‘They tried to find the heartbeat. Silence. At that moment, I knew.’: Mom shares story of stillborn daughter

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Disclaimer: This story contains details of child loss which may be upsetting for some. 

Living In Bliss

“When I met my best friend 12 years ago, I could have never imagined what we would go through together. I was 15 when I met Trenton. We instantaneously experienced a connection unlike any other connection we’d had prior to meeting one another. For nine years, we were best friends, and finally discovered there was more to explore in our relationship. We started dating in December of 2019 and have been inseparable since. When we told our family and friends about our new romantic relationship, the most common response we heard was, ‘It’s about time!’

I guess you could say it was love at first sight and for all those years, we were fooling none but ourselves. Moving forward a year and a half, we bought our first home together in a small town of 199 people: Forada, MN. We live a simple life with our two cats, Kinsey and Yuki. It was one month after we bought our home that I took a test, saw two pink lines, and our lives changed forever.

boyfriend and girlfriend slow dancing
Courtesy of Alexis Tulio
husband and wife standing in front of new home
Courtesy of Alexis Tulio

I woke up on August 26th, still in Trenton’s gray sweatshirt with a grand prix on the front, and my floral pajama pants. I took a pregnancy test and saw those two faint, but pink, lines. I cried and my body shook for about an hour before it finally sank in. I was placed in this immense bubble of bliss — what I assume a drug addict feels when they get high. I felt like I was floating on a cloud for the rest of the day. I was so grateful to be sheltering our baby. Me! The luckiest woman in the world to have the opportunity to create life on Earth!

I wanted to share the news with Trenton immediately, but knew this was something I had to share with him while we were physically together. So, I impatiently waited until three o’clock that afternoon, when he got home from work, to share the news. When he arrived, I ran outside, blindfolded him, and brought him inside. I sat him down at the kitchen table and took off the blindfold. When he saw the pregnancy tests on the table, he genuinely thought it was a joke. The pink lines on the pregnancy tests were so faint; he didn’t immediately see the second line. I started to cry and that’s when he realized this was not a joke, but we were truly bringing a child into the world, together.

husband and wife kissing while smiling
Courtesy of Alexis Tulio

Monitoring Pregnancy

We had our series of ultrasounds the next few months. One at seven weeks, 12 weeks, and again at 20 weeks. Everything was normal and our baby was healthy. At our 20-week appointment, we were asked if we wanted to know the sex of the baby. We agreed we did not want to know, mostly because we both already sensed it was a girl. After the ultrasound, we met with our midwife to go over the scan. Little did we know, not everything about the scan was as perfect as we thought it was. We were told I had a velamentous placenta, which is where an abnormal cord insertion occurs. This was fairly common and we were reassured there was no reason to be concerned unless the baby began to measure smaller than it should at gestational age.

At the same time, we were also informed the umbilical cord was hypercoiled. When there is more than normal coiling in an umbilical cord, this is called hypercoiled. Basically, the umbilical cord looks like an accordion, or an old telephone cord. Our midwife had never seen this before. And, by the information I found on Google the second we left the hospital, apparently this was insanely uncommon. We were referred to a maternal fetal medicine specialist, who ruled out the velamentous placenta, but confirmed the hypercoiled umbilical cord. We left with nothing but more doctors never, and/or rarely seeing this before, and the hope we had in our heart to bring home a living, healthy baby.

pregnant woman holding her belly in a sports bra
Courtesy of Alexis Tulio

The following two months, I had a fairly easy pregnancy. We started working on the nursery, buying clothes, planning the baby shower, and creating a registry. Everything was moving along quickly and we were getting real anxious to meet our baby. Then, Saturday January 29th, at 27 weeks pregnant, I wasn’t feeling the baby kick as much as usual. I tried to ease my nerves by telling myself it was normal for the baby to go in spurts of being active and non-active. Which it was. Sunday came, and still no movement. I tried everything in the books to make the baby move. Still nothing. Again, I told myself this was normal and the baby was probably just sleeping.

