Mom to Lena Beth
January 10, 2016
My husband and I were so happy to welcome our first son in June 2012. He has brought much joy and laughter to our lives. When it came time for trying for another baby, we considered a three year age difference, but we were in the process of moving and it didn’t feel right. A year later the timing was right and I got pregnant right away in July 2015. Three days after taking a positive pregnancy test, I started bleeding. It was considered a chemical pregnancy since I was 4.5 weeks along, so I never needed a D&C and only had to get blood work to confirm I was actually pregnant and then not pregnant anymore. I remember feeling angry about having blood work taken three times over the course of two weeks. I knew for a fact I was not pregnant anymore but my doctor insisted on coming in for the third time. I wanted it to be over and to just move on.
A few weeks later, we were on vacation and I thought I might be pregnant again because my face was breaking out badly. I took a test before my husband and I went out for a date night to see if I could enjoy a couple drinks. The test was negative and I was immediately disappointed. I assumed my body was recovering from the last cycle. After a few days, I still felt something was off and took another test in the morning…and it came up positive. I was excited and worried at the same time because of what happened the previous month. Like it was too good to be true.
But as the weeks went on, I grew more attached. This pregnancy was so different compared to my son’s and I knew pretty early on it had to be a girl. I was nauseous all day, every day, and felt out of shape even though I had lost a fair amount of weight before I got pregnant. I wanted to fast forward through the rest of the pregnancy and couldn’t wait for May.
It was an unusually warm day in December when we sat in the ultrasound room for the anatomy scan. I wore a black shirt with a floral pattern because in my heart, I knew it was a girl, and I wanted to wear something feminine and pretty. Our baby was bouncing around on the screen and moving so fast that the tech had to wait longer to get the pictures she needed. Then the tech told us the baby was a girl. I cried happy tears and the tech said “she’s happy because now she can be done, one boy and one girl!”. No matter what the sex of this baby was, we were not planning on having other children but I knew what she meant.
A month later on January 8th, I drove myself to a routine doctor’s appointment at my OB’s office. I was 23 weeks and 4 days pregnant. There was a woman checking in ahead of me and I thought she looked so polished – name brand purse, sleek boots, her hair was done all nice. I was a frumpy, tired mess compared to her. The nurse brought me in back and I did the standard pee in a cup, blood pressure, weight, etc. She asked if I was feeling movement. I had called the office earlier that week with concerns about movement but explained that two hours after I called, I started feeling kicks. We joked about it, how my baby girl was already messing around with me. My doctor came in the room and said everything from the anatomy scan looked normal. I was measuring a day late, but we’d stick with the May 3rd due date. My weight gain was on track and I told him I was hoping it would slow down since the holidays were over and we laughed. I hopped up onto the bed so he could check the heartbeat. He gently moved the Doppler all over my belly and then started pushing in certain places. I heard my own beat but was waiting so patiently to hear hers. He probably tried to do the Doppler for maybe 3 minutes, but it felt like 3 hours. He asked me to follow him to the ultrasound room, and I grabbed my purse and walked down the hallway in a complete daze.
In the ultrasound room he rubbed more of the gel onto my belly and stared intently at the monitor screen. I saw the outline of her head and then he pointed out a dark spot below. “I’m afraid something has happened. This is where the heartbeat should be”. I burst out crying and turned my head the other way so I couldn’t see the screen anymore. I felt him rubbing the gel off my belly and gently pulling me towards him so I could sit up. I wanted a hug so bad. He sat in front of me and waited for me to stop crying hysterically. I couldn’t say anything. All I wanted was a hug.
I finally had the courage to ask if something like this is even normal and I vaguely remember him saying it wasn’t common at this stage. Then I asked if I would have to give birth and he discussed the delivery versus surgery. I asked if I could call my husband and have him meet me at the office, so he left me in the room to make phone calls. I called my husband. I called my mom. I texted my boss. “I lost the baby”. I didn’t have the courage to say she was dead. I waited in the room quietly by myself and starting shaking. I was so cold and desperately needed to pee but didn’t dare leave the room. My husband came twenty minutes later with our son and we stayed in the ultrasound room while my doctor explained the options. We decided I would be induced, so he told us to come to the hospital at 9am on Sunday.
I was still in shock when my sister called later that night. She asked what was going to happen on Sunday and then my son said he wanted to talk to her. He grabbed the phone and started talking about how we were organizing earlier that day. I saw his eyes make contact to the baby gate that was left out and hadn’t been put back away yet. “And we’ll put that baby gate up when my baby sister comes”. I completely lost it. There is no baby sister coming. She’s not coming. How do you explain that to a three year old?
