Mom to Nathaniel Edward
May 10, 2015
Brooklyn, New York
May 9th was the worst day of my life. I go over that day, the ones that precede it and the ones to follow in my head again and again. Even six weeks after, there hasn’t been a day where I haven’t thought about those days. Each time, I go through trying to save my son over and over, only to realize that I can’t and he isn’t coming back to me.
It was one day before my due date. One day before Mother’s Day. I was SO excited about Mother’s Day. Even though I had been very worried about movement, I pushed the worries aside telling myself I was being “one of those women” or that he was settling in and oh, yea… babies move less in the last week. I think a little piece of me knew deep down something was wrong. I even recall being worried that I would be the horror story other mothers thought about. For a second, I let my mind wonder to what would happen if the worse was to come true. Would I be doing a PSA for stillbirths, telling other mothers not to neglect their intuition and to pay close attention to kick counts? Nevertheless, I kept pushing my concerns aside and carried on. I kept myself busy. I went to get a mani/pedi, I got my hair done, cleaned the house. I mean this stuff doesn’t happen to me, everything is always OK, I thought. Everyone is telling me that everything will be OK.
I kept reciting that to myself on the walk to the doctor’s office. My husband and I didn’t say much to each other as I was so anxious. I just wanted to hear that heartbeat. I wanted to be told that everything was OK.
Everything felt wrong even as I entered the office. I walked in and the receptionist (a new girl I have never seen) handed me my chart and asked that I go to the office next door. I saw the nurse who was usually so loving and caring to me but she seemed preoccupied and uninterested. We headed to the office next door. There were so many people, which was also unusual. The doctor told the nurse (another new woman I had only seen once before) to put me on the NST machine. I wanted my husband to come in with me but she told him to wait until she puts me on the machine. I kept reciting in my head that EVERYTHING WILL BE OK.
They tried three machines, maybe four. “Please tell me everything is OK,” I begged. They brought in a different doctor who finally said ” I’m sorry, I can’t find the heart beat.” With each machine, they kept moving me from room to room, office to office. I just kept thinking… I have to call my mother. I kept my arm over my eyes and kept my eyes tightly shut, I didn’t want to see anything. As if not seeing would make this not real. I just wanted to wake up from this nightmare. Once the doctor spoke those final words, I screamed and crumbled into my husband who was crying as well. My husband doesn’t cry. I have been with him for 11 years and have seen him cry maybe twice. In my grief, I remember thinking how odd it was to see him cry and do so in front of people. Seeing Eric in such a vulnerable state, all I wanted to do was comfort him and make it all OK and yet I kept realizing that nothing would be OK ever again.
The doctors and nurse exited the room to give us time. We cried for maybe another 10 minutes? It could have been 30 but time just seemed to stand still. They were loud, pained, angered, desperate sobs of two people who just lost the most precious thing they could imagine. Then as if I got hit with a bucket of ice cold water, a numbness washed over me. I told my husband I wanted to go. He called the doctor back in. As she came in, she looked nervous and yet still unattached.
“I am sorry this thing happened,” she said.
“Is there no hope?” I asked.
“The ultrasound isn’t showing blood flowing to the heart,” she stated.
I sank into the exam table I was sitting on.
My husband asked “How do we get him out?”
It didn’t occur to either one of us that I would actually have to go and give birth. She told us I would need to be induced. All those months I spent worrying about labor and yet all of the sudden, it did not scare me at all. I felt like I was existing outside of my body.
The doctor instructed that we are to go to the hospital as soon as possible. She would be called in once I was ready to give birth. She recommended we not wait too long. I think that was more for my benefit as I was not even close to going into labor.
My mom & dad got to the office by that point. They brought in my mom who was trying to get answers about how this could happen, to which the doctor said that she would not answer anything until I give birth. I was just numb, going through the motions. My dad was outside of the office. He refused to believe that the baby had died. I saw my dad both age 20 years and revert to a child-like innocence as he tried to process that his first grandchild, his boy had passed. “What can we do?”, “How did this happen?”, “Take me again through the last six days”, he kept saying.
We went back to the apartment to grab my hospital bag. I broke out into uncontrollable sobs as I entered and saw Nate’s toy box, play pen and swing waiting for his arrival in our living room. Once I recovered (just enough to mildly function), I mechanically packed some extra items into my bag.
