Mom to Connor James

Born still May 19, 2012

Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia, Canada

I remember the day I found out I was pregnant like it was yesterday. It was Friday, September 16th, my parents’ anniversary and I had made myself a doctor’s appointment that afternoon because I hadn’t been able to keep anything in my system. I remember trying to figure out what could be making me so sick, and I finally narrowed it down and thought it was dairy products. Boy, was I wrong! I went to the doctor, told her everything that was going on and she said, “Well, Ashley, I think you actually might be pregnant.” My response of course was, “No way, if I was pregnant I think I would know.” My appointment ended with me going for blood work the following Monday but there was no way on earth I could wait that long. I went home and got a home pregnancy test and there it was: a big, bright plus sign. I was pregnant! My boyfriend, Mark, wasn’t home, so, not thinking, I immediately picked up the phone and called him at work. Our conversation went exactly like this :

“Hello?” “Hey!” “What’s up?” “Well, I just got home and guess what?!” “What?” “I took a pregnancy test, and it was positive!” “Really! And you’re telling me on the phone?! This is the worst way to find out!”

There was a lot more to the conversation, but that’s the most important part. Maybe not the best way to tell the love of your life that he is going to be a father, but it seemed appropriate when I was running for the phone with my pants still around my ankles!

For the first week we avoided all family members, which in our case was really hard; we see a big part of both of our families a few times a week. I remember seeing Mark’s mom, Anne, one night after we had eaten out for supper. She told me I needed to start eating better for when we finally decided to have babies. I could have sworn “I’m pregnant” was written on my forehead, that or she was a physic! Finally, on September 24th, at my sister, Nicole’s, birthday we decided to tell our family. (We had always said we would wait ‘til after the 12th week, but it was absolutely impossible!) I had gotten my sister a really cute shirt for her birthday and in a second bag I put a picture of my pregnancy test in a bag for her to open in front of everyone. At first no one understood, they were too busy trying to figure out who was actually pregnant. After a few seconds I blurted out, “I’m pregnant!” my mom looked at me, her mouth WIDE open and started bawling. She couldn’t get any words out she was so excited! I kind of stole my sister’s birthday thunder, but who doesn’t want a brand new niece or nephew for their birthday?!

The next step was telling Mark’s mom and stepfather. They had just found out a few weeks before that Mark’s sister, Kristine, was also expecting! We went there before lunch the following day. Mark wanted to be the one to tell them so I just sat there silently waiting to explode. I’m sure it was written all over my face that we were there to tell them some major news. Of course, Mark took his sweet time before finally telling his mom that next time she went baby shopping for his sister, she better start buying double. She understood right away and just kept looking at Mark then back at me. I was so relieved…finally some people knew, although it was still early. I was only 5 weeks at the time.

My whole pregnancy was great! I never really had any morning sickness; I was just always tired and had no interest in doing much. Mark didn’t mind this at all; he had a few years’ worth of Play Station to catch up on anyway.

We decided that we would find out the gender of our baby and we had our posse with us when we did. It was the best feeling ever when the ultrasound tech pointed at the screen and asked if we knew what that “thing” on the screen was. Don’t worry, we all knew. Our baby was clearly a boy, no denying it at all! Everything was going great. We started picking out nursery colors and decor, when we finally decided we went with a jungle theme and the color orange. Still everything was smooth sailing until I was 31 weeks pregnant.

I was at work one day when I started to feel a lot of cramping. I never really thought much about it until I mentioned to my girlfriend at work, who was 32 weeks pregnant, that the pains were starting to get increasingly worse. She told me I should call my doctor and see what she thought I should do about it; after all I was getting closer. I called my doctor and she told me to head over to the hospital to be assessed. I called Mark and told him what was going on and not to worry, my mother was going to take me because I was sure it was nothing. Once we got there they took my blood pressure and checked the baby’s heart beat. Everything looked good and I wasn’t dilating, but they hooked my up the a few machines and sure enough I was contracting every 10 minutes exactly. They sent me for an internal ultrasound to make sure I wasn’t dilated and checked the baby on a normal ultrasound to get some measurements and check his lungs. At the time he weighed a hefty 3 lbs 12 oz. Everything was looking great and they just told me it was Braxton Hicks, but admitted me for the night to keep an eye on me. After I was discharged I never went back to work. I started on sick leave and was off for a whole 9 weeks before my due date. Yes, that’s right. Nine weeks of no one letting me do anything on my own.

