mom to Luke
Stillborn September 10, 2012
My first pregnancy felt like a dream come true.
My husband and I had decided in December 2011 that now was the time–We’d officially try for a baby. We had no idea that things would go so smoothly. After literally one month of trying, I missed my period, took a test, and there it was–Positive. It was also Friday, January 13, 2012. Maybe that was foreshadowing? I don’t even believe in superstitions, but I still wish I’d taken that test on any other day…
Anyway, my pregnancy was completely uneventful. My OB even declared my pregnancy “the most boring pregnancy ever!” This being my first child, I had no idea what to expect. I read all the books. I did prenatal yoga. We bought everything that first-time parents buy, and we took all the classes at the hospital that we could possibly have taken. We were so ready. We made it to 38 weeks–and my cankles finally made an appearance. I’d just finished a TON of laundry and we’d just gotten our rocking glider. Everything was ready.
I went to my OB on Friday, September 7 for my weekly visit and to get checked to see if I was dilating. I was 1 cm! Things were progressing!
And then sometime between that Saturday and Sunday morning, everything stopped progressing.
Friday, I’d felt Luke moving–a LOT. I remember even remarking to my husband that it seemed like he was throwing a party in there–like he was ready to party his way out. But that Saturday, I did notice a decrease in movement. And my cankles got worse. I was worried, but mostly just thinking that I was gonna go into labor at any moment.
It wasn’t until that Saturday night when I had a bad feeling about things. I kick myself for not calling the nurseline sooner. For not going to get checked sooner. I went to bed, telling myself what everyone tells you at the end of pregnancy–He’s getting settled in. He’s out of room! He’ll be here before I know it.
Sunday morning, I woke up and I knew something was wrong. I tried to get Luke to move by drinking some orange juice, but there was nothing. I called the nurseline in a panic, and my doc was on call. She told me to absolutely go down to L&D to get checked out–She told me she was sure everything was fine–He was just fine a day ago.
We gathered up a few things to take with us to the hospital, and got there around noon. I vividly remember checking in at the front desk and the woman telling us everything was probably just fine. This happens all the time, she said.
We were put into a delivery room, and that’s when the shaking began. Luke was my first baby. I was scared just being in the hospital. But now I was also scared for his life. The nurse came over with the doppler…and there was silence. The first time–in our entire pregnancy–where his heartbeat wasn’t the first thing we heard. I freaked out. I knew something was wrong, and that’s when the shivers began. She went to get my doctor and an ultrasound machine, and I was so glad to see my OB’s face. She seemed concerned too…I’m assuming from what the nurse had told her. And then there was the ultrasound. I remember my doc…scanning my belly back and forth in disbelief. She kept telling the nurses to move something on the machine. But within minutes, we knew. He was gone.
I remember staring up at the ceiling in disbelief. I had no idea this was even a possible ending to our pregnancy. I couldn’t see straight. We were crushed. There’s nothing that can prepare you for the moment when you find out that you’ve just gone through your entire pregnancy…with no issues…only to be told you would not be taking your baby home with you.
Then the harsh reality crept in. We had to deliver him. I had to deliver him. Without a heartbeat.
My doc was so compassionate. She wanted me to be as comfortable as possible (which, really, there was nothing she could have done to make this easy). I was still only about 1cm dilated, but she didn’t want me to have a c-section. She told me we’d induce with as much medication as I wanted…So we started on the Cytotec and went from there.
Those next hours were surreal. My family arrived. There were so many tears and broken hearts. And somehow it was all happening inside of me. We were never going to take our son home. My parents were never going to see their grandson–their first grandbaby–alive. My brother and sister would never meet their nephew alive. His life was over before it even began. I just remember the panic–that I was the one that caused all of this to happen. I know none of it was my fault–everyone told me that, over and over. But the fact that I didn’t know something was wrong–that something had happened to him while he was in my own womb? I felt like a failure. My doc told me the only thing she could imagine happening was a cord accident, but we may truly never know what happened for sure.
