image1(1)Cristina

Mom to Lilly

March 21, 2011

Phoenix, Arizona

It has taken me 2 years to write this and share it with the world [at time of submission].

We had been trying for our second child for about 6 months and were starting to get frustrated. In December, we decided to take a break and since we were going away for Christmas, it would be a good time to de-stress. We came home on December 26th. I felt kind of off the whole trip so since I was late, I took a test expecting another disappointing result. To our utter shock, we saw the single most beautiful word you could see on a test result, “Pregnant.” To say we were thrilled would be an extreme understatement.

We told everyone right away, we were so excited! We just wanted everyone to share in our joy. I posted it on Facebook sometime in February after the first trimester “safe zone” at 12 weeks. Or so I thought…

It was an easy pregnancy and not unlike my first, I was pretty carefree knowing that I wasn’t a first time mom, and I knew exactly what to expect.

FAST FORWARD…

Friday, March 18, 2011
15 weeks, 3 days
This was supposed to be a routine OB appointment, and we were going for an optional ultrasound afterward with my mom and sister to find out the gender. My husband didn’t go with me to the OB appointment. He offered, but I told him not to since it would be a quick routine appointment and he would get to see the baby in the ultrasound later in the day.  It was supposed to be such a great day. And it turned out so differently than I expected. I didn’t see this coming at all. I felt great!

My appointment was at 10:00, so I was going to leave work at 9:45, then come back to work after the appointment, and take off a little early to make sure I got to the ultrasound place on time, just in case there was traffic. For some reason I was unusually anxious for my appointment; I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to hear the baby’s heartbeat. The doctor’s office called me to ask if they could move my appointment to 11:00. I begrudgingly agreed.

When I got to the doctor’s office, I waited for like 30 minutes because they were running behind. Typical stuff, the doctor asked me if I was starting to feel flutters. I told her I thought so but wasn’t sure (wishful thinking maybe?). Normally she was pretty quick to find a heartbeat with the doppler, but this time she was having trouble. She gave me a reassuring smile and told me sometimes baby likes to hide, so she would try to get it on ultrasound. She made it sound pretty arbitrary. The ultrasound technician was out of the office on Fridays, so she went to turn it on while they drew my blood for the quad screen. I asked her at this point if she thought she might be able to tell the gender of the baby. She responded with, “We’ll see what we see.” (In retrospect I think she knew something was wrong.)

She got the machine turned on but had trouble with it because she didn’t use it very often. She looked at the screen and moved the wand around my belly for what seemed like an eternity (she also had the screen turned just far enough so I couldn’t see). After a long silence, she looked at me, and I’ll never forget the look on her face. It was the look of someone who dreaded the words that were about to come out of their mouth; it was a look of empathy and real sorrow. She took a deep breath and said, “I’m not seeing a heartbeat.” I was speechless. What could I say to that? I was in disbelief, I may have gotten the rhetorical word “what” out because she picked up the wand and looked for another few minutes to double and triple check and still nothing.

She said that the baby also looked smaller than it should at 15 weeks & 3 days. She fiddled with the machine for a bit and then called the ultrasound technician on the phone to get instructions on getting measurements for gestational age. She said she knew the basics of the machine, but this was a bit more complex. She was able to get some measurements; she had the wand on me for a while. The whole time I just prayed that by some miracle the baby would start moving or that the ultrasound would pick up a heartbeat. No such miracle.

She found that the baby was measuring 12 weeks 3-4 days. She also said baby was kind of scrunched up, and not moving. There was also fluid in the baby’s abdomen and a fluid-like membrane near the head, so she thought it might be a chromosomal defect. She said that most babies with these kinds of defects don’t live long after birth, if they survive that long at all. I don’t know if that made me feel any better… She told me that there was nothing I could have done to cause or prevent this, good or bad, it just happens sometimes. Since I was right on the border of the 1st and 2nd trimester, she would prefer to have me deliver the baby by being induced so they could do some additional chromosomal tests to find out what exactly happened, as opposed to a D&C. She spent lots of time with me and was really warm (typically she’s all business and a bit cold). I appreciated her not rushing me out and being very sensitive to my complete and utter shock. She answered all of my questions, because I had a lot of them. I was really blind sided, and kind of a mess…

After I left the doctor’s office, I sat in my car for awhile  feeling kind if numb, trying to process all of this. I was dreading calling my husband to tell him the awful news. I had to cancel the ultrasound and let my mom and sister know not to go. I just wasn’t ready to tell them why yet. I called my boss first to let her know I wouldn’t be going back to work and would be out the following Monday and Tuesday. If I thought telling her was hard, I couldn’t imagine telling my husband. I called the ultrasound place to cancel and felt bad for the guy; he asked if I wanted to reschedule and so I told him the real reason I was cancelling. He couldn’t get off the phone with me fast enough. He was totally not expecting the answer I gave him, but he asked! Then I texted my mom and sister that the ultrasound was cancelled and I’d call them later. Finally it was time to call my hubby. I tried to be composed when he answered, but as soon as I heard his voice I was a blubbering mess. He was just as stunned as I was, if not more.

It was Friday, so I had to wait until Monday to be induced. The whole time I just wanted to wake up from this horrible nightmare. The only thing that got me through was my husband and our 2-year-old son.

