Disclaimer: This story contains details and images of child loss, which may be triggering to some.
“Stillbirth; google defines this word as ‘death of a fetus before or during delivery, resulting in delivery of a dead baby.’ Stillbirth affects about 1 in 100 pregnancies each year in the United States. Common, yet uncommon. Stillbirth is never spoken about unless you’ve been through it and that’s so sad because these babies, even though no longer physically with us, are still so loved and so missed. I never thought I would have to be that 1 in 100 statistic – actually, I suppose I’m 2 in 100 because, in the year 2021, I experienced two losses.
Losing a child is the most physically and mentally painful event any human can go through, and it does not get easier in time – you just learn to live with the pain. But why am I even mentioning this? How did I even get to be a statistic? It all stems from when I was giving birth in January 2020. I was the victim of medical malpractice, medical abuse, and just pure horror. Please keep reading to take a glimpse into my journey through stillbirth and raising my little girl who was severely affected by the medical abuse. I will take a dive into some of the physical and a lot of the mental side of this life I’m still navigating.
Let’s start from the beginning. January 1, 2020, was the morning of my induction with our 4th child, Jolene. Up until this day, we were so excited. We wanted this baby before she was even conceived. But when we woke up, something felt off. We didn’t have the same exciting feeling as we did on the induction of our third child. My husband and I both just felt very uneasy, the air was thick, and our intuitions just kept trying to warn us something was off. When we arrived in the parking lot, we sat there for 25 minutes past our induction, both of us saying, ‘This just doesn’t feel right.’ But neither of us could figure out why.
We just knew something wasn’t right. We proceeded to the room, got ready, started induction, and handed off our birth plan. Fast forward to when I hit around 8-9 cm dilated, I felt a HUGE stab in my abdomen, as if someone had come in with a large steak knife and just shoved it through me. It was so painful I almost couldn’t breathe. I alerted my nurse, and she gave me some pain medicine and informed me this was just birth pain. I’ve had natural birth before and what I felt was NOT birth pain, but I trusted her and kept trying to just focus on the baby.
Twenty minutes go by and it gets worse. I am in absolute agony, my vitals are very off, and the baby’s heart rate is in the ’40s. I told my husband, ‘We’re dying Robbie, we’re going to die. Please make sure you tell my parents I love them. Tell our children I’m so sorry I didn’t make it and I love them so much.’ He gets the nurse, she checks me and tells me, ‘You’re fully dilated, but we don’t have a doctor. So, I’m going to have you squeeze your legs together until we can get one here.’ She kept squeezing my body and telling me to ‘hold the baby in.’ At that point, I was having a hard time breathing, I kept passing out, the baby’s heart rate wasn’t even on the charts, and I knew in my head I was going to die. Next thing I know, some doctor I’ve never seen before walks in. The first thing she said to me was, ‘You can’t keep your placenta, its disgusting and not even beneficial. And why are you not vaccinating your baby? Don’t you know those are required? Why are you even having such a hard time with this one, you’ve done it three times before this?’
My husband and I were both begging and pleading with her to give me a c-section. She refused and made me push. With every push, I would pass out. The nurse held an oxygen mask over my face so hard it was making me vomit in the mask. The doctor proceeded to try and vacuum my child out – three times, it didn’t work. She kept at this mess for almost 45 minutes. I eventually just passed out and didn’t wake back up. They called an emergency c-section. The only thing I remember right before passing out were bright lights. Really bright lights. And peace, it was so peaceful. When I woke back up, four hours later, all I remember is the pain. I was in SO much pain and I was shaking from head to toe.
My husband said I was whiter than a ghost and I looked like a corpse. After I spent two hours waking up, we got the news; I had a complete uterine rupture… in the spot where I felt a stabbing pain. The uterine rupture tore my placenta completely and my baby was found in my abdominal cavity, dead. I had internally bled out and needed almost an entire body’s worth of a blood transfusion, along with a four-hour surgery to repair all the internal damage. As far as my little girl, one doctor. ONE DOCTOR. One doctor saved my baby.
She had been inside of me without oxygen for 47 minutes. When they got to her, she was purple from head to toe. It took this one amazing human, that I still think about every day, almost two hours and multiple rounds of CPR to get her stable enough to transfer her to the highest level NICU. An hour away. He told my husband he started the cooling process because he knew it was going to be the only thing to further prevent all the brain damage that has already been done, and he was right.
After she was transferred, she underwent 3 days of cooling, two MRIs, two surgeries, multiple tests, over 1000 needle sticks, multiple rounds of code blue, and a very long 68 days of fighting SO hard to stay. The NICU stay is honestly still way too hard for me to type about… I can talk about it verbally because I don’t have to physically see it, but I just can’t even type the words. It was so trying. It tore my family apart.
My older kids lived with their friends for 68 days. For 68 days I didn’t sleep. For 68 days I cried on the bathroom floor every day. For 68 days I fell deep into drug addiction to hide my emotional pain. For 68 days I watched my baby fight harder than any child should ever have to fight. To this day, it still tears me apart. That entire incident COULD HAVE AND SHOULD HAVE been avoided. Had that nurse just called an emergency when I told her something was wrong, had that doctor just put aside that she didn’t like our parental choices… my baby would have a working brain.
She is alive, physically, but her brain is almost dead. She now lives with severe global brain damage, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, hypertonia, global developmental delay, feeding tube dependent, severe dysphagia, and a list of other disabilities. What do these words mean? She is 2 years old but is mentally a 4-month-old baby. Her dysphagia is so severe she can’t even trigger a swallow and needs round-the-clock suctioning. I am her caretaker. I am responsible for her 24/7. She can’t walk, talk, sit, stand, crawl, eat, or do anything she should be doing. Even when she sleeps, I still have to get up and give her round-the-clock meds, suction her, check her feeding pump, make sure she’s even still breathing. It’s terrifying, but I love her endlessly and I would give my life for her. I will touch more on the emotion of this later.