The hours went by so slowly. The pain of contractions and IVs and epidurals meant nothing to me. It was all so stupid. Throughout my pregnancy, my biggest fear was getting through labor. And there I was–getting through it all right. And I didn’t care at all. I was going to have to go through the entire thing–start to finish–with no reward at the end. No crying baby to look forward to. No child to see my future in. Just silence.
I had no idea how I was going to get through it.
My husband was right there with me the whole time. We cried so much. My sister jumped on a flight from Portland when she heard the news, just to be there with me, and I’ve never been so glad to see her face. None of us knew what to do or how to get through this. We sat together and cried while we waited for the inevitable. I had a nurse that night who was truly a Godsend. She was the most kind, compassionate person I’ve ever met, and without her, I’m not sure I’d have made it through that night.
My labor progressed fairly quickly, and after about 8 hours of induction, it was time to push. I was so exhausted and I really had no idea what to expect or how to go through this. Babies are supposed to help themselves out. How was this going to work? But it didn’t matter, because it was time. After a few pushes, I got lost in my breathing. I started blacking out. I tried breathing, but my emotions and the pain seemed impossible to get through. I remember looking at my husband. He was so strong, but I know how much pain he was in. But then things took a turn for the worst. I remember my nurse calling for help–All the nurses on the floor came running into our room. There must have been 10 of them. And my doctor. One of them pushed Jeff out of the way and there was talk about Luke’s shoulder being stuck. One nurse was on top of my stomach, pushing down, and others were twisting me. I can’t imagine what this looked like from the outside, but in my head, it plays like a horror movie. I thought I truly might die.
What felt like an eternity of pushing was really only a few minutes. And then there was that relief that everyone speaks of after labor–when your baby arrives. But then there was silence. It was deafening. And that’s when I lost it.
Luke was born at 5:23AM on Monday, September 10, 2012–Week 39 of my pregnancy. He was 9 pounds, 12 ounces, and 23 inches long. He had his Daddy’s face, and the most amazing head of hair. He was perfect. But he never took a breath on this earth.
I was a mess, physically. I’d torn pretty badly, and Luke was delivered with shoulder dystocia. As if it wasn’t bad enough that I had to deliver my baby stillborn, our delivery was also an obstetric emergency. I remember wondering how I was possibly still alive. How was I going to hold my dead baby? The nurses cleaned Luke up, but it looked like he’d been gone for at least a day or so. His skin was so strange. He was purple…It was quite possibly the hardest moment of my life–seeing him for the first time, knowing that I would have to give him up. My husband was so wonderful–He held him immediately–while I delivered the placenta and got stitches. I was incredibly out of it and dazed and I couldn’t believe that all of this had really just happened to me.
We had the hospital chaplain come and baptize him early that morning. My Mom and sister spent those early morning hours in our room with us, and we took turns holding him, rocking him, and telling him how much we missed him already. How could we have lost him? We did everything right. My doc said that when he was delivered, his cord was wrapped really tightly–around his shoulder, then his chest. She examined the placenta, and there was nothing immediately abnormal. She had a really hard time understanding just how he could have cut himself off, but that seemed to be the only explanation. My husband said that he saw that his cord was sort of crimped on one part–My doc said it was possible that he may have just cut himself off by laying on it a certain way.
Babies are born with nuchal cords and wrapped cords every day and they turn out fine. And my son was born with it wrapped around his shoulder and chest, and he was gone. It will never make sense to me.
We spent the quiet hours of the morning in the hospital with Luke, but he was slowly deteriorating. His nose bled and he began to stiffen. I hate myself for not exploring him more. I hate that I never took a peek at his belly button or his eyes. I was so scared of breaking him–like that was even possible. You can never prepare yourself to hold your own lifeless child in your arms. I still don’t know how we made it past those first minutes and hours. They went by so quickly, and yet, felt so slow.
