Disclaimer: This story includes details of pregnancy loss that may be triggering for some.
“It was two weeks after my son’s first birthday, May 28, 2020. I had just finished breastfeeding and SURPRISE, we were pregnant. I was a mix of emotions but ultimately excited and grateful. We found out around 14 weeks that we were having a GIRL! I took all the standard tests. The genetics testing, glucose test, all the bloodwork (everything normal), and never missed a doctor appointment. At 20 weeks was her anatomy scan, strong heartbeat, all parts looking normal, lots of movement from the baby, and measuring right on track. 20 weeks was my last ultrasound in my pregnancy. I wasn’t sure why this was: I had heard from other mamas that this is what they are doing now due to ‘Covid,’ and although they didn’t do an ultrasound, they would always check her heartbeat with the Doppler and measure my fundal height, so I was just happy to hear that everything was on track.
38 weeks hit, I went to my appointment, for a great check-up, the measuring was spot on and the heartbeat was right where it should be. At this point in my pregnancy, I was having a hard time walking; my baby felt so big, but I just kept hearing from friends and my doctor that those muscles have been stretched before so that’s why my body is feeling this way. I looked small: nobody believed I was due in 2 weeks, even the day before she was due, a woman told me I looked like I was 6 months along. She couldn’t believe I was due tomorrow. These are the kind of comments (how small I looked) I heard all throughout my third trimester.
Going to the Doctor’s
At 39 weeks and 6 days (Sunday 2/7/21), I went to church, had a normal day with my family, and then went to bed like usual. I got up to pee a few times in the night and remember at 5:30 a.m. feeling my baby move after I had some water. She was always so active in my womb, much more active than my son ever was. I went back to sleep and woke up at about 7:30 a.m., got ready, took care of my son, had oatmeal and some decaf tea, like usual, and headed out to my 10 a.m. doctor’s appointment. My husband was home that day, so I asked if he would come with me since it was my due date and he could just sit in the car and wait with Colt while I was at my appointment. We could make it a little family fun car ride!
I got to Kaiser early that day and went in to see if I could hopefully be seen sooner. I walked through the lobby, went up the elevator, and stopped off at the restroom (of course). When I went to use the bathroom, I felt my baby kick or punch pretty hard on my bottom right side. I smiled and just said, ‘Oh, hello, honey,’ then left the restroom and went to my appointment down the hall.
They got me in early: I remember being in the patient room when the clock hit 10 a.m. My blood pressure was good at 127/73, my pulse was good, and I was feeling good. All the normal questions were asked and then my doctor reached up in the cabinet for the Doppler… brought it down to my belly, and there was nothing, she couldn’t find the heartbeat. She said, ‘Oh, maybe she is hiding in there! Let me get the ultrasound machine.’ I was happy to get to see my baby, as it had been a while since my last ultrasound.
She brought it in and put the cold jelly on my tummy fairly quickly; she found the heartbeat, but it was weak and dwindling…I can see it now, a few standing vertical lines and then a long straight horizontal line, then a few more standing vertical, and then another long straight horizontal. She rushed out of the room and said she was getting help. Two more doctors rushed in. They were scrambling with the ultrasound machine and saying to ‘call an ambulance.’
An Unexpected Emergency
One doctor got down in my face and said, ‘Okay, Casey, your baby’s heartbeat is dangerously low, in the 50s. You are going for an emergency c-section right now at Sutter hospital (the closest operating hospital). They are going to put you to sleep, please call your husband.’ In that moment, I didn’t believe this was happening, I had just felt my baby move, this machine had to be messed up! I thought maybe I needed something sweet to help her wake up in there or I needed to change positions. I was in complete disbelief. This just couldn’t be right.
I was so glad my husband was in the parking lot, but I also knew my son was with him so he couldn’t just come in. I told him to follow the ambulance to the hospital. I called my parents and our Doula and told them what was happening. All the while, I was still not believing this was happening to me and my baby, this just didn’t add up. The doctors and ambulance staff kept telling me how calm I was being and how that was good. The last thing the doctor said to me as they rolled me out to the ambulance was to tell the surgical team at Sutter that the baby’s heartbeat is in the 50s.
I got to Sutter in about 8 minutes. They rolled me straight into the OR, and I was being asked a million questions about anesthesia, allergies, etc. A bunch of people in blue were surrounding me, and I was lying under 2 huge white lights. The two doctors went to do another ultrasound and then they just looked at me and said, ‘I’m so sorry, she is demised.’ I was still not believing this. I said, ‘Are you positive? The doctor at Kaiser told me to tell you the baby’s heartbeat was in the 50s.’ They turned the ultrasound screen towards me and turned the sound on. Radio silence…they pointed out her heart chambers and they were completely still. All the people in blue just kept apologizing around me, and the doctors told me they have been doing this for 40+ years and that it was not worth it for me to have an emergency c-section right now. They took me upstairs to a patient room to wait to be discharged and then the plan was to go to Kaiser Roseville and deliver my baby, stillborn.