I’m sure by now you’re wondering what my little girl has to do with stillbirth, right? Well, it was her birth incident that caused my stillbirths. The doctor who did my surgery didn’t sew me together right. My uterus was sewn in half and wasn’t near strong enough to carry another full-term pregnancy.
The very first baby I lost, Emmy, was in January 2021. My husband and I were driving home and I started feeling the pain I knew wasn’t normal. Over an hour, it got worse and worse and it hit me – I was in labor. At halfway into my pregnancy, I was in labor! He rushed me to the closest hospital, but it was too late. My uterus, again, was tearing undetected, and not only was I in labor, but I was in septic shock. My baby had already died and I was on my way out as well. I had to deliver my little girl and immediately after that, I was in surgery to repair. This time was a lot easier, I woke up in no physical pain, but mentally, I was dead.
It took me until the next evening to even ask for my baby. In my head, if I didn’t see her, this wasn’t real. But I knew I had to do it. As soon as they brought her in, the room just got so cold and I knew my life would never be the same. Looking at her cold, beautiful, little lifeless feet. It just killed me. I spent 3 days in recovery and I kept her by my side the entire time. When it was time to go, I literally dropped to my knees and just begged God to take me too. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do, to leave my dead baby and go home empty-handed. We went home empty-handed with Jolene, our disabled child, but this was different. When I got home and had to tell my kids their baby sister wasn’t coming home, it was another stab in the heart. I knew from that point on, their lives would never be the same either.
Fast forward a few weeks later. I find out I’m pregnant, again. I was told this wouldn’t be possible, so I felt every emotion possible. We spent the entire pregnancy TERRIFIED. We had a hard time getting close to her due to losing Emmy. I had 2 doctor appointments a week, every week. Multiple tests and scans, it was exhausting. It wasn’t until I passed the week where we lost Emmy that I started to get close to her. Feeling her kicks and connecting with her. It was amazing.
Until one day. The day my world really came crashing down. I was hanging out with my oldest child and I started to feel stomach pain. We laid down and I tried to brush it off, but deep down, I knew what was happening. I calmly told her to get daddy so I could go to the hospital to see if the baby was okay. When I got to the hospital, I was in so much pain it was almost unbearable. The baby was still alive so I had some hope. After 2 hours, they told me there was nothing they could do except keep me comfortable enough to deliver. I was so distraught, I begged them to please just take me if she had to die. I screamed for hours.
When it was finally time to deliver her, I had the most heartless doctor. She told me she had babies to deliver and since mine was dying, I needed to make it quick. My husband and I were so heartbroken over her mean words in regards to our child. She eventually just reached up into my vagina and ripped her out of me because I couldn’t deliver as fast as she wanted. I felt so violated and abused. The angel of a nurse laid her on my stomach and I just held her and sobbed. How could this be happening to us AGAIN?! HOW?! WHY US?! I spent the next 24 hours, willingly alone, with my dead baby just sobbing until I gave her to the nurse and just walked out. I couldn’t be there anymore. Listening to the baby chime and all the newborns crying. It killed me inside.
Telling my kids, again, that God took another sister, was another blow to my heart. It was awful. It’s still awful.
I have since then had a complete hysterectomy. I couldn’t risk putting myself and my family through that again. It was hard to sign those papers at first, but I’m at peace with it now. We wanted a large family, we wanted a lot of kids. It hurts to have to close that chapter, but we can’t change what happened. We have to keep moving forward.
Since losing the babies, my kids have really struggled. They cry all the time. They miss their sisters, they don’t understand. It hurts my heart so badly to watch them struggle with losing them. We’ve had to put the older two in therapy since then. I still struggle a lot. I can’t sleep most nights, I stand in the living room just staring at their urns, wondering who they would’ve been. Sometimes the days are so heavy, I can’t even get out of bed. I sit in the bathroom and just hug their weighted bears and cry.
No mother should ever have to lose their child. It doesn’t get easier in time, in fact, it gets harder. You just learn to live with the pain. To this day, I still can’t look at pregnant women or babies. The number of emotions that rush over me is unbearable. The only thing that has helped me is sharing my journey through social media. I have met so many lost moms that I am so grateful for. I don’t think I would’ve made it through the loss journey without them. I have made my stories public on my social media to help other moms. If my stories can comfort just one person, then I know I’ve done everything for a purpose.
Let me touch base on life with Jolene just a tad. The first year was really a blur. I was fresh in outpatient rehab, therapy, and learning the ropes of being a caretaker. It was hard, I ended up mentally blocking a lot of it out. We spent most of her first year in and out of the PICU. The second year has been a lot easier. I’ve really dug my heels into doing everything for her.
She’s still severely disabled, but I’ve learned to navigate the special needs living in a more holistic way; it’s done amazing things for her. She has come too far and I could not be more proud of her. She is such a hard-working, sassy little girl. She is the absolute light of our family. She has changed all of us for the better and made us such a close family. I always say if I could go back and change what happened to her, I would. But it’s also been such an amazing road, learning a whole new world and meeting the most amazing people who share the same journey as me. It’s still hard some days to know her life shouldn’t be this way, but she wears it so well.
To anyone who has ever lost a child, been the victim of medical abuse and negligence, has a disabled child, or gone through anything that I have, PLEASE reach out. I have so many resources and I can offer SO much guidance. I’ve been through so much more than the average person. I love advocating for all my girls and myself after all we’ve been through, and helping others through their similar journeys!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Katie Spinks. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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