Mom to Madison
March 17, 2014
Chatham, New Jersey
Our first child never saw the world. On March 17, 2014, we went into the hospital, 38 weeks pregnant, and they couldn’t find a heartbeat. Our lives shattered in an instant.
We had had an uneventful first pregnancy up until that moment. I threw up once. The nausea disappeared right on schedule. Our ultrasounds looked fine, even the third trimester ones. We were so happy, but also cautious… We didn’t announce the pregnancy beyond close family and friends until our third trimester. We had the most un-baby shower baby shower (no games, no theme, no opening presents). We busied ourselves preparing for the baby – moving, unpacking, getting the house ready. The day we finally felt that we could breathe, felt that maybe we were ready to actually have a baby, was the day our baby probably died.
I knew the baby’s movement had changed. The first time it changed during week 36 (from distinct jabs to more of a push), it must have been ok, because at my weekly doctor’s appointment, the heartbeat sounded great. The movement changed again on March 15 (the pushes were fainter), and in retrospect, I should have paid more attention. But the movement had changed once and it had been ok, so I didn’t.
When I woke up the next day, I was slightly concerned that I hadn’t felt any movement, but I thought to myself, I haven’t eaten yet, I just need to eat. We went to brunch and in the middle of brunch I thought, I still don’t think I feel the baby. When we got home, I finally told my husband that I hadn’t felt any movement. He had me drink some juice and lie down on my side… and we waited. It felt like an eternity. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and I stood up and MADE the baby move. And I told him that I felt the baby move! I think part of me knew the truth, and part of me didn’t want to face it.
On the afternoon of March 17, I started having contractions, called my doctor, and went into the hospital. A nurse tried to find the baby’s heartbeat with the monitor while I babbled to cover up the silence. They brought in the ultrasound machine… I will never forget the hipster resident, with his retro glasses, telling us that our baby didn’t have a heartbeat.
My husband broke down in tears. I started shaking from shock. They offered me a sleeping pill. I declined. My water broke. Meconium. They induced me. I couldn’t receive an epidural because I have low platelets, but I did opt for pain meds through the IV.
The hardest part was actually having to call my mom and tell her the news. Saying it out loud meant that it was actually happening to us and I didn’t want to do it. But there was no way not to tell anyone – everyone had seen my belly.
I delivered our baby on March 18, 2014 at 5:27 am. When the doctor announced it was a girl, my heart sank. We named her Madison – after both our favorite park in New York City and a town close to where we had recently moved. She was 5 pounds and 14 ounces with a full head of hair, my husband’s complexion, and my nose.
I fell asleep after delivering her and woke up to the sight of my husband holding our daughter and crying. We were fortunate in that we were able to hold her. While we weren’t sure if we wanted photos, a photographer from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep came. Six weeks later, when I wasn’t sure if I remembered what my daughter looked like, I had pictures to hold on to. My biggest regret was that I didn’t unwrap her blankets and look at her whole body – I only saw her face, hands, and toes.
Even after countless tests, appointments with numerous specialists, and an autopsy, we never found a cause.
It’s been a long 18 months since Madison died. The early days were crushing. Like a 500 pound weight, I would wake up barely able to breathe, unable to think about anything else, hoping it had all been a dream. I felt such guilt. As the days go by, the weight has lessened, though some days are heavier than others. We go to support groups when we can, and saw a therapist who specialized in grief and prenatal/infant loss regularly for a year. I now know feeling guilty is a natural part of grief, but it doesn’t mean that I am guilty – we took care of her the best we could. I sought out every stillbirth story I could in the early days, reading books, blogs, and discussion boards. I went back to work, found it too overwhelming, took additional time off, and then was able to go back to work. And while I’m not sure we are as strong as we used to be, I do think that one day we will be stronger than we were before. Though for now, we are still picking up the pieces of our lives, trying to figure out how to move forward with this life we never imagined we would have.
There is so much grief because there is so much love. Madison – we love you and miss you always, and you will always be our baby girl.
You can email Christine at: firstname.lastname@example.org