By the morning, the sounds of happy families flooded the hospital. Other babies were crying. Other families were cheering and carrying balloons and flowers. My hospital door had a picture of a fallen leaf taped to it–to warn those entering that they were entering a room unlike any of the others. Their rooms held living, crying babies. Me, my husband, my mom, and my sister sat, holding my dead son. I think that’s when my bitterness crept in. I couldn’t stand to be there any longer. We begged the morning nurse to discharge us as soon as possible. My other doctor came in that morning and asked me about an autopsy. He told me that after further examination, nothing looked wrong with Luke or his placenta. He truly believed it was a cord accident. They’d taken a lot of blood from me for testing, but they’d do an autopsy if we wanted.
We didn’t know what the right answer was. But we settled on leaving him be. In retrospect, I do sort of wish we’d done an autopsy. Because we never got any solid answers about why we lost him. No clotting disorders. No genetic abnormalities. There was nothing. Nothing wrong with him. Except he died.
The hospital social worker came in and informed us of some support groups. We got my prescriptions for painkillers, and we were on our way. I couldn’t get out of there soon enough. I tried to stand up for the first time in over 14 hours, and I felt the weight. The weight of everything that had just happened. It was then that it hit me…this was only the beginning. I’d have to say goodbye to Luke. I’d have to leave the hospital without him and start my life without him.
How was I supposed to do that?
The nurses took him out of our room…so that I didn’t have to leave him alone. And then I sat in that wheelchair as my husband and our nurse walked us out of the L&D floor…out a side door where we didn’t have to see anyone’s happiness or crying babies. I remember walking out the doors of the hospital and knowing right there that I was never going to be normal again.
That drive home from the hospital was surreal. I was still in disbelief of what we’d been through in the past 24 hours. Literally three days ago, everything was fine. Now, everything was turned upside down. We walked into our house–past Luke’s room that was waiting for him and collapsed into bed. I hoped I’d never wake up again.
I spent much of that next week in a fog. Things happened so quickly. The news spread, and as people found out what had happened to Luke, my heart broke a little more, with each phone call. Text. Email. Facebook message. My sister created a fundraising page with the Orange County Walk to Remember, and within 3 days, we had raised over $5000 in Luke’s memory from friends and family that wanted to do anything to help us.
Going through the motions of putting together a funeral for your own son was a nightmare come true. The funeral home we arranged with was also a Godsend, as was the pastor that led Luke’s service. But none of it seemed real. That first week was just unreal. I don’t really know how, but I woke up every day. I was in a ton of pain, but somehow, I kept going. We kept going.
I’ve been told so many times how brave I was. How brave I still am. But I don’t feel like it. I never wanted to go through this. But when you’re forced to be brave and you have no other choice, it’s what you do. I miss Luke every single day of my life. I know that will never change. Until the day I die, he will always be the son I wish I knew.
6 months after Luke was born, we were lucky enough to get pregnant again. Our rainbow baby, Lena Bowie, was born on December 12, 2013–Exactly 39 weeks into my pregnancy as well. She is truly the light of our lives, and while she’s brought us so much love and happiness, she will always be a reminder of all that we lost with Luke. I have a hard time committing to the fact that if he’d lived, she probably wouldn’t be here. So I try to think of him as living on–inside of her. Two and a half years out, and I can still take myself back to that day we spent in the hospital. I can replay that day in my mind as if it was yesterday. The pain is duller now, but it’s still there, lingering. Someone once told me–after losing him–that grief is hard, but I would be able to find joy again. And it’s true–Luke left a hole in my heart that will always be there for him. He will always be a missing part of our family tree. But his little sister did bring us joy. And our lives aren’t as bogged down in grief as they were in those fresh early days, thank God. Sometimes it feels wrong to be happy. But I know that’s what he’d want for us. So we try.
But I miss him, still. I’ll always mourn the family that I’ll never get to have. I don’t think that will ever change.
Jennifer has written more about Luke’s story on her blog: http://dearbabyluke.blogspot.com
She can be reached via e-mail at: email@example.com