Our Doula arrived at the hospital and took our son so Justin could come be with me. I stood in the bathroom at Sutter looking in the mirror and grabbing my belly saying, ‘Baby, wake up, come on baby, please, I love you so much, I’m so sorry.’ My baby was so very still inside me. She felt so different, like she was slumped over in there. Much different than she had ever felt. My husband came in, and I still just didn’t believe this. I wasn’t crying, I was just in shock and rubbing my belly. I’m 40 weeks TODAY. Everything has been on track, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing major happened, nothing hit my belly to hurt her, NOTHING. How does this just happen at full term?!
We went out to the parking lot, and I just wanted to hug my son. I held him and cried, our pastors were there with my parents and our Doula. They prayed over us before we headed to Kaiser Roseville. When we got there, the staff was already aware of our situation, they had a room ready for us, away from others, and they started my induction around 3 p.m. Monday 2/8/21, the day my baby girl was due. It was supposed to be her birthday.
Induction started a little while after and went good… and then at 6:45 a.m. on 2/9/21, I was at 10cm and ready to push. It took about an hour and a half of pushing, the worst pain I have ever felt and some of the worst shoulder dystocia the doctor and my doula had ever seen (they told me if the baby had been alive I would’ve been rushed back for an emergency c-section to save her), but since she had passed on, they let me continue with the vaginal delivery. Then at 8:25 a.m. my girl was born, still and as if she was sleeping. She was 10 pounds 3 oz, 21 inches long. Yes, 10 pounds!! And by some kind of miracle (grace of God), I didn’t tear and the doctors kept telling me how amazing that was, considering I birthed a toddler (they jokingly said). Likely because they let me deliver her slowly. Death is so strange. I found myself crying, laughing, sharing, staring off, and thinking, ‘How am I here right now?’ Just so many emotions all at once.
We spent the next 7 hours just being with our girl. She was soft and squishy, she had dark brown hair and the longest fingernails. She looked like her brother, they had the same nose. Every part of her was fully developed from what we could see. We took in every minute with her, I just admired her and touched her sweet face. I kept saying, ‘I’m so sorry,’ and ‘I just love you so much.’ Over and over and over. I’d cry and then just stop and say a prayer over her and then cry again. I just wanted my baby so so badly, and I still do.
They told us we could have her in our room as long as we wanted, and around 3 p.m., we decided it was time to say goodbye to her body. We both kissed her for the last time and they rolled her out of the room in the bassinet. The assistant manager of the labor and delivery department told us that she would personally be taking Aspyn down to the room that she would be in before going to Oakland Kaiser for an autopsy and that she would be the last person with her. She hugged me and cried with me, it warmed my heart. The hospital staff was truly amazing in every way at Kaiser Roseville.
We went home that evening after begging the doctor to let us leave, and she eventually did. We just wanted to see our son and hold him.
After we got home, I received an email from my doctor sending her sincerest condolences. I wrote back with some questions naturally and also to tell her how big Aspyn was. She was completely shocked at how big she was: she told me I wasn’t presenting a big baby at ALL. My fundal height measurements were on track the entire pregnancy, and I gained less weight in this pregnancy than I did with Colt (my son) who was only 7 pounds 14 ounces. I asked if maybe I had Gestational Diabetes that was misdiagnosed? She said no, I passed and that they checked my blood sugar again during labor and it was completely normal.
Fast forward a few weeks, I met with my doctor face to face and she has been going through my chart every day since this happened. Running it by colleges who specialize in this type of thing, and there is nothing obvious that will tell us WHY this happened. Aspyn’s autopsy is still pending, so we are still waiting for an answer, if any.
Stillbirth (or inter-uterine fetal death) affects about 1 in 160 births, and each year, about 24,000 babies in the US are stillborn. It’s hard not to look back and think, ‘Why didn’t I ask for a growth scan?’ ‘I should’ve listened to my body, my sweet girl felt like she was 10 pounds in there.’ ‘Maybe if I had been induced early, this wouldn’t have happened.’ ‘What did I do or not do to cause this?’ So many ‘what ifs’ and so much guilt, and it feels like I couldn’t protect my child and still now, so many unknowns.
That’s how I know there is so much more to this than I understand, and that’s why I trust that God knew what he was doing when he called my sweet girl home because it truly doesn’t make any logical sense.
Since then, we did get the autopsy back revealing that she passed away due to umbilical cord compression, a ‘sporadic occurrence,’ it noted, that is unlikely to happen again. She was an otherwise normal female.
‘Divine timing,’ I wrote and posted, with a quote from my tea bag, on my story while I was in the Kaiser Parking lot waiting to go into my 10 a.m. appointment that Monday morning, and I know with all my heart that posting that was not a coincidence. It was in those last few minutes before my appointment that my girl was heading to her Divine Appointment and going home to heaven. As hard as it was to see her heartbeat dwindling and to think of that now, in that doctors office, I got to see her in that divine moment, heading home to Jesus and I’m so so grateful God gave me that.
Aspyn Anne, my beautiful sleeping baby, I love you with all my heart, and I always will.
Stillborn is still born.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Casey Dalton of Galt, CA. 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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