“‘Please just knock me out and cut me open,’ I begged between pushes. There was not a single part of this delivery I wanted to be a part of. I knew what was at the end of this challenge–I wasn’t going to have a screaming baby placed on my chest. I was never going to be able to do skin to skin, and my husband and I were not going to be able to look at each other in amazement about the life we just created. Because the reality is, my baby lost his heartbeat about 24 hours prior, and I had to go through all the steps to bring him into this world, knowing he would never take a breath.
You see, for 6 months I dreamed of the exact moment our baby would enter the world. I had played it out hundreds of times in my head. The doctor would excitedly yell, ‘It’s a ____!’ and place our child on my chest. I would cry happy tears as I took in those first newborn moments, studying every inch of our baby’s face and smells. This dream was ripped away from me in a heartbeat, literally, so forgive me for not wanting to be a part of this alternate ending.
Let’s rewind to early 2014. I was working my corporate job and Sean sat down in front of me for an interview. He was being considered for a position on our team and my boss wanted him to meet the team members and see if he meshed with everyone. We became friends instantly, and several months later, we were dating. In December of 2019, Sean and I got married on the most perfect December day. It was one of those beautiful days where the weather was in the 50s and not a cloud in the sky. As we exchanged vows, we looked at each other with a naivety that only accompanies people that have never faced tragedy. I had no idea that our vows would be put to the biggest test in 9 short months.
We knew we wanted to start a family soon after we got married, and by April, I found out I was pregnant. I took a test that morning and it was negative, so I threw it out and went about my day. I just KNEW I was pregnant, so when I got home from work, I fished the test out of the trash and saw those two pink lines. I then proceeded to take probably six more tests, just to be sure. I had about 45 minutes before Sean got home from work, and I knew I wanted to surprise him with our news.
I ran out to the store and bought a pack of baby bottles. I stuck them in the fridge and asked Sean to grab me a drink as soon as he got home. He saw the bottles and we both instantly started crying. Within a week, I found out two other close members of my family were also pregnant and due the same week as me and one other was due 6 weeks after that. Our evenings consisted of brainstorming potential names and discussing how amazing it was going to be to have all of these cousins so close in age. We started our nursery and collected gender-neutral clothes. As the weeks went on, we watched my body change and grow and excitedly followed along on my pregnancy apps.
My 20-week anatomy scan was exciting and uneventful, exactly how you want it to be. It was at this point, I learned I had a very large fibroid but neither the tech nor the MFM specialist seemed to be worried about it at all. After all, nearly 70 percent of women have fibroids and of those fibroids, only about 10 to 20 percent of them actually grow during pregnancy. We counted his ten perfect fingers and ten perfect toes and laughed as I tried to peek at the gender. We walked out of that appointment with smiles on our faces that we had a healthy perfect baby growing in my belly.
4 weeks later, I noticed his movements started to change. Instead of quick jabs and kicks, they turned into more slow roll-like movements. At first, I thought it was because he moved from his horizontal position to up and down and was now behind my placenta, making it harder to feel his kicks. After about 3 days of this, I started to get worried.
So that day, Sean met me at my OB’s office and we walked in, nervous but still thinking we were just there for reassurance. My OB hooked me up to the ultrasound and then furrowed her eyebrows. I could feel the concern, so she immediately put the wand down and sent us to the Perinatal Center with the more advanced machines. As soon as that ultrasound wand touched my belly, we heard the heartbeat. I had never been so relieved–our precious babe was alive. A few more minutes passed and I realized the tech was unusually quiet. After a few more minutes, she walked out and got a second MFM Specialist. They both came back in and let us know our baby was now measuring 2 weeks behind schedule. A few things appeared on the ultrasound that sometimes present themselves when a baby gets sick or deprived of nutrients and blood. She suggested it could be a virus and sent me for further testing.
To say I was confused was an understatement. My parents came to the hospital right away as extra sets of ears. I got bloodwork taken to test for three different viruses. The plan was to wait for the bloodwork to come back to craft a plan of action. While there were still a lot of unknowns, one thing was clear. If, and that was a big if, Chase did recover from this, he would suffer severe issues (like never learning how to walk, talk, swallow, etc.) from those 2 weeks with limited blood supply. It was at this point in the day, exhausted from crying and having to keep it together for various conversations, I looked up and said, ‘Jesus, it’s time for you to take the wheel.’ I prayed for him to do what was right for Chase–not for us. Not to take the pain away from us, but to do what was right for our baby.
I didn’t sleep a single minute that night. I waited all night for a kick or a roll or ANYTHING to reassure me that he was okay. Sean woke early and we tried to use our home Doppler machine. Nothing. I knew, deep down, he was gone, and I think that’s the moment Sean realized it too. As heartbreaking as this is, I have to take comfort in the fact that Jesus answered our prayers. Jesus did what was best for our boy, and spared him from a devastating life of pain and suffering. I called my parents and my OB. She told me to make my way to the Perinatal Center. We quickly packed a bag, not exactly the hospital bag I had been planning to pack for so many weeks. My parents picked us up and took us to the hospital. That car ride seemed like the longest ride of my life. All I could think about was I was about to have to do the most soul-crushing thing of my life.
