Mom to James Austin
Born on September 21, 2010
Passed away on September 21, 2010
My pregnancy was a surprise. I was on birth control. Between the excitement and wonder was fear. Would our baby be okay since I was on medication? I had once envisioned I would never have children. I had lost my period for almost a year in my teens, was a smoker, a sober alcoholic (five years dry), and drank tons of caffeine. We were not married, which is usually not the ideal situation. We soon completely forgot about our fears and just looked forward to an exciting and promising future. I quit the smoking and all but a bit of caffeine.
We told only close family we were expecting in the first few months of my pregnancy. We had a beautiful wedding on April 10th, 2010. I married the man of my dreams. I was 16 weeks along on my wedding day. Another week later, and there would have been no question that I was sporting a bump. About a month or so after our wedding, we officially announced our secret. This is about when reality began to sink in. I was going to be a mother! I had never even imagined it. Now, becoming a mom was becoming a grand purpose for me; a calling beyond worldly things like my career. I could not believe how much I loved this little human growing within my body. I was astonished by the miracle of it all. Throughout the hot summer, I waddled around, feeling James Austin’s kicks especially after pancakes in the morning.
My pregnancy was absolutely perfect. I work as an ER admissions clerk at the local hospital and all the nurses and ultrasound techs were excited. We had a total of three awesome baby showers, so we had everything we needed from diapers to clothes until he was a year old! We did a professional maternity shoot which was posted on Facebook. Although we did not have the funds for a 3d ultrasound at our 33-week appointment, the tech did a few shots “on the down low” for us. The baby was thereafter called my chubby cheeks. I couldn’t wait to kiss his cute little face. I am so thankful that the ultrasound tech did the 3D photos because little did I know these were the only pictures I would have of my baby boy alive. As my due date approached, I became more and more excited. I enjoyed placing things on top of my giant belly and watching him kick them off. My 3-year-old niece Lydia was also very excited for her “baby Austin” to arrive.
Friday, September 17th of 2010, my uterus became hard as if it were in a constant contraction, and Austin wasn’t moving as much as he usually did. The OB told me to come in to get checked out. My doctor checked the baby with a portable ultrasound and everything looked perfect. He was head down and ready to go. Over the weekend, my uterus seemed to soften up, but the baby’s movement still seemed less to me. I thought it must be that he was getting really cramped in there! The following Monday evening, on my due date, I began having contractions. The 45-minute drive to the hospital felt like hours. I know the pain is always bad, but I had no idea! I had contractions accompanied by a constant pain. Baby’s heart rate was good but I was dilating very slowly, so no epidural was given until about 10 hours into labor. I had a not-so-common symptom arise, a fever. My doctor could not determine the cause but did not seem too alarmed. He administered IV antibiotics.
After the epidural, things progressed pretty quickly. I remember a nurse telling me to push, and telling me she could see his head and that he had blonde hair! At this point, they could no longer detect the heartbeat. I began freaking out. They reassured me it was because the baby was coming through the birth canal and the monitor could no longer detect it. The doctor came in just after and had me do my final pushes. I remember the sense of relief and joy as he pulled my little guy out and propped him up against me. His chubby little face looked the same as he did in the 3d ultrasound. This sense of joy quickly turned to confusion as his lips were blue. Is that normal? “The nurse is going to be a little mean to him now to get his airway cleared,” the doctor said calmly as he cut the cord. And then, probably 30 seconds later, “Do we have an airway?” or ”…heart rate?” I can’t remember what he said prior to his calm demeanor turning into a state of panic and “Hit this button!” and “I need Peds in here stat!!!”
Within what seemed like seconds, my baby was surrounded by a couple of pediatricians, and several nurses. Then they took him to another room. The doctor told us “I don’t usually do this, but whatever your faith is… I need you to pray. Your baby is not breathing.” My husband began to cry. My mom and sister were frantic. I was in shock. I did not cry. During labor, my placenta had abrupted and my tailbone was dislocated. I was in, I suppose, a catatonic state.