The next 9 weeks were what seemed like the longest of my life! I could never get comfortable and no one was comfortable with me going out on my own. Then finally, on May 18th, I woke up with strong contractions. I always wondered if I would be able to tell the difference between the cramping I had been having for the past 9 weeks and real contractions. Believe me, I could!

It was 8 o’clock in the morning and my contractions were coming every 4-5 minutes but they weren’t strong enough that I couldn’t handle them at home. I got up, told Mark what was going on and decided to have a shower and keep myself busy until I felt I could no longer handle labor at home. Mark got up and started keeping himself busy, too. He mowed the lawn, tidied some of the things I could no longer do with my big belly and then finally at 11 I told him to start getting ready, I couldn’t handle much more at home. The whole ride to the hospital felt like hours, I was in so much pain and it was a Friday before a long weekend so traffic was pretty heavy. Finally, around 12 we got to the hospital. We went straight to the desk and registered. I was actually doing a lot better than I had expected. I was so excited to actually be over at the hospital with real contractions, and whether it meant my baby was coming that day or a few days later didn’t matter. As long as these contractions were real ones, that was all that mattered!

Our triage nurse, who we know from friends of our family, came down and took us into a room to check my blood pressure and the baby’s heart rate. After a few minutes of trying to find our baby’s heart beat, the nurse sent Mark to fill out a few more papers and brought me up to the 3rd floor to try up there. I knew right away something wasn’t right; at all my appointments my doctor found his heart beat right away, always a strong 140 bpm. Mark, on the other hand, had no idea what was going on. For all he knew, we were having a baby in a few hours. Once we got upstairs, the nurse brought me into a room and tried to find his heartbeat again. I started to panic immediately when she couldn’t find it. She told me to try to calm down because she was picking something up, but she couldn’t tell if it was mine or his. Finally, Mark came in just as the doctor on call came in to do an ultrasound. I couldn’t even look at the ultrasound machine. After a few seconds I asked if she had found a heartbeat. I could tell by the look on her face that she didn’t. “I’m so sorry, but there is no visible heart beat.” I couldn’t even think. All I could do was scream. This isn’t what was supposed to happen. This wasn’t the way we had planned for our baby boy to come into the world.

Immediately Mark was holding me with the tightest grip I had ever felt in my life. There we were, in room number 3 going through the hardest thing any parent or parent-to-be will ever experience. I remember that I kept apologizing. I felt I had let Mark down. This was his son. The only thing I had to do was keep him safe for 9 months, my body had let me down. I had let him down. I had let myself down. What did I do wrong? I took prenatal vitamins when I was supposed to, I took iron supplements 3 times a day for the entire 9 months, I slept on my left side like they say you should, I didn’t even lift the laundry basket. How could this happen to us? We’re not bad people. We don’t drink excessively, we have never done drugs or done anything illegal, and we have never even gotten something as small as a parking ticket. Why was this happening?

I remember hearing my phone go off through all the crying. It was my mom texting me, “How are you feeling today?” I called my parents house first. My nan answered and I asked if my parents were home. She said they had just gone out, and asked if anything was wrong. “No, nan, everything is fine,” I said. It was so hard to lie to her; I never lie to my grandmother. But I just couldn’t get the words to come out. I called my dad and asked him where he was. I think deep down he could tell something wasn’t right. “Dad, I lost the baby.” I could hear him telling who he was with that his daughter had just lost her baby. Lost. Like I had left him at the grocery store and couldn’t remember where I put him. All I wanted was my parents there with us. I hung up the phone and right away my mom called me back. I didn’t realize she was in the truck waiting for my dad when I had called him. “What happened?,” she cried. At that moment, I had no idea what had happened. All I knew was that everything we had planned for was gone. She promised they would be there as soon as they could and we hung up. Mark sat beside me holding my hand, not letting go except to wipe away my tears and his own. He picked up his phone and started dialing his mom’s number. I replay the moments in my head every day. “I have bad news,” he said, “We’re at the hospital, we lost the baby,” again, like we had left him somewhere and just weren’t remembering where we had left him. I started to sob, hard whole body tears that wouldn’t slow down. I could hear her saying “No, oh, Mark, No”. I knew it wouldn’t take her long to be over at the hospital with us. This was the phone call she had been watching her phone for for weeks. It just wasn’t the words she wanted to hear. It wasn’t what any of us wanted to hear.