I remember sitting in the tiny room at the Perinatal Center with Sean and my parents by my side. I wanted my parents to come back to the ultrasound room with us because I knew what was about to happen, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to physically tell them their grandson was no longer alive. Sean’s dad and his wife waited in the lobby while we went back. As soon as the wand hit my belly, we all knew. The tech sighed and said, ‘I’m not going to lie to you because I know it’s why you’re here, but there’s no heartbeat. I’m so sorry.’ I remember just lying there, helpless, covered in ultrasound goop while Sean and my parents draped themselves over me as we all sobbed together. The tech gave us a few minutes to collect ourselves–as if a few minutes were enough–and then came back in with the MFM Specialist. In one breath, she let us know I was carrying a boy and whenever I was ready, I needed to make my way up to Labor and Delivery to start my induction process. All I could say was, ‘I don’t want to do this, please don’t make me do this.’ I begged them to just knock me out and cut me open, not knowing how I was going to muster the strength to do the unimaginable.
Once they started my induction, everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. It is not lost on me that I am lucky to be here sharing my story. By hour 24, I was having a placental abruption from the medication and I started to hemorrhage blood. I had two failed epidurals, so the physical pain on top of the mental anguish was indescribable. Once they realized I was abrupting, my doctor came in and instructed me to start pushing, even though I was only at 6 centimeters. I figured because he was so small, I could push through the pain, despite not having a working epidural. I pushed for what, in my mind, felt like hours. It was at this time we realized my fibroid was blocking my birth canal and I would not be able to get Chase out vaginally.
By this point, I had lost roughly 2.5 liters of blood and it was not slowing down. Between the fibroid and the abruption, we knew surgery was inevitable, but typically the way to stop the bleeding is by a complete hysterectomy. My hospital staff was amazing. They let Sean put scrubs on so he could be with me while they were prepping for surgery, knowing as soon as I was under, he would have to leave. Our brains are powerful things–a lot of the pain from this day has been blocked out of my memory, but one thing I remember so clearly was as Sean was getting his scrubs on, I turned to him and my mom and said, ‘I am just so tired, all I want to do is sleep.’ I now know it was because of all the blood I lost. I can’t imagine how scared and helpless they must have felt.
Once I was in the operating room, all I can remember is they had blood ready for a transfusion and I heard one of the doctors say, ‘We WILL NOT take her uterus.’ I had an odd calmness come over me. I silently prayed, ‘Please let me wake up with my uterus,’ and then I was out. The next thing I knew, I was waking up. Sean was by my side and my OB and nurses were by the foot of my bed. I was so groggy, but they let me know I still had my uterus and I immediately asked to hold my son. The nurse handed him to us, and I couldn’t believe how perfectly formed he was. He was so tiny but so perfect. Sean and I got to spend some time with him together and then we called our families in, giving everyone a chance to hold him and praying together for strength as we navigate our new life of grief together.
The days that followed my delivery were some of the hardest days of my life. While in the hospital, I had to recover on the Mother/Baby unit. Every time I heard the cry of a newborn, I felt like someone punched me in the freshly-operated-on gut. There were parents, just a room away, getting to soak in the first hours of magic with their new babies while I was fighting my arriving milk supply with no baby to feed. Getting wheeled out of the hospital without a baby is not something I’d wish on my worst enemy. When we got home, I remember sitting and just staring out the window, wondering if I was ever going to be able to pull myself out of this darkness.
In those early days of mourning, I found there is a really strong loss community on Instagram. I spent hours scrolling through other people’s stories, finding stories of hope and clinging on to them. I would reach out to these women and every time I shared my story, I felt my emotions get a little lighter, even if it was just for a little while. I think that’s why it’s so important for me to share my story now, and where I get the strength to do so. I find tremendous comfort in writing, sharing my story, being a resource to other loss moms, and providing them an ear to listen. So many women have reached out to me, some in the freshest days of their grief. I know by sharing, I am helping these women in the days I needed help the most.
We’ve since learned the likely reason for Chase’s passing. I had what’s called a marginal cord insertion of my placenta. Placental irregularities are random things, unlikely to reoccur. A normal placenta looks like a large plate with the cord coming directly from the middle, so there is even blood profusion to the cord. My cord came from the side of my placenta, so it had to work extra hard to get the blood to Chase. That alone is just something to keep an eye on, as it could result in a smaller baby. Both the cord insertion and the fibroid as isolated issues don’t typically lead to fatalities, but my already compromised placenta implanted itself directly on top of the fibroid, and the fibroid just stole the blood from him. It’s likely if my placenta was a little further from the fibroid, we could have a different outcome. It truly was a freak thing–a perfect storm.
Now, 5 months later, grief has started to loosen its grip, tightening every few days just to remind me that it will always be a part of me. There is not an hour of the day I don’t think of our sweet Chase, and what life would be like if things were different. I look at his cousins and wonder if Chase would be doing the same things. Sean and I have learned to lean on each other more than ever before. If I can give someone going through this one piece of advice, it’s to reach out for help right away. The only thing that would make this worse is not talking about it. While our friends and family can sympathize with us, only someone who has been through it can empathize. Talking to other women who have lived this reality is monumental when it comes to healing. I am involved in several support groups and am able to walk alongside a tribe of amazing women that have experienced this same tragedy. I tell myself (and everyone who asks how I am) I take it one day at a time, and when that seems impossible I take it one hour at a time.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jillian Reeves. You can follow her journey on her Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more stories about pregnancy and child loss:
Please SHARE to help educate others about the grieving process, and the kind of support it takes to help heal.