Within around ten minutes, the doctor came back in with three other doctors to let us know that our baby had passed away. I remember hearing my mom tell someone tearfully on her phone that he didn’t make it. I didn’t cry yet. I couldn’t process the information. I suppose it was too much for me to bare. I was also distracted by the pain of my dislocated tailbone. I believe the morphine they gave me may have helped me not to go into a nervous breakdown of some sort. It numbed my mind enough for me not to go completely crazy. I could not believe or mentally fathom what had happened. I kept thinking that maybe it was a very vivid dream. It certainly could not be true.
Then they brought our perfect baby in for us to hold. That’s when I began to cry. I cried hysterically when I held his lifeless body and his perfect little hands and kissed his cold face. Bit by bit, family and friends came in to the hospital room and told me how sorry they were. Every one of them was crying. Probably 50 to 75 different people came in over the course of the couple of days they kept me. The doctor concluded, at first, that it was a bacteria called Listeria that caused an infection in my body and uterus. I continued to run a fever and he gave me another, stronger antibiotic to accompany the first.
Days later, the autopsy determined that it was actually an even rarer food-borne illness of the uterus called Clostridium perfringens. This bacteria is often the culprit of food poisoning of the gastrointestinal system, not the uterus. It has a 70% maternal death rate and a 100% fetal death rate if it infects the uterus. The doctor said repeatedly that I was lucky to be alive. This did not faze me at the time, but later on, I am grateful that I survived. Clostridium perfringens is most often found in meat that is undercooked or that has been left out too long in buffet or institutional settings. The infection of this bacteria in the uterus is so rare that the doctor had never seen a case of it and said he was sure that the hospital would never see a case of it again. He had only discovered one other case after researching the infection after Austin’s passing. There is not much information online at all. I was reassured that nothing I did caused it, other than unknowingly eating infected food (probably at a Chinese buffet), and there was nothing I could have done to stop it.
It seemed that half of our small town mourned our baby’s death. There were over 200 hundred people that attended his funeral a couple of days after we left the hospital. In the subsequent weeks, I remember feeling like my arms didn’t know what to do without something to hold. Our family had removed most of his things from our home but they didn’t look inside a dresser in our bedroom that was filled with his clothes. I was glad that they missed it. I needed to look at his clothes, and his pictures, and hold the stuffed animal they laid beside him in the hospital and cry until I felt like there was no way I could cry another tear, then cry some more. I missed him more then I had ever missed anything in my life. I felt like someone had blown a whole in my chest. This was, by far, the most difficult thing I had ever endured. The pain hung on strong through the first year: every holiday, every baby.
Throughout this tragedy, I have kept my faith that God had a purpose. Many people were touched by Austin’s passing. My husband’s good friend, James Walter, had given us his Bible while we were in the hospital. After James Austin passed, Walter turned away from drugs and alcohol and gave his life to the Lord. He called me crying on Austin’s first birthday, grateful for how his life was changed. I was and still am in school pursuing a psychology degree with the eventual ability to give therapy to troubled adolescents, substance abusers, and, now, those who have endured a loss. I do not believe there is any better teacher for helping others than life itself. I try to help those with these issues at every opportunity I am given. I hope that my education can further my efforts and make me a better instrument.
My sister gave me a book called “Mommy, Please Don’t Cry.” Although I bawled all the way through it, I would recommend it to any who has lost a child. It was therapeutic.
I am now five months pregnant with James Austin’s little brother. I must admit that I am fearful and paranoid; naturally, I am also absolutely thrilled and excited. For those of you reading who have endured a loss, hold on to the truth that even though your today and your tomorrow may be difficult, nothing stays the same. It will get better. You will heal. And know that your little one would not want their momma and daddy to be sad. Know that they will never have to endure the pain of the world. Perhaps your baby was too perfect a being to endure the hardships of the earthly life. They are waiting for you in the afterlife. Know that someday we will all walk together in the light.
You can contact Kellie at firstname.lastname@example.org.