The next little bit seem like a blur. The nurse came back in and told me to stop apologizing, promising me that there was nothing I could have done to prevent this. A few minutes later a lab tech came in to do blood work. They ended up taking 15 vials of blood from me. By this time, my parents had arrived, but they had to wait for my blood work to be  finished before they could see me. My parents spent their whole drive to the hospital thinking there had been some kind of mistake. How could someone carry a baby for 39 weeks and 3 days and not end up with their baby to take home? My nurse explained to them what had happened up until then and finally brought them in. I had never seen my father cry much. He is a strong amazing man, but in that moment there is nothing more for anyone to do but cry.

In the short time since we had found out, time seemed to go fast and stay still all at the same time. Our nurse came back in and told us that the doctor was going to move us up to a room on the 7th floor where they would go over a few different options with us. One thing we knew for sure was that we wanted to have our son as soon as possible. We didn’t want to drag out the next step any longer then we had to, not only for our sake, but for our son’s. I got into a wheelchair and before they moved us, they told us that Mark’s mom and stepfather had shown up. I couldn’t bear to see them in the hallway, so they waited in the waiting room until we got settled in the room upstairs. It had a table and chairs, a couch and was extremely warm. But in its own way, it was comforting. A woman came in and told us that we had a few options. She said they would like to do another ultrasound to have a good look at the baby, and if we wanted one, they would do an amniocentesis. We agreed to do the ultrasound but not the amnio. As the woman left, Mark’s mom and stepfather were brought up to the room we were in. Again, there was nothing for anyone to do but sob. I have never felt so awful in my life. It was a mixture of a thousand different emotions. Was my family mad at me? Did they blame me?

The woman who had explained our different options to us came back and got us for our ultrasound. They were so sympathetic. Just like us, all they could do was cry. Before she began the ultrasound I asked her to turn off the screen in front of us. There was no way I could see my baby boy on a screen with no heart beat. With no life left in him. She told us his approximate weight was between 8-8.5 lbs and that he was a healthy size. When we got back in the room, my sister had finally showed up. My sister and I are 4 years apart. We have always been close in our own way. Never really affectionate unless necessary. Immediately she hugged me, kissed me and just held me. I was so fortunate to have the people I love most with me when I needed them most. But like my Dad has said, that’s what family is for.

We knew we wanted my labor to be induced as soon as possible. There was no questioning that. They moved me to my own room on the 7th floor. This is where they take woman who have a complications in their pregnancy. I was put in room 714. I was away from all the other woman who thought they were having the worst time of their lives. If they had heard my story at that time, I think they would have been counting their lucky stars to be there still carrying their babies as long as possible. At 3:30pm on May 18th I was given gel to soften my cervix. Mark and I were in our room alone with our new nurse when I realized Mark wasn’t looking very good. He had done a lot in the morning before we had left and it was hot. He hadn’t eaten and we had just gotten the worst news thus far in our lives. I asked him if he was dizzy or if he felt like he was going to pass out. He said he felt all of the above. By this point he was sitting, standing and pacing. Finally, we got the nurse to get him some juice and he got settled in a comfy chair. Well, as comfy as you get in a hospital, I suppose.

My family was let back in my room and everyone just sat in silence for a few minutes, no one really knowing what to say. One thing we knew for sure was that everyone needed some food; we were going to be in for a long night. My grandmother and my aunt, who has been there throughout my whole pregnancy every step of the way, showed up and gave us all another good reason to cry. Not that we didn’t have a good reason to begin with, but seeing them we couldn’t hold them in. Everyone just kept assuring me that it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t want to believe them. If it wasn’t my fault then how could this happen?

My contractions were getting stronger and stronger but the numbness that I felt from the news we’d just heard overtook the pain. Family kept coming along with more and more tears. I felt so exhausted and really everything was just getting started. How was I going to get through this? I needed to get away from the crowd of people who had begun to occupy my room. By this time it was getting later and everyone was anxious for some supper. But all I wanted was a bath. My mom ran me a bath and we just sat there and cried together. She kept saying that if she could do it for me, she would. Little does she know, I would never let her. The pain I was feeling was something I never want anyone to feel. The only thing getting me through it was knowing my family was there. Though she wanted to take the pain away for me, just having her there was enough.

