Mom to Scarlett Kathryn
August 18th, 2015
Fort Collins, Colorado
Well, here goes nothing… I have been told by many people that writing about the death of a baby helps with the grieving process. I am skeptical that my pain will ever go away, but if someone somewhere reads this post and realizes that they are not alone in this terrible world then that makes me feel a little better. I am suffering deeply right now. I paused just then trying to find the right word. “Suffering” does not sum up what my husband and I feel. The truth is, no words can describe how we feel. Lonely, heartbroken, angry, jealous, depressed, lost-is there a word that can describe all of this and more? No. Eleven days before my due date, our lives came crashing down and we didn’t even know it. Here is our story.
On Tuesday, August 18th, at 10:30 am I had my 38 week check up. My husband didn’t come with me because I didn’t ask him to-he had been to my previous appointment and everything was great, perfect in fact. I checked in like I always did, read an article in Parenting magazine about the best strollers thinking to myself, “did we really get the best one?” and then I was called back.
After a quick weight check and a conversation with my nurse asking if she had recently been to the pool because she looked so tan, I was in the worst room of my life. Our doctor came in and I told her of the week’s latest happenings (I thought maybe my water was starting to leak!) and how excited we were to meet baby Scarlett. She had me lie on my back while she checked my tummy and did a quick measure which was 38 cm-exactly matching the week I was currently in. She then told me that Scarlett was lying with her back pressed against my right side, her little feet resting just below the left side of my ribcage. She grabbed the fetal doppler that picks up a baby’s heartbeat and there wasn’t one.
She made a remark about how Scarlett must be lying on the other side and again, no heartbeat. I was so stupid, I didn’t even know what was happening at that moment-Scarlett was gone and I didn’t even know it. What kind of mother am I? Our doctor said that she was going to get the ultra sound machine that would actually show us baby Scarlett, but before she left I asked if everything was okay. “I sure hope so” was all she said. I thought it a little unusual that she wasn’t her perky “life is perfect, your pregnancy is perfect” self.
I had an urge to cry but I told myself that everything was okay and that baby Scarlett was just lying in a position that her heart couldn’t be detected. When our doctor came back in she squirted jelly on my tummy, pressed the wand near my belly button and up popped my precious baby on the screen. Again, I had no idea. We were looking at her beautiful face and her little fist-I remember thinking that my husband would be so mad that he missed this.
I think our doctor knew the whole time but she didn’t know how to tell me. About 2 minutes passed when she turned to me and said, “I’m so sorry, your baby has passed away”. My mind went blank. I felt as if I was standing on a line between the dream world and reality and if I just quickly stepped back into reality I would wake up and this would have all been a nightmare-the worst nightmare of our lives. No, this couldn’t be our lives. Babies don’t just die, especially not our baby-I was healthy, I bought only organic food, I went to an aqua natal class, her room was ready, her car seat was in my car which I could see from the office window, we had saved money for me to stay home with her, she was going to the school down the street from our house, her dog Marley was anxiously awaiting her arrival, WE were anxiously awaiting her arrival. What?!
How could this be happening? She asked me to call my husband, we had a thousand decisions to make in the next hour. What could be worse than finding out that your baby has just died? Calling your husband. Scarlett’s dad. No one should ever have to tell their spouse that their child has passed away. It was horrific. My husband was hysterical, he rarely ever cries so to hear him so distraught was unbearable. We hung up and I called my mom. Again, no mother should ever have to call her mother to tell her that her baby has died. She said that she was going to pick up my grandma and that they would be at the hospital within an hour. My husband called back while driving on the highway screaming into the phone, “What happened?” In that moment I thought I was going to lose my baby and my husband in the same day.
Scarlett for an unknown reason at the time, and her dad in a horrific car accident. Everything else was a blur. My husband arrived and we talked about whether we wanted to go to the hospital that day or wait until the next day. How could we go home? What would we do? Pretend like everything was normal? We decided that I would start the delivery process that day. We left the office and went to the park across the street to wait for my mom and grandma to arrive. As we were waiting to cross the street I thought about jumping in front of a car. End it all right then. I know that’s a selfish thought but grief is worse than death. It really is. People who have been in the depths of dark grief know what I am talking about. I called my friend and hysterically told her the news. She began crying as well and kept asking what had happened. I told her that I wanted to die over and over again. In that moment I really did want to die. I could not possibly face the delivery of my dead baby and go on living without her. I don’t know how long we were on the phone-it didn’t seem like long before my mom and grandma arrived and I hung up. We held each other and cried before getting into my grandma’s car to drive across the street to labor and delivery.
We walked into the hospital to check in-our room was already ready for us. The front desk woman asked if I was having contractions-did no one tell this idiot what was going on? No, I was not having contractions. My baby was dead and she needed to come out.
