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Deb

Mom to Samuel

Born and Died on October 1, 2015

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I married the most wonderful man and my best friend in September 2013. We decided we’d start trying to have a baby in January 2015, with the thought it may take awhile to get pregnant. I was so anxious and excited to get pregnant that I would take so many pregnancy tests. When I saw that first positive stick, I couldn’t believe it. Mark and I were supposed to take a vacation in Saint Martin in December 2015 and I remember telling him that I didn’t think we would be able to go. He said “why not”. That was when I showed him the positive test and said “Because I’m pregnant!” That was a happy moment.

I was so blessed not to have morning sickness or anything too severe. Smelling beer, charcoal grilling, and the dishwasher made me feel nauseous but that was nothing compared to some mamas. Mark swore we were having a girl because I craved sushi, couldn’t stand the smell of beer and charcoal grilling. Our plan was to not find out the sex of the baby. We all know that plans don’t really work out the way we intend though.

At 10 weeks, I bled. I bled a lot. I woke up early that morning and went downstairs to feed the cat and get some cereal. While downstairs, I felt something warm dripping down my legs which turned out to be blood. I thought I miscarried. I woke Mark and we laid in bed and prayed. I was so scared. I went in for an ultrasound that morning and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Our little squirming coil (as my husband liked to call the baby) was wiggling around and with a strong heartbeat. I was told I had Placenta Previa and was put on pelvic rest for 5 weeks. 

I returned to the office weeks later to see if the placenta had moved. Good news! It had. Bad news, there was almost no amniotic fluid surrounding the baby.They told me I had Oligohydramnios. What the heck is that?! Apparently there was less than 2 cm of amniotic fluid surrounding the baby where normal pregnancies have 13-18 cm of fluid at that point. We were advised to terminate the pregnancy. Hearing that broke my heart. I was confused. I was lost. Seriously, how could that be? I’m so healthy. Mark is so healthy. How could something be wrong with our little one? I was so naive. We told the doctor that aborting wasn’t an option for us and in return we were told to “say our prayers.” We consulted another doctor at a different practice since that practice wasn’t able to help us any further. 

We found a team of high risk doctors at a world renowned hospital that would take our case and care for us.

At around 16 weeks pregnant the team of doctors gave us a plan. We did some tests to try to find out why there was such low fluid. We had genetic counseling, had amnioinfusion, an amniocentesis, and had the dye test. The dye test confirmed that my membranes weren’t ruptured and results of the amniocentesis confirmed that our baby didn’t have any basic genetic issues. At this point in the pregnancy, there was still no reason why there was such low fluid.

I read that drinking more water could help with providing more fluid in the womb. I brought a gallon of water to work every day and drank it like it was my job. Our sweet baby must have been sitting right on my bladder because I had to go all the time and not to mention the bladder incontinence. Pee pads became my best friend! I didn’t care as it was a small price to pay.

Since everything came back normal from the last round of tests, the next step was to see if our baby had kidneys. The baby should be making the amniotic fluid (baby urine) at this point in the pregnancy. I was sure the doctors thought that was the reason. Because our sweet baby was transverse, the doctors couldn’t get a good look at the kidneys. We were then sent for a fetal MRI.

Results indicated our baby had kidneys and all normal organs. I was relieved and yet confused. Why no fluid and where did it go? There was still no reason or explanation. All inconclusive tests but at least we were checking potential problems off the list. Plus with all of the ultrasounds and other tests, we got to see quite a lot of our sweet baby. We continued on our fight. We prayed that God would provide just enough fluid for our baby’s lungs to properly develop. Lung development was the number one concern with the lack of fluid. It’s amazing the things you learn about pregnancy when things go wrong.

I began to feel like we were special. That everything would be ok. We had wonderful care. I felt and believed that everything would be ok. I began reading stories online about other women that had low fluid and the success stories that resulted. One woman gave birth to a baby with no kidneys and that baby survived. Surely my baby would be fine. I wanted to be that success story. I believed we would be that story.

Several occurrences of bleeding in the following weeks led to doctor calls and multiple visits to Labor and Delivery. Mark joked that we had date nights every Friday in the hospital. It was pretty accurate. There was never an explanation of why I was bleeding and it was confirmed every time that my membranes weren’t ruptured. After hours of monitoring in the hospital, we were sent home. Every time.

The next step was to have a fetal echo-cardiogram. Results confirmed normal heart function. I believed that would be the case since every ultrasound (and there were a lot!) and fetal monitoring confirmed a strong heartbeat. But heck, I didn’t know much and maybe there was a heart issue.