Something Wrong

Monday morning came and I knew something was wrong. I called the doctor immediately and got an appointment set up to check on the baby. Trenton left work and met me at the hospital. We went into a room, they laid me on the bed, and tried to find the heartbeat with the hand held doppler. Silence. At that moment, I knew. The midwife left to get the ultrasound machine to physically find the baby’s heartbeat. We all watched as our baby’s lifeless body lay floating in my stomach with no sign of a heartbeat.

ultrasound of a baby girl
Courtesy of Alexis Tulio

I instantly began to sob. I then began to scream. At that moment, I thought my heart had stopped too. Oh, how I wish it had. The weight of a two-ton meteorite moving at 600 miles per hour felt like it had just crushed my entire existence. I began to vocally apologize to my partner. ‘I’m so sorry baby…’ I disappointed the most important man in my life. I couldn’t stomach it. I disappointed my baby. I couldn’t keep her safe. I thought of the pain she must have gone through when her heart stopped beating. Was she struggling to get air to her lungs? Not getting any nutrients? I caused this.

I got off the table and my body went weightless as I fell to the ground, sobbing and gripping so hard to my partner’s jacket I thought I was going to drag us straight through the concrete floor. What was I supposed to do now? I spent the next day crying, hyperventilating, and staring blankly at the ceiling with the knowledge of my child’s dead body floating around inside me. At times it felt like she may have kicked me once or twice, but this was just her lifeless body floating around inside mine. This was disturbing. Traumatizing.

Saying Goodbye

On February 1st, I went into the hospital to be induced. I was devastated. I wasn’t sure I had the strength to pursue this labor. Though, as I began to dilate and my uterus began to contract, I realized I could not fight this any longer. Thankfully, my labor was quick, but incredibly intense. I went from having no contractions to full on one-minute apart, lasting one-minute long, in a matter of 30 minutes. At 1:28 a.m., Daddy broke into a fountain of tears and Raven Rose Hamilton was born sleeping, but absolutely beautifully, into this world on February 2nd, 2022.

birth certificate for stillborn daughter
Courtesy of Alexis Tulio

We had a perfect baby girl. She had blonde hair, big bushy eyebrows like her daddy, and one fuzzy face like her mommy. She was perfectly formed in every single physical aspect. We cried tears of joy and sadness that early February morning. I was bombarded with questions I did not know how to answer. Did I want to spend the night with her? Did I want her to sleep with us? Did I want professional pictures taken of her? When did I want the funeral home to pick her up? I was trying to process so many different emotions, I didn’t know what the right thing to do was. This was our daughter’s vessel, not her. Was it fair to cling to this body when she had moved on? Everything felt so uncomfortably wrong. I was exhausted, broken, and incredibly confused. Raven Rose’s body began to slowly decompose as the hours went on. This was extremely difficult to watch happen, so around five o’clock that evening, we said our final goodbyes and gave our final kisses and left her with a stranger to take her to the morgue.

stillborn daughter swaddled in blanket and wearing a pink hat
Courtesy of Alexis Tulio
mother holding her stillborn daughter
Courtesy of Alexis Tulio
father holding his stillborn daughter
Courtesy of Alexis Tulio

Raven Rose was cremated the next day. Trenton and I went to the funeral home to pick out the perfect urn for our daughter. It was so small, purple, and it was perfect. Something a parent should never, ever have to do in their lifetime. I could not believe this was my life. I cried, screamed, and had panic attacks every day for a month. When I feel like the memory of her scent is slipping from my mind, I smell the blankets, hats, and other keepsakes I can find in her memory box. My mind floods with fairy tales about who she would grow up to be and how she would impact that world. I’m so scared my sacral chakra will never be in alignment again. I’m confused that there are women out there who do not deserve to be mother’s, but I do. I feel ashamed. I disappointed everyone in my life who was excited to be a part of my daughter’s life. I’m so angry that when people find out my baby died, they don’t ask what her name is.

