taken what pictures I could, I put on his tiny shroud with much difficulty. I cried because I wanted everything to be perfect for him and it wasn’t. Father picked up the camera and took a few pictures of me holding Andrew at this point. The photos were blurry, but he managed to capture in a few frames my complete anguish. After I pulled myself together I took many more pictures of Andrew in his gown.
I noticed that Andrew’s legs were starting to shrivel. I cried even more because I started to realize I would have to put him in saline unless I wanted him to completely dry out. His skin was just much too thin to contain moisture. We called out and the nurse was kind enough to provide us a plastic container of saline to put him in. I removed the shroud and carefully put him in. I hoped he would rehydrate a bit. We put that container in a larger one full of ice.
The decision had been made to keep me overnight and to start antibiotics. We had been looking forward to going home to our own house that night and this was disappointing. We packed our things so I could be transferred to the postpartum floor. Not long after this while we were waiting we found out that the nursing supervisor would not permit us to take Andrew with us to the postpartum floor. She said he had to be checked into the morgue or pathology. We refused. I had already discussed with the staff our wish that Andrew not leave our side and everything had been worked out with the morgue director, the nursing staff and my doctor that morning. For a little while it looked as if we would have to check out AMA rather than relinquish the body of our son. My doctor was called at home and pitched a fit. We were not privy to the behind-the-scenes battles, but our wishes were eventually honored and Andrew traveled in his bucket on my lap to the postpartum floor with us. While we were being wheeled to the elevator I had a sudden flashback to the time when my last living child had gone with me from labor and delivery to postpartum. He had traveled on my lap too, but had been swaddled in blankets and was warm and breathing. This realization struck me like a physical pain.
We were nicely treated in postpartum, but were very exhausted. Because of all the wrangling it was 1 AM before we were settled in that room and later before we were able to go to sleep. I slept poorly and we were very ready to go home the next morning. It was late morning before we were released. My discharge paperwork included information about grieving and postpartum depression. I noticed all of the baby-care parts had been carefully crossed out. Again I was put in a wheelchair and we headed for the discharge area. Andrew was again on my lap in his plastic container and the contrast between this discharge and my last discharge was ludicrous. That time my son had rolled down the hall while nursing, so well wrapped that no one knew. This time I had to fight tears the whole way to the car. I put Andrew in the back seat and got in the front. We pulled away from the hospital. I fell apart.
I cried all the way home. I ranted, I pleaded, I begged God for answers. Nothing was forthcoming. Father drove and held my hand. We got home and I was eventually persuaded to go to bed. Andrew was in the refrigerator.
We picked up the children the next day. That evening I took Andrew out of the saline and carefully put him on a little blanket. He had re-hydrated and looked almost better than when he had been born. We called the children in, the girls, then the boys. We allowed them to see him, hold him and touch him. We talked about what happened. We answered their questions. We let them cry. After they had gone to bed I got Andrew back out and held him. I took his picture next to the little icon of St. Andrew we had ordered. I had Father take my picture holding him. When the photo session was done, I sat in the rocking chair in our room and rocked and rocked him. I talked to him. I kissed him. Eventually I returned him to the saline and put him back in the refrigerator.
The next day was the burial. We did it in the afternoon after the oldest was out of school. I took Andrew out of the saline for the last time. I took more pictures of him. I put him in his casket, wrapped in his little white, ruffled blanket and took pictures of him there. The time came to go. I closed his casket and thought how wrong all of this was. So wrong.
We buried him next to Innocent. The wooden cross was made by the same kind man who made Innocent’s. A friend had provided some poinsettias and we had put one behind each cross. When we left we took them with us and brought them to the church. It was so hard to see the dirt fall upon his casket at the end and I had to turn away and hold onto the wire fence. When it was over, I walked over to the graves and sat down between them. I rested a hand on each grave and looked through the trees to watch the sunset.
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