Mom to Grace-Ann Drew Wynter (“Wynter”)
Born and died January 18, 2010
January 2010 proved to be month of raging storms, literally and figuratively. Deemed the coldest winter ever by weather announcers throughout the east coast, I had no idea I would feel the cold so deeply that it reached the core of my being.
The evening of Friday, January 8th we had been up, counting and timing contractions. My oldest son, Gabriel, and my other half, Andrew, enjoyed a little time bonding over video games. He even took a brief video recording of our anxious and nervous excitement. I joked with an Aunt, whose birthday was the same day that our baby girl wanted to share a special day with her. The contractions faded. I got tired. After a while we went to bed.
Tuesday the 12th of January, I went for a routine checkup. This time and probably the only time I had gone alone. It was Dr Cohen. I hadn’t liked his approach much during this pregnancy. This day he routinely did a belly measurement, checked baby’s position, and checked the heartbeat. It was loud. And fast…unusually fast for what I was used to listening for. He said it was nice and strong. I was still only 3cm dilated, like I had been the week before.
I went home a little disappointed. Being on my feet for work, walking, drinking water; I thought these things would have helped induce labor by now, especially with this being my 4th child and thinking the process should be quicker with each proceeding pregnancy. I went home and cleaned. I scrubbed the bathtub, cleaned the toilet. Washed dishes, cleaned the kitchen. This would be considered nesting for some. For me, it’s my process of thinking, decision making and clearing my mind.
By Wednesday or Thursday evening, as we lay for bed, Andrew said, “She’s not kicking us like she normally does.” I noticed the same, and made myself aware of any changes as I went about my day, at work and at home. We agreed that I would call the doctor Friday morning to be seen sooner than our Tuesday appointment, or at least get an opinion.
I left a voice message, and worked as best as I could. I trained a new hire; my fellow co-workers and moms-to-be shared opinions and played the guessing game when baby would arrive. Before my shift was over I must have had pain or discomfort on my face. One of the girls came over and asked if I was having a contraction. She touched my stomach and felt how hard it was. She had been attending her labor and delivery classes as a first time mom and remembered what they shared with her. During a contraction the stomach tightens and will feel hard, like a forehead does. I had been feeling that off and on, for a few days already. With a training seminar planned for the following week, the girls bid me well as they were certain I would begin my maternity leave.
I got a return call from the doctor’s office as I was leaving work that afternoon. It was Nurse Yeager. She said decreased movement was normal the closer a woman is to labor and delivery. She suggested I drink a cold, sweet glass of juice, preferably orange, lie on my left side and count kicks. I felt regular movements and pressure, almost contraction-like. I thought that was my reassurance that all was well with baby and me.
Saturday January 16th was the usual routine of church with lunch immediately following. The pressure and regular contraction-like pain wasn’t increasing but was constant enough to be visibly uncomfortable.
Sunday January 17th was another day of prepping in anticipation. Andrew went to work and the children and I did a little window shopping at Kmart. I grabbed a few baby items. I mostly wanted to walk. Monday couldn’t arrive soon enough.
It was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Monday, January 18, 2010. The children had a day off from school. Andrew was home for the morning. I awoke with anticipation and hope, for the pains and discomfort were a sure sign that our little bundle of joy would soon arrive. And it would be perfect to welcome her as a family. At 3cm dilated for the past 2 weekly checkups, I was confident this day’s follow up would move things along.
We arrived at the doctor’s office. After just a moment of waiting they called my name. We all followed. The children were taken to sit in a little lounge while a nurse nearby kept an eye on them. We waited for the Dr. It was him again. Dr Cohen. He did the belly check, and brought out his fetal stethoscope. I could hear fluid and my own heartbeat. Nothing more. He shuffled a bit and tried a different area. Nothing. I was a bit concerned but kept calm. He asked us to move to another room to do an ultrasound check. I sat on the table and laid back. Andrew held my hand. Looking at the ultrasound screen I could see her form. Her familiar shape outlined, but no flutter where we would normally see her heartbeat.