One Thursday afternoon, I experienced more bleeding which led to another Labor and Delivery outing. I was 28 weeks pregnant at that point. As normal, they strapped the fetal monitor around my belly and the nurse began looking for the heartbeat. When she couldn’t find it, she went to get the doctor. When the doctor couldn’t find it, she went to get the ultrasound machine. Two additional doctors entered the room. After what must have been a good 40 minutes, three doctors and a nurse couldn’t find a heartbeat. We were told our baby passed away and that I would need to be induced to deliver. Wait. What! I was so confused and broken. How could that be? I just felt the baby move as we were entering the hospital! We opted to go home and come back the next day to get the induction. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to our dear baby. That night, we wept, called our families, told our work of the situation, and wept some more. I had my first two beers since becoming pregnant that evening. 

We woke up, packed our bags and headed back to Labor and Delivery once again. I asked if Mark wanted to know the sex of the baby as I had found out reading the fetal MRI report (they should put a gender reveal warning on that thing! I didn’t care though. I wanted to know the sex. Everything else was so crazy and up in the air that I wanted something known, something certain.) I revealed to my husband that our baby was a boy.

I felt like a crazy lady. I swore I felt the baby move that night. I mentioned to the nurse and she had a doctor scan me. It took two minutes to find the heartbeat. It was the same doctor as the night before and the same machine. It was a miracle…plain and simple. We all were shocked, happy and crying. We got the steroid shots (to help with lung development) in case our baby boy decided to come early. We also decided to do weekly non-stress test monitoring to keep a close eye on him.

I had one monitoring session before bleeding again on Saturday. I called the doctor and they said to call back if it was still heavy in the next hour or two. It was and I called back. The Pope was in town (Philadelphia) for the World Meeting of Families event and our hospital was in the “Secure Zone,” meaning no cars could access the hospital. The doctor gave me instructions to go to another hospital and she would let them know I was on my way. This hospital was foreign to me. No one knew who we were or knew our story. Mark was out of town and my sister was over babysitting me. So we went thinking it would be the usual 4 hour visit and then back home. They confirmed my water broke. I couldn’t believe it. It felt like all of the other times when I bled. Maybe this time there was a little more blood but I was confused. I was just over 30 weeks pregnant at this point. I would be kept pregnant as long as possible and the hospital was to be my new home.  

Secretly, I was happy and excited that I would be in the hospital and under constant care. I was in a car accident the previous week and had prayed that God would put me in a bubble. The hospital was my bubble. We were going to make it. I believed that.

My husband flew home the following day to be with me. I was monitored for 30+ hours straight. That was stressful. The beeping and the constant watching of the monitor scared me to death. After that, it was much less frequent monitoring. His heart rate was always good. I was having small contractions, but nothing really was reading on the machine. The evening of September 30th (5 days into our hospital stay), I asked if I could have something for the pain. I was checked and apparently I was 10 cm dilated with his butt protruding out. They wheeled me out so fast and into the emergency C-section room. This was not at all in the birth plan. We wanted to have a vaginal birth so definitely an emergency C-section wasn’t in the plan, but I guess no one plans to have an emergency [birth]. I was unaware that I would be knocked out and Mark not allowed in the operating room. When the doctor checked me, it was 4:30 a.m. on October 1. Our son was born at 4:58 a.m. We were told he cried after he was delivered. Unfortunately we never heard him.

He was born at exactly 31 weeks and was rushed up to the NICU. Mark visited him there and took some family members up to see him. He was stable at that point.

I awoke and went back to my room to recover. Mark showed me pictures of our little guy. It was when a nurse was showing me how to use the breast pump that a doctor entered and said we needed to get upstairs right then because our son wasn’t doing well. 

I was wheeled up in my bed to finally meet my son. He was beautiful. Even with all of the machines and ventilators attached to him, he was here and he was amazing. He had a full head of hair. I was shocked! I fell in love. I was scared because it was evident that he wasn’t doing well. We spent time with him telling him that we loved him and that he was so wanted. We sang him “You Are My Sunshine.” I really did believe that he would turn around and get better. After 2-3 hours with him in that NICU room, he drifted off to Heaven. 

I’m so incredibly sad. I’m so incredibly angry. Why did we have to lose our son twice? Did we not pray hard enough? Would we have made terrible parents? Why, why, why? The “what if’s” and the “why’s” haunt me every day. They paralyze me of my hope for the future at times. 

There is still no explanation for the lack of amniotic fluid. Our son was beautiful and healthy, besides his underdeveloped lungs (we found out that was the cause of his death via an autopsy). What kind of world is this that a little boy isn’t able to breathe?

On October 1, 2015, after 13 hours in this world, our beautiful son Samuel James (3 lbs 10.6 oz and 16 1/4 inches) made his journey to Heaven. My heart aches for him every day and he is so missed beyond belief. Having empty arms and an aching heart is something no one should have to bear.

We know that he is in Heaven and that we will one day see him again. That is our hope.

