Mom to Lillian Grace
Stillborn May 29, 2015
St. Louis, Missouri
Thursday, May 28, 2015 was an ordinary day. I took my 3 year old son to preschool. I went to work. Since I ended up getting out of work early and still had some time before my prenatal appointment at 3:30pm, I went to Target. I bought pacifiers and diapers. I remember another mom in the sunscreen aisle asked how far along I was. “35 weeks! Almost there!” Little did I know…
I was 35 weeks and 4 days pregnant with our second child. My husband, Dan, and I already had a 3 year old son, Carter. When we found out this time we were having a girl, I was over the moon. Of course I said, “I just want a healthy baby. I don’t care what it is.” But deep down, I think I did want a girl. We had just spent the weekend before, Memorial Day, putting together her crib and other furniture. I started to wash her blankets and crib sheets. I had separated the bags and bags of clothes I had bought into sizes. I tried to decide which “little sister” outfit she would wear in the hospital. I carefully placed frilly pink shoes into a pink basket in her room. The wall hangings I ordered from Etsy had arrived that week, and would finish off her perfect ballerina-themed nursery. I already had dreams of tutus and dance recitals. I had ordered a new breast pump from my insurance company. I was determined to nurse this baby longer than I did my first. I was excited to try out babywearing, something I didn’t do with Carter. I was almost all ready for her. Except Dan and I still hadn’t decided on a name.
I arrived at my OB’s office right on time. They, of course were running behind, but I got in shortly thereafter. My blood pressure was normal. Yeah! With my son I had developed high blood pressure later in my pregnancy. No sign of that this time! The doctor came and asked his usual round of questions. “Baby been active?” I had to think a minute on this one though. I remember thinking earlier in the week that she must be running out of room because her I didn’t feel her kicking as much. But she was still moving. I could feel her stretching, just like her brother did when he was running out of room. “Well let’s have a listen.” He put the Doppler on my belly. Silent. He moved it to the other side. Still silent. He moved it all around my belly. It started picking up my heatbeat, which was gaining speed my the second. But her heartbeat, still silent. He asked again, “You say she has been active today?” And I, again, told him that I was pretty sure she had been. He said he was going to get me in for an ultrasound “just to check things out.”
I waited for a few minutes, then the ultrasound tech came and got me and took me to the little room across the hall. She had just gotten out of an all day meeting and the machine had to take a few minutes to warm up. It was the longest 5 minutes of my life. And the last 5 minutes before my life changed forever.
The instant she put the ultrasound head on my belly, I knew my daughter was gone. She was completely still. My eyes immediately filled with tears. She moved the ultrasound head around my belly a couple times and she even put on the audio, as if maybe we could hear a heartbeat, even though it was obvious her little heart was inactive. I watched the screen that normally has lines bouncing up and down, and it was completely still and silent. She covered my stomach with a towel and rested her hand on it. She didn’t need to say anything. I already knew. Still, I blurted out “There’s no heartbeat???” She shook her head no and held me as I wailed. And wailed. And wailed.
After who know how long (maybe a few minutes?), she asked where my husband was and told me I needed to call him. He was at work. I had gone to this appointment alone, and he was 30 minutes away, completely unaware of what was going on and of the phone call he was about the receive. He screamed through the phone. Profanities. I’m pretty sure he threw things. His voiced cracked but he didn’t cry. At least not over the phone. I called my mom. Someone had to pick up Carter from school. About 30 minutes later, Dan arrived in that little room.
We held each other (or more like he held me up) and cried. We had so many questions. What happened? Why did this happen? How long has she been gone? How did I not know? What do we do know?
We were escorted into my doctor’s office and he answered as much as he could at the time. He explained that it could have been a cord accident but we wouldn’t know until delivery. He explained what my choices were. I could be induced or, since I had a previous c-section with Carter, I could have a c-section in the morning. It didn’t take long for me to make up my mind. I chose the c-section. I had to be induced with Carter and never progressed. I feared the same would happen this time. I couldn’t imagine waiting what could be days to deliver a dead baby. I just kept thinking ‘I just want it to be over with.’ I don’t remember much of what else was said that day. I remember staring out the window and mentioning to Dan that I could see the St. Louis Arch from here. I was completely numb and not processing whatever my doctor was telling me.
So that was that. I was scheduled for a c-section at 9:30 the following morning. Later that evening, my doctor called me and we reviewed the plan for the next morning. He wanted to make sure I didn’t have any questions, probably since I started blankinly at him in between glimps of the Arch in his office a couple hour earlier. Still, on the phone I again was just going through the motions, nothing really sinking in. ‘I guess I should pack a bag. Who’s going to watch Carter? I guess there’s no need to bring a camera.’
I cried myself to sleep that night and woke up crying. We got to the hospital at 7:30 am and checked in to the Maternity Welcome Center. Everyone there already knew, thank God. They must have been prepped. They all said “I’m so sorry” and I was escorted to a labor room upstairs. They prepped me for my c-section. My nurse, Barb, was completely amazing and with me the whole time. Everyone was so nice. I couldn’t believe this was my life. How did this even happen? How did I get here?