I knew what I saw. But I didn’t believe it. Not until he said the words that felt like a knife through my heart. “It looks like we lost it”. What did he mean?! Lost what?! The image on the screen or our baby inside me?! How?! Why?! When?! Tears filled my eyes and flooded down my face. I didn’t realize it was me but I could hear myself wailing loudly, the way a woman does in movies when she receives news of a loved one passing. Never had I expected to hear those words of my own child, especially without first being able to mother my child. Andrew’s eyes overflowed with tears. We hugged and held each other tightly. This couldn’t be real.
As if it were normal, the doctor asked who we had to stay with the children. I didn’t know what was happening. Before being rushed off I had to ask, “What next?” How would I deliver our child in a situation like this? They explained the procedure of induction and said a doctor would be waiting for me. He let us use his office to make a phone call. But I didn’t know who to call. Instinct had me dial my parents’ number. My father answered. I didn’t know what to say. Regardless of our disagreements, he was still concerned for my well-being. Mom would tell me so. I asked if he could stay with the kids because I had to go to the hospital, they couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat. The children were probably more confused than I was. They asked questions I couldn’t answer…didn’t know how to answer…didn’t want to answer.
Shock engulfed me quickly. This wasn’t real. Maybe they were mistaken. Even my father’s optimism to get in the hospital quickly so they could check again had me hopeful that she would come out crying and breathing and healthy. We walked into the maternity ward and it was like I was walking the hall of death. It was dreadful. The nurses at the station knew who we were, and it seemed as though I approached them in slow motion. They showed us our room. They had me undress and put on a gown. They attached monitors and left us alone for what seemed like forever. Why wasn’t this urgent to them?! Why couldn’t they hurry and check if our baby was ok?!
An IV was inserted with fluid. After some time I thought induction had already begun because my contractions were getting stronger, closer and more unbearable. After asking the nurse she said they hadn’t started anything yet. I realized it was my own body. Maybe it was a stress or trauma reaction, but my body knew what to do.
My mother showed up. She left work early to come to the hospital. She said my father called her. I don’t think she immediately understood what was going on herself because she mentioned the baby having a chance if the doctor hurried. When we told her there was no chance her face froze and melted all at once. The tears and sadness were overwhelming. Here was my mother who couldn’t do anything to help her baby girl; and there I sat as both mother and child, unable to save our own baby girl from her fetal demise, and unable to comfort my mother through this news that traumatized.
Labor escalated. I didn’t want to continue. I knew the outcome wouldn’t be what we planned for in the past 9 months. I wouldn’t hear her cry or see her eyes. I wouldn’t be able to nurse and nurture and cuddle and swaddle. I wouldn’t be able to see her grow with her father by her side, protecting her and loving her like the apple of his eye.
My water broke. I immediately felt the urge to push. It only took about two or three tries and even still I hoped to hear or see something that would prove them wrong. But she was lifeless. No crying. Her limbs limp. They placed her on me and I didn’t want to let go. Through the whole 9 months we joked about how she’d dance and giggle and talk and grow. And towards the end I wanted to speed it up to hold her and make it reality. But at that moment I wanted to go back in time, to the very beginning to relive it all over again. To take photos each month and each week as the belly grew. We hadn’t done much of that. Work and life kept us busy and we figured we’d take it one day at time ensuring baby and I were both healthy throughout the pregnancy. This wasn’t the reality we expected or planned for. And we couldn’t do much more than what happened in the hospital room that night. We took photos of her, of us, together. Our family moment. Shattered, broken, incomplete. As quickly as that morning started, the night ended.
If I could have spoken up beyond the shock I was in, I would have made requests that I didn’t think of at the time like having the children meet, and say goodbye to, their sister. They never had that opportunity and still talk about and ask questions every day.
January 18, 2010 lasted a mere 24 hours just like any other day, but it was a day unlike any other. The memory of it all replays and lives on continuously, and forever will.
On January 18, 2010 our daughter, Grace-Ann Drew Wynter Doirin, was stillborn, in medical terms.
I remember her face and how peacefully angelic she looked. I like to think she was born sleeping.
Our baby girl, Wynter… was still born.
Sleep well, my angel…
You can contact Grace at firstname.lastname@example.org.