When they all left it was just Mark and I. Finally, we had a moment for just the two of us to process everything that was happening. Mark and I have been together for 6 years, but we have never been through any kind of extreme emotional pain together. We have always been there for each other, but this was a new way to show each other our love for one another. My sister came back in to sit with us and just be there with us. My contractions were getting a lot stronger and now that we had some time just to sit there and not think about the situation, I was beginning to feel a lot of pain. My nurse offered me morphine, which I was very eager to accept! Little did I know morphine is a pretty big needle that goes into your bum cheek! But I’ll take a needle in my bum any day to ease the pain of my contractions. My family had been in the waiting room down the hall for a while just giving us time alone, but after some time they came back in to sit with us. Finally, we were able to have some laughs and talk with some normalcy.

At 9:30pm my nurse checked me and I still had not much change. Again, I was given another dose of gel and the nurse went on her way. We all talked, laughed, cried and found some smiles amongst the sorrow. Around 12:30am I was beginning to get  =more and more uncomfortable, so the nurse offered me another dose of  morphine, but my family had to leave and allow us to get some rest. My family wasn’t gone 5 minutes when Mark looked at me and said he couldn’t fall asleep with me holding his hand so tight. I called my mom down from the waiting room to lay with me while Mark got some rest. We were able to get about 40 minutes of solid sleep when my contractions really started to hurt and come more frequently. Mark was able to sleep off and on while my contractions were coming every 4 minutes then 2 minutes, then 4 minutes then 2 minutes, keeping my mom and I awake.

I finally decided I needed to get up to go to the washroom before my contractions got any worse. What I didn’t know was that once I got up, things were going to move faster than I could imagine. My contractions were coming faster than I could step to get back into my bed. Mark woke up to me calling my nurse and telling her what was going on. When she got in our room she turned around to get a wheel chair. My mom went to the waiting room where the rest of the family was to tell them we were moving down to labor and delivery. Right away they gave me an IV and called the anesthesiologist to give me my epidural. I still wasn’t dilated but he was getting lower and lower and my cervix was soft. The nurse told my family to go get some more rest because it wouldn’t be happening very soon. Mark crawled in my tiny hospital bed and we managed to get some rest. Around 5am the nurse checked me again and I was 5-6 cm dilated and she said she would be back again soon. The doctor on call came back around 6 and broke my water, only to tell us that I was still 5-6cm.

I have talked to a lot of different woman about their labors and deliveries and they all had different stories. But one thing they all had in common was that you really do check your dignity at the door. Never in my life did I think I would not care about who saw my “nitty gritty”. Our original birth plan was to have my sister, Nicole, there during the birth, but under the circumstances, she understood when we decided to just have it the two of us.

By 7:30am I was fully dilated and almost ready to push. With each contraction you push, but in my case I wasn’t hooked up to any monitor so I had to listen to my body on when to push. I always asked Mark if he would help during the birth, and he always said he would stay up by my head and just be there for me. But he was up close and personal. With one leg in Mark’s hand and the other leg on my nurse’s hip, I finally began to push. I have never been so terrified in my life. This was supposed to be the happiest most wonderful time of my life. I shouldn’t be having these mixed emotions. My nurse paged the doctor and 6 pushes later our beautiful baby boy, Connor James Elliott, was born sleeping. We had made the decision to have Connor covered after he was born and taken to the room next door. With all the unknowns we didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t know how much time had passed since he passed away, so we didn’t know how he would look. While my doctor was finishing up with me, my family finally got to meet baby Connor.

Once we were ready, our nurse finally brought Connor in to meet us. He was beautiful. Everything we had ever imagined. He had dark curly hair, big hands and feet and looked exactly like his father. I can’t put into words how amazing it was to watch Mark hold our Son. Sure it wasn’t how we had pictured meeting our son for the first time, but it was equally amazing. We talked to him, held him and loved him. In the short time we had with him, it felt like we had him forever. I had held him every second of his life. He was in my body his whole short life and yet my body couldn’t get him here safely. There we were in the middle of becoming parents and planning a funeral. How was this fair?

Ashley blogs at

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  1. Ashley, I am so sorry for your loss. My first son was also stillborn on 9/12/00 due to blood clots in my placenta. I have said a prayer for you that God would bring you comfort and peace and that you would hold your son again some day in heaven.

  2. I have read your story in it brings tears to my eyes I have lost also my baby of premature labor and heart problems on May 15, 2012 … I ask God to protect you and bring you comfort and peace I know how hard it is.. I have also cried does tears and not wanting nobody else to go throw this …. I remember May 19 it was a Saturday on that day i was crying tears because i was holding my baby clothes and not him . I understand you pain …. all prayers are with you and your family

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