I think finding out about the baby being gone definitely had an effect on my body because all weekend I was really crampy and wasn’t sure I would make it to my induction on Monday. It was really weird because prior to finding out, I felt totally fine.

On Monday, March 21, 2011 at 15 weeks and 6 days, per my doctors instructions, we arrived at the hospital at about 8:00 a.m., and went to Labor & Delivery to check-in. I got taken back fairly quickly to my room; it was at the end of the hall, away from the active labor moms.

As soon as I got in the room and the nurse said how sorry she was, I broke down. I was ok up until she acknowledged why we were there. I got into my gown and sat on the bed, still in disbelief. We asked if we could have one more ultrasound just to confirm what I had been told on Friday. Not that I didn’t trust my doctor, but we just wanted one more look, an opportunity for that miracle I was hoping for. Mike also wanted to see for himself, since he was not there on Friday for the ultrasound. The Doctor who did the ultrasound was wonderful; she gave us some pictures of our baby to keep.

After I was induced (with Cytotec), it took a few hours for things to get going. I was in labor a total of 10 hours. I initially didn’t want pain medications, I think partly because I knew that if I felt the pain, I was still connected to our baby and I wanted to embrace that as long as possible.

At this hospital, they play the song “Lullaby and Goodnight” when a baby is born. Dad gets to hit the button to make the song play. The first time they played, it was tough.

The pain was bearable until probably the last 4 hours of contractions. At that point I was emotionally and physically drained and considering pain medications. They gave me something to take the edge off, but by the time we revisited other pain management options, it was over. That was it. Ten hours of labor and it was over from one second to the next.

I didn’t really know how to feel– relief, sadness, I was overcome with emotion when I saw her tiny little body.  The nurse cut the umbilical cord and put her in a towel/wash cloth. We got to hold her; she was so precious and perfect. She had her tiny hand up by her face near her eyes, and her little feet were so small. She wasn’t in the best of shape but we still loved her. Our Baby was brought into the world on angels wings at 9:00 p.m. on Monday March 21, 2011. She was 1.1 oz and 4 inches long.

I started feeling very weak so I handed her to my husband and laid down again. My Doctor got there and I asked her if she could tell us what the gender was (at the time she looked to be a boy). She started to get things set up for delivering the placenta. Since she told me this would be very crampy, I asked for some pain meds.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011
The next day when it was time to get ready to go home, we had the chaplain come in to give Lilly a blessing. We got to spend a little bit longer with her and didn’t want to say goodbye. It sounds odd, but all cleaned up on this day, she looked really beautiful to us. We left the hospital at about noon and unfortunately I had to be wheeled out in a wheel chair even though I felt fine on my feet. That was the hardest thing. It felt so strange coming home empty handed after that whole ordeal.

The hospital had a burial service through a mortuary/crematory that has a vault for Scottsdale’s Tiniest Angels (babies born before 20 weeks). We liked the idea of knowing where she would be and being able to go there if we wanted to. In retrospect, part of me regrets not taking her ashes home with us. My husband got a memorial tattoo for her, and I plan on getting one as well.

The hospital was wonderful. They treated us like we lost a child rather than just a fetal demise (such an ugly clinical term). It was, I can’t say a great experience because of the circumstances, but it couldn’t have gone better all considering. We went through all the stuff the hospital gave us a few days later and it was overwhelming. They made a little bracelet on blue ribbon with the name we had picked (when we thought she was a boy) spelled in beads with baby footprint charms. She was too small to get hand or foot prints, so I was pretty upset about that. But they gave us the hand knit blanket they used for her, and this little shirt/wrap that they put on her. It was very sweet. They even made her little hand and foot bands.

The chromosome analysis came back showing that she had 45x otherwise known as Turner’s syndrome (only occurs in girls). There are people living with this condition currently, however Lilly had a full chromosome missing, so her quality of life would be uncertain if she had made it to full term. People with Turner’s have hormonal imbalances, reproductive and fertility issues, short stature, and sometimes congenital heart defects. I was told that it’s not generally hereditary; it’s just a chromosome that doesn’t develop right and a “freak occurrence.”

The whole experience was just unreal. It was so painful physically and emotionally. We had good moments where we were ok and laughing, and we bad moments where the end was just nowhere in sight. I think the hardest day though emotionally, at least for me, was when we had to say goodbye for the last time and leave the hospital.

My family was really great, except for the words of encouragement they offered. Everyone says the typical things they think you ought to hear, “It’s going to be ok. You’re young and healthy; you can have more babies. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be, etc…” It was annoying. I never said anything because I knew they meant well and they just really didn’t know what else to say. After a while, they all forget, and we continue to grieve in silence because it’s definitely a subject you don’t want to broach with people. But what tears at my heart strings is when we talk about our kids, Lilly is always excluded. I just want to scream and tell people we have 3 babies, not 2! Just because one is in heaven, it doesn’t make her less of a person!

I really couldn’t have made it through this nightmare without my amazing husband, our son, my friends from the BabyCenter community who I met on the TTC boards, and my fellow baby-loss moms, who I wish didn’t have to be part of this awful club.

A moment in our arms… forever in our hearts.

An angel in the book of life wrote down my baby’s birth.
Then whispered as she closed the book, “Too beautiful for earth.”
-Author Unknown

You can contact Cristina at: valenciacr@gmail.com

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