I remember seeing the diaper bag by the door, all neatly packed, full of hope and excitement and then I remember passing it by so devastated (def. an understatement but no word would work here to convey the actual feeling) that I would not need it. This was not the plan. This is not how we were supposed to be delivering this baby. “My baby. My baby is dead.” I kept reciting that in my head and felt knife stabs each time my mind thought it. God, I would not wish this on my worst enemy.
We go to the car. I tell my mom and dad to follow us but my dad does not look like he can drive. He was so shaken up so we tell them to ride with us. I am amazed at how well my husband is holding it together, holding us together. He is crying the whole time but he is calm, cool and collected.
I don’t remember much from the car ride. I was holding my blanket that I brought over my belly. When we pulled in the parking garage, I immediately zipped my jacket. I was SO scared that someone would congratulate me. I was not pregnant anymore. As I got out of the car, I put the pillow I brought with me in front of my beautiful pregnant belly that I loved so much. I was on automatic. We walked a block to the hospital. My husband was ahead and he went to the security people but as soon as the guard saw me, she let us go up. Not sure if she knew or not.
I didn’t want to talk to anyone. My husband went to check in for me. I was led to a room and met our first nurse, Alice. She looked like she was trying to find her words. I kept trying to read her face….will you be nice to me? Will you blame me? Will I have to explain what happened?
I don’t remember much of our conversation. I know I told her what happened. I know she asked how I wanted to deliver. I said that I wanted to feel no pain at all. Although, at that point, I probably would have felt no physical pain anyway. I didn’t really care about what would happen to me at this point. Alice tried to guide me through what would be happening moving forward and asked some routine questions. Do we want a clergyman to come by? Do we want photographs? Do we want an autopsy? Do we want genetic testing? Do we want family in the room?
I kept turning to Eric. I felt so weak and uncertain of anything so I needed him to make final decisions. Eric didn’t want to make decisions yet. I think part of him was hoping for a miracle or that all this was a big mistake. I wanted to discuss it and make decisions. I needed to regain some control.
Alice showed me the hospital bed, asked me to put on the hospital gown and said she would be back to check in on me.
I started crying again. I can’t stop crying. My husband, mom, dad and I just sit quietly in the room for a while.
My sister, my husband’s sister and mom, as well as one of my best friends got to the hospital at that point. I didn’t want to see anyone but I felt bad that they were sitting in the waiting room. I told my husband that they could come in. As soon as they did, I realized how glad I was that they were there.
I felt the need to apologize to everyone. I was so worried that they would blame me for the baby being gone but they were all so amazing and so supportive. I could not have gotten through any of this without the amazing support system I had.
I cannot give enough thanks to the nurses that were with me through this. I am so grateful that they were as gentle, as patient and loving as they were. I am not sure I would have made it without them.
Earlier that night, I was given the medication that would induce me. My cervix was completely closed so everyone thought it would be quiet a while before anything would happen. I took comfort in having the time with my baby. I was very thirsty and hungry. All I could have were ice chips. I literally ate hundreds, maybe thousands of ice chips.
I kept asking Allison weird and unreasonable questions. She never once looked at me like I was crazy, dumb or unreasonable. I asked her to make sure that if there was a chance to save him, the hospital would do everything they could to do so. I was so worried that they were not even considering the possibility that it was a mistake.
In my heart (head?), I knew it was over but this gave me a bit of hope.
At 3:30 am, I started to feel a lot of pain. This happened a lot quicker than anyone anticipated. At 4:45 am, I became fully dilated and was in full labor.
How was this possible? I needed more time. They told me I would have plenty of time. I didn’t want to deliver him yet. I needed more time.
My sister called my parents. I wouldn’t deliver until my mom was there.
It was officially Mother’s Day. I was about to become a mother. My son was coming. I have been waiting nine long months to meet him. I watched him grow, I cuddled him, I sang to him, I read to him. He was about to be here. He was about to be here but he would be dead. I would never see or hear that amazing personality I felt and connected with over the last nine months.