Coping With Grief

Although the crying slowed down, for me, this journey has only become more difficult as time moves forward. She is the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I think of before I go to sleep at night. Almost every thought in between? Still her. On and off nightmares, swollen eyes, anger, shame, disappointment, confusion, hate, joy, love, anxiety, and all the other colors of the emotional rainbow. My eyes still swell when I think about how I will never get to hear her laugh or see her smile. I will never get to put a band-aid on her knee and have magical mommy kisses. Some days, it still doesn’t feel real, and I forget I will have to spend an entire lifetime without her. Some mornings, I wake up before the sun and lie awake, and I can almost feel her trying to reach for a hug.

mother taking a selfie with a ribbon shirt
Courtesy of Alexis Tulio

Fast forward six months after my daughter died. Nothing but silence. Not the soul-breaking silence we heard in the hospital room when my daughter’s body was birthed into this world, but nonetheless, silence. The internal silence I once felt is now filled with those painful, silent screams you only experience in nightmares. You know, the ones where you’re trying to scream for help, but nothing’s coming out and nobody can hear you? Yeah, those. Silence on my daughter’s due date, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day from the ones who, selfishly, I expect more from. Maybe I should be more understanding of others’ discomfort, but why shouldn’t they be more understanding of mine? When did we as humans lose our sympathy and empathy for others? Sure, it’s not something most people know how to talk about, but when you care about someone, you ask. You ask how you can help. You show up. Regardless.

stillborn daughter delivery day cake
Courtesy of Alexis Tulio

My daughter died. But I still know how to have a good time.

My daughter died. But I still want to spend time with my friends and family without them feeling uncomfortable.

My daughter died. But I can still smile and laugh.

My daughter died. But I am still a mother. Forever.

My daughter died. But I will forever be changed because I am a mom and I held my child’s lifeless body in my arms.

My daughter died. But I still bonded with my daughter and the moment I saw her, I felt like I had known her my entire life.

My daughter died. But you can bring up my loss without being afraid of how I will feel. I feel JOYFUL and PROUD when you say her name. Just like any other parent, I am proud to be my child’s mother.

My daughter died. But when you don’t acknowledge her existence, it feels like you couldn’t care less about her now because she isn’t living.

My daughter died. But bringing my daughter up in conversation does not bring back so called, ‘bad memories.’ Although the situation was nothing short of earth shattering, she was nothing short of the biggest blessing I have ever received.

woman holding two female toddlers
Courtesy of Alexis Tulio

My life continues to feel so uncertain. There are days a wave of grief will hit me out of nowhere and I will be stuck in quicksand for a couple days, weeks, etc. I am still working through the treacherous self blame game and slowly realizing there is nothing I could have done to save her. Raven Rose is in everyday conversations in my house. She is in the sunrises and sunsets on each new day. She is in the roses that bloom in the garden we made for her. Her name is not a bad word. Say it. Out loud. Scream it. Share it with everyone you meet. Raven Rose will be remembered now and until the sun dies out. As should every child who has passed on. May each one, no matter how small, be remembered in this life and the next. May each grieving parent give themselves grace and continue to live in love, not fear. May each grandparent find strength through their grief, not only for their grand-baby, but for their child who is hurting and you so desperately want to be able to fix this.

Although I can not speak for every bereaved parent, I hope I can bring awareness to infant loss through sharing my story. Since losing my daughter, I have reached out to find podcasts, blogs, YouTube channels, etc., in hopes to find comfort through parents who have gone through the same thing. We did not choose to lose our child, and I will not go as far as calling you strong if you have lost yours too. Because, let’s face it, when I lost my daughter I felt like the weakest person alive, but losing a child is the most difficult, and never ending heartbreak I have gone through. So, if you are still here, trying to conceive again, raising other children, loving your partner through it all, or simply just alive, living day by day, your child is SO proud of you and you should be too.

In memory of Raven Rose Hamilton. You will not be forgotten.”

husband and wife smiling together on porch
Courtesy of Alexis Tulio
mother holding memory box for stillborn daughter
Courtesy of Alexis Tulio

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Alexis Tulio from Forada, Minnesota. You can follow her journey on Facebook. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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