I had terrible shivers from my epidural. I shook the entire c-section. I didn’t want to cry, for fear of completely losing it and them having to knock me out in order to finish. It was so different than my c-section with Carter. The anesthesiologist didn’t double as a photographer. The doctor didn’t talk about his plans for News Years, but instead asked how I was every 3 minutes. And it was quite. Painfully quite. I prayed that maybe they made a mistake, that maybe she would come out and start crying and everything would be fine. That didn’t happen.
At 9:52 am on Friday May 29, 2015, our daughter was born silent into this world. The nurse asked if I wanted to see her and I shook my head no. I wanted to wait until I got back to recovery and completely lose it them, when my guts were not wide open. I still hadn’t shed one tear in that OR. They told us she weighted 6 pounds 3.4 ounces and was 20 ½ inches long. I couldn’t believe how big she was! I remember saying to Dan, “Wow, she would have been huge!” She was longer than her brother. But then the therapist came out in my mind, and I realized it’s only because she had no muscle tone and they could probably have made her any length.
Shortly after I got back to the recovery room, I got to meet my daughter. Barb warned me that she had some skin tears, particularly above her left eye. But she said she was beautiful, and handed me to her. And she was right. She was beautiful. She had her brother’s chubby cheeks and a head full of dark hair. Barb had dressed her up in a striped pink sleeper and a bright pink hat. She was swaddled in a pink receiving blanket. And she was perfect in every way. Except she was dead.
I realized we still didn’t have a name for her. We had previously talked about a few names, but had never officially decided. And we didn’t even talk about it in the 17 hours between finding out she had died and when she was born. I asked Dan what we should name her and without hesitation, he said “Lillian Grace”. That was the one name that we kept coming back to in the handful of baby-naming conversations we had. She is named after her two great-grandmothers, Lillian Burke and Lillian Triplett. We would call her Lily.
The rest of that day was a blur. Our parents all came to the hospital to meet their granddaughter. She was baptized. A photographer came and took beautiful pictures of our sweet girl. I texted our friends pictures and posted on Facebook about our loss. My mom stayed the first 2 nights with me so Dan could be home with Carter. Carter came up the day after she was born. The hardest thing I have ever done in the world was bury my daughter. The second hardest thing was telling her brother that she wasn’t coming home. He had never seen Dan and I cry like that and I pray every day that we didn’t scar him for life. She was still with me when he came up that next morning, so he did see her for a minute. I didn’t know how much he actually comprehended, but as time went on I realized he understood a lot more than we gave him credit for.
Lily stayed with me from Friday morning when she was born until Saturday evening. After approximately 34 hours, I had them take her away. We chose to do an autopsy and I wanted to get as much information from it as possible. Letting her go was the best decision I could make at that time. Looking back, I’m not so sure.
I stayed in the hospital for four nights. Many loss moms I have met have said they begged and pleaded to get discharged as early as possible. Not me. I didn’t want to leave. Leaving meant it was real. I would be leaving a piece of my soul in a dark cold room in the basement of that hospital. That hospital, that five days earlier I walked into thinking everything was fine.
The days after Lily was born, we got visits from some family and friends. Instead of bearing pink balloons and frilly outfits, they brought food and sympathy cards. I left the hospital with grief books, information on cemeteries and support groups, journals, blood stained sleepers and blankets, and a CD with my most favorite 25 pictures ever.
I was discharged from the hospital the early afternoon of Tuesday June 2. Dan and I got to see Lily one last time before we went home. We got to hold her, snuggle her, and give her hundreds of kisses amongst gallons of tears. I told her I loved her a dozen more times. I told her how sorry I was even more. I sobbed to Dan my fear that people would forget her. I have never cried so hard in my entire life as I did that last hour I had with my daughter. And then it was time. I swaddled her up nice and snug, gave her one last kiss, laid her in her bassinet, asked the nurse to take good care of her, got in my wheelchair, and was wheeled out of the hospital. Leaving behind a piece of my soul.
Lillian Grace Burke was laid to rest the following Monday, June 10, 2015. We celebrated and remembered her short life with about 100 family and friends at our church on Saturday July 25, 2015. It was beautiful.
We never got an answer as to why her little heart stopped beating. The cord was not wrapped around her neck and there were no obvious blood clots. Her autopsy came back normal, as did all the tests they ran on me. As it turns out, about 50% of the time stillbirth cannot be explained.
It has been five months since we lost out sweet girl. I am not the same person I was at 3:30pm on Thursday May 28, 2015. Whether that’s good or bad, I’m not sure. My daughter’s short life changed me forever. I will always remember her, love her, miss her, honor her, talk about her, and wish she were here. And I look forward to the day I will hold her again.
Liz blogs about her daughter and her life after loss at loveforlilyblog.wordpress.com
You may contact Liz at email@example.com