I became hysterical. Between the pain of the contractions and the realization of what was about to happen, I broke. I just kept sobbing and repeating over and over, “I am not ready yet, I need more time. YOU SAID I HAD MORE TIME!” My family wanted to give me more anxiety medication. The resident doctor said I wouldn’t remember delivery and I said NO, I want to remember it! I think they gave me a lower dose because while hazy, I do remember everything.
I covered my eyes with a rag through the entire delivery. I heard my mom crying. I couldn’t take her crying. I was already at my emotional limit and couldn’t take hearing my mom be sad. I kept telling her to leave if she needed to cry. I couldn’t handle her pain on top of mine. There were SO many people crying.
Allison held one of my legs. She kept telling me I could do this and I heard her sobs through her words as well. It was amazing how this stranger felt like a best friend.
Eric was amazing. He gave me strength. I could see he was in so much pain but in that moment he was just there for me. My sister held my other leg. She must have gotten much more than she bargained for because she kept grabbing my leg instead of my foot and my foot would just dangle making me extremely uncomfortable. I kept telling her to hold my foot. So in the middle of my sobs I had to yell at her, “HOLD MY FOOT, JULIE! Hold my foot!” Maybe it was that bit of comedic relief we all needed.
At 6:13 am, Nathaniel Edward entered the world at 8lbs and 20 inches. There were no cries to be heard except my own. They took him from me. They said they were going to clean him up. They wrapped him and brought him to me. He was beautiful! He was perfect! He had the biggest eyes, round face and my chin. My perfect boy was sleeping but he wouldn’t wake up.
We spent several hours with Nate. He was amazing. All the things that I didn’t think I would want at the start of all this, I ended up wanting. Thank god for the nurses who gently reminded me that this is important. Advice to anyone having to go through this:
1) Take LOTS of pictures (call Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep)
2) Explore your child. You won’t be able to do it again.
3) Hold your child for as long as possible. You will miss the feel of them.
Each person in the room took turns holding him. I loved him so much but I was also scared of him. How could my baby be dead? How did I kill my baby? I was so scared to hurt him but he couldn’t be hurt. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t unwrap him. I never felt his fingers or his feet. I never saw his belly button. I never verified he was a boy. I was so scared.
He started bleeding from his nose and I couldn’t handle it. He was dead and nothing I did could wake him up. I felt so helpless.
My dad kept saying that we need to let him rest but I didn’t want to let him go. I think he was scared to hold him too. He kept leaving the room but when he came back, he decided he wanted to hold him. That scene will be a frame in my head for the rest of my days. It meant so much to me. My dad is not one to show a lot of emotion freely. I had never seen my dad the way he was that day. Seeing my father hold his grandson was beautiful, painful and therapeutic. I felt a closeness to him that I haven’t in a long time.
It wasn’t until Eric said we needed to say goodbye that I even allowed that thought to enter my mind. I broke down hysterically. “Don’t make me say goodbye. Don’t make me let him go, ” I sobbed.
Alice came in and Allison was still there. They were so amazing with him. They took pictures of him and of me. I didn’t want them to and now I am SO grateful that they did. I look at pictures of my son everyday. I wish I had more.
Another nurse came to take his weight. I finally admitted that I needed to let him go. I didn’t want to remember him deteriorating. Alice came to take him, she looked at me, straight in the eye, and said, “We will always remember Nate…”
There is so much I want to write about these unbelievable nurses that became part of my story and there is also so much more to this story and much I am probably forgetting but I will update my blog as it comes.
Tragedy defines your relationships even if you don’t want it to. For the most part, we were very lucky. When this terrible tragedy occurred, I could not believe what an incredible support system we had. Our friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers rallied around us and that carried us through those awful first weeks and continues to carry us through even now. There were those that disappeared, are disappearing now or said/say the most awful inappropriate things. That will happen. Do not let it get to you. Remember that even if people in your immediate life let you down, you always have us, a community of those who understand and have been through it. No one wants to be part of this “club” but the club will be there for you in your darkest moments. Find us.
The most important thing for me in sharing my story is that I hope it helps someone else. I am sharing my most intimate thoughts during the worst event in my life so that someone reading this can know they are not alone. Someone going through this with someone can get a glimpse into what is happening to your loved one. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy but it happens. I wish I had more tools to be able to handle this.
Jane can be reached at http://janejourneylife.blogspot.com/