Sunday morning finally came. I was admitted into the hospital and informed how the induction process would work. We waited and waited and waited for several hours. Finally around 5pm I started to feel a lot of cramping in my lower back, which is exactly how I felt labor come on with my son. I knew this was it. My contractions progressed more over the next couple hours and then I finally asked for pain medication when the nurses were changing shifts. Once I had the morphine shot I was able to relax in bed for a bit as my back pain was gone, but then I felt intense contractions shift to my uterus. I yelled out in pain as each contraction hit and felt like I needed to pee. I managed to get out of bed and realized I was feeling pressure to push and that I needed to push NOW. I was so scared since it was just me, my husband and my nurse in the room. My nurse immediately called for the doctors and I laid back down on the bed. I was grabbing for my husband, telling him how I didn’t want to push. I wanted my baby out of my body, but at the same time I didn’t, because then it would be real. My body took over and basically pushed her out on its own. It was so quiet in the room, nothing like how it was when my son was born. Our daughter was delivered at 9:01pm. My doctor informed me the cord was wrapped tightly around her neck twice and that was most likely the cause of death. We were planning on doing an autopsy but once he told us that, we decided not to have it done. Her size was on target for 23 weeks, she appeared normal, and my bloodwork and chromosome testing had all been low risk.
I didn’t want to see her at that point as we were still waiting for my placenta to come out. Eventually my doctor told me I needed to have a D&C since I was losing a lot of blood. We decided I would have the D&C and then hold her once I got back to the room. I remember my nurse wiping away my tears as I waited for the medicine to put me to sleep for the procedure and thinking what a nightmare this all was.
We finally got to hold our daughter around 2am. She was wrapped up in a white knitted coverlet and had a tiny pink hat on her head. Even as tiny as the hat was, it was still too big for her at 23 weeks gestation. She was so small but perfectly formed already. Her nose was the exact replica of my son’s. I unwrapped the blanket a little but never saw her lower torso, legs or feet – I was too afraid of hurting her more as she was very fragile. After I held her for a bit, my husband did. In all the years we’ve been together, I’ve only seen him cry a couple times. Seeing him sob while holding her was absolutely heartbreaking. We named her Lena Beth, Lena meaning “light” and Beth is in honor of my grandma. I’m not sure how much time we spent with her… I hate how those early morning hours are a blur to me now. We both kissed her forehead before saying “I love you” and called our nurse to have her taken back to their special room by the nurse’s station. My nurse gave me some meds to help me sleep and took my blood pressure one more time since she was worried it was still low. The care we received in the hospital was amazing; all of the staff were empathetic and so kind.
When we woke up on Monday morning, all I thought about was going home. To see my son. To hug him. To fall asleep in my own bed where I could cry on my own pillow. I felt such a mix of emotions – guilty that I didn’t call my doctor sooner after Christmas when I felt decreased movement, angry that our plans for having children 3-4 years apart was no more, sad that I may have missed out on my only opportunity to raise a daughter, and confused on how I would explain any of this to my son. Why would this happen to us? What did we do to deserve this? Once you get past the 12 week mark, you just assume you’ll be be bringing home a healthy baby 6 months later. While nothing made sense at that time, I do know that there was a reason why our son was our first-born as he gave us so much strength those first few weeks after our daughter’s death. I feel he’s helped with our grieving process immensely and we wouldn’t be where we are now without him. His laughter on our darkest days reminded us how much we have to be grateful for.
I have always been a planner – very Type A, a bit obsessive, and too focused on the future. Since my daughter’s death, I’ve learned to appreciate my life more in the present moment, and that there are certain things I will never have control over. Life is short and you never know how much time you have left with your loved ones. My life now is not how I envisioned it and that’s been incredibly difficult adjusting to. I am dreading my favorite month of May, but I know it’s coming. I am scared to go on our annual beach vacation this August since that’s when I first found out I was pregnant. I am sad I won’t have a cute flower girl dress to buy for my sister’s wedding next year. I miss my baby girl every single day and think of her constantly, but the grief has lessened the past few weeks. It has been two months, and while that feels like such a short amount of time, I do feel more at peace today. I now believe it doesn’t matter who you are – horrible things happen all the time and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it. You are not being punished, you did nothing to deserve this, it just happens. Counseling, connecting with other loss parents, writing in a journal, volunteering for a local non-profit organization, and focusing on my graphic design and craft projects have all helped in my grieving process. The waves of grief still hit me hard but I’m learning to swim better and hold my head up higher.
Emily can be reached at Emily@ourlittlecasita.com