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

You can email Deb at dah1382@gmail.com.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Tina Rose says:

    oh Deb how sorry I am for your loss of precious Sammie. You did everything you could to protect him and keep him safe. It is so not fair that we are now parenting children in heaven, this is not something any mom should experience. As always, sending you love and light. <3

    • Deb Fretz says:

      Thanks Tina :) I hate that we are the loss mom’s club, but I am so glad that we can lean on each other. Lots of hugs and praying for peace and comfort.

  2. Sarah Frampton says:

    Deb thank you for sharing your journey and your child’s journey with us. It’s an unbearable pain to even imagine and I pray regularly that God will provide for all your needs. I so appreciate the ways you and Mark have come up with to love and remember Sammie always. You’re wonderful parents.

    • Deb Fretz says:

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting Sarah. We are very blessed with a great support system :) Much love to you and Kyle.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Words can’t describe how sorry I am- why do these things happen?!? To hear you lost him and then miraculously he was alive- only to lose him in the end- seems like a cruel trick the universe is playing. My heart breaks for you. All the questions you ask yourself- I ask myself as well. The “what ifs” and the “did we not pray enough” and the “would we not be good enough parents”
    It’s all unreal. I lost my sweet girl, Brielle Grace on October 2nd, 2015 and there isn’t a minute that goes by that I don’t think about her & what could have been. I’ve had SO many tests done and procedures to “find out” what happened , but everything has been normal thus far. It’s so frustrating- especially when your friends are having babies and already have children at home- like why?!? Why don’t I deserve my happy ending?!? I feel for you & want you to know that I think perhaps Brielle and Samuel are playing together in Heaven…..one day we will hold them in Heaven. I’d say “be gentle with yourself” like everyone else says on here, but it’s so VERY hard to do this- I know I am my own worst enemy. I am a bully to myself. Try not to be. I know it’s not healthy to do. Sending lots of strength your way xoxo

    • Deb Fretz says:

      Thanks so much for reading our story. The why’s of this happening are breaking me down. It is so hard to accept that it is God’s plan. That our children are needed more in heaven than here. I prayed so ridiculously hard for life for our son.

      I understand what you are going through. Other than the underdeveloped lungs from the lack of amniotic fluid, Samuel was super healthy. The problem is, we don’t know why the lack of fluid. It is so hard to see other pregnant friends knowing that it may not happen for us.

      Praying for you dear Elizabeth. Yes, Samuel and Brielle are together playing in heaven. I pray that they know how much they are missed and loved by their mama’s.

      Hugs to you friend.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Also, not sure if you have been- but I live in CT and my husband and I traveled to the St.Gianna Molla shrine in Warminister, PA a few weeks back and it was very therapeutic. We are religious people and her story (Saint Gianna Molla) is one I find amazing- a true miracle. Go pray to her, touch her relics, pray to her & see if you find any comfort in it. The shrine is about 45 minutes away from Philadelphia, I believe . Her prayers have helped me…..it’s the only thing that has given me hope for the future, that God will bless me with a healthy pregnancy next time.

  5. kathy Colbert says:

    Hi Deb, I’ve often seen you and Mark at church but have never gone up and introduced myself. Your story is beautifully written, and it is a beautiful story. I was/am blessed beyond measure of your description of the path of hope vs. the path of anger and bitterness. For very different reasons, I struggle mightily to stay on the path of hope; your words give my pain a voice. Thank you.

  6. Hi Deb, thank you for posting your story and sharing your beautiful Samuel’s life. Your story impacted me greatly-so much of it mirrors my own story of losing my son, Elliot. I think yours is the first story I’ve read that makes me feel a little less alone in how things happened, especially your repeatedly saying how much you believed your son would be ok. I also completely believed Elliot would be ok, and had several “miracles” throughout the pregnancy which seemed to confirm God was protecting our boy. I had a rocky pregnancy from the beginning-we thought we lost him on multiple occasions. My water did break somewhere around 20 weeks, but then seemed to replenish (which I thought was another miracle), but then would go back down. I can’t tell you how many people were praying for us. Hundreds. I just knew Elliot would live. He was born on May 29, 2017 at 29w5d, weighing 3 lb. 14 oz. his first hours were rough, and the doctor told us she suspected underdeveloped lungs. But then he improved. The doctors were optimistic. My faith in God and gratitude toward him had never been greater. Then, when Elliot was 5 days old, I returned from a nap to find the doctors working on him. I still did not waiver in my faith. When the doctor said, “It’s not working,” I asked if I could pray over Elliot. I put my hands on my precious baby, fully believing Jesus would heal him. Instead, they put Elliot in my arms, where he died just minutes later. My hear and my faith shattered in a million pieces in that moment. It has been two months. I’ve told God that He broke me, and He will have to fix me. The doctor had no explanation for the “honeymoon period” of Elliot doing so well, then his lungs just refusing to work. As I’m sure we all do who’ve lost children, I wake every day to find myself in a living nightmare. The only comfort I find is in the stories of others, to help me remember I am not the only mommy who aches for her baby.

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