Mom to August John
Died Just Before Birth on January 12th, 2010
Austin, Texas
I was 41 weeks and three days pregnant with my first child when I finally went into labor on Monday, January 11, 2010. I was so excited. My pregnancy had been perfect, and ever since the 40-week mark, my husband and I had been hoping and waiting (and kind of going crazy), just wishing for our baby to be born so we could begin the much-anticipated next part of our lives: raising our kid. (We had decided not to find out the baby’s sex; we wanted to be surprised.) 

We had been planning a homebirth, and everything started off great. Our midwife and her apprentices came over, and I labored all over the house and the neighborhood throughout the day. It was gorgeous out; we live in Austin, Texas, and the weather was cool but crisp and sunny, and our walks around the neighborhood with the dogs were just wonderful. 
Around six that evening, I was in the tub and was starting to feel a little pushy. When the midwife came to do another check of the baby’s heart tones, she found that they were low. After a very quick internal check and a couple of experimental pushes (I was only at eight centimeters dilation — close, but not there yet), she made the call to transport me to the hospital. I was really disappointed; I was so looking forward to the homebirth I had dreamed about, and a C-section was the last thing I wanted. But, I knew that as long as we got a healthy baby out of the deal, I’d do whatever was needed. 
But at the hospital, after another internal check and ultrasound, it turned out we didn’t need a C-section after all. Our baby was still alive, but was slipping away and wasn’t likely to survive delivery. At that point, the doctor and my midwife told me it was all about me, my health and my recovery. They both recommended I go ahead with a natural, vaginal delivery, to avoid compromising my physical recovery and future births.
I pushed my son out just past midnight. He weighed nine pounds, and he had died sometime just before I pushed him out due to a rare neural tube defect called an encephalocele — an opening in his skull at the top of his head. His brain had bulged out, and was covered only by the meninges. If he had lived outside of me for any length of time, he would have died of a brain infection. There would have been no way to operate to save his life, due to the size of the encephalocele and the fact that it was not protected by skin. His defect had not been detected by any test or other means during my whole pregnancy. He had developed normally in all ways except that one, crucial part of his anatomy, and we had thought everything was perfect. 
We named our son August John. Since August was a “fresh stillbirth” (the hospital’s term for it), and because there were apparently two newborns in town that night in need of heart valves, we were able to donate his body to the Blood and Tissue Center. We got to spend seven hours with August, holding, hugging and kissing him. Then the people from the donation center came and took him away, and we went home, babyless.
I can’t even express in words how awful this experience has been. I miss August so much, every second. Many times it’s like a physical craving to see him, hold him, touch his skin. I remember exactly how he felt in my arms, and it just about kills me to know I never, ever get to touch him or see him again — and I have to figure out how to live with that, and how to enjoy my life again. 
I used to feel lucky, blessed, as if I led a charmed life. Now, almost nine months after August’s birth and death, I am trying to feel that way again. At least I don’t feel ashamed anymore, which I did feel for months after August died. I felt like a total freak, as if I had done something terribly wrong to cause my son’s death. I knew I must be a huge failure, not to be able to bring a healthy child into the world. Our visit to a geneticist, who told us August’s birth defect was not my (or anyone’s) fault and had developed randomly, somehow didn’t help me much. It was good to receive the news that it’s likely we will be able to have a healthy child in the future, but not knowing why his defect developed is really hard to bear. There is no one to blame, which leaves me blaming myself, viciously. 
Actually, there is one way in which I do feel lucky: that we didn’t know August wasn’t going to live until the very end. If we had learned earlier of his problem, I would have had to go through the rest of my pregnancy grieving for the baby I was going to lose. Instead, I got to be happy and healthy and blissful, and I hope August did, too. 
My biggest problem since this happened is figuring out how to live this new, unwanted life — my life as a childless mother. I don’t want to be this person I am now — an often sad, sometimes unstable, anguished woman, who can’t feel optimistic about the future. The future I thought I had died when August died, and now…who knows what might happen? It’s hard to believe the future might hold anything wonderful at all. 
My name is Catherine. I live with my husband in Austin, Texas. Our firstborn child, August John, died just before birth on January 12, 2010, the same day the catastrophic earthquake hit Haiti. 
You can contact Catherine at
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  1. still life angie says:

    Your beautiful story brought tears to my eyes, and the ending. I know exactly what that feels like to wonder if you could ever be happy again. Once you touch the abyss, it becomes part of you, I think. Just wanted to say that there are lots of us out here with you, grieving with you, who know what this feels like too. This experience has afforded me no wisdom, except to say that I am here, (yes, I am a complete stranger, but still here) if you ever need someone to bear witness. xo

  2. Catherine Avril Morris says:

    Oh, Angie, thank you so much for posting this kind, loving, supportive message. And my heart grieves for you and your loss (I checked out your blogs). Just…thank you. xox back to you, sweetheart.

  3. I am so sorry for the loss of your son, and the pain you are experiencing. I thought you wrote your story beautifully, and I am very moved by your decision to donate August's tissues. How generous. Hugs.

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