A volunteer walked us to our room in labor and delivery which was far from the nursery or any other pregnant woman giving birth to a living, breathing baby. Taped to the door was a picture of a leaf floating in water with one single drop of water cupped inside the leaf. I now know what this means. Every hospital has it. It’s a subtle way of telling all staff that in this room a baby has died and to be sensitive to the parents. I never knew that before and I will never forget this picture. This was a symbol that life has ended.
I was introduced to our nurse for the day and our on call doctor for the next 2 days. He told us that he was very sorry, that he understood that this was the worst day of our lives. My husband asked for the doctor to perform another ultra sound just to make sure. What if there was a mistake? Or a miracle? A few minutes later an ultra sound tech arrived and rubbed the wand over my tummy yet again. I didn’t want to see. I couldn’t bear to see her little heart no longer beating. The tech pointed to something on the screen and I knew. She was really gone. I asked my husband what he saw and he just shook his head. We both began crying. I was crying in a way that I have never cried before, deep uncontrollable moaning.
Our beautiful baby that we had created together was gone. How? The doctor explained that he was going to start inducing labor by giving me some pills and then I was hooked up to a monitor. My husband said that maybe if we delivered Scarlett right away she could still have a chance to be revived. Maybe she would magically come alive. He was in denial. I knew this sounded crazy but in some weird way I believed him.
For the next several hours I watched my contractions on a machine go up and down. I was getting ready to deliver my precious baby dead. I couldn’t handle it. The doctor said that it would probably take 24 hours to begin pushing and then another 2 hours of actual pushing. My body wasn’t ready to give Scarlett up. I wasn’t ready to give Scarlett up either. I looked at the clock-3:45 pm. I realized that if I continued on this path I would potentially still be in labor at this exact time the following day. I couldn’t do it. I cried to the nurses that I wasn’t brave. There was no way I could do this. I have profound respect for women who have delivered their babies knowing that they would be still once born.
The on call doctor would not consider anything but a vaginal birth. He kept saying that he didn’t want to put my life at risk for a baby that was already gone. I didn’t care. My life didn’t matter anymore. Thankfully, my doctor canceled her afternoon appointments and came to the hospital. We sat on the couch in the room and talked about our options. I knew she was a mom and I wanted her opinion of what I should do not from the point of view of a doctor, but that of a mom. She cried and said that she would have a c-section.
It was settled. Scarlett would be born that same night. At 9:07 pm on August 18th, 2015, our beautiful baby was born. Scarlett Kathryn Singh was 4 pounds, 15 ounces and was 18 inches long. Her cord was wrapped around her neck and both ankles and was tightly twisted in three places. She was and is the most beautiful baby I have ever seen. It’s true what they say. It was instant love.
My husband walked over to the warmer and saw Scarlett for the first time. He turned to me and said that she was so beautiful. The room was eerily silent-Scarlett was not crying. Everyone in the room had tears streaming down their faces. I began moaning again-she was no longer in my body. I grew her inside of me for 9 months and she was taken out in less than 2 minutes. After the surgery was over, I was taken to a recovery room where I met Scarlett for the first time. I can’t even begin to describe how I felt. I was scared-scared of how I would react when I saw her for the first time. I dreamt of this moment my whole life and this is not what I wanted.
I wanted her to have her eyes open, crying and moving but she wasn’t. She was forever sleeping. She was so perfect. There was nothing wrong with her, she literally was a sleeping angel. She had this adorable pink knit hat on and she was swaddled in a hospital blanket with baby footprints all over it. I cradled her and told her how sorry I was and that I loved her more than anything. I began throwing up and asked the nurse to take her to the nursery.
An hour later, I was back in my hospital room and asked to see her again. A photographer was on her way to take professional photos of Scarlett-the only ones we would ever have. My husband and I held and kissed Scarlett. We unwrapped her blanket and looked at her hands and feet-a clone of mine. Her ears and cheeks were exactly like my husband’s. We took her little cap off and caressed her little head. Her hair was dark brown-exactly like my hair. I wish I could have seen her with her eyes open or heard her cry just once.
My grandma told me that when I was born I cried like a lamb-would Scarlett have cried this same way? At around midnight a photographer from Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep came and took several pictures of Scarlett. We will forever cherish these photographs. Our first born baby who we will never have the pleasure of seeing again. We will never see her cry, I will never nurse her, we will never lay her in her crib or bassinet, she will never ride in her car seat or stroller. We will never have the chance to see her grow-crawl, take her first step, get her first tooth, say her first word. We will never get the chance to walk her to school, teach her how to ride a bike. We will never see her graduate preschool then kindergarten or from high school or college. Her dad will never have the chance to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. We were robbed. We were robbed of all the beautiful memories we wanted to make with her.
On the night you were born,
The moon smiled with such wonder
That the stars peeked in to to see you
And the night wind whispered
“Life will never be the same.”
Because there had never been anyone like you…ever in the world.
Nancy Tillman, On the Night You Were Born
You can contact Ashleigh at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ashleigh blogs at: thepurestheart.blogspot.com